|Jane and Lorraine, 1982|
That's the question that a caller posed to me a few days ago. He had recently found his birth mother's information, and was wrestling with how best to reach out to her. Letter or phone?
My initial impulse, I said, is to make the call. Because it will be harder to turn you down, I was thinking, even as I hated to think that. Even if she has not been hoping and waiting for her long-lost child to contact her, actually hearing from you on the phone might make her lose any hesitation. If she has doubts and fears, if she has not told those closest to her today, a live person--one's own child--on the phone may dissuade her from... hesitating. From turning away. From rejecting her child.
PHONE VERSUS LETTER TO A NATURAL MOTHER
But what if she doesn't answer? What if one gets a recording device? Do you leave a message, and what do you say? Probably not a good idea to blurt out real reason for the call, but if you don't say something provocative, will anyone call back? I guess I would say: I am trying to reach X on a personal matter. Would she please call me at X number? Say you also find out a cell number, but you are not sure who it belongs to--mother or husband? Now what? I can understand any adoptee's fear about making this move. No matter what. No matter how practiced one is at making cold calls, this one is like no other.
Okay, the letter seems like an easier route, right? Below is a link to a permanent page where we suggest what to say when writing to a birth mother or a sibling. However, for me the reasons against a letter are this: I would go absolutely crazy in the waiting time between putting the letter in the mail and waiting for an answer. How long is a good time before one can make a second attempt? What if the letter gets lost on the way? What if someone intercepts it and she never gets it? What if she has Alzheimer's--she is in her seventies--and someone else reads all her mail? What if...
I'd go crazy. I was faced with some of the same fears when I got my daughter's name, address and phone number. She was 15. It was 1981 and there was a strong taboo against contacting anyone under age. And god forbid--what if she didn't even know she had been adopted? I'd had someone in my apartment a few years earlier pouring out her story about how she found out she was adopted. She and her husband were having a huge argument, she said something about her mother and he shouted back: She's not even your real mother--YOU'RE ADOPTED!!
What if my daughter's parents had done the same to my daughter? Not told her the truth about her origins? It was enough to send me around the bend. I got her information on Saturday; I called on Wednesday to a state in the Midwest. My daughter answered the phone, I knew it, she sounded like me. I pretended to be doing a survey for Seventeen magazine and eventually I planned to slip in this question: Do you think adopted people ought to know who their natural parents are? But before I got very far, my daughter handed the phone to her mother--we're both mothers and you know who I am talking about here--who said: This doesn't apply because my daughter is LD.
LD? Those are my initials--what was she talking about?
My daughter is Learning Disabled?
I apologized, and hung up. But I knew I'd go bananas that night if I didn't call back, and so I did. My daughter answered again, and I simply asked for her mother and said: My name is Lorraine Dusky and on April 5, 1966 I had a daughter in Rochester, New York and I believe that she is Jane.
As many of you know, in a few moments she was on the phone and a few days after that I met her in the Dane County Airport near Madison, Wisconsin. We had our ups and downs, but I never had to go to sleep again wondering if I would ever find my daughter.
But what about the adoptee trying to figure out how best to make contact with his birth mother, who is in her seventies? What does he do? Just writing about this has my stomach in knots because the quandary is great, the pain is so palpable.
A REALLY REALLY BAD LAW OUT OF ALBANY
Adoption as it has been practiced--with secrecy and lies and bad laws--has done so much harm to so many--birth mothers, the adopted individuals, natural fathers, even yes, adoptive parents. How them? the old laws of the past--from 1936 in New York--created a failed experiment in social engineering by telling them that the family of origin would not matter to the adoptee. The Assembly in New York, in a lame attempt to rectify this bad law--passed a pathetic bill this week that was written by the now-gone legal counsel of the corrupt leader of the Assembly now facing jail time. Like a lot of bad laws it is incredibly long and basically makes adoptees get the permission of the birth mother before her name is released. Absurd! My eyes glazed over before I finished reading it. The bill in Albany is the worst law I have ever read regarding releasing the birth information of an individual.
In the meantime, DNA analysis is getting around the old and new stupid laws, as it helped the man who called me the other day. Let's send him, and his natural mother, good vibrations so that she answers the call with grace and love and welcoming. A good way for her to respond would be: I have been waiting for you.--lorraine
Readers--What do you think? What would you do? What should he do? Call or Write? What have you done?
* for search optimization reasons, all words that might be used in a search are included here.
To raise your voice against the bill, call Sen. John Flanagan, the current leader of the Senate. The bill has to pass there before it goes to the governor for a signature. John Flanagan, District Office 631-361-2154; Albany off 518-455-2071
I just got off the phone with his Albany office. The person I spoke to was familiar with the bill (S-5964 b ) and I was told they have gotten a few calls regarding the bill. Add your voice. Just say, the Adoptee Rights Bill or adoption bill--they know what you are talking about. Add your voice and explain why. Say you are an adoptee or birth mother in opposition. Say why.
Letter to Birth Mother or Sibling
Second-Chance Mother: A Memoir
by Denise Roselle
"A compelling look at the devastating and long-lasting effects of adoption that reunion alone cannot 'cure.' Vividly illustrates how separation affects not only the mother and child, but all family members and across generations. Natural mothers and their relinquished children, and those seeking such a reunion, would gain from its wisdom and honesty."
-- Lorraine Dusky, author of Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption