' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Learning my daughter had given up a daughter for adoption

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Learning my daughter had given up a daughter for adoption

I had a daughter I gave up for adoption. She had two daughters, one she gave up for adoption, one she was able to keep. I was not able to talk her into an open adoption in 1986 from the distance of my home. All this happened at a time when she was not speaking to me--one of those maddening silences of several months that happened a couple of times throughout the quarter-of-a-century relationship we had. Until she committed suicide in 2007.

Many of you already know the bones of this story but for newer readers background seems imperative: Adoption in 1966; reunion when my daughter, Jane, was fifteen; learning she had epilepsy; a sometimes rocky relationship: and then she repeats history by giving up a daughter for adoption almost exactly 20 years to the day later she was born.

You think one adoption is bad enough, you find that she is being raised in a middle-class family in hip, liberal Madison, Wisconsin...and then you learn she is giving up a child of her own. It was the worst news I could imagine. We had not been speaking but when her birthday came around, but I thought, What the hell, I'm going to call her anyway, I can't let her think I'm not thinking of her on this day. It was April 5, 1986. Her father answered the phone, sounded a little strange and said she was not there but he would tell her I called.

When Jane called a few hours later she told me she had been at the hospital feeding her daughter....

I remember the first time I heard that adoptees are likely to repeat history. I had been testifying for a group of adoptees in New Jersey in Vineland, so that they could get to know the truth of their origins,and during a break in the trial I ran into one of the plaintiffs in the ladies room. She was weeping profusely and I asked why--she said when she heard me stay how I always wanted to know my child, she lost it because...she had given up a child herself.

I could hardly believe it--that someone who was adopted would somehow fall into the same awful situation I had, but she had. I felt as if she had needed somehow to repeat history, to understand what it had been like for me, but that day when Jane told me that she had a daughter, all I could think was: what have I done? Started a whole chain of lives that will be marked by adoption?

Later I'd read about the phenomenon elsewhere, read Jean Strauss's book, Beneath a Tall Tree, about her mother and her mother's mother all being adopted, if I remember correctly. Because any kind of records about adoption on a national scale are hard to track--adoptive parents don't even want to tell the census takers if their children are adopted--numbers about how many adoptees also have children given up for adoption are going to be impossible to compile.

But this story is far from over, and I'll be telling it over the next several days. Right now it's Sunday, the husband wants to take a ride and go antiquing. I haven't been writing as much as I'd like because I am doing other work, and this morning one of the windows that needs replacing and is held up by a stick fell on my hand! Need ibuprofen. Need painkillers for my life sometimes. But today, sun's out, life is fine.--lorraine


  1. Noting the above, I can only agree...it goes on and on, a life sentence with plenty of work to be done, always.Thanks for telling your story, I've found you recently, so useful to have this update.
    The other outcome for mothers as I'm sure you know is not having other children.My own mother was too traumatised by the whole experience and remained so all her life.The help available today, the insights and support will hopefully make it a little 'easier' than it was for her. Times have changed although not in some ways for the better, with the emergence of the "BeeMommies". Good wishes...

  2. Von: Of course that's the category I fall into...no other children.

  3. Lorraine,
    sorry I can't find a way to communicate to you other than here. I saw your post about the search angel Mary. Is that Mary Weidling?
    I'm including my email address, but you don't need to post my comment.


  4. I'm in the same category Von and Lorraine - no other children. Several studies apparantly indicate that approximately 1/3 of women who have surrendered children to adoption suffer from secondary infertility.

    One of the first studies I remember reading was at Harvard in the 1980's.

    Perhaps for me, this is one of the major reasons why I can't put it behind me and "get on with my life". Losing my son to adoption began to define who I am.

  5. Just before my surrendered daughter Megan was born in 1966, I met a women who had just begun her job as a social worker at Florence Crittenton home in San Francisco. She told me that she noticed immediately that many of the young women at FC were adoptees. The older social workers told her that it just seemed that way; they insisted that adoptees did not constitute a disproportionate number of residents.

    Since my reunion I've met many adoptee/ birthmoms. I think that the new social worker's observations were correct. The older social workers simply did not want to accept the facts before them.

  6. Very informal observation; as well as the mothers who never had another child, I have known a lot of mothers like me who got pregnant again right away, within a couple of years of surrendering, and some who had many more kids in what they later say was a vain attempt to make up for the loss of the first.

    I had three more kids, I know mothers who had five and six more. Some adoptees have found they were the first of very large families, 8 or ten kids, and some who were a middle or last child.

    Another variant is the mothers who waited many years to have another child, with their first and second children 15 or 20 years or more apart.

    Surrender affected all of us, but in different ways.

    I have also met some adoptee/birthmothers, also adoptee/adoptive mothers, and birthmother/adoptive mothers. Many have two roles in the adoption drama.

  7. ahhh yes moving on getting over it,something I have heard over and over by mostly those who have no idea what in the hell they are talking about!

    Those who sit on the outside looking in and say why can't you forget?

    Yes, women do go on and have other children. I had three after being forced to surrender my second child a full sib to my first born daughter. My "parents" (like their own) loved my daughter so much they figured she didn't deserve to be raised with her full brother? They "loved" me so much that they figured I would forget. After 44 years that hasn't happened in fact in reunion I find I still live with it daily. Reunited since 93 in full time living together situation. Our choice with everybody, else, offering their opinions.


  8. My first mom was adopted as well, but it was kind of a strange situation. From what I understand, she was the 4th child of my grandmother...but the first of my grandfather. My grandfather was the baby in his family and supposedly his mother was "lonely" after he left the home to marry my grandmother. Anyhow, apparently my grandmother was overwhelmed caring for so many children (I believe she was only 19 when my mom was born) that she allowed my mom to be adopted by her husband's mother. I was told my mom was a toddler when this happened, too, not an infant.

    My mom told me it was very painful growing up near to, but not with her parents and siblings. I can only imagine how that must have felt to her, considering granny kept all other 7 of her children.

    So, when my mom got pg with me and realized that she was unable to care for me financially she did not want me to be raised by someone else in the family, even though I have been told that peeople were offering. She told me that she wanted me to have a "real" set of parents, not just an aunt and uncle that took me in because they felt obligated.

    So, that was that.

    As for other children, my mom already had a little boy (15mo) when I was born and she had two more sons within 5 yrs of my birth. I was her only daughter.

  9. Lorraine, thank you for opening up a discussion on this. I found the question very interesting and reposted it on our Adoption Mosaic Facebook page:


    We're an organization for all those in the adoption community who want to discuss the complexities of adoption openly and honestly. We'd really love to get all birth/first moms here into the conversation.

  10. Uhh, excuse me, would you post the link to the blog on the adoption mosiac page? I can not and can not see how to become a member. Thanks!

  11. Hi Lorraine, When you go to the Adoption Mosaic page you can click the "Like" icon at the top of the page. (Facebook keeps changing things to keep us on our toes, I guess!)

    Yes, I will link to one of your posts. Thank you!!

  12. Laura:

    I don't know if you are coming back here but you did not include your email and yes, that is Mary Wielding. I did include her name in the notice about her.



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