Sunday, September 23, 2012

Telling the family, and the world: I am a First Mother

Lorraine
Secrecy. It pops up in drama because so many of its incredible power to control lives and change history. Oedipus. Tom Jones. Romeo and Juliet. Lady Dreadlock. The birth mother in the closet down the street.

HBO is currently showing The Debt, a drama/thriller movie about three Mossad agents who are to capture a Nazi war criminal in East Berlin and bringing him to justice in Israel. But the plan goes horribly wrong, the "Doctor of Birkenau" (based on the real Josef Mengele)  manages to escape while the agents, (one woman, two men) are in hiding with him. However, instead of admitting what happened and coming home a failure, (spoiler alert ahead) the three make a pact to say they killed him, and that they must keep this secret forever.
Their assumption is that the doctor can never admit that he was captured by Mossad agents, because in doing so, he will reveal himself to be the evil doctor who perpetuated horrors on the prisoners at Birkenau.

HEROES BECAUSE OF A SECRET, AND A LIE
The three agents are welcomed home as heroes. The woman of the trio is carrying the child of one of the men (but in love with the other);  the parents marry; the third man leaves Israel and travels the world, tormented by the secret. The movie opens many years later as the daughter, now married and a mother herself, is enjoying the flush of success at having a book published about her parents' daring exploits in 1966 Berlin. We learn the mother (played by Helen Mirren) had refused to be interviewed for the book, but she is a presence, as is her father, at the daughter's reading and book party. The parents are no longer live together, but are civil to one another, and still bound by the secret. And the lie that it is, the lie they have built their lives on. As heroes.  

But. The third man has returned, and he is aware that word is leaking out on the Internet that an old man at a nursing home in Kiev is claiming to be the Doctor of Birkeneau. If a journalist interviews him and publishes the story, their cover, the image of them in the eyes of their world, will be blown. They will have found to have been a failure, and a fraud, not only to their country, but also to the daughter. The doctor must be killed before he can talk to the press. Realizing this is the likely scenario to unfold, the third man runs in front of a truck and is killed. The two remaining members of the pact are left with the job of finding the doctor, and once and for all, killing him before he speaks to the press. The woman is the only one who can do the job; the other man (Tom Wilkinson) is in a wheel chair.

Halfway through the movie I was struck by the power of this secret, and how if the truth come out, it will change their lives, for being discovered so many years later to have been a fraud will be devastating. I could not help but begin to think of first mothers in hiding, those who have never talked of their lost children to anyone, save those few who knew at the time. Maybe since the adoption, the lost family member has never even been mentioned; it is as if she does not exist. Some women marry, and never tell  their husbands; certainly if that is the case, they never told their children about their sibling. Surely the relatives who knew never mention the lost family member. The secret prevails, and rules their lives. They are not a someone who gave up a child. What child? Should the secret come out, everyone will know that the part of them kept secret has let them live life somewhat as a fraud; they will not be the person they were before. They will be a woman who has given up a child. Not an admirable thing.

THE DAMAGE DONE LIVES ON
Then one day, a phone call, a letter arrives. It threatens to change the public image of these hidden women; family members in the dark will be shocked, some will feel lied to; neighbors--if they find out--will gossip. The secret must be maintained at all costs. The person paying the cost of keeping this secret is the returning child, who wants recognition, acceptance, information, and maybe even love. Most probably love, even if the child is unwilling, or unable, to admit to this.

So much damage has been done by keeping this secret. So much damage continues into the future if the secret is not revealed.

I kept my daughter secret from my family for nine years. My father died when my daughter was two, long before. I thought, at the time, that I might keep this secret from my family forever. I would never have to be the daughter who let them down, right? My father thought I should not go to college because girls just got married and had kids anyway, what was the point of college? Now look what I had done--gone to college and had a child without a husband. Gave her up. So disgraceful. So shameful. Though it was the supposedly hip Sixties, the world had not changed one iota in this regard.

Two years after I gave birth to my daughter, I told my first husband when he asked me to marry him. I told him right on the spot. Later I told one friend in New York--and she turned out to be a first mother too! (see sidebar, that's her)--and a girlfriend back in Michigan. But still, not my family. Not my mother, and my brothers, and their wives, and my nieces and nephews, et cetera. To them, I had been married, was divorced, was childless. But as I began to be involved in the adoption reform movement, I was asked to testify in a trial in New York State for an adoptee who wanted her records, her true identity. Though the attorney for Ann Scharp said I could be anonymous, I realized I could not be effective as a spokesmother for adoptee rights and still be in the closet. I was done with hiding, with pretending to be someone I was not, with a public lie.

My family had to know. Telling my mother was difficult--oh yes, it's never easy--but you do it one step at a time, one word at a time, until the secret is no more. The power of the secret to hurt you, to control your life is gone. I write this hoping to reach one mother who has not yet been able to talk of this, to claim her true and full motherhood, to embrace the lost child. I know that many such women are not likely to be trolling the web looking for guidance on this, but some may, and maybe the way the phrases written here will find them, and somehow give them courage.

My mother turned out to be a stalwart champion of all that I was trying to do, let the neighbors gossip at will. She was my mother, after all. --lorraine
__________________________ 
For more on secrecy today--this is about being gay in professional spots, but totally relates, read Frank Bruni's column in today's New York Times: A New Inning, Late in the Game 


Jane has written about this quite tellingly in:  Speaking Out Makes A Difference!!!
Birthmothers of the World Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Shame
And Linda wrote about 
Coming out of the closet as a birthmother: To Tell the Truth...Or Not?
And other FMF posts  
How Do You Tell Your Family You Had a First Child?

Reaching Those Women in the Closet  

For more understanding about the power of this secret, read The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade.
From an Amazon reviewer: Until I read this book, I never dreamed that even after 30, 40, or 50+ years, that these women would still carry so much shame and guilt. Click above to order from Amazon. 





69 comments:

jmomma said...

Great post Lorraine. Being counseled by parents, clergy, social workers, etc to keep such an experience and relationship a secret is shaming. It may be frightening to expose oneself to that possibility again. It is also a step towards life and freedom and wholeness. Hear here.

