Friday, August 5, 2011

Family Reunions: Distorted by Adoption

Jane

Family reunions are a fine tradition but for me and other natural mothers, they can be a catalyst, bringing our buried grief to the surface, reminding us of the missing unnamed and unacknowledged family member. 

I'm leaving for Maui tomorrow to spend a week with my sisters and brother, nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews, and their spouses and significant others. We've been holding these reunions every three years since 1975.
 

I’m the fourth of five children, with three older sisters and a younger brother. My sister Katherine put together the first reunion at her home in Clinton, Illinois (pop. 8,000) where she moved from our hometown of Chicago after her marriage. Three of us, my sister Lucy, my brother David, and I lived on the west coast. My sister Helen remained in Chicago as did my mother. My father had died years earlier.

Family reunions were a tradition in Katherine’s husband’s family. When she first announced that she wanted to host one for our family, it sounded hokey, provincial. Nonetheless, I and my two (kept) daughters, ages three and one, headed off to Clinton, in the heart of Illinois. At the end of the week, we decided we would do it again. I became a convert and offered to hold the next reunion at my home in Salem, Oregon. We selected 1978 as the date and it’s been held every three years since then. We take turns arranging the event. As our families have grown through births and marriages, we’ve re-located from family homes to tourist areas, meeting in nine different states and once in Ecuador where my brother does business. My daughters, joined by a third in 1977, are always enthusiastic. "When’s the next reunion going to be? I hope it’s somewhere cool."

We’ve lost two family members since that first reunion, my mother in 1988 and my sister Helen a few months after our 1996 reunion. Helen's death from lung cancer is still hard for me. She was only 54, a victim of the tobacco industry.We held the 1996 reunion in January because we knew that Helen would not be with us in the summer. We met in Florida, giving Helen a respite from the harsh Chicago winter.  

I gave up my first daughter, whom I named Rebecca (in previous blogs I have referred to by her adoptive name) shortly after her birth in 1966. At each family reunion until Rebecca and I reunited, I felt acute pain from her absence. I grieved in silence; she was unknown to the rest of the family. I tried to imagine Rebecca was with us, riding on the Matterhorn at Disneyland, swimming in a lake in Washington, feasting at a barbecue in Illinois. I tried to visualize her in the photographs we brought home, constructing her face from her father's and mine. At each reunion, I promised myself that someday she would join us. And in 1999, two years after we reunited, Rebecca came to a family reunion, the one in Ecuador.

Family reunions allow us to catch up with family doings in a way that other forms of communication, letters and electronic gadgetry, can never accomplish. Reunions let us know we’re part of something larger even if we don’t much care for some of the components. Reunions reaffirm that we’re okay; our traits may unnerve others but to us, it’s just the way our clan is. There’s no pretense when you’re with family members who have known you since you were in diapers. To paraphrase poet Robert Frost, reunions are the place, where, when you go there, they have to take you in.

Reunions must be difficult for for those who were raised apart from their natural families. Adoptee Katie Hern describes her feelings after visiting her natural family: “Back in San Francisco, as my feelings started surfacing, one of the first to arise was grief that I am a stranger to the people I now consider family.”. 

Rebecca did not share her feelings with me when we returned from Ecuador. Perhaps two weeks with biological kin--but social strangers--was stressful. Perhaps it was also rewarding. I hope it was. 
_______________________________________________
Reunion: A Year in Letters Between a Birthmother and the Daughter She Couldn't Keep 

 

This is an excellent book. The authors, the mother and the daughter she relinquished, are sensitive and perceptive. It's loaded with insights on the adoption experience. 

Katie Hern and Ellen McGarry Carlson (Reunion: A Year in Letters Between a Birthmother and the Daughter She Couldn’t Keep, 1999)

50 comments :

  1. Family reunions were seldom in my adoptive family, but when they occurred it felt nothing short of awkward. People marveling at similar traits they share, hearing laughs that sound the same, watching people with the same mannerisms, the same posture, the same noses. I was the thing that didn't belong, I wanted to hide in a corner.

