Sunday, June 1, 2014

Secrecy in reunion: How can I tell my adoptive parents? Or my other family?

Jane
Is it safe to make contact in a way that would protect my MOM, but allow me to know my birth mother?" inquired one of our readers. She went on to tell us:

"I am an older adoptee ... (54) my birth mother is 73 and my adoptive mom is 83. My "MOM" has never wanted me to search for my birth mother and so I didn't for many years, because I'd never knowingly hurt her. I've just recently had the search done and want to contact my birth mother, but don't want my "MOM" to know as this would hurt her very badly. I am an only and have no children, and I'm not sure if I want to get to know my half-siblings. (I have good reasons for that.) There is no way I am telling my adoptive mother about this, (my Dad passed away in 2007.) She'd not understand."

Lorraine
Here's our response:  It's most likely safe to contact your first mother. Let her know that while you're interested in meeting her, you don't want your adoptive mother to know about your reunion because you're afraid of hurting her. Although we can't guarantee it, we think your first mother will respect your request and not make any attempt to contact your adoptive mother. Most first mothers are so elated to hear from their lost child, they'll do anything not to jeopardize the relationship. To give yourself added assurance, you could rent a post office box so that so as not to disclose your address. And of course, you don't need to let your first mother know your adoptive mother's name or address. 

Keeping a secret, though, can be difficult. You have to be on guard all the time. You may not feel comfortable telling your close friends about your reunion, lest they let it out to your adoptive mother.

Since you're not sure about getting to know your half siblings, you could ask your first mother not tell tell them about you. This of course puts added pressure on her. Conversely, you could allow your first mother to tell them but ask her to ask them not to contact you. Be prepared, though, they may not feel the same constraint to honor your wishes and may try to contact you. 

Essays by adoptees

DO WHAT YOU NEED FOR YOURSELF
Secrecy may have a negative affect on your relationship with your first mother. Initially, she will most likely be happy for any contact. After a while she may resent being in the shadows even though she understands your reasons. She may respond by distancing herself. Think how you would feel if your first mother told you that she wanted to keep you a secret. Adoptees have written us on how hurtful that is, and how it ultimately makes a relationship impossible. 

However, we understand that to keep peace in your relationship, to not "hurt' your adoptive mother and father, you may feel that you cannot share the news of a reunion with them. This will especially be true if you feel that your adoptive parents--one or both--have never been to accept fully that you have a family of origin, and might need to connect to them. Do what you need to do to for your own sanity and peace of mind. To not disrupt the harmony of the adoptive parents/child relationship (yes, we know, "adult" but still the "child" son or daughter of the adoptive parents) you may want to keep all of this secret. It is totally your prerogative. So many adoptees wait until both of their parents have died to begin searching, and then they end up with a reunion with a grave. Much better to search earlier, and keep your secrets if you must. But do be aware that your first mother is fragile. She is a person with feelings too. Push her aside enough and she will retreat in order to not get burned. 


Adoptee and author Betty Jean Lifton describes how she retreated from her first mother post reunion. After their first meeting, Lifton did not contact her again for ten years because of "internalized guilt and fear of betrayal of her parents." Lifton's first mother retreated "to a place where she could not be hurt again. Mother and daughter, lost and found, could not hold on to each other in a natural way."* 

FIRST MOTHERS MUST RISE TO THE OCCASION
And to any first mothers who feel shunted aside because of this secret, we urge you to accept that your son or daughter knows what they are doing, and let it be. If they have found you, simply be joyous that they have; if you have found them, willingly accept their wishes. Your relationship is likely to be fragile, and insisting on meeting the adoptive parents, or other demands, may shut down the relationship. Your reunited son or daughter may simply walk away for years. You don't need to accept being treated like a doormat, but do understand that the adoptee is going through an emotional upheaval, and is likely to be anxious trying 
not to hurt anyone. 

Decades after reunion, Lorraine's daughter once said: Sometimes I feel like a magnet, the closer I get to one, the more I have to pull away from the other. As first mothers ourselves, we know how much it can hurt to feel that you are always treated like a second-class mother, but for the peace of your child, you need to be the understanding mother and step back when it's called for. You need to be the mother who told Solomon not to cut the child in two. In real life, that may mean not going to the hospital to see your new grandchild on the first day, but coming later when the adoptive parents will not be there. Staying in the background at your child's wedding, if you are invited. Going to a grandchild's graduation--on the QT, or deciding to stay home. No matter how it was done, or who forced us, we gave up our child, and to some degree, we lost them that day. 

LIKE A DAUGHTER OF DIVORCE 

Keeping the reunion a secret from your adoptive mother may affect your relationship with her as well. You won't be able to share your excitement or your anxieties although you may have shared all the important events of your life in the past. Adoptee Lynn Grubb, writing on Lost Daughters, likens a reunion where the adoptive mother opposes it to being a child of divorce "where she had to choose between families in order to survive." Grubb did tell her adoptive mother about the reunion:

"Suddenly I was living the loyalty confusions, the guilt, the withholding of information about who I was in this delicate dance I was doing with my mother. I began to tell my mother less and less about my life....She began to fall outside the 'circle of trust' and I realized for the first time that we were operating in two different realities....I was a different person post-reunion. I was no longer willing to twist myself into the person my mother wanted me to be." 
Lifton's memoir
Lifton describes feeling like a traitor to her adoptive parents after her reunion. She initially kept the reunion secret from her children as well, fearful they would tell her adoptive parents about it. Later she wrote, "I saw how playing the Good Adoptee had forced me to lead a double life with my adopted parents....I came to understand how the necessity to live that double life, so as not to hurt my adoptive parents, had the effect of cutting off honest communication with them."* 