Anonymous said...

I have been married for 18 years and I have not told my husband. Or children. How do I begin? I am terrified of being contacted by my daughter.

HDW said...

Anonymous,

I am so proud of you for taking the first step and asking questions on this forum.

As an adoptee, I can only empathize with your struggles. I can never really know how you feel.

I hope the moms on this forum will offer you some solid advice.

I hope that if your daughter does contact you that she will be as respectful toward you and your situation as I was to my mother and hers. My mother is still in the closet. She probably always will be.

I hope you will decide to tell your family about having had a daughter, even if your daughter never contacts you. I really believe it will free YOU from feeling undeserved shame.

Anonymous said...

Lorraine, do you think that if you had told your family at the time that you were pregnant they wouldn't have been supportive and helped you with your child? Is that why you made the decision you did?

I have a friend who relinquished a son (she was very young) and her dad never knew. Her parents were divorced and they kept the fact that she was pregnant a secret from him. I always thought how strange it was that her whole immediate family knew about it except her dad. She ended up getting pregnant again a few years later and kept the child and her family, including her dad, helped her out a lot. I'm sure that had she kept her first child she would have had his support and help.

Secrets are horrible, and I just don't understand how families can keep such big secrets from each other.

Dawn

Lorraine Dusky said...

Dawn, I just don't know how my family would have handled my "out-of-wedlock pregnancy in 1966. But as a great great tragedy. Understand, at the same time, I was breaking ground as a woman in the newsroom of a newspaper in a medium-sized city. I was the only woman NOT IN THE WOMEN'S DEPARTMENT, or shoved off to the side covering religion.

I've written in detail what kept me from telling my family in Birthmark and I can't retrace those steps so I don't think about what if....

Mother said...

Anonymous,

Keeping a secret like you have for all these years is hard on you. You are the one who lives with it and you are the one that can change it. At least you are the only one right now. I don't know how old you are but what would you do if your daughter contacted you?
Only you know your situation you family but hiding this
from them is not fair to them.
Keep reading here and I do think you can go to sidebars
to read more about first contacts. Do you have any info at all to take that first step? Share with your family they might be shocked at first they might have sensed that you are carrying a secret already.

Robin said...

Anon 9:04 am,

I agree with HDW that it will help to free you if you tell your family. However, I also feel that if you decide to keep this a secret, that when and if your daughter finds you, you will most likely reject her and she will have to keep paying the price for her untimely birth.

If your daughter does contact you then she is letting you know that she has some needs that only connection with her natural mother/family can fill. I hope you will also consider your relinquished daughter's needs when deciding whether to be open about this issue in your life. I also hope you will be able to get the support that you need from other first mothers.

Janet said...

The saddest part of all of this is that our babies were part of the family. The shame should go to those who made us feel we had no choice but to keep them as secrets and give them away.

Anonymous 9/24 9:04
In my experience living with the lie was much harder than dealing with the truth when my lost daughter returned.

Anonymous said...

In today's era, it can be extremely difficult to "understand" the secrecy and shame factors related to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy in the 60's and 70's. The inability to understand does, in some instances, create anger that leads to dysfunctional reunion relationships.

Lorraine Dusky said...

Anonymous, you have that right. But still, the burden is on the mother to tell her story to her other children, and ask for their understanding at keeping the secret for such a long time.

I hope we hear from Anonymous who hasn't told again. Other than encourage her to tell her husband, and then her other children, I don't know how to help her.

Robin said...

Off topic, but a sign of hope? I was standing in the check out line at the grocery store and the person in front of me was a young woman about 20 y.o. She wasn't wearing a wedding ring but she did have the cutest infant baby boy strapped in her cart. I didn't want to neb into her personal business so I didn't ask any questions. But it looked to me like a young mother who kept her baby. Woot! Woot!

caleigh brooks said...

Anonymous:

Don't be a prisoner anymore! Tell your husband and children. They'll be thrilled to have another relative!

What did you do so bad? You gave birth to a Gift!

Your family will understand. It's 2012! Are they so perfect?

VICTIMIZATION - after awhile the oppressors (society...) don't have to work so hard because the victims take over (the victimizing of self) for the oppressors.

I'm SO happy for you already!!!

Thanks for keeping this site alive!

caleigh brooks said...

3Anonymous:

This is an addendum to my previous encouraging comment. I don't mean to be crass:

Your family will get over it. You don't need to apologize for your past before your husband and children came into your life.

Please forgive me for saying, "It's none of their business," so to speak. You have nothing to apologize for or be ashamed of. Your children, all of them, were God's gift to YOU!

I hope I'm not out of line. I know it's terrifying. My aim is only to encourage. Besides, you have us at FMF!

caleigh brooks said...

Hey Anonymous!

I put a link under my name which might help you see how and why you were, "Terrorized into Silence." The link is to a very short video, a couple minutes long, entitled, "Coercion and the Single Mother." It applies to all single moms of the past, whether they were in maternity homes or not - the subjugation was the same. Sometimes when we hear it from a mental health professional, we tend to believe it more.

What really irks me in our United States society is the double standard. Woman have to be virgins who are not allowed to swear, and the like, or even possess a natural bodily function, such as, passing gas, and the like. Men are allowed to have been whoremongers and abusers and liars... before marriage but the "little woman" is expected to have been a virgin. No man wants damaged goods is what our society has groomed females to believe. The audacity!

I'm so glad for today's generation - the double standard is getting closer to being obliterated.

caleigh brooks said...

Drat, Anonymous!

I forgot the best part: YOUR PAST IS BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR GOD!

You don't have to explain to anyone unless you want to. Don't be afraid. Throw the shame away. Hey, you have us! Your family will love you.

Just put yourself in your family's shoes. What if you discovered you have a relative you didn't know about? You'd be so excited! Right?

Come on, I'm missing CNN! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for you concern and comments, everybody. I will try to find the way. It is so so hard, I have kept this secret for 22 years. both of my parents died and only my sister knows the truth and we have never spoken of my daughter. how to begin?

HDW said...

Anonymous,

If the two of you are close, I would start by talking about the relinquishment with your sister.

