Sunday, December 8, 2013

The adoptee dilemma: Navigating between opposing parents

Lorraine
Secrets and lies, as well as the push-and-pull between natural and adoptive parents--with the child caught in the middle--are joined-at-the-script themes being explored weekly on Nashville, the TV nighttime drama about the music scene in that city. Maddie, the young teen at the heart of this story line, is having a difficult time negotiating between two fathers: the man who raised her, Teddy, the outwardly upstanding individual; and the man who is her biological parent, Deacon, the recovering addict, former love and lead guitar player to her famous country-singer mother, Rayna. Problem Number One.

The character Maddie is an adolescent when her parents divorce and she learns her life is not what it seems--and both her mother and the man she married when she was pregnant with Deacon's baby conspired to keep her true parentage a secret--forever. From her. Problem Number Two.


Maddie Conrad
Maddie
As Maddie begins to want to spend more time with her, ah, real, father, Problem Number Three emerges. Deacon, while he's been around peripherally in her life, emerges as the shiny new penny--expect for a recent breakdown, he's been the cool guitar player with a big fan base of his own. Maddie wants to spend time with Deacon; he gives Maddie guitar lessons; she glows when they are together. Scheduled to sing at an open mike event, she asks Deacon to be there, while in the front row sits Teddy, the father she has always known; his new wife, and her mother. Deacon comes but stands in the back of the room. (Sound eerily familiar to first mothers? Did to me.) Then Maddie unexpectedly asks Deacon to join her on stage and they do a duet. Teddy is stunned, hurt, furious.

FEELINGS OF BETRAYAL
All hell breaks loose. A fist fight ensues. Later Teddy tells his new wife that Deacon is her "biological father." Yes I was wondering what choice of word the script writers were going for and pleased they used this rather than "birth." Then he goes on a frustrated rant about how he was there when she needed help with her middle of the night feeding, orthodonture, homework, attendance at the school play. Well, I don't remember exactly what he said here, but you understand--i.e., he's been the parent, Deacon has been nowhere! Who is this guy who thinks he can replace me?!

As I was watching, the push-pull conflict of the adopted came to mind. After years of raising a child, along comes natural mom or dad and the child (of any age) is excited and happy to connect with one's biological mother, and the adoptive mother or father is understandably upset, hurt, and angry--and feels pushed aside. When the adoptee wants to spend time with the "new" parent, who may be seen as devoid of flaws, the adoptive parents are hurt to the core, and can't keep suppress their feelings.

Jane and I in 1982, spring in Manhattan
In my daughter's case, I came on the scene at around the same age as Maddie is now--my daughter Jane was 15 when we reunited--and while the adoptive parents were open to reunion, as they knew it would be best for Jane, jealousies emerged as time went on, and Jane felt caught between the two of us. Often I didn't even know it was happening, as I was halfway across the country in the East, they were in the Midwest. I couldn't be privy to what occurred between Jane and her adoptive mother, and Jane was often reluctant to tell me as her adoptive mother became increasingly angry, to the point where, I later learned, she either left the room if my name came up or said something nasty. Understandably, Jane felt protective of her Mom, and didn't want to present her as a back-biting individual.

Me? I kept my mouth shut about her adoptive mother, and besides, I didn't really have anything negative to say. Jane had serious epilepsy, and her parents did all they could for her. But the tension between her adoptive mother and me never went away, and at times caused Jane to pull away from me without--without letting me know she was. She just did. I was left standing on a street corner, my metaphorical hat in hand, wondering what in the hell just happened and what I possibly might have done to deserve her walking out on me. She never did this to Mom.

DEEP-SEATED GRATITUDE
I've gotten emails and messages from adoptees who tell me they did exactly what Jane did because their adoptive parents made it difficult for them to be in contact with both parents. Unless the relationship with the adoptive parents has been unusually awful and distant, it's the natural/first/birth parents who get the emotional shaft. I'm not going to call this bad or good. It is. The adoptee has a lifetime of a relationship with her or her adoptive parents, suffused at some level with deep-seated gratitude that is built into the situation--and it seems for most the important thing is not to disrupt this relationship, one the adoptee has depended on for years. This new mother or father? The lyrics of a song that was popular when I was Maddie's age just popped into my head: "Got along without you before I met you, Gonna get along without you now, Gonna find somebody who is twice as cute, Cause you didn't want me anyhow...." 

