' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: What not to say to a natural mother

Sunday, March 29, 2015

What not to say to a natural mother

Lorraine
Excerpt from Hole in My Heart, soon to be released:

Adoption reform, like all causes that move with the speed of the tilt of the earth, can be grueling. To do the work means you keep revisiting the place of your greatest pain. I try to stay away from adoption as my life’s leitmotif. I might write the occasional letter to legislators—I did get so involved in New Hampshire when a bill allowing adoptees access to their original birth certificates passed that the chief sponsor, adoptive father Lou D’Allesandro, called within the hour to celebrate. 

Yet when new acquaintances asked what I’d written, or what I was working on, the words I-am-a-mother-who-gave-up-a-child rarely passed my lips,
even when I’d already begun this book. Most times when they did, the music stopped and I could see the look of Oh My God, followed by what I imagined them thinking—You poor woman. Or I’d be dragged into a conversation that I wanted no part of, and suddenly I’d be on trial.
dusky book hole in my heart
That’s not to say that once in a while, when it feels safe, I do tell my story in a single sentence. I remember telling a woman I’d never met before at a birthday party—I don’t know what made me do it, but I did—and she looked at me and whispered, Me too. Revelations like this happen more than most would expect. It is as if there is a special radar that hones in on us as we two strangers strip ourselves bare. Sometimes, the person I tell turns out to be adopted, or an adoptive mother, who doesn't think I should be set straight by some adoption Taliban. Sometimes the person happens to be a someone who I sense is simpatico and will not pepper me with accusatory questions, or long discourses about Great Adoptions They Have Known.

Some people still do though. Some throw the verbal equivalent of a bucket of ice pellets at me:
“You are our worst nightmare,”—an adoptive grandfather at a dinner party, while the hostess is getting dessert. His son went to Russia to get a child, it turns out, simply to avoid women like me. 
“What part of your pie chart was not selfish when you looked for your daughter?” This from someone I thought of as a friend.  
“You are nothing more than a reproductive agent!” An acquaintance, her filters undoubtedly loosened by wine.
I refer to my daughter’s “adoptive parents”—not negatively, mind you—but find myself corrected by an adoptive mother: They were her parents, not adoptive parents. Really? I was speechless and felt myself go white in the face. What am I, then? Only the birth mother, the woman who merely labored a child, as one adoptive mother wrote in an essay I came upon one day? If you mention your daughter’s “birth mother,” am I allowed to correct you too? Is turnabout fair play? Not really. If I said anything, you would think me uppity. Yes, uppity.
Another adoptive mother corrects a friend when she refers to my daughter: “birth daughter” she interjects. As if anyone needed reminding.  
Or, “You did a brave thing—I could have never done it.” Heard more than once. Telling someone they are brave in any other context would be a compliment; here is a massive twist of logic and reality, and a slur at the same time. It plays into the idea that since you were a single, poor woman, your child certainly was better off with the wealthier couple who took her in. At the same time, the addition of the “I never would have done it” is an admission that the better choice would have been to keep your child, as the speaker says she would have surely done. When I hear this, I immediately put to rest the idea that giving up a child has anything to do with courage or heroism—Oh, no, I say, I was broken and defeated, I was anything but brave. As for the other comment, I say nothing, but think: Well, good for you. You don’t understand anything about what my life was like.  
Then there is the seemingly endless number of people who want to engage, often to argue: What do you think about open adoption? Hasn't that changed everything? How do the adoptive parents feel about you? Wouldn't it be better never to know? Why should adoptees rock the boat, open Pandora’s Box? My cousin, he’s adopted, never wants to search, what about that? The woman gave him up, shouldn't we let dead dogs lie? My son/brother/niece is adopted and it turned out swell.

It is exhausting.

I say, it’s a social event, I don't do adoption at parties, this is such an emotional subject for me, I’d rather not talk about it now. They look at me surprised—why you’ve even written a book about giving up a child! Most writers are such egomaniacs they can’t stop talking about their books! The kindhearted are merely embarrassed. Giving up my child was the worst thing that I ever did, the worst thing that ever happened in my life, and though I have written and spoken about it for a purpose, even today—with all the emotional armor I should have by now— I cannot speak of it as if we are debating the fine points of the foreign policy of a country neither of us has ever visited.

And it seems nearly everybody wants to debate this subject, even if they don’t realize they are debating. So many questions! So many wonderful adoptions they know about! So many adoptive parents who are saints, or nearly so! I have a tough skin when I need it, put me up against an opponent in a forum where it might make a difference, and I am fearless. But adoption talk with strangers at a social event where I am required to defend myself over and over means exposing my wound to god knows what and god knows who. Within seconds I can feel my heart beat increase, I feel the anxiety ratchet up. Mostly I just want to sail away in a life boat.

A writer who says she has no affiliation with any side or interest group, without an “ax to grind” when she set out to interview first mothers, wrote: “I began to realize that, to birth mothers, relinquishment was more than merely a life-altering turning point. For most, it was an invisible barrier separating them from the bulk of humanity.”* I stay away from high school reunions since I came out of the closet: I am too much the outlier. People will want to talk about It.

