Heidi Russo is one of them. Six weeks after her son was born in 1987, she handed him over to a social worker who gave him to Rick and Teresa Kaepernick. Russo's son, Colin Kaepernick, is the starting quarter back of the San Francisco 49ers, and has led them in the NFL playoffs. Kaepernick has rebuffed Russo's attempts to meet him.
|Heidi Russo, still in the shadows|
The Kaepernicks sent letters and pictures for the first six or seven years. "'I would find myself waiting and waiting for the letters and the pictures, so much so that I wasn't moving on with my life,' Russo said. 'I was depressed and anxious.' ...There were 'many times' that she wanted to go get Colin back from the Kaepernicks.'" When he was four, the family moved to California. He was a star football player in high school, and later at the University of Nevada.
FOUND HER SON ON MYSPACE
Russo is now a registered nurse living in the suburbs of Denver. Several years ago she found her son on MySpace and wrote to him. It took six weeks to hear back from him. "'He had questions about his father and I tried to get answers for him.,' Russo said. Since then he has exchanged a few messages with her but most of her tweets--in response to his general comments about, say, his body fat level--have gone unanswered. She saw him for the first time in 2010 when the University of Nevada played Colorado State and watched him play. "'I kept looking at him, thinking our eyes might meet. ...I kept thinking it happened, but he never came to see me after the game.'" On August 26 of this year, she attended the 49ers' preseason game at Denver and reunited with the Kaepernicks but did not meet Colin. "'You couldn't ask for better people than Rick and Teresa, how they have loved him and taken care of him.'"
"'I know I couldn't have given Colin everything he needed growing up,' Russo said 'But I ask myself a lot of the time, 'Would loving him have been enough?'" The short answer is most likely "yes." The NFL, the NBA, MLB, the Olympic team, many other sports leagues are full of great athletes raised by single mothers. Clearly, Kaepernick inherited his strength and athletic ability from his biological parents--Russo is six feet tall and played volleyball, basketball, and track in high school. She's smart and attractive. A solid citizen and a loving mother to an eight-year-old son, Kaepernick's half brother.
Though she so much wants to meet him, Russo said she’d understand if he never does. “'Yes, there’s always that, but I just stay positive for him,'” Russo told NBC Sports. “'That’s what is important. That’s what you’re supposed to do as a parent.'” We can understand that meeting your first mother with all these other people around, after a NFL football game, is far from ideal--in fact, it sounds ridiculous--but it would not have come to this had he not been refusing to meet her. Going to a game and hoping to meet him there is the move of a desperate first mother.
LOST CHILDREN REFUSE TO MEET FIRST MOTHERS
We at FMF have know many other incredibly fine mothers whose lost children refuse to meet them. When a Portland mother whose 54-year-old daughter is a successful musician wrote to her daughter after finding her ten years ago, the mother received a letter from the Tennessse Department of Health and Human services, which archived all adoption records, threatening her with legal action if she attempted to contact her daughter again. The mother waited several years and wrote her daughter again, this time receiving no response. The mother is a talented musician in her own right and raised a son who is also a successful musician. This mother went to the theater in Chicago where her daughter performs. It was an unreal experience; the similarity of their appearance and the way they played the piano was uncanny. The mother gave a note to an usher to give her daughter, asking for a meeting, but received no response. Maybe the daughter never received the note; but maybe she did.
The daughter of a friend of Jane's refused contact until the daughter had medical problems. When the daughter wanted to know if heredity played a role in her fertility problems, she contacted the mother for the information through the adoption agency. She wanted her address kept secret. Jane's friend volunteered all her medical history, and passed on the address of her biological father, and also let him know about the daughter's inquiries. He then wrote the daughter through the adoption agency. The daughter then wrote her mother--through the agency--cutting off all contact because of the "transgression" of contacting the father.
While the daughter had her first mother's address--which was included when she wrote her daughter through the agency--the mother could not possibly give the birth father any contact information, because all of the parents' contact was through the agency. And yet the daughter was furious? Enough to cut off all contact? What, exactly was she furious about? Her birth parents had no way to contact her, since communication had been done through the agency. This behavior strikes us as the epitome of irrational, but adoptees say we cannot understand their turmoil. This we believe. They cannot understand the grief of first mothers when they refuse contact.
After birth mother Jane Guttman's son refused contact, she poured out her grief in a moving memoir, The Gift Wrapped in Sorrow. Sheila Ganz whose daughter rejected her for many years, buried herself in artwork and produced a film about adoption loss, Unlocking the Heart of Adoption. After many years, the daughter finally agreed to meet Sheila.
FEAR OF 'BETRAYING' ADOPTIVE PARENTS
Why adult children refuse to meet their original parents? In some cases, adoptees have legitimate reasons; their mothers are mentally ill, or are addicts of one sort or another. Some adopted individuals refuse contact because their natural parents ask for money.