There you have it. Jane, in one of her most clear and honest moments, said: "I feel like a magnet. The close I get to one of you, the more I have to pull away from the other." This is one of the great conflicts of reunion. We first mothers want our children to have good relationships with their adoptive parents, but we, on some level, want to be needed, loved, recognized and treated like a mother, and that's nearly impossible for the adoptee who has a great relationship with his/her other mother. Often the best relationships I hear about from first mothers are those when the relationship with the adoptive mother was not so good. We want them to have been happy and we want them to need us when we are reunited. It's a situation that is always tricky navigating. The dialogue on Nashville pretty much sums up the adoptee dilemma:

Maddie, after the fight, says to her mother: "If they loved me, they wouldn't act this way...."When I'm with Deacon, Dad gets so upset, and when I'm with Dad--well, Deacon hates him. I hate it. Maybe I shouldn't see either of them." Rayna, played by Connie Britten, says as the ever wise mother, that people are not perfect, and "they sometimes end up hurting the people around them." What each mother, or father, should do is try to understand and accept the reunion dilemma, and accept and understand the other parent's feelings; as for the adoptee, though it might be difficult, the best thing to do would be to be honest with both parents. It's not a perfect world, but never lose faith in the truth.--lorraine
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From FMF
After the Birthmother/Adoptee Reunion: Navigating the Turbulent Waters
What's in a Name? A Great Deal to an Adoptee
Most Birth/First Mothers Want Contact but still the secrecy lingers on
Why Be Normal When You Could Be Jeanette Winterson?

The Declassified Adoptee Essays of an Adoption Activist Blogger Amanda Transue-Woolston clearly deconstructs the various potholes of an adoptee in search of roots and how to navigate them. Highly recommended by FMF. Both adoptees and first parents can learn from her wisdom. A gift for yourself this holiday season? Or for someone who needs to read something about adoption? Presented the right way, giving this book could be the beginning of a discussion that needs to be had.


Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?  A brilliant memoir by Jeanette Winterson. Raucous, difficult, funny. Our review above.

ORDER BY CLICKING ON BOOK TITLE OR JACKET. WE APPRECIATE ANYTHING ORDERED THROUGH THE PORTALS ABOVE.  

39 comments :

  1. For me and speaking just for me, from my own experience, the difficulties in navigating my relationship with my biological parents, stemmed more from a general mistrust than any other relevant factors.

    I am blessed with a loving and supportive relationship with the family that raised me and fully disclosing the growing relationship I had with my bio. family was not at issue.

    At the core, in the beginning, these 'strangers' seemed exciting, endearing, terribly interesting and interested in even the blandest of details of my life; seeming more like 'friends' in the beginning than parents. They were the fun loving 'yes' to the more practical and measured responses of my family.

    I liken it almost to the child of divorce who only sees Dad on the weekends and is treated to lavish spending sprees, staying up too late - eating junk food with no recourse. They had missed so much and simply couldn't deny me. ( not that I asked for those things but you get the comparison)

    In time I came to mistrust that, knowing intrinsically it wasn't genuine or based on a real, meaningful relationship.

    I don't blame them for those feelings and probably would do the same in their shoes. But after a spell, understood it wasn't real love and began "testing" and pulling away. After all, I KNEW my adoptive family had seen me at my worst and always accepted me for me....but what of these 2?

    I needed ( or wanted perhaps) to almost push them away as a litmus or honest appraisal of the depth of their commitment to me.

    In time and with maturity, I came to understand the what and why of what I was doing. Sadly my relationship never did get beyond cordial fun "aunt" or friend status but we do have ongoing communication.

    I'm okay with that.

    Just my perspective,

    Jada

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  2. Great Post...

    I think the push and pull is real - I explain it the adoptee is the rope in a game of tug of war...

    There is sometimes also the same internal war of the adoptee wanting the mother / father to be okay - but still not happy either because that would mean they are happy to have relinquished us. No winners in that scenario either because you can't have it both ways. It does make me wonder how when the current adoptees when older will feel whose mothers then went on to actively promote and sing the praises of adoption. Just can't imagine who that would feel - it felt so damn good I want everyone to chose adoption for their baby...

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  3. Jada: Did you ever consider that your pulling back and not trusting your biological family made them distrust your feelings for them? They may be simply protecting themselves from what they feel from you, that you will pull back--again. With the attitude you have towards them, whether it is right, wrong, mature or non-trusting, does not make for a deep and trusting relationship, and they sense that.

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  4. adopted ones:

    Exactly! I think singing the praises of adoption will obviously impact any future relationship with the adopted individual.

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  5. "Jada: Did you ever consider that your pulling back and not trusting your biological family made them distrust your feelings for them? They may be simply protecting themselves from what they feel from you, that you will pull back--again. With the attitude you have towards them, whether it is right, wrong, mature or non-trusting, does not make for a deep and trusting relationship, and they sense that."

