' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Honoring all Mothers' Rights this Mother's Day
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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Honoring all Mothers' Rights this Mother's Day

Mother and Child by Mary Cassatt
Mothers who lost their children to adoption deserve the right to see government documents which help them find their child. This concept--that government should be a facilitator rather than an impediment to mothers and children reuniting--is radical to some but grounded on human nature. Mothers and their children are connected before birth, and will continue to be connected throughout their lives, whether they ever meet again or not.

In my state, Oregon, mothers who gave up their children to adoption (rather than have their rights terminated) have the right to ask a judge for copies of documents in their child's adoption legal file once their child turns 18. These documents contain the names of the adoptive parents and the adoptive name of the child.

Jane
The judge has to let mothers have copies of the documents unless he knows a good reason not to let them have them.  Since the judge doesn't have any information about the situation, he doesn't turn mothers down.

You may ask why go through a judge at all. Excellent question. The work group that created this legislation, of which I was a part, couldn't quite get past the idea that there needed to be some sort of safeguard (even if it was imaginary) and so put the judge in between as a barrier. But change often occurs in baby steps. I believe that eventually the judge requirement will be eliminated and mothers will be able to get records directly from court staff.

The law not only makes it easier for mothers to find their children, its very existence tells them it's okay to search for their children! Since the law went into effect March 1, 2014, I 'm aware that at least two mothers have had joyous reunions with their lost children. I've not heard any complaints about the law.

This law was not proposed by a bunch of wild-eyed neurotic first/birth mothers seeking to track down their children and disrupt their lives or worse. It came from a work group authorized by a state-endorsed law reform commission, and was composed largely of members of the adoption industry and state adoption workers--and me. It sailed through the legislature with no opposition.

Although this law is a great start, Oregon and other states need to go further. While 21 states allow or soon will allow adoptees to access their original birth certificates (some with restrictions)* mothers cannot access their children's amended birth certificates in any state. While open adoption agreements have become common in domestic adoptions since the 1990's, no state gives first mothers an absolute right to enforce these agreements.

In the world of the adoption industry and often the media ad public perception, natural mothers are the lesser member of the Adoption Quad which consists of 1) agencies and attorneys who set the rules and make the money, 2) adoptive parents who benefit by the rules and pay the money, 3) innocent children who are to be adopted, and at the bottom, 4) mothers who make it all possible through, according the attitude of the others, their irresponsible sexual behavior and noble sacrifice. Thus some in the Quad believe that mothers' rights should be considered last--their "noble" sacrifice notwithstanding.

Mothers' redemption in the folklore of adoption comes from loving their children enough to know someone else could give them a better life, which of course means a better life without their own mother's love and natural family. Segments of the adoption industry sponsor "Birth Mothers' Day" the Saturday before Mother's Day, to celebrate "birth" mothers and honor their selflessness--which allows more deserving people to have children.**

Natural mothers should be honored  -- not for giving up their children but for carving out a life in spite of their terrible loss, With little or no support, mothers suppress their grief, complete their educations, have careers, marry, and some have other children and are good moms to them. We at FMF know of no better way to honor natural, first, birth mothers than by recognizing their natural right to know their children, and let their children know in the best way possible that they were never forgotten and first and foremost, loved--jane.
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*Resources: Laws Searching Reunion
**See for example. Friends in Adoption

From First Mother Forum:
Oregon to allow first mothers easier access to their child's adoption records
It's Mother's Day Again. And 'Birth' Mother's Day too
It's here again: Mother's Day Blues

To Read
Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption From a Place of Empowerment and Peace
Editor and contributor: Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston
"Lost Daughters Anthology is a tough book for mothers who relinquished to read because whatever we may have told ourselves about the “good” reasons to let our children be adopted, these poignant, sad, moving essays belie that with the sheer force of a body blow. I found myself with tears in my eyes as soon as I started reading, and they didn’t totally dry up until long after the last page."--Lorraine 

Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience
by Betty Jean Lifton
"Important and powerful . . . [the author] is concerned not just with adoptees but with the experience of adoptive parents and birth parents."---Psychology Today

TO ORDER books or anything from Amazon, click on book jackets or titles above. THANK YOU all who do for your support. 