That probably would not be as terrifying for you because she already knows the secret. The two of you just haven't talked about it.

That MIGHT help you begin to feel more comfortable with discussing the topic.

K. said...

"Just put yourself in your family's shoes. What if you discovered you have a relative you didn't know about? You'd be so excited! Right?"

WRONG!!! My friend that I went to school with found out that she had a half brother and now she hates her mother for not telling her. Even though she was with me while I was pregnant and even encouraged me to relinquish she still only sees what her mother did as unforgivable.

Who gives this kind of advice? How do you know this mother's family is going to react with love and understanding?

Another birth mother who used to phone me all the time told me that her sons were really patronising and disrespectful towards her news that they have a half sister. They even refused to meet her.


It's the worst thing in the world to keep it a secret from your family but it's also a terrible thing to burden your children with. Imagine growing up knowing you have a brother or sister out there but you cannot find them or speak to them or even know their name. Both things are painful.

I also don't think it's always a good idea to tell the whole world you are birthmother. It's not appropriate in a work situation and it can invite abuse from others too. It's being public about something that you are extremely vulnerable about and something that makes you feel weak emotionally. Why would I want to sabotage my work relationships?

Even here on this forum you are not always given support. You are alone here just as much as anywhere else.


I don't think it's realistic to assume that telling the world is going to be a good idea.


It's the same myth as thinking that when your child finds out she or he has been lied to by the adoptive parents that they will turn against them in anger.

Don't expect your son or daughter to take your side even when they find out you were swindled by their adoptive parents.

Choose who you tell, be selective where you have this conversation. Be appropriate.

Being a birth mother is one TINY part of my life, it's not WHO I am. It has nothing to do with my clients nor with people that I barely know.

I do not keep it a secret from family and I never lied about my child's existance but please people do not assume that if a mother speaks up she will automatically get support and understanting.

There is good reason why some mothers don't tell their husbands or children or family, they don't feel emotionally safe with them.

Robin said...

It is always a risk deciding whether or not to tell people and who to tell. Just as it is a risk to pursue a reunion. No one knows how they will be received or what the outcome will be.

I do believe that adopted people who had no say in being adopted have the right to know who their family members are and to an up-to-date medical history. Maybe they don't have the right to a full-blown relationship but adoptees certainly deserve more than being relegated to being a shameful secret.

Anonymous said...

Very sensible comments from HDW and K. I second them.

caleigh brooks said...

"K" has given us much fodder in her comment and I thank you for that. I think? Yes, I do. Your comment is valuable.

Clients?

I'll just touch on a FEW observations - I'm pretty freakin' busy and I'm freakin' getting carpal tunnel arms. (ha-ha I'm not laughing.) I wasn't even going to comment but Robin's comment gave me hope - thanks for being positive!

The question is, "Should a mother tell her secret? Someone might not like it and dump her?"

• Do we stop driving cars because we might get killed or maimed?

• Do we stop going into outer space because we might get obliterated?

• Do we stop swimming because we might drown?

• Do our brave young men and women stop signing up for the police academy because they might get killed?

• Do our brave young men and women not join the military for fear of being killed or maimed?

Let's get real!

• First & foremost #!: I understand why our wonderful moderators, Jane & Lorraine (LOVE! LOVE!), use the word birthmother in the title of FMF; but, I am deeply offended by the use of that insulting and marginalizing term in regular parlance; I am DEEPLY OFFENDED for the 8 million victims who lost children to adoption.

(That's how your soceity wants you to see yourself - as a mere breeder like you have no rights - easier to take the kids - takes the guilt out of it. You've fallen right into their trap like a good victim. You keep helping the adoption industry stay alive. When one says, birthmother, people think of breeder. When one says, natural mother, now people get uncomfortable, now you're human and you love. And you deserve respect. Breeding machines don't love. We don't respect machines.)

• First & foremost #2: Anyone who would encourage me to give my precious child away would NOT be my friend after that. Some shit is UNforgivable!

• First & foremost #3: I definitely don't blame adopted children for being ANGRY at adopters for keeping their adoptive status a secret. This is totally different from not telling natural children that they have a sibling out there.

• Do we really have time in the workplace to vent adoption's pain? How would one concentrate after that? We don't do it, mainly, because people aren't educated about adoption yet. Society only knows one side of adoption because we haven't' been allowed to speak yet.

• The disrespectful and patronizing sons "K" mentioned I suspect were that way long before they were told the news of a half-sister.

• "K" wrote, "Even here on this forum you are not always given support. You are alone here just as much as anywhere else." Wow! How do you expect people to warm up to you after mocking statements like, "...Who gives that kind of (stupid) advice?...." I could see why one might feel alone on FMF.

• I wasn't giving advice, I was supporting and cheering Anonymous onward in life instead of remaining stagnant. I assume that Anonymous is a bright adult who could hear all sides and make up her own mind about what's best for her and her family?

• Societal mores of yesteryear should eventually be explained in detail to the younger members of the natural family so they'll understand the swindle and the other lack of women's rights, slavery, and other swindles in the past - young people have no way of knowing. Heck, most mothers don't even know what hit 'em.

• I hear "K" saying that, "Victims must be APPROPRIATE." Is that along the same lines as, "Turn the other cheek?"

• Perhaps losing a child is a TINY part of the life of "K." For most moms, the loss continues to consume their lives all the way to the grave!

• I was going to give a name where Anonymous could get free online guidance and help, one-on-one, every step of the way from a mental health professional before coming out of the closet to family - but, hey, forget about it!

I apologize if I was hard on "K." (cont'd)

caleigh brooks said...

This is a continuation of my last comment:

It sounds like "K" is younger and, hence, still shut down, suppressed, which is fine, that's how mothers who lose children keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Before you "guys" start yelling at me, suppression and repression are perfectly normal defense mechanisms (human gifts) and they are UNconscious so we don't know we're doing it. It's the way all mothers survive the trauma of loss - even those in open adoptions.

Oh, last but not least: Let's all remain a secret so we can really make the world a better place for vulnerable families who will come after us. Shhhhh! Let the next generation suffer like we're suffering!

Please don't take these two comments as advice - I'm purging - venting! Thanks!