    Again, that puts the onus of "trusting" on the adopted person, the one who trusting abilities just may be minimal at best because of what this family has done to begin with...these are feelings that have been with us since birth(for many) and may not even be something they realize going into reunion. I know that when I had a reunion my defenses were sky high, at the time I did not know why, all I know is that i felt insecure, no9t quite good enough...hmmm something I felt all my life.

    Testing is a HUGE component of an adoptee and relationships. Its due to a lack of basic trust that they lost during the relinquishment. No matter how good it was for this person the feelings remain.

    I really think that instead of trying to make an adoptee feel bad about how they pulled back, and how the adopted person is responsible for the failure of a successful reunion you need to read what she was actually saying. SHe didn't trust them for good reason...they let her down once and the possibility of it happening agin is very strong...the families(both of them) need to understand that to facilitate the well being of the person that has lost the most and has the most to loose and gain for just trying to find themselves.

    We have protecting ourselves since we were born...help us to trust and not "scold" for not trusting enough.

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  6. Jada's post struck a chord in me as a birthmother. I remember being loved by my relinquished daughter. Not real love as she explains -but how was I to know that it wasn't? Being pushed away and treated as "artificial" (what other term can I use as opposite of genuine)was not what I had hoped for. But like Jada writes it is what it is. I too am okay with it.

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  7. You read "scold" when first parents are burned after being spurned; their reaction is human and normal.

    Both sides are human and imperfect.

    The adoptee has every reason not to trust--that initial wound--and the first parents are open and vulnerable upon reunion, as they have revisited the point of the initial wound, and are so very susceptible upon reunion. Do not read "scold" into the reality of the human heart.

    Reunion is what it is; the reluctance to trust, and the hurt that is then inflicted, is the result of the initial separation.

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  8. As a mother, this line really hurts: "In time I came to mistrust that, knowing intrinsically it wasn't genuine or based on a real, meaningful relationship."

    I have been in reunion with my daughter for almost 4 years. She lives across the country from me so our visits are always a big deal since we have to travel for them. Sometimes we visit at each other's homes but we've also gone on trips together as well. I guess a lot of this would be considered lavish. I did miss so much and I guess I can't deny my daughter either. But the other side of that coin is that given the distance between us, I don't see what my other options are. Honestly, what I've always wanted more than anything was a normal, everyday relationship that didn't involve plane rides but that's just not possible. I've told people that I wish we could just have an argument or something because that would mean we were more like family! In between visits, we text, email and occasionally talk on the phone but that's not the same as being there. I know that I can't make up for lost time. I guess it just hurts to hear that my visits (and spending sprees and trips) are considered evidence of not having a real, meaningful relationship.

    I can't time travel and undo the damage that was done to us both by adoption no matter how much I would like that. I was hoping that spending my time and money on my daughter would show her that she is a part of my family in every way. It seems like no matter what I do, it's wrong.

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  9. Oy vey, this post really hit home for me. My daughter pops in and out of my life so often that I no longer trust she will say when she comes back. So I have learned not to trust her. I cried when I didn't know where she was. I was overjoyed when she found me and we met. Great six months. I cried buckets again when she disappeared like we had not had a great reunion. I was a mess for a year. In therapy. I tried to understand when she came back. I accepted it and Then she left again. Came back. Left. Yes, I'd say our relationship is like that of an aunt to a niece. Nice but distant. I can't trust she won't hurt me again by leaving. Like Loraine says I'm only human.

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  10. Maybe it's because my a-father died a few months before I found my b-mother and a year before I found my b-father. I know how quickly life can change, and I don't like things to be left unsaid. So, with my b-parents, I have worn my heart on my sleeve.

    With my father, thus far, it's been fantastic. He embraces the love I give him. My mother, on the other hand, well, she has been rather cold. I am hoping that she will step up and deliver on what she has promised me, but I fear her promises are just stalling tactics in hopes that I will give up and stop trying. At some point, trust turns into naivete.

    This is simplistic, but I really believe if someone wants to know you, wants to hang with you, s/he will. Words without actions are meaningless.

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  11. Oddly enough, after one of my friends had a major blow up with her found daughter, things eventually got a lot better between the two of them. We can't make up for the initial adoption no matter what we do--but we can try to have a real relationship going forward. When my daughter came back after the fourth of fifth departure, the first thing I said was, if you want to have a real relationship, no more leaving like this.

    She didn't ask what I was talking about, she just said: Yes.

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  12. Eileen: Just keep on doing what you are doing until you are told otherwise. You might tell her one day how you feel, and that you hope she doesn't feel that you are trying to "buy" her relationship.

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  13. Lorraine,

    I was 14 years old when I began contact with my biological family; the feelings I had were rooted in teenage angst and the worst possible years for hormones.

