' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Why Reunions Go Awry: What Memoirs of Adopted Daughters Tell Birthmothers

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why Reunions Go Awry: What Memoirs of Adopted Daughters Tell Birthmothers

Denise Roessle’s “What Do We Owe Our Children” demonstrated once again that the course of a reunion never does run smooth. Some adoptees react like Denise’s son, hurling barbs at his birth mother; others retreat to a safe place. The memoirs of women who were adopted as infants helps us first mothers understand adoption and reunion from an adoptee’s point of view.

In November, 1997, I received the call I had been hoping for -- and dreading -- since that dark day 31 years earlier when I left the hospital in San Francisco without my newborn daughter. She wanted to know me! We began emailing daily and arranged to meet in January. Our meeting went well, I thought, but afterwards she began to pull away. I was devastated. What had I done wrong?

To find answers, I poured over the memoirs of women who had been adopted -- Betty Jean Lifton, Amy Dean, Jean Strauss, A. M. Homes, Zara Phillips, Sarah Saffian, and Katie Hern.

Fantasy Mother

Although the adoptees’ backgrounds and life experiences were vastly different, their thoughts and feelings were remarkably similar. Before reunion, the daughters imagined a loving natural mother whose one mistake in the words of Annie was “giving up me.” Amy Dean described this fantasy mother in Letters to My Birthmother:

“I’ve always dreamed of having—
...a kindly woman with a sweet, smiling face who gently washes away the dirt from my scraped knees and elbows and who chases away my tears;
...a tireless woman who provides me with soft, clean clothing that smells a little like her and a little like the fresh outdoors;
...a caring woman who does many things with me, who talks with me and shows an interest in my life;
...a nurturing woman who makes the house smell as scrumptious as a home-baked cookie and who never lets me know what hunger feels like;
...an angelic woman who makes me feel safe as she takes me in her arms, places my head gently upon her soft, full bosom and rocks me to sleep each night.”

Zara Phillips wrote in Chasing Away the Shadows “I was always waiting for the day that my birthmother would show up on my doorstep, apologizing and telling me there had been a terrible mistake.”


Four of the daughters searched for their birthmothers: Betty Jean Lifton, Amy Dean, Jean Strauss, and Zara Phillips. Two were found by their mothers: Sarah Saffian and A. M. Homes. Katie Hern and her mother connected through a mutual consent registry.

Regardless of whether they searched or were sought, the daughters had the same needs. In Birthright: The Guide to Search and Reunion, Jean Strauss, explained:

“Why did I feel I had to search? If I was so comfortable with my parents and my childhood, why would I pursue such a quest? The reality for me was that I was never looking for parents. I was looking for answers. There was an empty chamber in my mind full of question marks.”

Upon learning that her birthmother was searching for her, A. M. Homes wrote in The Mistress’s Daughter that she wanted “information: where she grew up, how educated she is, what she does for a living, what the family medical history is, and what the circumstances of my adoption were.”

Mothers’ Regrets and Reactions

Like me, all the mothers regretted losing their daughters. And like me, the mothers were overwhelmed when they met them years later. They became the vulnerable young women again. They were supplicants, seeking forgiveness, trying to appease their child, hoping their daughter would not leave them.

The daughters were unprepared for their mothers’ responses. Dean wrote about her mother Ruth, “I’ve been so worried about how you [her mother] might reject me if/when I find you. But I’ve never even considered how I’d feel if you welcomed me with open arms.” My daughter too believed that “I had gotten on with my life” and rarely, if ever, thought of her.

Anxiety and Guilt, Not Joy

The mothers were not the women the daughters imagined -- the “goddess – the queen of queens…. Movie-star beautiful, extraordinarily competent, she can take care of anyone and anything” as Homes described her fantasy mother.

Betty Jean Lifton was adopted in the 1920’s. Her book, Twice Born: Memories of an Adopted Daughter (1975) is the earliest memoir and an inspiration for the others. After a lengthy search, Lifton found her mother, Rae. “She was not the big, strong, all-powerful mother ready to take the frightened child in her arms and dispel the demons. She, too, was riddled with demons.”

Strauss found a demand for intimacy that she did not expect nor want. When her mother Lee told Strauss that she loved her, Strauss felt “a knee-jerk reaction inside me, like a baby kicking. She loved me? She doesn’t even know me. This emotion I am feeling – is this what rage feels like?” Lee sent Strauss’s son a Valentine, signing it “’With love from Grandma Lenore.’” Strauss threw it in the trash.

Phillips too was enraged when Pat signed a birthday card to Phillip’s child “’Grandma.’ I think, What right does she have to that title? She lost that privilege!”

Sarah Saffian’s parents, Hannah and Adam Leyder, married after surrendering her and found Saffian shortly before her 24th birthday. In Ithaka she describes the anxiety that followed: “As the weeks wore on, I became increasingly paranoid about the Leyders. Despite their promises to lay low, I would look around every time I left my building for someone who resembled me lurking on the corner or across the street, afraid of being ambushed.”

The adoptees sought out faults in their mothers, perhaps to assure themselves that their surrender had been “for the best.” In writing about their first meeting in Ruth’s home, Dean noted the “cluttered counters and dishes piled in the sink.”

Homes was vicious in describing her mother, Helene. “Her lack of sophistication leaves me unsure whether she’s of limited intelligence or simply shockingly naïve.”

Not surprisingly, the daughters disavowed similarities between themselves and their mothers. “I am horrified at the way I see myself in her.” (Homes) “I refuse to acknowledge any similarity between us.” (Strauss)

Only Katie Hern wrote positively about her mother Ellen in A Year in Letters Between a Birthmother and the Daughter She Couldn’t Keep: ”It’s especially great to replace those distorted visions with well-balanced and funny you. It’s a massive relief to dispel those lurking anxieties.” Unlike the other adoptees and their mothers, Hern and Ellen committed themselves from the outset to work on establishing a positive relationship.

Betrayal of the Adoptive Family

My daughter’s adoptive mother discouraged her search: “You’ll just open old wounds.” Upon learning my daughter continued our relationship after our initial meeting, she was hurt and angry. I am sure her adoptive mother’s opposition affected our relationship.

Lifton never told her adoptive mother of her reunion: “By destroying her myth I would destroy what was most meaningful in her life.”

Strauss remained loyal to her adoptive parents even though they were dead. “I retrieve Mom’s wedding ring from my jewelry box, and slip it on my ring finger beside my own wedding ring. It will tell everyone: I am married to her. No one will ever replace my mother in my life.”

Phillips waited years before telling her adoptive family about her reunion. She did not invite her birthmother to her wedding because “it would have been too hard for my parents.”

Hern felt “like a traitor to my parents, to my adoptive mom in particular. … I’ve made several trips to Chelmsford [Massachusetts where her adoptive parents and birthmother lived] without even telling my parents I was in the state.”

What Do They Want?

“I am not your long-lost daughter. I have a father, mother, brother and sister, … they are my family. I don’t need another one” wrote Saffian to her parents. My daughter also told me that she “did not want a new mother.” She just needed to “know.” I fretted over whether now that she knew, was our relationship over?

Struggling with Lee’s demands, Strauss sought counseling. At her psychologist’s suggestion, she focused on her goals for her reunion.

“What did I want to have happen? ...It was so simple. She [Lee] would have to acknowledge that Betty was my mom. That was it! If she could do that and mean it, then that would mean she accepted me and my adoptive family and the reality of who I am.”

Who Might I Have Been?

Lifton describes adoptees as “the changeling, the imposter, the double.” In reunion, the daughters confronted not only where they came from but who they might have been; knowledge that was terrifying.

Strauss: “Since the third grade, I have believed if I could just meet my birth family, everything would become clear. But on this first day with my original family, I am more confused than ever. Who am I? Am I supposed to be someone different?”

“Along with the feeling that I was being disloyal to my [adoptive] parents by contacting you [her mother] was the feeling that Katie Hern, the person I’d spent twenty-six years becoming, was suddenly in jeopardy. ...

“The feeling was most triggered by learning my original name. The name represented for me a whole other life I almost led, and a whole other person I might have become, a possibility that terrified me.”

