Thursday, November 22, 2012

A First Mother reminiscences about Thanksgivings past

Jane
Thanksgiving, 1966. I am in a small room in a residential hotel in San Francisco's tenderloin district, eating takeout turkey and the fixin's with my neighbor, Victor. I am in self-imposed exile, thousands of miles from relatives and friends. I'm not paying attention to the television Victor has turned on, full of programs designed to get viewers in the holiday spirit. I gave birth to my first daughter Rebecca a week earlier and left the hospital a few days without her a few days ago. Several weeks later I would sign a document giving up the right to be her mother.

My mind is racing. Why had my life gone so horribly wrong? How did it happen that at age 24 I had given birth to a baby, sired by a man who was not committed to me. Should I keep her? How would I care for her? Would she be better off if I kept her? "I can think this through," I think, but I can't.

Thanksgiving, 1997. I am at my mother-in-law's home in a Portland, Oregon suburb with my husband, my middle daughter and her boyfriend. My oldest and youngest raised daughters are sharing Thanksgiving in Washington, DC. A few days earlier, I had the first contact with Rebecca since I left the hospital in San Francisco on that gray November day. When I called Rebecca at her home near Chicago, having learned from a relative she was looking for me, I expected our conversation to last a few minutes. We talked for over two hours. The conversation runs through my head, disjointed pieces of information, married, three children, college, Mormon, raised as the youngest of four children, three of who, like Rebecca, were adopted.

HOW WOULD REUNION CHANGE MY LIFE?
I had thought of searching over the years but never pursued it other than registering with ALMA for a short time. Reunion could not end my pain. While we might look something alike, Rebecca and I would be very different. She was a blank slate when she was born, and now would bear only the marks of those who raised her, I thought. Reunion would not restore my lost daughter. Reunion might, however, upset my raised daughters, and diminish me in the eyes of my family and my peers in my professional life.

On that Thanksgiving Day, my mind races. Who is Rebecca and what does she want? What do I do next? My husband knows about Rebecca but I have not told him about my call to her. What do I tell him? What do I tell others? Or do I tell anybody anything? I have since heard many first mothers describe the euphoria they felt in connecting with their lost child. They rushed to spread the news, calling family members, broadcasting it to their neighbors. I feel like hiding. "I can think this through," I think but I can't.

Rebecca and I exchange emails for the next few weeks, writing every day, sometimes more. She offers to put me in touch with a first mother she met online, Judy Sullivan in Vermont. I jump at the opportunity. I begin emailing with Judy. For the first time in 31 years I communicate openly about my daughter. Judy sends me a list of  books recommended by the American Adoption Congress, an organization I never heard of. After I receive the list I check The Other Mother by Carol Schaefer out of the library. Carol  lost her child to adoption and suffered as I have. I am not alone. Unlike me, Carol had the courage to search and to tell others about her lost son. I read Lorraine's book, Birthmark. Then books by Betty Jean Lifton. I buy copies and send them to Rebecca. The books challenge all the popular wisdom about adoption. Mothers do not forget; children do not meld seamlessly into their adoptive families.

Rebecca and I meet over the Martin Luther King weekend in January of 1998 at her home. I come back exhausted, exhilarated, confused. Shortly thereafter, Judy tells me about an American Adoption Conference to be held in Seattle in April. Founded in 1978, AAC is a tax-exempt non profit which provides education for its members and professionals about the lifelong process of adoption. I sign up for the conference immediately.

SHARING DETAILS NEVER BEFORE REVEALED
On the first evening of the conference, I meet a woman in the hospitality room. She asks "What part of the triad are you?" Triad? I had never heard that term in connection with  adoption. "A birth mother." I don't think I had ever said these words before. "In reunion?" she asked.

"Yes."

"Were you found or did you find?"

I begin to tell her my story, sharing details with a stranger that I had not shared with anyone before.

The next day I go to a first mother support group with about 40 women. These are the supposed fallen women, forced by families and culture to give up their babies to avoid scandal, to punish them for their transgressions. But their faces are ordinary and earnest, not the faces of harlots. The leader, articulate, attractive, tells her story; she gave up a son, then a year or so later, a daughter, both fathered by the same man, whom she subsequently married. I never imagined such a thing could occur. The rest of the mothers tell their stories, Many were young when they lost their babies, sent to maternity homes, told never to speak about it. Most are in reunion, some have good relationships with their child; others have been rejected, some sobbed; others were stoic.

I meet a first mother, Jeanette, who lives near Portland and who has become a good friend. Jeanette tells me about Oregon Adoptive Right Association, a search and support group, and a first mother support group led by a therapist who was a first mother. I join both groups when I return home.