    Not making excuses, just offering additional insight.

    What has occurred in my adult discourse with them has been plagued I suppose by those early years? I use a question mark, because again the depth of our relationship never has gone beyond superficial and quite honestly I don't know their feelings or thoughts.

    Eileen, I'm sorry if the sharing of my experiences caused you sadness. Please remember that I prefaced this as MY experience and only my own. Your daughter may very well cherish your visits and understand traveling is the only way for that to happen.

    My biological family, at times, tried to almost give me the green light for what could have been destructive behaviors. The family that raised me didn't have the luxury of okaying some of the more crazy schemes I dreamed up as a teen.

    As I stated, I don't assign blame and I'm okay with the way things are; Lorraine's comment to me would imply I need to repair or "fix" the relationship - I'm not sure I want that or that it's possible. Additionally I bristle a bit at the implied one sided responsibility; there are 3 adults in this equation, not just the AA.

    THANK YOU dpen for sticking up for me and sharing what I couldn't! I truly appreciate it!

    Jada

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  14. It's so very interesting, Lorraine, that you wrote on this topic. My son is home from school today and it watching the recording of this very show. And even more interesting, we live in Nashville.

    I have had a very rocky time in my adoptive family. After a few years of therapy I have learned that my dad who raised me is a narcissist and that my mother is completely passive. My dad tells me constantly how much my mother wanted a baby. I have been the person who has been the validator when I should have gotten to be the child.

    I did not tell them when I met my first mother. I was too afraid. Being adopted can leave you feeling like a child. When my dad found out her was furious...he never talked about it to me but yelled at my husband. It got so bad that I severed my relationship with my mother. I feel so bad about doing that, but at the time the pressure was unrelenting. My first mother also wanted to be introduced to my adoptive parents...more stress.

    Fast forward twenty years, and I finally meet my first dad. I had known his name for twenty years but was afraid to contact him. I had my own family with 4 children...my relationship with my mother had gone badly and my adoptive father was still oppressive. I was also very afraid that my first father's wife would be furious.

    She was furious. I told my adoptive parents that I had met my father, and that is all I said. I decided that the best boundary I could set was not discussing it with them. My family of origin has been very accepting of me, and my father accepts me for who I am, the good and bad parts.

    We all have our own story to tell, and each story has lots of facets to it. I grew up and came back toward my mother, which I am so happy about. In the end, it is my life to do with what I choose while still retaining respect with all my parents. But, it is MY life....

    Lee H.

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  15. Okay, I'm going to say that I'm thick here--but I don't see what is "one-sided" about what I said. I am trying to understand, because a trusting relationship--between two people--takes two. I think that is pretty basic human nature.

    That may be impossible for an adoptee to the first mother--okay I get that. Maybe that is what all first mothers ought to be prepared for.

    But the adoption can't be undone. And we have to deal with what is, who the person we find or who finds us, be they teen or adult. We try to have a relationship with the person we find.

    So what would you have first mothers do, when someone comes and goes and breaks our hearts with every going? Only to return later? (The cold mothers who can't/won't have a relationship are not even trying to have a relationship, so I'm not talking about them here.) I think what happens is that we first mothers hope our found children (at whatever age) are able and willing to have a relationship, and all the old wounds are opened and gush feelings that never truly healed, and then we are desperately hurt when our children repeatedly walk out. I guess I have never thought of writing: upon reunion, first mothers, expect to be hurt again, it can't be helped, you have to take it, it's the way things are.

    Jada, who is the third adult in this relationship you have with your natural mother or father? The adoptive parent? I cannot see that I am asking the adoptee to "fix" the relationship, or that they take the "blame." I honestly think you are reading something there that isn't there, and I certainly do not mean. You don't have to "fix" anything you don't want to; relationships are what they are. But a fully loving relationship takes trust.

    Whomever ends whatever relationship there is--parent or child--is also the party who chooses to have it end or change. After my daughter "left" three or four times, only to return within months, I expected her to do it again. I stopped trusting that she wouldn't leave again.

    I certainly don't meant to "scold" anyone, because both parties have been grievously hurt by the adoption. Scold is not part of the equation. Is it possible you felt you always had to "fix" something for your adoptive parents, and you find you feel the same way with your biological parents? That's a terrible responsibility and shouldn't be on your shoulders.

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  16. Lorraine, thank you. I'm going to continue doing what I'm doing as far as my daughter goes. I don't see that I have many other options either way. And I don't have any other children so for me to spend my time and money on my only child just seems to come naturally.