Contacting your birth/natural mother can have huge benefits. For the first time, you will know someone who you share physical characteristic with, and possibly your talents and interests. Sometimes the things you find alike are little personal quirks that will surprise you--such as how you fold your underwear or jam bills in your jean pockets. Your makeup shade may be exactly the same. You can learn why you were given up. The woman you meet won't be a mother in many ways, but she may become a good friend. Reunion has it perils. Both first mothers and adoptees might find it helpful to work with a counselor who understands adoption issues, join a group of other adoptees and birth parents, as well as read books by adoptees and birth mothers. The two shown here are a good start.--jane and lorraine

______________________________

(Twice Born, pp. 266, 267, update 1998) 

by several blogger/writers, including Lynn Grubb
Lost Daughters Anthology is a tough book for mothers who relinquished to read because whatever we may have told ourselves about the “good” reasons to let our children be adopted, these poignant, sad, moving essays belie that with the sheer force of a body blow. I found myself with tears in my eyes as soon as I started reading, and they didn’t totally dry up until long after the last page.--lorraine 

Twice Born by Betty Jean Lifton
"At the time she was told her birth parents were dead and she was adopted, Lifton was seven and sick from scarlet fever. The timing could not have been worse. The experience itself caused significant problems for Lifton, and the questions about her birth parents lingered for decades. Finally she found her birth mother was alive and to ease her pain and answer questions Lifton sought and found her. Her search for her birth father had less success, but Lifton found the questions had eased and she was able to "re-enter" life, finally, as what she felt was herself. Lifton...adds new insights from the changes in adoption practices to her 1975 original and makes a case for open adoption records."--Reference and Research Book News



51 comments :

  1. As everyone who reads FMF knows by now...I am in the same boat as this 54 year old adoptee. Guilt such as this is the main reason I could never go ahead with a search and reunion. I could never manage it. The tug of war within me would probably destroy me altogether.

    My adoptive parents are so threatened and so insecure, as I have outlined in the past, that they have made it VERY clear that a reunion is not what THEY would ever want. We very rarely ever spoke of my adoption. I am convinced my A-mom honestly thinks I share their ethnic background, culture, genes.....she will not ever acknowledge that I do have a different background. Stories were told my entire life that were meant to hide the fact that I actually was born to someone else.

    A -dad says those adoptees who search are spoiled and selfish.

    What am I to do with these two people?

    I have learned my first mother's name and age, and my own original name by searching the internet. I have since learned that my AP's had this information all along. Even when I approached dad for any document I could use to get a passport, he did not offer this information to me. He threw it aside.

    There will never be a reunion with anyone until my AP's are no longer living. I have a feeling my first mother might already have passed away, but I am continuing the internet search for any siblings, nieces, cousins. Should I find any member of my first family, I will have to keep the "reunion" limited to letters, emails, phone conversations. Until I am free. Which, sadly, I am not.

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    1. Julie Emily,

      I think your adoptive parents should feel guilty because they are, in fact, guilty of having lied to you about having information about your origins, and they should feel guilty for making you feel guilty and beholden to them to the point of feeling unable to seek out your biological family.... If you choose to seek out your biological family, you shouldn't feel guilty nor would you be spoiled or selfish.

      We lost our entire families, our entire heritage in one fell swoop. Who is being selfish?
      Your parents want to keep you to themselves, and they are fearful of you finding your family because they are afraid that you will have a greater connection. And, why are they so fearful? Well, if they adopted you because they had infertility issues, they know how devastated they were to not be able to have their own children.

      So, really, who is being selfish? Not you.

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    2. Julia Emily, I have read your comments here for several months and forgive me, but I don't understand why a 54-year-old woman is worried about what her parents think. Adult children have the right to their lives and the right to relationships and ideas that are not approved of by their parents. How do you think thousands of men and women who have come out of the closet in hostile families have managed? You're too old to think about whether or not your parents feel bad. Have the relationship with your mom behind their backs if it is something you need to do and is good for you. Stop worrying about what they think--a-parents have zero right to interfere in the relationship between adult adoptees and original parents because it fundamentally doesn't concern them. If everyone wants to be a happy family, that's great. If they don't, then you are still entitled to a relationship with your mother without interference. I'm an a-parent, btw. My kid's about to turn 17.

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  2. "But do be aware that your first mother is fragile. She is a person with feelings too. Push her aside enough and she will retreat in order to not get burned."

    This statement resonated with me. My son found me, and I joyously met him and his adoptive family with open arms and an open heart. He then began a very painful dance of acceptance then rejection, with the rejection being very cruel and dehumanizing to me. I was no one, anybody else (friends, acquaintances, and of course adoptive family), was important but me. We are well into our second decade of "reunion", and we have no relationship except a superficial one. I have been very pointedly excluded from every important milestone of his life since reunion began. He is now very interested in a relationship, and I can barely bring myself to respond. I would advise the adoptee who asked about a secret reunion to leave her first mother in peace, because she is not in the emotional position to treat her first mother with kindness. Contrary to popular opinion, it is NOT all about the adoptee. We mothers have to find a way to survive too, and we aren't anybody's doormat or dog to kick.

