' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: How relinquishing a child affected my friendships

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How relinquishing a child affected my friendships

Lorraine
Friendship has been on my mind lately as it relates to how my friends have changed because of being someone who relinquished a child for adoption during a far different era, found at fifteen in 1981, and wrote about the experience and talked about it in the media and to legislators, always hoping to effect a change. That records for all would be open. That there would be far fewer adoptions. That mothers--if they chose to give birth--would keep their children.

Along the way, some friends and men in my life understood why I was so committed, but others fell away. But it's not about the men in my life that's on my mind, it's the female friends. Now my connection to adoption has been pretty intense, I'll grant you that, so it goes without saying that friends had to understand me and accept that part of me if we were going to be close.


Lorraine and Kiana at a recent reading
One of my dearest friends, a writer, is also a mother who relinquished. We met when we both worked briefly for a public relations firm on Madison Avenue in the Mad Men era, the early Seventies. I blurted out the fact of my daughter the first time we had lunch--my daughter would have been four or five at the time. She said: Me too. Kiana Davenport and I have been friends since, even though for years we lived a half a world apart--she in Hawaii, me in New York, and now she's back not far away. We've had great times and argued and cried together and made up and I know we will be friends forever. You won't see her name in the book, but she's there in a few places. She was a great encouragement when I was writing hole in my ♥, especially at the times when I felt like giving up. She always had faith in me, and I love her for it.

But two friends that go back to elementary and high school have been a great disappointment. My best friend from about fifth grade and I were inseparable from adolescence to high school, but we managed to stay pals during high school--even though she was the popular girl with the cool boyfriends and I had none. Our paths diverged after high school, and we never lived in the same city again. She had several children, loved being a mother who stayed home, and our lives took on a different cast. Yet out of remembrance of our tight bond, we kept in touch--we went to each other's weddings in far different cities, called each other on birthdays, and usually chatted for an hour or so, but often it was about our high school friends, and not so much our present lives. In a sense, they were quite foreign from each other. Still I treasured her friendship.

FRIENDS WHO DON'T 'APPROVE' OF ME
Yet of late, with the publication of hole♥, I've felt a distinct chill. I assume that she knows many people who have adopted, and I'm assuming they are not the kind of mothers who write to us here. I feel that she doesn't approve of me. Of what I might have written in that book. She isn't curious to find out. So I have moved away, emotionally, but I am sad all the same.

Another friend from high school lives in another state, and she and I have had a pretty active email friendship for the last several years. But she wrote to tell me recently in so many words that like Rhett Butler, she doesn't give a damn. About anything relating to my work in adoption. At the time of my pregnancy and daughter's birth we were living in different cities several hundred miles apart, and we had likewise drifted apart. During that time I was in deep hiding and too embarrassed to pick up the phone and say what would amount to: I got knocked up. I'm giving the baby up for adoption. In fact, I told no one who did not have to know.

Yes, I could have called my friend seemingly out of the blue and 'fessed up, but I didn't see how that would help or what she could have done. So I circled my emotional wagons around my secret and let no one in except the one girl friend on the other newspaper in Rochester--who drove me to the hospital the morning my daughter was born. My mother didn't know until my daughter was five or six and my involvement in adoption work demanded that I tell her because I was popping up in news stories at the time.

Many of you will understand the complete despair we mothers of that era felt, and how we kept our secret because we were too embarrassed, too stricken, to let anyone in who didn't have to be. Fellow blogger Jane ended up in San Francisco and had her baby in secret too. Kiana had to drop out of college and go by herself to another city. Cops drove her to the hospital when the time came. I simply stayed in my apartment in a city far from home in Michigan and learned how to cook and read the classics I missed in college.

No matter. I did tell this friend about my daughter long before my mother knew, but it appears that this transgression of keeping her out of that initial loop hurt her deeply, and while she says that she no longer cares about that, she...really doesn't give a damn about any aspect of my involvement in the issue of my life.

But what happened to me isn't just a side dish to the main course of my life; it is the main entree, the whole enchilada. While I have other interests--politics, film, art, photography, my job as a theater critic for a local newspaper, entertaining, I could go on--giving up a baby made me feel outside of the main rush of life, affected me in ways I could never have imagined, and you either understand that or you don't. None of us every went back to the person we were before. 

THE SECRET THAT BECAME A WALL
And there is Yvonne. A friend I've written about before as someone who was hyper critical of my work to unseal records, help adoptees and birth parents reunite--and ye gods! even writing another book about it. In hole♥, she is the one quoted shouting at me: YOU ARE NO MORE THAN A REPRODUCTIVE AGENT. Her children, with whom my husband and I became friendly, have told me that she carried on about what I was doing at some length when I wasn't around.

You would think after her outburst one Sunday afternoon that we could never be friends again, but we managed to. She is a dozen years older than me, and lives on my block. When we were estranged, I missed her.

One of her sons came up with the probable reason--that she also relinquished a child that she has never told anyone about. There is a time when she was living abroad before she got married in America. We are even pretty sure we can pinpoint the father for reasons I won't go into here. At first I was unsure about this...but then I learned that a niece who has turned her back on Yvonne--also gave up a child.

Yvonne did not tell me this, which would have been the natural thing to do, given my story; someone else in the family did. What I presume is that she urged this niece to give up a child, and now the niece will have nothing to do with Yvonne, while her sisters come to visit occasionally. In fact, the estranged niece has largely removed her self from most of the family. Yvonne just says...she's weird, and shrugs it off.

Recently Yvonne slipped and told her "oldest" son she had her first child...two years before he was born. When he tried to "correct" her, she insisted she was right with the years. He gave up.

