' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Thanksgiving: Finding something to be thankful for when we're feeling low

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving: Finding something to be thankful for when we're feeling low

Lorraine,surrounded by brother, sister-in-law, nieces and husband, T'giving  2014
It's that time of the year again when all the family that we miss comes leaping out of the background to appear front and center in our hearts and minds. It can't be helped. While we are trying to focus on what we are truly thankful for, we find ourselves thinking about what and who is missing.

I'm no different. 

This year my brother and his wife are driving from Michigan for Thanksgiving. They are picking up my two nieces in Manhattan (one in art school there, the other just back from Thailand) and
nephew (who has some sort of computer company) and driving out to Sag Harbor for a couple of days. The son's girl friend is arriving later. Did I mention the two dogs? It's been several years since I've had Thanksgiving dinner with any member of my immediate family and I'm thrilled they are coming.

Lorraine and Jane, 1983
My own daughter's last Thanksgiving was in Wisconsin, I was here, and she and I were on the phone multiple times that day. She used our recipe for brine (apple juice and cup of brandy, salt) and cooked the turkey in her adoptive parents' roaster, which daughter Jane and I agreed had a certain symmetry. I called her in the morning, she called after she put the turkey in, we spoke while our turkeys were roasting, and again after dessert. Somewhere in there, she spent a long time on the phone with Tony's son. Less than a month later, she was dead. 

But Jane's life was so troubled with physical problems (seizures and the effects of anti-seizure meds) and emotional turbulence that in some ways it is a wonder that she lived as long as she did. When her adoptive father called the epilepsy foundation in Madison, Wisconsin where she lived, and informed the director there, who knew Jane from a fund-raiser she held for the organization, he said: She lasted longer than most. 

Epilepsy is a hard disease to have, and the rate of suicide among epileptics is significant. Then there is the adoption. The rate of suicide among adoptees is difficult to calculate since records do not record them as such, and because people don't talk about them in relation to adoption except anecdotally, but we do know that adoptees have higher rates of suicidal thoughts and other mental problems.  Where there is smoke....

Do I wish I was surrounded by more members of my family? Certainly. One granddaughter--who Jane relinquished to adoption despite my best efforts to stop it--and I have no communication at her behest, and haven't for a couple of years. The other granddaughter is a joy to my life, but she is at school in northern Michigan. I'll call her Thanksgiving morning. She's planning to visit this summer with her boy friend. A good thing.

But while this Thanksgiving sounds like all gloom and doom--and to be honest I didn't expect this post to come out the way it did--the words I'm hearing in my mind go like this: Everyone's got something. Life is what it is. Some of us seem to have an easier time getting through, but everyone's got something. Life is happy and glad and sad and blue. So while I'm feeling sad and blue now, right this moment, I'm going to pick myself up, make my crust for the pumpkin pies today, and get outside and see if my new and improved replacement ankle is up to raking a few leaves with my husband. If I can handle it, the sheer physical work will improve my mood. 

I look forward to seeing my brother and family, and the dogs, and Thanksgiving morning I will put my pies in the oven, set the table with the good silverware and dishes, put on lipstick and raise a glass in thanks to be surrounded by people I love and who love me. True, life is not all good, but I have my own reasons to be thankful. If you search for a moment, so will all of you: first mothers, first fathers, adoptees lost and found, adoptees still searching, adoptees even facing rejection, adoptive parents too, even those who are infertile and find themselves here at FMF. 

Yes, we've all got something. Something sad, that is true, but also someone to be glad and thankful for. Let us all appreciate the people in our lives who are meaningful to us. Let us all find our own reasons to be thankful.--lorraine
______________________________
From FMF
Adoptees more likely to commit suicide
Adoption and Mental Illness: The facts ain't pretty

and today from Australia
Family demands answers after finding out about Karmah Jayne Hall's suicide in foster care on Facebook

To Read
The Adoption Reader: Birth Mothers, Adoptive Mothers, and Adopted Daughters Tell Their Stories
"This compilation of essays - beginning with birth mothers, then adoptive mothers, and finally the adopted daughters - goes above and beyond the usual "magazine style" articles on the quirks or perils of the adoption process. I was incredibly pleased and impressed by the diversity of Wadia-Ells' collection. Lesbian women, multi-racial families, and a variety of socio-economic backgrounds all lend to this book a wealth of perspectives. The contributors are thoughtful, often in emotional pain, honest about their experiences, and each one is a talented writer."The one thing that did emerge most clearly from this work was the overall tone that adoption was an incredibly painful thing for all parties involved. The more positive essays were from the adoptive moms - birth moms and adopted daughters were obviously struggling to make sense out of their experiences."--Courtney at Amazon 

It's an amazing collection. Full disclosure: Lorraine has the first essay in the book. 

