' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Am I Grandma or ...(Birth Grandma) Lorraine? Someone not quite connected.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Am I Grandma or ...(Birth Grandma) Lorraine? Someone not quite connected.

Names do mean something, as we've written about before here at FirstMotherForum. My surrendered daughter Jane always called me "Lorraine" except when we were kidding, and then it occasionally morphed into "Maraine." Occasionally. However, she frequently would sign her notes and cards, "Your daughter, Jane."

My granddaughter Britt called me Grandma when she was little and spent summers here, but as soon as she hit puberty, I also became "Lorraine." Did that hurt? Oh yeah, a great deal. A great deal. I remember going to an acupuncturist for some other reason and broke out sobbing, thinking about this shift that had occurred, how once more I felt so diminished in my daughter's--and now granddaughter's--life. It was "Don't call me," (see previous post) all over again. If I had not had what seemed like a normal grandmother relationship to start with, this probably would not have affected me; it was the downgrading that was a fresh slice in the heart.

I once told Britt in a letter that it did hurt when she simply called me Lorraine, after years of being Grandma, but it had no impact whatsoever. She lives near the adoptive grandparents, the Schmidts, and it's clear that while Ann, her adoptive grandmother, obviously accepts that I am Britt's biological grandmother, I am first and foremost: Lorraine, the Egg Donor--oh god she really is the grandmother--from Faraway. And of course with Jane, who died in 2007 by her own hand, out of the picture, and everyone living a thousand miles away, Lorraine I remain.

Now I accept it. Her way of explaining it was that I didn't seem like, um, the other grandparents, that that is true. To my step-grandchildren I am of course, Grandma, but never to Britt. Though the adoption issue is a big one, sheer physical distance adds to the separation. Financially, life is, um, hairy for me and my husband, also a freelance writer, and so trips to Wisconsin are not part of the picture. I have not seen Britt for more than a year. What this means is that I am perforce an occasional physical presence, as they all live in semi-rural Wisconsin, and I live on the East Coast, a thousand miles away. Even if I could use miles for a ticket, the ancillary expenses make the trip prohibitive to us now. Plus--I don't look forward to being in the same town (it's a small town) when the Schmidts are there.

I don't mean people are rude or take pot shots at me, the way they did, say, when I publicized Birthmark, but without the "protection" of Jane, I think it would even feel more unwelcoming. Ann's so very negative attitude is a force field that repels me. Even this week, there was a shot heard here, which I can not go into here. Britt knows that if she would like to come here--I tell her every time we speak--we'll get her a ticket, but at seventeen, with a summer job, and her senior year of high school starting the day after Labor Day, that's not happening this summer.

Yet I know that Britt does not mentally disassociate from me. We do not talk frequently, but I happened to catch her the other day when she had time and we spoke for over an hour. About this and that, and I do feel that she is very open and honest with me. And after her mother, my daughter, died, she combed Jane's things looking for the three gold stackable rings that had been my mother's (Britt's great grandmother, whom she had met a couple of times) that I had sent Jane when she graduated from a technical college. Britt was desperate to find them, and told me she wanted them more than anything else her mother had. I believe she valued the connection to a past that went beyond her mother (and her father walked away without looking back), as the rings were not that valuable. But alas, she could only find one. I know she values it.

The other day she told me she had lost her platinum senior ring, before she even started her last year of high school; I told her about a valuable sapphire ring my father had given me in college and how I almost immediately lost it by taking it off when I washed my hands in a public bathroom and leaving it behind. I told her losing rings seem to run in the family. She liked that.

This started out as a comment to the previous post but got long and I decided to make it a fresh blog. Tomorrow we'll have fellow blogger Jane's Dear Prospective Adoptive Parent letter.


  1. I am sorry. Sorry for your loss all-around... profoundly sorry for the SECOND loss of your daughter. My heart is aching now. I only recently starting reading your blog and didn't realize you daughter left again (in a different way). Please know that, although I don't know the depth of your pain, I ache with you. I do.

    Katherine Marie.

  2. Lorraine,

    Do you think Britt or the adoptive parents read this blog, or will read your book? Does that worry you? Or are you at a point of just wanting to tell the story whatever the consequences might be? I guess this is a dilemma of anyone writing an autobiography where there are difficult circumstances involving other family members. I'm sure you have thought about it.

  3. Maryanne:

    It worries me some, but I try not to get into their heads and just write about how it feels from this end. My husband, who has read the manuscript, says the adoptive parents come out quite well. Remember, I did come into their lives in 1981, the dark ages of openness, and they handled that quite well. All was prefaced on our daughter's needs. My relationship today with the Schmidts is nearly non-existent as it is, and Britt will be soon going away to college. I do have some concerns, of course, but feel that it is important to show what adoption is like for not only first mothers, but also adopted people, and hope that it has some value in the larger world for everyone involved in an adoption. And I'll take the lumps that come with that.