Two Families

My daughter, like other children in closed adoptions, was brought up to believe that the adoption decree obliterated her first family. Hern wrote:

“The goal in Catholic Charities’s closed-adoption system was to replace one set of parents with another and erase all traces of the first set. And for me, it worked. … I don’t think I really understood that I had another set of parents. There was no way to conceptualize two sets—two mothers, two fathers. It was an either/or thing.”

Homes was forced to confront the reality that she had two mothers when Helene came to a public signing for Homes’ recently-published book:

“In the distance, another shadow emerges. My [adoptive] mother and a friend of hers are coming toward me. I imagine the two mothers meeting, colliding. This is something that can’t happen. It is entirely against the rules. No one person can have two mothers in the same room at the same time.”

Strauss struggled to come to terms with having two mothers.

“Denial was a strong emotion I experienced in the early stages of my reunion: denial of the profound relationship that in reality does exist. I spent over three decades ignoring my birthmother’s role in my life. To acknowledge it was as threatening as anything I’ve ever faced. The concept of having two mothers seemed as sacrilegious to me as there being two Gods.”

Confronting Their Loss

The adoptees were pained at being outsiders in their natural family. Hern wrote to Ellen:

“Until maybe four months ago, I believed my own story: ‘I’m adopted. Big deal.... But that story was actually a fallout shelter I had sealed myself into. It protected me from what I couldn’t acknowledge: that my mother gave me away.”… “As my feelings started surfacing, one of the first to arise was grief that I am a stranger to the people I now consider family.”

“I was the one who was always telling others that we do not belong to one another in this life by legality or blood, but rather by a bond of the heart, by mutual caring and compassion, by ‘elective affinities,’ by a spiritual tie that was formed somewhere out in the stars in a time we no longer remember.

“Yes, I could console myself in innumerable ways, but it was just that: a consolation prize.”

Integrating their Mothers into their Lives

Strauss, Hern, and Saffian eventually integrate their mothers into their lives. The turning point for Strauss was helping Lee who had also been adopted find her mother, Mary, which Strauss describes in her second book Beneath a Tall Tree:

“This reunion is so different than mine with Lee. It doesn’t seem sacrilegious to have another grandmother. It feels perfect and natural. … My grandmother forces me to see how I have held my adoptive family in one hand, like a ball of blue clay, and my birth family in another, like a ball of red, interpreting them as unrelated parts of myself. But they are not separate. They are the same. … Grandma … helps me make purple.”

“One of the things that has become clear to me ... is how I dealt with being adopted growing up. ... “On the rare occasions when I ... [thought about my other set of parents], the phrase was ‘biological parents’: impersonal, scientific, mechanical. And I would become furious when people would use emotional words like ‘roots’ or ‘original,’ ‘family’ or ‘mother’ to describe the ‘biological’ side. I hated the significance these words gave to what I was so intent on shutting out.”

“[After visiting with her birthfamily], I’ve let myself acknowledge my connection to you and the rest of the family, let myself think of you as my mother and Gus and Jack as my brothers.”

“Thus the odyssey is an all-encompassing continuum, reunion a form of re-adoption – of that original child, family, self, which had previously existed in shadow. …

In transit on the road between the Leyders and the Saffians, I thought that perhaps just as one can have many children, one can, in varying degrees, also have many parents, many families – and even many selves, or discrete but complementary parts that make up the whole.”

Phillips took tentative steps towards developing a mature relationship with her mother. Sadly, for Homes, Dean and Lifton, it was too late. Homes’ and Lifton’s mothers died and Dean’s mother refused to have anything to do with her after Dean pushed her away.

Lessons for Mothers

There have been times when I have been angry. I opened my life and my heart to my daughter, disrupted the lives of my other children, and was cast aside. “I’m glad I was adopted,” my daughter often said. “You made the right decision.” These words crushed me.

I have come to accept that my daughter has two families. I cannot change that fact but I can change the way I think about it. I no longer fantasize that the adoptive family will disappear nor do I fear that my daughter will disappear from my life. This is true even though we had a major disagreement about a year ago and have not communicated since August, 2008.

Mothers newly in reunion or whose daughters have refused to have a relationship, often examine themselves endlessly . “Should I have said this instead of that?” “Should I send her a birthday present, a card, or perhaps nothing?“ I reassure them that they are always a part of their daughter’s life although their daughter may pull away or cut off refuse contact. Mothers should not blame themselves. Their daughter is coping with intense emotional conflicts: pain from being rejected at birth; guilt from betraying her adoptive parents; confusion over having two families; anxiety about who she would have been.

What can mothers do? I put this question to Delores Teller, past president of the American Adoption Congress. Teller is a Portland psychotherapist and clinical social worker who surrendered a son in 1968. She gave this advice:

• Seek professional help through support groups and individual therapy.
• Understand your daughter has reunited with you to meet her needs, not to hear about your pain.
• Reclaim your parental role in small but significant ways by stating your preferences and not approaching the relationship with ‘your hat in your hand.’ -You may get rejected but it establishes with your daughter that you care and are there to stay.
• Remember that you are both reclaiming lost parts of yourselves and an old relationship but that you can’t do the work for each other. Give it the time and respect that it needs to be restored.
• Don’t pressure your daughter to assume the role of daughter or to accept you as her mother or her children’s grandmother.
• Exercise choice in other areas of your life when you feel you lack control in this one; it will help you be more patient.
• Increase your self care: massage, good sleep -- yoga, exercise, vitamins, eating well -- to boost your body health.
• Channel your anger/frustration into action to make changes for other women who are considering adoption or who have surrendered a child so you can move from victim to warrior.
• Be the person you are, the competent, caring, attractive woman your daughter respects.
After the reunion: How do (found) mothers and daughters relate? 

Birthmark "I bought and read Birthmark after seeing an oped from the author in support of current legislative efforts to open original birth certificates to adult adoptees. As an adult adoptee myself, I was impressed with Ms. Dusky's raw look inside herself and her life story, including most notably finding herself in the position to make the heart-wrenching decision to permit someone else to raise her child.

Any adoptee who has the emotional wherewithal to want to see how the mother who gave them life may have felt about it should read this book."
--Amazon review, James B. Thelen


  1. "She [Lee] would have to acknowledge that Betty was my mom. That was it!"

    I have a son, not a daughter, but just today we had a conversation about his mom and some dealings with her apart from me. (She in not 100% happy about my existence in his life, but she says she is trying.)

    My son is careful not to share a lot about his mom with me. I think he compartmentalizes our relationships. But I spoke to him today as a friend, and the conversation and advice was what I would have given a younger co-worker without a second thought.

    I always refer to her as his mom.
    I really don't have a choice so I go with the flow. This is hard for my husband and mother to understand. I guess this is hard for anyone not in the triad to understand.

  2. Though I had known my daughter Jane for two decades, I called her adoptive mother her "mother" or,more often, Mary, her name. Jane always referred to her as Mom, I was Lorraine. It did not feel weird. Sometimes, though, in explaining the situation here where I live, I would refer to Jane's adoptive parents as her adoptive parents.

    That drove some adoptive parents wild, One woman always "corrected" me...as in, they are her parents. She has an adopted daughter from China. And I think I threaten her, on some level.

    And when my granddaughter went through puberty, she immediately switched from Grandma, as I had always been, to Lorraine. Yeah, it bothers me. I've known her since she was born, she has spent most of her summers here when she was young. I wrote her an email about it once, but I did not get a response. So I sign my emails Glo. For Gramma Lo. And let the rest go. It's more important to have a relationship with her than be "right."

  3. It's more important to have a relationship with her than be "right."

    I relate to this, Lorraine but it took me a long time to get to this point. I was desperate in the beginning of my now nearly 20 year reunion with my son, to make sure he understood that I had nothing to do with the decision to give him up... it was my parents, the shamefully cruel social worker, yadda, yadda. Until one time he yelled at me and said he wishes for once that I would take some responsibility.

    I had to make a decision as to whether I wanted to win the battle or the war. So I've backed off on that point. For some reason it's important to him to have me understand that it still hurts him that his mother left him.
    He has said cruel things to me in anger - "go ahead and abandon me again like you did when I was a baby".... Sigh.

    Our relationship will never feel totally comfortable or normalized to me and apparantly him.