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    1. Reunion involves two people. Sometimes three. Reunion is about everyone being reunited.

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  3. "But do be aware that your first mother is fragile. She is a person feelings too. Push her aside enough and she will retreat in order to not get burned." This statement resonated with me. My son found me, and I joyously met him and his family with open arms. He then began a very painful dance of acceptance and rejection, with the rejection phase being very dehumanizing to me. I was a nothing, a nobody, only he and his family were important. He has intentionally excluded me from every import milestone. I have experienced health, and other ongoing issues as a result of my son's actions. Now, well into our second decade of limbo (I can't really call it reunion), he is very interested in continuing our relationship. I was finally able to detach myself from the agony of his repeated rejections, and I can hardly bring myself to respond to him now. We are at best, superficial acquaintances. I would advised the adoptee who wrote to you to leave her first mother in peace. If her only or main concern is not hurting her MOM (wish I could put that in 100 type bold, because the adoptee certainly will when she talks to her first mother about who she is NOT), then she is not in an emotional position to treat her aging first mother with kindness. We are real people, with real feelings, and there is only so much rejection and anger a person can take. Contrary to popular opinion, the adoptee and their crew are not the only important people in reunion. We mothers are not anybody's doormat or dog to kick. Leave the poor woman in peace.

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  4. We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t. If we wait until our adoptive parents die and find a grave instead of natural family, then we deeply resent them posthumously; if we tell, we risk all manner of upsets and stress. I told my adoptive mother 4 months after initial reunion and paid dearly for it, but I don’t think I could have ever looked her in the eye if I hadn’t. My only tiny weeny saving grace was that my natural mother found me, so that was a slight buffer (not much though). On the other hand/side, I searched for my natural father and he had already died, but I found his sister whom I still have contact with, but I have kept her secret from my adoptive mother due to the stress I endured with my reunion with my natural mother. So I have done both and can’t recommend either! We ‘should’ (love that word) do what is right for ourselves, but that’s easier said than done, there is so much to consider among all parties. It’s not even like juggling 2 partners, that would probably be simpler. Adoption/reunion causes the most complex of issues that are barely comprehensible by anyone who is not involved. Sorry to be so negative. I don't know what I would do differently on reflection.

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  5. Jo--Sadly, I think your experience may be more common than most people (except other adoptees) realize. I don't see an easy way out of this conundrum. Adoption is the pain that goes on giving. The problem is the way that the original adoption (this is your new family--other family? what family?) was presented to adoptive parents until very recently.

    You don't mean to hurt anybody and so know you are doing the right thing, and the best you can.

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  6. None of us are experts in reunion. I honestly believe that at various points along the way each individual tries their best. However, when you consider the different ages (transactional analysis at its best) that we are at any given time during the process, then it is not hard to see where problems arise. I have read that natural mothers get emotionally stuck at the age of loss, the child can regress to being a baby and the adoptive mother feels excluded and is taken back to a time when she perhaps couldn’t conceive. You have 3 outwardly mature adults who are oscillating between a number of ages and stages of their life whilst trying to come to terms with this new situation. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes not, but how do you get the 3 to be on the same page at the same time? For anyone embarking on reunion, there’s truth in the old adage of making what seems the best decision at the time. We would all be experts in hindsight. You can read the books and take advice, which do help and I would most definitely advocate reading some of the books, but nothing prepares you for the actuality and then, you simply do your best. Regardless of our own needs and desires, we can only be in control of ourselves, we can empathise and accept behaviours, but we ultimately have to survive and set our own limits. Adoptees probably know their adoptive parents better than anyone, so you have a good idea how they will react, it’s then surviving the consequences, but the guilts will getcha either way!! Without hesitation, I would encourage either party to search though, despite the turmoil, it is worth it – whatever the outcome, it is better than never knowing.

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    1. Amen, once again.
      Reunion was what I fervently sought, it was difficult, but immensely rewarding and a total growth experience. It was so much better knowing than not knowing.
      I knew I had kept this under our favorite adoption quotes:

      "Everybody wants to know where they come from, even if it doesn't turn out like you wanted it." - Our totally favorite comment from ABC's Find My Family message board:

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  7. My cousin was adopted through a closed adoption with a Catholic adoption service. My aunt had suffered the still birth of 6 infants before my cousin was adopted at 3 days old. My aunt was a insecure person with some emotional instability. She was fiercely protective of her only child and my cousin knew he would never be able to search for his birth parents as long as she was alive. My aunt developed cancer and passed away when my cousin was in his early 30's. He immediately began searching for his birth mother. After he found her she quickly became a huge part of his life. She comes to Easter dinners at my mother's house and made a very beautiful and moving speech at his wedding. It's horrible to say, but I was so very happy for him that my aunt passed away when he was still young so he felt safe to reunite with his birth mother. My uncle was completely able to welcome his son's birth mother with open arms! My family has made her a part of our family and we really like her. Unfortunately my uncle remarried and weirdly enough his new wife is the only person who seems threatened by the birth mother. I can only guess it's because she feels her role as step mother and step grandmother should somehow make her more important to him than his birth mother! The step wife can hardly stand to be around the birth mother and we've had to start not inviting his birth mother to more intimate family gatherings because of the tension. It's bizarre! Thankfully we have a huge family so Holiday gatherings are big enough they can avoid each other. Now, how complicated is that family situation for my poor cousin? I had to post this without my name because it's a unique enough situation I don't want someone to put two and two together.