ADOPTION IS A COMPLEX JOURNEY
I meet adoptive parents and am surprised to learn that they have positive relationships with their adopted children's first parents. I learn about the fight for access to adoption records including original birth certificates and Bastard Nation which is leading an effort in Oregon to pass a ballot measure allowing adult adoptees to receive their original birth certificates. (The measure passed in November, 1998.)  I meet members of CUB which I know about only through a mean-spirited article in the New Yorker by adoptive mother, Lucinda Franks, ("How a baby girl became a rally cause for the anti-adoption movement, 5/22/97). I hear about open adoption--surprising because I thought secrecy was essential to adoption. I learn that some regard open adoption as the antidote to adoption pain; others as a ruse to get vulnerable mothers to give up their children. I attend a workshop by international adoptees, one advocating for bringing children to the US, but helping them retain some of their culture; the other opposed to all international adoption. I learn that my daughter and I were part of a mid-century social experiment gone terribly wrong.

The AAC conference taught me--or at least re-affirmed what I had come to believe--that adoption is far more complex than commonly recognized. It marks all participants. Adoption is a journey but not one I had to take alone. Since attending my first conference, I have met many mothers who are isolated. I encourage these mothers to read about adoption, join a support group, and attend a conference. I've also met adoptees whose mothers are afraid to have an open relationship or, at the other end of the spectrum, insist upon being recognized as their mother as though the separation had never taken place. I also encourage these adoptees to help their mothers learn about adoption. I believe knowledge is invaluable in coping with adoption loss.  I may have eventually discovered AAC and the books on my own, but I am thankful that Judy led me to them when she did.

I am also thankful for my husband, my daughters and my grandchildren; that I have the time and good health to write this blog, work on adoption reform, travel, play bridge, read, go to movies and the symphony, much more.--jane
_______________________________
Lorraine here: I miss my daughter of course, but her life was troubled and I know that she has found the peace that she never did in life. I will have Thanksgiving dinner with my grown step-children and their families, a friends. and I will think about my daughter, and talk to her daughter, my granddaughter, and also the daughter who might have been.


American Adoption Congress:  The next conference is April 10-14 in Cleveland

From FMF:
Thank you Betty Jean Lifton  
 When "Adoption" Can't Be the Problem...But It Is
 After the Birthmother/Adoptee Reunion: Navigating the Turbulent Waters

Suggested reading:
The Other Mother "I recommend this book to everyone who is seeking to understand the birthparent journey. I am an adoption professional involved with searching for 19 years. I find Carol's book to be a gem. Carol has done an outstanding job of encapsulating the birthparent experience. She raises the consciousness of anyone who reads her story."--A social worker writing on Amazon.

Lorraine's book is listed in the right sidebar. Birthmark, published in 1979, was the first memoir from a birth mother, and was highly controversial at the time. It gives a very clear picture of the crushing pressures that these fallen women were under then to relinquish their children.


54 comments :

  1. Dear Lorraine and Jane,
    On your Thanksgiving Day, I just want to say thank you for your Blog and all those who contribute to it. I found your website while I was looking for exactly what you generously share … real experiences and support. I have a good and deep relationship with my mum; she found me 12 years ago and it was quite simply the best day of my life, the day I had long been waiting for. Fortunately, we were well supported in the beginning by the very thing you advocate, support groups and books. My mum lives in Australia and they have been much more advanced in search/reunion than UK (where I am). We often wonder where we would be now without the experiences of others to guide us. What I have learned is that you have to keep working at the relationship, reunion in itself doesn’t fix the past, which has been the hardest thing for me to realise. Whilst the books are helpful, I have gained so much by reading your website because it helps me see things from a mother’s perspective, which is something I needed to do a lot more than previously.
    Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving
    Jo

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  2. Jo, thank you. Sometimes it is wonderful to hear that what we do is helpful. We get enough criticism for being that weird person who is so involved in adoption.

    You're right, reunion doesn't fix the past. It cannot. The past is over. I think of that line, you can't step in the same river twice, for nothing is ever the same as it was.

    Thanks for the greeting. I must admit I am stuff, ate too much pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

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  3. I was born on Nov 13 and relinquished on Nov 18. I spent my first thanksgiving in my foster home. I have no idea where I was or who I was with. It's haunting me this year. Last year was the first and last time I was in touch with my natural parents on this holiday. I sent Mom a pic of our family eating our dinner and Mom commented on my 25 year old son stuffing his big mug. Was I wrong to feel hurt? She said she was just kidding. This year we are estranged. My reunion dreams are not to be. This year was my 50th birthday, and no contact from my natural family. The hurt is so deep. I don't know how things ended up this way. I just wanted to be part of my family.