49 comments :

  1. My question is....for first mothers who want the adoption information to search for their relinquished children....will there be a psych evaluation involved? No I'm not being flip. I was "lucky" in then sense that my birth mother couldn't find me until I was a senior in college, and that was through a search "angel" at that. I was still in high school when I turned eighteen. I don't think I could have handled it...at all...if she had barreled her way into my life when I was in high school because she has "rights". If the search "angel" had done any sort of investigation of my birth mother, she would have realized the woman is mentally ill, will not take her meds or get help, and lost custody of the child after me. Is it within her "rights" to stalk me and make my life difficult because she relinquished me to foster care? Is it her universal "right" to force herself unwanted into what had been a happy life because she gave birth to me? Should I have had to do at eighteen what I had to do at 23 and file a restraining order?

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    1. No, Mashka, mothers would not have to take a psyche exam before getting documents which will help them search. Adoptees do not have to take a psych exam before getting their OBC -- and I'm sure there are a few out there who who are looney.

      Maybe your mother "barreled her way into your life because she has rights" but mothers I know who have found their child, tiptoed into their child's life, terrified of making a wrong move and being rejected.

      If your mother is "stalking you and making your life difficult", you should see an attorney about getting a restraining order. However, your mother's allegedly mental problems are not a reason to deny records to the vast majority of mothers who simply want to know their child is all right.

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    2. Besides that, how many birthmothers have had mental health issues (i.e. depression) since relinquishment, that might get a biased response from someone doing a "psych eval." And the results of such would not be an accurate assessment of whether said mother should get info on the adoptee.

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  2. "Adoptees do not have to take a psych exam before getting their OBC -- and I'm sure there are a few out there who who are looney."

    But the OBC belongs to adoptees in a way that the ABC does not belong to relinquishing parents because it was never issued to them and represents only the status of the new legal family. Call it fiction if you will, I have no problem with that. I have a problem with adults who are "other adults" in a legal sense simply helping themselves to another person's birth certificate without his or her OK.

    Don't care if the adoptee calls you Mom or maybe even Real Mom, but those are not legal definitions. Those are titles you negotiate personally—and in many ways are more profound. But legally, a relinquishing mother or father is a 3rd party adult to the adoptee and adult-to-adult, there should be respect for the primacy of ownership of documents which, after 18 (or younger, depending on the jurisdiction), rests with the adoptee. Not talking about the “adoption file” either. That is another story altogether. I am talking about the ABC.

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    1. The original birth certificate didn't belong to the adoptee until legislators in 21 states said it did. In many of these states, it belongs the original mother as well and she can refuse to let him have it.

      In the twisted world of adoption, legal rights are whatever legislators say they are. Morally, the natural mother should have a right to the ABC. All of the information is her information; only the names have been changed to protect the innocent or guilty depending on your view point.

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    2. The incest laws still recognize adoptees and birth relatives as related. They cannot marry and they commit a crime if they have sex, in most states.

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    3. There is only one birth certificate that is actually "issued"...the OBC. The ABC is an edited version, and that is why both BCs have the same number.
      The OBC is signed by the birth mother, who verifies her data and the medical facts on the OBC application, which is then issued as the OBC.
      Any other "edited" versions are copied from that original, with the changes made on the copy. An amended BC is not really a new birth certificate and that is why the number is the same.
      A person is only born once, to one mother and father. Birth facts don't change. Legal custody can change, but not birth.That is why OBCs are not destroyed when there is an adoption.
      In the past, records were open, and it was expected that adoptees and their family members would want to know each other.

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    4. Agreeing with Jess on this and with Masha's concerns. 18 may be legally an adult, but in fact in our society most 18 year olds are still living at home, dependent on parents, and should not have to deal with the kind of mentally ill mother that Masha has. And there are those women out there. There are mothers that I helped search years ago that in retrospect I wish I had not helped. because they were crazy and took it out on the adoptee.

      Birthmother access to the ABC is not a battle worth fighting, at least not for me. Others feel strongly it is and can carry on with it. I am only speaking for myself. My decidedly non-legal minded belief is that the mother has a right to the OBC as does the adoptee, and should be able to request it at any time, and that the adoptive parents when the child is a minor and the adoptee as an adult have a right to the ABC.

