|Woman at work|
So everyone was going on instinct--let's do the best for "our" daughter, and the weekend went smoothly.
What went so right? My daughter Jane's parents were welcoming me into their home. This let my daughter--who was 15 at the time--see that it might be possible to have a relationship with both kinds of parents: those who raised her,
and the woman who bore her. That is not to say that she wasn't under some stress to show her parents that she would not be disloyal to them, especially her mother, but their acceptance of me made it easier for her. We met at the airport, and naturally one of her parents (her father) was present, and so she had decided to put her hands in her back pockets when I hugged her upon greeting. She told me later that she had blocked out this scene because she knew her father would be watching and felt the need to be initially standoffish. "I wanted to hug you," she said, "but I felt that would hurt my dad."
Sure, I would have liked a big hug, right away, but I was just thrilled to be there--and I too was aware that we were being observed--so I went with the flow and did not get bothered by that. I simply noted it.
STUNNED AT HOW MUCH I LOOKED LIKE 'HER' DAUGHTER
Her mother--call her Ann--I would later learn, was of course fearful of my arrival--at the same time she knew it was best for Jane. So there was no immediate hug from her, and and I felt as if she were inspecting me like a side of beef. Okay, we were both checking each other out. She was stunned by how much "her" daughter looked like "her" other mother; naturally, I had no such reaction to her--I would have been surprised if she looked like Jane!
Later I would learn that Ann heard from people she worked with: I wouldn't let that woman come. What does she want? However, one of Ann's closest friends was in favor of our meeting--because she understood that Jane had a lot of problems (multiple grande mal seizures, low self-esteem, falling behind in school, social awkwardness), and that perhaps meeting me would be good for Jane. Good for Jane. Good for the girl. Just plain Good.
In most circumstances, that the adoptee will benefit from meeting their biological parents, and see them graciously be accepted by the adoptive parents, is what far too many adoptive parents ignore. Instead they are reluctant to deal with the reality of the adoptee's original life and very existence. Since the adopted person did not come by stork or divine intervention, but does have a past that goes back generations, accepting the real live people who brought the adoptee into the world signifies that adopted individual is fully and completely accepted by their adoptive parents. Reject the natural/biological/birth family, and adoptive parents are rejecting the adoptee. No matter what else they say or do. The message is: You're okay, but your mother and father and et cetera? They are trash. They don't count. But you aren't like them....
I don't recall Ann or Jane's father ever referring to me as the "birth mother, " but if they did, it did not make much of an impact. There are things not getting worked up over. In conversation with each other over the years, Ann and I simply referred to each other as Jane's "mother." I do not know how she referred to me when I was absent; fair to say, probably "birth mother." I always referred to her as Jane's "adoptive mother" or "other mother," which seems a tad softer and nicer. When we spoke of Jane, she called her "our" daughter. Bless her for that.
THROW OUT THE 'BIRTH' PARENTS...THROW OUT THE BABY
We know that today many younger adoptive parents are not people who reject the natural/birth parents, and make an effort to include the biological parents however they can. We also know that some first mothers (and fathers) cannot deal with seeing their children grow up in a different family, or just seem not to be that interested. We are aware that some adoptive parents wish to include the natural mother in the lives of their children, but the mothers are distant, or disappear. For some, continued contact is too emotionally roiling. Others just bail. About that, no one can do anything; it must come from the mother herself. But we also know that there are legions of adoptive parents who make reunion difficult; who cut off all communication about an adoptee's heritage and beginnings, who, for all extent and purposes, make that adoptee's life an emotional hell. Mental slavery I'd call it.
Why do that if you truly love the individual?
One last thing (as far as this post is concerned) in 1981 when my daughter and I reunited, the language her parents used was not steeped in the PC pro-AP (politically correct, pro-adoptive parent) language of today. I was not called a "birth" mother; they did not expect me to evaporate after Jane and I met, and in fact, she spent several of the next summers living with us, arriving a day or two after school got out; they did not "thank" me for the "gift" of my daughter, nor did they praise my "braveness" and "courage" in having a child and not aborting her. Well, that would have been absurd because they would shortly learn that I had tried to have an abortion but because it was illegal, was not able to.
BABIES ARE NOT 'GIFTS'
But a gift? Thanking me? Thank god Jane's parents didn't thank me--I wouldn't have known how to react, but I sure would have known something was off. My daughter was not something I bought at Tiffany's and had shipped to you! Thanking me is not appropriate! I gave up my child in pain and sorrow and did what I felt I had to. Appreciate his or her specialness and individuality, but don't thank me or act like I did it to please you, the way I might bring over a homemade cake for your birthday. Not since slaves were transferred to another people were real life human beings "gifts." Nor was giving up my child the "brave, courageous" thing to do; first mothers give up their babies only because they are desperate and see no way to keep them.
Adoption "plan"? You've got to be kidding. Maybe the agency was dealing with a pregnant woman's or teen's "adoption plan," but that pregnant woman was drowning, no matter how clear and calm a veneer she presented to you, dear social worker, dear prospective parent. If you are a person considering adopting today, scrub your language of the stuff you hear at the agency, and look for a prospective mother from those who are nearby--that way the likelihood that the adopted child will have contact with his first mother is enhanced. If she is from a distant state, visiting will be much more difficult--and so consider the impact of that on the child.
Yet that is what the agency-approved PC language of today inspires. Consider this email a first mother friend recently received from an adoptive mother who is also a friend of hers:
"Tomorrow my little boy will be 9 years old. 9 years on this Earth. 9 years of joy and happiness in our family... I want to take this opportunity to thank his birth mother for the courageous and difficult decision she made. I hope she has no regrets. If I could tell her how amazing he is and how he fills us up each and every day and how words can't express how much I love him and how I will be forever thankful for the gift she gave us... I would tell her over and over again. So happy birthday (name of child), and blessings to the one who I know is thinking of him now... He is smart and polite and curious and loving and one of the best things that ever happened to my life... Sigh..."This is just so wrong. My friend noted to me she wondered how the woman would feel if she had to deal with a real, live mother--as this AP does not.--lorraine
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In a totally unrelated piece of news: There is a soap box derby today on our street which has a straightaway and a good incline. Fifty-one contestants! Several heats! Rolling right past our front door. Tony and I are going to have a front seat on this event, which draws hundred of spectators. Start time in less that two hours. I can't wait.
We have never before so directly addressed a post to adoptive parents but we do know they are among our readers, and after considering the impact of adoptive-parent rejection of their children's first parents (and the difficulties of Julia Emily and others), we decided such a post was in order. We would appreciate hearing from adoptive parents in the comments. We can learn from each other, and do our best to be kind. We are all just doing what we can to get through. Life isn't easy.
The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Verrier
The author is a mother, both by adoption and biology. In some ways, this is a tough book for both kinds of parents to read, but it is full of nuggets that may help both kinds of parents understand the adoptee. Some find it controversial, and her main theory--that adoption is a kind of primal wound--specious. I found the book very informative and useful. I sent a copy to Jane's parents. I do not know if they read it, because we never discussed it.
Adoption: Uncharted Waters by David Kirschner
Talk about controversial! This book is it. But eye-opening.
"A must read. I found the book interesting, intriguing and well-supported by well-known members of the adoption community." --Adoption Today Magazine, August/September, 2006.
"Kirschner brings attention to the concept of Adopted Child Syndrome, which is bred through lies and fantasies about birth parents." --Fostering Families Today Magazine, July/August, 2006.
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