' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Telling your children about their adopted sibling

Monday, January 19, 2015

Telling your children about their adopted sibling

Jane
When my lost daughter Rebecca contacted me, I was faced with telling my other daughters, ages 25, 23, and 20 about their half sister. I could have not done so of course, but I wanted to have a relationship with Rebecca. I recognized how awkward it would be to keep her a secret. How to explain long telephone calls, hours on the computer writing emails, trips out of town. If she remained a secret, she would not be able to visit. More fundamentally I realized that it would be unfair to Rebecca to keep her a secret as though I was ashamed of her.

She asked me several times during our initials correspondence if I had told my daughters about her. She was curious about them; perhaps her interest went beyond curiosity reflecting a natural desire to connect with those to whom she was related biologically.

It was not easy to tell my daughters about their sister -- in fact it was damn hard. Like telling others when you found out you were pregnant by a man whom you would not marry. All the shame, embarrassment had not dissipated in the 31 years since Rebecca's birth. I told my daughters them straight out --"there's a woman I've been talking to--she's your sister." Later I learned they thought I was going to tell them I was gay.

THE SECRET WEIGHS ON YOU
I had thought about telling my daughters over the years when I thought about searching but had decided against it-- no point, I thought, unless I actually found her. Very few members of my family knew about my first daughter. If I told my raised daughters about their half sister, they would undoubtedly mention it to my mother, siblings, cousins, and their father's--my husband's family. In retrospect, it would have been better if I had been open with everyone from the beginning. But that was not easy in the days when a big reason for adoption was secrecy.

And by not telling anyone, I also had to guard myself to the possibility that Rebecca might find me. In fact she began searching when she was 19. I really did not think through all the implications of keeping this secret. Perhaps there would be a stranger at the door, a phone call--that I would have to explain or begin a series of lies. Perhaps Rebecca would find out about my daughters and contact them directly. How would I explain that their mysterious caller was not a deranged stranger but their sister?

At the time I don't think I realized how heavily my secret weighed on me. I was often distracted for reasons I would not explain to others. "What are you thinking about, Mom?"  "Oh, nothing," I'd answer.  I would search my daughters faces looking for a resemblance to the baby I last saw when she was two days old. "Why are you staring at me?" I'm not," I'd answer.

Post-adoption counselors advise telling your children and family members once you embark on a search. Carol Schaefer wrote in her pioneering search-and-reunion book The Other Mother:

"[The counselors] advised me to think about telling [sons] Brett and Kip and the rest of my family that I was actively searching now for a child I had given up for adoption. Otherwise, the kids would wonder why I was so distracted and sometimes on edge. They might blame themselves. Also, I might get an important call that I would want them to be sure to relay. There was, as well, the chance that my son was searching for me."

Within a few days Carol told Brett, 12 and Kip, 9 about their older brother.
"Brett was old enough to grasp the full significance of what I was saying. Having full knowledge of and a keen seventh-grade interest in the birds and the bees, the implications were not lost on him....It was obvious from his expression that his first reaction was shock. And then he looked at me and said 'Mom, that must have been so awful for you.'
Carol's new book 
"I looked over at Kip, whose eyes were wide, and watched as the news sank in. I knew as I saw the love and compassion on their faces that this was my finest, most thrilling and rewarding moment as a mother. Nothing would ever make me so proud as their spontaneous reaction just had. Their first question was, 'Do you think he could be John Elway?'"
Other mothers tell me much the same thing--their children are excited to have an older sibling. Many told their children as early as they can, and the common reaction is to always want to meet him or her. Often the only negative reaction is from the oldest raised child who feels displaced. Or from a son raised with three sisters who learns there's an older brother and he's not the only boy. These reactions are often temporary, swept away by the excitement of having a new sibling.

I WAITED--AND BIT THE BULLET
Since I waited until Rebecca found me, my daughters were grown ups by the time I told them. They weren't thrilled to learn about their half sister, but they accepted the news--and her. Their relationship is cordial, not close. They've enjoyed knowing Rebecca's two grown daughters who have come to visit several times.  There was the initial shock, but letting my daughters know about Rebecca has not damaged my relationship with them.

Secrets are powerful. Secrets create enduring stress. Secrets can control where you live, who you marry, whether you have children. Secrets protect wrong-doers at the expense of their victims. Women who were sexually abused as children know this well. Members of the LGBT community know trying to hide their sexuality results in a life of quiet desperation. Truth is the only way to free yourself from secrecy's control. Many of us first mothers had little to no choice when we relinquished our children, but keeping our secret keeps us forever powerless.--jane.