      I do not think the ABC should be given out to the natural mother without the adoptee's permission. I know this is not at all a popular view here. To me fighting over the ABC feels too much like fighting over ownership of the adult adoptee, whoever gets the paper gets a piece without once again the adoptee having any say. As our system stands today, right or wrong the ABC is the adoptee's legal identity and I do not think should be issued as an official document to anyone else.

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    5. You mean that adoption of a "voluntarily relinquished" child is still legal in Oregon, without giving the mother at least the theoretical right to be informed about the identity of the adopters, before and during finalization of the adoption? Or is this just for old cases?

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    6. Yes, a mother can decide to have a closed adoption in Oregon where she does not know anything about the adoptive family and has no right to be informed about them.

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  3. The Bill that just passed the Assembly in New York requires adoptees to go before a judge before they are given their original birth certificates. Reason: to see if the adult adoptees will be clearly detrimental to birth or adoptive parents ...yes it says that.

    An Albany aide read this bill and stated, " if the adoptee is not an axe murderer he or she will get the OBC".

    Vote was 125-19. there is a petition to object to it. It is on my Facebook page.

    https://www.change.org/p/david-weprin-restore-clean-version-of-ny-bill-of-adoptee-rights?recruiter=498055&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_facebook_responsive&utm_term=des-lg-no_src-no_msg&fb_ref=Default

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    1. Kaisa, to my knowledge no state allows adoptive parents to access their child's original birth certificate or agency adoption file. However, the natural mother's name and in some cases the natural father's name may appear on documents the adoptive parents have.

      If it was an independent (non-agency) adoption, then the mother's consent shows her relinquishing the child directly to the adoptive parents. (In an agency adoption, the mother surrenders the child to the agency.) The adoptive parents' attorney has a copy of the consent and he may give a copy to the adoptive parents.

      The judgment of adoption signed by the judge is the legal document that makes the adoptive parents the legal parents. The natural mother's name and in some cases the natural father's name may be in the judgement.

      I've read of several cases where, when the adoptee decided to search, he learned that his adoptive parents had a paper with his natural mother's name on it.

      The Oregon law that gave natural mothers the right to access some court documents also gave the adoptive parents the right to access the entire court file. Thus they can easily learn the natural mother's name.

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    3. In Illinois I believe the mother's name is on the papers given to the adoptive parents whether it is an agency adoption or not. An adoption worker at The Cradle in Evanston told me that.
      Certainly my son's adoptive parents were very angry that I found him when he was 24. But they never questioned that I was who I said I was.

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    4. My son's adoptive parents always had my maiden last name as it was my son's last name before adoption as well. It was on the decree of adoption from the court. It was an agency adoption through the state.

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    5. The father's name is in the court files only if his consent was required for the adoption. His consent was required if he and the mother were married at the time of conception,if he signed an affidavit of paternity before the adoption, or if he registered with the state vital stats.

      If none of the above, he is treated by the law as non-existent.

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    6. Let me correct my statement; the father's consent is required if he and the mother were married before the birth but after the conception in some circumstances. To make it more confusing, if the mother was married and living with her husband at the time of conception, his consent is required even if he is not the father.

      State laws vary but essentially in most adoptions, the father by law is locked out and cannot get records without proving to a judge he needs them.

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    8. Under the new Oregon law, the father can access documents if his consent for the adoption was required. His consent was required if he was married to the mother or took steps to assert his paternity.

      If none of these things happened, his name is not in the file and his cannot access the file. He could try to access the file under the old law where he would have to prove good cause to see the file which is hard to do.

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    10. Jane said that "Kaisa, to my knowledge no state allows adoptive parents to access their child's original birth certificate or agency adoption file. However, the natural mother's name and in some cases the natural father's name may appear on documents the adoptive parents have."

      I just wanted to comment that although adoptive parents can not access the OBC after it is sealed, my understanding is that most agencies ensure they have a copy prior to that. We paid for three copied of the OBC- one for us which will go to our daughter, one for her parents, and one to file with the paperwork. That last was was "sealed away" by the state. But both her parents and I do have the OBC as a copy. Which makes it THAT much more ridiculous that if something happened to our copy (which is in a safe deposit box because I'm terrified of that very thing), we could not get another. The laws are absolutely not reflective of the current state of the vast majority of adoptions, and they are absolutely not reflective of the rights of the adopted person to their own history.