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    1. yup birth families have their secrets as well that come spilling into the reconnection dynamics. learning the new label "secret sibling" is what my half-sib has decided to do. keeping myself the oldest of the 6 a secret from his wife, adult children. we are fb friends though. so how secret is that! all i know he has stopped communicating via messages. the step-gradmother, our grandfather's second wife sent me off for adoption and when he came along they (grandfather and step-grandmother) adopted him. my only asumption is the step-grandmother may still be living. wild thought yet it comes up. i have not gotten to the level with bbro to ask him about that nor who his bfather is/was. so even in reconnection there are missing pieces. but i have more than enough good information to keep me writing, telling my story, and feeling rich in knowing the truth i get to absorb at will.

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  8. Shame on adopters who make an adult adoptee’s search all about them. These are the exalted adopters who were supposed to be better in every way than the adoptee’s original parents– yet here they are committing emotional blackmail of the lowest order (and Julia Emily’s adopter claiming adoptees who search are spoiled and selfish merits his own level of low). The truth is, stories fabricated by toxic, dysfunctional adopters whereby an adult’s search for the truth of her origins becomes an act of disloyalty and subversion against the adopter are not “feelings”. Nor is any part of this sort of behavior indicative of the unconditional love and respect that a “parent” is supposed to have for a child. Adoptees do not exist to meet the needs or whims of their adopters. Not ever.

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  9. I can relate to all that has been written here. I now am in reunion with both of my original parents and am setting strict boundaries with my a- parents who have been less than supportive. They are incapable. Reunion also opened my eyes to the co-dependent marriage I had been living in. My original dad who was in a very similar relationship is also divorcing. The possessiveness and jealousy is unbelievable. Reunion changed me. No one who has known me wants me to be any different than I have ever been. My dad and his family accept me completely. My mom carries a lot of shame and cannot talk about my dad, so we have a less close relationship. As always, I am in the middle…it is about me and yet no one really talks to me openly except my original father. I am accepting things as they are.

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  10. @ HDW: You are correct, as Lorraine said. I am not one to toot my own horn....but I also do not see myself as selfish. And I thank you for saying so!! That is my A-father's opinion, as far as adoptees searching. I can't change his opinion now.

    Maybe they started out so insecure because of infertility issues. That was the problem...A-mom had a full hysterectomy at quite a young age. Maybe the almost 4 year wait to finalize helped make them this way? Maybe they are just products of their generation?

    @ BeeHive: Forgive me for saying so, but you don't understand. I have tried to state here that I am not proceeding this way out of respect or sympathy for my AP's feelings and opinions. I am not worried, scared, or thinking about who is right or wrong in this miserable scenario. It is simply this: I do not have the strength to start a war with these two old people now. They are old, they are sickly, I see and care for them every day, and it is draining every ounce of energy I have. To try to have a reunion now, whether kept secret or out in the open, would be adding more stress to an already almost unbearable situation. These people did all of this in the ignorant 1950's. They have been playing pretend all these years. they think everything is wonderful, and they are at the end of their lives. A lot of what they did and said over the years was very wrong, I totally agree. What can I do about it now? As Julie stated, I have to accept things as they are. And I will continue on the internet to find out whatever else I can.

    @ SaraM: Everything you say is also correct. But, at least in my day of closed, secret adoption, the adoptee DOES exist to meet the whims and needs of the adopters. In every way. And that's the only reason the adoptee exists.

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  11. @Julia Emily. Your guilt makes you sound like a child. Are you aware of that? So many adoptees say that the sealed records laws keep them (feeling like) children forever, but so does worrying about what our adoptive parents think when we are deep into adulthood. With all due respect you need to grow up. Grow up and start searching. Your adoptive mother is 83! How would she find out anyway? Do you (god I hope not) still live with her? What you do now is none of her business. It sounds like she needs to grow up too if she can't accept reality that she is NOT your only mother. Honestly, there are few things in this world as immature as closed adoption!

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    1. Anon: Since you're so full of useful information, why don't you use a name? Then we can speak like people.

      I am "guilty" of nothing. Nor do I have to explain it again to you, but I will. My AP's are what they are, and believe what they believe, and I CAN NOT HANDLE A WAR with them at this point. As far as keeping secrets, I am searching the internet, thank you. And that is all I can do. It is not my nature to carry on a relationship with someone and keep it a secret.

      Grow up and read what I am writing. My adoptive mother is in her 90's, not 83. And I am my AP's sole caretaker. Living with me might have to be the next step. Oh, God, how immature. Not that it is any of your affair.

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  12. Chris Bischof -- reunited adoptee

    There's secrecy and there's diplomacy.

    In my view, if an adoptee feels that telling his/her adoptive parents about plans to search will upset them, then maybe it's best to wait to fill them in.

    Furthermore, unless the adoptee is sure his/her adoptive parents would want to share the reunion experience, it may be best to let a-parents know after the event has passed.

    Inasmuch as the search and reunion experience produces anxiety for all those involved in the process, the adoptee might feel less encumbered and less constrained by proceeding alone.

    My a-parents willingly gave me the adoption information they had. However, though they were supportive of my search, it was obvious it made them a little uneasy.

    Therefore, after connecting with my birth family -- years after my a-parents gave me the information they had -- I waited a year before telling them. It seemed to me they didn't need to see my excitement over meeting the mysterious people who had brought me into the world.

    Everything worked out as well as I had hoped. No conflicts among us.