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  4. This is so sweet and it's very heartfelt. I love reunions but you're right they don't exist to fix the past, I believe they're done to appreciate the present.

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  5. Michele,

    Were you wrong to feel hurt by your mother's comments? No, you felt what you felt. I have no idea what her intentions were, but a lot of people do joke around that way.

    I'm so sorry that you are now estranged from them. I didn't expect to be welcomed into either of my b-parents families. That would have been expecting too much, and I limited my expectations.

    I just would have liked to be able to contact them and talk with them from time to time. But, clearly, that is beyond their capabilities.

    I'm sick of always having to be the adult in parent-daughter relationships. Man/Woman-up, people!

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  6. Adopted people and the mothers who lost them are hyper-sensitive and hyper-vigilant (PTSD)!

    Is that it, Michelle? Is it only that phrase?

    No way do I want to minimize your pain and hurt! You have every right to your hurt!!!

    When offended, tell the offender, in a tactful and simple way, what hurts, and expect an apology - even ask for an apology, and continue to do so when offended. All relationships are hard work! All. "When you said that about my son's eating, you hurt me terribly."

    That phrase, "your son stuffing his big mug," was a commonplace, even endearing, phrase of your natural mom's generation. I think I can safely say that she has no idea that she hurt you!

    Ask for an apology! It's so simple yet so hard!

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  7. Michell, I agree that "your son stuffing his big mug" was probably not an insult in the least, just a jokey comment.

    That said, I am so sorry when I hear that someone who wants to be in touch with her natural family feels alienated. If her offhand comment was the reason for the estrangement, call her up and tell her! I can't know the particulars and speak for her, but she may not have contacted you on your birthday because she thought you didn't want her to.
    I remember one year when previous efforts to contact my daughter had been rebuffed for a couple of months--the reason why is a story in itself--but for the first time ever after reunion--after about 20 years of contact--I did not call her on her birthday. I imagined she would hang up on me if I called. I spent the day in mourning. Later, she called me and we resumed at relationship that could be very, very good and close.

    Your mother may have had the same fearful feelings that I had that year, and it's very hard to act on them. On some level, we understand the great hurt that being given up inflicts, and we understand that whatever relationship we have with our reunited children is different than it might have been.

    You haven't said why you are estranged but if the ball is in your court, bounce back.

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  8. Jane, my heart is heavy for you. We mothers are subject to triggers around holidays or times of year when we relinquished our babies. Mine is May — Mother's Day, followed closely by the birth of my son. Sending you HUGS!

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  9. Easter for me. I got out of the hospital the day before. I spent it completely alone.

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  10. dertsixThanks for your comments. Maybe I did react harshly to an innocent comment. I just couldn't imagine my mother saying something like that to her kept son or grandson. I did expect to be welcomed back onto my family. I thought I was a beloved long lost family member. My expectations were too high.

    Only 1 person from my natural family contacted me on my 50th birthday, Mom's youngest half sister. She has welcomed and accepted me from the start. Mom has cut her off as well.I got no cards, or calls from my parents.

    Mom says we can have a relationship when I'm ready to live in the now. She asked me to leave her alone because she cannot bear my adoptee victim persona, and vitriolic shenanigans. She has quite a vocabulary, as do I.

    Mom sent me a bizarre art project telling me how terrible I was. She has a pet name for me, "the spoiler". Mom was severely abused as a child. It's a very sad story. I do love her, but I really feel she hates me. I don't know what I can do to change that.

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  11. Michele:
    Your mother sounds like she herself has so much damage. It is a heavy burden for you to bear, but you cannot fix the past for her, or you.

    You can only take care of yourself. From what you have said here, it doesn't sound like she is capable of a relationship that is not hurtful to you. Your aunt is not the same as your mother, but maybe you can find a way to find some familial comfort in that relationship, even if many miles separate you.

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  12. Michelle:

    Please click on my username, Anonymous. It will take you to a video that might help explain your situation with your natural mom. If it doesn't work, I'll try again.

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  13. Michelle, you are not alone at all! All your problems in your life stem from the initial trauma: the separation of your rightful family. That initial trauma of separation is like the "snowball rolling the hill" effect. The snowball gets bigger and bigger - the trauma gets bigger and bigger and bigger.... It never ends until you find a venue like First Mother Forum - then the management of the pain can begin!

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  14. Quite a few single mothers in the mid-20th century kept, and raised, their children despite the stigma and shame of "parenting without a license" that your shameless, and jealous, and religious, neighbor tried to foist on single mothers and fathers. It just depended on how vulnerable the single mom was. Only the most vulnerable lost their kids to adoption.