    I never considered how a family reunion may be hard for a natural parent. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective, and I am sorry for the loss of your daughter.

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  2. We stopped having family reunions years ago, once the entire family moved all over the U.S. rather than everybody in one state. But, the sad part is that my daughter was raised by relatives, yet was never allowed to meet any of them except for those in the immediate family of those who stole her. That is sad. She had a huge family of cousins, aunts and uncles yet denied them. Now that she has found us, she is finally able to meet relatives who have never seen her, or have not seen her since she was a baby. Hopefully, someday she will realize that we are her family too.

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  3. Thank you for posting this. I recently had a family reunion of sorts when my in-laws came to visit us for 10 days. Half way through their stay, I had an unexpected melt-down, brought on by a fresh wave of grief over the loss of my oldest daughter to adoption. Though I absolutely hate the thought another woman knows what this feels like, it is "nice" to know I am not the only one who struggles with family gatherings.

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  4. My family has never had a family reunion, but if they did none of my kids would go, so not having the surrendered one there would be no big deal. There is no interest from anyone.

    Aunts and Uncles have all passed away, none of the cousins are close so there would be no purpose in it. Just as well.

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  5. Since I moved out of state from my family, I was spared having to go to family reunions, which my mother's large family held every year. My mother used to urge me to come back to Michigan for them, and then one in Indiana--but I was never going to go. Unconsciously, I must have realized how miserable I would have felt, because I had a hard enough time getting through gatherings at holidays with my own small nuclear family--knowing that my daughter was not there, that she was somewhere else, with another family.

    And there would have been questions----about why I didn't have kids. What do you say to that when you do have a child, but she's not in your life? And seeing all my cousins with their children would have been painful, and I knew that.

    The missing person--the daughter I gave up--is probably also the reason I haven't made it back to any of my high school reunions, even though I get emails asking me to show up, and I admit there is a part of me that is curious about everybody from back then. I didn't even respond to the questionnaire last year about what you've done with your life for the reunion book--even though a friend of mine put it together--because I didn't want to have to deal with the adoption issue--if I were to go back. Once I list that in a bio, or tell it to strangers if they ask whether I have children, it becomes the issue to the exclusion of everything else, and frankly, sometimes I need to get away from all adoption talk.

    Because I'm so public about my life as a birth/natural mother, there I times I can't bear to face a zillion questions from people I barely know. At a high school reunion dinner, I'd be there for hours, and wouldn't be able to get away. It sounds like a nightmare to me.

    Until I read this blog and a few of the comments, I never realized how the surrender of my daughter affected this part of my life. I just thought I stayed away because...because...I wasn't interested in my extended family, my high school friends. And that's not the case. I stayed away because of not having my daughter with me, in reality, or at least being able to say why she wasn't with me.

    I will always be sad that she did not come to my mother's funeral.

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  6. Not even a possibility for some adoptees, impossible for others and too difficult for many.Many don't receive invites even though someone makes sure to let them know it's happening.

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  7. Lorrraine:
    What an interesting comment. Despite all the years that have gone by and all your work for adoption reform, you are still discovering new ways that adoption has affected your life. For myself personally, adoption has permeated pretty much every aspect of my life.

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  8. I love family get togethers, whether an organized reunion or a wedding. Unfortunately funerals are a type of reunion also but sometimes can be the most meaningful of reunions, family gathering to support each other. I just attended a reunion of sorts last weekend, my cousin's daughter's wedding. I was very touched to have been invited as I was only one of two extended family members to have been invited. It was worth every minute of the five hour drive and being adopted didn't even enter my mind, unless we're counting checking my email to see if my bio mom had mailed me back yet. Adoption and family reunions have never been an issue for me as an adopted person.

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  9. My experiences with adopted family get-togethers have been similar to Campbell's. The most recent one was for my father's funeral, which was a difficult occasion. But there were tons of family members hugging me all around. There is a lot of love in my dad's family.