K. said...

Robin I think adoptees have the right to a full blown relationship. I think if your son or daughter finds you then you have to tell your family no matter what the consequences. Just don't expect that your family is going to give you the response you want. Don't have any expectations.

Better that it's not a secret but if you don't feel safe with your husband then it's going to be hard.

Most women who get pregnant and relinquish do NOT come from a backround of being loved and cherished, if they did the adoption wouldn't happen.


I would rather be shunned by the world than shun my own daughter.

I think if you haven't been found or are not searching and you want to keep it private then that should be allowed too. It's a very complicated subject. There is no real right way to go about this. My opinion is that pain can not be avoided.

caleigh brooks said...

This is an addendum to my previous 2 comments. I feel a need to purge. Thanks for your patience!

The phraseology, birthmother vs natural mother, is weighing on my mind right this second. Here's how I could explicate why the family-separators would MUCH prefer the term, birthmother. When I say family-separators, I mean all of society thinks single moms should separate from their kids, even most of your friends. Well, perhaps, not our friends.

The inner workings of the family-separators:

- Separating a child from her BIRTHMOTHER is not so bad. She only gave birth. It's ok to do that!

- Separating a NATURAL MOTHER, on the other hand, leaves a bad taste in our collective mouth! Doesn't it? Even the family-separators don't want to fool with Mother Nature too much!

This separation of a child from its NATURAL mother would turn off any honorable human being.

Words are powerful! Family-separators use the vile word, BIRTH mother to brainwash our vulnerable pregnant females.

Let's all use the REVERSE brainwashing on society and call ourselves anything other than BIRTHmother and watch THEM squirm! Let's teach! You'll see how powerful you'll feel!

This is not advice. I'm just purging, venting, my thoughts. Thanks FMF!

Anonymous said...

Of course adoptees should have access to their original OBCs and knowledge of their original family returned to them. Of course mothers in hiding "should" step up to the plate and declare themselves - but they shouldn't be bullied or shamed into it either. The only person who has the right to force them out of hiding is their own child, although one would hope they would follow HDW's example and be respectful and understanding. It's not the business of other mothers.
Women who have kept the secret for a long time have generally done so because they have been swamped with shame. They don't need to have any more shame heaped upon them by a new set of self-righteous people. Apart from anything else, coming out under this kind of pressure is not going to be conducive to good relationships with anyone, newly enlightened family or reuniting adoptee.
Women in this situation deserve to be encouraged and supported into into "coming out", not subjected to even more shame by being mocked for their reluctance (I for one would not drive a car I knew to be unsafe). Ultimately they are the only ones who know their circumstances well enough to decide on what course of action to take.

caleigh brooks said...

Fight back! Stop the oppression of our beautiful, young, mothers!

caleigh brooks said...

Anonymous said, "...Of course mothers in hiding 'should' step up to the plate and declare themselves - but they shouldn't be bullied...."

How do people perceive events in their world? How do people perceive words?

Different people's INTERPRETATION OF REALITY:

Perception is unique to every individual and is simply one's interpretation of reality. The phrase "Is the glass half empty or half full" can be referred to as a philosophical question.

Case in point: I see now that people can experience - perceive - words as BULLYING or SUPPORT.

Are you a person who sees the world as "a glass half empty (NEGATIVE) or a glass half full (POSITIVE)?

Bullying vs Support? That seems to be the question here.

I'm sorry, Anonymous, that you perceive encouragement and support as bullying and shame?

caleigh brooks said...

I'm hesitant to write this comment. I don't mean to be mean. I don't know if this is appropriate to say. I'll let the moderators judge.

Anonymous:

We're here just trying to support and encourage you.

NOBODY CARES WHAT YOU DO!

caleigh brooks said...

My aim is not to advertise. I want to share my experience - perhaps it might be of help to someone.

Let me preface this comment with, "All mothers who have lost children to adoption feel SHAME... pretty much to the end of our days, we just learn to manage it."

As we speak, I'm studying and incorporating the info in a 2011 book by Joe Soll, entitled, "Adoption Healing ...a Path to Recovery SUPPLEMENT." On page 36 of the book, Soll writes about the "street lamp reaction."

Soll writes, "The slightest incident, remark, event, or even a smudge on the side of a street lamp can be perceived by an adoptee or mother as a 'rejection' or 'abandonment' and can create simultaneous feelings of rage, terror, hatred, pain, and sadness that to the sufferer have no cause. Our INNER CHILD plunges instantly into the depths of hell and is ready to explode - unaware of what is truly happening."

We're not strange, it's the NORMAL aftereffects of the EXTREMELY traumatic event! Ask anyone, there is no greater trauma than the loss of a child. But, we can heal and FMF is here to help us heal! It's a long and arduous road back to good health! Wow! We know how tough it is!

caleigh brooks said...

Oh! That quote from Soll's book that I wrote in my previous comment - it's fixable!

Anonymous said...

"I just want to share my experience".
Well, we don't actually know what your experience of reunion was, do we? Except that it seems, judging by the fact that you told the anonymous mother-in-hiding "Your family will love you", that it was good. If I'm right about that, then I'm glad for you. My experience too, was and is good, but not everyone's reunion attempts turn out as they would wish.
You seem to have taken exception to K.'s comment, even though it injects a necessary note of realism into the conversation. I'm sure she speaks just as much from experience as any of us, which makes her comment a valuable contribution.
It's one thing to encourage, as many others here have done, and quite another to tell people to "get real" when you have no idea what the reality of their situation is.

Anonymous said...

The author touted by Caleigh is not widely respected by many in adoption reform and would not be a good place to start with adoption psychological literature. Anything from that source needs to be viewed with skepticism.

A better overview of adoption psychology is Drs. Brodzinsky and Schecter's "Psychology of Adoption"
http://www.amazon.com/The-Psychology-Adoption-David-Brodzinsky/dp/0195082737
Also the works of Dr. Betty Jean Lifton.

Anonymous said...

I really think it's best for the truth about a placed family member to be told, even if it's a difficult truth.

That said, I also think we have to be a little bit empathetic (and realistic) about the feelings the spouse and children are likely to have in response.

