Sunday, December 15, 2013

How the adoption industry convinces women they aren't 'ready to parent'

Jane
Recent first mothers often explain they gave up their babies because "I was not ready to parent," adopting the language which the adoption industry prefers to the more homey "nurture a child." "To parent" gives child rearing a kind of mystical quality beyond the skills of single mothers-to-be..

Adoption practitioners typically use close-ended questions--the kind answered "yes" or "no" on their websites and in their literature to create doubt and nudge mothers-to-be into thinking they are not ready to be mothers. American Adoptions, for example, encourages pregnant women to ask themselves: "Am I ready to be a parent? This the most important question of all....If you have aspirations to attend college, pursue a career, or simply just want to maintain your current lifestyle, you may find that you aren't ready to raise a child, when another family out there is ready to adopt and give a child the greatest life imaginable."


"The greatest life imaginable"? Wow! Isn't that what all mothers, married, single, rich, poor want for their children? Don't trust Mother Nature. Just contact your friendly adoption coordinator at American Adoptions and the "greatest life imaginable" for your child is guaranteed. As for you, well, honey, we can't help that.

PLAYING THE GUILT TRIP
"Unplanned Pregnancy," a blog by Mardie Cardwell, C.O.A.P. (Certified Open Adoption Practitioner) who does business as the Lifetime Adoption Center urges women facing an unplanned pregnancy to ask themselves: "Are you ready to make a sacrifice for your baby? Children...require a lot of time energy, effort, and sacrifice for their proper care....For starters they need diapers, baby wipes, hygiene products...clothes, carriers and strollers, cribs, and other furnishings, food, milk, and health care. This is all for the first couple of months of life and you can just imagine how much more they will need as they grow." Then the closer: "Are you ready to give someone unconditional love?" Are you prepared to face the long-term challenges of being a mother?" "Do you want a baby? ...If you are not ready to make a long term commitment to your child...then there are some options that you should consider, including adoption. Through adoption, your child could have a healthy and stable life in a caring and loving home."

A whole industry has evolved in making raising children complicated and expensive, benefiting purveyors of advice--though you think you came out fine, don't listen to your mother; read the latest book on child-reading instead--better yet, read two or three. Sellers of gadgets profit handsomely; Blogger Kate Fridkis describe the scene at Babies "R" US:  "Fleets of bouncy seats with dangling, jangling things attached; high cloth walls around play sets that will educate your child from birth to college while you're in the other room living your life; and hulking herds of gleaming, multi-compartmented strollers."

The message from Madison Avenue and the adoption industry is simple: Motherhood is an all-encompassing activity; one that requires complete devotion and lots of money. Ironically, by focusing on how demanding motherhood is, the industry creates a veritable Catch-22. The very women who could raise their babies give them up, while those who don't know enough to know they don't know enough keep them. The Donaldson Adoption Institute points out in its study on birth parents that "Many teens choosing adoption are mature in their thinking...have personal goals that are important to them, and/or do not perceive that they would be good mothers at this point in their lives."One of our readers, Atienne, who works with women "who have lost children to an abuser or to the state" noted the converse: "mothers and fathers at most risk don't question themselves or look at adoption." Of course it's the children of the mothers highlighted in the Donaldson study that are most in demand by prospective parents. A child whose mother has education and career goals is so much more attractive (and can bring a higher price) than the child of a drug addict. The child whose mother can nurture him goes into adoption while the child who needs a better family stays in a family fraught with problems.  

THE ONE SURE WAY TO KNOW HE'S WELL CARED FOR
I know what's involved in raising children; After I surrendered my first daughter, I married and raised three fine daughters. Like all mothers, I had to learn on the job. Sure baby classes are helpful, but no one can teach you what it's like to wake up to a crying baby, hungry, wet, and lonely. Or to lie awake waiting for the little clicks that tell you if you don't pick her up now, the wailing will start. Or what to do when your child throws a tantrum in the grocery store when you're trying to finish shopping and get home to cook dinner and you're starving. Or how to respond when a teacher/coach/baby-sitter tells you your child misbehaved and talked back while being corrected. Or worse--your child tries drugs or has a loser boyfriend who is selling drugs. Adoption practitioners can scare vulnerable pregnant women with these difficult scenarios, but the truth is mothers learn and grow with the job, and our kids are mostly all right. And a second truth is all these things also happen in adoptive families.