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    1. How did you bring up the subject, Chris?

      (And you can make it easier for us to find you--click the "Name/Url) and put in Chris B, --no need to have an URL to use that function.

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    2. In high school, my a-mom once said she felt bad that circumstances had forced my b-mom to relinquish me. She said she and my a-dad didn't know much about her, but they knew she'd lived in NY City and had been a journalist and that my b-dad had been in the Army. She said if I ever wanted to know more about her, they'd give me the few adoption documents they had.

      At that point -- I was about 17 -- I was curious, but I could sense that if I took her up on her offer at that time it would likely create a lot of worry for her. However, when I was in my early 30s, and we were living in different parts of the country, my search began.

      Spence Chapin handled my adoption. However, I had known that fact since I was a child. From the agency I got non-identifying information which was no help, though at the time I didn't understand why. After a number of years of getting nowhere, I decided to ask my a-parents for all the paperwork they had. I figured it had to hold a few clues.

      By this time I was in my 40s. When I asked, I knew there'd be no particular turmoil. I said I was curious about my origins, and also, because my first son was a year or two old, I said there was a need for medical information. Who knows what might be lurking in the genes?

      If any of this made my a-parents uneasy, they managed to put their concerns aside and provide the paperwork without making me feel as if I'd embarked on something that threatened them. However, it took almost another decade to break through the secrecy and meet my b-families. I was 50.

      When it happened, I kept it to myself for a year. What I found was both exciting and terrifying -- too much to share as the situation was unfolding. But after digesting everything and adjusting to all that I'd learned, I knew I would share it with my a-parents. When I told them, they seemed intrigued. Meanwhile, as part of the telling, I let them know I believed I was lucky they had adopted me.

      In the years following, they would occasionally ask about my b-relatives. Like my adoption, the subject was never taboo, nor did it become an obsession. It's just life.

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  13. the horse before the cart...have to ascertain indeed even if her mother is interested in a meeting via letters, social media, face-to-face and at what increments. this adoptee is not "ready". was in her boat for longer until another adoptee gave me permission....what kind of permission??! "do you tell your apars everything??!" wow what a liberating thought...i will remember those words as the best advice any other adult adoptee ever gave me...and you know what else - she even offered to do the initial contact to verify if they were the right people and just basically to let them know i existed, was alive and well. that's all i needed them to be aware of...well i did the opening approach and nearly 3-yrs later it's a good thing to know who i came from, and where the family tree grew. i will say i did take one entire year to process this until i told my apars who not ever encouraged any search for blood family. i will say that day telling apars was extremely profound in my shift of who i truly am and who i truly was not all those years ago. the real healing and coming together of separate selves still mashing up at times but now i will not die wondering. my apars are warm then cold. expected...they are 90 and 85. i do not want them leaving this world not knowing how truly happy i am to know and have my story, my truth. worrying who will feel rejected is no longer an adoptee's fear nor issue and never should be.

    this adoptee sounds to my senses operating on the basis of anxiety of the future. the steps to freedom from what holds us back are for us not the others. when it's right we give ourselves the permission to move forward no matter who might not understand. i am an only with no children as well.

    did not understand whether this adult adoptee lives with amom? the mail would not be an issue if they live separae. i have visited my blood family 3 times in 2 years. phone calls, photos and info exchanges have been all online...mail not an issue

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    1. Shelia, would you tell us in what words you used to tell your adoptive parents that you had reunited with your blood family? Many adoptees might benefit from hearing how you broached the subject.
      thanks.

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    2. after a year of absorbinging a rich native american heritage, well on the way of both acceptance and processing lots of information from my maternal side both blood parents deceased) decided it was time my adult self wanted to share my happy finding with people of my past who knew i was adoptee, some classmates from h.s., university, career co-workers, people who mattered in my life including parents. i took the time, did inner work, picked up the phone and called with full intention to say what i'd been up to for the past year. it was my amom answered. knowing just how amazing my story was turning out and feeling more whole and in tune with fate i said "want to tell you and dad i found my birth family." the response i got back was "your dad and i always wanted you to search." stunner, shock, cough, but o.k. i'll take it. amom decided to be more open in that moment as i knew my heart certainly had been broken wide open in a good way. so i said very simple details and consciously openedup space for her questions. she was initially very interested as she was born and raised about 2 hours from where my nation's reservation. so she was empathetic about indian counrty having been around it in her early years. then she was very surprised to know the native part as i was for a year. then she got my adad on the other line excited telling him my event. so more restating some simple info. they were even listening more to me then i ever remember before. they are very enmeshed repeat each other's thoughts. sigh that was how i did it. simple, did not entertain any drama on my part...left them with news to hash over as it was time for them to have their conference...other times they do not ask myself any thing though i have added more detail to my story with them.

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    3. Ah...Shelia--I wonder how many more adoptive parents would say--I always thought you would search, I'm glad you did, etc.--I know we hear from others here who have so much trouble with their adoptive parents reaction, but I would imagine there are more out there who would be sympathetic. They don't bring it up because they think the adopted individual surely would if they were interested; and because the adoptee assumes that his or her parents will be upset, they don't bring it up either.

      The same could be said about those first mothers who live in homes where the lost child is never mentioned--and the mother is secretly grieving and hopes for a reunion. But because the whole subject is never brought up, everyone else in the family thinks the mother simply wants to forget--when in fact, she has never forgotten at all.