THANK YOU FOR ORDERING ANYTHING THROUGH FMF. 








49 comments :

  1. This is beautiful, Lorraine. You're so right; everyone has something. I, too, am grateful for my family and for the other "birth" moms I've met online. This blog is an oasis, a community, a sisterhood, a lifeline. Thank you to you and Jane for all you do. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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  2. I hope your post inspires me! Right now all I can think if that I am truly thankful for is my two girls. Never a moment's trouble. On their way to becoming career women. My only two blood relatives.

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  3. What a beautiful post. Happy Thanksgiving.

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  4. I am thankful for my cousin and her family. They have helped me more than anyone in recent years and been there for me when I needed them.

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  5. Beautifully said. ((hugs)) from across the Sound.

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  6. Yes, I can't wait for the holidays to be over!

    I peeked at my father's second ex wife's account on facebook and saw that she was heading up to his place to spend thanksgiving with him and their two children. I know he's happy, with the family he wants to be with. Me and his 4 grandchildren have no place in his life. He believes my adoption was the best thing he ever did for me.

    I have no idea what my mother is doing. I invited her last year for Thanksgiving. "No thank you", was her only reply.

    I will celebrate with my adoptive mother, age 85 (she lives with us),my husband, son and 2 daughters. My oldest daughter (27) lives in California. I'll make a nice dinner, and we will have a nice time, but I won't really be happy. I never am.

    I'll miss my mother and father on Thanksgiving. I spent my first Thanksgiving in my foster home. I have no idea where that was, and I'm not allowed to know. I'll miss all the Thanksgivings that I never got to spend with my grandparents. My paternal grandparents had a big house and entertained often.

    I wish i could have one second where adoption isn't part of my life. I can't wait for the holidays to be over.

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    1. So sorry, Autumn. I don't understand women like your First Mother. Her "No thank you" without more explanation sounds hurtful.

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    2. ....but I also know a woman whose mother--we are not talking adoption--didn't even respond to her daughter's text. They haven't seen each other in a couple of years though they do not live very far apart.

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    3. I'm so sorry to read this Autumn. I hope that someday your parents will understand and open their hearts.

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  7. Autumn, I am sorry you have been rejected like this. What a shame. I would never be able to handle it. I want the holidays to be over, too. I guess we will just muddle through it as best we can.

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  8. I am grateful for all of my children, near and far, and for their wives. I am especially grateful that I have a relationship with my surrendered son, and know that he is well and happy. I am grateful for my husband who puts up with me, my cats, my new grand-nephew whom I will meet soon, the first of the new generation. I am grateful to be seeing my brother and family in AZ next week. I am grateful to be healthier than many my age.

    Today, I am grateful not to have to go out in the snow and that we are just having a small dinner at home tomorrow, me, my husband, and son who lives with us.

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    1. It's pouring cats and dogs where I am. No snow, but my brother is driving through NJ as I write.

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  9. Truly Wonderful PeepNovember 26, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    This time of year is around the same time I found my son, some 6 years ago. My sheer joy at finding him turned into utter despair after our failed reunion- thanks to his selfish, possessive, hateful adoptive family, (that I happened to CHOOSE, btw in what turned out to be a bogus open adoption). It gets a bit easier year after year but it always brings back painful memories of what could have been. I am sure they all sit around the table each Thanksgiving and marvel at my child, not giving a second thought to the devastation their lies caused his mother ~ which is not the lady cooking his Thanksgiving dinner this year, or any other year for that matter.

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    1. No one cares, believe that. Not even places you go for support. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

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  10. Dear Lorraine,

    Your Thanksgiving post this time last year offered me comfort as I worried about my foster daughter and her mother, homeless and on the streets. Shortly after I read that post, Nina and Rayna made contact with us and we indulged in a delightful, grateful, Thanksgiving together.

    This year, my heart is filled with sadness as I think of how Rayna abruptly changed her mind about us and now regards us as unwelcome in her and Nina's lives. Yet I read your wonderful post and I know that I will take the time to wish them well, wherever they are, and to cherish the people who do still want to grace my life, who love me and are loved in return. This is a time to be grateful, indeed.