I knew that when I became the woman who wrote that book, this would happen. It’s inescapable. But if it’s a social event, let’s talk about politics, Project Runway, the state of publishing, the melting ice cap, the Taliban’s treatment of women, the Dark Sky movement, a ban on leaf blowing in our town, the Oscars, a woman in the White House, the existence of God, your children, our husbands—even the night I was raped—anything but adoption.

Anything else is a piece of cake.--lorraine



*Merry Bloch Jones, Birthmothers: Women Who Have Relinquished Babies for Adoption Tell Their Stories (Chicago Review Press, 1993), p. xiii. 
Birthmothers: Women Who Have Relinquished Babies for Adoption Tell Their Stories 
I got this book long ago but it was pretty much ignored--timing is everything, or as the Bard wrote:  "ripeness is all." But whenever I hear that nothing about natural mothers was written until The Girls Who Went Away, I always bristle. First of all...what about memoirs by moi and Carol Schaefer and others...and this book? It was published more than a decade earlier. It's well done and full of good stories and right on the mark, and written by someone who wasn't invested in our story, which is why I have always appreciated it so much.--lo

Hole in My Heart will be available within the month, I hope! Working hard to get it in order.

And thank you all who order anything through FMF. 

49 comments :

  1. Nothing to say but - yes. You took the words out of my moutn.

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  2. God yes. This is exactly how I feel most of the time. Z is the hidden secret that only so many know about. And not because I'm ashamed of her in any way, but because of the negative remarks shot in my general direction when her existence was revealed. Or the ridiculous "selfless" comments. There was nothing virtuous or selfless about relinquishing my second born. I panicked and caved to that panic. That is all there is to it. And by the time I realized the impact of my mistake, it was too late to correct it.

    The cruelest thing ever said to me was basically saying I was nothing but a genetic donor and that was as far as my role in her life should ever go. I think that moment was the turning point in how open I was about the existence of my daughter. On the rare occasion I do mention her and some clueless soul tries to correct my (she's your birth daughter and you're no longer her mother), I correct THEM and say she is still my daughter and I am still her mother, but someone else has become her MOM.

    I comment on things and support reform in adoption practices. These are the only times I am really vocal about my connection with adoption. In real life, I rarely say anything to anyone. Not even when a relationship I'd been in had started to take a serious turn, she was the elephant in the room. Pictures of her littered through my home, but no word from me to my partner at the time as to who this dark haired child was. When the relationship ended 2 yrs later, he still had no idea that I'd had more than one child.

    Some days, the burden is too great. I have people who've become good friends who have no idea she exists. Perhaps some day I will tell them. I don't know.

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    1. Dorkzilla, I am sorry that you are still keeping this a secret from people who are friends or in a relationship with you--it only separates you further from them, and possibly closes you off from connections and love that they would give you. Some of the people who said the quotes above are in my life, and so it goes...but no one close to me doesn't know, and that is a blessing. I hope you can find the way to let those who know you that there is another child out there. It hurts too much to keep it inside. Unburden yourself. Tell your good friends. xxx

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  3. Yes. It is exhausting to have to dredge up all the arguments whenever someone says, "Well, but what about....?" I honestly don't know where you get the fortitude. Do you ever feel burned out? If you do, what do you do about it? I feel burned out, exhausted, depleted, and yet I can't stay away from the subject online. Whenever I see a post from you, I always know I'll read something truly helpful, and I thank you for that.

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    1. Yes Pam, "burned out, exhausted, depleted, and yet I can't stay away from the subject online." yep. that's it exactly. Online, I think there is some hope of support, understanding, or being able to *talk about it*....especially when there is little to no support from family, friends or society. I told a friend once about my son being adopted.. she said, she knew there was something very heavy on me... I guess my plastered on smile and trying to be ''positive'' and ''get on with my life'' doesn't/didn't go as far as I thought it did. I knew it didn't for me... it's just too heavy to bear, especially alone, but I at least thought I was doing a pretty fair job of being a fake little phoney to the rest of whomever. She proved to me it wasn't working. We talked about it some more and I mentioned that I had asked if I could have a picture of him, sometime after.. (a week, a month I don't remember) he was placed.. and the social worker told me that, "the mother was willing but the adoptive father said ..no".
      My friend said, ''well they were just trying- to- protect -him".... That day and that comment fractured our friendship. I felt absolutely shocked, stunned, horrified and so hurt.. I looked at her and said, "from what?"
      I don't remember much after that. I know I did take my leave fairly soon and it has been only few and sadly far between that I have spoken with her. It's the mentality that society has been 'taught' that every mother who lost a child to adoption is ... a _________(fill in the blank).

      Then there's the "why don't you just adopt?" (since I wasn't allowed my first child and hadn't/couldn't have any more) My response, once I cleared some of the shock away was, "Why would I want to cause or create this kind of heartache and endless grieving and horrific loss for another woman?" It is actually a great way to get the point across.... if you can pick yourself up off the floor and hold it together long enough to get the words out.