Now Yvonne is dying. She is slipping away slowly, the way people often do these days. I can't help it, the realization that her adamant opposition to my work is almost surely the result of her being a mother-in-hiding has left me somewhere between angry and resigned and disgusted. Long ago I came to realize that the men who pounded the table shouting "What right does she have?" and "Who does she think she is!!!?!" and excoriated me pubicly--well, they were the men who had children no one in their present lives knew about. Yvonne's was similarly a staunch opponent--in person and when I wasn't there.

And I find myself wishing that Yvonne would finally tell me her secret, but I know she won't, and because the children now suspect--why else would she carry on at such length--it would be hard to keep this secret from them once she is gone. So it will end there. Yet the full realization of this fact has erected a huge emotional barrier in my mind. I will visit her and say nothing, what would be the point? So be it.

THE MUTUAL SUPPORT WE GIVE EACH OTHER
Lorraine at press conference at NYC City Hall
Of course I have friends who are mothers and adoptees, and our shared connection runs deep, like the way veterans from war share a bond that is unmistakable. Fellow blogger Jane is certainly one, and though we live on opposite sides of the continent, we have become good friends with our shared passion. We share this and politics and politics is important to both of us. We talk frequently on the phone and email each other several times a week. Adoptee Pam Hasegawa is another. Linda, who used to write for the blog is another mother I'm often in touch with via email, as well as with some of the adoptees and mothers who comment here. The mutual support given and received from other natural mothers and adoptees--and even a few adoptive parents--as a result of the blogging community and Facebook has enriched my life immeasurably. I've gotten to know people I could never have done any other way; my life would be much more lonely and alienated without them.

Jennifer, my alternate universe daughter, and I are going strong as ever, and coincidentally adoption is one thing we share; she is a registered confidential intermediary in Michigan who does what she can to bring the people together. We might stay with her for a night on the way to "Britt's" graduation in December, and she's planning to come also. Her son conveniently goes to the same school, and she and her son know Britt.
Jane with friends in Olympia, WA

Now I do have friends who are not mothers who relinquished children--my life would be narrow without them! But they understand and accept me for who I am; I don't feel them judging me or being critical. They were a great support emotionally and some, financially, during the writing of hole♥. They are near and they are far, scattered from Florida to Vermont, from Sag Harbor to Seattle, New York City to Chicago and Arizona and back to New York City. I'm making plans to see someone I met in Albany on the newspaper where I worked soon after my daughter was born for lunch next week, and we haven't seen each other in at least a decade. She is the individual who later worked with my baby's father on Newsday, the Long Island newspaper, and she is the one who called to tell me that he had died.

Though the recent losses of friends has saddened me, perhaps it has freed me from wondering why their reactions are off, while around them I feel awkward, or have to explain myself. In a very real way, I am alienated from the whole forward rush of life. We are all outliers, we mothers of loss, and children who have been lost. It is good we have each other. Once more, this mantra I repeat: The people who want to be in your life will be. You don't have to go chasing after them.

If you have friends you haven't shared our secret with, see if you might. Holding a secret in is hard work. You just have to say the words to begin the conversation. If your friend is true, sharing your burden will diminish it. Let go of secret, and it no longer has the power to hurt you. Let in all the lightness you can. Lord knows, the path we tread can be weary.--lorraine
___________________________
From FMF

THE BOOK

"Wow! Lorraine did a truly phenomenal job with this book....She captured her story and those involved so well that I felt as if I was going through this heart-wrenching journey with her. I was an unwed college student that ended up with an unplanned pregnancy. I had only been with the guy for a short period of time and when I found out I was pregnant we were not together—he wanted me to terminate. I was instantly attached to the baby and knew I had the family support to do it on my own, but when reading Lorraine’s story I could not even imagine what she was going through. Emotions are so powerful and we all make different choices—none of them are right or wrong, just our own. I commend Lorraine for her choices and how those choices drove the course of her life thereafter.

'This book is not only a memoir, but an in-depth look at the adoption system and its faults. Lorraine really opened my eyes up to how much is unknown about the whole process—even to the mother’s who are going through it. If you have a personal connection to adoption or no connection at all, this book is still a must-read as this book captures the process of all angles and depths."--Kimille at Amazon
                                                                             ♥
THANK YOU FOR ORDERING ANYTHING FROM AMAZON THROUGH FMF. CLICK ON THE BOOK OR THE TITLES TO GET THERE. 


44 comments :

  1. Enjoyed this article and its focus on a first mother's friendships both existing and new and how adoption and advocacy can affect those....Our experiences have ripple effects on those around us and not everyone is willing to walk with us. I know one of the things our members find so helpful and healing are the friendships that are made in and out of our monthly peer support meetings...one of our members living an open adoption recently wrote about the friendships formed out of our group:
    http://ohiobirthparents.org/2015/11/03/four-women-eight-children-one-love/

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  2. Dear Lorraine,

    What an interesting post! It highlights the complexities of human nature, how we all seek relationships for different things that they each give to us, and yet - a single passion at our core can impact each of those relationships for better or for worse.

    I have a cherished friend who, like me, is interested in family preservation and avoiding adoption except where absolutely necessary - and she works actively in family preservation too. I have always known she is Catholic (I am not), but we have never discussed religion and it didn't seem to matter. Until recently - we went to lunch and she expressed to me how sad it made her that I would not go to Heaven, regardless of how good a person I was, because I had not accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. She asked me to think about it, and promised me she would never mention it again and all would be as before. A couple of weeks later, she invited me to church, and I declined. Although I have tried a few times since then to set up our next lunch date, it seems she always has an excuse to put it off. There is a wall now, because something that is at the core of her beliefs (being Catholic) is at odds with who I am. We still talk / e-mail, but I have stopped asking about meeting for lunch and I sense that wall. Sad, but I remain fond of her.

