Sunday, December 18, 2011

Calling loved ones (and those you are not so sure of) for the holidays

From my alternate universe daughter
Christmas is right around the corner, and no one can ignore it. And for a lot of us--first/birth mothers and adoptees--it is a killer of a day. An adoptee wrote to me recently about her birth father--who wants a relationship NOW (many years after he was first contacted), and admittedly he's not the healthiest person around, or in the best situation. Last time she reached out a hand, he acted less than reasonable, and so now the adoptee is wary. Of making a phone call. What if he wants more than she is prepared to give? And anyway, it's confusing and she feels weird about him and where was he when she first got in touch and....

Fair enough.

And at FMF we have heard the other side too: that mothers cut and run. Both adoptees and first mothers have written anguished comments about the need to finally walk away. The last post about Denise Roeselle's memoir (Second-Chance Mother) recounting her difficult relationship with her very troubled son has led to a discussion about how much we birth mothers are supposed to take from our children, when they act in ways we find difficult or abusive. Sometimes it seems our children keep testing us and testing us until...we find that the turmoil is more than we can handle, and cut off the relationship.

TESTING, ONE, TWO, THREE....
Lorraine
I certainly felt that my daughter was testing me at times; at other times when we ran aground she was really confused and found it difficult to be a "good" daughter to her adoptive mother--and still have a relationship--of any sort--with me. At that point I heard that her adoptive mother came to not being able to hear my name without making a snide comment or walking out of the room. Consequently, for close to two years one time, my daughter Jane cut off any contact with me. Wow, that hurt--and it would have helped if I had had some explanation, but nada. Just Poof! and she was gone. That was one Christmas.  Of course it is not lost on me that Poof! and she was gone...is now adoptees feel about their birth mothers, once they are able to understand what adoption means: that someone else left them. Without an explanation.

Anyway, that Christmas when Jane vanished, there were no presents sent, no cards, no Merry Christmas calls. Tomorrow is another day, I told myself. Christmas will be over tomorrow. My husband's large family of nieces and nephews and spouses and children--not an adoption in it close enough to count--was around and made the holiday jolly in spite of my daughter's utter rejection.

Should I have tried calling her that Christmas? I couldn't. She had made it plain she didn't want to hear from me. It took nearly another year before she called up one day and began the conversation with: How are you? 

MAKING THE CALL IS A GIFT TO YOURSELF
What did I tell the adoptee who realizes her father is trying to be in some kind of contact with her? Make a call. Make it a day or two before Christmas to a) end the confusion of should I or shouldn't I? b) really make her father's Christmas so he won't spend the day wondering if he might get such a call. It will be a great gift in the true spirit of the holiday. I added that she might make the call when she truly couldn't stay on the line for a long time--just before she had to be somewhere, or her husband or children might demand her attention, or she had to take the Christmas cookies out of the oven. In other words, reduce the stress level by limiting the amount of time she could stay on the phone. She should give herself an out. If they wanted to have a longer conversation, they could schedule it for another time. No matter what happens, she will know that she gave this gift--a friendly Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah--and that in turn is a gift to her. 

As for everyone else, if you are the one who walked away from a relationship--whether you are the mother or the adoptee--and feel like opening the door back, even just a little--what better time of the year to do it other than now? And if you can't, okay. Don't beat yourself up over it. If you are the one hoping for that call, and do not get it sometime this week, remember that the holidays will be over next week. --lorraine
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16 comments :

  1. I can't wait for the holidays to end... this year is very hard... first my husband passes away in March of 2010, then, right after last Christmas my daughter tells me that she hates me and always will... yet again. As usual, she waited until after she got her gifts. But it changes nothing. At least she was speaking to me last Christmas.... this year, nothing. I can't wait for this mess to be over.

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  2. I am so sorry, Lori. I hope you will accept a hug from me.

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  3. This is my third Christmas in reunion. I have called my daughter the other two years but didn't receive a call back. No text or email either. It tore me up the first year. Last year I was sad. I hope and pray I just expect no contact this year. But since I'm the mother I will call with Christmas greetings on the 25th, even though I expect to talk to the voice mail. We send each other presents so I need to appreciate what I have and let go of the rest.
    One Christmas when I was in college, one of my siblings was living abroad and couldn't be with the family for Christmas. We have a picture of my mom crying. Here she had the other six kids surrounding her but so missed my sister. It's natural that I miss my daughter on Christmas. And yet I don't feel entiteld to ask her in advance to speak to me on Christmas. I guess if I have to beg it's not worth it. I would want it to be important to her, too. And I dont want to be needy. At least I don't want to burden her with my neediness.

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  4. Only once in 14 years have I had a holiday greeting. Since my family isn't much for the holidays, it hasn't bothered me a great deal. I used to call him on his birthday. After he didn't bother to tell me of the birth of his children. I stopped that too. This is his decision. I gave him away and how he has rejected me. No discussion. It just happened. After awhile you either accept or make yourself sick.

    I know he is OK. That is more than I knew before. Is it enough? It is what it is. I took issue with his crappy behavior early on. I wouldn't let anyone else treat me that way. I'm sure he doesn't treat the apars that way. He doesn't treat his sibs (natural children of apars) that way. Who knows what it is all about?

    My sister has a son who is probably worse for no good reason other than his nasty wife. It also is what it is.

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  5. At some point I think we have to stop beating ourselves up over this. We are not solely to blame. To think that your children have only inherited our behaviours isn't right. Most of us were dumped their fathers when we became pregnant. Left to deal with this all alone. Maybe some of our children share alot more in common with their fathers than their mothers?
    At some point it has to come down to mutual respect to each other as human beings. We didn't raise them. If their so called "better families" didn't teach them it isn't our fault.

