Demons in Adoption

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Friday, April 1, 2011

How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives

51 comments :

  1. Interesting. because I think there is a link between cortisol levels and breast Ca too. I had breast Ca and felt it was partially caused by so many years of hiding my feelings, which I have also seen studies linking.

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  2. I am having a hard time understanding the typical relationship after reunion.

    In February, you wrote about adoptees moving toward their birth mother (and away from their adoptive familes) after reunion.

    http://www.firstmotherforum.com/2011/02/real-end-of-deep-end-of-ocean-boy.html

    But your most recent blog says, "there is a great yawning gulf between how we mothers can react to the children we've raised and the children we didn't but meet years later. . . . the relationship that was cut by adoption is mostly likely, not truly repairable."

    Do you really think that the relationship between an adoptee and her birth mother cannot be repaired? Can you help me understand?

    Thanks.

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  3. I look at the easy and comfortable relationships I have with my raised children and the arduous nature of maintaining a relationship with my reunited children and can see what you are talking about.

    I have said before that the mother/child bond is never truly severed, but it becomes twisted and bent and hard to "normalize" (whatever that might be).

    Certainly, my state of mind while carrying my two oldest was not the best. Yes, I was depressed, in emotional pain and already grieving. I imagine that did have an impact.

    But so did the separation from me and the subsequent rearing of my children by people who did not have that fundamental connection to them cause emotional difficulties. After what I have been told, I am sure of that.

    This strange and often strained thing called reunion often has more rocks in it than a creek bed. I have to say I agree that, if we are wanting a normal relationship with our reunited child, we can just give up on that idea. The question isn't how to fix it but CAN it be fixed? After 17 years in reunion, with abundant love, I still don't think so.

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  4. My daughter once said to me: I feel like magnet---as soon as I move close to one side (of parents), I have to move away from the other. She was always moving back and forth in closeness to one set or the other. But even when I felt the closest to her, I found that I could say something that seemed almost meaningless, and yet it would be cause her to change her phone number, not answer email, and send back letters from the post office with REJECTED stamped on them.

    On the other hand, her adoptive mother could tell her on the phone that she "never loved her," Jane my daughter would call me weeping profusely... and she would mend the rift with her amom by the end of the week. No matter what, I always felt as if I were on trial, and could be found GUILTY at any moment, for the slightest infraction.

    Our relationship was never going to normalize.

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  5. I don't really have a "great yawning gulf" between how I relate to my raised kids and surrendered kid at this point. It is more a difference in personalities.

    I have one son living with me because he has gone back to school to be a nurse. We have an everyday, adult child living at home with parents relationship. I love having him here because he helps so much and is never critical. My other two sons I raised are far away so it is mostly email and once in a while a phone call. I see them every few years. I hear from my surrendered son more often and at more length than the two raised sons, because he is writer and they are not.

    Difficulty and fear of being cut off? I have that with my youngest who did not speak to us for a year, and does not get along with the brother who lives here but is best friends with his older brother. I always think twice that what I say may offend or upset him, just as with my surrendered son, an mostly he talks to his Dad, not me, when he calls. I was a wreck meeting him and his girlfriend last fall after the CUB retreat, but luckily it went well.

    My son who now lives in Singapore and does movie special effects is a very kind person, like my Dad was, who he is a lot like in some ways, but has a classy lifestyle I could not begin to aspire to.

    I think we have to adjust our expectations of what "repaired" means as far as reunion relationships go. It should be obvious that it cannot be what it would have been had we raised them, but that does not mean the relationship is hopeless or lesser or not worth it, in most cases. It is just different. I think I have a normal relationship now with all my sons, just different kinds of normal.

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  6. " but I've listened to enough women to know the relationship that was cut by adoption is mostly likely, not truly repairable. The wound being relinquished causes is deep, lasting, primal."

    I agree, it seems only a small percentage of reunions work well for both parties and are relatively trouble-free. The separation of a mother and child in adoption is so unnatural and bizarre that putting the hurt people completely back together seems damn near impossible for most of us. Kind of reminds me of a broken piece of pottery, you can glue it back together but the cracks are still there.

    I agree that the issue is primal. What could be more primal than the biological connection between a mother and child?

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  7. To First mother Robin:

    I wish your last sentence didn't feel so true.

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  8. I don't think it is a wound that can ever be completely healed. It hurts and will continue to hurt. Making the best of it helps but all those emotions sometimes suppressed for years are hard to get rid of. At this point I am not sure that I want to rid mayself of them all. They are afterall a big part of my life and who I am.
    My relationship with my daughters is different. The youngest was raised as an only child not knowing of an older sister until she was 18 and off to college. Our relationship is more natural than my relationship with my older daughter. I do find myself being careful about alot of things.
    We have only been at this for 5 years and live thousands of miles apart. I am very compfortable with her and sometimes it feels that we have know each other forever and then the reality takes hold. I have tried to explain to her that all the reasons I convinced myself of at 18 do not exist at 60 and seem like lame excuses. She is matur enough to understand. She says she forgives the 18 year old me but I am not able to be so kind to myself.
    All relationships have ups and downs and need to be continually worked on but a reunion after adoption has to be one of the hardest.