    And Julia Emily, kudos to you for raising two wonderful young women despite your own feelings of being adrift. Hugs, and I hope you make some good memories with them this holiday season.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all!
    Jay

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    1. Jay,
      I wish you had been able to adopt Nina or at least continue to raise her as a foster daughter. The story you describe, that she and her n-mother are homeless and I believe you mentioned in a post long ago that Rayna is suffering from mental health issues, makes Nina sound like a child in need of a stable family. Even the Origins pamphlet agrees that homelessness is one of the few circumstances where adoption is in the best interest of the child.

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    2. Robin,

      I do not think we should have adopted, or even continued to foster, Nina. Even during times when I desperately wanted her to be my daughter, I was never able to picture Nina being raised away from her mother. Nina is all Rayna has, Rayna loves her dearly, and my husband and I were never able to regard them as anything but a unit, always to be kept together.

      Having said the above, I do worry a lot about stability in Nina’s life. Rayna needs a LOT of support to parent Nina, and my husband and I committed a lot of time and resources to providing her just that (Rayna will never be able to hold down a steady job, afford a place to live, etc.). For years, while she lived near us, I felt Nina’s situation was ideal. She got to form a bonded, mother-daughter relationship with her mother and half-siblings, and she had a sense of groundedness in her frequent visits with us. I feel that we were a good support to Rayna too. In addition, there was the relative in whose home Rayna, Nina and Nina’s half-siblings lived for the past 5 years. You are right that Nina would not have been returned to Rayna, had she been homeless. It was the goodness of a relative that provided her the home and, therefore, the ability to reunite with Nina.

      Sadly, that relationship fell apart and Rayna became homeless again – so my husband and I stepped in and were on our way to getting her back on her feet. The day Rayna told me she never wanted to hear from me again, I had found her a place to live so she could move out of the homeless shelter. Unfortunately, some folks at the shelter told her the reason I was helping her is because I wanted to take Nina from her.

      The last words Nina said to me were, “Never move from this house – ever.” I believe she will want to find the familiar comfort of our home again, the one thing that has stayed constant in her life. She also gave me her favorite stuffed animal, a husky, and asked me to keep it for her until she returns. I hope, someday, she gets to see that we (and our house, and her room, and her husky, and hundreds of photographs and memorabilia) are still there for her, a record of the first seven years of her life.

      In March of this year, I believe Rayna and Nina moved to a faraway state to live with the only relative she has a positive relationship with, a brother with whom she is very close. Nina is growing up with her cousins, and Rayna’s brother has an intimate knowledge of Rayna’s mental health issues and how to handle them. So, I am hopeful that there is some stability for Nina. If that situation falls apart and it becomes clear that Rayna should not raise Nina, I would recommend that she be raised with her half-siblings, with us providing support and visiting frequently. If that does not work, then we would offer to provide Nina a home as her legal guardians. But it would feel wrong to adopt Nina, we are unable to regard anyone besides Rayna as her parent (even with all of Rayna’s shortcomings).

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    3. Jay, your posts about the Rayna/Nina situation are truly heart-breaking, and always show how you understand the mother/child/extended family connection. It is likely that people did suspect your motives and convinced Rayna that you were only helping her to get Nina, when the opposite would be true. The more stability Rayna could provide, the less likely Nina would be with you.
      xx

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    4. Lorraine, when Rayna first said she wanted nothing to do with me, it came so abruptly I was floored - and terribly hurt. She said, "I have been talking with my friends here at the shelter about all you are doing for me....and, you know what? I want nothing to do with you! Good-bye!" I was mostly stunned after that rant and begged her to not do this to herself and Nina. No response. Later, my social worker friend said it is very difficult for many homeless people to believe that true kindness exists -they are often suspicious. Or, they don't like to see some of the group getting uplifted from their situation and could even have been resentful that Rayna and Nina were getting so much assistance from us.

      Anyhow, it is what it is and I hope Rayna has found stability for Nina - and I will always hope that I get to see them again some day.

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  11. Thanks, Jay, I wondered what had happened to you--and now I know and am glad to hear from you again. I'm sorry to hear about Rayna's decision to cut you out of her life as well as Nina's.

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  12. Jay, I am so sorry. I can't imagine how you feel. Hugs.

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    1. Thanks, Julia Emily. One of the reasons I value this forum is because I feel there are many who understand how it is to go through life feeling "incomplete" because you are separated from a parent or a child. I love Nina intensely, like a daughter - hard to explain, but when I hold her in my arms my heart feels complete. At all other times, there is a void, one that I know many on this forum can relate to.

      My husband has encouraged me to call some of Rayna's family members because he misses them terribly too. But I am afraid to be more hurt and do not have the courage to make that call. Instead, I am trying to focus on the loved ones who do want to be around me.