FROM FMF:
Telling my family about my first child--and then going public
Should adoptees contact their siblings when first parents are reluctant?
Contacting siblings when a woman denies she is 'the' first mother
Keeping secrets in adoption can make you ill
Secrets in adoption: Dealing with betrayal of lies by omission
You are only as sick as the secrets you keep
Secrecy in reunion: How can I tell my adoptive parents? Or my other family?
TO READ
Searching ...By Carol Schaefer

..." travels through many realms. If you are a reader who is uncomfortable with so-called New Age and feminist spirituality, I urge you to stick with reading her story. Carol's journey through her spiritual evolution -- and the amazing changes that her openness invited into her life -- could give you pause for thought, always (in this educator's/writer’s opinion) a good thing....You will be reminded time and again that losing a child to adoption is a slippery and never-ending battle for self-worth, despite social feedback and life changes that would likely anchor anyone who didn’t suffer that trauma."--from a reader at Amazon
The Other Mother
"In 1965, as a pregnant, unmarried 19-year-old member of an image-conscious, Catholic, southern family, Schaefer found herself unusually hemmed in. In this emotional memoir she describes the harsh conditions imposed on her--she was sent in secrecy to a home for unwed mothers where she gave birth and atoned for her "sin" by relinquishing her newborn son. Although Schaefer married and had two more children, her longing for reunion with her first child did not abate. On his 18th birthday, she began the arduous, frustrating process of making contact with her first born, named Jack, and his adoptive family in the Los Angeles area, finally arranging a successful meeting that involved the birth father as well. This wrenching account, covering a range of adoption issues, is a moving testament to the bonding power of motherhood."--Amazon

34 comments :

  1. Jane, you are correct.....secrets are very powerful. My entire life has been and is still a secret. My adoptive parents want it this way, and I have not been able to find out any information regarding my first mother, other than her name and occupation. Much of the info search angels had found for me was incorrect. I am back to square one.

    It appears that no one is out there looking for me. I was my first mother's big secret. Over the years, had someone from my first family found me, it would have turned my life upside down. I am glad it did not happen. The fallout from my AP's alone would have been unbearable.

    I have done DNA testing with little result. I know that could change in the future. Half-siblings, if they exist, could pop up on my DNA results. If that happens, I would be open to email or, possibly, phone conversation. I would have to do so completely alone, since no one in my immediate family thinks searching is a good idea. Would I want to meet anybody? Absolutely not. I'd like medical info, possibly some details as to why events unfolded the way they did, but that would be all. I don't want siblings now. I never had them. I never wanted them. I have enough to contend with as it is.

    I am so disgusted with this whole mess, I can't begin to explain it to you. What I really want is my adoption file. Let me read about the four years of legal wrangling that took place, ending with my adoption. It is my information, and I am entitled to it. But....the court said no. I guess I am still a child who can't be trusted with her own information. Or maybe I might blackmail somebody? Adoptees are a scary bunch.

    So yes, it is hard for a first mother to finally tell her secret. But at least she has a memory of why it all happened, and can explain the situation to anyone interested enough to listen. Adoptees, on the other end of this, do not know what happened, and the entire world is against us knowing. We decided nothing. We ended up with complete strangers. We are supposed to be happy about it. Most of us are not. So when reunions implode, or relationships among relinquished and kept siblings are cordial at best....that is probably the best you could hope for. It's never going to be happily ever after.

    ReplyDelete
  2. JE: I sense the despair in your comment, and it's easy to understand why. We've been with you on your journey the last several months. But do be aware that the whole world is not against you knowing the truth--just those tradition-bound white males who rule most state legislatures. They seem determined to "protect" first mothers beyond all reason, and it makes me crazy! Do take some of that energy and writing ability and use it to continue to let Gov. Cuomo, and the legislators know what you want and why you want it. As I recall, both your assemblyman and state senator are co-sponsors of the NY open-OBC bill; thus I'd keep writing Silver and Cuomo and cc your own guys. Don't give up. Way too many adoptees get their OBCs and their interest wanes and the numbers just aren't there to drive a sledge hammer on the heads of people like Helene Weinstein, Sheldon Silver, Kemp Hannon, Gov.Cuomo...and the records stay sealed in NY.