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  9. As to the health issues, I would have to agree that most of our prenancies were not normal. They started with denial, went on in secrecy, and ended with silence. I In my case I only saw a doctor a few times. I know I didn't eat right and I was a smoker. I was sent away and told not to come back with my daughter. I was stressed to the max and tried not to show that I was pregnant.

    How different would our children have been phsyically and mentally if they had been welcomed into the world as part of our families?

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  10. If all there is is more hurt and disappointment and disillusionment for the majority of reunited folks, why search?

    The cracked piece of pottery can also be stronger in the broken and reunited places,even if the cracks show, and more beautiful in its own way, if everything was not expected to perfect and trouble-free.

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  11. No matter what our relationship was--and there were plenty of good times too, we were just like in that picture--knowing/reunion was always always better than a void, an emptyness, a nothing of not knowing....

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  12. "Do you really think that the relationship between an adoptee and her birth mother cannot be repaired?"

    It's impossible to have a "normal" relationship ("Normal" here meaning the relationship between a kept child and their mother) between a grown adoptee and the mother who surrendered.

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  13. If all there is is more hurt and disappointment and disillusionment for the majority of reunited folks, why search?"

    I think it has something to do with fearing the truth & hurting from the unknowns; as opposed to fearing the truth & hurting from reality.

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  14. I think so much is also dependent on how each person's respective support system reacts, are they loving and supportive or withdrawn and suspicious?

    My mother and I have a difficult at times, relationship. Which in one sense speaks to the power of the bond, that despite all the unhappiness, we are still in contact, we are still trying after all this time.

    There is a lot of trauma on both of our sides though and that makes it so difficult. We often don't act like our best selves with each other but like our deeply traumatized selves. I am told that some people breeze through adoption. That thought came back to me while we were having an excruciating telephone conversation last Sat. about something that should have been a happy occasion, but because of my emotional response is not that easy.

    I said to her, "Is this really easy for some people?" She too had a hard time fathoming all the blithe promises and just more people to love platitudes that people attempt to sell us.

    @Anonymous who can't understand. Reading and listening will help you a lot. Perhaps save your questions and just open your mind to the possibility that these people are telling the truth, from their own perspective about their own situations.

    Joy-joy

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  15. "How different would our children have been physically and mentally if they had been welcomed into the world as part of our families?"

    Speaking only for myself here, not very different at all. My surrendered son is very like my other kids physically and mentally. I can't imagine how he would have been substantially different had I raised him, or not had a stressful pregnancy.

    There were various fairly serious stresses with all my pregnancies, emotional stress, not physical. I had the good fortune to be very healthy, had my kids young and no complications.

    Humanity has evolved over eons when stress in pregnancy was the norm, from running from predators, finding enough to eat, living a brutally hard life as a serf or slave. I think we have developed ways to come out of this more or less ok in most cases.

    I do not think the fact that now we can detect subtle brain chemistry changes due to stress means that infants are dramatically altered from their original potential because the mother had a stressful pregnancy. Yes, it would be best to have as little stress as possible when pregnant, and those of us who surrendered no doubt had extra stress, but I think we can go overboard looking for irreparable harm to our child in most cases because of this.

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  16. Lorraine, your quote from Laber-Warren's article struck home with me, especially this line: "Living with high levels of cortisol not only creates wear and tear on the body but also makes it tough to handle strong emotions without lashing out or withdrawing, and it may set people up for depression."

    I am one of those people who has always been quick to anxiety and once aroused, act like a caged animal. I lash out and feel like I lose control. I expect that I do lose control. It's all about protecting that very vulnerable part of me, the part I feel I must save at all costs because no one else can. I have worked on this in therapy over the years, and it's getting better, but it's still present.

    I cannot say with certainty, but it seems likely that my lack of coping on that ground could have been influenced by my mother's lack of support and hugely stressful pregnancy that she hid from EVERYONE until a week before my birth.

    I am so early into reunion that I cannot speak to long-term success or failure. I stuck with my attempts to reach out to her for the eleven years she rejected me because she had buried all of it so deeply to protect herself, and because her parents and her husband told her that she must. After I reached out to her and my brother (her kept child), she slowly began to chip away at her defenses, and she has now told me that she is relieved to have the secret out and to be able to process all those many years of pain.