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  4. Lorraine, if I had read your thought-provoking post before I had stumbled upon the FB adoption community years ago feeling so lost/confused, your heart-felt words would have been a good starting point for me. After having been raised in an verbally and emotionally abusive adoptive family, where I wasn't supposed to tell anyone I was adopted or even that I had a first adoptive father (like a shameful secret), I was struggling to find my own truths. I needed a safe place without anymore negativity, anger or bitterness. What I believe I liked most about this particular post is that by putting your guard down, you helped me to understand my own late mother better, not that your two stories are the same or have to be, but I could truly see two mother's hearts. Thank you <3

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  5. I don't talk about adoption as a rule - I don't bother anymore. I can't. Either looks of pity or revulsion or the ones that want to tell me how I was either an ass, a fool, a victim, or a selfless angel, then argue with me endlessly about how I was "right, wrong" and how I had to have "created" the situation.... It is like everyone seems to think that they have a right to judge me, my life and what happened in it.....

    I have been, for a number of years attempting to simply withdraw from the community, topic, whole painful, mess..... it doesn't seem to work.

    *side note, for those that are curious - my daughter is once again speaking to me. I have no hopes, do not trust anything and am seriously not into discussing it. She will follow true to form in short order and I will be fine with that.

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  6. "Wouldn't it be better never to know?"
    As an adoptee -- NO NO NO. Why do people who are not part of the loss equation (I include adoptive parents in that, as their loss is rather outside adoption) think this? It is always better to know truth, especially your own, than not know. It is easier to handle a hard truth than a blank, a hole, a not-knowing.

    But no, this isn't a topic for casual social conversation at all.

    I will say I always appreciate the first mother side of the story. Adoption is a very difficult topic for a reunion -- as far as I can tell, it is the rare reunion that includes raw, honest discussions on both sides about adoption itself. Reunion is, even when good, often too fragile for that. But for me, I need some context for my mother's side of the story, even if I don't get it directly from her.

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  7. The annoying thing I used to hear years ago but no longer hear is "but what about the adoptive parents?"Hey, my "baby is almost 47, yikes! Another old bad comment, "you are so lucky your husband married you". Used goods, anyone? Also hate to hear "it all happened for a reason" or the adoption was "meant to be" or "God's will". No, it was a strictly human screw-up on the part of many people, not the hand of the Almighty at work!

    I have to say though in recent years since reconnecting with my son I have only gotten good comments when telling new people, like "I am so happy for you". People just accept that a mother would want to see her son again and see that as a good thing. Very few express shock any more, and most people have their own story of someone they knew who searched or was reunited. Times have changed, at least a little, in my experience.

    I did not like to tell people I had 4 sons when my oldest was not communicating with me, because it led into that whole dark sad place of shame and rejection. But now I tell everyone and am more than happy to show pictures of all my sons, even though I am the last person left who has paper photos and not pictures on a phone:-)

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    1. No--you are not the last person who paper photographs: I have no phone with pictures either. No smart phone, just an old flip top. It does take pictures but I've never used it., though I love to take photographs.

      I don't run with the crowd who tells me that giving up my daughter was god's will. Thank god. I would probably bite their heads off. But I did just add a new example of what not to say, based on what someone said here or on Facebook.

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    2. Lo, I always thought of you as tech savy! I don't even know my cell phone number, only use it for travel and emergencies, and I think we have the same phone. I don't know how the picture feature works either, have a separate digital camera. Could this be a Polish joke thing?

      I too hate the "you were so brave" comment. In fact it is a good thing I was not brave at all or would probably have killed myself after the surrender, but was not brave enough to do that any more that take my child and run. What really saved my life was getting pregnant again right away, and eventually getting married after living together for a couple of years. I truly did not care what happened to me after giving up my child, and engaged in risky behaviors that could have ended in death. I was lucky to have a second child to live for, because without that I doubt I would still be here. I went from being hippy slut to super mom, breastfeeding, natural childbirth, PTA mom etc. The greatest blessings in my life are my children, including my first now that he is back in my life. I have been very fortunate.

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  8. If you're only a "reproductive agent," Lorraince & Co., one would think you'd be issued a snappy trench coat, a badge, a Borsalino hat...

    Instead, to slightly rephrase Johnny Rivers' "Secret Agent Mom,"

    "... they've given you a number
    and taken 'way your babe..."

    I am looking forward to reading your book in full, with great anticipation. Because these stories need to be told, and I find myself telling them, debunking the unicorn-fart adoption tales every chance I get. Don't get out much these days, but it seems that every single time I'm in a social setting, adoption rears its head somehow, and after I speak my piece, someone looks puzzled and says, "I never thought of that."

    Then I use my adult restraint NOT to quote my once-adolescent sons and say, "Well, duh."

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    1. A cool trench coat has always been a staple of my closet, I am happy to report, Mrs. Tarquin B. That hat in the photo is a Stetson, BTW.

