I know a birth/natural mother, A, who had a good relationship with her daughter, or so she thought. The daughter, B, was still a teenager and actually stayed with her for extended periods. The mother became pregnant with someone she did not intend to marry, but now was--sixteen or so years later--in a position to have the child and keep him. He was a boy. When he was a toddler, B was staying with A, and at some point, A made the comment "Boys are easier to raise than girls." People say that--and the opposite--all the time; her mother meant no slur upon her daughter, of course, nor did she relate it to the fact that she had given a daughter up. The sex of the child did not enter into the mother's decision whether to relinquish her daughter when she was born to her, a single woman who was seventeen at the time in a different era.
Her daughter got up and walked out and left. I mean, she was gone. She must have come back and gotten her stuff, but the daughter did not respond to her mother's entreaties--for a conversation--for more than a decade. B did contact A when she had a child herself, and asked for medical information, which A sent her, along with a gift of baby clothes. No response. Years went by again. Eventually B did contact her mother, met her, they had a great time, but then...she disappeared again for years. Do adoptees understand how this kind of behavior hurts and makes us natural mothers crazy?
|After the reunion|
One time when she hurt me badly and I told her so--I didn't yell or accuse, I just said I was upset and, as I was going out the door at the time, said we could talk later. Her reaction? She had her phone number changed and unlisted. I wrote to her daughter, Kim, who was thirteen at the time, and the letter came back "REFUSED." Let me tell you, that stings. When she called and was ready to resume "normal" relations after five months or so, her reason for having an unlisted phone number was not anything I could believe. I wish she had had the guts to say, I was so angry with you that I thought I never wanted to talk to you again. I was gonna show you! Then we might have been able to talk. But I just bit my tongue and said: How are you? She acted like nothing had been wrong. No mention of why this had happened, because to tell you the truth, I don't think she knew.
I think that the rage that frequently emerges after the reunion is because the adoptee was relinquished when he or she was pre-verbal, and had no way to express their deep confusion and frustration at the time of the transfer to someone who didn't smell the same as Mama, or have the same heart beat. So later on, it is hard to rationally deal with the issue of being transferred to a stranger, or recognize the feelings that reunion brings forth. The anger and rawness of the whole situation becomes vested on Mama, the woman who gave you up in the first place and is ultimately responsible. Adoptees surely are not going to be angry with their adoptive parents; the birth mother becomes the punching bag.
What all this advance-and-retreat behavior after the reunion does is make us natural mothers nuts! We can't figure out how to act to make our sons and daughters after reunion not abruptly pack up and go away! We end up being incredibly cautious about what we say, we end up leery when they call and act as if a six-month or a two-year absence is nothing and just say: How are you? My daughter did this numerous times. We end up trying to monitor everything we say, thinking, if I say or do this, will that not drive her away? Can I say this? Or that? Should I tell her this? If I say that, will that drive her away again?
I would get angry at times with my own mother--who doesn't?--but our arguments weren't t so clouded as I my relationship after reunion was with Jane. My mother and I would make up and go on, say what was on our minds without constantly monitoring every word or nuance. But then, I hadn't been given up for adoption. I didn't have another mother to feel guilty about. If I was angry with my mother, I knew exactly why. With Jane, the daughter I relinquished, that was never going to happen. Sad? Oh yes. We natural mothers long for a kind of normalcy with our reunited daughters and sons that we cannot have. What has gone on before will not allow it. --lorraine
------------------------------------------------------------------The Adoption Reader is a wonderful, informative collection of essays and some poetry: "Birth mothers, adoptive mothers and adopted daughters tell their stories." Louise Erdich, Shay Youngblood, Nancy Mairs, Minni Bruce Pratt and (moi) Lorraine Dusky are represented here.