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    11. Thanks for the information, Tiffany,

      Adoption agencies giving adoptive parents copies of the OBC may be a new feature in the age of open adoptions. In the bad ol' days, agencies concealed information about the natural mothers' identity from the adoptive parents, believing that any disclosures could undermine the adoption system.

      Many adoptees have said that their parents wanted to help them search but had only vague information about the natural parents. In some cases even this limited information turned out to be wrong.

      Lorraine's daughter's adoptive parents wanted to know more about her natural parents because of her health problems. They wrote to the agency but the agency didn't try to contact Lorraine to get information.

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    12. Whoa--it's way worse than that. I had written the agency twice already with my address, here I am, could they give me any information...around the same time my daughter's doctor wrote to the agency asking for information.

      When news of DES was current, I did some research on hormones, and a possible effect of the birth control pills I took on a fetus. So then I wrote again and said I had taken birth control pills during the early part of the pregnancy. That piece of information was passed on to my daughter's adoptive parents. By then, Jane was heavily medicated for her seizures and that letter came a couple of years later. But what's important to note is that the agency had two letters from me that should have been in her/our file at the time Jane's doctor initially wrote to Hillside Terrace (how euphemistic!) asking for information. His letter was never answered. I was told in a letter that she was "fine and happy" with her new family. I never forgot the words. I gave the letters to Jane but of course now I wish I had kept them.

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  5. Jane,
    I have been told that Kansas allows adoptive parents to have a copy of the OBC. I learned this when I worked with AAC. At that time I had access to statutes and links and I saw other laws that gave access to adoptive parents. Colorado also passed a law in 1999 that gave conditional access to adoptive parents: they could get the OBC for a minor child as long as the birth mother had not filed a disclosure veto.
    I have been told there are other states, but I no longer have the contacts I once had.

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  6. I don't typically feel the need to say anything when I don't agree. Whether you approve it, or just use it to mull on personally, and don't approve it - works for me.

    This post bothers me deeply, specifically this:

    "In the world of adoption, natural mothers are the lesser member of the Adoption Quad which consists of 1) agencies and attorneys who set the rules and make the money, 2) adoptive parents who benefit by the rules and pay the money, 3) innocent children who are to be adopted, and at the bottom, 4) mothers who, the attitude of the others are, make it all possible through their irresponsible sexual behavior and noble sacrifice."

    I recognise this is a mothers day post - but you've incorporated it with Oregon legislation that I have no knowledge of, except your explanation of what it is, and who it's for, in this post. So, from that, apparently, there is even a lesser member that exists in adoption that everyone seems to like to pretend just doesn't exist, except, he does actually exist. And, he actually matters...and your adoption quad becomes an adoption quint with the father by birth so low that they don't even merit mentioning.

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    2. Yes, you're right -- natural fathers are often considered the lowest of the low, irresponsible cads or worse. They don't get praised for making noble decisions but damned for abandoning their girl friends and children. Some fathers do try to care for their children and they often find the door slammed shut, treated by the law as though they didn't exist. The adoption industry works hard to keep it that way; Fathers rights would put a crimp in their business.

      The irony is that if the mother keeps her child and applies for welfare, the government comes after the father with both barrels blazing. Then he is no longer non-existent but a source of revenue.

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  7. "Natural mothers should be honored -- not for giving up their children but for carving out a life in spite of their terrible loss, With little or no support, mothers suppress their grief, complete their educations, have careers, marry, and some are good moms to other children."

    Oh no Lorraine- are only "some" birthmothers good to their other children? That kind of hurt and I wasn't expecting that here. I am sure your intentions were good but it feels like you were channeling a stereotype with that statement. Did you mean many or most? Did I (we) not tend to our raised children with love and sacrifice? Did I not just finally pay off my children's college student loans?

    Anyways, I think we birthmothers for the most part are usually lesser in the triad and may always be thought of as "a bunch of wild-eyed neurotic first/birth mothers seeking to track down their children and disrupt their lives or worse." I am pretty sure that is how my relinquished daughter's aparents thought of me when I responded to my daughter's contact when she was a teen. Surely I meant them harm. Later she banned me when I would not attack her adoptive parents at her request.

    So after a four years of being banned by my relinquished daughter who is now legal age she called just in time for mothers' day to say she loved us and is ready to join her "family."