    I too get very discouraged, after all these years--more than three decades--and I feel that until Silver resigns or is finally dethroned we are going to get nowhere. It took a such a change in NJ to get their bill.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I first mother. I have always told my children about their sibling.
    How fair would it be not to.
    In my case its a little different because my mother had 9 kids I was the youngest and I was raised in states custody for 11 years. I never met all of my siblings. I wondered about them though.
    On July 22 2014 I received and missed a call as I was leaving work. As I got in my car I called the number back and a young lady asked if I was ....Me. I said yes who is this... She in turn said my name is... I was told you was my birth mom.
    This was one of the best days of my life. She had just turned 18 and had a baby.
    I can not emphasize to others how strongly this made me feel. I cried happy tears for hours that day. We keep in touch by phone all the time and we have visited twice now. The first meeting was 2 weeks after the initial contact. It was emotional.
    I feel so blessed to have my hearts pieces back in my life.
    You are right we do what we have to do as far as adoption is concerned but it doesn't have to be a secret. I am glad I have no secrets from my kids. My children have welcomed her and they love the baby. My son wasn't thrilled about having another sister but he still cares.
    I released her identifying info. I wanted her to know who she was regardless if she contacted me. We have a right to know who we are related to, where we come from and why. I have signed petitions with the courts for them to open adoption records. It is a right that you should have.
    Best of luck to everyone searching... There is someone out there thinking about that baby they carried and gave up. It doesn't just go away...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anon: you are not an adoptee. I can try to understand first mothers, but can you understand the adoptee?
    I was raised to believe the girl (my mother) was trash. She disappeared. She held up the adoption proceedings. I still have AP's who do not want me to have any information. I have a husband who is vehemently against searching. I have a mother-in-law who proclaims " adoption ... Not abortion" at every turn, without a clue about what she is saying.. My husband does not see what this is doing to me. There are laws in place that deny me my information. I am completely alone in this. The first mother's viewpoint is completely different from that of the adoptee. Can anyone try to understand this? Or am I still banging my head against a brick wall?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally understand both side. As I stated in my post I was raised in foster care for 11 years. From 7-18. I did not know and still don't know really where I came from and who my siblings are. I get it. I have searched for my siblings. I haven't found them either. I understand....

      Delete
    2. as I stated in my post I was raised in foster care. I know how It feels not to know who you are. That's y I don't keep secrets from my kids... They have a right to know who they are and where they come from

      Delete
  5. Love this post as I can relate.

    I told my now 17 yo son ten years ago about the existence of his sister, 12 years old than him. Sadly she wanted nothing to do with us/him once we found her.

    Fast forward today, my sons suffers a serious head injury. One of the side effects is anxiety and depression and it is learned that one of the major stresses for him has been the knowing of his sister and lack of relationship.

    While there is much more to this story, I offer the highlights only to BEG professionals, authority figures, etc. to not only give mothers advice on telling children but also continued support in handling the fallout from those truths. My subsequent children are collateral damage to the original surrender. I have/had ZERO help in managing this (never even knew it would be an issue at the time I surrendered for at that time I was told adoption was GOOD for all). I failed my my daughter in surrendering her and I failed my subsequent children.

    We can do better. We have to. I cannot imagine more children having to live with the pain my children are in addition to having a mother who is grasping in the dark for a light switch to guide our way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Suz, I have been following your blog and know your story. I am terribly, terribly sorry that your daughter rejects contact with you and your son as well. I hope this changes, I so agree about siblings being the "collateral" fallout from surrender.

      Look at my son - all three siblings are in adoptive homes and I am almost positive his two older siblings don't know he exists. I dread the scenario where he takes them by surprise if / when he makes contact - and ends up getting rejected.