    I never had a daughter, but I wonder at the differences between the female adoptee's anger vs. the males? I would guess the women would be more passive aggressive, just because more often than not, that's how women show our discontent.

    The enormity of what we lost is just so profoundly sad.

  4. You make it sound like the reason reunions go wrong is all the adoptee's fault.

    I am an adoptee and I have many adoptee friends. Most of our "reunions" have gone wrong because our natural mothers will not be truthful and tell us who our natural fathers are.

    My natural mother did not speak to me for 10 years because I am searching for my natural father. She can't handle it! I can't even bring it up. That is ridiculous and selfish!

    Other adoptees have just been flat out rejected and ignored by their biological mothers. They 'can't handle' it. OMG. Your child has waited 18+ years to meet you and learn their history and you 'can't handle it'?

    I have a surface-level relationship with my natural mother. I'd like to have a close friendship with her, but that can't happen until she can be honest and open with me. Meaningful relationships are NEVER CENSORED.

    1. Birthmother and bfather are cruel, toxic. Caught bmther in lies. Shes afraid of my bfather. He denies I'm his (I look like his twin. Dad I am no contact (nc) with both "families"

      I have the most in common with foster kids who never found a family

  5. I read B.J. Lifton's book about her reunion. I think it bothered her that her mother refused to recognize her as her child. I feel that as well. It upsets me that my first mother will not recognize me as her daughter. Since I was denied contact, I have transcripts from supposed phone calls. I wonder about the legitimacy of those phone calls.

    I would be thrilled if I could be in reunion as would my adoptive mother. My adoptive mother recognizes her as the mother just as much as she is. She looks at my daughters as granddaughters to both of them.

    I think Celeste Bilhartz said it best. We have to respect each other's boundaries and each other's lives.

  6. Dear Anon:

    I know that many birth mothers refuse contact, information, simple friendship as you describe and it breaks my heart! I do not know how to reach them to help them at least be more of what adopted people want and need. Perhaps the blogging world reaches some of them, but do they ever google and reach out? Unknown. Probably not.

    I used to think that there were very few birth mothers like that but immersion this world of blogging has brought me into contact with many adopted people whose have unsatisfactory relationships, or none at all, with parents/mothers they find. My wish for all those concerned would be that the shy or cold or embarrassed birth mothers would have some counseling from other others birth mothers who have come out of the darkness. When I write this I think of Linda Burns in Texas as one such searcher/birth mother who says she has never really had a refusal from a birth mother she has contacted.

    It's difficult on both sides; we birth mothers who try to be what our children want and need often feel the sting of rejection from our birth children, and sense their need to continually hurt us. Though I do not have statistics to back this up, I feel that male children who were adopted have a harder time "forgiving" their mothers. And we, as birth mothers, no matter the circumstances, need to stop blaming our parents, the times, whatever, on why we gave them up. I'll write about this in the future.

  7. Ps: We are not trying to make it seem that why relationships between adoptee and birth mother are all the adoptee's fault. We are not talking about all relationships. Jane simply read the many adoptee-memoirs and quoted what she found: anger and bitterness to a great degree.

    For something that we can not be forgiven for.

  8. It's hard to forgive when you look back and realize just how helpless yourself as an infant was.

    Yes, I know many mothers did not have a choice. But compared to an INFANT, who can only CRY and WAIL? It just seems the potential for a walking, talking human being is more likely to have a choice as opposed to an infant who can't even talk or sit up, KWIM?

    1. Never felt mad at bmothet as a kid (hadn't met yet) and I had abusive adoptive parents. But currently I largely blame the adoption industry for my destroyed life

  9. Most of our "reunions" have gone wrong because our natural mothers will not be truthful and tell us who our natural fathers are.

    Anonymous, I have to challenge that statement. Even though I shared everything with my daughter--the circumstances of her conception and relinquishment, her father's family (she exchanged cards and photos with her paternal grandparents), it wasn't enough. Or perhaps it was too much.

    My daughter "found me," looked around, and decided...I wasn't good enough? Horrified I was a free spirit? Too much like her, not enough like her? My daughter, not I, terminated our relationship. She invited me to her wedding, but I was damned if I did, damned if I didn't. I was treated like a work colleague, seated at a table with friends of the groom's mother, on the opposite side of the ballroom from my daughter's family. I knew when she gave me the forced good bye hug at the end of the night that it would be the last time I saw her for a long while, if not forever. That was four years ago.

    Try to imagine what it's like to walk into your sister's home and see a photo of two smiling toddlers with matching Beatle haircuts arranged among the other cherished family photos, photos of your biological grandsons you were never told about, grandsons who you can't send gifts to for reasons that you'll probably never know.

    I would gladly grab your mother by the shoulders and shake her like a rag doll...I've said it before--all the birthmothers I know personally would give anything to have a relationship with their adult children.

    One of our regular readers once wrote adoption is the gift that keeps on taking...and that sword cuts both ways.

  10. As Anonymous noted, some birthmothers make the reunion difficult by refusing to tell their child who their father was. This was true in the case of BJ Lofton, Amy Dean, and Zara Phillips. I did include this in a longer version of my article.

    I don't believe that problems in reunions are all the adoptees fault. I'm trying to give birth mothers some ideas of why things may not go as they hoped. Adoptees and birthmothers often have different needs and goals at different times.

    I know adoptees who have been treated poorly by their birthmothers in reunions. Interestingly, however, in all the birthmother memoirs I've read, their children are described as golden, unblemished, no matter how their children treat them.

  11. Relationships take two, and either, neither or both can be at fault when things do not work out. Some people, including some reunited relatives, get along, some do not. A whole lot of factors play into that, and every situation is unique.

    I'll never write a memoir, but I do not see my son as "golden and unblemished" nor do many other mothers I know, including some who have written here with great pain; Denise and Sandie recently, nor Lorraine, Linda, or for that matter Jane herself. Mothers have complaints about their kids and their kid's actions and attitudes, just as some adoptees have of their mothers. That is just life, and people getting to know each other, the good and the bad.

    None of my kids are "perfect and golden." They are just men, doing the best they can with their lives, basically decent but flawed and human, like me and other mothers I know. I love my sons unconditionally, including the surrendered one, but that does not mean they never do anything that upsets me or that I think they can do no wrong.

    Anyone looking for a perfect mother or a 30 year old perfect baby is sure to be disappointed. That cuts both ways.

  12. m I can't speak for all adoptee but MY reunion is failing because my biological mother is insane. Literally.
    My biological mother has been in and out of mental institutions both before and after my birth. The people she gave birth to and actually raised both have extensive criminal records and are generally not nice people. And yet my "mother" constantly insists that she is the world's greatest parent.
    All I can do is breathe a sigh of relief and be glad that the woman who birthed me chose not to raise me because I know for a fact that I would not have done well growing up in Crazytown.
    Maybe it's time to stop blaming adoptees for bad relationships and take some responsibility here.
    Because lets face it, nobody wants to (or should have to)have a relationship with a crazy person, even if they happen to have given birth to you.

    Perhaps this post of yours would be less offensive if you were to judge adoptees and firstparents on a case to case basis rather them lumping them together based on a few memoirs.

  13. On the subject of what we call the adoptive mother, my son took me to task a while ago for referring to her as his "adoptive mother", even though he can't stand her and now has nothing to do with her!

    So from then on, she's his mother if I refer to her, and his adoptive dad who is deceased is his father. I am "maryanne" but generally he does not address me by any name. I never refer to any relative as "his" but rather "mine".

    It doesn't bother me, it is just words and if it makes him comfortable and more likely to communicate with me, fine by me.

  14. relinquishing mothers, no matter how young, have WAY more choices and say in the situation than fetuses or infants. they are a mother, whether they chose to exercise their rights at the time of the child's birth. when an adoptee grows up they should have the right to get to know an adult who truly has the best interest in mind for their child. rather than pinning the dysfunction of a reunion on the adoptee, it would behoove firstmoms to really look at their actions.

    I have a failing reunion because my first mom never grew up and stayed in the same party ways as the 16 year who gave birth to me. It's a travesty, really, and I, her child wish it could be different. However, as an adult I do not have to subject myself to her behavior. I'm sure firstmoms could blame their children, but they should really take a look in the mirror...they were the parents, even if they were 9 years old...they had that many more years ahead of the infant to get things figured out.

