I found my natural mother and we are writing to one another--but I am so afraid of offending her, and she seems quite wounded when I bring up my father. My life as an adopted child was not good, and while I don't blame her for that, I'm afraid of telling her about it. Is there a blog post that might be helpful?--Walking On Eggshells
This is a common story, and we hear it from both sides--both natural mothers and found children going into reunion are terribly afraid of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing--and neither ones of us knows what the trigger points for the other person will be.
We've talked about what natural mothers need to avoid upon reunion before, but never written about what might upset mothers. So here goes.
Natural mothers who have not been waiting, or even expecting, to be found by their children are the most vulnerable because they are likely to have buried the anguish of the pregnancy and birth and relinquishment deeply, and thus found the way they can live without wallowing in their grief.
BURIED ANGUISH COMES TUMBLING OUT
So go forward remembering that your return is opening up a torrent of sad emotions that your mother has had to bury. Society told us we have to keep this terrible thing (pregnancy, birth and baby) a secret. We were tattered with shame. We were not supposed to grieve. All this adds to the awfulness of opening up the past wounds that you in the flesh represent. Even years later your appearance makes that anguish now seem as intact and fresh as it was when it occurred, like an oil deposit that has been found and is gushing. Images of that time, and the feeling of intense pain, may come to her in flashbacks. Now that doesn't help you the adoptee desiring a reunion, and natural mothers must revisit this to have a successful reunion--something every single adoptee is entitled to have.
Remember that most women who relinquish were damaged in the process. We never get back to square one; we never get back to a life without feeling on some level that no matter what happened, no matter who forced the adoption, no matter what--we were not supposed to give up our babies. And yet we did. The guilt from that is still present, once a mother revisits the pain. Listen to her with an open heart, but for your own sanity, do not take the guilt on yourself. Understand, she isn't blaming you; she is remembering the situation that led to so much grief for her. She probably has no idea how her words may be interpreted or how she is making you feel. If that happens, do tell her how what she is saying is making you feel.
THE BIRTH FATHER SITUATION MAY BE TRICKY
The situation of your father is a tricky one. If the mother was assaulted, if you mother was left in the lurch, if your mother felt violated or rejected once she was pregnant, you can imagine that for most women the man who did this will be an incredibly sore subject. His family may not know the truth of what happened. If you contact him or his family, they may have a completely different story. They may not accept their good son or brother did not act honorably. They may not be willing to accept the truth. So while of course you will ask about the father--or she may offer the information without you asking--but if she says nothing (and it is the obvious question for any adoptee to have) be gentle, and you may have to give her time. Let her work through her grief first if necessary. But also remember: you are entitled to know the truth of your paternity.
In one case I'm aware of, a teenage girl became pregnant with her high school boyfriend. When the girl's parents went to see the boy's parents, they (he) got other members of the football team to say they were also sleeping with her--a total lie. This of course was before DNA testing, and so there was no way to point to the father with outside corroboration. The idea that the child of such an unhappy pregnancy would want to have a relationship with that monster will be incredibly difficult to stomach. This is an extreme case, but there are all kinds of variations where the mere mention of the birth father will bring up a whole host of bad emotions. What you, the child, can do about this is doubtful, except once more to tread carefully. You are still entitled to knowledge of your father--since the original birth certificate may not contain his name, by law--but be aware that this may be the most tender subject the two of you will face.
And there will be many cases where the father was not even told of your existence. That in itself is a neutral situation; it means nothing other than the father was not told for various reasons. I know one father who suspected but was never told after a casual relationship ended quickly, and only learned the truth when the mother phoned him after reuniting with their college-age son. My friend handled it well, and immediately met his son for lunch and called to tell me how well it went and how elated he was at finding a son--attending the same college he went to, majoring in the same subject, and smoking the same menthol cigarettes.
FEELINGS THE ADOPTEE MAY NOT BE AWARE OF
While you may be approaching your mother with love and acceptance, do be aware that contact may stir in you, the child relinquished, feelings and anger and abandonment that you did not know you had. When my daughter first visited me at my home, about six months after we first met at her adoptive parents' house, we did a little play acting, and she was directing the action. Within a minute or two she had her hands around my neck screaming at me: Why did you give me up?
We had a relationship that traversed more than a quarter of a century after that, but I never forgot the fierce look in her eyes at that moment. Her family, her adoption, was not a bad one, and she had deep loyalty to them.
However, if you have acceptance and love in your heart--and your natural mother is willing to meet you in the middle with an open heart--you will be able to work through this difficult emotional terrain together. What all of us have to remember is that any relationship is a two-way street. I repeat this often because it is so true: The people who want to be in your life will be; you don't have to go chasing after them. Okay, in an mother-and-child reunion, someone has to go "chasing" after the other to find the individual, but after that, it is up to the two people to make it work. Kindness always helps.--lorraine
Birthmothers: Women Who Have Relinquished Babies for Adoption Tell Their Stories
by Merry Bloch Jones
A book from years ago, but still an excellent one.
"Often revealing their experiences for the first time, 72 American mothers who gave up their babies answered questionnaires and participated in in-depth interviews with sociologist Jones for this searching study. Although their ages and backgrounds vary widely, almost all of the mothers, the author notes, share regrets about their decision to relinquish their babies, with a majority reporting troubled marriages. Most traumatized among those interviewed were teenagers too young to have a voice in the decision to surrender the baby, or who felt stigmatized by illegitimacy. Sixty percent of those who gave up a baby to adoption agencies that "seal" records later sought to locate their children. A chapter titled "Finding, Winning and Losing" sums up the obstacles to establishing intimacy after reunion, and discusses relationships between birth parents and adoptive parents."--Publisher's Weekly
This precedes The Girls Who Went Away by decades, but in some ways, I like this book better, and it irritated me when the media kept saying, that The Girls was the "first."