    We are moving tentatively forward, through telephone conversations for now. We talk about once a week for an hour, very openly. She asked me to let her set the boundaries, which I am more than happy to do. I think it's about giving each other room to grow and give feedback. She said that she is slowly beginning to let herself think of me as her daughter (we began with her saying she wanted to think of me as a nice acquaintance she'd made in the grocery store--fair enough). And for the first time this past week, she said that she thinks she wants to meet me in the near-ish future. My brother and I live in the same state (far from where she lives), so perhaps one of these days, we can get together when she is at his house. She also said, at last, that she is starting to think of herself as grandmother to my children.

    I don't want to scare her off by saying "I love you," as she has told me before that's too much. I am worried, though, that I won't be able to be as detached in person as I am on the phone, when there's less at stake. I cannot imagine being in the same room with the woman I look so much like (per my brother, my uncle, and other family members) and who gave birth to me while not crying. I don't want to put that kind of pressure on her so that she feels she has to take care of me. I suppose we should talk about this before we meet, so that she knows more about my temperament (I am one of those people who readily expresses emotions outwardly).

    I would say that all the pain in the past has been worth this. I wouldn't trade this for not knowing. I also think reunion as just having "more people to love" is very simplistic, as Joy said. I think Robin's analogy of starting over on those initial foundations, while minimizing expectations, is an excellent one.

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  17. Exactly, Lorraine.
    Putting the pieces back together however painful at times will always be better than the not knowing. Speaking for myself, upon reunion I felt that I was finally able to breath after 36 years. I know that my daughter feels a great relief also. No more secrets, no more silence, what matters is that we are togehter again.

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  18. Maryanne wrote"If all there is is more hurt and disappointment and disillusionment for the majority of reunited folks, why search? "

    Because most people in search mode don't know that this is how it will be. No one really knows what reunion will be like for them until they have searched and reunited or met with rejection.

    I know for myself, I couldn't NOT search. I refused to go to my grave without knowing the people who brought me into this world and whose genes I carry and why I was given up. Not knowing was like having a stone (more like a boulder) in my shoe that I just HAD to deal with.

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  19. In the int'l adoption community there are a-parents searching for first parents and orchestrating reunions for kids who are not yet teens. I know there are some people who think this is terrible--if we could leave aside the argument for the time being that a-families should not search on behalf of adoptees (because virtually all of these parents are doing it at the request of their adopted children), what advice do you have for younger adoptees reconnecting with family?

    As an aside, I would be very hesitant to tell my child that her relationship with her mother could never be "repaired" should we ever be fortunate to locate her. Thoughts?

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  20. Robin:

    Ditto from this first mother. I had to find my daughter; not knowing was eating at me like a lion devouring prey.

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  21. Jess: You don't have to say anything about what will or will not be. I'm just speaking from what I felt about my own relationship, and the many many others I have heard about.

    I would say virtually all of the mothers I am in touch with constantly moderate what they will say or not say or ask to their children who were adopted by others; so many things are misconstrued, and each gives the adoptee (it seems to us) another reason to walk away, get nasty, cut off the relationship.

    One woman's daughter walked out on her for 15 years when she made what seemed like a comment that had nothing to do with the adopted daughter; and nothing would change her mind.

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  22. "knowing/reunion was always always better than a void, an emptyness, a nothing of not knowing...."

    Unfortunately although it may not be what you intend, I don't think that is the message that many first-mothers and adoptees who are not yet reunited are going to hear.
    Post-reunion suffering and pain isn't even the subtext on this blog. It is up-front, explicit and extremely discouraging - more like "naught for your comfort, naught for your desire, save that the sky grows darker still and the sea rises yet higher" than any kind of encouragement to venture, however gingerly, into reunion.
    The general opinion here seems to be that the relationship has already been irreparably damaged and that nothing that really matters can be salvaged. I can very well see why some people reading this blog might think it is simply not worth the price of re-opening old wounds in order to move from a state of ignorance into one of knowledge.

    Another commentator said that they had heard that some people "breeze through" adoption, by which presumably they mean reunion.
    I have never heard anyone make that claim, but perhaps I haven't been listening hard enough. I also don't think that a person's inability to control their emotions so that others are not going to be scorched by them is an indication of the depth of trauma that has been experienced. The degree of a person's reactivity is just not a good measure of trauma.

    "Reading and listening will help you a lot."
    Wouldn't that depend who you are reading and listing to? Besides, other people's experiences and opinions are not always one's best guide. I think many people have got themselves into a mess from reading and listening to other people's experiences as if they were gospel.

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  23. All I ever wanted was a relationship of any kind with my son. For almost 20 years I believed I had been permanently rejected, and "at least you know" was very cold comfort during that time.

    Maybe I am fortunate that I never expected to get my baby back or the relationship to resume like a stopped video after reunion with just a blank in between. But I do think that much of what has been said here could discourage new searchers. Who would even try for a relationship that was deemed irreparable from the start?