    Picture the adoption industry employees patiently waiting for the vulnerable mom to pick up the telephone. Picture nuns and social workers... the flunkies (of the adoption titans) who did the dirty work of separation sitting at their desks across from the entrance of the agency tapping their pencils on their desks patiently awaiting a vulnerable mom to open the door - similar to Dawn Amann Baker of Bethany Christian Services.

    Here's the total absurdity (a euphemism) of adoption:

    A mother enters the adoption agency and here's what she, in essence, hears from the social worker, "Come on, honey, let me use this ax to cut off your right arm. You'll see, you'll be so much better off! You can trust me!"

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  15. Just think how sickening this metaphor really is! It turns my stomach!

    The adoption industry's social worker to vulnerable single mom, "Hold still, let me cut off your right arm, then you'll be able to go on with your life. Just think of it, you'll even be able to go to college. How cool is that? Don't fight me!"

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  16. Lindsey, actually the estimate of how many white women gave up their babies during the mid-Twentieth century is something like 80-90 percent. The social pressure to relinquish was crushing.

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  17. This is slightly another topic, but it is a wonderful reunion story of a Korean first mother's total acceptance of her trandgender adoptee who found her. I thought people here would be interested.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andy-marra/the-beautiful-daughter-how-my-korean-mother-gave-me-the-courage-to-transition_b_2139956.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003&ir=Los+Angeles&utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm

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  18. Every time someone comes on here and says that lots of women parented their kids as single moms in the mid-20th century, I really want to cry. There was one separated mother in my Grade 4 class in the '60s, and that was highly unusual. Unless you lived at that time, it's hard to understand how totally alien the concept was--separated and divorced women were equally shunned and often wore wedding rings and said the guy was dead. Let me repeat: there was no daycare; there were hardly any working mothers; there was no social support for the idea of single motherhood, no role models, no one on TV like you or your child. It was a married society and even childless single people had a hard time fitting in. It is not true that "only the most vulnerable" were adoption victims. How do you define "most vulnerable" when the entire society and your own parents pronounce you shameful? Most of these women and girls didn't have a fighting chance.

    Maryanne, I read the article you linked to. It was great. We certainly have come a long way.

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  19. Thank you, Beehive. It is difficult for us (birth) mothers who gave up our children to defend ourselves here, and it is always welcome to have what we know to be true verified. At an adoptee's blog recently I read that her mother made the "choice" to not have an abortion, as if abortion were as readily available as it is in, say, Kansas, where even legal abortions are available, though difficult to get. Yes, abortions could be gotten--if you knew the right people, if you got to the doctor "in time," if if if. I knew no abortion doctors, nor did I know anyone who did. Or if I did know them, I didn't know they knew or would I have had the courage to ask them. That would have been admitting I had committed the terrible transgression of getting pregnant outside of marriage.

    And Yes, Maryanne's link was interesting. Thanks.

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  20. Lindsey, if what you mean by "most vulnerable" is lacking social (especially parental) support, then I agree with you.

    I have a cousin who is roughly ten years older than me. My single aunt became pregnant with him and chose to keep him.

    What's the difference between her and my mother? I think she had the support of her family. I think they circled the wagons around her and assisted her as much as they could. (I'm not certain because, even now, this isn't something that is talked about in the family.)

    My mother wasn't given that kind of support. Apparently, her father pushed for the adoption. He didn't like my father. (My mother didn't either.)

    My mother didn't have resources. She didn't have parental support, and she couldn't stand my father. So, yes, I would say that she was among the most vulnerable. What choice did she have?



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  21. Lindsay, it wasn't just vulnerable women that were forced to give up their babies, it was an entire culture in white society that, as Beehive noted, placed marriage before anything else when it came to women, that led many of us to give up our babies.

    I grew up in the 1940's and 50's and went to college in the 1960's. In those times women were identified by their marital status. Applications for employment, insurance, and credit all asked marital status. Divorced women were at a great disadvantage. I worked for an insurance agency for a short time out of college. Premiums were much higher for divorced women. My boss explained to me that this was because divorced women hung out in bars and let their drunken boyfriends drive their cars. Premiums were also higher for blacks, GIs, and other undesirables.

    My parents were divorced when I was 15. I told only a few people because being raised in a "broken" home was definitely stigmatizing.

    I knew a couple of "unwed" mothers in high school and college and they were roundly criticized as immoral, selfish, and foolish. I imagine their children had to deal constantly with the humiliation of being bastards.

    When young married women announced a pregnancy, everyone counted back to their wedding date to see if they "had" to get married. The eight pound "premature" baby was a standard joke.