    I feel nothing except a vague confusion because I think I should feel something. Six months ago I was still feeling rage and some longing that things could be different. Now there is nothing. I guess I was hoping when I looked at birthmother blogs today to see if anyone else felt the same way I do. Not sure if I am alone in this.

    Adoptionlies

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    1. I authored the piece originally and wrote "and are good moms to other children." Lorraine added "some" because like her, not all birth mothers have other children. She meant "some have other children and are good moms to these children."

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    2. I just fixed it...in the blog.

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    3. Anon, birthmothers are always going to be looked down upon, no matter what. Since we have done the unthinkable - let go of a child.
      I think it's significant though that your daughter is reaching out, now that she is the age of majority, an adult in the eyes of the law. Who knows what was going on with her and her a-family.

      But better late than never, as they say. If your daughter wants to unlock the door, don't keep yourself locked out. Many of us still are, and I think that your news is good - looks like things have changed - and I hope for the best for you and your daughter.

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  8. Hi Jane. You mentioned that Oregon law allows natural mothers access to *some* court documents. Which would these be, and which documents would be excluded?

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    1. Mothers receive the petition for adoption, the judgement of adoption, and all documents she signed. She does not get the home study, reports of social workers, and any other information personal to the adoptive family.

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  9. Well,I'm glad this blog exists for days like yesterday. For the first time in 15 years, my son didn't call on Mother's Day. I guess it's my turn for"the treatment" Then again, maybe it just hasn't registered on my cell phone yet I was at the edge of the cell reception area yesterday. Anyway, so I spent last night feeling sorry for myself(I pulled out of that quickly) and listening to depressing songs like "I shall be released" by Joe Cocker and "Sundays and Sister Jones" by Roberta Flack. Like Lorraine said, now it's Monday and back to normal Time is running short and I've got work to do Oh,yeah, everybody don't look at the sun today. Mercury is crossing the sun and it could hurt your eyes.

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    1. Thanks for the tip on the sun. But it is gorgeous here in the east.

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    3. The mercury conjunction was on the news tonight...very rare concurrence. Next one in 2019 and then not again for about 20 years.

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    4. All is so quiet here, are you both at the SOS meeting in MO?

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  10. Today is my bdaughter's 47th birthday... have had no contact in 7 years... thinking of writing a letter to her on her 50th, if I haven't heard anything, that would be 10 years since the last time I emailed with her.

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    2. I am sorry Lee. Reunion can be so difficult and there's no road map. The only thing I can suggest -- focus on the important and positive areas of your life. If you haven't heard from her in three years, you may even forget it's her birthday or not think it's important to write.

      Harsh as this may sound -- Life is too short to stress over someone who doesn't want a connection or has issues which preclude a connnection.

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  11. Lee2, I would hate to see you counting the years "until" you can write to your daughter. I may be doing the same thing, as my older son wants no contact with me - but we have not yet had any contact at all, so I have no emails or conversations to look reflect on. It's been only a year and a half for reunion with my younger son, and there is not much regular contact really, although things are going well, they are not going badly. He doesn't really want to communicate, chit-chat or anything, except in person.

    Happy birthday to your daughter, I hope it was happy for her.

    I hope that someone with more experience in reunion will give some advice and enlightenment. But it's for sure that if you have been asked not to contact your bdaughter, her wishes have been stated clearly. As for my older son, he has too much anger and resentment to even talk about me, hear anything about me. I wrote a letter to him a year ago last Feb., but no response.

    I always felt sorry for my mom, she would write letters and send cards to my eldest sister, which were not wanted and not answered. But even though I was a child, I had a sense that maybe my mother shouldn't reach out if the contact was not wanted. And my second-older sister and my brother wanted nothing to do with our mother. This was an extreme situation though, having nothing to do with your situation, but just wanted to say, sadly it happens, in many families, no matter what the circumstances.

    How long was your relationship with your daughter in reunion before it ended? I hope that her feelings toward you will soften. If you were exchanging emails, that was a good thing while it lasted. Was the ending abrupt?

    Maybe Lorraine or Jane will make a post on this particular subject; I know they both have experience, sadly, with being cut off. But in the end, there's not much more to say except that we must respect our child's expressed wishes, and otherwise lay low, try to live the life as well as we can, and hope for better days - isn't it?

