|Lorraine & Jane, 1983|
"One common thing among adoptees and other hurting people (no, not all adoptees are like this) is that they do not believe they make an impact on those around them. This is usually seen in traumaYou that that right, Amanda. She analyzed both the dynamic at work of adoptees who do not grasp how much their going away can hurt--they have been living like this all their lives, so what we think of as rejection may seem normal to them; and conversely, we first mothers may be overly sensitive to every inattention. Don't misunderstand, I am not talking about the kind of abuse some natural mothers after reunion endure until they stop putting up wit it; I am talking about the simple kinds of things that mothers put up with from their kept children without thinking about it, or friends and lovers.
survivors or individuals with low self-esteem. There was a time in their life where they felt helpless and believe they have lost their ability to make a difference. Or they believe they are invisible and truly don't matter.
"These individuals do not have an understanding of the true impact of how what they do or say makes others feel. I suppose the best response is gentle honesty, so that they can grow to become more aware.
"There is another reaction to bad experiences and low self-esteem: self blame and over-estimating your impact on others. Every missed phone call is perceived as being in response to something you've done wrong--when in reality, the person might just have forgotten or was busy at the moment and it wasn't because the other person did something wrong at all. The fears of rejection come into play where those who fear rejection may end up rejecting someone else to avoid the inevitability of being rejected themselves. Or they need to be reassured that the other person still loves them and won't leave and in turn, the other person feels mistrusted or overwhelmed."
We do need to give the other party a lot of room. And then--for both sides--decide when abuse or unkind words are simply too much to put up with.
For instance, a few years after my daughter Jane and I were reunited, she was visiting again, this time for most of the summer. Horseback riding is something that I love, and though she had never done it, she said she would like to. This seemed lie something we could have a good time sharing, but I knew she needed a few professional lessons before it would be safe to go riding. I live in a beautiful part of the country, but because it is beautiful and near New York City, it's also expensive, and riding lessons out here are very expensive. My husband and I do not have what people call "disposable" income. We're both writers and live pretty close to the bone. However, we went ahead and signed Jane up for a couple lessons.
At one of them I approached her on her horse and reached out to rub the horse's head. He turned his head and tried to bite me. "Opps, he tried to bite me," I said, pulling back before he chomped on a finger.
"I wouldn't care if he did," came out of nowhere from Jane. We hadn't been fighting. I think it was an honest comment on how she felt inside: angry at being given up for adoption, angry that I had not raised her, angry that she felt abandoned by me. I got it, but I knew I was not going to put up with that.
After we drove home from the stable in silence I told her that if she felt that way she shouldn't stay for the rest of the summer, and that she could go home immediately.
She said she wanted to stay. She did, and we had a good summer. There are times when natural mothers--and adoptees, if the situation is reversed--have to speak up and at least aim for a normal relationship, and not be disrespected and abused. This is First Mother Forum, but I have heard plenty of stories from adoptees to know that some mothers are simply not good people, or able to conduct a reasonable relationship that is not hurtful to the adoptee.
Another one of the commenters said that the relationship with her surrendered child got a lot whole lot better after she had a blow up at that person for their bad behavior. The same thing happened to a birth mother friend of mine: once she got mad at her daughter after years of absorbing some petty and negative behavior, once she actually blew her temper--the air was cleared. While they did not talk for months after that, when they did, it was from a better place. Sometimes we--natural mothers and adoptees--have to take a chance and speak up and tell the truth about how we are reacting to what has been said, or done. It doesn't always work out they way you would like it, but it going to feel better than being a doormat. --lorraine
* Amanda blogs at Declassified Adoptee. Love her blog.
If you just got here, you may be interested in
Why birth/natural mother-adoptee reunions go awry
and When birth/natural mother-adoptee reunions go awry, Part 2
Beneath a Tall Tree is the story of adoptee Jean Strauss's quest to unearth her past--it's touching, at times amusing. It's a great read for adoptees in search for their birth/natural parents, or thinking about searching for them. Jean is also the filmmaker who produced: ADOPTED: for the life of me, a poignant film that brings home the awful inequity of closed records and the meaning of one's biological family. Pass the Kleenex. ****