    The words "single mother" did not come into the lexicon until the 1970's. Before that they were identified as widowed (that was okay), divorced (not good) and unwed, definitely bad.

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  22. In spite of all the information available about the 60's era, some of us who were reunited were "punished" by our found children for "abandoning" them. In my case, part of my punishment was the expectation that there was a debt to be repaid by me for the "adoption trauma" I caused. So for some of us, our "punishment" came from multiple sources commencing at pregnancy and continuing, in some cases, into reunion. Over time, it's an emotional cost that's extremely difficult to bear.

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  23. My son's adoption was right around Mother's
    Day. May 6, 1966 was day his adopter got him
    I think Mother's Day was the 8th that year.
    I was grieving and she was enjoying just wrong
    on every level.

    Gale

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  24. Gale, I had either forgotten or never knew you were in the 1966 sisterhood.

    A tumultuous year. Today's Times Crossword puzzle had a clue asking for the name of the storm in 1966. Does anyone remember Inez?

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  25. Thanks for the rich discussion! I understand and appreciate everything that everyone has said. I'll just comment on a few of your thoughts. I don't want to bore you to tears!

    HDW (1:11 P.M.): Your example is exactly what I mean by "the most vulnerable" lose their kids to adoption - today and yesterday.

    In my mom's immediate circle in the 1940s, at least, 2 single moms kept, and raised, their children. (I don't always explain myself right.)

    HDW (11:20 A.M.) I agree totoally with you. Just the other day, I exclaimed to a friend, "It's a dirty, rotten, shame! In adoption, the child (adoptee) must emotionally take care of the adults (2 sets of parents: natural and adoptive)!

    JANE: That's so funny - if it wasn't so sad: 8 lb. premature baby! I haven't heard that one. So many families separated needlessly! So much suffering! So much damage!

    Let's not forget that couples were also forced to give up their kids for adoption - many married right after the loss of their children.

    Also, working women who could well afford to keep, and raise, their offspring were forced to give up their kids for adoption.

    Adoption will be abolished! No doubt about it! It's not the job of young single mothers to supply infertile couples with children!!!

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  26. Lorraine,

    I am on west coast California. I had my son
    on April 14th, 1966. Social worker was my
    first visit of day. I was still sleeping from birth
    at 2am. I woke up to her staring at me. She
    had to get papers signed. I just still can't make
    sense of it. I was minor minors weren't allowed
    to sign legal documents? So why was I allowed
    to do it without legal representative or parent?

    Been reunited since 92in a good reunion. We have weathered the reunion.

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  27. I never knew I was punishing my mother. I loved her. I asked too many questions and brought up too many painful memories. I didn't realize until she lashed out at me. Being abandoned by our parents hurts so deep it's primal and no explanation can really ease the pain.

    Adoption is an atrocity. It cost me and my mother too much.

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  28. 6 years into reunion and this was my first Thanksgiving with my daughter. So very grateful....

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  29. adoptomuss,

    You had every right to ask your mother questions. Yes, those questions undoubtedly brought her pain to the surface. But, that pain was already there. She was just covering it for all of those years.

    Asking our mothers questions about our history and our origins should not be seen as punishing our mothers.

    I don't think that is what Cindy meant when she said that her found children punished her. I think she meant that they continually blamed her for their pain.

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  30. Sometimes the good advice delivered in snippets to people who are hurting that if left here is so good. I find it rewarding to read. Thank you all who contribute, your names are too long to list...but ♥♥♥

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  31. I didn't think I was being abusive, but my mother did. I was bewildered by her reaction. What is abusive behavior by an adoptee? Who decides if its abusive? Cindy says her children blame her and want her to pay, but is that her children's real intention? Both my parents and most of their relatives have turned away from me in a short time. I never thought I was abusing them, but maybe I don't know exactly what abuse is.

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  32. Adoptomuss,

    A person can be abused intentionally or unintentionally. With abuse, intention is irrelevant.

    Cindy mentioned that her children believed "there was a debt to be repaid ... for the 'adoption trauma'". Going into an new relationship expecting someone to give restitution for past wrongs is probably not going to go well.

    Are your parents married to one another? If not, did both of them claim that you were being abusive? If they both claimed separately that you were abusive, it is something that you may need to explore.

    A lot of negative emotions can surface during reunion, and no one has the right to inflict their emotions onto other people.

    Since I don't know your situation, I have no idea if you were being abusive or if your family is actually being emotionally abusive to you.

    I would recommend finding a support group or a counselor who is skilled in adoption issues. Whether you were abusive or not, it sounds like you are in a lot of pain and could use support.