    On the other hand, when you discover something about someone that matches your core passion, it can greatly increase the closeness of the relationship. Like when I found out that my friendly, elegant, well-off next door neighbor was born to a mentally ill mother and went from foster home to foster home until she aged out of the system. Our shared cause of concern for the children greatly elevated our relationship from the casual, friendly "Hi, neighbor" to something more.

    And then there are the friends who don't understand my obsession with adoption and foster care. But they are friends, regardless, and, like you, I am grateful for the experiences as they make the roads of life more interesting and less lonely!

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    1. Thank you, Jay. What your Catholic friend told you is NOT what I learned in Catholic school, so she is somewhat off about who is admitted to the pearly gates of heaven. By her lights, old agnostic me would surely be relegated to the lower depths of hell....
      If she holds that belief as you say she does, this may be a friend to let go...but yes, we can still remain fond of the friends as they drift away.

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    2. What Jay says is about her religious friend is interesting, and I can relate to it in an even more intimate way. I am not religious at all, but I have a couple of good friends who are. We enjoy mutual respect, and our different beliefs are not an issue in our friendships. I do have an issue with my first son, with whom I've been in reunion for almost four years. When I first found him, we went through a rapturous time of bonding and developing our relationship, and everything was grand. Then he found religion--or re-found it, I'm not really sure. Anyway, he's become one of those who wants us to be together forever in heaven but worries that we won't be because I'm not a believer. We still love each other and are in touch, mostly via FB, but I feel a separation that feels permanent. I find I can't be really intimate with someone who has such a very different world view from mine. I can be respectful and tolerant--as I would be of Muslim or a Hindu or a Catholic--but I can't feel that transcendent closeness I once thought we had. Perhaps this makes me shallow; I don't know. And I don't think it's the religion per se. As I say, my best friend is religious (in a vague, intellectual, non-dogmatic way). Maybe it's his blind certainty that I can't abide, sort of the opposite of hating the sin but loving the sinner. I love my son but hate his religion, which, to him, is the most important thing in the world. In some ways, I feel as if I've lost him again--to Jesus.

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    3. Pam, I am so sorry that religion has put up a wall between you and your reunified son. While religion is often a powerful forger or divider of friendships, it is terribly sad that it has come between a mother and a son who were fortunate enough to find reunion. Yes, your son definitely sounds like he has the same "blind certainty" as my friend. It is a good thing you are in touch - and, who knows, belief systems can change. Not to say that he must necessarily leave the religion he has found, but hopefully he can modify his beliefs to accept that he cannot know whether or not you are going to Heaven - and, in the meantime, be able to love you (and you him) freely. I wish the best for your relationship.

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  3. That's not Catholic theology your friend is inflicting on you, Jay, that's born-again Fundamentalist Protestant belief of some extreme sects. Lo is right, not what I learned in Catechism or as a long-time Catholic either. This woman probably belongs to some Charismatic splinter group parish, or else has her own beliefs she claims are Catholic but they most decidedly are not. No human being has the right to say another person is not going to heaven, all that is between themselves and God and personal conscience does count for a lot in Catholic theology.

    That person is an obnoxious judgmental fanatic. Nobody needs "friends" like that.

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    2. That may be, but the Vatican actually condemns this belief--that there is no salvation outside the Church. For your own amusement, look up Fr. Leonard Feeney, a Jesuit whose stark pronouncements on the subject so incensed a young Bobby Kennedy that he appealed to the Boston hierarchy to get Feeney removed. Feeney, described by the Catholic writer Evelyn Waugh as "stark, raving mad," was eventually ex-communicated for his position, which he refused to abandon. He was also an anti-Semite.

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    3. So-called "Traditionalist Catholics" of the sort Mel Gibson and father ascribe to are not part of the mainstream Catholic Church and are condemned by the Vatican, as Jess says. Anti-Semitism plays a big part in their belief. Much of what they consider "traditional" are beliefs the Catholic Church has thankfully moved on from, or that were never really part of Catholic theology but espoused by some priests and some of the laity. They have taken the worst of Medieval Catholic bigotry that led to the Inquisition and other horrors and made it their creed.

      Jay, you mention you do not consider your friend who cried at lunch because you won't be with her in heaven "obnoxious" because she does good works. That is generous of you, but perhaps "delusional" or "disturbed" are better descriptions. Certainly, she lacks boundaries where it comes to religion.

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    4. After 12 years of Catholic school, after being fearful my mother (who had divorced and remarried--my father) would go straight to hell without Confession (because she was a baptized Catholic), I am absolutely positive that even heathens who believed in no god at all could go to heaven. As others here have written, the rules have changed to reflect reality, but under no circumstances where non Catholics assigned to some lower version of life after death. Maryanne and Jess are correct in what they say.
      ..In nomine patris et filii et spiritus scanti.....

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    5. Maryanne, yes, she does seem misguided. I know a lot of practicing Catholics, and no one other than this friend has ever said to me I will not go to Heaven.

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    6. I'll be surprised if I don't see you there...Jay. That's assuming I get in. :)

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    7. Regardless of what happens in the afterlife, Lorraine, I am glad I connected with you on this planet :)

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  4. After my reunion, I found myself distancing myself from my old friends -- they were distancing themselves from me as well. It's not that they felt I was a sinner or anything like that; they simply were not interested in what interested me most. Meanwhile I made new friends from ACC, CUB, and local adoption support groups.