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  10. Campbell wrote:"Adoption and family reunions have never been an issue for me as an adopted person."

    Are you talking about reunions with bio-family or with adoptive family or both?

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  11. Adoption has permeated pretty much every aspect of my life too, Robin. Like going to the movies. Even if the movie is not about adoption per se, and not that many are, I am watching it from the perspective of a woman who relinquished a child. You view life from the perspective of having been relinquished.

    Casual references to a whole host of things can be viewed differently from someone who has not had the same experience. We are all like this, bringing our own experiences to every new encounter and incident.

    But ours can be a reminder of that we wish we could truly let go of. We need "the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind." Pope wrote that line in a poem called Eloise to Abelard, star-crossed lovers if ever there were ones. How very fitting.

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  12. My (a) family holds reunions from time to time. Although, the last time was quite a long time ago. I've tried to stoke interest in one again but everyone's got their own lives and I don't want to be the only one planning.

    Plus, I'd like to invite my (b) family (because we should all be ONE family) but there would only be one person from that side interested. (And it's not the one person I'd want there the most.)

    Instead, my half sister (b-fam) are planning a smaller reunion of sorts. She lives down south and we haven't seen each other since 2007. I haven't even met her daughter! So... we're planning a trip together in 2013 to Disney.

    I'm encouraging my (a) sibs and my (a) mom to join us but so far no interest. I guess only time will tell...

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  13. Megan, same for my dad's family, they were so supportive when he died. Sorry for your loss.

    Robin, the only family I have, so far anyway, is my adoptive family. I assumed that's what Jane was referring to when she wrote, "Reunions must be difficult for for those who were raised apart from their natural families". Sorry for the confusion, when I think and write about my family the word adoptive doesn't come to mind naturally. I've only met bio mom once and the rest of her family don't know I exist.

    I imagine though if I ever attend a bio family reunion, being adopted will be an issue lol

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  14. This was post about how reunions affect natural mothers who lose children to adoption. This post also refers directly to one of the people commenting, as she is the daughter in question. However, Megan (and Campbell) seem determined to throw up at us natural mothers how "joyful" (to use your word, Megan, about your adoption) they were to be adopted (and thus not raised by their natural mothers) and have other families.

    Good for you! I personally am pleased that many adoptees have wonderful adoptive families that they feel totally at peace with and in. Unfortunately, that did not happen for my daughter, nor does it happen for many adoptees.

    However, why come here just to make natural mothers feel bad, including your own? Since you do comment here, Megan, Jane's post was practically begging for you to tell us how you felt at the family reunions of your natural family, but that seems to not be something you are willing to address. I for one, know that my daughter felt weird at first with my family, but as she got to know them better she realized that in my family--her biological family--she was not an oddball, but just "one of the family." However, she also had several cousins, and others, in her adoptive family that she particularly liked and felt close to.

    Frankly, Megan, most of your posts are merely vindictive. That seems to be why you come here to comment. This blog was born out of the grief and pain that natural mothers--including your own--never quite lose, and you come here to sink the knife in deeper.

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  15. Family Reunions are distorted by adoption,
    among other things. Let's see by let me tell
    you about my family. I know that my family
    is not unusual in fact in the olden days
    molestation was covered up to protect the
    male providers. Women had to stay with
    molester because they had one income
    we all know about the secrets in those
    days. Then there are the alcoholics who
    get drunk at every family function. Oh, I
    can't forget divorced exs along with the
    current significant others who come and go
    on my family.
    We used to have them but now things are
    way to distorted in every aspect of life.
    I hate being part of disfunction just because
    disfunction in my family is played off as
    normal and it ISN'T.

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  16. Thank you for sharing your insight and feelings. I so love to read this blog.

    I was talking to my sister,( she is also an adoptee) and she mentioned the other day that she had no idea why she even cared that we had always been left out of family gatherings. She said, "It's not like any of them ever considered us family". She and I are so different in that respect. I never really cared that we were treated that way, but I know it hurt her immensely. Maybe it never hurt me, because I always felt like I had to fake a bond and connection to them that I really didn't feel.