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  33. By reading much of this stuff, you'd think that adoption was a horrendous thing. That is hurtful to prospective birthmothers, because that is not a balanced view. I do know of many birthmothers who view adoption as a positive experience. It would sure be nice if you could show that side, too. I also know adoptees, my children included, who are perfectly fine with being adopted and don't feel the need to be integrated into their birth mom's family.

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  34. Anonymous, I also know adoptees who are fine, upstanding, smart people. None of them say they would rather be adopted than...not adopted.

    For the most part, for all the adoptions that should not have been, adoption is a horrendous thing. It changes forever the life of the mother who gives birth--and not for the better--and creates a person with a big hole in their heart.

    I wonder why you found this blog--are you an adoptive parent? Or just an interested bystander? I doubt it.

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  35. Anonymous,

    Maybe your children are fine with being adopted. (Just an FYI: I'm fine with having been adopted, too. Society would have had to have been different for me to have remained with my mother. I accept that.)

    But, that doesn't mean that I didn't feel the need to connect with my biological parents. I wanted to see pics of people who might look like me. I wanted to hear stories about them. I wanted to know if I was like them in any way. I wanted to know if I was given a name at birth. I wanted to learn the story of how I came to be. The list of questions I had goes on and on.

    Do you think it is fair that the majority of people have answers to these questions while most adoptees do not?

    Oh, and I have been in communication with both of my biological parents. My adoptive family does not know this. It would be too painful for them. (I suspect if your children searched theirs out, it would be too painful for you. I don't know the ages of your children. But, who knows, maybe they have already sought out their biological parents or maybe they will in the future. They may not tell you because they know how you feel about this subject.)

    Please never assume a lack of interest in our biological parents simply because we don't voice it. You should also know that we may not be completely honest about our feelings about adoption with our adoptive parents because we love you, and we don't want to hurt you, either.

    Anonymous, I'm not saying that your children will ever want to search. But, whether they do or do not is not a measure of who you are as a parent or of how much they love you. (Personally, I love to solve a good mystery. So, there was absolutely no way that I was going to leave this Earth without solving mine.)

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  36. @ Anonymous, November 29, 2012 1:08 AM (and all others who are bewildered by critics of the American adoption system):

    There is a great deal of information about adoption on the web and it isn't all puppies and unicorns. Did you just discover the internet this morning?

    Keep searching and you will be amazed (and probably frightened) by adoptees and natural mothers who have taken to the web to share a different point of view about adoption.

    Or you could just put your blinders back on, your choice.

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  37. Anon,
    Let these birthmothers you know who view adoption positively speak for themselves. Birthmothers often do not express their real feelings, especially to adoptive parents who have their children. Birthmothers don't want to antagonize them and jeopardize their relationship with their lost children. I know of one birthmother who was told by the adoption agency that if she didn't act happy about the adoption in front of the adoptive parents and her son, the adoptive parents would cut off contact.

    Unfortunately, adoption is still a game of "let's pretend" for many.

    Read the blogs of mothers who claim to view adoption positively and you'll read how they try to cope with their pain.

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  38. I still have questions about abuse. Many mothers complain that their children are abusive, or want revenge or payback. How do mothers know that is the case? My mother says I'm abusive and I need therapy.

    I know it's not PC, but I don't think therapy can really help me. I have tried it. I also don't think I've been abusive to anyone.

    The terrible thing I did to my mother was to tell her that I found out what happened to stillborn babies. They were sent to potter's field to be buried in mass graves.

    My parents faked my death in order to give me up without their parents trying to save me. I wondered all my life what happened to my dead body.

    My mother says I gave her nightmares.

    My adoptive mother told me that my parents faked my death when I was a little girl. The agency told her, and she told me. It was one of the few things I knew about my parents.

    I live with that reality all my life. Was it abuse to tell my mother how I felt?

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  39. Adoptomuss,

    Were you trying to tell your mom you knew
    about faked death? By saying stllborn's were
    buried in potter's field? Curious how you were
    Explained to mom's parents after dying?

    Interesting, fact from your adopter which came
    from agency?? I would say your adopter was
    throwing wrench in reunion.

    G

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  40. I knew I was adopted and knew the fake death story all my life. I was told in infancy. When I found my family a cousin told me they had been told about a dead baby. That's when I knew the story was true. Mom denied it. She said her Mom came to my parents apartment looking for the new baby and my Mom screamed, "She's dead". My grandmother never brought it up again.

    Dad admitted they planned the whole thing. They moved across town and told no one I was born. He told his parents I died, and no one asked any questions, according to him.

    I told my mother to try and get her to understand how much what she did hurt me. I was angry and hurt. It's terrible to know no one even claimed my body. It's degrading to think my own parents did that to me.