  15. Laura:

    You have such compassion for the woman that gave you life. I have a question for you... Are you perfect? Now I will go ahead and answer my own question. No, you are not. Neither am I or neither is anyone.

    Let's face it, nobody should have to be subjected to that kind of disrespect and rudeness just because you think you are so much better than them, even if you happen to have given birth to them.

  16. Adoptees, what do you recommend a-parents do to prevent the red-ball blue-ball effect? Just keep talking, stay open? I'm on a lot of birth-parent search lists now and there's a lot of discussion around how not to make reunion the a-parent "thing". . .that this must be led by the child or adult adoptee. Thoughts?

  17. Sorry, just to clarify--that red and blue reference is in Part 2 of Jane's essay. Great essay, Jane.

  18. "Adoptees, what do you recommend a-parents do to prevent the red-ball blue-ball effect? Just keep talking, stay open?"

    By not overstepping boundaries.

  19. I'll never write a memoir, but I assure you, my failed reunion with my n-mother is not from my lack of trying, forgiveness or love. I was shocked to find out that she even wanted contact when I located her. And I was reluctant to believe her immediate outpouring of love, her staunch claim and declaration as my *mother*. I couldn't believe she could feel this way, after decades of separation.
    But I had ...faith? Is that what you call it? When you believe in something, when you can explain it rationallY?
    I took a risk, and I believed what she said.
    I was shocked to see how strongly I felt about her when we re-met. I thought she was .....amazing. Did I think she was perfect? Hell no. Not at all.
    But I saw a lot of myself in her. And since I actually really LIKE myself, I thought she was pretty damn cool.

    Unfortunately, the reunion went south, and I was ex-communicated within 2 weeks of meeting her.
    This Mother's Day will be an extremely painful day for me.

    Why did my reunion go wrong?
    Because the unnatural act of removing a child from her mother has damaged BOTH of us.
    It is like breaking a bottle and trying to put the pieces back together. Maybe I'll successfully reassemble the bottle, to *appear* like it's fixed. But it will never hold water or be functional again.

    And my advice to a-parents? It's not about you.
    Being loyal to an a-parent, by hiding your search, makes NO sense to me.
    Nor do I believe that love is finite.
    The more we find out about ourselves, the more there is of us to love.
    My 2 cents.......

    1. Beautifully said and wise, Anonymous. And I am so sorry your reunion went south. I imagine your n-mother is wise too, since you so clearly are, and I much hope you two can get back together through all the shards and breakage adoption has placed between you.

    2. It's like you wrote about my reunion. I'm a year in and i love my mom tons; her emotional disconnect is unnerving tho. The self centeredness is too.

  20. Thanks. I sensed the importance of both pieces of advice and am glad to see them confirmed.

  21. I've worked with many adoptees and birth parents in reunions and reunions fail for any number of reasons.

    It's a rare thing to bring together two or more damaged people (and I believe adoption damages everyone to some extent, some greater than others) and have a reunion where no blame exists.

    Expecting one to take responsibility for their actions or hoping they will is much different than blame. Where blame or fault is assigned, the stage is not well set for a good reunion.

    Part One of "Why Reunions Go Wrong: What Memoirs of Adopted Daughters Tell Birthmothers" is a piece limited to the feelings of a few adoptees. While it might help some birth mothers understand why reunions went straight to hell in an expedited hand basket, it's all after the fact. It's probably best read before any reunion takes place because it does give one a heads up on some of the raw emotions and feelings that might have to be dealt with.

    Still, there is blame or fault stated or implied. Unless both the adoptee and the birth parent can each accept responsibility for their own feelings, their own actions and reactions rather than blaming someone else for them, a good outcome is unlikely...

    And, that's very sad because (in most instances) both the birth parent and the adoptee are hurting so badly that they are unable to help heal the other's hurt.

  22. "unable to heal the other's hurt?"
    are you kidding me????
    i'm sorry, but i feel that this is a flawed statement.
    in NO instance should the adoptee be called on to heal the mother's pain. we have suffered enough, due to decisions made for our well being.
    as a daughter of alcoholics, i have been forced into enough situations, where i thought i could "heal the family". that is an unfair role to place a child into. there is no way i should be expected to feel i can do that for my first mother as well.

    i'm not asking my n-mother to "heal" me either.
    it's my place to practice self care, pursue therapy and find ways to resolve my issues from the past. what do i want?
    i just want her to show up.
    and if she can't? then that is her failure to take responsibility. but it is NOT mine.

  23. Anonymous said...

    "unable to heal the other's hurt?"
    are you kidding me????...

    Please don't misquote me; I said "unable to help heal the other's hurt."

    Most of us, on a regular basis, help others to heal when they are hurting. Sometimes it's in such small ways that we don't even realize we are helping; other times it's obvious.

    If anyone comes to you and they are hurting, why would you not try to help in some way? It's a very basic human kindness that is present in every successful relationship.

  24. I can help my neighbor carry her groceries up the stairs.
    I can help my coworker conduct a complicated experiment.
    I can help my friend plan her wedding.
    I can help my sister with her homework.

    But trying to help a heal my broken first mother, who is unable to get beyond her own guilt and shame?
    That is like trying to save a drowning victim by jumping into the pool.
    It would only result in me being made the victim as well......

  25. It is tempting to generalize, but I won't. I'll only speak of my experience.

    Some points:

    1) I did NOT have a fantasy mother. All I ever wanted was my mother. I was thrilled, however, to see that we were spitting images of eachother. Finally, I belonged. I felt more human to see myself in someone else.

    2) Unlike some, I didn't want new parents. I wanted MY parents. Finally.

    3) I loved my mother the moment I saw her. I still do.

    4) My reunion failed because my mother would not be honest with me. She would not take responsibility for her actions which caused me insurmountable pain. She had plenty of choices. Her education was more important than me. She thought I was replaceable. I wasn't and I'm not.

    5) My mother would remind me on many ocassions that she could have aborted me. She made it clear that she expected me to be grateful for "saving my life". I wasn't, I'm not, and I never will be. Au contraire, an abortion would have been merciful.

    6) I never considered my adopters my parents. They were strangers, and still are. I wish them peace, and I am content that they are not a part of my life. They were never supposed to be a part of my life. I feel some satisfaction that I corrected that error. I have no fake parents.


  26. Dear Anon:

    All I can say is that I am so sorry your experience with your mother was disappointing. And hurtful. Some people have terrible relationships with their parents--I watched Tonya Harding (remember her, the ice skater?) on Oprah the other day saying that her mother was an alcoholic who hit her all the time and told he she was worthless and fat.

    When adoption is added to the mix, the issues are both different, and sometimes, the same, but we do know the hurt can be increased ten fold when both adoptive and biological parents let one down.

    There's no way of knowing what kind of mother your mother would have been had she not relinquished you.

    All one can do is carry on and not let the wake of the waves of the past keep you drowning in the turmoil. Go forward.

  27. I've had a lot of thoughts about this post and have been struggling how to address it for days, but it leaves me pretty much at a loss for words. Too depressing.
    The only thing I can say is that, generally speaking, I think it's more natural for children to feel ambivalent towards their parents than the other way around, and this tendency is likely to be magnified in reunion.

    Also that that blame can be a useful way of shirking responsibility.

  28. I'm pretty sure that if you asked my mother for her reunion story, she'd say what some of the mothers here have said: "My daughter found me, approached, and then backed away because she found me wanting," which is true. Here's the other side of that story:

    I believe my reunion failed because my mother wouldn't tell me who my father is. She also refused to tell my half-sisters I exist, and she expected me to fly out to meet her (I was a grad student living on ramen at the time) so she could show me around her part of the world without telling anyone who I was to her. She wanted to meet me, but I was to remain her dirty little secret. She was still living in the town she grew up in, had recently divorced, and seemed to need someone to cling to. (It was she who insisted we meet on her turf BTW.)

    Given these conditions, I think it would take a either a fool or someone with much more strength than I have to walk into a face to face reunion. I know plenty of non-fools who have done it under similar circumstances and are very glad they did. I don't have what it takes.