    I am sorry for all of your pain.

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  17. Maybe I'll stop being anonymous soon, but I'd rather my son didn't know I was commenting here. He seems to feel like Megan(but I really can't speak for anyone else of course) in that he loves his(a)family and considers that his family. Those are the people he grew up with and is comfortable with. He also,as my Dad said after one family gathering'fits right in' with his b-family.Well,DUH!He's my kid. Genetics can't be changed and neither can the fact that he didn't grow up with me and there's all that missing time and space. But things are still good-no-they're great -and this bond can't be broken by anyone or anything. I got some idea of how uncomfortable it might be at times when I went to a wedding shower for his fiancee' and all his relatives stared at me weirdly. His mom looked very sad and uncomfortable,too,and only 1 or 2 people said anything to me-just stared. The next time I was invited to a family gathering I meant to go but when the time came I chickened out .I wasn't feeling particularly strong or courageous that day. Even though I was invited his Mom never sent me the directions .I would have eventually found the place but I figured she wanted to be the only Mom . I was mean to her in the beginning of the Reunion but she's such a nice person and has done so much for'our son' that I can't be mad at her any more

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  18. @ Lorraine, well said. It is bizarre, same with that person "amped and anon" or whatever the hell they called themselves and that womb comment. It would be like me going to people who are going through difficult divorces and talking about how freeing an happy divorce was for me. Some people really lack self-awareness, Socrates would say their lives aren't worth living but I can see an upside to it.

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  19. The only one of my many families to have a family reunion is my first father's and that was many years ago. I think if I went to one it would be bizarre and uncomfortable. Although these are the people I resemble the most, as an adoptee I am used to NOT looking like anyone (lol). Also, I think I would feel like an outcast. When I first found a few paternal relatives they were flabbergasted to learn of my existence. They were also stumped as to why my n-father would give me up for adoption in the first place.

    @Lorrraine,
    I second your comment regarding Megan's comment.

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  20. Strictly PlatonicAugust 6, 2011 at 5:56 PM

    Joy: Socrates said the "unexamined" life wasn't worth living. He didn't say the unruffled one was.

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  21. This family reunion topic has me feeling sad. I've been in reunion for 11 yrs now and things were happy and crazy in the beginning Both my parents were still alive and lots of other unfortunate events still hadn't happened. We used to have family summer reunions at their house in Sag Harbor(somewhere near Lorraine although I still haven't met her-and am mooching off her blog.)Anyway my son knows how to fly planes and for one of the reunions he and his mom flew into the East Hampton airport and my brother and I picked them up. It was a real trip A few days later someone asked me why I looked so worried and I just blurted out"My baby flies" and they looked at me like"What-okay-whatever" Well,since then I've watched my mother die of lung cancer even though she never smoked and my father die of leukemia. No comment on the health care system. To say this shook me up doesn't begin to describe it. My son was there and gave me a reason to see a positive future.But he's moved away,too-too expensive living on Long Island and I'm just happy and grateful that we had those happy times together with my parents and family. I refuse to crumble-been through too much

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  22. My daughter is like Megan - cruel and vicious as if it will heal anything for her.

    I found her in Early Dec, 2002. The first year of contact was horrific... constant ugliness at any attempt to contact - and then my father passed away in October of 2003.

    When I contacted her - left a message at the only number I had.... she was so horrible.....

    I look and see she is still attempting to be "nice" with her extremely abusive adopters.... and she spouts ugliness at anyone in my family....

    For those like her, Megan, and other adoptees that just don't get it... I have nothing but pity. Sadly, they will never know what it is to be totally accepted by people that really do, most of the time, welcome you even when they don't have to...

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  23. Megan has always given the impression that she was happy as a clam to be adopted and that she had a wonderful and loving family. This is just my opinion but I think her actions belie her words. She did search for her first mother at the tender age of 19 and even after being seemingly rejected she persisted for over a decade to try to make contact. That certainly sounds like someone who had a strong need and/or desire to connect with her biological roots as if, perhaps, something was missing.