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  24. "The general opinion here seems to be that the relationship has already been irreparably damaged and that nothing that really matters can be salvaged."

    I don't see this blog and its narratives in this light, but maybe this is because I am not a tender young reader. I read books before reunion and thought about it, but the varied messages from people posting here and on other blogs have actually been very grounding for me.

    I did learn not to expect anything or to follow anyone else's narrative as my own *from* this blog.

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  25. Part II:

    Still at anon, just getting so long to respond to all your erroneous assumptions!

    Amazing that there could be so many in response to such a personal comment as my original one was! You are making me resort to exclamation points. :) So much work.

    People reading here may decide it is not worth the effort to reunite-you presume that, I do not. I am going to presume that in saying that you believe that those of us who have travelled that path are under some obligation to ease others into reunion. I do not hold that as a belief. I did what I did, I can tell my story about it for those that want to listen, and suffer the slings and arrows, as I am suffering yours from those who don't. You may not know my experience *but* I have talked to thousands of adoptees, yes really, thousands. You may be surprised to learn that I have yet to see two stories be exactly the same.

    Try to think of it this way. When you were growing up, presumably you grew up in a family. You had friends and knew other families. There were kids with moms and dads, and yet no two family constellations were exactly the same. That is how it is in adoption too, the family constellations are bigger, but not exactly the same. Even if you were an orphan raised in an orphanage, which I am just being disingenuous here because let's face it, you know me, and I you, other orphans had different stories.

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  26. Part III:

    My God, I can talk a lot---

    Also about those that read here and will be dissauded from going into reunion, you are presuming that I am invested in others going into reunion. I am not. It is a very personal decision. As an adoptee advocate I am not invested in other adoptees searching out their relatives unless they are committed. It is not my decision to make for them. I won't speak to the natural mother aspect because I am not a natural mother. I would like for moms to be open to what I see as human response, again that is an adoptee point of view and not a mothers.

    When I called my mom for the first time I thought she may be a drug-addled prostitute, in fact, that is what I expected. I expected her to be wafer-thin and wearing a glittering snakeskin mini-skirt. I expected her to ask me for drug money and only felt sorry that I didn't have any. That didn't dissuade me. I have no responsibility to sugar-coat this for others. It is their decision.

    I presume that anyone searching is adult enough to handle whatever their reality is and is not depending on me to sugar-coat something that has the potential to be quite rough, as it was for me.

    I also presume that anyone truly wanting to learn about this experience would read a breadth of points of view and not be so myopic that they cleaved themselves to one blog as 'gospel'. That they wouldn't ask such obviously disingenuous questions.

    Perhaps you "anonymous" can ask yourself why you are so invested in discrediting my personal experience? If this is not sport to you after all, and if it is just sport, perhaps you can ask yourself why you want to make sport of people, like myself, who have suffered terribly from adoption. Kinda gross, you hafta admit.

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  27. Jessica,
    I wouldn't tell any adoptee (young or old) that her relationship with her mother could never be repaired. I would tell an adoptee that her mother thinks about her and misses her and hopes they can meet. I think this is about 99.9% likely to be true. I wouldn't get into what the relationship will be like.

    As an aside, I think it's fine for adoptive parents to help children search. The problem is when adoptive parents try to control the reunion.

    Relationships between adoptees and birth patents can be repaired if both are committed to having a relationship and are wiling to discuss their feelings. I think it's helpful if adoptees and birth mothers explore adoption together through reading and discussing adoption-related books and films and going to AAC conventions or CUB retreats together. I also think arranging for adoptive parents and birth parents to meet is valuable.

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  28. @ anon who I think deliberately misunderstood me and that is so dissapointing condsidering the source.

    I did write a rather long and piquant comment about some of your particularly disingenuous comments. Perhaps later I will be in the mood to address how my point of view was never asserted to be universal.


    I still think the idea that you should listen is very relevant. Try it, you might like it.

    Joy-joy

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  29. Good comments, Jane. I am so glad your daughter is talking to you again. Yes, there is hope for some of us. Although I think my son would rather have a root canal than go to an adoption conference:-)

    Maybe the problem is how we define "normal relationship". If you go into reunion thinking that relationship will be the same as with kids you raised right from the start, you are doomed to disappointment, although I have seen that happen in a few close reunions after many years and a lot of hard work from both sides.

    The surrender, and the adoptee having another family and a life without us for many years makes the relationship different, but it does not make it irreparable in most cases, unless the only relationship you consider "repaired" is identical to that with kids you have raised, or if you have no other children, with what you imagine such a relationship would be.

    Nobody knows what they are going to find. Among people I know, reunions are all over the map, from best to worst. Unrealistic expectations are what doom many reunions. Some of the advice and literature out there fuels these unrealistic expectations rather than dispelling them, which is unfortunate.