What we're talking about is a close family member keeping a huge secret for two decades. That's a pretty major bottom line here.

I'm not arguing whether or not she was justified in keeping that secret; obviously there were circumstances.

I just think we have to put ourselves in the other person's shoes just a tiny bit too, though.

How would anyone feel being lied to by omission by your spouse about something crucially important? How would you feel if after years of marriage, you found out they had a life-shaping secret that they had never trusted you with?

I think feelings of betrayal, shock, anger, outrage, and worry that you never really knew the person in the first place would be pretty normal and justified.

Obviously, even when a person has those feelings, an understanding can be reached. It helps to explain the times and how things were. (Some family members find Ann Fessler's The Girls Who Went Away to be a good starting point for that discussion.) As the surprise of the news wears off and the feelings get less raw, the strained relationships can heal.

I just think it's naive to assume the family won't have any negative feelings about being kept in the dark and effectively lied to, even if they have no negative feelings toward the mother for the actual relinquishment.

I think it would be hypocritical to criticize the family for reacting with pain and anger, since most people get hurt and angry when they feel deceived by someone they trusted, regardless of the subject of the deception. The husband and kids are only human, just like the mother is.

I still think the truth needs to be told anyway.

caleigh brooks said...

I agree, Anonymous.

("Get real" is just a figure of speech or a metaphor, it's not to be taken literally. I'm sorry if it was offensive.)

caleigh brooks said...

Dag, Anonymous, I didn't see all your comments after the one you posted at 1:52 PM!

I was agreeing with your 1:52 PM comment! I gotta' get goin' right now - no time to read the rest of the comments!

Hope Saturday is goin' well ya'll!

caleigh brooks said...

WTF, Anonymous?

(Anonymous doesn't respect Joe Soll; but, she has RECOMMENDED the likes of the following people to readers - where moms could get help and guidance.)

You want us, moms, to align ourselves with Dr. David M. Brodzinsky who was hired by our ARCHENEMY, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and ADAM PERTMAN, adoptive father and Executive Director? The Ultimate Family- Separators! You're kidding? Right?

(Aaawww, we need an adoptive father troglodyte to protect the little unwed mothers who are now older. Aaaawww, that's so cute! Or, you could say that's like the fox guarding the hen house.)

I'm going to be real CONCISE here with just a few points - I don't want to bore readers to tears!

So? - Joe Soll is not respected? (I always consider the source when I'm given a RECOMMENDATION.)

• I find your critique of Joe Soll interesting. Isn't it interesting that the adoption people, like Betty Jean Lifton, that you revere & recommend to moms worked for Joe Soll in his International Adoption Conferences for a few decades? I don't think Lifton (r.i.p.) would have aligned herself with people she didn't respect. Do you? It actually sounds like Joe must be doing something right? You'll admit he's in pretty good company?

• David Brodzinsky has 219 friends on Facebook.

• Joe Soll has 3,312 friends on ONE of his Facebook pages and Joe has 398 members in a Closed Facebook page. There's more but I said I would be concise.

I don't respect mental health professionals, as a whole, the reasons are many. And especially, I would NOT see one who is not connected to adoption, and certainly I would not see a therapist who is an adoptive family member. Why? It's not rocket science! (You could use the hen house analogy here, too. And, I have a worse analogy - but I don't want to offend.)

I'm sure there are some good mental health professionals but they're hard to weed out. RECOMMENDATIONS are good but, of course, always assess the person giving the recommendation.

One example of why I'm turned off by mental health professionals could be: Up until very recently, homosexuality was listed as a mental illness in their revered and prestigious Psychological Diagnostic Manuals. Also, the manner in which they so freely and eagerly dispense medication borders on malpractice! Innocent, vulnerable, people, and children, get hooked on drugs by mental health professionals they trust. The list goes on. I mean, "What else are gonna' do to me!?"

How long ago was that book, "The Psychology of Adoption" written? The book that I'm implementing into my life, as we speak, was written not even a year ago by Joe Soll. And he's been working with people traumatized by adoption for 3 decades in my favorite New York City. I think he should know somethin'

caleigh brooks said...

My, my, what have we here:

David Brodzinski and Joe Soll are friends on Facebook. Wow! They must have RESPECT for each other! Tsk! Tsk!
Looks like YOUR OWN people, Anonymous, respect Joe Soll!

And you tried to mislead us - by saying that Joe Soll is NOT respected! Tsk! Tsk!

caleigh brooks said...

I've been wondering this for a long time:

Are there 2 people commenting on First Mother Forum with the username Anonymous? Is that allowed on blogs?

caleigh brooks said...

Here is only one example of why I ask if there are 2 people with the username Anonymous. There seems to be 2 storylines going on every now and then.

In her 1:52 PM comment to me Anonymous wrote:

"Well, we don't actually know what your experience of reunion was, do we? Except that it seems, judging by the fact that you told the anonymous mother-in-hiding "Your family will love you", that it was good. If I'm right about that, then I'm glad for you. My experience too, was and is good, but not everyone's reunion attempts turn out as they would wish."

• Who is the anonymous mother-in-hiding?

• Anonymous says, "My experience was and is good." It sounds like Anonymous' reunion was and is good. " She goes on to say, "...but not everyone's reunion attempts turn out as they would wish."

If there are 2 people with the username Anonymous - it's too confusing.

caleigh brooks said...

I just discovered info about the MEN that Anonymous wants us, moms, to go to for help and guidance and support in our healing:

• David Brodzinsky is an adoptive father.

• Marshal Schechter is married to an adoptee

• Adam Pertman is an adoptive father and Brodzinsky's homey at the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute

Am I in that movie with Jack Nicholson, "One Flew Over the Coo-Coo's Nest?"

I think Anonymous is a PLANT.

(If I'm out of line, I'll take out the sentence with Jack Nicholson.)

I don't think that a mom who crudely lost a child to adoption would steer us to the aforementioned dudes! Do you? I'm horrified!

HER audacious bullying has been bothering me. And the 2 storylines don't jibe. You know, when we lie, we tend to forget our lies.

Jane Edwards said...