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  14. Word to first mothers: From my experience, while initially you should accept being the lesser mom, you don't have to do it forever. I don't mean contacting the a-parents if your child asked you not to, but stop accepting shabby treatment. You'll find it empowering.

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  15. There are some amazing adoptive parents out there. Some of them post here on FMF, and, Chris, your adoptive parents are certainly among them. Look at the way adoption can work if handled correctly. I applaud adoptive parents like these.

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  16. I think everyone should give Julia Emily a break. She has come a long way since she first started commenting here. And certainly she knows her adoptive parents and her whole situation much better than anyone else.

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  17. Amen, to what Robin said. Regular readers know how far she has come and new readers do not know her full story. But those who do can applaud her strength and choice. Good for you, Julia Emily. Hugs, many hugs.

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  18. Thank you, Lorraine and Robin. From the bottom of my heart. I feel I have come a very long way. I do not know why I was dealt this hand, but I am trying my best to play it and keep some peace in my life. I am desperately seeking peace, and FMF has been a tremendous help to me.

    Thank you all, again.

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  19. Julia Emily doesn't need to defend her actions to anyone. Everyone is going to make the individual decision that works best for them. It's not like there is exactly a rule book for these types of situations. It's so emotional... I can only imagine the conflicting thoughts and feelings swirling around for you, Julia. We all have a limit to what we can handle, and it sounds like you are already beyond what many people can handle. Taking care of elderly parents is a monumental task. You keep on doing what is best for you with all this!

    Your parents are lucky to have you in their lives. So lucky. I sincerely hope that they know how incredibly blessed they are.

    I wish you continued success with your search.

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  20. @Julia
    Speaking as a firstmother, I’d like you to know that I have been following your story and have great admiration for you. Your selfless attitude, patience, and perseverance speak a great deal about your character. Perhaps most striking to me is the kindness you have shown to your adoptive parents by not upsetting them in this final chapter of their lives as they deal with sickness and impending death. I can’t imagine doing otherwise.
    I’m rooting for you and wishing you success, happiness and peace as you continue your journey.

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  21. For those that think it easy to tell a-parents need to read about the psychology of an adopted person before they judge. And also, consider the many n-mothers who wait until their parent's die before searching or 'telling'. Rightly or wrongly, the secrecy is usually borne from fear and protection of others, not with bad intent.

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  22. @ Tiffany and Gail: Thank you, as well, for the kind words and encouragement! It is deeply appreciated.

    So far the search isn't yielding anything further. I have a feeling the whole family may have gone somewhere (back to their original country?) once I was relinquished. Next step will be DNA at Ancestry, or some such site. My husband can't see the sense in it and doesn't want to pay for it, but my friend offered to put it on her credit card for me.

    My petition to open my records was denied..so that went nowhere. But I know my first mother's name anyway. Closed records accomplish nothing.

    After that....maybe we will get somewhere with the Adoptee Rights bill in NY?


    If not, one day I may just out my info up on Facebook! Distasteful as it may be....people are getting results that way!

    Again, thanks, everyone. It's not easy, but I'm going to get the whole story. And some peace of mind.

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  23. Julia Emily - I am a birth mother. My comment was going to be that recently I have gone through a situation (not adoption related - if it is possible for any of us to say that) in which I tried to be fair to everyone. I tried to do what I saw as my duty to my family, parents and sister. I wasn't going to identify the situation but having read all your comments I will tell you that the situation is the same as what you are going through now - caring for elderly parents. Subsequent events (again not adoption related) have made me very much regret that I put myself on the back burner for what turned out to be over five years. The perpetual health crises and in my case travelling from my home in another city were exhausting, emotionally and physically for me and my husband. Now I feel to a certain extent that my parents' insistence on staying in their home despite very extreme health issues was somewhat selfish on their part. It's hard to know what any of us would do in a similar situation but I have a great resolve not to put my daughter through the same thing when I get old. Now I very much feel that the person I owe the most fairness and duty to is myself. I am not writing this to say find your mother - I am writing to say look after yourself. Life can be funny. You may lose the ability to do something you thought you would always have the ability to do later - again not talking about adoption but about everything. I know this is easy to say but extremely hard to do. I'll be thinking of you. Wishing you some moments of peace and rest.

    I will just throw this in for other mothers reading - I would often ask myself why I was doing it because there a time when I was very vulnerable and alone and my parents didn't stand by me (When I had my son my mother dropped me off at the hospital and walked out and then it was never spoken of again - until I found him and then I was subjected to a lot of anger for so doing.) and I believe, although maybe I am kidding myself, that I did it exactly because I knew what it felt like to be frightened, vulnerable and very, very alone.

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    1. Hi Kris: everything you state in your comment is true. I have been on the back burner for a while!!

      It is very difficult to care for elderly parents. A number of years ago I did move them out of their house and into a "retirement" community about 2 miles from where I live. It is a much more manageable place for them to live, rather than the house they finally bought when they were in their 60's! They were reluctant to leave the house, I must say. But it had to be done.

      I am trying to keep this all in perspective. Although we always got along, we never really shared a true "closeness." They do not talk about important things or personal things. The little bits I have been able to piece together have been a long time coming. That's why, when I had my children, A-mom was at such a loss. She just couldn't share it with me and she couldn't help me. She had a hysterectomy while still a newlywed. All hopes of a bio child were gone. They tried to adopt for many years, and finally, there I was! Looking at her now, I do wonder if she ever got over the whole episode.