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  9. Added to the post:

    Or, “You did a brave thing—I could have never done it.” Heard more than once. Telling someone they are brave in any other context would be a compliment; here is a massive twist of logic and reality, and a slur at the same time. It plays into the idea that since you were a single, poor woman, your child certainly was better off with the wealthier people who took her in. At the same time, the addition of the “I never would have done it” is an admission that the better choice would have been to keep your child, as the speaker says she would have surely done. When I hear this, I immediately put to rest the idea that giving up a child has anything to do with courage or heroism—Oh, no, I say, I was broken and defeated, I was anything but brave. . As for the other comment, I say nothing, but think: Well, good for you. You don’t understand anything about what my life was like.

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  10. THANK YOU, Lorraine Dusky, for your wonderful title. I LOVE the "natural mother" part of it!! I just wanted to say that I also love saying to people when I have to explain about my taken daughter... that I am an exiled mother. Why? Because they get this perplexed look on their face and ask me, "What is an Exiled Mother?" Then I get to TELL them how during the BSE my newborn was removed from my arms simply because I wasn't married. Then they get this look on their face like, "What the hell?" and then they ask, "Why did they do THAT?" So I get to spend a lot of time explaining the whole experience. Educating one person educates another and another and another... like the pebble in the pond. Thanks for writing this piece and for all of your wonderful pieces!! We ARE making a difference!!!

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  11. Lorraine, thank you for this timely blog post. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about some of the audacious things we natural mothers have heard over the years, often coming from friends and acquaintances who don't have a clue.

    What I experienced was strange -- when I surrendered my newborn son to adoption in 1972 at the age of 17, my friends and acquaintances knew there was no other option. They all instinctually knew the "reasons" and most likely breathed a sigh of relief that they weren't in my shoes, that they hadn't been "caught," as my grandmother referred to teenage pregnancy. So I got very little in the way of judgmental attitudes or hateful remarks ...until I reached my 30s and was living in a state where none of my friends had known me as a teenager. All they saw was a competent, capable woman who loved kids..a woman that their children always gravitated towards. They didn't know the 16- and 17-year girl I had been. They only knew the fully grown adult I had become. And that is exactly when the tide changed in terms of getting the judgmental statements aimed at my head and heart.

    I had an older friend at college (I didn't start until age 25, as I had to work like crazy to save enough for tuition) who had been adopted as a toddler in the United Kingdom. She had total contempt for her natural mother, and when Duffey got a few drinks under her belt on the weekends, she'd end up at my house ranting at me. One night, I point-blank told her I was not her mother and to quit projecting her rage onto me. She lashed out verbally like you wouldn't believe, telling me how "all of you women who gave up babies are evil -- you're all the same." Needless to say, our friendship ended that night, and I never invited her over again.

    I get so sick of the judgment nowadays. I'm 60 years old and just want some peace of mind. I don't need people who never knew me or walked in my shoes to tear me down anymore. I want it to stop...

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  12. One of the weirdest and most unpleasant responses I ever got was - "Have you read The Handmaid's Tale" That about sums it up. MKM

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    1. I wonder why you thought it was strange? That book is a prediction of what is coming our way and truly we're all handmaids in the sense that we've essentially given birth to children for others. That's what we were used for... and still are. Many only think of us as birthing vessels. Walking uteri. Brood mares. Pretty much like the book by Margaret Atwell. I don't see the response as unpleasant at all except that it is "right on." And what is weird about it? Seems pretty relevant to me.

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  13. Adoption is a malady that comes at inception with its own bad infrastructure - pot holes, and overpasses, wrong turns and one-way streets. The "biggest and baddest " of which is an endless bag full of bad metaphors; starting with "triad"; implying equality and equanimity, which is bullshit. The last contact I had with my mother was a kiss on the head ( the only time I ever touched her) and handing her an Irish scarf for Christmas, foregoing the usual "gift" of a carton of Camels. Never could bring myself to go back. How to do explain that at a dinner party without simply beating yourself up?

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  14. I have rarely encountered the sorts of confrontative remarks you have, Lorraine. I've been told how brave and selfless I was, what a lovely gift I gave to people who could not have a child and wanted one, which are fairly easy for me to refute. Not brave, not selfless, not a gift. I was coerced into adoption, not a "choice" by my parents and the social mores of the time. I was clueless about how I would feel after and for decades later. No one has ever spoken against my reunion. Then again, I'm not as known as you are, which brings more public opinion. Even if I were, I am comfortable in my reunion, not so comfortable with what put me into it, i.e. relinquishing my child. But I will take on whatever they throw at me. I am stronger now than I once was.

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    1. Denise, I have been out there a long time!
      And my daughter lived with us for various periods, had summer jobs here, went to school here, etc. The person who said the : you are our greatest nightmare had just heard that my daughter had lived with us. His son had gone to Siberia to get a child to avoid having to deal with a natural mother. Twice, as I recall.