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  24. "It would be like me going to people who are going through difficult divorces and talking about how freeing an happy divorce was for me. "

    A forum is supposed to be a place where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged. The OP didn't make it clear that only natural mothers were supposed to respond. In fact, quoting Katie Hern and making reference to Rebecca seems like an invitation to adoptees to have their say.

    I do not think that different perspectives on an issue are incompatible with each other.

    Grimalkin

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  25. I didn't comment to make anyone feel bad Lorraine. I commented to reflect on what I thought Jane was writing about and that is how adopted people feel at family reunions.

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  26. This summer I got to meet some extended family on maternal side and bio-father's widow (separately). It was absolutely wonderful. I thought I would feel awkward and out-of-place, but I didn't -- at all. One of the neat things was after meeting some maternal family, my daughter commented, "Wow Mom, you really fit in." That gave me goosebumps.

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  27. "There’s no pretense when you’re with family members who have known you since you were in diapers. "

    There are many things that people feel the need to conceal from those with whom they have been raised, among which is keeping from their parents the fact that they have given birth to and relinquished a child.
    Surely that is a pretense.

    Grimalkin

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  28. "The missing person--the daughter I gave up--is probably also the reason I haven't made it back to any of my high school reunions..." ~ Lorraine Dusky

    Peeling back the onion layer by layer...it's funny how we continue to learn new things about ourselves every day of our lives. Lorraine, I just realized that THAT's the reason I never attend my high-school reunions, even though my former classmates bug me about it every year. (The reunions were originally every 10 years, but now everyone meets at the beach every summer near our old high school.)

    I've always been very open and upfront with people about my son's existence, but for some reason I just don't want to deal with all the questions that would be asked at a school reunion.

    "However, why come here just to make natural mothers feel bad, including your own?" ~Lorraine

    Great question, Lorraine. I wonder that all the time when I see some of the comments here. Nothing like rubbing our noses in the dirt, is there?

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  29. Grimalkin :

    What is your point?
    To be nasty? You succeeded.

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  30. I still live in my home town and I too have never gone to a high school reunion. I have always thought that it was just because I didn't care but now that I think about it having relinquished my daughter the year after graduation is probably the biggest reason I don't go. Not too many years ago I saw a fellow classmate that I hadn't seen since graduation. After all the small talk he said to me "Well, we all know what you did after graduation". I just walked away. Almost 40 years of my life since high school had vanished in an instance. I was still one of "those girls". Told myself then I would never attend a reunion.
    Family reunions are just as bad. The tradition was to take a picture of each individual family every year. I am the proud owner of 18 years of pictures of just the two of us as it took 19 years together before I became pregnant with my second daughter.

    Lorraine,
    In an earlier post you commented about my daughter and I having lunch together and then I could leave from there instead of the amoms. That is exactly what we will be doing. She had already told her amom that was our plan.
    I will see her on Monday and stay for a few days. That's one reunion I'm looking forward to.

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  31. I just wanted to leave a comment here and say I know exactly what you are saying. I have a big hole in my heart where my firstborn should be. He was born in 1970, and I was made to give him up for adoption by my parents. I have not had a day go by in all these years that I have not thought of him.

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  32. Janet: Great about the lunch plan. There will still be a tug at your heart when you leave, but so would there be if you had raised her.

    I'm happy for you.

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  33. I went to my 25th reunion and got a prize for having the "most unusual hobby"-adoption reform. No need to keep my child a secret, all my good friends already knew anyhow. I have found there are many more Mean Girls in adoption than ever were in high school.

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  34. "What is your point? To be nasty?"
    That wasn't nasty. It is true.

    I don't believe people should have to confide everything in parents or other close family members, but my point is that It is hypocritical to claim that there's no pretense when you are with family who have known you since you were born, especially when the person who said it knows from personal experience that that's not always the case and that there are many reasons why people sometimes need to keep important personal truths and life events from members of their family.