Years ago, a single friend of mine was considering placing her unborn baby for adoption. "At least I'll know he'll be well-cared for," she said. "I looked at her with my first mother eye and said, "If you give him up, you won't even know if he's getting enough to eat. The only way you can be sure he's well cared for is to do it yourself." She kept her son and he was the joy of her life.

Of course there are very young mothers-to-be whose family refuses to help them or those with addiction problems or in horrible living situations, homeless, or living with an abuser. For them, for their children, adoption may be best. But finding a family via the Internet or Facebook is not the answer. Go to a local agency and interview the prospective adoptive parents face to face. If the agency doesn't give you profiles of people in your area that you like, go to another agency. People who want to parent your child do not have to live three states, or even 300 miles, away. Get that open adoption agreement in writing. Know their names, addresses, occupations and places of business. Know them. For more information on getting the best adoptive parents you can get, see FMF's page "Giving Up Your Baby?"

I've met many, many wonderful first mothers who would have done a fine job in raising their children but sadly they were convinced--as I was when my first daughter was born--that no matter how much they loved, how much they sacrificed, someone else would do a better job. Women like Lorraine, who never had another child--or another pregnancy--can both appreciate what her daughter's adoptive parents did for the girl, but Lorraine can't help thinking that her daughter would have had a better self-image and intellectual life if she, Lorraine, had raised her daughter. Because of the girl's epilepsy, her adoptive parents wondered if Lorraine was in a mental institution; subtly or not so subtly, surely that permeated their attitude toward the girl, and what they expected of her. The difference between an adoptive parent knowing little to nothing of the child's background and hearing that their child should be in "learning disabled" classes, and a biological parent with knowledge of not only herself but the girl's father dealing with such a choice is a great as the difference between driving at 20 miles per hour or speeding along on the interstate. The adoptive parents expected a "slow" child and she fulfilled those expectations. Lorraine's daughter was capable of getting As in her college courses, but it would take another three decades, and knowing her true identity and background--and Lorraine--to get there.

So when the messages start coming in to vulnerable pregnant women about how better one's child will be if raised by someone else, we'd like to point out, it ain't necessarily so as many of our readers who are adopted tell us. --jane

This is the second in a series on techniques the adoption industry uses to convince vulnerable mothers to give up their children.  The first "How money rules infant adoption" was posted December 1, 2013.
__________________________________
SOURCES
American Adoptions: Considering Adoption
Not Ready To Be Called 'Mom'
Mardie Cardwell's blog, Unplanned Pregnancy
Susan Smith, "Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents" Donaldson Adoption Institute 2006

From FMF:
How money rules infant adoption
'Parent' as a verb is beyond irritating
How the internet is changing adoption
Giving Up Your Baby?

RECOMMENDED READING
Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About Children
"Since the beginning of the twentieth century, millions of anxious parents have turned to child-rearing manuals for reassurance. Instead, however, they have often found yet more cause for worry. In this rich social history, Ann Hulbert analyzes one hundred years of shifting trends in advice and discovers an ongoing battle between two main approaches: a “child-centered” focus on warmly encouraging development versus a sterner “parent-centered” emphasis on instilling discipline. She examines how pediatrics, psychology, and neuroscience have fueled the debates but failed to offer definitive answers. And she delves into the highly relevant and often turbulent personal lives of the popular advice-givers, from L. Emmett Holt and Arnold Gesell to Bruno Bettelheim and Benjamin Spock to the prominent (and ever conflicting) experts of today."--Amazon

WE APPRECIATE ANYTHING ORDERED FROM AMAZON OR FROM THE AD IN SIDEBAR THROUGH THE PORTAL OF FMF. THANK YOU.
And I totally totally love this book. 