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  30. Speaking from what Jane believes to be the .1%, I strongly urge adoptive parents or anyone else who is discussing reunion possibilities with an adoptee to never say their mother thinks about them, misses them and hopes they can meet. This is a complete unknown and is just setting the adoptee up for disappointment if being missed and thought about is something they're hoping for.

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  31. "unless the only relationship you consider "repaired" is identical to that with kids you have raised"

    Most parents don't give up their kids.

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  32. I guess if I could believe like Maryanne that my surrendering my daughter did very little to alter her life and who she grew up to be I would probably have a different outlook on our reunion. I can't believe that being raised by strangers knowing that your Mother left you behind has not had any effect on her physically or mentally. i can't feel that it only had a casual effect. Did it change her good heart, the color of her eyes? No. but it changed her.

    During pregnancy I had to deny any maternal thoughts or feelings knowing that she wasn't going to be mine. I didn't sing to her, stroke her, imagine her face.I didn't have the joy in celebrating with family her birth. No picking out baby clothes, etc. etc.. I dreaded it when she moved because it made her real. Feeling that I was a monster for doing so.
    How does that have no effect?

    Our relationship and reunion is good but holds a certain detachment that I don't have with the daughter I raised. I love them both equally but differently.

    I would never discourage anyone from searching for their biological families. The myths of first mothers as prostitute/drug addicts is one that needs to be put to rest. Most of us would have killed to keep our babies but it was a different time and we fell prey to values that denied us to be mothers.
    I can only speak for myself but if I had my life to do over that is one decison that I would change in an instant even knowing that it would alter my entire life as it is.

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  33. I guess if I could believe like Maryanne that my surrendering my daughter did very little to alter her life and who she grew up to be I would probably have a different outlook on our reunion. I can't believe that being raised by strangers knowing that your Mother left you behind has not had any effect on her physically or mentally. i can't feel that it only had a casual effect. Did it change her good heart, the color of her eyes? No. but it changed her.

    During pregnancy I had to deny any maternal thoughts or feelings knowing that she wasn't going to be mine. I didn't sing to her, stroke her, imagine her face.I didn't have the joy in celebrating with family her birth. No picking out baby clothes, etc. etc.. I dreaded it when she moved because it made her real. Feeling that I was a monster for doing so.
    How does that have no effect?

    Our relationship and reunion is good but holds a certain detachment that I don't have with the daughter I raised. I love them both equally but differently.

    I would never discourage anyone from searching for their biological families. The myths of first mothers as prostitute/drug addicts is one that needs to be put to rest. Most of us would have killed to keep our babies but it was a different time and we fell prey to values that denied us to be mothers.
    I can only speak for myself but if I had my life to do over that is one decison that I would change in an instant even knowing that it would alter my entire life as it is.

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  34. I don't think there is any blog on earth that would have dissuaded me from searching for my first mother. I do, however, wish my search supporters had advised me to be very honest with myself about what I was hoping to get from my search and how I would feel if it didn't meet those expectations. I have heard adoptees say that they are just looking for medical history or just to know their story but I was really looking to become mother and daughter again (which I didn't totally admit to myself at the time). Although my nmother and I did have a good reunion it was not the same relationship that it would have been had we never been separated. There was too much hurt and pain on both sides.

    And I have to totally agree with Campbell that even if less than 1 percent of first mothers did not miss their children or think of them, it is still a bad idea to tell adoptees the things Jane mentioned. It sets the child or adult adoptee up to have certain expectations in reunion which may be far from what they actually experience.

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  35. Speaking only for me, I got pregnant on purpose,wanted my baby very much,although after I told people things were very stressful for awhile until everyone calmed down. The second half of my pregnancy was quite enjoyable. Since I felt guilty for not being married, I decided to pretend to go along with the program(go away to an unwed mothers' home(which I refuse to call 'maternity home'-nobody called them that- and I was never into political correctness)but when I tried to get my baby back they made it so difficult if not impossible that I finally caved in. I never had any other children but my son seems perfectly normal to me. Yeah, he gets angry but won't admit it and our relationship would have been more of a mother-son relationship if I had raised him but other than that I'm not going to look for problems where none exist

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  36. It's me,one of the anonymouses,again. For all the grief and pain of being separated from my son for all those years, I can honestly and proudly say that giving birth to him was my chief accomplishment in life. It's as true when I look at him today as it was on that beautiful day when I first saw him right after he was born.

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  37. Robin wrote: "it is still a bad idea to tell adoptees the things Jane mentioned."

    Robin, not sure what you are talking about.