      My feeling is: this was a long time ago and we should be able to discuss it. But they can't. As you say, I will never put my children through anything such as this. I made a conscious effort with my girls that our relationship was going to be different. And it is, I am happy to say.

      So here I am rambling on....but I feel better in that so many readers here seem to understand where I am coming from! I am thankful for the support. It is support I have never had before.

      And, let me say how sorry I am that you had to go through so much when you gave birth to your son, and when you reunited later on. What a shame. In "The Girls Who Went Away" there were many stories like yours. It makes me wonder how a mother of a young girl in such a situation could behave like that?

      Stories like yours also tell me that not too many people were/are ready to handle unplanned pregnancy or raising an adopted child. It is too much for some people to handle. Like I said once before, we are not talking about passing around stuffed toys. The babies born in these situations are human beings. That's the fact that seems to get lost in the great adoption debate. It's a very frustrating thing.

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  24. Kudos to Julia Emily for being sensitive to others while taking steps to have her own needs fulfilled.

    This is a difficult balance that we all face, made even more complicated when adoption is involved.

    Good luck with your search efforts!

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  25. Hi Julie,
    I am in a slight different situation. I am not an adoptee, but I am the kept daughter. I never knew I had an older sister until Jan of 2010. I searched and was reunited. My sister decided at that time she was not ready to reunite with her first mother. She does know that option is always open.
    Now to the hard stuff. We are a "secret" in her life. Her aparents do not know that me or my children exist. This has weighed heavy on me because young children have become involved in lies and secrecy. I wish I would have known all of this before the children would have met. They don't understand.

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    1. Claudette--I see you are from my neck of my original woods/ I grew up in Dearborn, I have relatives that live near you. Hello!

      I hope there is some way this can work out, but it does depend on your sister telling her adoptive parents. This just shouldn't be so hard.

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    2. Claudette: This is what happened to my husband's cousin. No one in her first family ever knew she existed. It was as if she dropped from the sky. And, you are right, children were involved in all the secrets and lies and nonsense. It did not go well for a very long time. There was a lot of fighting and denial from the first mother, and a lot of nasty words were exchanged. They eventually kind of came to an agreement to be civil. This girl also basically lost her adoptive parents in the process, because they were a lot like mine and could not understand any of this. They hid her first mother's name from her all along.

      I wish I wasn't coming across so negatively, but I do not know of another situation like yours, besides this one which was not a good one. Hopefully someone here on the forum can help. Fingers crossed for you! Keep us posted.

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    3. Julia Emily, I wanted to reply to what you wrote above.

      First let me repeat what I have said to you before: check to see if perhaps your biological grandparents had any siblings. Those siblings maybe have had children--your b-mom's first cousins. Some may be alive. They might also have children of their own--your 2nd cousins--who know your story.

      There also may be reunion sites that she has registered with. It is worth checking.

      Finally, maybe you can look for obituaries, including ones in other countries. Or sites like "find a grave." And not just for your b-mom, but also for your grandparents, great-grandparents and any other family names you can find. You never know what information it could lead to. Obituaries contain the names of surviving (and deceased) relatives, for generations on down.

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    4. Lorraine...it's nice too meet you! Ironically my sister resides in your neck of the woods. I rarelyencounter people from our state. Just to give you a little example since your familiar with the area this make sense to you. I have 3 daughters ages 7,12, and 16. My sister has a son 18 and a daughter 14. Our daughters share the love of a mutual sport. My middle daughter is at the gym in Shelby Twp, on average 4 days a week. This season my sister decided to have her daughter tryout, and she made a team. Now, I am extremely confused on how to handle this?? My child doesn't understand? I can't have her as a part of lies and deceipt. She is extremely confused and this sport includes a ton of travel, ect...
      Julie,
      I am not at all offended or

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    5. I apologize.
      Julie...I know that my sister was shocked. Just as I was shocked to learn of her. She had put it to me in these terms "she always knew that she was adopted and there was potential siblings out there." She said she was more shocked that I came searching after 40+ years. She also knows that I obviously have had some issues with betrayal, ect...
      I truly respect her decision with only wanting to reunite with me at this time. I think reunion is very private. Our "shared" mother is also very ill physically and mentally. I would never push to reunite them. I believe it's her decision and when I was asked the question about our mother and reunion, I said that if and when she is ever ready that I would make it happen. There was a period of "awkwardness" in the beginning where she felt like she didn't have the right to ask questions or see pics because of that. I clarified that I don't hold any animosity.
      It's so complicated with me and then throwing children into a pool of lies is the worst. I just wish that more honesty in the beginning would have been considered. Especially for the sake of the children.

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    6. Hi Steve: even though I can't manage a face-to-face reunion at the moment, I have tried everything you have suggested. I keep coming up empty. I'm registered with every registry you can think of...no one from my first family has ever signed up. Find a Grave yielded nothing. All of the names I found seem to have disappeared after I was born. Not sure how to check European death records?

      My original surname is not a common one. I may have to contact privately anyone on Facebook with that name and state my case. Kind of like the old idea of looking in the phone book and calling everyone with your birth name. And then there's DNA. So, there are still avenues to pursue. Thanks!!!

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    7. Julia Emily, I completely understand why you wouldn't feel up to managing a face-to-face reunion at the moment, although as you've said yourself, time may have already run out for a meeting with your first mother, her being almost as old as your adoptive parents.

      From my perspective, by withholding information that is rightfully yours, your adoptive parents have forfeited any obligations you might otherwise have had to them.