    Jada, there's no need to apologize at all. It's been a fear of mine for a while now that my daughter sees me as a fairy godmother rather than as her other mother, so seeing your words just confirmed for me that it is a possibility. It just feels particularly unfair I guess because I would have loved to have been the mother who raised her but I'm not and I can't change that. It feels like a lose/lose situation to me. It also sounds a lot like the common AP refrain of "I did all the hard work." I would have loved to do the hard work but it wasn't one of my options.

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  17. Trust and treatment are difficult things in any relationship. I learned the hard way not to take crap from any male. I worked in a male oriented profession, had many males work for me, listened to their problems and issues, and knew how to deal.

    My son, however, was the first child, only adoptee and only son. He was a disappointment to them. He was also dependent on them. When I found him he was preparing to marry someone they didn't approve of.

    He was so guarded it was almost impossible to have a relationship. When we finally met, four years in, I understood better. I also knew in my heart that the relationship was going no where. He needed the apars financially. I didn't have that kind of money and wouldn't have played anyway.

    He kept getting nastier and nastier and finally I just told him that he was a shit for whatever his reasons and I didn't put up with that crap from anyone. He quit corresponding. For awhile I did a keep in touch and called him on his birthday. Then about three years ago I quit that.

    I think of him every day and vacillate continually about contacting him. I don't. Probably never will again. It is sick making for me. Maybe I'll write a letter to be delivered on my death. Haven't decided. I'm 70 now and my familial life span is in the 90s.

    So my view of adoptee angst is it is crap unless explained and discussed. Otherwise it is just another form of abusive bellybutton gazing.

    Am I sorry I found him? No. Am I sorry I wasted so much time pussy footing around, seeing a shrink, and putting up with abuse? Yes I am. Anyone who feels a need to heave abuse is an emotional cripple in my book and deserves little if they keep it up. He has a couple of little girls now and payback will be terrible.

    I am reading Wally Lamb's new book 'We are water'. I's a wonderful take on family and what women do to get through.

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  18. 'So my view of adoptee angst is it is crap unless explained and discussed. Otherwise it is just another form of abusive bellybutton gazing.'


    I could not disagree with you more.

    When I look at my son, I see a person having to deal with the profoundest of questions - why didn't my mother keep me?

    ***


    Is there a deeper question?
    A more painful one?

    I read somewhere that adoption causes us to question our most fundamental beliefs - What is family? What is belonging? What is selfishness? What is selflessness? What is a mother? A father? What is love? What are roots?

    This is not navel gazing. This is looking at the structure of the psychic and emotional universe.

    Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has no value.

    When I look at my darling son, I see someone wrestling with all these deepest questions, whilst being guilt-tripped mercilessly by his adoptive family for wanting to know us, his first and original family, the site of his ancestry and of absolute unconditional love (something he has never experienced before).

    Within that love, I see his face profoundly ease and hear him say 'this is how life is supposed to feel', and then I watch him wrestle with the guilt of that and the sense that he is betraying his afamily, who he also loves.

    I don't have to deal with all that. Nor, I am presuming, do you. But our adopted-away sons and daughters often do, and they say that is real and painful and I believe them, and would do anything to ease that.

    You say their feelings are 'crap unless explained and discussed' - that is, those feelings have no merit unless you are on the other end of their expression and find that expression agreeable to you.

    I suggest you examine your feelings of discomfort and anger. I suggest you examine them away from your son, who has enough to deal with of his own.

    In no way do I condone any person treating any other as an emotional punchbag. No-one can stay permanently emotionally open in the face of that, and relationships are bound to suffer and perhaps die in those conditions. I say this generally, not with reference to your own post.

    But I cannot let you simply dismiss the pain of so many people for whom adoption - something they had absolutely no say in, yet which has transformed their lives forever - has brought deep and specific pain.

    I don't want to speak for them, but I will speak as the mother of a son who lives with all this every single day of his life. I will not let you dismiss his pain.

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    1. Cherry, you are amazing. Really. With every post, I admire you more.

      You are absolutely correct that other people's pain, for many, is all too easy to dismiss. If they've never experienced a similar situation, and it makes them uncomfortable for any reason, the kneejerk reaction is to call it "navel-gazing," "whining," or worse.

      Though adoption ravaged one branch of my family-of-origin tree (which is what brought me to FMF), the subject of rejection by family members is one with which I have a lot of first-hand experience. When someone learns that I've essentially been booted out of my bfamily--not that it's a topic I choose to bring up--time and again, I've been asked, "What did YOU do?!?"

      What did I do? I no longer could grovel for crumbs, or to pretend that past serious abuse and neglect didn't happen. When I told my bparents that there were "things we need to discuss," rather than doing that, they stopped speaking to me altogether. I was banned from my mother's memorial service, and I have learned of the deaths of four relatives in recent years via Google Alert rather than a telephone call or e-mail.