      Delete
  6. Thank you Jane for sharing this. After many decades I have connected this year and she told her children in advance of my 21st birthday, to be ready in case I made contact. It's hard to have missed do many years, but the connection has been smooth **in my experience** (not making a blanket statement here) because of empathy. From teen years onwards I reflected on what she might have been through. I can tell by meeting her and her siblings and children that they have done the same towards me. Empathy has been essential.
    I was also raised by a mom who had empathy toward my natural mother, fortunately. On the other side, he waved the confidentiality flag. He was courteous, but terse. I am letting this slide for a couple years to provide time for reflection and empathy (he never thought he would be found). If during that time he wants to build a friendship I welcome that and look forward to him being the lead in the connection to siblings and for him to be the voice if his story, as it should ideally be. If not, then I will approach solo with grace and maturity and offer the opportunity for friendship directly by moving forward with siblings a la the previous post by Lorraine.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great post, Jane. I never had more children, so didn't have to deal with this. I wonder what I would have done if I had. I hope I would have been honest from the get-go, since I always hoped I'd find and meet my son. But I understand how hard it is to share that painful time. So much worry about how the truth will be taken.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Just wondering, the most extreme transformation from [Super Secret Daughter] to [Accepted Eldest Daughter and Sister] known to me, as featured in one of those search-and-identify-TV-shows, came in hours after the first meeting between mother, who was giving birth at the time and daughter. I'm just wondering, does anybody here know whether there is supportive evidence for coincidence of reunion and the birth of a sibling improving the ease and quality of the reunion with the other siblings?

    ReplyDelete
  9. As I have outlined in previous posts, I am surrounded by a cast of characters who are constantly breathing down my neck about how I should just be happy I was adopted. According to my AP's, the law in NYS, and my husband, even the desire to read my original documents is wrong. Why rock the boat? My husband's words of wisdom on the subject : " You got your passport. So stop." Any possible siblings or half-siblings are not going to be welcomed by this group, I assure you.

    As for myself, I would be OK with email or letter-writing. Maybe the occasional phone call. But any kept siblings that might exist are not going to get a warm, fuzzy, ongoing relationship with me. I don't have room for it in the mess that is my life at the moment. If they see this as rejection, so be it. I was rejected, wasn't I ?

    ReplyDelete
  10. i took my 3 to a restaurant to tell them about their elder half sister, i wanted to do it on neutral territory so if they took it badly they wouldn't associate the shock with home ground. i was terrified, i'd kept her a secret for nearly 40 years, apart from one best friend of mine whom i'd left contact info. with when i moved states. i'd finally looked for her, and found her - JOY! love and wonder flooded my mind; she sent me an email! with photos! unbelievable relief (that she was alive, after all these years of surmising) and that i might actually be able to meet her in this life? bliss - the closest i've ever been to a spiritual experience. but how would my 3 girls handle it? the 3 i'd put off having for 16 years (being 16 when i had my eldest)...the 3 i'd always felt somehow distant from emotionally. i hope i wasn't a bad mother to them, i loved them but didn't deserve such marvellous children calling me mummy - they didn't realise what a cruel fraud of a parent i was. but they'd grown up to be exceptional young women - they were their own support group. they loved each other, their family and, by default i thought, me.

    they sat across the table from me looking worried and aprehensive. my unease, trembling hands and unusual inarticulateness frightened them. they almost huddled together and i felt faint and breathless - what was i going to say to these lovely young ones? how to tell them, humanist, feminist, educated in a civil society that decrees equal rights for all - what i had done? why i had done it? how i could have done it?

    i told them "when i was your age i made a terrible mistake - i had a child and i gave her away..." shocked, stunned, they sat looking at me. they leant toward me and took my hands, one got up and sat next to me, hugging me. they were crying, comforting me, softly mourning with me "Mum, oh mum, oh no, mum...no!" we all cried. and cried.

    and they have never reproached me. they read all i give them on adoption and do thir own research. they've met their sister (and nieces). they, and i, would love to see more of them but she is not ready for that - and they have helped me accept that. and we help each other to wait. and now i don't have to wait alone. so i say tell the siblings now, for everyone's sake - they deserve the truth, they are entitled to their sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles etc. with dna testing annonimity went out the window - and who did it ever benefit? not the mothers, who always knew their children were out there - but the fathers who abrogated reponsibility for their actions and their offspring.

    the girls told me after my revelation at he restaurant that they had been scared - the eldest ("so i'm not the eldest anymore?") was worried i was going to tell them i had cancer. youngest, that i was going to sell their home. middle girl (who looks the most like lost daughter) had the deepest fear "i thought you were going to tell me i was adopted".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hyacinth--what a beautiful story. I had tears in my eyes when I read how your daughters reacted, and am so happy for you. What a weight to have lifted off your shoulders! Now you could share the authentic you. If only all women realized that telling the truth about the missing child would be the best tonic for their lives. A secret only has the power to hurt you as long as it is secret.

      As everyone knows, I never had other children, a definitive choice made when she was born and relinquished. My god, the pain of that parting. It way my family I had to tell. I feel a post coming on....