Caleigh,
FMF has no limit on how many people can post as "anonymous". We would prefer they not do so because it results in confusion as you noted. If people select anonymous, we ask them to use a name in the body of their post.

Justine said...

Caleigh Brooks,

I don't have a dog in this hunt. I haven't read the works of any of the authors cited yet. But, I just want to point out some less than solid arguments that you made:

1) I don't think we should be looking to FB to determine one's reputation within the adoption community. FB is about popularity. (As an example, Justin Bieber has 46,000,000 people liking a fan page devoted to him. Adele has only 34,000,000. Who is the more respected musician within the music community?). . . Looking to FB is like using Wikipedia as a reputable source.

2) Most mental health professionals do not prescribe drugs. In the vast majority of states, the only mental health practitioners who can prescribe drugs are psychiatrists.

Manon (1.52 p.m) said...

Not saying you aren't entitled to your opinion Caleigh, but I've just checked out the c.vs of Joe Soll and David Brodzinsky, and IMO there's no comparison. For seriousness, scholarship and publications (some as recent as last year) Brodzinsky wins hands down.
Also - and importantly - he has helped innumerable adoptees through his clinical practice.

Being "friended" on Facebook doesn't mean much. Nor does the number of "friends" a person has. Facebook can be a bit of a racket.

However, I agree with you about Pertman. His "lawyerly caution" smacks too much of self-interest.
But anon September 29 2:16 didn't mention Pertman. And the fact that Brodzinsky is associated with the Donaldson institute doesn't mean he doesn't own his own mind. The implications of calling him Pertman's "homie" are a bit much. Just sayin'

S. said...

I have not been a part of the original conversation but have been reading it. I am a first mother. My surrendered son is 24. My husband has always known, my children, all under the age of 12, did not until last week. I sincerely wish I had told them sooner. The older ones are focused on the shock that their mother did something wrong when she was young, the younger ones don't understand what that "wrong thing" is. None of them have asked to meet him or even if I have met him - haven't asked to see a picture of him. My oldest son that I'm raising didn't wait half a second upon hearing the news and said, "I'm not your first born". It broke my heart. I have to say that while I'm glad I did it, I should have done it a long time ago and the relief I thought I'd feel at telling them didn't come. All I want is for all my children to want to be siblings to each other and it feels like a pipe dream. This is neither to discourage or encourage the Anonymous mother considering. It is just to share and to say that there are others in the world that struggle with the same burdens. Thanks. S

Beehive said...

Caleigh asked: "Am I in that movie with Jack Nicholson, "One Flew Over the Coo-Coo's Nest?"

I fear yes.

Lorraine Dusky said...

Just to be clear, choosing the "Name/URL" option does not require that you have a URL, does not give us any more information, but makes it easier for all of us to keep track of who is who and who is saying what.

You just put in a moniker you want to use here. That is actually a better option than signing a name in the body of the post, because when you collapse the comments at the top, you can easily find the latest comments, and whether Sally or Alicia or Lorraine or Jane is commenting.

Justine said...

S,

I, for one, don't think you did anything wrong when you were younger.

Is that part of what you told your children, or did they come up with the idea that you had done "something wrong"?

It's not a judgment. I am just wondering if there are ways for first mothers to couch the discussion in a different way, so their families will have a greater likelihood of accepting the news (given some time to absorb it).

I am guessing since first mothers often feel shame and guilt about having had premarital sex and getting pregnant and relinquishing a child that their shame is evident and comes across when outing themselves to family.

Manon (1.52 p.m) said...

Caleigh asked "Who is is the anonymous "mother-in-hiding?"
Hers is the second comment in the thread. Caleigh, dated September 24, 9.04 AM.

S., good for you. That took a lot. I am optimistic that eventually your kids all come to accept each other as siblings. It's early days yet.

caleigh brooks said...

S:

Yours is such a terrific example of teaching, telling, children as much as they can handle at any given age. You say to start even younger and then it's not such a shock. It's like teaching children about the birds and the bees.

Excellent! Thanks for sharing - teaching!

Mermayd said...

At the discretion of the blog owners, this comment has been cut:

Agreeing with Manon, about Dr. Brodzinski and Dr. Schecter vs. Soll. There is no comparison, and "friends" on Facebook is a very strange way to judge the value of a writer or scholar.

BJ Lifton was forbidden to use the word "birthmother" at the last of Soll's conferences. She was not treated respectfully. She worked with him because he was the only game in town in NYC for a while, not out of any great fondness.

Also agreeing about Pertman, who was in no way sited in my earlier post. I am that anon, not any of the others, to simplify things for you, Caleigh. Perhaps you could try to simplify things for the rest of us by not making numerous consecutive posts that dominate threads.

caleigh brooks said...

I apologize to those who think I comment too much; but, I would appreciate finishing my thought. I kept trying to remember the ADJECTIVE that I usually use to describe the insulting term, BIRTHMOTHER, and I just thought of it. You know how it is when the word is on the tip of your tongue.

Birthmother is a DEHUMANIZING term! Keep usin' it, people, that's just what adoption titans want you to do. They want you to see yourselves, and refer to yourselves, as less than human breeding machines! It keeps the kids comin' and rakes in the dough!!!

Thanks for your patience!

[We all know why our wonderful moderators, Lorraine and Jane (Love! Love!) use the word in the title of FMF.]

caleigh brooks said...

Mermayd said to me:

"Perhaps you could try to simplify things for the rest of us by not making numerous consecutive posts that dominate threads."

2 REASONS why sometimes a commenter might comment alot:

1.) Often we must comment alot to REBUT "attacks" from commenters like the above.

2.) But, MORE IMPORTANTLY, sometimes we just need a little more - a little more SUPPORT - healing - purging - we just need to tell someone.

You would deny us that?

Personally, I don't usually have time to comment as much as I have and I thank all of you for generously and patiently being there for me!