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  15. Hi Lorraine, I had the Director of a Christian Crisis Pregnancy Center (who is an adoptive mom) say to me, "you are lucky, most adoptive males don't want to find their birthmoms". What??? I almost told her, they are just not telling anyone, but I didn't because this is back when I was first finding my voice on this adoption issue. My son's (we are in reunion) adoptive mom said to me once after I had asked her if her other son had found his birth family, she said that " he has enough family and doesn't want anymore". Again, this was at the beginning of my new found reunion and the beginning of my journey. I found it odd that everyone thinks this is about 'family'?? After meeting my son I realized this was about finding out who he is? who he looks like? where did I come from? I could go on and on about the lies and secrets they put upon him and me, but that will be for another day. I am just now beginning to really 'come out of the closet' so to speak on this, and after 5 years of reunion I am just getting started. Thanks for your blog. It's been very helpful to me. I understand your pain, I can only do this in small doses, but not a day goes by that adoption (and my son) aren't at the forefront of my thoughts.

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  16. I was lucky not to have to respond to ugly comments such as others had to deal with. What I did get was ".....but he had a good life ?" I have no doubt my son's a/parents loved him and did their best, but they had very little formal education and were very conservative. As I've learned more over the years about how he was raised and what his values are, I've had to face that I don't believe he "had a good life." In this polarized political climate, "agreeing to disagree" has become our mantra. I love my son, but he didn't learn compassion, tolerance and love of neighbor in the home of his a/parents.

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    1. I think there are a lot of them out there.... and the only way to cope is to do as you do.

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  17. The class reunion thing, you may find that nobody cares any more and have a good time. My husband talked me into going to my 50th high school reunion this year, mostly because he had had a good time at his college reunion even though most who showed up were not people he knew. My best friends were not even going, the ones I am still in touch with, but my husband and I went and it was fun. There was a booklet given out that we answered questions for including what is your worst memory, and mine was giving up my child, best memory reuniting with him. Nobody said anything negative or questioned me and even people I did not like or feared in high school were really friendly and kind. People change, times change. Sometimes it is only in our own minds that we did such a terrible thing, other people do not care or judge harshly all the time.

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    1. I am too much a poster mother for reunion and reform to duck from adoption. Surely out of the 60 or 80 people who show up, there were be...adoptions. People will want to talk about them because it's forever interesting and I've written a book about it and yadda yadda yadda. I am in touch with some of my high school classmates and I've gone over this ground with the senior class president in an email. He came out later as gay and he understood. Others have been supportive and sent me funds for publishing Hole in My Heart. I've stayed in touch with a couple of them ever since high school. But an afternoon with all of them?

      I don't think I could handle it. Even though I have heard that the last one, five years ago, everyone was very relaxed and had a good time.No one trying to impress or be someone they are not, or was not.

      I love that you wrote about giving up/reuniting. It made it real to a lot of people.

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    2. Luckily I am not famous for anything:-) As Emily Dickinson said, "I'm nobody, who are you...?." One of the most supportive people is the widow of my favorite drama teacher, whom I used to babysit for as well as being a student. She always asks about all my kids and especially my oldest and is thrilled that we have reunited. I know of one other woman who gave up a child from my class, and she reunited a while ago as well. No doubt others have adopted children, but that does not bother me unless someone is rude and nobody has been.

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    3. That's great maryanne. I don't think I could have done it. However, I did add HS classmates I connected with at my 50th reunion as Facebook friends. A couple figured out about my lost daughter from my posts on Facebook and sent me nice notes, praising me for my bravery.

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    4. I don't do Facebook for a number of reasons, one being my complete incompetence with anything technical, but another being not wanting to mingle family, non-adoption friends, and adoption people. I guess to some extent I keep my life compartmentalized and do not want all these things running together in one place. I am able to see Facebook stuff through my husband's page though, as two of my kids and other relatives are on it.

      But I had to say something about adoption and reunion in the Class Reunion booklet, because if I left that out I would have little to say about what I had been doing the last 50 years other than raising kids and working as a teacher's aide and salesclerk. At least "adoption reform activist" sounds more interesting than that!

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  18. About the cruelest thing ever said about me was that I abandoned by daughter. And yes, I know that some mothers actually do abandon their children and that some adoptees feel abandoned, but unless one is personally aware of an individual's circumstances, then only the mother knows the true story.

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  19. At least you have some contact, so that's something hmmm? (said cheerfully to dismiss any loss I may feel now I am in "reunion")
    You did the right thing (without knowing any details of what happened)
    Sometimes it's all for the best (without knowing any details)
    Yes but all mothers have that (when the contact had almost dwindled to nothing)
    You gave a great gift
    You should be over it by now
    Dirty looks
    How does she feel about that (said in a really snide way without knowing any details of what had happened, assuming I had thrown her away)
    You made the choice stop luxuriating in your pain (from a family member)

    And worst of all the apology to all the mothers up until the 1980's which made me feel that my adoption experience was not worthy of apology.....as though coercion stopped after 1979 (it did not)

    If you say any against adoption on the internet you will get attacked, it doesn't matter how gently you phrase it. I'm so sick of this shit I'm just not going to speak about it anymore.