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  13. Yes, we've all got something... a beautiful post, Lorraine! Thanks for the reminder.

    Though I'm not feeling well, physically or emotionally, some sort of turkey dinner will hit the table tomorrow. I'm sure it will be tasty. Along with Mr. B and our youngest son, we'll welcome a friend who needs to sit down at a family table with longtime friends/family of choice who care for her. She and I have much in common--a love for books, for one, and a pair of snotty bsibs each who exclude us from everything possible.

    When I mix my pie pastry a little later, I will use Lorraine's secret ingredient... a little Wondra in place of part of the flour. FMF, as well as Lorraine's and Jane's and the extended FMF community wisdom, now is with me in large ways and small, always.

    And may we all find something for which to give thanks this year.

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  14. Beautifully written - we all have something. We are united by this thing. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

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  15. Beautiful post Lorraine! Happy Thanksgiving to all here! Unfortunately, my reunion did not go well at all either - thank you adoptive mother...

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  16. Well, Thanksgiving came and went. Everyone , especially my adoptive parents, had a great time, enjoyed seeing one another, and loved the food (thank God!). And I put on an academy award-winning performance. This was the first holiday ever where I sat surrounded by "family" knowing that my first mother actually had a name, went to a particular school, and had a career. I could actually think and wonder about her as a person....not just "the girl." It was a weird feeling. If, by some very slim chance, she is still living somewhere, well into her 90's, I hope she had a good day. And I wonder if she thought about me....

    Thank goodness for my two daughters. They don't understand it fully, but they got me through this.

    Thanks for listening, everyone!

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    1. At least you were able to enjoy the ones you were with, and this time with at least knowledge of your mother. Glad to hear it.

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    2. If she is still alive, she will have thought of you.

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    3. Julia Emily, I am so glad you could hold concrete thoughts of your mother in your heart and mind as you set your Thanksgiving table this year. I have no doubt your mother did the same.

      I too had a small bonus this Thanksgiving: a text message from some of Rayna's family members saying they are thinking of me and wishing me and my loved ones a happy Thanksgiving. The text warmed my heart and also made me feel comforted that Rayna and Nina are probably doing OK, wherever they are. Although Rayna has asked them not to talk to me about her and Nina, I think that if they were in serious trouble, the family would have informed me.

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    4. Jay, It's been a busy time for me with the family and while I have been posting comments, this is the first time in two days I've had time to relax, and I read over your comment again and I am so glad that you did year from her family. That text probably means what you think. Many blessings to you and your family.

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    5. Jay, I am glad you heard from some of the family members. I am with you....if anything was terribly wrong you would have been informed. Holidays are tough!!

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    6. I love how supported I feel on this forum, especially through the holiday season.

      BTW, Lorraine, what a a lovely picture of your family gathering at Thanksgiving!

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    7. Thanks Jay. I was so glad to have them to celebrate the holiday, for it has been a long time since I was able to do that. Since my mother died, I visit Michigan less and see my siblings less than I did before.

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  17. Well, I didn't make it through the holiday without seeing some mention of adoption. Robin Roberts hosted a special called "Thank You, America" and the first segment was about the Neal family of St. Cloud, MN who have 2 biological children, 6 adopted children and were foster parents to 92 other children. They did seem like very caring people but there were some aspects of the show that disturbed me. First of all, several of the adopted children made videos thanking their mommy and daddy for adopting them. I found it objectionable that minor children were put on television expressing their gratitude to their parents. I have never seen or heard of a bio-kid saying something like "Thank you for giving birth to me and raising me". It would seem bizarre. And the dynamic of gratitude between a parent and child is an unhealthy one, imo.

    But I'm sure most of America eats this stuff up. Especially when the show awarded the couple the $15,000 they need to bring home a boy from Africa with cerebral palsy. I wonder if anyone else questioned just what exactly the $15,000 was needed for. In other words, in whose hands will that money end up?

    I should stress that the adopted children had been in foster care and that two of them had very serious health problems. It did make me wonder, though, if the parents of the two very ill children felt that they had to give them up because they couldn't afford the child's medical care. I wonder if people in countries that have universal health care feel they have no recourse but to relinquish their children. 60 minutes did a segment once about the limited mental health care services we have in the U.S. and one of the mothers of a child with mental health problems was advised to terminate her parental rights so that her daughter could be covered by Medicaid. She refused, but it is tragic that severing one's rights to their own child is the only option we seem to offer in this country.

    I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving (or at least as much as possible).