    Even though it's hard, I encourage mothers to discuss adoption when the opportunity presents itself. I know I've ducked the issue and then kicked myself for being so weak. Speaking up can counter what I heard from my non-mother friends and relatives. "Why I never heard this about adoption before." Translation: "It's just you that has a problem with adoption. Other mothers are fine with it. And it's so wonderful for the adoptive parents."

    Yvonne's response reminds me of politicians who oppose gay rights who turn out to be closet gays. I had one friend who had told me over a glass of wine she had given up a baby. This was before my reunion and I said nothing about my relinquishment. After my reunion, I contacted my friend, eager to share my experience. She insisted she had done the right thing and had no regrets. Later I tried to talk to her about searching and she shut the conversation down.

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    1. And were you able to stay friends with her at any level? I would think that your reunion would bother her and she wouldn't want to be around you--your presence alone would be a constant reminder.

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    2. Yes, we see each other now and then. We live about 100 miles apart. She comes to Portland occasionally and calls me for lunch. We do not discuss adoption.

      I don't think she thought that her daughter might need her. She clearly thought about her daughter, though, since she mentioned her to me.

      I agree that mature mothers should realize that their child might need them-- I sometimes worried my daughter might be an alcoholic or drug addict--still I did not search. My thinking was yes, I made a wrong decision but I can't change it. Searching will disrupt my family and may accomplish nothing. This daughter will be a stranger.

      One of the problems is that information about searching and reunion is not well-publicized. There's an occasional newspaper article or TV show. Since I have been involved with adoption reform I've met many mothers who only recently heard of CUB, AAC, "the books" or that searching was not only possible but the right thing to do. I knew nothing about searching or reunion until 1997 when my daughter contacted me even though the search movement began in the early 70's. My daughter didn't know about search help either. She did it on her own, compelled to "know."

      I just wish CUB, would get louder.

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    3. In the international adoption community, to which I belong as an adoptive mother to two children born in Guatemala, searching for and reuniting with birth families are topics discussed very actively. Questions such as "Should we search now, or wait until our kids ask to reunite and / or reach age 18" are debated often. A large percentage of adoptive parents have searched/are searching, bring their kids to visit Guatemala for meetings, and maintain regular contact with birth families. Online listserves, closed Facebook groups, heritage camps, and adoption workshops and forums are places these issues are mostly debated--in other words, private platforms and not, as Jane says, in the newspaper or on TV.
      As adoptive parents, we have tried to learn important lessons from people who have gone before us, such as the need for our children to have relationships with their first families. ~

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    4. Jessica, the situation of adoptive parents and natural parents is totally different. Adoptive parents have a lot of support groups, online connections, and so on. They've taken classes before they adopted know their child may want to know his original parents. Adoptive parents do not keep their status a secret so it is easy to connect with other adoptive parents.

      Until recently, mothers were cut loose with no support, told to pretend it never happened; they kept their "shame" a secret. Women could be friends for years before discovering both were natural mothers. Support groups on the internet and locally are often run by agencies for mothers in open adoption.

      When I ask mothers who began searching when their child was in his 40' why they didn't start sooner, they respond by saying "I didn't know I could" or "I didn't think it wax right" or "I didn't know if my child knew he was adopted and didn't want to upset him if he didn't know."

      There is simply not enough information out there for mothers.

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    5. Jessica, let me add to that you're comparing people adopting in the past 10-20 years with mothers who gave up their children 40-60 years ago. Many of the adoptive parents of the Baby Scoop Era were as poorly informed as the mothers. They believed that their child would never want to have any contact with their original family. These adoptive parents opposed legislation to open records. These parents did not have support groups; adopting a child was something while not kept a secret was not something to talk about. In those days, Agencies attempted to "match" babies with their adoptive parents so they would look like any other family. States such as New York ad California required adult adoptees to get their adoptive parents' permission before they could get their non-identifying information. Prominent figures like Ann Landers opposed adoptees searching.

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    6. Jane, thanks for the clarification. All true. History provides great lessons and I appreciate the opportunity to learn. Your blog and the writings by other first mothers and people who are adopted have also taught me much. Thank you again. ~

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    7. Jessica, I also belong to the international community and from the lists I'm on, one might easily get the impression of a dedicated bunch of adoptive parents eagerly searching for--and often being able to connect their kids with--original family. In certain countries in particular, like Russia, it seems pretty easy.

      However, it would be naive beyond belief to categorize this as the norm. Most a-parents get the kids home and that's the end of it until the kids speak up--if they dare. Have you been following the Greek adoption scandal from the '40s posted on Pound Pup Legacy? One a-mother was described as fearing the "loss" of her child, age 40, when she went to look for her mother in Greece! Yes, that's right. The adoptee was 40 years old! The vast majority of adoptive parents do not avail themselves of the info out there and don't care anyway.

      Keep the faith.

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    8. Sadly some adoptive parents say the reason they adopted from another country was because they didn't have to worry about birth parents showing up.

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    9. I have to say that the adoptive mother who corrected my friend when she referred to my "daughter" to "birth daughter" at the time of my daughter's death is hardly a mother who could handle her adoptive daughter searching and finding. Yet this same mother told me once that her daughter "wasn't interested" in searching. Who's surprised? Not me. Adoptive parents give out clues about their feelings--as we all do--all the time.