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    1. It is awful. I am sorry you went through that, K. No matter what we affected by adoption say, there are snide comments and annotations from people who think they know better. I made the mistake this week of sharing a really difficult story from my reunion with a writing group and all had the same old thrown at me. It was simply too much. I am going to retire from attempts to discuss it for the foreseeable future. When I described one *particular* episode from my search, this is what greeted me:

      "What was your adoptive family like? How did your upbringing with your adoptive family not fit who you are? This information would give more meaning to the intro paragraphs. How lost, alone, foreign, are you in your life so far, that would propel you to pursue your birth mom like that? Even little glimpses into memories would help to draw the reader into your predicament. Were you emotionally abused? Physically? Did they put you in a cupboard under the stairs like Harry Potter?"

      Right. Because searching is "pursuing" and anyone who searches was abused--like I am a character in the novel? WTF? People think they have to give us (mothers and adoptees) permission to do anything. Forget it.

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  20. I met my daughter's amother recently.... what a bizarre experience.... and the only thing that made me want to hurl is that she told me "it must be your genes that made her such a disgusting person..." All the while doing all the things that she hates in my daughter. Talk about WTF - considering for the first three years of her life she was an awesome good child that, not perfect, did not do anything like what her amother was pushing at me.

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  21. I am an adoptee. One of the worst things anybody ever said to me was when I was a sophomore in college. "You're adopted? Jeez, when I start my family I hope I never have to adopt."

    Up until that moment, I had believed that I was more special than most, and that adopting somebody like me was a privilege. This gal's comment made me feel like I was the bottom of the barrel.

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  22. not doing Facebook sounds like wisdom to me, maryanne... i do facebook but not with my family. there are a few of them on there and I friended them and promptly ignored them. I simply say that I use FB for getting in touch with others who are into the same crafting projects that I am, and that is true. But any family can find me on there if they wanna communicate via a private note, I guess I am a fool in that I could not make the distinction between family and crafters cold turkey. In the past week however I was able to connect with my original father via his sister who I found on fb, so I'm glad for that.

    I was curious if any first mothers will share with me whether or not they have had to take Prozac, Xanax, Valium, other anti-depression or anti-anxiety, anti-panic medications in order to make it through the days sometimes. And if they could say how that has affected their health, for better or worse? I know that some medications for anxiety in particular can affect memory and formation of memories. If memory has been affected, does that include memories regarding reunion? or phone calls, or history with kept kids or adopted, family get-togethers... I am asking so that maybe I can understand the possibilities... it is absolutely not in any way an accusation or condemnation of the use of medications. Thank you anything shared as always is greatly appreciated, thank you so much. Kaisa (adoptee)

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    1. I have taken Zoloft in the past for depression, it did not affect my memory or general health but I am glad to not need antidepressants any more. This is scary to bring up, but how old is your bio mom? Asking because a close friend, age 68, was recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers, and her symptoms of forgetting are similar to what you have described. I have learned it can strike some people as early as late 40s! I hope this is not the case, but it is something to consider.
      Another thing to consider is alcohol or prescription drug abuse. Some of the anti-anxiety drugs are highly addictive as are pain medications. Or from what you describe she may be bipolar and off her meds. It is so hard to tell from a distance, but certainly something may be medically wrong with her that is affecting her behavior.

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    2. Hi maryanne... it is the past that she cannot remember, not so much the present. i recently reunited with her for the second time and i noticed her eyes look very different than they did in the past - healthy and better now. 20 years ago her pupils were pinpoints and it seemed she never looked directly into someone else's eyes... i thought it was just me until her brother mentioned it one time back then.

      at that time prescription drug use did not occur to me but it does now. so i'm thinking that may be the reason she really does not remember anything about our contact from before, i visited/stayed with her maybe 10 times. she remembers only that it happened. she does not remember a friend of mine who came with me twice to visit. she seems to remember that there was a difficulty between us but that otherwise things were fine until I had said that i had enough... anyway, reading this forum has helped me a great deal to understand the trauma that she must have gone through, i don't need her to remember but it would be nice to know why.

      she was very driven back then and a workaholic and now seems to have taken up the epicurean lifestyle - to say she switched gears is an understatement. still i guess she is more busy than me in terms of calories burned per day i'm sure ! but i'm glad she seems to be able to relax although she was visibly nervous around me, i'm hoping that will fade. she will be 65 this year. our first reunion was late80s early 90s so I'm guessing it was benzos? dunno

      I'm glad your memory wasn't affected. I'm familiar with Zoloft it is a lifesaver for many people and can be a blessing. thanks for the response maryanne :)

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    3. Hi Kaisa, Not saying that medication may not be a possibility, but for me I have a lot of trouble remembering certain things from the first 20 or so years after the loss of my son. Trauma related in hyper alert mode and all you can do is focus on a very few particulars. My husband gets upset sometimes when I tell him I cannot remember something that was important. All it took sometimes (and still does occasionally) was for the sound of a child to be in the background or seeing something, even hours before that particular moment, like a stroller being pushed or you name it. Any one of a seeming bazillion things to trigger.

