Many natural mothers--like Jane Guttman author of The Gift Wrapped in Sorrow: A Mother's Quest for Healing--are not so lucky. Their lost child shuts them out. They are told in no uncertain terms, "You are not my children's grandparents. Please go away." Or worse, they are threatened with legal action if they dare, dare send a birthday card. Guttman writes:
"Soon Adam [her grandson] will be two and a half. I long to see him. I long to hold him. His smile and laughter are such significant moments
to hold and savor. I want those moments. He may even have a sister or brother now. Not knowing, not sharing are painful parts of relinquishment. They move from generation to generation and the wounds endure."
The loss can be particularly acute during the holiday season. These grandmothers ache when passing a Toys-R-Us, longing to buy the latest toys and games, the cute clothes, wrap them with colorful holiday paper and bring them by or mail them off. Even better would be if they could spend the holidays with their grandchildren, watching their expressions when they unwrap the big package from Grandma. Other grandmothers like Lynn Franklin, author of May the Circle Be Unbroken, are allowed to meet their grandchildren, but are forbidden to disclose their relationship lest the children tell the adoptive parents their mother knows her natural mother.
|Me with Chris|
I held Chris, and his younger sister Kate, when they were a few hours old. I was there when they had a cold or a fever and couldn't go to day care. I rocked them to sleep. I read to them, sung to them. I've taken them to soccer and basketball practices, swimming and ballet lessons, I go to their games and recitals. For Rebecca's children, this role belonged to her adoptive mother and her husband's mother, their "real" grandmothers. Though Lorraine was part of her granddaughter's life from the beginning, she says it was still at a remove somewhat partly because she lived so far away from her daughter and family, and eventually, growing hostility from the adoptive grandmother--even after her granddaughter visited for much of the summer. Another grandchild was lost to adoption, and though she and Lorraine connected after her daughter's death, they are no longer in communication.
When my daughter Rebecca was born, I thought mostly of her as a baby, not a sentient human being who would become a little girl, a middle schooler, a teenager, a woman. I didn't think of the possibility that she could become a mother herself, that my genes would carry forward in people who might have no idea who I was. I have since learned that family ties do not disappear because a judge has signed a piece of paper. I continue to be amazed by the similarities between Rebecca's children and other family members. At she reaches adolescence, Kate is beginning to resemble her half cousin. One of Rebecca's sons looks so much like his mother's biological father, I can't help but stare. We all share personalities and interests.
Mothers whose daughters give up their babies also yearn for their grandchildren even though they may have been instrumental in causing the adoption. In her first memoir Carol Schaefer describes how she brought home a Christmas ornament from the maternity home she stayed in before her son's January birth. Her mother kept that ornament, her only connection to her grandson.
Since Oregon opened up court records to adoptees, I've been asked to help the adult children of deceased adoptees find out who their natural grandparents were. Their reasons echo those of adoptees who search. They're curious, they need medical history, they want to know their ancestral line, they have to complete the family picture to know themselves. Oregon law does not give these grandchildren the right to access court and other adoption records, but that may change.--jane
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The Gift Wrapped in Sorrow: A Mother's Quest for Healing
by Jane Guttman D.C.