      I rather admire those who can get into screaming rows with their family members and then make up! I never got the chance. Every time, for example, I sent my parents a birth announcement: silence.

      Oona O'Neill Chaplin had the exact same experience with her estranged father, Eugene O'Neill. When I read about Oona's birth-announcement fiascos recently in her autobiography, I thought, well! So I'm not the only one!

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  19. I think most people understand needing to take a break from an intense relationship and I agree with you that the adoption cannot be undone. But what is troubling is the disappearance without explanation and the attitude of I don't need to explain this to you. Sometimes makes me think there is an element of - you did it to me so now I'm going to do it to you. But, as your post started out, I think it is usually the conflicted feelings that are at the root. If you are understanding of the adoptee, of course, having feelings and loyaltty to the adoptive parents but the adoptive parents see you as a threat, there's usually a problem. The objection to your presence may be stated ot my be implied.

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  20. It must be difficult to separate the two sets of parents. I don't know I'd probably stick with the ones who had stuck with me,too. After a 3-year period without seeing my son, when he recently visited with his family,including a 3 year old granddaughter who is just TOO CUTE, I was overwhelmed. She called me Grandma,talked to me and wanted to play with me. So this is what I missed out on with my son. I don't know how long until I see them again. He said it was tricky explaining to her who I was But I'm grateful for any visits I get

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  21. Sara, my heart goes out to you. Abuse shouldn't be tolerated under any circumstance, be it adoption, divorce, etc. There is no excuse - explanations maybe. Good for you for not putting up with the crap!

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  22. Cherry,

    My son was not having a psychic meltdown because he was abandoned by adoption. It was more in the order of a guy who is too gutless to breakup with the girl and so does all kinds of crap things to make her be the bad guy. So I did the deed.

    We talked about his adoption and his feelings. He was very open about what he experienced as a kid, as a teen, young adult, etc. He was very mature in his assessments and had other adoptees in his life to compare with. He was in his 30s when I found him. He had some rocky times but not worse than the average upper middle class kid who fails to meet expectations.

    It was apparent he just wasn't going to expend the energy on any sort of relationship if it was going to get in the way of his Manhattan co-op and the controllable little wife he chose. His life, his decisions.

    Everything isn't primal wound, you know. I'm dismissing no one's pain etc. I am simply suggesting that bad behavior is bad behavior and no one is compelled to remain a masochist because of giving a child up at birth in an impossible situation. Continuing to self-flagellate doesn't help anyone.


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  23. Thanks Cindi ...

    It went on as long as it did because I was encouraged to accept the behavior as a path to a decent reunion.

    Why? I finally had to ask myself what did I know about male behavior that would account for this. I knew male adoptees before my son and knew many, many males in the workplace and as friends.

    What I am struggling with now isn't really him. His daughters may want to know. I plan to put the family story in writing and send it one day. He wasn't much interested because it didn't quite fit his fantasy.+`

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  24. It's taken me a few years of weathering the white noise surrounding adoption-related discussions (exploring everything in an effort to educate myself, and in the process meeting some extremely dehumanising and hurtful attitudes) to finally understand the two important things at the core of my post-adoption life:

    I was 16 when I had and lost my son.
    My son is adopted and was adopted by strangers.

    Those two things involve profoundly painful feelings. They also changed both of our lives, and we have been trying to rebalance ourselves since.

    It is not self-flagellating to acknowledge how painful those two things are. Particularly after decades of inchoate numbness or blankness.

    Neither my son or I have read the Primal Wound. We just blunder onwards, intuiting and empathising as much as we can, not always successfully.

    Sara, I don't mean or want to judge you. All our reunions are so unique and we do them in the ways we can, as the individuals involved. But I know my son hurts deeply, and I know I do, for the two reasons above. It's not self-flagellation, it's an almost unbearable grief.

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  25. I must say that I disagree with the statement in the post that adoptive parents feel "hurt" or "angry" or "pushed aside". When my daughter reunited with her first mother, I was completely delighted and encouraged the meeting. That was 11 years ago. They talk frequently and get together several times a month. Kay and I also talk, and invite each other to various events in our neighboring communities. And we often host holiday meals at either house. There's not a jealous bone in my body over their relationship, and I have told my daughter as much. I very much view adoptive and biological parents as being two sides of the same coin. When I look at my relationship with my parents, I had a very different relationship with my father than with my mother. And, that's how I feel about Kay...she's just another parent in my daughter's life...another source of support and love.
    Yes, their relationship has had some rocky times, as has mine with my daughter, but that's just family. When I first met Kay, I told her that I would always be honest with her about how I was feeling and asked for similar consideration. As far as I know, we've been honest with each other over the years.
    Perhaps you all just know the wrong kind of adoptive parents. Because I would rather be flayed alive than keep my kid from her roots and connections.