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    10. My own experience with my son's aparents is this, while on the surface they behave in front of him like they are 'cool' with it all, but behind the scenes when he is not around they let their true feelings come out. I'm sure they thought we would meet and that would be the end of it. However, it has caused us (my son and me) to have to meet secretively so as not to 'rock the boat' with them. It causes such guilt and loyalty issues within him, its just one more issue that he has to deal with, so I try very hard not to add to that stress. I let him know I am here, in the background, if he needs me. It has not been the experience I was expecting to have, but instead it's like being in a bad divorce. It completely blind-sided me because I didn't know I was going to have to deal with the aparents, since my son was 24 years old when I met him 6 years ago, & he is 30 now, and I am still dealing with their insecurities. It has been an eye-opener, & what is worst is that they are constantly talking about what 'Godly' people they are. Religion has played a very large part of our reunion because when I met him he was deeply involved in the "International House of Prayer" that his aparents are into. Anyone who knows about this place will understand the depth of guilt and manipulation that my son has endured. I guess they thought they could hang onto him if they brain-washed him enough.

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  5. Lots of interesting, enlightening comments! First of all, I went to Catholic school (it is very common in cities in India to attend Catholic school, even when you are not Catholic) and my mother-in-law is Catholic. Never, before the incident with this friend, have I been told by anyone that I will not be going to Heaven because I have not accepted Christ. Perhaps, as Kaisa says, my friend is a "Traditionalist Catholic." So Lorraine and maryanne, I totally understand what you are saying.

    That said, maryanne, I am not able to think of my friend as obnoxious. She devotes so much of her time to wonderful causes, and has been such an educator in my life about adoption and foster care, so experienced about children and so resourceful, that I will forever be grateful to her. She helped me find my former foster daughter Nina when she was homeless and I was able to get a coat to Nina to protect her from the winter chill. The smile on Nina's face, I will never forget - and for that alone, if nothing else, I am indebted to this friend. Despite the wall created by our religious differences, she has so much good in her heart that I don't care if she thinks I am not "Heaven material."

    The lunch where she brought up this issue was kind of awkward, but definitely not obnoxious. She literally started crying and said she couldn't bear the thought that I would not be going to Heaven. Very awkward - not sure what the waitress was thinking. And here I was, just telling my friend not to worry and I'd be OK. I didn't feel as if she was putting me down, more like she genuinely feared what would happen to me when I die. At least, that's how it came across to me, so it was hard to feel that she was being obnoxious.

    I will end by commenting on what Jane says regarding speaking up about adoption. I recall mentioning one of my experiences to Lorraine a while ago. One of my son's classmate's parents approached me to ask for advice as they wanted to adopt. I was very vocal about avoiding infant adoption and, if they really wanted to do this, looking for a child truly in need of a home, or providing a foster home and adopting only if it was clear there was no other option. The wife told me there was no way her husband would consider fostering as he wanted a "sure thing" and no biological family in the picture. She said her husband hates his biological family and sees no problem with cutting a child's ties to the biological family. Said her husband is perfectly happy with his friends. I said the difference here is you are making this drastic decision for a helpless child. I also mentioned how knowledge of our birth origins, both good and bad, help us have a better sense of identity as we navigate life. The wife then told me their other option was to consider IVF with an egg donor. I told her I thought that was a better choice for them, at least the child would be with one biological parent, but it would still be a disservice to refuse to acknowledge that there was a genetic mother in the picture. Months later, I asked what they decided and was told they are just going to forget the whole thing. I have no idea if anything I said influenced their decision, but am happy I spoke up. And, in this particular case, the couple have become closer to us, if anything. So speaking up turned out to be a win-win, in a lot of ways. This has not always been the case, but I realize the value of speaking up and will always do so.

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  6. Its funny how some things really trigger you and Jane's story about her friend who gave up a baby really got me, I just can't stop thinking about it.
    I am an adoptee about two years into reunion with both fmother and bfather, ffather no longer speaking to me due to opposition from his wife, fmother and me really trying the best we can, but still its hard. In many ways I have one of the best baby scoop era situations possible: they were teenagers, they were actually dating, the sex was consensual, he visited her in the maternity home, both felt they were doing the right thing in relinquishing, and both were in mutual consent registries. But still, its very hard.
    While I have read about the era and the social pressure and the coercion etc. in my heart of hearts I just don't get it. How can this woman not care enough to want to know her own daughter? I understand how one could be forced by social pressures to relinquish, but I don't understand accepting it years later when there is no pressure anymore. I think of all the adoptees I know, so so many of us from 1965-1970. I think of William, a wonderful, generous, creative person, kicked out of his house at 18 by his fundamentalist Christian parents because of his insubordination. Did his first mother know or care her son was eating out of dumpsters? I remember the neighbors we had growing up, with not one but three adopted children ( all separate, all white, not siblings, all infant adoptions) and two natural ones who came later. We could hear that neighbor beating those children and screaming at them at all hours of the day and night. The second oldest one especially, a dark haired freckle faced boy, who always startled like a kicked dog when you spoke to him. Are their mothers right now thinking about how did the right thing and have no regrets? And more, adoptees with OCD, with intense anxiety, with depression. How could these women not care enough to at least see if their children were OK? I can understand how a teenager could imagine a fantasy perfect life for their baby, but a mature woman who knows how hard it is to parent, how marriages and families fall apart, who presumably would have strong feelings about how she would want her child raised, how could she just trust that 'the authorities' knew what they doing and that her child is OK? Girls yes, but how can mature women accept the reasoning of that era now? How could idea that you give up your baby and bury the records because you were young or unmarried etc make any sense to them today?

    I can't help but imagine my own little girl, three years old now, in some other house with some other woman she called mother. Would I still love her? Would I know her if I saw her pass by me in the street? My child is so much like her father, her tough, shrewd, combative father, I wonder if aparents not understanding her natural temperament would label her with an Oppositional/Defiant personality disorder and drug her or beat her? I think of this every day.
    I know that most firstmothers are normal women, but inside I just don't understand it.