      I can understand your mother not remembering your friend. You being there (and trying to process the loss of you and you being there was all she could do. It was mental self ''preservation''. I did self medicate, falling into the bottle for a few years. The grief was so heavy, and the pain felt deadly, it was the only way ...I felt.... I could keep going. Study traumatic stress reactions. It may explain much of your mothers memory loss. The violence of losing our wanted children this way and then being told we ''made a choice'' and ''to get over it'' and all the other soul searing things that can somehow come out of another persons mouth (even without meaning harm) the human mind and spirit cannot bear that, it is intolerable... without some healing help and understanding support and a great. deal. of. time.

      The mind will block out any thing that is more than it can bear. My son found me in November last year and the first few times we spent together there were always (to me) enormous numbers of other people around and it was more (apparently) than I could process because I can remember only some of the information that was shared. I will say memory is better than it used to be. I think it does take a lifetime to work through the loss... especially when it was in no way, shape, or form ''voluntary''.

      With anti panic, anti anxiety meds, other folks I know their pupils were usually very dilated. Very large on meds. I doubt your mother was on anything. Because I could be described much like you have described your mother and if folks said I was ''medicated''/taking prescriptions drugs they would be and would have been completely wrong. I also could hardly look someone in the eye for years from the ''up to that point'' lifetime of belittling shame, others towering over me and tearing me apart emotionally and verbally and the loss of my son was the worst. Some folks feel that awful about themselves. It's not always what other people think or imagine. Give your mother the benefit of the doubt. Try to look up information on traumatic stress and memory. Maybe do some research on (birth) mothers and trauma. There are also many books out there on the subject of PTSD. One is
      'loving someone with PTSD' by Aphrodite T, Matsakis, PhD.

      I think your mother is functioning incredibly well... considering. Hoping you both have many beautiful years together. One other thing, try giving her some alone time with you. I've needed alone time with my son and I need much more. Maybe a ''hangover'' from not having that quiet time mother and child have in the first year/s. Maybe too, when I was ''with'' him before, other people were present too and they made him disappear into thin air...and wouldn't let me hold him. So much to mess the mind. So much to heal from.

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  23. Kaisa, I am not exactly the person you want to answer your question, but I am an adoptee and a nurse. I know my mother took Klonopin at the time of reunion and at times around my birthday before that. It unfortunately seems common for both mothers and adoptees to experience anxiety of some sort.

    Benzodiazepines as a class of drugs create anterograde amnesia: that is, short-term memory is not passed to long-term memory while the drug is in the system. The effects of the benzodiazepine depend on person, dosage, route (IV administered has greater effect on memory, for example), and drug itself. Versed/midazolam is used frequently in conscious sedation precisely because it has marked effect on memory (who wants to remember a colonoscopy?). Valium and Ativan can have greater effect than Xanax because they take longer to metabolize and excrete.

    I have taken benzodiazepines myself for acute exacerbations of PTSD; I would not say that they impaired my memory, but I did not take high doses or use them chronically. They can be highly addictive, although they may be useful in the short-term for coping with panic.

    I wonder how much forgetting of the subject of phone calls or things said at get-togethers early in reunion is due to stress; acute stress can also affect the formation of memory. I always tried to write things down right away so that I wouldn't forget exactly what was said, what happened, etc.

    Congratulations on connecting with your father!

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    1. Many thanks HMS ! good info :)

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  24. Maryanne, I spend very little time on Facebook, and created a page under my "nom de blog" specifically because a few writer friends asked me--years before I found FMF--if I could do so in order to add "like" clicks to their works.

    The main reason why I do not do FB in real-name/real-time is because a couple of members of my family of origin (FOO! indeed!) have long been angry with me because I stopped writing them personalized letters in which I minimized and made into funny-ha-ha what actually was going on in my life. They want a window into my world; I've pulled down the blinds. In addition, I was expected/required to salaam before them about events in THEIR lives... Along with sending costly personalized gifts (no reciprocation ever, of course), after decades of all this, I no longer had the stomach, and certainly I never had the pocketbook even as I opened it. So when I stopped all of this lavish unearned homage, quietly and without explanation--unnecessary!--their rage was enormous, enormous.

    As you know, I'm only a "first mother" to the children whom my husband and I bore and kept. But the remarks, "I never could have done THAT!", which you and so many here at FMF must face in the context of the child(ren) you surrendered reminds me of the self, the self-esteem, and the swag I forked over to my FOO in the useless search of acceptance and love. Your sacrifice was the greater, of course, but both kinds fall into similar categories.

    One more thing: in referring to "addiction" regarding various prescription medications, the word with which I'm more comfortable is "dependence." Having been multidiagnosed with among other things, major chronic depression, PTSD, panic disorder (both of which can be triggered by a variety of unforeseeable and certainly undesiderable factors), as well as chronic and constant disabling physical pain, I have at hand a variety of sledgehammer-dosage meds. Without them, taken at scheduled intervals as well as on an irregular, "as needed" basis, everyday life (my "every day." Not someone else's.) would be intolerable.