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  41. Not getting into the specifics of any one case, it is pretty hard to define abuse in reunion because it is so much in the eye of the beholder. One person's blunt truth and honesty is another's abuse.

    Some things are clearly abusive no matter what the relationship; continued cursing, endless blaming, stalking or harassing, physical violence or the threat of physical violence, threats to other family members, unreasonable rehashing of blame for everything wrong in one's life and unwillingness to listen to any apology or attempt at reconciliation. Unreasonable demands for money or gifts the other person cannot give can be abusive, as can using guilt or manipulation.

    Beyond actions that are blatantly abusive, there seems to be a whole minefield of potential misunderstandings, unmet expectations, and hurt feelings in reunion that some people interpret as abuse. I have not been in this situation as my son has never done anything in any way abusive, but have seen many people take things the wrong way and withdraw, in situations that could have been handled differently. On the other hand, I have seen both adoptees and mothers put up with terrible abuse from the other party for years, trying in vain to work out a situation that proved impossible. Sometimes the only thing to do is withdraw for your own safety and sanity.

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  42. maryanne wrote:

    "On the other hand, I have seen both adoptees and mothers put up with terrible abuse from the other party for years, trying in vain to work out a situation that proved impossible. Sometimes the only thing to do is withdraw for your own safety and sanity."

    Sadly, this is true.

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  43. Thanks everyone for your comments. I never wanted to hurt my mother. I wanted to help her. I would love to make her life easier, but the wants no part of me.

    It seems that my blunt truth was her abuse. I was shocked and hurt when she said she was afraid of me. I would never hurt my dear mother. I wish she felt differently about me, but I don't know how to make her love me. I can't convince her that I'm a mild mannered 50 yr old mother of 4. I've never hurt anyone in my life.

    At first she accepted me, but there was always fear in her eyes.

    I know she didn't want to give me up, but she wasn't strong enough to hold on to me. Adoption has taken so much from my mother and I.

    She says that I only want a perfect, fantasy mother, but she is so wrong. I only want her. She is my perfect fantasy mother. She is the one who carried and bore me. She is the one I love above all other women. I wish she would believe me.

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  44. Adoptmuss,

    I am sorry for the hurt and the pain you must
    be feeling. It hurts terribly to think that your
    mom said you were dead in order to put you
    up for adoption. I am curious about circum-
    stances as to why? It's your choice to share.

    Have you told your mom what you told us?
    How you feel about her? Have you had any
    time together?

    G

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  45. Adoptmuss,

    I am sorry for the hurt and the pain you must
    be feeling. It hurts terribly to think that your
    mom said you were dead in order to put you
    up for adoption. I am curious about circum-
    stances as to why? It's your choice to share.

    Have you told your mom what you told us?
    How you feel about her? Have you had any
    time together?

    G

    ReplyDelete
  46. I'm not sure why my parents faked my death. Dad says he doesn't know why they did it, and Mom denies she ever did it. They got married when Mom was 6 weeks pregnant. They moved cross town to hide my birth from everyone. They dropped me at the agency upon release from the hospital.

    Dad's family was stable and they had a spacious home. Mom's family was horrific, with a drunken mother who went with all the men in town. The children were abused in every way. There were 7 in all, each with a different father.

    I've told my mother how much I love her many times, and it seems to make her angry. She says I choose to be a victim and doesn't want to see me until I can live in the now.

    Mom says shes healed because of therapy and yoga.

    Dad and mom had the marriage annulled and both had other children they kept. Mom is still close to Dad's family, they grew up in the same small town.

    Dad betrayed my trust. He told his sister everything I said to him in my pain. I asked him why he gave me up, and poured my heart out to him. He shared it all with his sister, and she told the whole clan my every word. They all hate me. I'm the monster, the Angry Adoptee.

    In a strange twist, mom identifies with Dad's family. My aunt, dad's sister also told Mom everything I said. Mom told me she would never take my side against my father's family. My mother sees my fathers family as perfect, particularly dad's sister. I can't win with everyone against me.

    I've told them I would not contact them again. My 50th birthday was a few weeks ago, and only one member of my family wished me Happy Birthday. I don't understand how anyone can treat their child that way. I just can't see what I've done to deserve this.

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  47. Adoptomuss:
    Quoting You: "I just can't see what I've done to deserve this."

    Honey, neither do we. You don't deserve this. I don't understand how yoga and therapy made his kind of situation.

    It does sound like a situation (and a mother) you have to accept, and move on in your own life. She sounds too damaged by her own early years to be able to live with any thoughts of the past. I'm guessing here, but you in flesh remind her too much of guilt that she has buried.