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  38. This is the comment from Jane that I was referring to:

    "I would tell an adoptee that her mother thinks about her and misses her and hopes they can meet. I think this is about 99.9% likely to be true. "

    I was agreeing with this comment from Campbell:

    "Speaking from what Jane believes to be the .1%, I strongly urge adoptive parents or anyone else who is discussing reunion possibilities with an adoptee to never say their mother thinks about them, misses them and hopes they can meet."

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  39. I too would give anything to have the surrender to do over, and to have walked out of the hospital with my son. But that is not an option any of us get. So we must deal with what is. Obviously the effects of adoption on adoptees vary a lot. Everyone's feelings are real and valid, but nobody can speak for anyone else or for all or most adoptees or mothers. Therein lies the flaw of trying to learn all about adoption from adoption reformers.

    I can't tell searching adoptees that "most" mothers think about them all the time, or want to meet them, because I don't know that. I can tell them how I feel, but that is really only relevant to my son. Nobody is your mother or can speak for her but your actual mother. it really does nobody a service to replace the myth of the whore mother with the equally mythical saintly loving mother who had no choice. Both are true for some people, neither is true for all. The lovely mother you meet online or at conference may be what you hope to find, but she is not your mother, and you are not her child. Investing too much in that fantasy can lead to disappointment when your real mom does not measure up, or the reverse, if your found kid is nothing like the desperately searching adoptees you have met or read about.

    The best advice I could give a searcher is to try to get rid of all expectations and stereotypes, positive and negative, and go bravely into the unknown. In all my years in adoption reform, I have made many great adoptee friends, but I have learned little about adoptees like my son. Adoption is not the center of his life or a major issue to him. He did not search, probably would not have. He just is not all that interested in adoption one way or another. He is a fine person, as are my adoption reform friends, but they are very different and knowing one does not mean knowing the other.

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  40. Maryanne wrote: "The lovely mother you meet online or at conference may be what you hope to find, but she is not your mother, and you are not her child."

    This was very true for me. I had heard so many stories in books and elsewhere in which mothers were amazingly open and loving and welcoming of their placed child. This was not my experience, at all. At first, or for a very long time. I did wish that my mother could be like these women, but she wasn't and isn't. I love her all the same, and in some ways, it is a relief not to have jumped headfirst into anything.

    No one's story is the same, and it is all about taking stock of oneself, one's own expectations, and going ahead--or not--as seems right.

    There was an overwhelming chorus of people who assured me my mother would be like that 99.9%, although my aparents were not part of this chorus (they chose to avoid speaking of her, when possible, due to their own issues). This same chorus was stymied, then apologetic, and then there was very little left for them to say as I moved ahead and chose not to give up. I had to decide what was right for me and hope one day my mother would meet me there. She did.

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  41. Joy said: "When I called my mom for the first time I thought she may be a drug-addled prostitute, in fact, that is what I expected. I expected her to be wafer-thin and wearing a glittering snakeskin mini-skirt. I expected her to ask me for drug money and only felt sorry that I didn't have any."

    Joy, can I ask why you would have 'thought' your mother might have been a "drug-addled prostitute"? I'm really interested in how you came to this 'thought'.
    A few years into my reunion..my dau would call me at midnite and say to me.."I think I could have accepted you better if you had been a 'drunk, drug-addict or prosititute'. I wasn't offended..I just thought..WTF! and said to her.."Sorry to have disappointed you".
    This seems to me, to kind of be a common theme amongst the adopted population.
    Again..if you or any adoptee here can cast some light on why so many adults adoptees seem to have this common thought/assumption, about their natural mothers. This drunk/drug-addled/prossie thing.

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  42. @ Chris, ugh just responded to you and it was lost!

    Good question though. I am not sure where it came from, it feels like it came from the ether, but I don't think it could have, like you said it is so prevelant.

    I didn't imgaine my mother that way for a long time, I only made the decision to contact her during the course of a single day. I had all my info, had it for a long time. One day, I just started seriously thinking about it, I am sure my baby had a lot to do with that decision. I was one of those adoptees who had a parallel pregnancy to my mother's.

    So after pulling out my paperwork at 10:00 am and stewing in my own juices, I went for a walk with my husband that evening batting ideas around. It was then I had this very clear vision of this sad, tragedy of a woman answering her "pay-phone" and me telling her I was her daughter and her saying, "aww honey, how sweet, do you have $50.00 so I can get through the week?" and me just feeling sad that I didn't have $50.00.

    Needless to say, I did not find her in that situation. This is not meant to denigrate sex-workers or to lack compassion for addicts. I am glad her life was easier than what I imagined.

    @ Anon who was told that she would receive open arms, by a chorus of people---where was this chorus from? I have heard numbers like that too, and they do sound inflated to me, given many of my friend's experiences.

    I didn't hear anything like that but I had my experience pretty much in isolation until the last several years.