Lorraine has an acquaintance who is an adoptive mother, who has told Lorraine that she has asked her daughter if she would like to find her birth mother, but the daughter says she is not interested. This adoptive mother, however, is the same woman who, days after the suicide of Lorraine's daughter, interrupted a conversation when a friend of Lorraine's--who knew her daughter--referred to the woman as "Lorraine's daughter." The other woman could not help herself, she had to correct the language: Lorraine's daughter was not her "daughter," she was her "birth daughter." If it is necessary to correct that language in such a situation, one can only imagine the meta messages her ADOPTED daughter has been receiving all her life. It is no surprise that the woman told her adoptive mother she is "not interested" in finding her "birth" mother. Lorraine has never been able to find the will to ask this woman--the adoptive mother--how her "adopted daughter" is doing these days, but she thinks it plenty when they are thrown together.
THREAT OF POLICE INVOLVEMENT
One first mother wrote to Lorraine years ago saying that after she wrote to her grown daughter, she received a letter saying never to contact her again, that she would get the police involved if she did, and that she even dreaded her birthdays because her first mother might send her a card. Lorraine read the letter, and knows it was cruel to the core. The woman had never met her daughter or been a pest, as the letter indicated, she only wanted to meet her daughter. Lorraine counseled her that there was nothing she could do. Any relationship--or meeting--was up to the daughter. Fast forward a decade. Lorraine heard from mother a year ago, and mother and daughter have a warm relationship, all that the mother could desire. Once the adoptive parents were out of the picture, her daughter contacted her, and said that her adoptive parents had pushed her to write that letter, and refuse any meeting.
We know of many cases were after reunion that seems to go well, the adopted individual does not want a relationship, and to our mind, invents or exaggerates an incident, an offhand word, and turns that into a reason for no contact. We understand that the emotions triggered by a relationship may be more overwhelming, for we know many mothers do the same thing. We know that many first mothers and individuals who were adopted choose not to search. We are not writing about that here today.
We are talking about the total refusal, such as that of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, to even meet one's birth mother once. Perhaps he feels that in the middle of a football season, he can not handle the emotions that he knows will be unleashed. But perhaps what his teammate suggested: his adoptive parents will see it as an act of treason. That may or may not be the case--they met with his first mother--and that is a good sign. The blame lies, it would seem, not with them, but with the culture itself that has so inculcated the concept of adoption as an erasure of one's origins, and thus a reason to sever all ties with one's natural parents. It is the adoption culture of the past, it is the adoption culture of the present. And it is wrong, a base lie at its core.
EXPRESS TRUE FEELINGS AFTER MEETING FIRST MOTHER
In actuality, many adoptees report that meeting their first parents improves their relationship with their adoptive parents, perhaps because it allows them to express their true feelings. Others say they are willing to meet their first parents only after their adoptive parents die. And many others--every searcher is aware of this--do not look for their birth parents until their adoptive parents die. It happens so often, and it is so sad for everyone involved.
Perhaps Kaepernick was aware not until the news articles came out of the grief his mother has suffered from losing him; first mother pain is often neglected in media stories about adoption, the focus instead on the happiness of the adoptive family. Kaepernick may not have appreciated what a meeting would mean to his mother, or how much sorrow he inflicts by not meeting her. Perhaps after football season is over, perhaps when no one else is around, Kaepernick will contact his other mother, Heidi Russo, and agree to meet her, at least once. We have often said that first mothers owe their children at least one meeting, at least one session where all questions are answered. We would hope that the opposite would be true.--Jane and lorraine
See follow up post:
Birth mother still trying to connect with new 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick
Woman who gave him up for adoption still supports Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick's biological mother tries to forge relationship with the 49ers star quarterback she gave up as unwed teenager
"All-American. Co-valedictorian of his class. NFL first-round draft pick. Law school graduate. Best-selling author. TV commentator. Family man. Green had it all?except knowledge of his biological mother. Here he recounts his search for her."--Reed Business Information
I loved this book. He both loves his adoptive parents but searches and finds without dissing his natural mother. --lorraine
Waiting to Forget: A Motherhood Lost and Found: Forced by societal pressures to give her baby up, she suffered emotional trauma both before and for years after the birth. At forty, she gave birth to a daughter and found herself terrified by the possibility of losing her younger child, a fear she can now trace back to her uncertain decision to give up her son. This is a truly wonderful read for both first mothers and adopted individuals.
The Gift Wrapped in Sorrow: A Mother's Quest for Healing: "A memoir spanning three decades of loss and love, regret and remorse. Jane Guttman allows her readers to participate in her healing process..."--Amazon