23 comments :

  1. I also want a world where that mother who is very young or homeless or drug-addicted or in an abusive relationship is helped through her situation in such a way that she can keep and raise her child. To say these women should or "probably" should give up their children is to say that they're not worth anything and should be thrown away because they failed at life. I know you don't mean that, but all of society says "should or probably should" and in a country where social services for vulnerable women are always the first on the budgetary chopping block, it comes off as condemnation.

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  2. You're right, Dana. I changed the post.

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  3. Not a good article! All women should be helped.

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  4. The message of not being ready is absolute rubbish. No one, not one single woman, will ever be fully prepared for what parenthood will bring. Rich, poor, young, older, married or single... It makes no difference. Adoption is meddling with nature, screwing with the way life is supposed to be. It doesn't promise anything better, it just promises different. I have heard a lot of crap about mothers being 'coerced' into parenting... Um, hello, they are not being coerced, they are growing up and accepting responsibility for their children. To place is NOT to take responsibility and is not sacrificing for the good f one's child but rather to lay down as a sacrificial lamb for the good of the adopters and the industry. They will use anything and twist anything to make right wrong and wrong right. Sick, twisted, disgusting individuals who care as much about a child and their mother as a rapist about their victims. Zilch. So over their lies and pure crap.

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  5. I really liked this article because it shows the relentlessness of the pressure on pregnant women to doubt themselves just enough for the adoption industry to get its fingers in the door.

    Those endless questions would cause almost anyone except the insensitive or completely resolute to doubt. And maybe that's the point - to extend the market even further.

    I think firing questions like that at pregnant women is psychologically manipulative, even coercive.

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  6. According to my bio mother, she was not coerced into believing she was not ready to parent me (I asked once she revealed 'why' I was relinquished). She was not poor, not on drugs, even stated that her family would have eventually accepted me. She insists that she and my bio father did the 'right' thing by giving me up. Do I believe that entirely? Not really. I think she was probably pushed into the direction of relinquishment. I could forgive her for that but she opted to push and pull me away for 5 years, refused to tell her family (her husband is, I found out, my bio father and their 3 kids my FULL siblings) about our meeting. I cut her off after feeling completely destroyed emotionally. About 6 months ago she emailed me to say that she was 'ready' to tell her family that we had found each other. I thought about it but honestly, after giving her the upper hand for 5 years in determining how often we saw each other, how we communicated, allowing myself to stay a 'secret', I said no and goodbye. I never once pressured her to do anything she was not okay with. It was as though SHE were the child and I was the parent. It hurt horribly but I feel like I had no choice. I tried very, very hard to have some sort of relationship with her but simply could not risk my heart being broken by her again. There are 'first mothers' who actually do not want a relationship with the child they relinquished. Maybe not as many who do, but they exist. My situation is a case in point. And who felt responsible for all of this emotional wreckage? My adoptive parents. They encouraged and helped me to find her. I don't blame them and I'm not even angry at my bio mother, but I'm not making excuses for her behavior, either. Just like adoptees can push and pull, so can bio parents to their children. I appreciate finding this site because it gives me insight as to how difficult relinquishent is (or coercison) but sadly, I am pretty sure my bio mother does not have lot of regrets in regard to me. -Violet

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  7. I note the emphasis on "unplanned" on most agency sites. This is so that the woman with the "unplanned" pregnancy can be played against the woman who has "planned" for a child for years and not been able to get pregnant.

    Thus the message is sent that the person who "deserves" the child more is the one who has "planned" for it longest and thus the message is sold as "Children deserve parents who have planned for them". Thus the less planned your pregnancy, the less deserved you are of your child - or so it goes.

    I've attached this document many a time but the one feeling one gets from it is that in the eyes of the author, when it comes to women with unplanned pregnancies, there is no reason that they can give for wanting to raise their own children that is not a selfish one.

    http://www.heartbeatinternational.org/pdf/missing_piece.pdf

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  8. Violet:

    Sadly, we know it is true that some first mothers do exactly what you say--push, pull back and forth and the person on the other side is left emotionally bewildered and hurt--and your walking out now is totally understandable. Your mother appears to be a person totally consumed by guilt and deep shame--now by having to fess up to your full siblings not only about your existence but that it took her five years to get to the point of saying she was "ready."