    In my darker moments coming to terms with being an adoptee makes me feel like nobody in this world really loves anybody, they only want a relationship that has a benefit to them, and that even the closest human bond, mother and child, is empty. If your own mother would let you go because she felt threatened by your existence (father too of course but thats pretty routine...) what hope does one have of ever believing any human bond is sacred? One tends to suspect that your aparents would leave you by the side of the road too if they felt like you were too much of a burden. Most people never have to look into a dark well and wonder how much pressure it would take to make any person in your life leave you to die and never look back. It just makes you feel like nothing means anything.

    No regrets. It just chills me.

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    1. Oh, Unknown, I'm one of the mothers and I ask myself those questions every day. Every damn day. How could I have believed them? I could I have not known that my daughter needed me - that I needed her? How, HOW, H O W?!?!? I feel like I am a total failure in life that I didn't protect my first born. I read so many stories of the pain adopted people went through and continue to go through. It makes my heart weep for my daughter. I have no idea if she experiences this kind of sorrow now but she did tell me she cried for me as a child. Oh my how could I have done that to my own flesh and blood? And nothing I can say or do can change that I gave her to strangers to raise her.
      I welcomed her with open arms but I realize it is way too little way too late. I understand how you can't relate to an earlier era. We have the world at our fingertips now. It wasn't like that then. But you would think using the good sense God gave me would have been enough. It wasn't. My mother's flawed wisdom trumped my own heart. And believe me when I say I continue to pay for my error in relinquishing. Not a day goes by that I refrain from admonishing myself. I will be sorrowful until the day I die. I know it doesn't help my daughter but you can't re-wind life's decisions.
      Barb

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    2. Barb wrote:"I welcomed her with open arms but I realize it is way too little way too late."

      No, it is not way too little way too late. Just show your daughter by your steadfastness that you will always be there for her now. It will do a world of good for both of you. Of course you cannot change the past. The present and the future is all we have now. But I believe you can make a world of difference for both your own and your daughter's present and future by giving her the security that you are now there for her and always will be.

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    3. Oh yeah, "now there and always will be", that does make a difference, at least in some cases, and even where it does not, it can't hurt and can only help. It made a world of difference for me to keep "being there" through years of silence and distrust, even when I thought the effort was futile. This weekend I made some new friends through adoption, my daughter-in-law's mother, sister and niece who were at my adopted granddaughter's birthday party. They knew my story already so I did not have to explain, which was nice, and I was just Mike's mom and one of the grandmas. It was all so normal!

      Of course the loss of the many past years is sad, and it hits hard to see just what you missed, but on the other hand, the only way we can go is forward and if I stayed mired in grief for the past I would be missing the present too. I refuse to let that happen. I do feel I got my son back, finally. Not the baby that was long-gone, not the lost years, but a precious now and whatever future there will be. That is a great gift that took so many years to be given.

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    4. Barb, I agree with what Robin and maryanne said above. Stay steady and hold on. No one can undo the past, but now your daughter knows you are there, and although you missed the mothering experience, you can now be a mother-figure that she can feel will add something positive to her life, and someone it would help her to know.

      I hear you, it is very painful for me to think of how I could have hurt my oldest son so badly, by placing him for adoption. It is a knife that stabs into the heart again and again. But I hope you can come to some realization that you did the best you could, under the circumstances, especially when you were in a position of helplessness. I hope that you and your daughter can have some kind of dialogue as adults, and that you will not be so hard on yourself. You are someone who she would benefit by knowing as a person, and you are worth loving as a mother.

      Don't give up; time, as a friend once said to me, heals a lot of things, after I placed my children for adoption. It sounded trite and I resented her saying it. But - all these years later, I cannot say that I disagree with it. It seems to be true. It may not help you know, but I hope that you can be encouraged, and suffer a little less, if it is possible.

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    5. Barb,

      From your comment it sounds like you and your relinquished daughter have a relationship. I think you have every reason to be hopeful. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will the trust your daughter would have had in you, which was damaged by being given up for adoption, be rebuilt in a day.

      The first mothers here can speak to you from their perspective, but I think it is important that you hear this message from an adoptee. Be there for your daughter. Over time, she will be able to relax when she realizes that you aren't going anywhere.

      You can never get back everything that you lost, and time may not heal all wounds, but it can help all wounds.

      Of course, it goes without saying that I am basing this on the assumption that you can develop a healthy, never abusive, relationship with your daughter.

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    6. Thanks, Robin! And thanks, Mary Ann, too.
      I do have a lovely relationship with my daughter going on six years. We love each other and like each other very much. She doesn't want to go deep - only a texting communication - never on the phone. But that's okay, it's where her comfort rests. When I travel the 1,000 miles to see her she picks activities that involve lots of other people - or the movies. I get the drift.
      But don't get me wrong. I am extremely lucky because I LIKE her and love her. Some mother's aren't so lucky. And when we are together we have lots of fun. So I don't complain but it is sorrowful that there isn't more between us. So I send gifts, letters every so often, texts when they seem appropriate, invite my self to fly out to see her once a year and invite her on trips or to my home once or so a year. I have never been invited but always feel welcome. I'm affluent enough to stay in a hotel. I don't know how poor people do reunion. I would just never get to see my daughter if I was poor.
      So there is no poor me, here. I am really one of the lucky ones. But it takes me about an hour or two a day online trying to amend for my life blunder of giving my kid away- just to stay sane. It works so I keep at it. I try to keep mothers and their babies together, and try to be balm for the heart of my adopted friends that suffer from this archaic practice.
      Barb

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    7. Barb, that sounds like a very good relationship with a child that lives 1000 miles away. Two of my raised sons live at least 3000 miles away, are not phone people (at least not to me, one son talks to his Dad for half an hour, me for 3 minutes:-). One was in Singapore for 4 years,on the other side of the earth! We see each other once a year or so if lucky. I do not have deep emotional conversations with any of my sons, never did so I do not miss that with Mike. Do you have other kids? My goal has always been a normal relationship with my surrendered son and to me, this is normal. All my kids love me, I love them, it is just there and does not need to be said again and again. They are all very much like my stoic Irish Dad.