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  6. Stop beating ourselves up is right, and get on with our lives with the friends and family we have and enjoy them and feel their love and community.

    Lori, I am so very sorry that you feel so alone and sad. I hope you find friends who can make you feel less alone. We hear you here on FMF and elsewhere but we are mostly far away, but you will be in my prayers and thoughts when I go to Mass on Christmas Day. And this lapsed Catholic does go to Mass on Christmas and feel renewed with the community around me, even though it does give me time to reflect on what is lost. Can't be helped.

    Christmas: Reason to hate relinquishing a child No. 872.

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  7. Janet, my husband said the same thing, that maybe my son has more of his father's temperament than I realized (my husband is not his father). It certainly is triggering to be maintained with occasional texts that don't say anything, but refuse to see me when I arrive as planned to see him, just exactly what his father did to me before he disappeared. I'm sure they'll have a lovely reunion when they finally meet. Isn't that how it works?

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  8. I think you gave that adoptee wonderful advice, Lorraine and I do hope she makes the call...both for her sake and for his.

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  9. Hi Lorraine,
    Thank you for another strong, true post. Yes, Christmas can be hell. I'm feeling really bad about this Christmas - off and on - because I didn't hear from my daughter last Christmas. I still didn't realize then that she had done a, Pouff, I'm gone, on me. So, in some ways last Christmas was painful, but more hopeful that any day now she would phone. This Christmas I don't have that hope. I sent her a box of her favorite candy and a beautiful Christmas card, but don't expect anything in return. That way, if she does call, it will be an unexpected gift.

    Also thank you so much for your plug to your readers about what better time to reach out if you've pulled away. I hope someone responds to your nudge.

    All the best for the holidays.
    Angela

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  10. At some point I think we have to stop beating ourselves up over this. We are not solely to blame. To think that your children have only inherited our behaviours isn't right. Most of us were dumped their fathers when we became pregnant. Left to deal with this all alone. Maybe some of our children share alot more in common with their fathers than their mothers?

    WOW! so the adoptee is abandoning the mom? Wow, lets really look at that statement, blaming the adoptee? we dealt with it alone for most of our lives...

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  11. or maybe ladies, we have been/feel abandoned and do the best we can. there is no need to be snarky at adoptees, do not expect us to be a normal "ideal" child. Demand respect, but also be prepared togive it. There is no reason to beat yourselfs up, whats done is done, but there is no reason to act like the adoptee has to do anything and if they dont they are like the parent that left. No, adoption hurts and often there is too much pain that outweighs the love... but try to place yourself in the adoptee shoes, instead of getting angry, there is so much pressure/pain/ptsd, understanding goes such a long way on both sides.... you were left by our fathers,but we were also left by our fathers and by you... its hard to read adoption as anything else. So many times I see unbalanced reunions, our mothers deserve respect (and understanding) and we also deserve respect and not blame

    I was lucky enough to see my birthmom this past week and I can only say, please please dont give up, try to understand and it could work out (I am so happy, it was such a good time) thats her in the picture with me.... please moms and kids this holiday, lets look at the real villians that pit us against each other, we all deserve a second chance....

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  12. Jenn said "you were left by our fathers, but we were also left by our fathers and by you... its hard to read adoption as anything else."

    Yes, very true. A double whammy for adoptees. I remember thinking when Rebecca was born that the bitter truth was that because I was abandoned by her father, I had to abandon her. Of course society looked at it as a bargain. She lost a mother (an irresponsible woman) but she gained a (much better) mother and a father. I lived in a patriarchal system which decreed that a woman should not have children unless sanctioned by a man through marriage.

    Thank goodness things have changed somewhat since Rebecca was born. I regret not fighting for her. I believed, though, that she would be better off with strangers. I imagined her screaming at me when she was a teen-ager: "Why didn't you give me up so I could have had a great life!" I had no idea that adoptees suffered from being separated from their mothers and biological family.

    The damage done to millions of mothers and children in the name of protecting society's values is horrifying to think about.

    Sadly today mothers are still losing their children through slick advertising by the adoption industry or coercion by religious officals.

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  13. Believe me Anon and Jenn I am fully aware that I abandoned my child as did your mothers.
    I have lived with that guilt and pain for 43 years. In no way did I mean for my comment to be snarky or putting blame on adoptees. You had no say in being adopted. If you took it that way I apologize.

    I am just tired of this seeming to be a one way street. I feel that the majority of the blame seems to always lie with the mother. There were many others involved in the ugly process that led up to us signing away our rights.

    While I do not know what is like to be abandoned and adopted at birth I do know all too well what it was like to be abandoned by my Mother, family, friends, church, and society at age 17 when I became pregnant. I will never forget my Mother calling me a "whore, slut, disgrace to the family". I will never forget her demanding that I leave and to not even think about coming back with a bastard.

    I give my daughter respect and unconditional love and truthful answers to any question she may have. In return she gives me the same. That is the only way I see us moving forward in our relationship. We have lost too many years to waste the ones we have now.

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  14. Oh...Janet, I do know what you mean. I did not live through that because I hid in shame in a city far from home and did not tell my parents because I was able to do that. But my god, the shame I felt! I could hear them yelling at me from afar.

    Yikes! I have to find a way to cheer up today!

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  15. Merry Christmas ladies, thinking about all of you today and sending some adoptee love your way...

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  16. Lorraine,

    There is good in all of this. No matter how hard the past may have been, I gave birth to a beautiful, loving, caring daughter. And the beauty is that I now know that.

    Wishing you a Merry Christmas.

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