    It isn't that I don't know how badly her life was shattered by this. It's that I am fragile enough myself that I know better than to fight this battle. It isn't just because I shouldn't have to, although I don't think I should have to.

    I am one of those adoptees who has always felt called on to "fix people." This has led me astray my entire life--into a bad marriage, bad relationships, bad career choices. Enough.

    1. Yup, im still bparents "dirty little secret" bmother refused to go to a restaurant with me...made me "swear" id never disclose her name, her identity

  29. I wonder why it is that adoptees seem to think they are unique when it comes to mothers who won't talk about the fathers. My mother who did NOT adopt me out consistently refused to talk about or answer questions about my father. It was definitely a "don't go there" question. Why is it that birth mothers have to open their lives so to where they feel exposed, only to have the adoptee possibly slam them for things that happened in the past that can't be changed?

  30. In a fairy tale world, reunions would be accompanied by birds singing, the sun rising and a rainbow forming in the distance. But that is not reality.

    Did the adoptee whose mother wouldn't tell the father's name ever think that perhaps the father may have been an abuser who could endanger the birth mother's very existence if he ever found out that she had given up his baby for adoption? I know of such a case.

    After reading this blog, I ask whether it is really worth it for a birth mother to reunite with her relinquished child. So many birth mothers suffered both in the circumstances of conception and in the decision to relinquish. Why should they now reunite only to have their birth child reject them or worse yet create a caricature of them as a branded, shameful woman who was worthless.

    Birth mothers too must realize that they gave their baby up. He or she is no longer her child. The adoptive parents ARE the parents. So if a reunion occurs, it cannot be expected that the birth child will loop upon the birth mother as his or her mother.

    Perhaps in some cases non-identifying communication through a third party may be better. That way information can be shared without leading to heartbreak on either side if reunion is destined to fail.

  31. "The adoptive parents ARE the parents."

    You have the right to your opinion.

    You do not, however, have the right to press that opinion onto adoptees and dictate who they should consider as parents.

  32. I realize this post is from a year ago, but I just started reading adoption blogs recently. I'm a 40-something adoptee who is just now considering a search/reunion. But after reading this and many other blogs, I'm not sure if a reunion is a good idea.

    I don't need to be healed and am not sure I can help heal anyone else. And I was wondering if n-parents who want or have had a reunion expect/ed anything from their n-children after the reunion?

    Thanks! -T

  33. I am a birhmother that has been in reunion almost a year, I told all my children about my firstborn as they got older and I moved back to the state near the place where I gave him up hoping I could find him and one day be a part of his life. I have always thought of his adopted mother as his mother and am happy to say that he acknowledges that he has two mothers. We rarely talk about his AF but that is not my choice, he is more than welcome to talk about them. His mother actually asked me to get in touch with him to help him, he had a troubled youth and has been in prison for a number of years. I am not that far away from him now and keep him company every other friday and its a joy. I will take whatever I can get and I will help him or leave him alone ( I don't really want to leave him alone) but it is basically about getting him to be the person he should have been if I can. I also had to tell him his birthfather killed himself. We have had many challenges and as long as I can be in his life I will ( no strings attached) and I have been very honest with him. It's been great but also hard as I would just like to have him be my baby again but that is not how it works. His mother got all those years and I will not diminish anything shes ever done for him I appreciate it. My advice to anyone that wants a reunion is to have no expectations, know that its not about you, definitely not cross boundaries(you have no right), be patient no matter how long it takes and lastely they need information to move forward if you get something by being the Adult and kind in the relationship great. If you are looking just to be fixed go to therapy don't expect the child you gave up to do it just any enjoy anything and everything you can while you can.And one more thing because I know someone will ask it was not my choice and it devastated me to lose him and took me many years and horrible experiences to get past it, but by the grace of god I did. There's a reason for everything it might not be in the cards for you to ever know why.

  34. What I know is that I love my birthson. I always have and always will. I agree with the person who wrote about how, "I opened my heart and life to him", unconditionally, sooooo happily, and then was left broken-hearted, cast aside. And also my other children too were hurt. It is a hard situation, reunion. Sometimes I wish it had never happened. It brought pain and heart break to me and my son's b-siblings. But then at many other times, I long for my birth son to take us back. I want all to be 'good', sweet, and happy. Before any birth mom or child consider reunion, I think it a good idea to really read up and consider the possibilities. Do I recommend reunion? I dont know. Maybe not. And am I being selfish? Does a mom deserve emotional abuse? With all my heart I would love to have my son back. But he made the decision to go away, and left us all. It is sad. I keep saying, whatever makes him happy I want. But it is difficult cuz I love him very very much. So, again, my advice, really consider before pursuing reunion.

  35. That's right , adoptees, we're just incubators. Keep on picking us apart like an encyclopedia. I feel bad that you can not even give your birthmothers a chance.I love the part how you are upset because you MAY NOT RECEIVE THE NAME OF THE BIRTHFATHER RIGHT AWAY.
    Yet you treat us like we are just the machines who gave birth..worst yet..like birth mothers are criminals.And then you want to know your birthfather!! Your generation just goes out and has it fixed..and have the nerve to say abortions are worst than placing a child..how dare you!!
    You have no idea of the pain we birthmothers have carried all our lives and will to the grave.
    Keep it up..but let me tell you..someday you will be 80 and will regret it.. then it is your turn to live with the guilt.

  36. And birthmothers...it is not yout fault that a relationship is failing. Until the man upstairs paves a road to get through your child's narcissism there is no way in h-ll to have a relationship.

    Get off your high horses,birth children, you are in no way perfect.

    I feel sorry for you. Most of us birthmothers are decent, good people with a big heart. it is your loss.

  37. Amen to get off their high horses and realize that they are not perfect......

  38. The only thing to be said to my birth mother is that I have a heart for you it is such a difficult decision to give up a child.

    I don't know your circumstances or have judgment for whatever happened in the past. I will wait until you are comfortable to know the truth. But I would like the truth wherever it takes me living as a shadow among people I have no substance no identity, no history. I don't know what to make of it.

    Please don't misunderstand what I am asking of you. I am not asking you to heal me or be someone you are not. I am asking for the information so I can heal myself.

    In addition I want to be a better father as an adopted man who is adopting a child. I don't want to pass my pain on to my daughter.

  39. Part 1 my story

    For a long time I have wanted to write my story about adoption. Mine, I believe is quite unique.

    In 1952 my father met my birth mother while he was stationed in the Air Force. They were engaged to be married. In January of 1952 my father was diagnosed with acute Leukemia, he died four weeks later. Never did he know that his fiancé was pregnant with his child,.

    When my mother discovered she was pregnant she told her mother. The solution her mother chose was to send my mother to an “unwed mothers home” and there she could give me up for adoption. However, my mother instead, called my grandmother (father’s mother) and gave her the news. My grandmother invited my mother to come live with her and that my father’s family would support her.

    My mother, a registered nurse, stayed her entire pregnancy with my father’s family. She worked at the local hospital as a nurse. When time came for my birth, my mother had made up her mind not to keep me, but would birth me and return to her family. My father’s family offered her a home, helped her get a job and begged her to stay and keep me but, my mother’s mind was made up, mainly do to the lack of support from her own family.

    So secret was my mother’s pregnancy kept that her own sister only learned of it by a chance encounter with a doctor whom my mother had gone to prior to her leaving to stay with my father’s family. Her sister ran into the doctor and he asked “How is Joyce and the baby doing?”…..The story told to most of my mother’s family, was that she was in Oklahoma taking care of my grandmother who was heartbroken after the death of her son”……… This was how secret it was kept.

    When I was born my grandmother had arranged to adopt me and did so when I was only two days old. At the adoption hearing the Judge, nearly got on his knees and begged my mother to keep me and warned her that she was making a big mistake. However, she did not. My father’s sister told me that she got on her knees and begged my mother not to do what she was doing…..All of my Father’s family were very supportive of her.

  40. part 2

    When I was three days old, my mother’s mother arrived in my home town on a train, took a cab to my grandmother’s house, knocked on the door and told my mother to get her things because the cab was waiting. My grandmother asked her if she wanted to see me and she replied “no”…….