      Delete
  11. blessedineverythingJanuary 21, 2015 at 3:51 PM

    Hyacynth reminds me of my story. I was adopted at birth and never had the urge to find my birth parents until I became a mother. My parents(the people who raised me and whom I love to the ends of the earth) told me from the time I could remember that I was adopted so it never was an issue. My family is amazing, I always felt loved and my parents impressed upon me that they wanted me so badly that when they received me, the joy was overwhelming.

    When we had our second son, I had some postpartum depression. It occurred to me how odd it was that someone could go through the entire pregnancy and birth process then walk away.. How incredibly difficult, how incredibly painful. My mother told me that my birth mother must have been extremely courageous to give such an incredible gift

    The postpartum played some nasty tricks on me, all of a sudden, instead of feeling special, I felt confused and hurt. (34 years later LOL). I decided at that point to seek out my birth parents, thinking I would just find my birth mother and have to pray that she would give me information about my birth father.

    Because I was born before 1980, I fall into the closed adoption category and had to pay the court to appoint a 3rd party mediator to locate my birth mother and see if she desired contact. During that time I had registered online in several different adoption forums. I awoke one day to an email from a woman that thought she might be my birth mother.

    Low and behold, she was. What I found out next proved to be both exciting and turned my world upside down at the same time. My birth parents were not teenagers when they got pregnant, but in their 20's. They got married shortly after I as born and I have 2 full sisters. Never in a million years did I expect that, nor was I ready for it.

    Both my parents are gone now. I could never bring myself to tell them that my birth parents found me. I loved them too much to take a chance on hurting them, although I wonder if that would have? My birth family never understood my reasoning on that. I don't know how they would have felt about it, I guess that part of the story really matters not.

    I have since met my birth parents and my sisters. I marveled at how similar we were in the funniest of things and how far apart we are in many things that are extremely important to me. My birth parents held off for over a year before they told my sisters. That on my side was extremely painful. I understand a mother's protective nature, but it made me feel like I still wasn't good enough. Reading Hyacinth's post was helpful. The restaurant thing too, that's how my birth parents told my sisters as well. I am sorry, I can't imagine being told something like that in a restaurant... I felt terrible for my sisters because I thought that my birth mother did that to control their reaction, in other words; showing that kind of powerful emotion is simply not acceptable. So it should be averted, or internalized...which I feel is unhealthy. Hyacinth's daughters sound amazing and I am so happy that they love and support their mother,.

    Honestly, I am thankful that I have the family that God gave me. I am secure and beyond grateful for them.

    It took me years to work through my birth family and the emotions that came into play after meeting them. I also love my birth family and am very grateful that they didn't travel to Canada to abort me as they easily could have. I am the closest to my birth uncle and aunt. I really have no contact with my birth parents or sisters other than the gratuitous facebook relationship where we see each other's posts, but never respond to them. We are so very different that I don't know if we ever will. I am open to it, but it is a very tricky type of relationship and requires a lot of work on both sides.

    I pray for all of the birth mothers that gave up their children and want a relationship with them. I cannot imagine that kind of pain. I hope that there is a reunion soon for you, may you be blessed.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Lorraine
    Regarding your comment earlier on Sheldon Silver being dethroned before anything can go forward in NYS it appears this has actually happened, unless he somehow gets the charges against him dropped. I hate to get my hopes too high but is he the main obstacle to opening the records? Maybe in our lifetimes we can see this happen and maybe even be able to do DNA tests like everyone else in the other 49 states.

    Julia-
    Thank you for articulating something I have found hard to explain-the whole not knowing anything about our past and lives and having this information held from us is so maddening. And something else I have had a hard time putting my finger on-no matter how warmly you might be received by a birth family you are still an outsider and do not have a past with these people. No matter how hard either side tries it will never be like having the shared history and we have our own history and our own lives that the birth family will never understand. I know this will not sound too nice but some birth mothers I have seen in other forums (not talking about here) come across as condescending to adoptees and appear as if they consider their adoptee almost an extension of themselves and are disappointed to discover that whatever feeling they as a birth mother had regarding the adoption are not the same feelings and opinions the adoptee holds. We share blood and innate traits but we do not have the same environment or life experiences that also create bonds. Much as people may try it may never go beyond a polite cordiality and that is all some people want or can handle. But for adoptees that is only a part of why we may search and for some may not even be a reason, the biggest part IMO is to find ourselves and our past. Sorry I am not as eloquent in expressing this but I get what you mean.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, Adoptee 123--you mean my email comment on the Unsealed Initiative chain obviously...Yes, that is how I feel. That until Silver is gone, we will not get anywhere. That is what happened in NJ--when the main stumbling block in a position of power was gone, the bill passed the legislature. In New York, we have two problems: Silver and now the Republican controlled Senate. I do not know how adamant Dean Skelos (adoptive father) is about not unsealing OBCs but he hasn't been on the side of right in the past.