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  48. Yes Lorraine, I know you are right. It's as if I got a glimpse of heaven and the door was slammed in my face. I met my wonderful mother, and she can't accept me.
    All my life I thought that when I found my mother, it would be the answer to my all my questions. I always had hope.
    I have to adjust to a different reality, and it's not easy. I will live with it, I have no choice.
    The pain and anger I feel will always be part of me.
    I'm so angry that society thought it was OK to separate me from my mother, and give me to the next woman on the adoption list.
    My own father tells me that my family is the one who raised me. I know that he's my father, and my mother is my mother, and nothing that has happened or will happen to me can ever change that.
    They just cannot understand.

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  49. "The terrible thing I did to my mother was to tell her that I found out what happened to stillborn babies. They were sent to potter's field to be buried in mass graves. "

    Adoptomuss, this is just a thought and of course I could be wrong, but I have been puzzling about why your mother took what you said above so much to heart, and wonder if she read more into the "potter's field" analogy than perhaps you intended.
    I don't know if your mother, father or either of their families are or were particularly religious, but in the bible (references in Matthew and Acts) the potter's field was bought with the money Judas received for betraying Jesus. It was also there that Judas supposedly hanged himself. So perhaps your mother interpreted your comment as an accusation of betrayal comparable to that committed by Judas, rather than simply as an expression of your own pain.
    Looked at that way, it's a pretty heavy analogy, and one that would not give her any real expectation of understanding or forgiveness.

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  50. Adoptomus, it sounds like you really were looking for a fantasy mother and the real one could not measure up, given the way she reacted to you. That says nothing bad about you, but maybe it would be easier if you stopped idealizing her as the answer to all your problems.

    How could she have been "a glimpse of heaven" and so beloved if she treated you so badly and made it clear she did not want a relationship? What were you expecting her to do for you? It seems that you did get your questions answered but did not like the answers you got. It is clear that all of this has been very painful to you, but it does seem very much a fantasy that the real person could not and would not fill. Reunions never cure all of anyone's problems and sometimes create new ones. All the lies about your early life have it made it even more complicated.

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  51. My mother has never made it clear that she doesn't want a relationship with me. At first we saw each other a lot. I don't know how things went bad. One night she texted me, and it was as if another person was talking. I told her it was me, her daughter. She called me Little miss f**** know it all.

    I had no idea she felt that way about me. My mother is my fantasy mother. She lives up to my expectations, that's why it's so hard for me when she turns on me. It comes from nowhere (that I can see).

    The glimpse of heaven was my own dear mother's face. I miss her everyday, but I know seeing me brings out the worst in her. I stay away for her sake.

    Mom is unable to answer many questions. She has put many things out of her mind. No one else will tell me what really happened either. My aunt told me, there are some things that I will never tell you.

    My mother is the answer to my biggest problem, not knowing who my mother is! I'm glad to know her. I wish she felt the same about me.

    Maybe I should mention Mom may have multiple personalities, as a result of severe childhood abuse. She says she doesn't, but some relatives say she does. I have heard her use different voices, but I don't know her well enough to tell if they are other personalities.

    All I want is to be a daughter to my mother. I'd be a good one. I want to take her places with me and my children. I want her in my life. I'm sorry it cannot be. I just want to make her happy. I thought i did at first.

    I don't think my mother thought of the religious thing about potters field. She was just horrified by the idea, as was I.

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  52. @Adoptomuss,
    The pain for many of us adoptees is believing that our own mothers and fathers, the people who created us and gave us life, did not love us or care about us. That we were meaningless to them and that they gave us to strangers with nary a backward glance.

    And then we started to hear about the BSE and the girls who went away. We read the books, heard the stories, and started to think ...aah, maybe there's hope, maybe my mother did care, maybe she didn't give me up so easily.

    Whenever an adoption takes place, something went terribly awry. Some people will reunite and find that they were always wanted and are welcomed back. But for many of us, the story is more difficult and painful. And the only thing we can do is accept what happened to us and get help to try and heal as much as possible. And I think that's what you need to do. Your n-mother sounds very damaged and that she is not capable of having a good relationship with you. But you need to focus on you.

    Adoption is what happened to me because I was born during the BSE. But really it was because my father didn't want me. And that hurts, it's devastating. I look around at my friends who have wonderful fathers and ask the unanswerable why? Why did I have to get such an a-hole for a father? But it is sadly something that I just have to live with.

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  53. I read this the other day, and I thought of adoptomuss:

    There is nothing you can do because you are not in charge.

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  54. "There is nothing you can do because you are not in charge."

    Except of yourself. Not easy, though.

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