    As for expectations, nothing could have prepared me I went from denial, to intellectualizing, to the real visceral experience in about 12 hours. I sometimes think if I hadn't experienced it myself, I would be one of the naysayers. It was like an internal earthquake for me, and then seeing her and RECOGNIZING her, and not only her, my father, ai yi yi.

    While it may have helped me to read other's stories, it wasn't available to me then. We sure could have used the support though, and by 'we' I mean, my mother, my father had it, my husband though, her husband and our extended families. It would have helped me tremendously to have been able to read all sorts of blogs. Left to the libraries though, I read everything I could get my hands on, including a bright yellow copy of 'Birthmark'

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  43. @ Anon from the other day, attempt at recreating my part I:

    Quoting me and then for some reason changing my statement and contradiciting it. I said as you quoted "do some people breeze through adoption" and I meant adoption in its totality. Relinquishment, living as an adoptee, and then however it resolves itself for that individual. That is why I said the word "adoption" and not reunion. Not every adoptee has a reunion, but every adoptee is adopted. Reportedly, many sail through it, were adopted by wonderful families and are completely incurious about their origins. If you have not heard that tale, I am more than a bit surprised. According to many of their own stories they are too stupefied by the sheer amazingness of their adoptive families to have time to think about anything else. My abrother may fall into this category, and I admit, we are dazzling, but he is in reunion.

    If my tongue-in-cheek offends you, save your breath and listen to the sound of me not caring, it is profound and enduring. Rejoice however, you win the cultural capital in this game, I am the loser. You or yours is the sainted, "good adoptee" and probably would have no reason to read at this blog or the others who didn't sail through, who got a little shiprwrecked on the way.

    Just like there are many people who really struggled through divorce and there are blogs about it, and they are good, kind, smart and worthwhile people. I don't read their blogs, because I cannot relate, and no they would not have discouraged me from seeking legal counsel to dissolve my holy union.

    I would have to assume that they are yet tender idiots if they cannot discern that one person's experience is not gospel, they can read a million blogs, and I think this would be tremendously helpful and still find their experiences overlap with significant difference.

    I don't speak for all adoptees, all women, all Californians, all mothers, or all humans. I know that, I would hope that anyone who reads my words would be able to understand that. That is why I said 'telling the truth from their own perspective about their own situations' see, that is kind of the opposite of "gospel"

    Other people's experience gives a vague sort of context, but each person must sort this out on their own.

    Another thing that I did not say was that "reactivity measures trauma" I said MY experience with MY mother, who I have known for decades now, who I talk about this with and who makes similar statements. I gave no qualifiers to our behaviors, which on my part has led to a lot of withdrawal. I do not have a trauma barometer. I was talking about MY experience.

    I like to argue as much as the next battle-axe, but I will say this, strawmen do not make good arguments. They make good tinder, which seems to be your goal.

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  44. I reunited with my son 21 years ago, shortly after his 18th birthday. In many ways, I see so many parallels between our relationship and the relationship between Lorraine and her late daughter. In a way it gives me strength and hope to know that other mothers who have been in long-term reunion for many years struggle with many of the issues and problems that I do.

    I have come to the conclusion this past year that relinquishment does indeed cause irreparable damage to the mother-child relationship after reunion takes place. So I was glad to see Lorraine tackling this subject. Is the relationship I have with my son the same type it would have been if I had never surrendered him to adoption in the first place? I hardly think so...

    Is my son the same person he would have been if I had not given him up to strangers? No way...those people physically and emotionally abused him all throughout his childhood. His personality was alien to them; his interests were not their interests. He was different from them, and when his aparents had their own biological child a few years later, my child went on the back burner as some oddity and scapegoat.

    Our reunion has never been easy. In the early years, we dealt with his serious drug addiction to crystal meth. After he cleaned up, we dealt with his ongoing struggle with bipolar disorder, which included major depressive episodes, as well as the scary manic episodes. He can be as different as day and night towards me. One moment, he's almost attached at the hip...the next moment, he's just gone without any reason or explanation. And then he comes back...he always comes back to me...and acts as if he never went away.

    How could he be the same person he would have been if he hadn't been separated from me in the first place? I never would have abused him. Serious child abuse can cause a LOT of dysfunction in adulthood, if you ask me.

    I know for a damn fact that I'm not the person I would have been either. Some days I do wonder what it would have been like not to live my entire adult life with so many regrets and sorrows. I wish to God I could turn back the hands of time...but I can't, so I just do the best that I can...and hope my son does too.

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  45. @Joy:

    The chorus was from adoptee friends of mine already in reunion, their first mothers, from other first mothers and adoptees NOT in reunion, and a multitude of civilian friends of mine. I have many friends and acquaintances in the adoption sphere and outside it, and I spoke with nearly everyone who *would* talk about it with me. No one for a moment voiced any suspicion that I would receive the vehement rejection that I did.