S. said...

Justine - I appreciate your thoughts on the whole "did something wrong" thing and that you weren't making a judgement. While I do not regret my son's existence, the truth is it came about when I was very young and in over my head in a relationship and my age was a factor in why I couldn't figure out a way to keep him. I think it would be challenging for me to frame the situation in a more "valueless" way for my children - one, because my children are Catholic and go to Catholic school, so they do believe the idea that certain things are wrong and certain things are right. Two, because they are too old to just accept the idea that "mommy had a baby when she was very young and wasn't allowed to raise him" and go on about their business. Three, they are too young (not yet teenagers) where they can really comprehend hormones and the idea that we are sexual beings and the urges that people in relationships have with one another. The older ones have heard about that in theory but because they haven't experienced it, it sounds like crazy talk to them. I guess what I'm saying is , they are at an age where life is black and white and they can't yet grasp the nuances of what happened and why and how. I am sure there is some shame that came across, despite my best efforts to be objective and factual.

Lorraine Dusky said...

S.: Let me add a bit about my growing up in a Catholic household, going to Catholic school. When I was seven, preparing for First Communion, I wanted to know why my mother never went to Communion when we went to Mass. (My father did not go except on Christmas, Easter, etc.) She had to tell me that she had been married before, and that my older brother was my half-brother, and she was divorced from a man who had walked away from his son. I remember her crying, me crying, the trauma of it all in her bedroom. I immediately understood that she was living in "mortal sin," and that if she died on the spot she would go to hell. That is the seven-year-old's version of the rules back in the Fifties.

We got over it. I got over it.

My brother took my father's name as soon as he was able, not until 21, because his biological father, who had never come to see him in all the years, would not agree to the change.

You are in the hard part right now, but it will get better. I hope your oldest can get over feeling cheated of the "first-born" status. That may take some work, but ultimately, it is up to him. You can only control yourself. My thoughts are with you.

Mermayd said...

S., your kids' reactions given their age and upbringing are normal and common, especially the firstborn finding out that he isn't. That is usually the reaction of firstborns, especially sons.

No, all siblings do not jump for joy when learning that mom had a kid before them, but they learn to live with it, just as with any other event from their parents' past that was troubling. Lorraine's mother's divorce is a good example of that.

Whether they will ever all want to know each other is up to them, but hopefully there will be many years for them to sort that out. You did the right thing in telling them, even though it was hard and even though they were upset by the revelation.

It is never an easy secret to tell, and every family is different in its dynamics and reaction. Don't feel bad for how you told them or if "shame came across". Their reaction was not caused by how you told the story. Shame was part of it for most of us. It would seem bizarre to me to tell your family as if this were something great and fun-filled that they should be thrilled about.

Let them have and live with their reactions, and let time and wisdom help them to see how hard this has been for you. Kids as you said, see everything black in white. In time the grey areas become clearer with life experience.

Justine said...

S,

My b-mom is also Catholic, so I can empathize with how hard this has been for you.

I am hopeful that any shame you've been holding onto for all of these years will diminish now that you have shared your secret.

I am blown away by the strength of mothers, like you, who choose to share such a personal and painful secret with their families after years of silence.

S. said...

Thank you for all your comments and kind words. I do appreciate them!

caleigh brooks said...

Hello, patient readers, I was feeling like a PEST long before Mermayd called me a pest for commenting so much.

I just have one more thought that might complete the picture about the use of the term birthmother, then I'm done with that subject. Thanks for letting me get it out - you're helping me more than I'm helping you!

You'll see how the whole Adoption Shebang/Industry has always been propelled by adoptive parents (or you could say, infertile couples). Thank you so much! Here goes:

Another bunch of MISSIONARIES. Where have we heard that before - Mitt Romney?

FYI: Do you think that the word, BIRTHMOTHER, just magically got into the dictionary?

In the 1950s, Adoptive Mama and missionary, PEARL BUCK, conjured up that word to dehumanize and marginalize single moms. They were to be viewed as ILLEGITIMATE unwed mothers - easier to finagle the kids that way from vulnerable moms - takes the guilt out of adopting someone else's child and building a lucrative industry surrounding child loss.

The innocent child was also viewed as, and called, ILLEGITIMATE. The Adoption-Adorers were forced recently to stop calling innocent children ILLEGITIMATE.

• Talking about "a breeding machine who ONLY gave birth" gives authority to the adoption titans/industry, and permission to infertile couples, to separate the VULNERABLE. You ONLY can do it to the vulnerable! All through the decades some single mothers kept their ILLEGITIMATE children; it just depends on how vulnerable the family in supposed-crisis is/was. (I think no child is a crisis! Children are gifts!)

• Illegitimate means "you have no right in our society of couth people."

Let's turn the tide!

(Wow! Mermayd, thanks for changing your name from Anonymous! I love it! At least we'll know who's who.)

Lorraine Dusky said...

Caleigh: You are right about Pearl Buck and the use of the word "birthmother" or "birth mother," but it was given the imprimatur of natural parents when Lee Campbell and the others who started Concerned United Birthparents, or CUB, used the coinage as the name of their organization. I admit to having used it gingerly over the years--for a while it sounded better than "biological mother." But now I am not so sure. I will admit that when I started First Mother Forum I did it because it sounded easy to remember, and only after did I realize that others were beginning to use that phrase. As you have pointed out, I added Birth Mother to the title to make FMF easier to find by all.

caleigh brooks said...

Awesome info about C.U.B., Lorraine!

C.U.B. using the term, birthmother, in its name is a perfect example of:

"AFTER AWHILE, the oppressor doesn't have to work so hard because the victim takes over (her own victimization) for the oppressor!"

(I feel like a pest.)

Manon said...

Caleigh, I'm sorry I forgot to respond your query about what I meant when I said 'My experience was and is good, but not everyone's reunion attempts turn out as they would wish."

There is no contradiction there, or two story lines either. I do enjoy a good relationship with my adult child, relinquished when I was in my teens, over 50 years ago. I told my husband in the early days of our relationship and was confident that I had his support. However, I have seen and read enough to know that not everyone is so fortunate as I have been. One factor that contributed positively is that there was strongly supportive family on both sides. Not everyone has that advantage.
It sounds as if things turned out well for you too. How did your reunion happen? Did you have family support?

Moving slightly off topic, I believe that if the right to OBCs and adoption records was restored to adoptees, reunion would lose a lot of its power to inspire fear in closeted mothers. Sealed records are an official stamp of unworthiness and exclusion. Opening the records would do much to lift that unwarranted shame. Adoption records have been opened in other places and the sky hasn't fallen onto anyone's head.

maryanne said...

