Carrie, an adoptee who found FMF the other day, wanted to know why some mothers reject contact from the children they gave up for adoption, as her mother did. Carrie's not the only one to face this, as we've heard this many times before. Every time my friend who is a confidential intermediary in a partially "open" state is in the middle of a search-and-reunion, she expresses fear that one side or the other will reject contact, and she cannot pass on the contact information. Carrie asked if I would write a letter to all those first/birth mothers who reject contact and reunion. It's a hard assignment because I'm not in their mind set, but here goes:
When you gave you child up for adoption however many years ago, you may have been told that you were supposed to forget him or her, and go out and make a new life for yourself. A priest went so far as to tell a good friend that she had to think of her daughter as "dead," from that day forward.
But you soon found out that it wasn't that simple. You knew your baby wasn't dead, you know that somewhere out there was someone with your DNA, someone that you carried in your body for nine months, someone who will grow up to look like you and have your mannerisms.
Yet your coping mechanism was able to turn off thoughts of the child, as you were instructed. Since you are now rejecting contact from your long-lost child of many years ago, you were successful.
But that child is now a grown-up individual who has deep, unmet needs that you alone can satisfy. That child longs to look into a face that looks like hers, to know someone who he or she is related to by blood, by ancestry, by history going back to the beginning of time. He or she needs to meet you to feel complete, to understand fully that he or she is a person with a real biological mother and father, not someone who arrived by Federal Express. This has nothing to do with how good or evil, or loving or cold, one's adoptive parents are, for this desire--to know the truth of one's origins--is totally separate from them.
And you are the only person who can satisfy that deep, innate longing. You. No one else.
AN EMOTIONAL FACE LIFT* Jane's story of why she did not respond to her daughter's initial attempts to contact her: A Birthmother's Fears of Reunion
I am not suggesting reunion with your child, gone out of your life for so long, will not be emotionally wrenching. It will be. All the feelings you had at the time of birth and surrender will come flooding back.
I am not suggesting it will be easy. It will be hard, unsettling, fraught. It will also be glorious. It will feel like the sun is at last shining. A great weight will be lifted. A few months after I reunited with my daughter, an acquaintance asked a mutual friend if I had "had work done" on my face. I could only be amused. I knew what was different. So did my friend.
It's likely the guilt, the shame, the sense of failure you carry in the recesses of your heart and head have prevented you from agreeing to a meeting, or responding with a letter, even if you were forced to relinquish your baby by your parents, or your church, or the ethos of the era in which you surrendered. Many first mothers have shared your feelings. Fellow blogger Jane suffered such shame and fear that she ignored her daughter's first attempts at contact for many years.* But know this: your child has already forgiven you; she wouldn't be asking to meet otherwise.
TELLING THE FAMILY
You say you haven't told your husband? Or your other children about this first child and you can't face them? True, when you tell them they are likely to feel that you have been, on some level, lying by omission to them all those years. That is a real hurdle. But any reasonable person--your partner, your other children--will understand that your silence is due to the shame that you felt about this. They will get over their shock. They will understand, or at least, accept you as you are. If they loved you before, they will not stop loving you. You have to trust their love.
As I had kept my pregnancy secret from my family, and did not tell my mother about my daughter until she was already five. I had carried so much hope for the family in my baggage--I was the first to go to college--and admitting what I had done seemed to be beyond shameful. We all survived. I gained my mother's love and support, and my brothers' understanding, as I went public.
There is going to be no good time to bring this up because it will come like a bolt out of the blue. There is no getting around that. But this admission will be freeing in a way you cannot imagine. Secrets only have the power to hurt you as long as they are secret.
However, if you are in a relationship and you fear for your well-being if news of this surprise child comes out, let your son or daughter know this. Unless they are deranged, they will understand and make every accommodation you need. She wants to meet you, not put you in harm's way. If the connection has to be kept secret, so be it. She will understand, because a meeting--even a single meeting--is a million times better than a flat refusal. If a relationship develops, that is well and good, but that is up to the two of you. It may happen, or it may not. You have to be prepared for either outcome.
NO MAN IS AN ISLAND
We are all in this life together. We should all strive to do what we can to make life better for each other, whether it is to help a blind person cross the street, or meet the child, now grown, you gave up for adoption.
You gave a child life. At the time your baby was born, you could not give her a home; today you can give her answers, a medical history, and the story of her family, the one she belongs in by birth. You can give her the deep satisfaction of looking into a face that looks like hers. You can give her the real story of her birth. In the way that the continuum of life works, you owe this daughter, this son that much. No matter the circumstances of the adoption, no matter how good her or his adoptive family has been, you can say you are sorry. That will be great relief to you, a blessing to your child. Do not leave the world with this one thing undone. It is trite to add this, but I will says it anyway: Tomorrow may be too late. --lorraine
If any first mothers afraid to go public wish to email me privately, the email address for the blog can be found by clicking on to my name in the right sidebar. I can only hope this reaches the mothers for whom it is intended.