    Growing up nothing was ever kept from me. My grandmother kept a photograph of my father and mother on her dresser top as I was growing up. She always would tell me that “this is your mother and father”….I knew where she was my entire life.

    My mother got married four years later. She married a good man who I have now come to respect and admire. When I was five years old my mother and her husband came to visit me. I have no memory whatsoever of this visit although I do have some “flashbacks” that I hope are actual memories…I don’t really know.
    I was told by my mother’s husband, only recently, that after he married my mother she told me about me. Being the good man he is he made plans to try to get me back, included talking to a lawyer about it. When that time came upon their visit, he could not bring himself to try and go through with it. One thing that does hurt is that when I asked him if it was him or my mother who came up with the idea of getting me back, he reluctantly said “It was my idea”…………That, hurt to know my mother didn’t want this.

    The next time I saw my mother was when I was about 10 years old. Again, I have absolutely no memory of this visit. I know it happened because there are photographs.

    Eight more years went by and came my high school graduation. My mother and her husband by now had four other children, I had never met any of them, nor at this time had any of them been told I existed. My mother and her husband came to my high school graduation. However, again I have absolutely no memory of her being there. I remember my graduation, I remember getting my diploma, I remember even who I sat by at the graduation, BUT have no memory that my mother was there, but again I have seen photographs.

    My grandmother died the following year. Before her death she made me promise to stay in touch with my mother and try and develop a relationship with her. She reminded me that despite, feelings of resentment I had acquired, that she was still my mother. The only stipulation my grandmother made was that I did not try to initiate any relationship with my mother UNTIL she had told her other children about me. At this time my oldest sibling was 15 years old….

    Finally in 1974, I was 21 years old, I received a phone call from my mother and she had told her family about me. Over the years my grandmother had sent photographs of me to my mother, mostly school pictures. My oldest sister, who was 14 at this time found some of the photographs and confronted my mother asking who this was. It was then she finally told her other children about me. What is sad is again, I have no memory of this phone call and the details I only know of because what my siblings have since told me.


  41. Part 3

    Only a few months after this phone call, I was in a very bad motorcycle wreck which kept me hospitalized about a month. While I was in the hospital my aunt called my mother and told her about it. My mother and her family then came to visit me while I was in the hospital…I have a photograph of my mother, four siblings and me lying in the hospital bed. Unfortunately, again, I do not have any memories of the reunion, and in fact very few memories of the hospital stay at all. At least this time I had an excuse as they kept me highly medicated with pain killer most of my hospital stay…..

    Two more years passed.. Came time for college graduation and I sent an invitation (I supposed I did) to my mother and family. They came to my graduation. Again, I have absolutely zero recollection of their visit. Surprising to me I have a photograph of my mother pinning my second lieutenant bars (I was going in the Marines)…but even this important event, I do not remember. My siblings tell me storie sof me teaching them how to water ski on this visit but I cannot recall this. This saddens me that I cannot remember these events.

  42. PART 4

    absolutely zero recollection of their visit. Surprising to me I have a photograph of my mother pinning my second lieutenant bars (I was going in the Marines)…but even this important event, I do not remember. My siblings tell me storie sof me teaching them how to water ski on this visit but I cannot recall this. This saddens me that I cannot remember these events.

    I had married by this time but the marriage lasted only two months. After I left for the Marines, my wife decided she did not want to go. That is the last time I have seen her.

    Two more years passed while I was in the Marines. In 1979 I got orders to flight school. During the two years I must have kept in touch with my family as my mother, her husband, my youngest sister (age 15 at this time) and a friend of my sister visited me while I was in flight school in Pensacola , Florida. I do have very vivid memories of having conversations with my sister BUT I do not remember anything again about my mother nor any things we did or conversations with her…nothing.

    A few months later I took a cross country training flight to my Minnesota, where my mother lived and visited her and the family for the first time. It was a short visit, May 15th, 1980. I remember the date. I remember what we had for dinner that night.. I remember taking more to my youngest sister BUT I don’t remember much else…..

    My next visit to my mother’s home came about four years later. My siblings visited me on at least four occasions, but I don’t recall specifics …..Fortunately my youngest sister kept photographs of these visits because the photos I had I destroyed in about 1996. …

    The second visit to my mothers’ house in 1983 was not a good one. Unfortunately, I do have VERY VIVID memories of this visit, however they are not pleasant ones which ultimately led to me abandoning any contact with my mother or her family for many many years. What happened was this. I had been visiting only a couple of days and had plans on staying a few more when my mother got a phone call from friends that just happened to be in the area and were going to pay a surprise visit. What developed was this. I vividly remember my mother’s demeanor changing from one of “I’m glad you are here, to you need to leave”……… Questioning my siblings I was told of the friends coming to visit and at that time I remember saying “And my mother doesn’t want me here because these people don’t know about me, right”……………so I left.

    While I was at my mothers on this final visit, I met my grandmother. The only thing I remember my grandmother saying was this. When I was introduced to her she replied “I know who he is, I saw him 20 years ago”…..Which in fact she hadn’t seen me then as she had refused to see me……I do wish I had confronted my grandmother. I regret that I did not tell her how I feel almost as much as I regret telling my mother how I felt.

    Other things happening over the next few years led to a breakup of any contact with my mother’s family. I had been rejected a second time and it hurt. There were other things that happened that I just can’t go into but they all have left scars on my heart that

  43. PART 5

    can never be repaired…..There were other visits but I only recall the bad and not the good….That hurts deeply that I have lost all of these memories.

    Over 20 years went by before my youngest sister called me one day at work…I immediately thought “well my mother has died and they are calling me to tell me”….. This was not the case and it led to a second reunion with my family. Fortunately this reunion has been better BUT some of the circumstances have left even more burdens on my heart. My mother was in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s when I finally saw her again. She was at a point where the questions I had longed to ask her and the apology I yearned to hear from her and the love I wanted from her could not be given…..This I will never get over.

    Despite a loving relationship I have rekindled with my siblings, something is missing and always will be. \

    My mother died just over a month ago, Sept 3rd, 2011…She was 81 and am 58. For 58 years I wanted to hear her tell me she was sorry. She never did nor did her mother ever tell her she was sorry for not supporting her when she was pregnant….
    It is so difficult on me…..I am grieving so much for a mother I really never knew. I didn’t go up to her home or the memorial service for my mother after she died.. It would have been impossible for me to do that..impossible. When people die, the friends and family tell stories and recall good times they spent with that person. I can recall no such things. Maybe some did happen but if so, I don’t remember. The entire number of days I spent with my mother maybe totaled 30 or 40, if that……and those 30 or 40 days are some of the hardest of my life……..I can only cling to the hope that my mother is in heaven. There maybe, she will finally tell me she loves me and she would have done things differently….Until then I will remain heartbroken…………….

    1. All your life you have waited for an apology. You're still upset because you never
      got it. Did you truly expect to get the outcome you wanted once you found out
      your birth mother was in an advanced stage of Alzheimer's?
      Your birth mom, obviously, could not deal with the reality of your birth father's
      death and your consequent birth.
      I feel sorry for you if the "reason d'etre" for your life has been nothing but a long
      wait for an apology. Guess what? She didn't OWE you one.
      If you keep looking BACK, you're going to MISS your whole LIFE.
      Something tells me that if you've spent your life wallowing in self-pity LOOKING
      BACKWARDS, you've HURT a lot of people who now have to live and deal with
      you in the present. GROW UP. Move on!

  44. Dear Anonymous:

    I hope that you can find some relief in having told your sad story here. Even though you did not have the relationship with your mother that you desired, sometimes getting things down on paper changes how we look at it.

    You are grieving now, and it will take time to heal. But your story is not yet over; and it appears that you will have a good relationship with your siblings. Cherish them.