      I have had to learn to invite myself to see my surrendered son and family who live about an hour and a half away, fearing being a pest. The barrier was in my mind, not theirs. I have been invited several times which is great, but other times waited too long between visits. This last visit was the best, it does get better when the adoptee is open to any contact at all. Of course I feel ignored sometimes when my son is very busy and does not answer emails, but I keep reminding myself it is not me, but the life he has which is full and meaningful and I am lucky to be any part of it. I have found I just have to kick myself hard if I start going to that place of sorrow about the past, as it is poison to the present to dwell there.

      Plenty of poor people manage reunion and keep a connection any way they can with their surrendered kid, email, even hand-written letters. Love and family connection do not depend on money. Frequent face to face contacts are not the only way to stay in touch. I had to laugh when an older friend expressed surprise that I would drive alone and at night to my son's place out in the country. My internal reaction was that I would drive through the gates of Hell to see the son I was never supposed to see again:-)

      Barb, it sounds like you are doing exactly the right thing and it is working well. Robin's advice about continuing to be there for your daughter is excellent, this is a real relationship that goes both ways. For those who have found a son or daughter who has been abusive or nasty or has explicitly told you not to contact them again, the situation is different, and sometimes stepping back is all you can do. Each of us has only our own child and and our own circumstances to deal with, and we have to deal with that reality, not with some ideal. As Lorraine has said many times, those who want to be in your life will be there, in whatever capacity they can.

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  7. Thanks for bringing up the subject of friendships. I have never seen this addressed before in the context of being a mother who gave up a child. I have been fortunate in that I have never lost a friend over being a birthmother, including adoptive moms I have known like one who is in the church choir with me and is very supportive. Part of that, though, is that I have always been open about giving up my firstborn and about my involvement with adoption reform, so I did not make friends with anyone who had a problem with that. Any bad comments on meeting someone left that person as an acquaintance I did not get closer to. New friends I have made at the gym whom I see every day know my whole story and eagerly await news of my son, new grandkids, the CUB retreat I recently attended, whatever is going on in my adoption life.

    I have a core group of three friends I have known since grammar school and high school and we have stayed friends over the years. One used to have a beautiful house at the Jersey shore and when our kids were young we would all go for a week together, husbands, kids, and my girlfriend's two beautiful German Shepherds. We also did lots of ladies only shore weekends and always got together at Christmas when we could. My friend Judy has had an annual Christmas party for almost 50 years! Two have moved far away, CA and S. Carolina, but we are always together in spirit and keep in frequent touch on email.

    My friends knew Mike's biological father, we went on some double dates, and knew he broke up with me, then Mike was born and went into foster care and I was a mess for a year with post-partum depression, but there was nothing they could do at the time. One was recently married, and her husband was away in the National Guard rather than be drafted to Vietnam, one had run off to California with the jerk she later married and divorced, and the other had gotten pregnant and married at 7 months a year before me and was living in college housing with her husband. Years later I told them the whole story from my point of view, and they told me what was happening in their lives that prevented them from being able to help me at the time. For years I envied Carolyn who married and got to keep her child, but that envy faded away when her only son was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teen and has never recovered to this day, while the son I had to surrender is well and happy and back in my life today.

    My girlfriends have always been there for me, giving real meaning to the "best friends forever" tag. Last spring we all went to CA to see our friend who is in the early stages of Alzheimers, and her daughter keeps us updated on how she is doing. It is really tragic, she is a beautiful woman who was an artist and dancer and still looks 20 years younger than she is, but is having increasing difficulty dealing with simple tasks. We are all glad we saw her while she could still enjoy the visit. This week I am going to my adopted granddaughter's 4th birthday party, and my friend Judy, the only one who still lives near me, gave me a card and some money as a gift for Mike and his wife and the grandkids, saying that she remembered the gifts I gave her when her two grandkids, now in high school, were born. I was really touched by her acknowledgement.

    As I said, I have been very much blessed in my friends, new and old, and have gotten nothing but sympathy and support for my birthmother journey from any of them. And like most who comment here, I have also made many dear lifelong friends who are adoptees, adoptive parents, and other birthmothers through my many years of involvement with adoption reform

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  8. Oh, Lo. You are such a powerful writer. And such a wonderful mother, still...

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  9. KaisaG, O/T to this post but relevant to Mel Gibson: Early this year, best-selling Australian author Colleen McCullough died. A number of Web commenters were rightfully shocked that some of Colleen McC's obituaries pointed out--in the LEADS, for Pete's sake--that she sold millions and millions of books even though she was heavy, and didn't conform to conventional beauty norms! Sheesh!

    So first I ordered a copy of The Thorn Birds, the only novel of hers I'd read, and branched out from there. Her first novel, Tim, was made into a film available on YouTube. It's a passionate depiction of a romance between a slightly older woman/younger man, starring Mel Gibson, in one of his first starring roles, and gorgeous veteran actress Piper Laurie... who just happens to be Jewish!