    Be that as it may, perhaps you should consider whether you would like to know your siblings, as well as your mother and father--or at least meet them once. It is possible that her husband--your father--did know of your contact and he is the one who did not want to "go there."

    From intermediaries I have learned that unfortunately first mothers who have married the father are the least likely to seek or agree to reunion; I am hazarding a guess here--but an educated guess--and I think it is likely that the father is the one who kaboshes the reunion. He has much less of an emotional tie to the child--he didn't carry him or her, give birth, suffer post-partum depression, feel the physical ache of longing for his baby--and now does not want his applecart upended or to be reminded that he did not step up to the plate when circumstances demanded it. So while you say you have told your mother it is too late, truly consider the lifelong implications of that. I am not suggesting that now everything is going to be rosy and there will not be future issues to deal with, but maybe this is a time to see if she can carry through. It is possible she will hurt you again; but it is also possible that you may end up with relationships that enrich your life.

    As for the adoptees who push/pull in a relationship, that can only happen after there is initial contact. In your case, Violet, you have been denied contact with your blood kin, someone no one should be denied. Embarrassment is not reason enough to deny someone an identity. This may be your opportunity to turn things around not only for yourself, but for your biological mother and father. I am not saying you are obligated to do anything you do not want to do, I am just offering that as another factor here to consider.

    Circumstances change, and often, people change with the circumstances. Maybe the flood of stuff about adoption--maybe Philomena--gave her the courage to act.

    PS: If you do respond, please click on the Name/URL choice and type in "Violet." You do not need to have a URL to use that selection and it will make it easier for us and others to separate you from so many anonymouses. If I could change this system, believe me, I would!

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  9. Hi Lorraine,
    I appreciate your thoughtful response and I agree with just about everything you wrote. The problem is that after 5 years of being patient and accommodating, I honestly don't know if I can muster up the energy to dive back into a relationship that was so incredibly painful. I have no idea how my bio dad feels about my relinquishment because my bio mom never got into it. I would very much like to meet my siblings (and my parents are really encouraging me to). I think that I will ask my bio mother to take it upon herself to talk to her family and then provide my contact information if they are interested in meeting me- this was my mother's idea.
    I know that it is unpopular for adoptees to sing their praises of their 'adopters' (a term I hate), but honestly, I could not have come up with the courage to search for my bio parents, gotten through the pain, or even come to reconsider contact without them. I do not have angry feelings towards my bio mother; I feel sorry for her and do feel sad that it hasn't worked out. At the same time, I want to live my life with the people who have loved me unconditionally for my entire life and immerse myself in the daily stuff: nieces and nephews being born, weddings, holidays, seeing a loved one through hospice, my parents completely and utterly devoting themselves to my own children...
    At this point, any contact needs to be on my terms. I think the 5 years I gave to my bio mother was pretty generous in terms of time to decide.
    All the best and I'll look forward to more posts.
    Violet

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  10. Thanks for the link to the Focus on the Family polemic on adoption, cb.

    It blows my mind when "family-oriented" organizations like Focus on the Family push adoption, the ultimate family breaker.

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  11. Lorraine said, " I think it is likely that the father is the one who kaboshes the reunion. He has much less of an emotional tie to the child--he didn't carry him or her, give birth, suffer post-partum depression, feel the physical ache of longing for his baby--and now does not want his applecart upended or to be reminded that he did not step up to the plate when circumstances demanded it."

    I don't know if your assertion is correct. I can only speak to my experience. No, my father didn't carry me nor give birth to me, but he has stepped up to the plate and accepted me. My mother, on the other hand, has stuck her head in the sand.

    The difference might be that my parents never married each other. In cases in which parents do marry, I would guess that the real reason a man may balk at reuniting with his child is the guilt he feels about not being "the man," the protector of his child. A reunion would remind him of his "failure" as a father.

    That's just my two cents. I think it's less about the lack of a bond and more about the immense guilt.

    Before I ever found my father, he would hear a particular song on the radio, and it would remind him of me and of his hopes of one day finding me. No, he didn't carry me or give birth to me, but we have an unmistakable bond.