    Sentimental depictions of family may be comforting but ultimately they are not helpful because they give a distorted picture of reality.

    Grimalkin

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  35. Family reunions revised post in the previous post I had mentioned All dysfunctional crap in my family. We do
    have all of that and more but will focus on adoption
    at reunions.
    I had my aunt that adopted she and my uncle were soon
    after divorced. She never came to reunions but my uncle
    did since he was my moms brother. This man had other
    children too. The young man came to family functions but
    had a childhood that was rough you see he really never had that two parent family and he to this day has struggled
    horribly. I do believe he needs to find and find out the truth.
    He could have been my son I gave up a beautiful newborn
    I have always wondered how he would have done with his
    kin. Just like my son he would have been better off with me. Then I had a cousin who was in divorce court reconciled right there in court then decided to adopt they did and then were pregnant with their own. Girls were months apart. When fale adoptee had her baby she told her
    adopter that baby was her only relative. Sadly, adoption hurts a whole lit more than it helps two adoptees in pain and for what for somebody else's pleasure. My son was kept a secret till I found then I bright him to meet all the family he fit in just like he had never been away 26 yes
    saw family that looked like him, acted like him. Adoption is all about tearing babies from perfectly good moms.

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  36. Just like a lot of others here, I don't go to school reunions, partly because I was shy and didn't know a lot of people and,partly, because of giving up my son and not wanting to hear everyone else bragging about their husbands and families and judging me . My (former) best friend is planning a 50th(WOW)year grade-school reunion in a few years. I was a little kid and don't remember much but this is the friend who's husband was abusive and happened to also be adopted. When she found out I had given up a son she said "It's people like you who cause these problems" and other things like"What, no room at the inn? and then started laughing like it was some big joke.

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  37. Grimalkin:

    Man, do you know how to pick the nits.

    It's like you read Jane's post and said, How can I poke holes in this? You are not even on issue--reunions are hard for natural mothers and adoptees--you are just looking for a way to be hypercritical.

    Oh Yeah, I know, you are just being honest.

    The only high school reunion I ever went to was before I came out of the birth mother closet. I think my friends wouldn't be mean if I went back, but I don't feel like confronting the issue with a lot of people I haven't seen in a zillion years. There would still be remnants of supposed intimacy that didn't really exist, and some of them would be interested in pursuing the subject in a way I can't predict. I don't want to be an object of pity--as we are often seen--or be challenged by some adoptive mother or grandmother who loves little Susie "just as much as her own."

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  38. @ anon who bravely confronts me about the Socrates quote, obviously I am familiar with it, as are most people linking the self-aware and unexamined I didn't say anything about anyone being unruffled or even stupid for that matter. I am not going to do that now either.

    That being said, I would not see Campbell's and Megan's thinly veiled rage as unruffled I would see it as the acts of very disturbed people.

    As another anon, perhaps you or one of your friends pointed out that a forum could conceivably have all types of view on it, yes true, my divorce analogy still stands. If I spent my time mocking other people's hurt and saying I don't know that your problem with divorce is because I had a fantastic time make lemonade and what not, that would be right proper meanness on my part. Just like it is on Campbell and Megans part. If they are worried that adoption won't survive without their bitchiness they can so rest easy. Adoption in the U.S. if fueled by lots and lots of money, babies are high ticket items. Adoption is safe and sound, there will be babies given away and sold, that is just how we roll. They don't need to defend the industry. They should give up their own kids if they are so concerned, oh but right, they won't do that because that would be awful.

    They will just come and shit on the people who did live through that hell.

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  39. Shortly after initial contact with my bmom, there was a family get-together to honor an elder member of her family. Bmom did not attend, although her husband (my bdad) and son (my bbrother) did attend. I have always wondered why she didn't attend...maybe this is it!

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  40. We are not posting comments that are discussions that are best left to the parties concerned. We are not posting this side and then that side of the relationship between two people. To the person concerned, I do not have your email address, or I would have written to you that way.