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    1. Bering urged to terminate parental rights in order to get medical care is disgusting and immoral. What kind of country is this?

      I can post a picture here but I found an amazing sign on the gift table at the local TJ Maxx the other day>..An outline of a dog's face with the words: Go ahead, you can tell me, am I adopted?

      In what universe does that make sense?

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    2. I somehow end up punishing myself reading cringe-worthy stories throughout National Adoption Month. Don't know why I do it as it does nothing but make me realize the long list of misconceptions is still alive and well.

      This story, however, although sad in parts, made me feel uplifted (and I thought of Robin and Julia Emily as I read it). Here is the link:

      http://www.chicagonow.com/portrait-of-an-adoption/2014/11/the-walls-of-mistrust-started-falling-without-our-noticing-it/

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    3. Thanks for the link, Jay. That story made me cry and cry. It was overwhelming. I think in our hearts that's what most adoptees are looking for when they search; to be treated the way Robert's grandfather treated him, as he wrote..." My octogenarian grandfather told my father, “He’s one of us, that’s all that matters.”

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    4. I saw some other story this evening about two children who were adopted. It really seems as if it is just everywhere, and every time--even when I know the adoption was for a good reason--it reminds me, Oh, the mother was in trouble. Like me.

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    5. Great story, Jay. certainly gives me hope, however small. There must be somebody out there related to me. At this point, I guess I will wait for any future DNA matches. But, I am a lot further along than I ever was.

      This story was heartwarming. Reunion is very difficult, but these brothers somehow worked through it. And everyone should have a grandfather as wise as these brother had. Wow.

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    6. Robin and Julia Emily, as the mother of an adoptee, I fervently wish for life to come full circle for all of you, like it did for the two brothers in the story.

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  18. Correction: I cannot post a picture here...

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  19. So glad your brother and his family could join you Lo. It's been a long time I know. We toasted you all and missed taking the-oh-my-God-I-ate-so-much-I-have-to-walk-this-off-stroll-to-the-harbor.

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    1. Ev: Hey, thanks! I was a good visit. Dad (Tony) is outside raking leaves. Hope you had a good day too.

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  20. I received a picture frame with a similar saying on it as a gift a while back. I am supposed to put my dog's photo in it. I donated it along with other junk to the local thrift shop. Who thinks of this stuff?

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  21. re: sidebar the New York Times article--Adoptees Like Me

    "Here’s the thing: Many adoptees don’t feel at home — ever, anywhere."

    This is my favorite line in the article. It gets to the crux of the matter. A child being raised in his bio-family knows that even if he doesn't feel he fits in, even if his parents are total yahoos, he still belongs. While for adopted persons, there is always a question mark hanging over their head as to whether or not they really belong in the family. Many (most?) adoptees have an adoptive relative (or several) who never fully accept them as family. And the larger society often doesn't either, as in...The first time an adoptee tells someone s/he's adopted the other person often responds with "Oh, so those aren't your REAL parents." Or insulting things like the sign Lorraine saw at TJ Maxx with the dog's face. And reunion usually doesn't solve the problem of not feeling at home, either. Even if the adoptee is not outright rejected by the original family, few of us can go back and become a member of the family as if we had never left.

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    1. Robin, this is why I am glad Nina is growing up in the intimate umbrella of her natural mother. It will help her understand herself and how she came to be who she is. I know there is instability, but I have hope that there is sufficient support so she is not seriously endangered. Even the relatives who have cut themselves off from Rayna are finding ways to maintain some contact, so they can keep tabs on Nina.

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  22. No, it can never be as if we had never given up a child, and years did not intervene when we were apart living lives of enforced separation. I cannot speak for adoptees, but as a mother, I feel that being reunited has fixed quite a bit. Learning it can never be the same as if you had raised that child is a hard thing to accept and it hurts. But once I accepted that, I felt thankful and free to appreciate the different relationship we do have. I am very thankful that I heard from ALL of my sons this Thanksgiving, and know where they are and what they are doing. That is no small thing, not the whole pie but a very tasty slice:-)

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    1. All you say is so true. It takes a while to accept that reunion fixes quite a bit but doesn't erase the past. Of course it can't. We all have our own histories and we are the product them them, as well as biology. Being thankful for what and who we do have is the way.

      I'm sorry that one granddaughter has rejected me--while she stays in touch with a friend of mine--but sadness has largely given way to acceptance. I called my other granddaughter--she expected me to--in the morning and spoke to my alternate universe daughter to, a friendship, and closeness, that continues as strong as ever.

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