    And Ann, if she allows herself to be truthful, can not deny that she harbors ill will towards me. Everyone involved in this (Jane, my husband, Britt) have all acknowledged it. And that's all I say about them.

  4. Whatever happens, I hope Britt is able to have a good relationship with all her grandparents continue. It is very touching that she wanted her great-grandma's rings that Jane had. Poor kid had a rough start in life, but it sounds like she is doing pretty well.

    Does she know about Jane's other daughter who was surrendered that you have written about? One more adoption loss.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Shana,

    Although I'm sure you mean well, your post perpetuates the myth that Chinese babies are abandoned along roadsides in China. In fact many female infants are confiscated from families who could not pay the $3000 fine for violating the China's Family Planning Policy.

    Even where mothers do consent to western adoption, they do not abandon their babies by roadsides, depending on a kind stranger to find them. Abandonments are staged in order to satisfy requirements that babies be abandoned to in order to justify adoption.

    China is only one of many countries where officials allow infants to be seized from their mothers to supply the western demand for adoptable infants. This corruption is fueled by western cash. If the cash disappeared, the supply of healthy infants needing western homes would disappear as well. See FMF earlier posts on international adoption. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4508

  7. A mother who adopted a baby from China and a baby from Guatemala was upset by my last comment. I did not intend to suggest that she or any other mother who adopted a child from abroad participated in or was aware of the corruption. And of course, some international adoptions are legitimate.

    I do believe, however, that part of our purpose at FMF is, to quote the old preacher, to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

    Given the circumstances, I was inappropriately abrasive.

  8. Maybe the post you removed is the one that was abrasive, because the one I see is not.

    Okay, I know the thing is that many people don't believe that int'l adoption is corrupt.

    But I mean come on, 1st world dollars in 3rd world countries, taking those babies???

    It seems to me some people pretend it is not corrupt, would they travel to those same countries for medical care?

  9. Jane, you're missing a couple of things in your post about China.

    The first is whether or not children, specifically, girls, are let go. They are and have been. Girls were abandoned in China long before the population policy was in place or even before the PRC was founded. I have come across anti-adoption blogs in which the pressure to abandon girls is presented as coming from entirely from the government. This is bullroar and entirely misses the cultural piece.

    “A tradition of infanticide and abandonment, especially of females, existed in China before the foundation of the People's Republic in 1949,” note Zeng et al.. ("Causes and Implications of the Recent Increase in the Reported Sex Ratio at Birth in China," Population and Development Review, 19: 2 [June 1993], p. 294.) According to Ansley J. Coale and Judith Banister, 'A missionary (and naturalist) observer in [China in] the late nineteenth century interviewed 40 women over age 50 who reported having borne 183 sons and 175 daughters, of whom 126 sons but only 53 daughters survived to age 10; by their account, the women had destroyed 78 of their daughters.' (Coale and Banister, "Five Decades of Missing Females in China," Demography, 31: 3 [August 1994], p. 472.)”


    It is an incredible testament to the Chinese mindset that they can turn on a dime and just decide to value girls but that is basically what has been done. Girl abandonment has gone way down. Pragmatism at its best—what doesn't work for you should be thown out. However, these attitudes have not changed so quickly in the rural areas. How do I explain to my daughter that she has a kept sister and little brother (if the family got lucky)? These are the details she is most concerned with.

    The second issue is that the adoption program was started because of the number of children being warehoused in Chinese orphanages. That is also a fact: abandoned children preceded the adoption program. However, you are completely correct to say that the system is now totally compromised because cash got in the way of ethics--and probably pretty early. There was just something about your post that suggested abandonment is fictional confiscation is the sturdier reality. I'm not sure I would go there. In the end, it doesn't matter. All international adoption is tainted by corruption and inequality.

    Third point. And this sort of goes back to point #1. It may be that first mothers are the most railroaded people in this story. That is certainly suggested by this hideous account of a baby girl abandoned near a Buddhist monastery in China. Notice the way this mother was attacked as the cause of her daughter's demise when there were other people involved.


    But. . . there's lots about the country that North American anti-adoption critics simply miss. Those characteristics inform how abandonment is viewed, and how children are viewed. How many times can we say it: not the same as here.

    Lest anyone think I subscribe to the racist drivel that you see in response to stories such as the one above--a-parents describing their daughters' culture as marked by an "underlying cold, indiffent and ugly reality," I reject that idea totally. Just different.

  10. Sorry, I meant to say -

    . . .abandonment is fictional [and] confiscation is the sturdier reality. . .

  11. Great Post.....

    I found your site on stumbleupon and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

    Thanks for sharing....



COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish.

We cannot edit or change the comment in any way. Entire comment published is in full as written. If you wish to change a comment afterward, you must rewrite the entire comment.

We DO NOT post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.