  45. Wow.
    The thing that strikes me the most is that everybody's stories are different and there isn't an instructional guide or a rule book to help "get things right".
    I have had a fragmented relationship with my bm for over 8 years and have been developing a positive relationship with my bf for the past 2. She was full-on; he is more laid back and very respectful. With her I wanted to retreat and hide; with him I am slowly emerging.
    I recently found out that she has lied to me since we met and her family have supported her lies. I'll be honest, I don't understand the pain she felt when she chose to give me away to my family but I also don't see it as a justification to lie. Honesty is an extremely important value to me and I've been pretty open, honest and non-judgemental since we met. No blame, just curiosity. I didn't feel any connection with her and had always blamed myself but in hindsight, perhaps my intuition was more reliable than I thought...
    I'm enjoying the time getting to know my bf and his family whilst still very much loving and respecting my mum and dad. My upbringing was far from perfect but adopted or not, whose is?! ;)

  46. Anonymous: It's always awful when anyone lies about something as crucial as one's one life, and so you are right to be cautious. However, please try to understand the severe shock and grief that most, if not all, women who relinquish go through. That doesn't excuse her behavior, if as you say, she is lying, but there may be family pressures that have been embedded for decades that are causing her to act this way. Perhaps some reading of birth mother memoirs might help you understand. There's mine, with a link on the side, but there are others also, and if you get to amazon, they will show up at the bottom of the page.

    It's good to know that you are able to build a relationship with your biological father and his family, it's good for yourself that you have connected. And remember: nothing stays the same forever.

  47. i always felt really lucky that my parents ( adoptive) are both people with high emotional intelligence, and they have helped instill values in me that helps me tremendously in those areas.

    One of the things they taught me growing up is in order to live life to the fullest, i have to learn to let negative things go and not to dwell on them.

    so by the time i meet my birth parents, even though i still felt the hurt of rejection.
    thanks to my parents, i felt instead of me dwelling on it, which i know is not going to do anyone any good, i knew it is better for me to find a way to work through them, ideally with my birth parents, and thankfully, they were open to the ideas too.

    to put long story short, we ( me, my parents, my birth parents) actually went to counselor together.

    it took us about 2 years to work through most of the emotional baggage that i and they ( birth parents) had over the they putting me up for adoption.

    and i think having a counselor also helped us to set good boundaries in the beginning of our relationship, which allows me to take our relationship at a pace that i was comfortable with, and helped me and them understand/accept/deal important issues that would other wise cause a lot of misunderstandings.

    so overall, it worked out well for us.

    i mean, we still have our up and downs over the past 7 years since the reunion.

    but overall, i think we are at a pretty good place at this moment.

    and hopefully, one day we could get to the point where we feel that parental/child bond again, which i know is something they wants very much.

  48. Ups and downs is the way it is--not only in adoptee/first mother relationships but also in daughter/mother too. You sound healthy and wiling to stay in there. It may never be "the same," but I had wonderful close moments with my daughter.

    A "pretty good place" sounds okay to me.

  49. I was adopted in 1973 - to a family that never accepted me - my adoptive mother was an alcoholic and still is to this day - my adoptive father passed away 5 years ago. My parents relatives never accepted me therfore after I turned 18 I was never invited to any family functions. I have no family history, medical history, biological connection to anyone. I thought about reuniting with my birth mother however the thought of her not meeting my expectations is too great. I travel in this world similar to a Ghost - a Ghost you can see but has no form - dreaming that he has a biological family that is grand which he is destined never to meet - like a Ghost this is my only post - u will never know me see me or know my history very fitting for a person with no form.

  50. Casper (the Ghost):

    Your comment is so sad that I can't think of what to say.

    But no one deserved the had you got. But you must set you mind to the future, and let the past be like the wake behind you. You don't have to stay caught up in it forever. I know this advice is simple and trite but it is also right.

    Maybe finding out your past, and your parents, would help; but that is a decision you alone can make. There is no way to predict what and who you might find.

  51. I always loved being an adopted child but was always fascinated who I looked like, was my mother like me? I use to say "if only I could have a picture". My husband became fascinated with family history and traced my mother after 19 years. I had taken advice from social services 19 years previous and believed the adoption records. My Birth mother was delighted with the trace, everything was great for the first three months and then she wrote to me with terrible facts about the birth father, I was left devastated. I urge anyone to tread carefully, you do not always know what you are going into. I really believed all the records, there were lies in the records to cover up truths.

  52. Anonymous of 12/28/13:

    Treading carefully is always important and one has to be aware that truth may not be what you would like it to be--but it is your truth. We don't know the particulars of your story, but a fellow blogger and adoptee, Amanda Transue-Woolston, who was the product of a rape writes at The Declassified Adoptee, and has published a book of her writings, of the same name. I tell you this because you might find some comfort there.

    You can find it at Amazon.

  53. I know I'm late to this blog but perhaps my situation might offer some insight.

    My reunions haven't gone completely awry but certainly come very close. Here's why:

    I am the adoptee and yet I am the one parenting and taking care of the hurts of ALL of my parents. There is no consideration for my side of things, what I've had to go through and live with as a result or that I have my own sets of hurts.

    My fmom decided she was getting rid of me anyway so she and boyfriend (not my father) could do whatever they wanted to me. She is also a case of second rejection. She "wanted nothing to do with me. She's done enough. I should be somebody else's problem". And I waited an additional 20 years for her to decide to come back. She is now married to that boyfriend and I'm to accept that it was okay for them to abuse me because I just don't understand her pain. I do have a relationship with her, but nothing to do with him. He keeps trying to aggressively and abusively interfere in my life and when I say NO, then she sides with him. I'm not allowed to be upset by any of that either. I'm to be grateful she's back in my life at all since "she didn't have to be - she has zero responsibility for me. She signed the papers". I'm in constant fear if I'm so expendable, when is she going to leave me again.

    Then there's my fdad who to his credit did step up immediately, but then didn't like what he saw and left. He just a few weeks ago, after about 15 years, decided to come back. I'm not allowed to be upset by him waltzing in and out of my life either as I don't understand his pain.

    He was so angry at what happened with my fmom that he got revenge by recreating the situation with another woman. So I have a half-brother that was also put up for adoption. My fdad has decided he hates my brother. So I am trying my best to be the supportive older sister to my brother's hurts about that as my fdad won't take responsibility.

    Then there's my aparents. They are not terrible people but were very unprepared for what they got and it was never a good situation. They disowned me when I was 18. They've decided to come back into my life about 7 years ago and I"m to be eternally grateful for that too. I just don't understand what a horrible, difficult, willful child I was to try and raise, nor do I understand their hurts around fertility issues. My brother in that family is their natural born son. He is perfect and a miracle from God. I'm the stray that was rescued.

    On top of all of the individual problems I have to keep each family separate from each other and each one expects me to be the version of "daughter" that they want.

    As well as the usual growing up adoption BS that is pretty much inherent in closed adoptions... In the past I have been in and out of hospital because I made several serious suicide attempts. My body is covered from head to toe in scars because it was the only way I could cope with the repeated rejections and feeling like I was completely worthless. What does it mean when ALL FOUR of your parents reject you repeatedly and you're the common denominator?

    I'm still here and I'm still trying. I love all of my parents very much. But I am also exhausted and there are days where I want to sell off everything I have and move to Alaska or somewhere away from everybody and forget about them forever. I have had a lifetime of constant pain from this and some days I feel like I just can't handle it anymore.

    Yes thank god for closed adoptions. It's all in the "best interest of the child". I'm living proof.

  54. Birth mothers don't understand the feeling of perhaps the rejection of being given up has created an effect on the child that he or she wasn't good enough or was bad, or wasn't wanted and no amount of telling them that it was for the best can change that. You need to read "The Primal Wound." My birth mother is a little on the crazy side and wants to have this lifelong relationship that isn't natural. She has fantasized about this life we have for 50 years as Mother/Son and it isn't going to happen that way. She will never be my mother and will only ever be a friend. She will not even be a friend if she keeps pressing me the way she is to have this relationship on her terms. It's my way or there will be no relationship at all. Slow down or lose everything, you may have given birth to me, but I don't know you from a hill of beans. I realize your heartache is a powerful motivator for you and I know that you feel like you can now be redeemed from your guilty feelings for giving me up, but I may never love you the way you want me to. In fact if you keep pressing me for more and for our relationship to go faster, I may end up resenting you and pushing you away.
    Adoption is not all it's cracked up to be and yes it's better than abortion, but I have spent my life an emotional zombie because I don't trust anyone. I push people away because I don't want to be rejected. I am getting help for this, but you also need to get help for your fantasy life that is not a reality.