      Delete
  13. In previous posts I have basically stated that, while our birth relatives may share our blood.... they remain strangers to us, the adoptees. Jane had posted about her relinquished daughter attending her family reunion- I posted that such a thing would have sent me nose-diving into depression. These birth relatives are people I do not know, similarities notwithstanding. Too much time was lost. Too much happened in the adoptive family to influence the adoptee's feelings. Too many people are telling the adoptee what they should do and how they should feel and act. No thanks. Email or letter writing is all I can manage. And I don't want anyone telling me i should do otherwise.
    One must be an adoptee to understand this. I have been saying this for decades.

    On another note... Maybe Silver is out? Maybe there is hope?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Without having been confronted with any situation personally, I think it is difficult to know how one might react. My daughter did meet relatives, attend a major family gathering at Easter, got to know her cousins, and ultimately felt a kinship with them. She shared these feelings with me--but of course she also felt a strong connection to the family (with 3 sibs, one adopted) that she was raised in. Of course her relationships with her blood cousins etc. were not the same as if she had always known them--which she wouldn't have known them well, however, as we would not have lived in Michigan....and so she would have been the cousin from far away.

    One of the saddest thoughts I know about adoption/reunion comes from adoptees who articulate that they never feel completely a part of either family. My daughter put it this way: I feel like a magnet. The closer I get to one (family) the more I have to pull away from the other. Tis true. Our relationship was never "as if" I had raised her, though we did share a lot of commonalities, including thank god our political leanings, as I am a pretty political person, and her father was the political columnist of the newspaper where we met. And she was raised Catholic, as I was. And our incomes /social standing of her two families were quite similar. So major differences regarding upbringing were smoothed out.

    Last night I was emailing a first mother who, after years of knowing her daughter, had just met her daughter's other mother. She felt weird about it all too. I met my daughter's mother within an hour of meeting here, and so had to deal with that immediately. Everything comes when it comes; we all react differently, and only when we are in the situation can we know how we will react. We can all hope it is with grace.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Lorraine: I am not part of either family. I feel as your daughter did: I am a magnet pulled between two poles. I belong nowhere. I am neither here nor there.

    It is very ironic that, out of my extended adoptive family, I am the one who cherishes family momentos. I am the one who researched who immigrated through Ellis Island. I am the one who took 33 years to develope a wall of family wedding photos dating back to 1898. I have my adoptive grandmother's engagement ring. No one else wanted it.
    No one else cares. I guess I needed roots. I imagine I did all this subconsciously ...... Looking for some family history.
    I truly don't know where I'm going with this. I am just upset that I belong nowhere, and I tried so hard to fit in somewhere. Why was this decided for me? It is simply not fair.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. JE: I have heard and seen in my husband's own family that adoptees are the often the ones who cherish family mementos, host family reunions, do genealogies of blood relatives not there. I look upon it as a deep desire to be connected since the original connection was lost. JE< I have so much respect and regard for you. And yes, "it" is simply not fair. You do fit in, you know, you are not alone, but I know the angst and loneliness you feel cannot be "cured." Peace is a matter of accepting what is.
      xx

      Delete
    2. Thanks Lorraine. Someday I will find that peace I am looking for.

      I never knew that other adoptees express the interest in family mementos, photos, and documents that I do. It does make me feel better....maybe that's where I fit in....among all the adoptees who are looking for some kind of connection.

      Now that I think back, my fellow-adoptee cousin displayed that trait, though not to the extent that I have. She was very good at remembering which great-aunt or uncle came from where, who belonged to who, when they all arrived in this country. It's so sad that she was so unhappy she felt she had to take her life. I would love to be able to confide in her again.

      Thank goodness for your forum!! This should be required reading for everyone who thinks adoption is a win-win, wonderful institution.

      Meanwhile, my fingers are crossed for some serious change to happen in NY. One can only hope.

      Delete
    3. " I am not part of either family. I feel as your daughter did: I am a magnet pulled between two poles. I belong nowhere. I am neither here nor there."