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  12. I can empathize with Violet. After having to accept being given up (she had no choice in that), being the one to locate her natural mother, and then accepting 5 years of a relationship solely on her mother's terms, I don't blame Violet one bit for saying ENOUGH! I think the only way there can be any hope for this reunion is if Violet makes it clear that her wants and needs matter, too. That what she needs from the reunion is just as important as what anyone else in the family wants.

    I think some of us adoptees are so happy to have found our missing parent, so happy to be accepted at all, that we are too willing to sacrifice ourselves, to not rock the boat, lest we destroy any chance of a relationship at all. I feel there are times in my own reunion when I did not demand enough of what I needed (or as much as I would have asked from another relationship).

    Violet has put up with an awful lot...finding out that her parents are still together (I can't recall if they were married when they had her) and yet still gave her up, as well as her mother being dishonest about her father's identity and her relationship to her siblings.

    I realize this is a blog for first mothers and that your focus is on Violet's first mother's presumed guilt and shame. But I feel that Violet has already put up with too much and I would not blame her if she decides that what her n-mother is now offering is too late, too late.

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  13. HDW--I guess I didn't make it clear enough that I when the biological parents are together the chances that the first mother says yes to contact is less than when she is alone or with a partner who had nothing to do with the birth and relinquishment. Because that is what I hear repeatedly from search angels and intermediaries. And others have said they have a good relationship with their fathers, not their mothers.

    Violet: I agree with you--if you are just too fed up with your mother's emotional shenanigans that have hurt so much, do whatever feels right. We do think you have every right in the world to meet your siblings, but unless your mother meets you, I don't have a lot of hope that she will have the courage to tell them about you and give them your address. My own daughter always hoped to meet some of her half sibs--her biological father had four other children, but there was a lot of anger from the eldest daughter, and that appears to have set the tone. So my daughter never met any of them, even after her biological father died, though she could have contacted them as we knew who they were. There was another daughter after her also, with another woman, but they never met either. Her father refused to meet her--it was always manana, and that day never came. After he died I know she hoped she would hear from the last daughter, but when that did not happen, she said, I don't need anymore rejection.

    I've written about not being willing to continue to dive into a relationship that has caused so much pain from the first mother's point of view--and I meant the same is true for adoptees. No one needs to be repeatedly hurt and I have heard from a lot of adoptees, like you, who are incredibly thoughtful and careful of their birth mother's feelings and wishes. As someone said, the people who should be in your life will be, you don't have to go chasing after them. If only we could arrange it so the mothers who want a relationship are connected with the daughters and son who also want one. So often it seems so many people are dancing alone waiting for a partner. Like I have said before, adoption is the pain that goes on giving.

    I hope you have a good holiday (without too much sorrow) with the family you have.

    We do know there are great adoptive parents and you fortunately seem to have a pair of them. It's easier to write about those who are terrible and that is what we hear about them.

    PS: We rarely use the term "adopters" here at FMF because in our language it is a pejorative. But it is also a shorthand, and I find the use use of APs and PAPs is confusing to people new to the conversation.

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  14. What some of you adoptees are saying about not being willing to put up with any more cold behavior after years of trying to be nice is exactly how I feel about my relationship with my daughter. She's always ready to walk away. Some times I want to let her.

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  15. Lorraine,

    I understand that secondary rejection happens more frequently when our parents are together. I wasn't questioning the anecdotal evidence.

    But, is it really the father who "kaboshes the reunion" when first parents stay together?

    Obviously, many of us have great reunions with fathers who are not married to our mothers. My guess is that, as with first mothers, "the chances that the first [father] says yes to contact is less than when [he] is alone or with a partner who had nothing to do with the birth and relinquishment."

    All I am trying to say is that it's probably more about their collective guilt over creating a family together while the adoptee was out there in the world being raised by strangers than about maternal/paternal bonding.

    If the crux of the matter were truly a lack of paternal bonding, then married to our mothers or not, most of our fathers would want nothing to do with us.