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  26. Thanks Susie,
    It's so good to hear from adoptive parents willing, actually eager, to know their child's first parents and to make each part of the other's life.

    My daughter's adoptive parents refused to meet me or have any contact with me whatsoever.

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  27. Jane said,"My daughter's adoptive parents refused to meet me or to have any contact whatsoever."
    Jane, I am truly sorry to hear that. I am sure they were convinced of their own rightness.
    But I am just as convinced that they were very, very wrong.

    Sad all round.

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  28. Susie: Wow, I just read your comment, and it is great to know that people like you and Jay Iyer exist--along with others. I had a mixed relationship with my daughter's mother. It went from accepting to tolerable to bad.

    But from the comments we get (and messages I get from adoptees on Facebook, esp.), the jealousy demon crops up over and over and over again after reunion. And I hear from adoptees whose adoptive parents, say, sure go ahead and search, and then make it clear they do not want to know or be apart of any reunion and make it very uncomfortable for the adoptee.

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  29. Although my eyes and heart are flooding over with tears, I am compelled to comment as I see my name. After weeks of intense energy getting Rayna all the resources she needs, enrolling Nina in my son's school so we can take care of her while Rayna works late nights at a job she managed to get on her own (Yay for her!), after finally getting a smile out of anxiety-ridden Nina as I commended her on her excellent school work, I got a call this morning from Rayna saying she knows exactly why we are doing all this for her and Nina and she wants nothing whatsoever to do with us again. This after I called her to let her know I rumbled my network and got a place for her and Nina, so she can leave the shelter and take the first steps towards permanency. Alas, I never got to convey that to her.

    Family preservation is oh-so-hard when you are dealing with a parent with mental illness. Makes me want to forget about it, say that I should focus on my own family instead and move on. Except - I love Rayna and Nina, and I will stand by my belief that "Love is never a waste." My husband, every inch the optimist and my rock of support (thank goodness) says, "It will all work out for them, you'll see."

    Maybe, just maybe, we should all enter this Christmas season with the hope that "Love is never a waste."

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  30. On, Jay, how sad.
    Thank you for continuing to stand by Rayna.

    I can't help but think that someone is sewing the seeds of suspicion in her mind.

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  31. Jay Lyer, how very sad, especially for Nina. Do you really think that Nina is safe with Rayna in her present mental state? Living with a severely mentally ill and paranoid parent is a hard burden for a child.
    Understanding you have done all you can at this point, but perhaps she could be somewhere else that is safe while Rayna is assessed.

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  32. Jane, Rayna is in a highly vulnerable state right now, irrational and very suggestible (almost paranoid). So, sadly, she has cut out the support she really needs.

    Anon at 12:00 PM, I am extremely worried about Nina as her mother descends into a tenuous mental state. I have made all the calls I can, asking people to look out for them, but I have spoken with nothing but voice machines and it is not clear if anybody is listening. I now have to bow out, stop "self-flagellating" as one commenter called it, and focus on those who actually want to return my love. I still believe "Love is never a waste" but I have to be there for the ones who, at least right now, want me and are depending on me to create a joyful holiday season for them. I am sure many of you first mothers and adoptees understand.

    Thanks, all, for letting me chronicle, on this forum, the ups and downs of my attempts at helping a family stay together.

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  33. I am a 35 year old adoptee. My adoptive parents are amazing in that their unconditional love included encouraging me to meet my first mother and helping me to find her (and I was not always kind to them during this process). I fantasized for years about my first mother and wanted her in my life so badly. I finally found her 5 years ago (with the help of my parents!) and it was the biggest heartbreak of my life. She agreed to meet me but I was a 'secret'. She was married, had 3 children, a comfortable life. I gave her space, I gave her time. She would go between telling me she never stopped thinking about me and how happy she was that I found her (she agreed to meet me- there was no pressure from me) or mourning my relinquishment and then a week later tell me I would 'ruin' her life if her family found out. She would meet me and I would feel safe, only to have her push me away. Finally, after 5 years of this, I could see it was causing me too much mental anguish. I had never up until then even asked her 'why' she relinquished me- I imagined it was painful and honestly, I wasn't sure I wanted to know. Finally I asked and she told me that she just wasn't ready for a baby. She had always skipped around the topic of my first father, insinuating he was a one night stand. Well, it turns out that my first father was actually her husband. They had decided when I was born to relinquish me and as far as he was concerned, that was it. So. She put her husband (my father!) and their children (my FULL siblings!) before me; which I suppose is her right. I cut off ties with her, grieved and moved on. The people who picked up the pieces of her wreckage were my adoptive parents and extended family. The back and forth/rejection/reunion goes both ways in these relationships. -Violet

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  34. @ Jay:

    I'm really sorry about what has happened. It seems that Rayna's trust has been shaken by something (in the past or present) and you have borne the brunt of that, which is so sad for you all. You said that you had found a place for her away from the Shelter where she could take her first steps towards permanency. That shows that your motives are for her welfare, not for yourself. I know you didn't get the chance to tell her about that place, but if you do, perhaps it will help her see that.