      I think this is a pretty common feeling/experience for us adaptees, especially those of us from the baby scoop era. The premise of the BSE that we scoopees could be placed in a non-blood related family and would fit in exactly the same as if we'd been born there is crazy. A debatable question is whether this fact was known even back then. I suspect it was, at least to some degree, since it defies common sense to assume that a child coming from a totally different background and with different genetics would fit in effortlessly in a different family. But this was the premise that we scoopees have been forced to base our lives on. And as so many of us have discovered, that didn't turn out to be our reality and we ended up feeling like neither fish nor fowl.

      In my case, at least, I am glad that two attorneys made money from moving me from a perfectly fine mother (and family) into a new non-related family {insert sarcasm}.

      Delete
    4. Robin: "They" knew much more than they let on back in the BSE. If you Google "Infant Adoption, What They Knew and Did Not Tell Us" , you will get a result that features articles/papers dating back to 1943, outlining the problems with domestic infant adoption. They knew plenty. They just didn't want anyone else to know.

      Your last sentence about the two attorneys making money on your adoption hit home. I have found out that the judge and his caseworker, instrumental in getting my adoption finalized, were quite the tandem back in the 1940's and 50's in Queens, NY. I have found countless adoptees online who are searching, all with this caseworker and this judge involved. I have also discovered many old newspaper articles, with these two attending testimonial dinners for one another, patting each other on the back for all the fine humanitarian work they were doing for the (ignorant) people of Queens. They made plenty of money. They decided the fate of many lives. And they had no right to do so.

      Delete
  16. I attend the Ohio Birthparent Group support meetings regularly and telling raised children about their surrendered sibling is always an intense topic. I personally have been fortunate in this regard - my raised children were young enough to be excited about the prospect of a big brother and their big brother has embraced them as his siblings. Telling wasn't easy due to the shame and guilt i lived with. My oldest raised child probably had the most to think about but has adapted well. I want to encourage birth parents to get support where they can - a group if one exists in your area or trusted loved ones or friends or via internet too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Any tips on how to tell them.

      Delete
    2. If possible, ask them to come to the kitchen, living room, wherever explaining you have something important to tell them. Best to be in your or their home, not at a restaurant. Then tell them. If you can't get them altogether, tell as many as you can and ask them not to tell their sibling until you have a chance to talk to him or her. I admit this did not work for me. I told two of my daughters and went for a walk giving them a chance to discuss it among themselves. They immediately called their sister who was shopping at Macy's.

      Some recommend you tell them when they're young so they grow up comfortable with the information. I don't know if this is a good idea or not. I think they may spend a lot of time fantasing about this phantom sibling.

      Delete
  17. Julia Emily,
    I hear what you're saying about being the person in your family most concerned about preserving the past. When I got a graduate degree in history, something clicked. I thought, of course, I'm interested in preserving and researching the past. As an adoptee, I haven't got one of my own.
    I can hear your pain through your posts. I'm with you in solidarity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. My oldest daughter also has a graduate degree in history. She is enormously interested in the past, and loves to do research. She has access to many libraries and archives that most people can't get into, since she works for a local museum. She has been searching for any documents and info about my history, because, indirectly, it is also her history. Sadly, she can't seem to find anything. But she's young and has more energy than I. She says she will keep at it.

      I am so relieved to know that other adoptees share this interest in "family history", even though we know nothing about our true families. My collection of wedding photos, which now encompasses three walls in my home, has a reputation that reaches far and wide among my extended adoptive family. Everyone loves it, is astounded by the scope of it, and tells me they've never seen anything like it. What an amazing collection of family history!! You must document exactly who all these people are, I am told, so future generations will have the information. I have already done so, while these people go home and never research family history ever again. But deep down, as I slowly add to the collection, I am so sad to know that none of these people are really related to me. It's a very weird position to find oneself in.

      Delete
  18. Does anyone know of any children books about this topic? My husband had place a child up for adoption in High School and we are trying to figure out how we can introduce the topic to our children at a young age. We want them to have an early understanding of the dynamic of our family

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm curious if anyone has any guidance for someone who's experiencing things from the other side of the equation, i.e. the sibling who just found out about his half-sister? I'm 36 years old and I recently found out about my half sister, who is 47, thanks in large part to an online DNA/Ancestry service. She contacted a second cousin, and then my brother first since he was the one who had submitted his DNA to the service. My father called me and told me while I was at work. He also asked that I not tell my wife right away. Long story short, I have spoken to my sister and even met her for lunch with my brother. All conversations were pleasant and she seems like a very nice person. I do want to make it known that my father had NO IDEA about her existence until after my brother was contacted, so it's not like he was keeping any secrets from us.