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  12. Kaisa said:
    go ahead and email her now. a lot can change in 7 years. good luck.
    **

    ahhh.... no, I'll explain further down!

    Jane said:
    am sorry Lee. Reunion can be so difficult and there's no road map. The only thing I can suggest -- focus on the important and positive areas of your life. If you haven't heard from her in three years, you may even forget it's her birthday or not think it's important to write.

    Harsh as this may sound -- Life is too short to stress over someone who doesn't want a connection or has issues which preclude a connnection.
    **

    Yes - no road map for this! I haven't been stressing over her not contact me, don't worry! My husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer that has metatasized to his bone marrow, so I've been worrying about him! He doesn't have much time left; and when he does die, I'm moving out of this country! For personal reasons...

    new and old said:
    Lee2, I would hate to see you counting the years "until" you can write to your daughter. I may be doing the same thing, as my older son wants no contact with me - but we have not yet had any contact at all, so I have no emails or conversations to look reflect on. It's been only a year and a half for reunion with my younger son, and there is not much regular contact really, although things are going well, they are not going badly. He doesn't really want to communicate, chit-chat or anything, except in person.

    Happy birthday to your daughter, I hope it was happy for her.
    .....
    How long was your relationship with your daughter in reunion before it ended? I hope that her feelings toward you will soften. If you were exchanging emails, that was a good thing while it lasted. Was the ending abrupt?
    **

    Actually we were not in a "relationship" per se - when I first contacted her in 2006 (found her one day after her 35th birthday) - did not hear from her at all. The only way I could find her was write to her amom (yes, I know!) - and her amom sent me a letter back, saying I had no right to interfer with "her" daughter's life, after I signed papers that I would never look for her (I did NOT sign any kind of papers for that, just my parental rights); amom also said that I had thrown bdaughter's emotion in turmoil. And that I should "wait" until daughter wrote to me. So I waited, and received a letter from bdaughter in early 2007, saying thank you for the nice letter, but at this time she has no interest in pursueing a relationship with me; and said she did not have any medical information though. So, I figured that would be a "break" in which I could write a letter telling her all medical information and a bit about her birth, which I did (12 page letter! LOL!) Waited for awhile for a reply; and someone (a search angel) suggested that I call - BIG mistake, in my view! I reached her amom, and she "seemed" to be very nice on the phone; I thought we had a great conversation, but of course bdaughter wasn't home at the time. I believe it was when I sent a Christmas card to amom, cause she was so nice to me on the phone, I thought it was nice gesture. NOPE!! Received a letter from bdaughter saying do not contact her, her parents, or any one she knows PLEASE! So that's where I'm at... I shall wait - I have no problem with waiting for her to come around - maybe when she reaches 50 years? LOL!
    It's funny - she just turned 47 (the year I was born) and I turn 69 (the year she was born) this year!

    Anyway - thank you all for your replies! I stick around this forum cause I can! :)

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    1. Lee2, I'm sorry that nothing ever got off the ground. But you're a considerate person and you have been sensitive in respecting your daughter's wishes, which she clearly stated. And you did want to help, by providing medical info. You have done the most you could, that any person of conscience can do, under the circumstances of no contact wanted. While it wouldn't help you to put any eggs in that particular basket, I hope that with time things may change (although it's just as realistic to say they may not).

      Well, at least you know your situation is not unique, and, most importantly, it isn't personal. It is an emotional response, and talking logically will not help. Cold comfort, but nonetheless . . . Hang in there. Really there's not much else you can do - it is what it is, as they say. It seems quite odd, to be the odd woman out - but a few of us are in the same boat as you find yourself at this time. Jane's advice doesn't sound harsh, it is the reality after all.

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  13. Hi, just back from Saving Our Sisters last night...great intimate conference, lots of stories, tears, support. Will try to blog later but I am quite pooped today. Flying into Long Island means going on Southwest and for me that means transferring usually through Baltimore where I ended up with a long layover.

    I will try to post today.

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  14. In many states mothers have no rights to anything whatsoever. Not the OBC, not the papers they signed, not even one scrap of NON-identifying information. Nope. Not one damn thing.

    It's all about "protecting our privacy and confidentiality" don't ya know. (sarc.)

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