' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: At Christmas first mothers and adoptees get the blues

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

At Christmas first mothers and adoptees get the blues

Our Christmas tabletop "tree"
I'm reposting a blog from a few years ago, with some updates:

We had a Christmas lunch at our house yesterday--friends came by for Champagne punch and sustenance. Two guys my husband made sure to introduce to each other were both Vietnam vets. One was a journalist who was captured and briefly imprisoned; the other was a Naval officer who had spent two years in combat. After my husband made the introduction, they spent a long time talking. Later my husband said: It's the most intense experience of their lives--no one who hasn't been through it can quite understand. My husband was in the Army between conflicts, and after ROTC, only spent six months on active duty. But he understood immediately why these two men would bond.

I thought: That's what being a birth/first mother is like. No one who hasn't been there can understand the immense loss and grieving that comes with relinquishment--except another first mother. And yet, most of us don't go around talking openly about our experiences so that it's unlikely that I'm going to end up at a party one day and the host will introduce me to another person and pass on what we so deeply share: that we both lost a child to adoption.


It's a cotton pillow cover.
Lost. That's the word. Whether our parents offered no support and we were very young, or we were older but still felt trapped by the strictures of societal mores, or whether we were talked into giving up a child two years ago by an adoption facilitator, it's all the same. We lost our children. We lost them when we gave them up. We sometimes get a piece of them back--I certainly did--but so much we lost. I always could sense my daughter's divided loyalties, her feeling that she did not quite belong in either family, her sense of what if my mother had kept me? 

We first/birth mothers are a sisterhood bonded by the sorrow of loss.

I miss my daughter. We had a glorious reunion, a lengthy relationship that spanned more than a quarter of a century, and naturally we had our ups and downs. Sadly she died nine years ago a few weeks before Christmas. By this time in 2007, Tony and I were returning from her funeral in Wisconsin.

My daughter and me, 1982, 
But I have made my peace with her death, peace I was not able to find when I did not know if she were alive or dead, when I did not know where she was. Today I have a good life, with a good husband who has always understood my sorrow, a residual blessing of his favorite cousin getting pregnant in high school and having to give up her daughter.* One granddaughter is out of college and teaching art; I'll talk to her on Christmas. The other granddaughter I won't be in touch with, her choice, and frankly after years of no contact, I'm rather numb about this. For those who don't know, she was relinquished by my daughter--yes, sadly this happened, and we know now it happens all too often to adoptees. It's as if they are propelled to repeat history, to understand better what their mothers went through. Tony's children--who were grown when we met--are part of my life; their children call me Grandma Raine. The daughter of my first love--whom I almost married--is in some strange, mystical way that I do not question, is also in my life, though we are several states apart. She has a special place in my heart. Our bond is hard to explain to some, but it is as strong, or stronger, than when I wrote this original post a few years ago.

But of course, Christmas is a time when you remember your loved ones who are gone, and this year will be no different. I am thinking of all the parents of Claire Davis, the 17-year-old who was killed by a fellow students at Araphahoe High School in Colorado. Claire was adopted. I haven't been able to find out if it was a closed adoption and if her first mother knows of her death.

I'm also thinking of Carol-King Eckersley of Portland, Oregon, a first mother whose son died in Pan Am Flight 103 when a bomb in the plane went off over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. She didn't search for him until it was too late.

I'm thinking about Veronica Brown now Capobianco who was taken from her natural father and given back to the adoptive parents by court order in 2013. And I'm wondering how Adam Crapser, the Korean adoptee who was deported back to his homeland earlier this month, and his mother, who was waiting for him, are  doing.

I'm thinking about the mothers who relinquished their children in the last few months because they couldn't find a way to keep them.

I'm thinking what those holidays were like for me when I didn't know where my daughter was. I couldn't get through hearing Silent Night, with it's simple but haunting melody, without tears, and my late mother next to me as mass wondering why. Today I can't get through the first verse without remembering...everything. Our separation, our reunion, our relationship, her death.

For so many of us Christmas is a time of special sadness when everyone is supposedly over-dosing on joy and yule cheer but we, we miss our children. We miss them whether or not they are still unknown to us, whether we have been in reunion, good or not, whether we will be able to spend time with them this holiday season. We know what we missed, and there is no going back. There is only going forward.

To those who have yet to find their children or reconnect, and want to, do not wait. Time is not on our side. Eighteen is not a magic age and eighteen-year-olds are notoriously hard to find if they are not living at home. I found and contacted my daughter's adoptive parents when she was fifteen. I--and they--wished I had done it sooner.