    My father and my brother seem to be very excited about this new family development. My mother is more excited than I am, but not to the same levels as the others. At the risk of sounding crass, I am somewhat impartial to the whole situation. In fact, I can directly relate to how Jane's other daughters felt. My fear is that my father is trying to make up for 47 years of lost time. I don't fault my father for wanting to connect with his daughter, but I feel like he's moving too fast and almost 'forcing' it on the rest of us.

    If he wants to move that fast, that's fine, but I want off the train until I'm in a better spot with everything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon, Yes, I think my raised daughters went through much of what you're going through. Having experienced a reunion, albeit as a mother who knew she had a child, I can relate to your father.

      He probably doesn't think of himself making up for lost time. He is likely obsessed with this new family member and anxious everything goes well. He wants her to be a member of the family, in part to assure that she's not going away. He wants his raised children to make her feel welcome but doesn't see how all this affects you. Things will settle down in time as your father becomes more confident of his relationship with your half sister.

      Siblings and often the spouse of the first parent are the odd people out in adoption reunions. There's little in the way of support and little has been written about them. You might be able to find an adoption reunion support group which may help you connect with other siblings. The American Adoption Congress has a list of support groups on its website, http://www.americanadoptioncongress.org/support_grps.php

      Please write us again and let us know how you are doing.

      Delete
  20. 50 years have passed since I was 16 and my daughter was taken from me, for all the right reasons of course, and of course, I was not consulted on what I wanted to happen!
    50 years on, I have two wonderful grown up children, and 3 beautiful grandchildren.

    My dilemma is, I suspect a brother in law of mine may have enlightened my son, about his secret sibling.
    My worry is, the now deceased brother in law, who did not know the facts of what happened all those years ago, may have misinformed my son, and has my son passed what he possibly knows to his sister?
    My problem is, do I reveal all? Which could affect the relationships of my entire family. I would hate to go to my grave thinking my children do not know the true story.
    My husband is not very sympathetic towards my issues.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Old Bird--Although it will be tense for you to begin speaking, once you start and tell your children the truth, it will be easier than you think. They may know the story as your brother-in-law told one of them; or they may not, but odds are is that they will believe you--no matter what they heard before.

      Besides setting the story straight, your future relationships with them will be not based on the secret that you have been holding inside There may even be some moments when one of all of them go, Aha! now that makes sense. Tell them how your parents reacted, how your child was taken from you and how you have thought about him or her through the years. Tell them about the times, and the secrecy that you felt you were had to keep about this child. You can even apologize for not telling them. There may be some strange feelings from the oldest children you have raised, but now they know they are not "first" and that may take some mental rearranging. Assure them that you love them all.

      Lastly, do this before your child finds your family through DNA. It doesn't have to be a child of yours who had their DNA done, it could be a second cousin...who might lead to you. How much better it will be to have everyone prepared,and the child out of the secret closet, than say, one of your children contacted first.

      When the telling is over, you will be amazed at how light you feel. Carrying a secret around that is this deep is very very hard. I had to tell my brothers and mother about the child when she was five, and it was a blessing to not have to keep this inside forever. Though who I had to "tell" is quite different from you, I put my whole story out there in black and white, and you might find some support in reading Hole in my Heart, my memoir. I wrote it for mothers like you to no feel so alone. You are not alone. And you have what some women do not--a sympathetic husband. If everyone is there for the holiday, why not do it today? Every day you wait is another weight on you--and it's time to let it go. If you must tell them separately, well, that's okay too. You will probably find understanding you didn't know you would, and love too. My thoughts are with you today.

      Delete

We welcome comments from all, and appreciate letting us know how you relate to adoption when you leave your first comment.

COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish or not. Anonymous comments from the same individual are more likely to be NOT POSTED. Select the NAME/URL selection, add a name. You do not need a URL. Fine to use a nom de plume.

COMMENTS AT POSTS OVER 30 DAYS OLD LESS LIKELY TO BE PUBLISHED.

We aim to be timely but we do have other lives.

For those coming here from Networked Blogs on Facebook, if it does not allow you to make a comment, click the "x" on the gray "Networked Blogs" tool bar to exit out of that frame and it should then let you comment.

We are unlikely to post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.