    1. Anonymous: I am sorry to hear --as we have often--at FMF about your feelings of abandonment, and am glad that you are getting some help, as it sounds like your natural mother should also.

      This is a very old post, and this blog still continues with comments from mothers (adoptive and natural) and adoptees today. Of course we have read Primal Wound and the author is a friend of ours.

      I understand that your mother has a fantasy of picking up perhaps as if the years have not gone by, but do try to understand that she has been living stuck emotionally as far as you are concerned in the moment/time that she had you and gave you up. Perhaps you could suggest that she take a look at First Mother Forum herself; she might gain some insight as there is not much out there for her to lean on or learn from

      To bring you up to date, take a look at the latest blog. I am the other writer here, and just finished a book about the quarter of a century relationship I had with my daughter after we reunited.
      Why I wrote Hole in my Heart

  55. I was reunited with my son about five years ago after searching fot eight years. There were no expectations on my part.....my heartfelt goals were that he knew why I gave him up for adoption and that he knew that he had been loved. In my opinion, it is the right of all adoptees to know the "whys" and to find out their medical history. Quite frankly, I did not expect a relationship.....it
    was to be my last gift to him, his history.

    At the end of our first visit, he and his wife asked my husband and I to be part of his family of
    five. It shocked me, but, we agreed and quickly became part of their circle. I was totally honest with him about everything and told him all I knew about his father. It lasted about a year and then they became distant, except for yearly birthday calls and facebook. As far as I can tell, I did everything right, acknowledged him to friends and family, questioning all my friends on how to be a good grandma. Through it all, my dear husband, supported me and our new family emotionally, such a dear, sweet loving man, I love him so.

    As you know, it is a hard thing dealing with the feelings that come with finding a child that you have given up. The good news is that I dealt with those old feelings and got past it. Now, we feel rejected. The first thought you have is that you did something wrong, then after careful examination, I realized that it wasn't about me.

    Here's my issue. I read alot of blogs on this topic about adoptees going in and out of adoptees lives and how bad the birthmothers feel about it. Evidently, our situation is not unusual. Please understand what I am about to say and why I say it.

    I gave it my all when we reunited. He was a grown man if 44, not a kid. I am not sure, I trust him with our hearts, if he should want to draw closer again. My husband and I have discussed it. We will respect the relationship as it is now, send presents on birthdays, have the occasional phone calls, but will continue to not press it as far as seeing the children and them.. Boundaries are an important part of any relationship, I think.

    Would I do it again, find my son. DEFINITELY. He had the right to know. It was good for me, too because I dealt with this great loss and moved past it and I forgave my seventeen year old self and said goodbye to a sweet baby who I adored and said hello to a man of 44. He is successful, happy and quite frankly, he doesn't need me. You know, I am ok with that.

    1. Mick: We just wrote about reunions recently. Please go to "Home" and scroll down, it is
      Oh well, here is the link:

      Different expectations upon mother and child reunion

  56. I am an adoptee and am just beginning my search. I am so glad to have found this blog. My thoughts have never gone further than acceptance vs rejection. It's not that cut and dry. You all have given me so much more to think about and prepare for. Thank you

  57. My 25yr old daughter found me a bit over a yr ago.we Started talking in Sept & met in early Dec.no words describe how i felt.i looked up her mom & sister on fb that night & read all i found,all comments on posts & pics,etc,it was clear she was loved her whole life.I told her when i became pregnant,i was in no shape to raise a child,& that i don't believe in abortion.I explained that i wanted to give her LIFE & a chance to have a better life.She thanked me & told me she never felt negativity or resentment towards me,she always wanted to know me & have questions answered.I told her i felt i was making best decision,that tho i wondered about her every day,i felt i had done what was best. Her dad that raised her had passed away,but her & her mom have always been very close.1st meeting was kind of awkward,i was simply in awe of the stunning woman she had grown to be.Gorgeous inside & out & a genuinely sweet person.I said I was dying to meet her mom,she said she wanted to meet me too.They all came down a couple of weeks later,a few days before Xmas,(my daughter,her mom,her fiancee & my 2grandkids)so my parents could meet their granddaughter & great grandkids.That day was & will forever be the best day.Seeing my parents hugging her for the first time,i couldn't have given them a better gift.& for me,meeting her mom was honestly more emotional for me than meeting her(my daughter)i know that sounds crazy,but its true.Her mom & i ran at each other,threw our arms around each other,were both crying,both of us saying thank you,because she had done such a selfless thing for me by giving my baby the life she deserved,& i had given her the person she loves more than anything,a lifetime of this wonderful child.So,our bond was instant & deep.I am very fortunate & eternally grateful they have all welcomed me into their family w open arms.It has been a little over a yr since we met,& everything is still great.,much as i love her & as proud as I am,i still don't regret my decision.Actually,now that i have spent time w her & w her mom,i stand even more firmly by it.because there is NO DOUBT that she had a better life than i could've given her.Fortunately,they live only about 30miles away,so i see them usually weekly.Even tho i didn't raise her,she reminds me so much of me.I love being a grandmother.Her & i are more like friends,but deeper.I may have missed her 1st steps,1st words,etc, but we are making many new firsts. Having her tell me happy mothers day was the ultimate.I realize how very fortunate i am to be a part of their lives.I feel for the mothers & daughters that don't work out in a positive manner.I worry that i am a disappointment,but she never treats me as such,so i just try to be someone that deserves her love.i honestly feel her love for me.Me & my mom LOVE getting tagged in fb posts by her & her mom when they post pics of the kids.My mom told me she no longer worries about me being alone after her & my dad are gone,because i have my own family now.I DO regret that my decision deprived my daughter & my parents of each other all those years.While i don't regret my decision,the what-ifs & what might have beens get to me,but,i know there is no going back,so i do the best i can in moving forward into this amazing new relationship.i feel like i actually did something worthy & contributed beauty & goodness to the world.My parents & i were invited to my grandsons 5th birthday party in July.Just the invitation alone was a huge thing to us. We love them very much.

    1. Hollybo10 Wow!!! What an amazing story. I WISH my story were like that.

      My daughter found me through her cousin on Ancestry in...I think 2017. While she looks like her dad sometimes, there is no denying that she is my daughter. We have the same taste in clothes, make up, hairstyles.... When I look at some of her photographs, we're almost identical. When I see her in person, she looks like her dad. She is smart, strong and beautiful. I love her--I think she doesn't understand that. It's as though it's not possible. She created a nice life for herself. It's amazing how one phone call made me a mom, mother-in-law, and grandma. It would be awesome to get to spend time with them at least once a month. I have seen her once this year. The day after our get-together, she began to pull away. I do not understand why this keeps happening. It's as though she hates me--but when I ask her she says "no". Her body language and facial expression tells a different story. I can sense it through phone conversations, text and email messages. We are both very intuitive and I can sometimes "feel" her. It's like I will think of her and then moments later she sends a text. I love her and tell her such...she used to say that she loved me back but now she says nothing. She has blocked me on social media--so I can't see anything she posts, but she can see everything I post. It's as though she wants to control me..or something. I am tempted to tell her to just let's go our separate ways 100 percent. I think it would be a good idea for my grandson to get to know me. Her adoptive father is up in age a bit (the mother died already). He remarried (interestingly to a woman who was adopted). Her husband's mom is not well, so that leaves me as the only living biological grandparent. Her father passed away many years ago. She only has her adoptive father. I don't know what to do. I have suggested that we get counseling together--nope.I purchased workbooks for us to do together to help heal our abandonment challenges--she doesn't have time and besides, "those are not my issues. They are yours, so I don't need the workbooks"). I try to be positive and say things to help her feel empowered and loved and thought of, but still, it seems that she just wants me to stay the F@#% out of her life --until SHE sends a text or email. I am a patient person but I am also a human being. I get the impression that she enjoys her behavior. It feels like I'm a punching bag. My mom and siblings really want to meet her and be apart of her life. I tell her that she deserves to have a family --aunts and uncles and cousins who look like her and love her genuinely. She refuses to meet them. (she met her cousin and aunt on her dad's side but no one on my side). I guess, not meeting my family is punishment.

      I really hope we can start talking and meeting up again. I believe that's the only way we can truly began to heal. Until then, I will do my best to remain patient and be an adult.



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