    I knew that I should be prepared for anything, despite the positive messages everyone had given me, but it didn't soften the blow. And then after the rejection, I spent much time wishing my mother were like any of the fmothers who were my friends.

    I do think that my extended support network eroded very rapidly during the time of my rejection, but there were always the stalwart folks, usually adoptees, who stood by me and let me mourn and strategize.

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  46. anon wrote:"I do think that my extended support network eroded very rapidly during the time of my rejection..."

    I had this experience too during the many years I was rejected. Nobody wants to hear bad news, or to be reminded it could happen to them. This is just human nature, not unique to adoption. Being "unlucky" in any sense tends to make one a pariah, as if it were contagious.

    It did not help to be told "I know he will come around", even though in my case eventually he did, nor that "most" searchers were accepted, nor worst of all that it was my karma or some lesson I was supposed to learn because "everything happens for a reason."
    The best thing you can say to a rejected person is "I'm really sorry that happened to you" and let them talk about their real feelings, and listen.

    There is a mirror image parallel in adoption reform that while the rejected feel constrained to speak about their circumstances because they have been judged "not typical", those in happy reunions are sometime reluctant to talk too much about their happiness lest it hurt those in less fortunate circumstances. There is way too much identifying with other people's stories, and feeling uncomfortable hearing those that are not very much like yours. It gets to a point where almost nobody can openly tell their own tale without it offending someone else. That is not healthy.

    Again, the most helpful advice to searchers is be ready for anything and assume nothing. Personally I think there are a lot more rejections from both sides than the figures that get thrown around. People in long-term rejections mostly, with a few exceptions, stop being involved in adoption reform. Ditto for a lot of really happy, balanced reunions. It becomes just a part of life, not a cause or something to obsess over. Nobody has any accurate statistics, and I would love to see statistics left out of the whole discourse, and more emphasis on how unique each situation is.

    For me, neither the image of irreparable harm and reunion solving nothing, nor the opposite of most people meeting people who feel just like they do works. The support one finds in groups and on the internet has helped many of us, but wrong advice, over-generalizations and wrong assumptions have also hurt and excluded some. It is a mixed bag, that we can make a little better by being more aware of what is not working for some and taking a broader, less insular view.

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  47. I have been coming to this forum for about 6 months now and one of the most surprising things I have discovered is the number of adoptees for whom adoption was either an insignificant part of their lives or was a positive experience. I had expected to find a lot more shipwrecked survivors like myself than adoptees who had just sailed through the experience.

    My APs always told me that being adopted is exactly the same as being a biological child. Although I am not really sure how they could know this since neither of them were adopted. This always sounded like adoption industry speak to me.

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  48. maryanne:

    Your comments ring true. It is absurd to tell someone "he will come around" because no one knows another's heart. And when my daughter pulled back, I really never knew whether or not she would return.

    First mothers birth mothers natural mothers and adoptees just want the hurt accepted for what it is. Platitudes do not help. And it is sad that we cannot be more open with each other with the good news, with the sad.

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  49. Just want to add that there is a world of difference between saying "I HOPE your kid comes around" and "I KNOW they will come around. The former expresses a good wish, the latter is presumptuous.

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  50. It was not that long ago as recently as the 70's that searching for one's first parents or relinquished child was met with a lot of hostility and resistance. Adoptees were told that we were maladjusted, ungrateful, our APs are our "real" parents, our first mother deserved her privacy, etc. and that we need to quit rocking the boat and let sleeping dogs lie. It took an enormous amount of courage and fortitude to keep searching, and fighting for our right to open records in the face of so much opposition.

    There have always been a lot of rejections or reunions that start out well but don't end up in a lasting relationship. Most reunions seem like a mixed bag.

    Fast forward to today where searching for one's missing parent/child is encouraged and considered healthy. And open adoption is doing away with the need to search at all.

    I wonder if many people did not want to threaten our newfound support by announcing too loudly or too frequently that reunions are not always a bed of roses. I think this is why there were so many joyous stories in the ALMA newsletter and why many of us in search and support groups only had positive expectations for our own reunions. I don't think it would have helped further our cause to keep getting the message out that reunions are not all rainbows and fairytales and that there is a lot of rejection, hurt feelings, difficulties that may be insurmountable, etc. jmho

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  51. Robin:

    Agree completely that the pitfalls of reunion did not need to be celebrated. But since they have been going on for so long now, and since the point is to let people who wee adopted own their original identities, I think it's a different story now. And besides that, no matter what happens, the deep curiosity of the soul is answered in most cases, even if the reunion and aftermath isn't what we all hope for.

    Secrecy sucks, secrecy hurts, secrecy in the end serves NO ONE.

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