To those--adoptee or first mother--who have reconnected and found true communion with your children, enjoy the time you do have, do not spend too much time with each other expressing the sorrow of what it is lost. Focus on what you have.

To those whose reunions are broken, remember this: the people who want to be in your life will be. You don't have to go chasing after them. Surround yourself as much as possible with people who do love you.

To those who feel they would like to call or send words or flowers to someone you have not been in touch with, just do it--especially if you are the one who shut down contact, the one who needed "space."

And to those who will feel alone no matter what happens on Christmas, no matter how many friends and family you are amidst, no matter how busy you are, remind yourself that Christmas is a day, one day. The day after Christmas is a new day. Life does go on.--lorraine
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*If anybody is reading who might know this person contact me via forumfirstmother@gmail.com: A daughter was given up some sixty years ago in Westfield, New Jersey to people who knew the doctor. The adoptive parents later donated to my husband's brother's political campaign--in Westfield--so they may have known he was "family." And the woman's sister is looking for her lost sibling.

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11 comments :

  1. "Surround yourself as much as possible with people who do love you."
    If it were possible I would try to do so. There really is no one. And last month my daughter closed the reunion due to a personal reason that had to do with something I could not help. I will be spending the holiday alone, except for 3 dogs (I am housesitting for my ex who is travelling for the holidays). The dogs are good company, fortunately. Merry Christmas/Happy Hannukah/Happy Holidays to those who have family and those who do not.

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    1. Danni--I'm sorry. At least, as you say, the dogs will be some company. I've been through holidays when my daughter wasn't speaking to me for, as you say, something that you could not help. Hugs from here.

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    2. Thank you Lorraine...today I sang Christmas carols to the dogs. SHould have stayed off Facebook because that was too depressing, all the people celebrating with their families. Sometimes not knowing things is better.

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  2. I am still amazed that you were able to find your daughter as early as 1981. With no internet it must have been so much more difficult than it is today.

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    1. A searcher who could find seeming anybody in any state was operating. I never knew who he or she was and paid $1200 to an intermediary in cash. I later learned that he or she had already had her name and that of her adopting parents from the clues I wrote into Birthmark, my first memoir published in 1979. At the time I felt I had to wait but decided to go ahead with my husband's-to-be and a friend's support. I'm thinking the Searcher was either a judge, an FBI guy or a social worker who could get people everywhere to look up the information. After I found my daughter, he did the same for a friend who relinquished her daughter in Pennsylvania. My daughter was living in Wisconsin; she had been adopted in Rochester, NY. I got her phone number as well as her parents' names and address, and information about the makeup of her family--that she had brothers and at least one of them was adopted. All true. Oh yes, I also had the name of the parish they belonged to. There were lots of ways searches were done illegally. I wrote about some of them in Hole in my Heart.

      $1,200.00 in 1981 had the same buying power as $3,288.88 in 2016.

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  3. Definitely felt the blues and the roller coaster before the holiday. a little numbing now that the days have arrived, but overall everything is good. ugh why do us crazy humans put ourselves through such things?

    A Christmas wish to everybody i've met here, you all have been so helpful to me and i've come to know some of your stories and so - Merry Christmas to you. I hope you have a happy time and a safe holiday. Merry Christmas Lorraine and Jane, and thanks for running this website where i've met you and so many others. Have a good holiday week !

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    1. Thanks, Kaisa, I am so pleased to do this website with Lorraine.

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    2. You've been so helpful too Kaisa - I really appreciate your thoughts.

      And I love Lorraine and Jane for doing this, the effort, the heart of it.

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    3. Thanks Cherry, and thanks to all our readers. We learn so much from you!

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  4. Blessings at this difficult time of year, may the new year bring us renewal of the light that is the best of our spirit.

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  5. I reconnected with my daughter in 2002. She was born in 1964 just 2 wks before Christmas. We had a wonderful bonding reunion and several good years with her and my 2 grandchildren. My husband and our children welcomed her and good times were shared. Her adoptive mother had passed away, now her adoptive dad and brother have passed away. Except for cousins, she has no other adoptive family.
    Unfortunately, I've had to use tough love, as I felt she was using me to help her get out of financial messes due to poor decisions on her part. I never went a day without praying for her and wondering where and how she was. I was thrilled to find out her adoptive family had been loving and she had a very happy life. Her biological dad whom I had not seen since becoming pregnant,passed away 8 years later. I am retired and not wealthy. I would love a better relationship with my daughter, but my prayer is that she will be able to work though her problems and to enjoy her children and, hopefully, grandchildren someday. I am 75 and won't be here for her always. I have a lot of guilt because I resent some of the problems she has caused. I need a good support group.

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