I didn't tell my social worker of my plan because I was afraid that if she knew, she might send my daughter to China or some place where I could never find her. I was aware that records were closed, birth certificates altered to show adoptive parents as THE parents. I told myself I would go to law school (which I had been considering for several years) and as an attorney I could figure how how to beat the system and find my daughter.
I did go to law school but when 18 years rolled by, I hesitated. Better to wait until she's 21, I rationalized. When that deadline came, I vacillated. I was married and had three more daughters, a demanding job. Besides, I thought, Rebecca isn't really my daughter. Oh, we might look alike but that would be it. We'd have nothing in common; she'd be a complete stranger.
CONFLICTING FEELINGS LED TO INACTION
But then I'd think perhaps she needed me. Maybe she was living in a hovel, addicted to drugs, in prison, enslaved somewhere. Mostly, though, I thought that meeting her might alleviate the enduring pain of my loss. Then I would remind myself that finding her would not reset the clock. What was done was done. As in Hamlet, the native hue of resolution sickened with the pale cast of thought. I did nothing. Eventually Rebecca found me.
Stronger mothers take arms against the sea of misfortune, throwing caution to the wind. Mothers like Lorraine don't even wait until their child's 18th birthday to search. Some mothers find children delighted to meet them, eager to become a part of their lives, a part of their families. Others find reluctant children who are at least willing to meet, perhaps due to curiosity. After meeting they accept an on-going relationship.
Some mothers have a door slammed in their face. I know a couple of mothers who received letters
from the adoptive parents' attorney threatening to have them arrested if they contacted their child again. (An empty threat, I should add but frightening enough to discourage some from continuing). Rejected mothers may try again in a few years only to be rejected again. "I have wonderful adoptive parents; I don't need or want another family. Please don't contact me again" their child writes. Further attempts are met with silence or a letter returned "REFUSED" in bright red type. Some mothers maintain contact clandestinely, driving by their child's house, attending an event where their child is performing, searching the internet for mention of their child. More years pass. Their children are in their 40's and 50's yet still react like school children warned about stranger danger. Mothers who persist may be labeled as mentally unbalanced.
I know fine mothers who were rejected. Sheila Ganz and Jane Guttman, have told their heart-rending stories publicly. And for some mothers their persistence paid off.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH HER? PLENTY
In adoption circles, we hear about rejected mothers who go off the deep end, stalking their children, denouncing them as ungrateful. The natural mothers blame the adoptive parents for their loss, which is not wholly irrational. The adoptive parents were, after all, eager players in a game which perpetrated the injustice against the natural mother. The natural mothers' obsessing with reuniting distorts their thinking. They convince themselves that if their child met them, the powerful connection between mother and child would overcome their child's resistance, Once in their arms, the past would be erased.
In spite of their bad, even criminal, behavior, I have sympathy for these mothers. They continue to be victimized by a system designed to perpetuate the patriarchy by punishing women for having unsanctioned sex. They're more sinned against than sinning. While no one should put up with threatening or even annoying behavior, I encourage adoptees to respond with compassion. If you can do it safely, have at least one meeting, perhaps commence a dialogue. As for rejected mothers, don't hold you breath--life is too short to spend pining for what is beyond your grasp--but do continue to send an occasional card.--jane
When a first mother decides to search
How do natural mothers fare?
When Reunions Go Awry: What Memoirs of Adopted Daughters Tell Birthmothers
When the Reunited Child Pulls Back
The Gift Wrapped in Sorrow: A Mother's Quest for Healing
By Jane Guttman
"In this profoundly moving journey, we are invited to join this author as she weaves a story of truth, of innocence, of blind trust in her parents, of soul-shattering pain and ultimately of healing. In "The Gift Wrapped in Sorrow," Jane Guttman cracks open her heart and unravels the events which led to the relinquishment of her baby in an unconscious world. After three decades, Dr. Guttman has emerged from these events shattered but still whole, and at the doorstep of transparent illumination...For those who wish to heal any life loss, this is a quick read that will remain forever etched upon our hearts."--Patricia Meyer on Amazon
"Unlocking the Heart of Adoption"
Unlocking the Heart of Adoption chronicles the filmmaker’s journey as a birthmother interwoven with diverse personal stories of adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents in both same race and transracial adoptions. These stories span 70 years, from ALICE, a birthmother whose child was adopted out without her consent in 1922; to RON, an adoptee who uncovered the truth after his parents died when he was 36; to PHYLLIS, a birthmother and ALISON, an adoptive mother in an open adoption with twin boys born in 1991. The film includes interviews with three mixed-race transracially adopted people: DEBBIE, a Japanese American woman; PAUL, a Filipino American man and MARTIN, an African American man with HAL, his Caucasian adoptive father.