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  16. Thank you, Lorraine and Robin. It has helped very much to get your perspectives. Wishing you a peaceful season. I will be very much enjoying it with my family and despite my disappointment, I am glad that my bio mother has a family and is okay. At the very least, I don't have to 'worry' about what became of her, if she is alone, etc. As for my full siblings: it would be great to meet them, but I have 3 wonderful brothers and sisters whom I grew up with and we love each other very much. PS: This is my real name. Apparently my bio mother had put me in a jumper with little violets embroidered on the collar before she relinquished me. My parents then named me 'Violet".
    All the best.

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  17. Violet, I've enjoyed reading about your reunion-relationship experience and marvel at your understanding, patience, compassion and overall positive attitude about living the life you live. I often wonder if my child had had a happy and emotionally healthy relationship with the adoptive parents, would our reunion relationship have been better? Despite doing everything imaginable and then some to have a close, loving relationship, the anger took over and what happened next is what usually happens in any relationship when anger becomes a driving force.

    BTW - Violet is a beautiful name!

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  18. This is off-topic but I just found out that my son's bio-dad died and am feeling really weird about it My son never did meet him and now it's too late I'm feeling upset,sad and I guess like we had some unfinished things to work through RIP He wasn't very old-early 60's-don't know how he died.

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  19. My daughter's father died in his early 60s and she never met him. His choice. We tried, she tried, it was always, "this is not a good time."

    And then he died. It's sad but it happens and there is nothing you could do about it. His choice.

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  20. @Violet,
    if I had to choose I would rather have had a wonderful relationship with my adoptive family and a not so good reunion. My APs were the ones who were there for me, they are the ones I shared my experiences and my history with.

    Although I know that my n-mother always loved me, adoption damaged both of us so much that we were not able to have the relationship we would have had if she had raised me. I think that very few reunited first mothers and adoptees are able to overcome all of the effects of the relinquishment.

    When I found my bio-families, all four of my grandparents were already deceased. I had forever lost the chance to share holidays, birthdays, and other family occasions with them. No one in either of my families even knew I existed until I showed up again as an adult. Both of my parents were adults when I was born and they were able to hide the pregnancy and birth from their (our) families.

    I'm happy to read about an adoptee having such a loving and close relationship with her adoptive family. Although the BSE was a travesty that should never have occurred, it is at least a plus that many adoptees (of that era and later) did seem to get wonderful families. Makes me rather envious, actually.

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  21. Dana: I addressed your concerns on the other thread in more detail. I did want to pop in to add that the homeless/drug addicted/troubled mothers-to-be I've met? 99.5% of the time (or more) they had a -lot- of help in getting that way. Parents that give them drugs at 12 or younger, multiple kinds of childhood abuse, rape and on and on.

    While there's exceptions, these women are often normal and human responses to horrible situations, not aberrations. There's no one answer, but the good news is I've seen a lot of women that weren't able to love themselves get better for their kiddos or at least start on that path. :)

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  22. hi Trina,
    Thank you! Getting support from other First Mothers is somewhat of a comfort for me in terms of my own failed reunion. Sort of fills a strange void in a way. My adoptive parents never spoke disparagingly of my bio parents (particularly my mother). Even when I went through phases of being very angry with her, my (adoptive) mother simply would not allow me to go very long 'hating' her. She would force me to talk about my feelings and try to make me see how it must have been for her. I didn't really appreciate that when I was a teenager, but as an adult, I do. I am grateful that my parents were / are so open about adoption with my siblings and I (they were also adopted- and only one has a relatively successful reunion).
    All the best to you. ps: I still have the jumper with the little violets :)

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  23. @Violet,

    I just wanted to express my support for your situation and share that your situation mirrors my own in many ways.

    Like you my (adoptive) Mom has always been the staunchest supporter of my (bio.) Mother and while not pushing the issue, always encouraged me to keep the lines of communication open, even when the reunion was volatile.

    Currently the relationship I have with my (bio.) family is cordial but not close. I have made peace with it and feel blessed to have a loving and supportive relationship with the family that raised me. I also know I am fortunate to have ties with my First Family and access to medical information and genealogical summation. That is meaningful to me.

    Seeing other stories like my own has helped me tremendously and I wanted to offer the same outreach to you. I'm sorry your reunion has been so difficult and painful.

    all the best,

    jada

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