      You asked "What am I to do with with these two people?" I can't answer that. Although a couple of suggestions spring to mind that wouldn't be printable here!

      All I can say is you've been so patient for so many years, I guess you might as well continue waiting. They do say "everything comes to he who waits".
      That may or may not turn out to be true for you. I have read that on average only 1 in 10 people lives beyond the age of 95, so if you continue to serve your adoptive parents' needs a little longer, you may eventually get what you want without upsetting the applecart.

      Elizabeth, first mother

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  26. @Chris -- " Furthermore, unless the adoptee is sure his/her adoptive parents would want to share the reunion experience, it may be best to let a-parents know after the event has passed" -

    - this sounds like a good plan, but in reality, it is hard to discern if your aparents would want to share the reunion experience or would feel hurt for being left out. For me, my mother was actually living with my husband, me and my kids at the time and it felt wrong to withhold it from her. I mistakenly believed she would want to share in the experience. I had this dream scenario that my amom and birth mom would meet and it would be great. They did meet and it was awkward and surreal. We all sat down at a dinner table together and got through dinner talking about the weather and politics. LOL

    However, as I mention in the full essay at Lost Daughters, I underestimated my amom's insecurity, possessiveness and inability to really accept my birth family and later, the changes my reunion caused in me.

    I have learned from the past. I am currently seeking my birth father and have kept this mostly to myself. My amom knows I am seeking him, but she is not privy to these details like she was the first go-round. I currently do not have a relationship with my birth mother because she has not been honest with me about my birth father. I believe there would have been no way for me to have foreseen either of these outcomes. It is what it is and I have no regrets, either way.

    Thank you, Lorraine, for discussing my blog and for mentioning the Lost Daughters Anthology.

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  27. Hi Elizabeth: what a tangled web this is! My God!

    So many people here on FMF have offered great suggestions, and more than that, some strong support. Thank you for your words of support as well.

    The whole thing probably could have played out differently. My AP's certainly could have been more honest, forthcoming, and supportive. Honestly, they are not in tune with me at all. Like I said, we never were able to get deep into anything. Had I not been so brainwashed, for want of a better word, all my life...I might have seen the light earlier than I did. They would have been younger, stronger, maybe more receptive? Maybe we could have approached this back when there were no other issues. Who knows? I can't turn back the clock.

    At this very late stage in their lives I am all they have. All of their family members are gone. So, I am the sole caretaker and their lives revolve around me. Of course they would never think they did anything wrong over the years. Withholding information, comments, negativity towards my first mother and my background...they see nothing wrong with this. Or they never would have behaved that way in the first place.

    But, as I see them deteriorate due to so many medical issues I can not list them here, I have to stand fast to my belief that now is not the time to bring this up. There is nothing to be gained by it. It will destroy them, it will stress me to the max, and things will be even worse.

    Thank God for the internet. I am chipping away at this using every resource I can think of, and I am slowly getting results. That will have to do for now. It's more information than I ever had before. I try to look at it that way.

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  28. Claudette....I wish I had something more by way of advice to offer you. Yours is a complicated situation. Everyone involved has a different angle from which to approach this. And I agree.....the children are now involved in the lies, etc., which is never a good thing.

    I know one reunion story first-hand. It turned out terrible. I know of 2 adoptees who are estranged from their adoptive families, probably because they searched for their first families. I know a black market adoptee who had a terrible life, filled with lies and deceit, and now found her first father's family. She says she was free to do so because her AP's are deceased. And at least the first father's family, for the most part, is talking to her.

    Where am I going with this? God knows. All I do know is reunion, no matter which side one is on, is a very complex, emotional thing. There are no rules. No one can be pushed into it.. What works for one does not work for another. If reunion didn't present so many problems, Jane and Lorraine never would have posted this to begin with!

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  29. Julia Emily: I feel a little weird writing to you with continual advice, since I realize you are already drowning in this issue. But I don't want you to miss an opportunity.

    You mentioned that your surname is uncommon. There is a website called http://www.weddingchannel.com/

    Perhaps someone got married and you can track them there. Some of the listings have links to wedding websites. Maybe you can find a second or third cousin, and work backwards. You could also go to google or yahoo and type the family surname followed by the words "wedding website." And if you know your maternal grandmother's maiden name, and it is also uncommon, then you could try that as well.

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    1. JE: In the pre-internet days, calling everyone in the country with the same surname is often how people found each other. It was difficult and painstaking, but there was no other way to do it. I am looking for ...relatives of....tk....who lived in tk during tk decade....I forgot how you knew she left the country. And all the ideas above and below (from Steve and Maryanne) are good ones. We will all be pulling for you.

      TK--editing shorthand for "to come." Or 2 kum.

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  30. More advice here on things to try, but feel free to ignore until you are less stressed. Have you run your grandparents names and any other names from that old census through the Social Security Death index? If you think your grandparents were immigrants, have you looked at the Ellis Island website and data base? If you have not already checked these, you might get lucky.

    Do you know what ethnic background the unusual name came from? Do lots of googling on that name. My son's birthfather is Hungarian, born there, with a name so unusual the only things that come up on google are himself and his late father who had the same name. One site says he is the only person with that first and last name in the US.

    There are search groups in several foreign countries if your search leads there, Ireland, England, Spain, and Germany come to mind. There may be more. Try some search angels who have more information and can advise you.

    Again, good luck in your efforts and don't give up.

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