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  10. I agree with those who addressed whether non-Catholics will go to Heaven. The Pope has spoken and these folks are just WRONG. I had a dear friend who adopted two children. We had a lot in common until my son found me. When I reunited with him she was one of the first persons I told. In fact I believe my reunion inspired her to help her two adopted adults search for their original families. As my reunion continued, though, I found out about my son's a/parents that really upset me. He didn't get "the better life." In fact. my raised children were much better off and that caused problems in my reunion with him. When I attempted to share my concern with her, she denied that could be. It was as if I was attacking her relationships with her adopted kids by telling her about my son's experience. That was the end of our friendship.

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  11. I have been thinking about how much my relationships with friends have changed since 2009 when I met my son. Yesterday, outside of the local Walmart, I ran into the women that I lived with when I was pregnant with my first son. Only within the last 10 years did she share that she to was a mother of loss. Her parents had shipped her off to Indiana by herself at 16 to give birth and then never speak of it again (she is 75 years old). Her own sisters didn't know about it, and neither did her daughter or husband. It struck me as odd how casually we both talked about this - 'now', and the difficulty she had experienced coming out of the closet to tell everyone about her son. So she knows what this pain is like and I could talk to her with a new respect and compassion I didn't have before knowing this happened to her. She and I will be life-long friends because of the shared pain we both experienced. Other friends however, I've had to let them go, because I have changed. After meeting my son I thought it would be a good idea to come out of the closet myself and wrote my annual Christmas letter to all my family and friends. I assumed everyone would be as happy as I was, even though I knew some would judge me. I wasn't prepared for the 'Silence' I received from them. No congratulations, or even a kind word to express any happiness about the reunion. Instead mostly it was shock that was expressed to my mother. My thoughts from yesterday's meeting with my friend is that, even though we've come along way in our culture to be able to talk casually about relinquishment and the fall-out that came from it in front of walmart, our culture is still trapped in old ways of thinking. My friendships have changed quite a lot & I've let some go, and I'm O.K. with that. I have other friendships that have become stronger. I'm glad to know who my true friends are now.

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    1. Oh Sandy...Mothers of my generation and earlier were fed such a line of BS about what we were supposed to do with "the secret" and many of them inculcated into their lives so much that they can't break out now and don't see the impact their denial has on the child.

      I would feel so close to Yvonne if she were to fess up now. Her denian over the last decade was very hurtful. Now I just feel duped and angry.

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  12. That denial runs...DEEP!!! Sorry to hear your friend couldn't face speaking out the truth. The truth is always better than living with lies, I know because I lived with those lies for a long time.

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    1. Sandy, coming to the full realization of everything about Yvonne and our friendship over the last decade...and the pain that her secret caused me on several occasions--as well as knowing that she talked a great deal about how "wrong" I was to ...her helper/friend; her children, her friends (adoptive grandparents to someone we've written about here); and adoptive parents whom I know...I find I am really angry. She has returned from rehab and is back down the street and I have been staying away because a part of me wants to run in and say: I KNOW YOUR SECRET, how could have have done this to yourself, to your child, to our friendship...and your children have figured it out also!

      Her lost child would be 61 or 62. And most likely, in France.

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  13. Dear First Mother Forum-
    In 1950 I was single and pregnant:- in that era, a certain indication of moral depravity. To protect myself, my family and my child from ostracism, I hid in a Salvation Army Door of Hope home and hospital for unwed mothers. My son was relinquished to adoption. Agonizing over my self-inflicted guilt I confessed my impure state to a man who proposed marriage and who, nevertheless, married me. We had three daughters and presented a picture of another average well respected family. Yet my secret guided so many everyday decisions to the detriment of sound emotionally healthy family life. Not until 1980, several years after the girls were adults and I had divorced their father, did I dare tell them about the existence of their brother and my intent to find a way to contact him. With the emotional support of the Adoptees Liberty Movement Association (ALMA) and a series of letters to various agencies and departments, in 1981 I had his new name and phone number!

    Our initial cautious conversation revealed that he never had any intention of searching for the woman who had given him away and that he was receptive to learning a bit about his genetic antecedents. Two days later he phoned me, confirming his comfort in continued contact.

    Since that day I have been a public advocate of legislation to repeal the barbaric laws which deny adopted persons the very human right to know their most personal intimate biological data hidden from them by archaic state laws!
    The facts on every person's original certificate of birth concern that person and the state has no reasonable duty to either the adoption industry, to any religious group, nor to the general public, to deny that certificate to an adopted adult.

    Sally Brown
    New Jersey College for Women 1949
    mssally17@att.net

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  14. Sally, that is amazing that anyone who surrendered in 1950 is still involved; good for you! I must have just missed you in ALMA; left around 79, then we had our own birthmother group Origins in NJ starting in 1980. I hope you still have a relationship with your son, and so good of you to keep writing about open records. So much for older mothers being unable to deal with meeting their kids.

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  15. I'm sorry that so many friends who were dear to you are no longer in your life and that you attribute this to your passion to your cause. I've learned in the last 10 years or so that many of my childhood friends did the same as you did; relinquish a baby to adoption. The information did not change the relationship at all, nor were any relationships noticeably affected at the time all of this happened. About half of the women have made contact with their children that they did not raise. None have established what they consider close relationships with the children. But then most did not make contact until their children were adults, busy and engaged in other aspects of their lives.

    It really so depends upon the person as to whether the relinquishment of a child so changes the person and relationships to others and not necessarily a must happen thing. But contacts and relationships go askew for any number of reasons, often simply because of focus on other things in life that take up so much time.

    Also of consideration is whether you can be close friends with anyone who firmly has a view totally different from yours on this subject that is your passion. This becomes a particularly loaded question when such person is truly a loved one, like one of your children, a parent, a much loved sibling or other family member. There are people who manage to keep a close relationship of love, respect and kindred spirits despite a great divide in opinion of something very important to them. But there are also those who cannot.

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