    One of the after-effects of losing my son to adoption was the arrival of anxiety. Sometimes it feels like my entire inner landscape is overrun with the wild dogs of anxiety, and I can barely breathe and cannot appraise the world clearly or calmly. But recently I've been able to create a kind of fence, behind which they bark.
    I wonder if Rayna has moments when the dogs that temporarily overrun her understanding of the world get distracted, leaving a silence in which you could get your intentions heard?
    I don't know. Just trying to help. I'm so sorry for your own pain too, Jay. I can't imagine.

    @ Susie:

    I just love hearing from adoptive parents like you - full of genuine love and humanity and realism. You show that such a relationship between the two mothers is possible, and also that the venomous hissing that my son's adoptive mother freely and frequently expresses about me is not inevitable nor normal. I am often horrified by how such behaviour by a-mothers is normalised and tolerated within adoption circles ('Well, what can you expect? It's understandable...' - no, it's not! At least not to me!).

    @ MrsTarquinBiscuitBarrell:

    Thanks for your really lovely words. I do post with trepidation so a blast of positive thumbs up like yours is really nice, and fortifying.

    The thing is, though, I really am blundering. And a lot of what I know has come from adopted people, including my son, expressing their reality and feelings. That helps me to understand as far as I can, and also motivates me to express my reality too, in the hope that it can extend understanding too about what life feels like for someone who was parted from their child through adoption.

    The thing about identifying those two core facts at the centre of my/our adoption experience is that it helps me recognise my own intense vulnerability as well as my son's, and the unique quality of each. We are wounded in different ways. It sort of gives me a steadying reference point when either of us is either hurt or hurtful.

    I don't know what I will do if I ever feel judged by my son. That is where those two facts clash, and I simply don't know how I would hold both his pain and mine at the same time. I hope that never comes. I think it's the one thing that has the potential to damage us. Even before it happens, I am trying to see a way beyond the whirl of pain, with its gravitational pull, that might arise from being judged. I feel so allergic to it that I'm not sure I will be able to handle feeling so deeply wronged by such a judgement without withdrawing to some safe space, and that might not feel safe for my son. So I'm always trying to juggle what to do so that both our realities are respected.

    I'm blabbing a bit now, so I'll stop there.

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  35. @Violet,

    I just wanted to send you virtual support and express that I am thankful you have family that has stood by you during this difficult time.

    I too have been blessed with strong ties to my family (adoptive) and received nothing but support & encouragement for my search all those many years ago.

    Like your own, my reunion fell short of expectations and I've made my peace with it. I hope that you find a sense of peace as well one day.

    Jada

    P.S. Lorraine, no the 3 adults I references were myself and both my bio. parents. My a-parents have never pressured or stood in the way. Count my Mom as one who also didn't fall prey to insecurities or petty jealousies when I 'found' my family by birth.

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  36. @ Jada- Thank you so much for your comment, I really appreciate knowing I am not the only adoptee disappointed and hurt by her bio mom. I was convinced for years that she would want a relationship with me, but unfortunately, that is simply not the case. For a while I was jealous of other people's successful reunions- or at least of people whose bio parents did not push them away once found. I am so very fortunate to have the beautiful and loving family I have grown up with. - Violet

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  37. Hi Cherry, thanks so much for your thoughts and wisdom, as always. I did text Rayna (since she refuses to take my calls) that I had put together an extensive support network of services for her, as well as found a place for her and Nina to live. I ended the text by telling her I would always love them both, no matter what. I did not receive a reply.

    I believe she is reacting from anxiety and stress, as you describe. She also has mental health issues that are quite debilitating. I ask for as many internet supporters of my story as possible to collectively wish for health and stability for Rayna and Nina. It is the best my husband and I can do right now.

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  38. @ Jay

    You did all the practicalities you could, and you told her you loved her. You never know when those words of love will filter down, through the rock, into the cave of her hearing.

    You've done amazingly. It sounds a bit stupid, maybe trite compared to what those two are going through, but if I had had someone like you in my life when I was young, my son and I might never have been parted. So I appreciate everything you have done, and hopefully Rayna will somehow get to hear your love.

    Yes, I will definitely think of them.

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