Caleigh wrote"C.U.B. using the term, birthmother, in its name is a perfect example of:

"AFTER AWHILE, the oppressor doesn't have to work so hard because the victim takes over (her own victimization) for the oppressor!"

Answering this as Secretary of CUB and member since 1976 when CUB was founded. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on word usage,and this is not against Caleigh or any person, nor an attempt to start a flame war, but this comment is historically not correct and begs what I hope is a polite and accurate response.

We who founded CUB did not in any way "take over our own victimization"just because of the term our founder used, a term that was not in any way considered insulting at the time. That its time may have passed to be replaced by other titles is one thing, but its use by CUB at the time was in no way a concession to self-victimization or any oppressor, no more than this blog using it for practical search engine reasons.

We were a group of young mothers who had surrendered, still in our 20s and early 30s, who came together to fight for adoptee rights and for the recognition that we had been wronged and treated badly. We were women of courage and we were in those days truly a sisterhood. Most of us were suburban moms raising other kids, living average lives, but waking up to the need to expose adoption abuse and loss to the world.

We stood up publicly in many forums and in National media when that was unheard of, we fought for legislation even when we could hardly speak about our experience without crying, we addressed hostile adoptive parent groups in person, not behind the shield of the internet. We were in no way victimizing ourselves or complicit in our victimization, in fact, quite the opposite.

Whatever words one chooses to use or identify with today, that quote about self-victimization does not apply in any way to Lee Campbell or me or the other brave women who founded CUB in 1976, the first activist group for birthmothers or first mothers, or whatever one prefers to call us.

Justine said...

Manon,

In my state, they recently allowed adoptees access to copies of their OBCs.

I requested mine, and I found my mom. She is in the closet.

My feeling is that she will always be in the closet because of the shame. I don't think the opening of records is going to help her because she felt that shame at a pivotal developmental period of her life.

I do agree with you, though, that opening up the records could possibly prevent future b-moms from feeling as much shame as their predecessors have felt.

Lorraine Dusky said...

Amen to all that Maryanne says here. Birth mother was considered a big step up from "biological" when it was first used. Just as blacks went from "colored people" to Negroes to blacks to African-Americans.

Language evolves. We evolve. I've written about this term at a previous blog:

Birth Mother? First Mother? Both names are belittling

Robin said...

May I make a suggestion? When someone is new to these blogs and uses the term birthmother, s/he should be politely informed that this is no longer the preferred term. When I first came to adoption reform blogs a couple of years ago, I thought that birthmother was the accepted term. I was quite strenously attacked for my lack of knowledge. That is not necessary and can turn sympathetic readers away.

maryanne said...

Robin, maybe a better suggestion would be to let everyone use whatever word works for them, and read messages for content and intent, not the "correct" jargon. Nobody likes to be corrected for word usage, especially a new person seeking connection, reunion advice, and help for their troubles. It puts people off and defeats the greater purpose of outreach and support.

As has been shown again and again, battles over words detract from the real good done in forums like this, genuine help and letting others know they are not alone as mothers who surrendered.

Lorraine, your point is well taken that language evolves without the need to scold anyone. I am now much more likely to use just "mother" where that fits, or "mother who surrendered", but I still use "birthmother" in other contexts where that is more suitable and understood. Context and intent are much more important than the idea of individual words being forbidden or evil.

Anonymous said...

This makes me very sad, because at this moment I am searching for my bmom. I am so close to finding her and came to this site because I was told that most bmoms want to be reunited with their children and I was hoping for encouragement but found this instead. I feel very sad because as I search and go on blogs I see adoptees longing for birthfamilies that want nothing to do with them. It makes me feel even less because I could be someone's dirty little secret. Which is why I never tried to look before. I have tried to understand but now I can see why so many adoptees harbor so much anger. There is no place for us and the loneliness is sometimes so unbearable.

Lorraine Dusky said...

Oh Anonymous, your pain comes shrieking through your comment, and all I can say is, I'm sorry. So much damage was done to both the women who gave up their children and the children themselves. You say there is no place to go for comfort--I suggest that you put that to use working for unsealing the original birth certificates in your state--unless you live in one of the seven states that has truly open records (Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island). That doesn't help with whether your mother will be happy for a reunion but you will meet other people who understand your pain and loneliness.

All I can do today is send you good vibrations and hope they reach you. And the thing is, you are never going to know how your birth parents and relatives are going to react unless you find them. Yesterday on Facebook I got a photo of an adoptee with her aunt who is only seven years older than she is. The first mother is deceased. The two women look so much alike it was amazing. They wear their similar hair in the same style and look like sisters.

They also ordered the same unusual kind of pizza (Cuban with no pineapple and the jalapeno on the side, without the other one hearing what the other had ordered.

You never know what is behind a door until you open it. I was scared too.


PS: A lot of adoptees read this blog and comment and you might find more commentary from souls like yourself at the newer posts; this is from last year.

Mama Kim said...

I just ran across your blog and have been glued to it for several hours!!! I was reunited with my son 3 years ago. I was 16 when I gave birth to him and placed him for adoption. He was 28 when we finally reunited. We have a great relationship and talk to each other almost every day. This post speaks to "coming out".
What we think of as our "secret" is not really a secret. I can attest to the fact that most family members knew exactly what was going on when a teenage girl "went away for awhile". It was never spoken of as family members were too polite or mortified to bring it up.
When my son first contacted me via the adoption agency, the counselor advised me not to tell my other children right away, as they did not know and might be upset if their brother decided not initiate further contact. They were told after a couple of weeks of continued communication with their sibling. They were of course shocked at first but then they were supportive and accepting. At the time they were 24 and 23. The rest of my large extended family were also very supportive and were eager to meet their nephew, cousin etc..
The thing I heard most was that every one knew or suspected that I had had a baby and given him up for adoption. That was still the way that was handled even in 1982.
So the bottom line is: Even if you think no one knows, they know, or at least "suspects".
Our "secret is not really that big a "secret" after all.