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  41. I was always taught to read the opening and closing paragraphs very carefully. I related to Jane's article and thought that it was very well written and from the heart. In her first paragraph - her feelings about family reunions and the absence of her relinquished daughter.

    The last paragraph:

    “Rebecca did not share her feelings with me when we returned from Ecuador. Perhaps two weeks with biological kin--but social strangers--was stressful. Perhaps it was also rewarding. I hope it was.”

    An open invitation for Rebecca / Megan to share. I think that it is important for adoptees to share with us here on this blog, as we all learn from each other. Megan would you care to comment on the last paragraph of your mothers blog?
    Susan

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  42. Everyone: Megan did respond to my question about how she felt after going to a reunion--actually two--of her natural biological family. However, some of the details she revealed I do not feel comfortable posting. They would lead to a back and forth between Megan and her mother, and that is exactly the kind of thing we will not allow whenever we can stop it. This blog is not called Family Feud!

    A family disagreement that Megan got involved with at one of the reunions (because she was asked by a relative of Jane's) was directly about relinquishment and thus adoption, and what followed was very hurtful to Jane. Megan, it is impossible to go into that reunion without discussing what happened that so hurt Jane.

    Trying not to offend anyone here, Megan or Jane, here, I will only say that Megan wrote that the result of her attending two reunions of her natural family was good (she mostly enjoyed herself, felt like she fit in, yet there were diffcult parts) but this led to trouble with her own family, both her husband and her adoptive family.

    Megan, I do not know how to contact you directly, nor do I know your last name so I cannot use Facebook to contact you either. My email address is at my info page here. Jane is away at the family reunion in Maui and not checking the blog. If you think I am being protective of Jane, my co-blogger and your natural mother, and her other daughters, yes, I am.

    To everyone else, I apologize for having to be so cryptic here. And to those who write warning me about this person or that person who comments, I take all your concerns seriously. I do know that people have come and gone because the comments can be so hurtful on a topic so personal and deep. Adoption has so much power to hurt. Anonymity makes so many people snarky.

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  43. "Megan wrote that the result of her attending two reunions of her natural family was good (she mostly enjoyed herself, felt like she fit in, yet there were diffcult parts) but this led to trouble with her own family, both her husband and her adoptive family."

    Lorraine, please add that it led to trouble and resentment with Jane's family as well.

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  44. The only family reunions I have attended have been either weddings or funerals. My family has never held reunions for their own sake. However, at the family events I have attended I am usually so involved with the people the event is for or about that I don't think much about my own life. The exception would be my mom's funeral, but that was because she was the major instrument in arranging the relinquishment and subsequent adoption of my child, and although I understood where she was coming from culturally, I did not agree or sympathize with her attitudes or actions. We were oil and water anyway. So my feelings were complicated on that occasion, a mixture of sadness, pity, anger and regret.

    Maybe my observations about sentimentalizing family are worth diddly-squat, but in my opinion (anyone's to disagree) sentimentalizing the idea of family all too often encourages a lack of realism that sometimes makes people to do things they wouldn't otherwise - sometimes out of fear for self or concern for the peace of mind of other family members, but often just In order to keep up appearances and preserve the status quo. Even so, I imagine, in most cases it is a mixture of both fear and altruism. I am not, by the way, seeking to diminish the Intense, often multiple pressures people feel to keep up a "front". I am trying to get at what is behind these feelings, above and beyond the natural sense of loss.

    Family is a microcosm of society, and, like society, isn't always accepting when one of its members transgresses its norms. It can put the screws on like nothing else, often without anyone being aware of the real implications of what is happening. It's a big part of why some women don't tell their parents they are pregnant, why some families hide their daughters away in maternity homes, and others refuse to come out of the closet.
    It is a major cause of people putting what they would LIKE to be true over what really IS true, and has contributed to many relinquishments, as well as failed reunions. I think it is important to recognize this fact because it is a major reason why so many mothers seem to feel uncomfortable at family reunions. Which, in my opinion, puts it very much "on issue", especially as that's what the post purports to be about, and also that the specific statement about there being no pretense between family members seems to contradict that. The paraphrase too, was not a proper paraphrase, which is supposed to convey the exact meaning of the original in your own language.