    Defensive, am I? I admit it. However, I am grateful for life as it's picked through and stumbled over today. It's a million times preferable to the one I once had.

    Thank you--and the others whose jostling opinions are served up on FMF's crowded tea cloth--for your insights. I continue to learn so much from all of you.

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    1. hello Mrs... just want to be clear that i was not talking about addiction or dependence, i was inquiring about effects of prescription drugs on memory. i refrain from going beyond that. certainly i could not tell you if i have an addiction or dependence to my *many* migraine drugs, only that, without them, i'd be in severe pain 20 out of 30 days each month. i apologize if my questions made you feel defensive <3

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  25. I think there is a difference between dependence on prescription drugs used as prescribed and addiction that goes on long after the original pain they were subscribed for is gone. This was the case with my brother, who sought prescriptions all over the area from different doctors and drug stores, and did terrible things to my parents' finances while under the influence. That is addiction. The initial injury that started him on the pain meds was long cured, but the craving for the drugs escalated. He finally ended up in rehab, but had already done a lot of damage. Most of us are dependent on some prescription drugs as we get older, taken as prescribed, and that is nothing to feel defensive about. My brother's behavior was my experience with prescription drug abuse and why I used the word addiction.

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  26. Kaisa, you are now one of my "migraine buddies."

    What, ME defensive (pushes shoulders down from around her ears)?!? ;-)

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    1. One small hope for some migraine buddies. I got them monthly around my period, and they went away with menopause. My aunt had the same experience, probably hereditary. There were no good meds for it when I was young, so I just had to shut myself in the bedroom and try not to move.

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    2. i have been taking melatonin at night, 9 mg, and it has been a great help in terms of lessening the frequency and pain level. it has been around for a long time but is just not being seen as a migraine preventative. i have heard that about menopause :) but so far it hasn't been a help :(. I recently found out that my paternal mother had them her entire life, to age 86. I'm glad menopause helps some, though, because i wouldnt wish these darn things on anybody !

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  27. From her mother to her daughter, a first mother, " I don't understand why your husband stays with a slut like you."

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  28. maryanne: I pass on your wish to other "migraine buddies." My 'graines were never menstrual-related, so though I'd heard that they might cease upon menopause, I didn't expect too much. This was fortunate, because they didn't. I also am fortunate to have access to appropriate, albeit sledgehammer, migraine treatment these days... there were years when I didn't.

    Anon.! What a horrible thing for any mother to say! Though not only first mothers have such verbal mud flung that way, I grieve for any woman slut-shamed, ESPECIALLY by a mother. Especially by HER mother!

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  29. Hi everyone. I'm late to the commenting but thought I'd share my experience. I am almost 30 years old, I had my daughter 2007. She is now 7 years old. I found out recently that I am bipolar so I'm taking meds for that, my daughters adoptive mom was posting on Facebook how she was beating up her teachers and hitting her and having explosive anger issues, I put myself in that fray and offered the suggestion that she might be bipolar, turns out that was true and now my first daughter isn't having those explosive episodes anymore.. I often wonder if it was her acting out about the adoption mixed in with being bipolar. If she misses taking a pill she will cry uncontrollably, over "silly things." (How her adoptive mom puts it.) And the adoptive mom was blaming herself for being a bad parent, but "felt better knowing it happened to someone else." I try to not take that personally, it's not like I asked to be bipolar. But this proves that even though my first daughter knows who I am, and I haven't had a chance to talk to her, I know her very well through the adoptive mom's facebook posts, and I try to be available as much as I can.

    I am referred to as "tummy mommy", it had confused my first daughter and she was asking her adoptive dad (who is a large man) if he was pregnant with a baby and would point at his stomach. Please don't refer to your child's natural mother as a "tummy mommy," kids don't understand that. Now I am referred to as the birth mother, but I would prefer first mother or "natural mother" but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

    I do have a large hole in my heart, and every single day is a constant reminder of what I lost. I was coerced by the adoption agency, I was with someone, but we weren't married. My first daughter's biological dad wasn't supportive at all, and is still in denial that she exists. I wanted to raise her myself when I gave birth but the agency said if I didn't do the adoption that I'd have to pay for anything, that I was selfish for wanting to raise her, and that I shouldn't hurt the adoptive parents by keeping her.

    I am going to be sending my first daughter some toys and books, and inside the books are little notes I wrote myself telling her that I love her and that I hope she enjoys the books, and I also drew on the package itself several Hello Kitty images and flowers.

    You cannot turn off the motherly instinct, ever. I feel like my first daughter isn't understood because her adoptive mother knows nothing about bipolar disorder, and if she does she doesn't handle it very well. I want my first daughter to know that I have it as well, and I can relate to her very well.. As she came from me, and I can understand her better then anyone else can. Well, that's about it for my rambling. lol.

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