    Grimalkin

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  45. Both sides of my family have annual reunions that I looked forward to like Christmas each summer until after I surrendered my son. That's when they turned into torture. Watching my siblings and cousins bring their kids. All my aunts and uncles enjoying the kids. The games with the kids. Three-legged race, eye toss, t-ball. Me staying as far away from the kids trying not to cry. Listening to my aunts and uncles tell me I'd better get started having kids. Movimg 900 miles away gave me an excuse not to attend but not going was another loss. After I reunited with my son and came out to my family I went to a reunion hopijng for the happy times before adoption claimed my life. It was a false hope. No way I know to restore the years apart.

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  46. @anonymous grimalkin--Sometimes I am accused of being a Pollyanna slightly or too enthusiastic sometimes, but I can and have faced some very harsh realities. Someone I was talking to a few days ago made me realize how I've almost fallen into the trap of cynicism, overlooking everything good about a situation and only seeing the negative Forged steel is the strongest and I've certainly been through the fire and now I want my rose-colored glasses back. I prefer to see through a loving,enthusiastic and happier lens. To some extent we create the future through the visions we have of it All right, go roll your eyes.

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  47. I am sorry if my comment about my dad’s funeral offended some people. My intention wasn’t to hurt my birthmom. I had chosen not to comment on her family reunions, because it was complicated. After I was challenged to do so, I did comment, but my comments weren’t acceptable for posting, which is what had anticipated.

    My father passed away just four months ago, so of course that family gathering was top of my mind, when I read other posts about funerals. When Dad died I was devastated (still am). I felt like I had lost any sense of family. My sibs and I come from 4 different gene pools, and we don’t have much in common. Growing up my mom made a point of reminding us that we made it difficult for her to raise us because we had 4different temperaments. As an adult, my sister had infertility issues but hesitated to adopt “because of how hard adoption was on Mom.” My dad wasn’t like my mom. He understood me. After my dad died I felt acutely adopted as I realized no one was going to be there for me anymore. My dad was the kindest man you could ever meet. He had a real gift for empathy. I felt a strong need to carry on his legacy, to hold on to him, but I don’t carry his DNA. I don’t have his empathy gene. I can work at being more kind and empathetic, but it’s work. It’s not a gift. How can I hold on to my dad when I don’t have any biological part of him? And who am I, now that he is gone?

    I didn’t want to go to the funeral. I figured things would shortly be over with my sibs. Without my dad around, they wouldn’t want to stay in touch with me, and I wouldn’t want to stay in touch with them. So, I was just going through the motions because it was my duty.

    But at the funeral there were tons of cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. People I hadn’t seen for years because I live out of state. They were all hugging me, and showing love, and I didn’t feel adopted anymore. Several of them carry the Empathy gene, as my father did. They made me feel OK again. Like it was OK to be me, and not him.

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  48. @Megan I am sorry for your loss of your Dad who you obviously love very much. I disagree with you that you don't have the empathy gene. Your post proves that you do.

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  49. Megan

    Thank you for taking the time to explain your side of the story, we are all inclined to judge on what we read as we do not know the full story. I am sorry for the loss of your Father, a man you obviously loved and miss very much. I am sorry too that an unfortunate incident / disagreement at the reunion sparked off so much hurt to both you and your natural mother. These incidents happen all the time and even in families where there was no adoption. I hope that one day you and Jane can come to a place where you feel comfortable with each other, your very actions do show that you care, why else would you come to this blog and read and comment on what she has to say. B.T.W I liked the softer side of you in your last post, some of the empathy gene has obviously rubbed off on you.

    Susan

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  50. Megan wrote: "They were all hugging me, and showing love, and I didn’t feel adopted anymore."

    I am so sorry for your loss but so grateful that your family treated you with so much love and kindness. After all, that was YOUR father that died. Adoptees have two families and that kind, generous man you described is most certainly your dad.

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