' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Blood Relatives: Why They Matter

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blood Relatives: Why They Matter

This is from another blog, Completely out of My Mind, with the author's permission.

Blood relatives

by Anthony Brandt

September 8:

Last few days I've been hearing from Cindy, my cousin Joan's daughter. Joan died this year, having lived out her last years with senile dementia, which also made our grandmother's life at the end something you might imagine appropriate for monsters or Nazis or the like, but not for human beings. I had been sad to hear it. Joan, in fact, had a tough life all through.

She came to live with us when I was about ten or eleven; she was sixteen or seventeen and pregnant, at a time in this country when being single and pregnant was scandalous and shameful. She had been living in Elmira, New York, with her mother and father. She came to us to get away, hide the pregnancy, hide the shame. My mother used to spirit her in and out of the house in big coats to the doctor's office. When the baby was born my parents arranged for her to be adopted privately, through the doctor, so that there would be no public record of its parentage. Was this legal? I've often wondered. Joan was no doubt told to forget the whole thing and get on with her life. She did, of course. We all do after tragedies and miseries. But I think it affected everything afterward. Many years later, having married one of the leading figures in this country advocating open adoption records--my beloved Lorraine--I asked Joan if she wanted us to help her find the daughter she had given away for adoption. She said no. She was too scared.

Now Cindy wants to find her.

We'll do what we can, but it's going to be hard. But the whole situation makes me angry, and always has. I loved Joan. She was easy to love, spirited, cute, full of energy. What kind of country would do that to its young women, make them abandon babies to strangers instead of finding ways to help them keep them? Do you think rich girls had to endure this? Babies belong with their natural parents, the people who gave them birth. If that's not possible, and it sometimes isn't possible, we, collectively, as a society, ought to find ways to place them nearby, with blood relatives, with help from the state or private agencies dedicated to this purpose. Blood belongs with blood.

It is inconceivable to me that I might have been denied knowledge of my origins by law because I might have been adopted. By law, in most states, adopted children cannot know who their parents were. This is barbaric. It benefits no one except adopted parents, who can then pretend that their adopted children didn't come from another family, another background, another way of life.

I base my entire sense of who I am on the fact that my father was the son of Swedish immigrants. I have my grandfather's naturalization papers, and a photograph of his family, my father then a little boy, taken the day the papers came. I cherish these records. My mother was the daughter of a marriage between a self-made man of Danish/German origin and a woman whose family can be traced back to kings and queens. You think I'm not interested in this? Adoptees are not allowed to know this information. Their birth certificates are falsified, or locked away. Having an identity is surely one of the natural rights. But what good is having it if you are prevented from knowing it?

Cindy didn't know Joan had had another daughter, and given it away, but she told me that she had always sensed that someone was missing.

I hope she finds this woman, who's now in her 60s. My Lorraine found the daughter she had given up for adoption under equally difficult circumstances; she now enjoys very nice relationships with her daughter's own two daughters. This is blood. It's fundamental; it's part of the human condition; and to ignore it, or think it doesn't matter, damages lives in ways we're only beginning to understand. We come from families, a network of relationships based on blood ties; and most of us maintain those ties all our lives. To break those ties by law is a crime against nature. Adoption records in a few states have been opened, but in the rest, no. Reform has been blocked mostly by adoptive parents, working in many cases through adoption agencies. Adoption has its place. Sometimes it's the only solution in difficult circumstances. But to keep knowledge of their origins from the people most concerned in knowing them is, plain and simple, a profound injustice.

Good luck, Cindy. Hope it happens. Hope you find her. --Anthony Brandt

The link to this blog is: Blood relatives

Note: The record of the private adoption, including the name of the family where the girl went, was kept by my husband's mother, and those papers passed to his brother, an attorney who stayed in the same town, Westfield, New Jersey; now his daughter, also an attorney in the same town, in the same office, may have those papers. She is searching through documents for Cindy. As Tony says, the woman would be about 62 or 63.


  1. Do hope it works out for the family.
    By the way these things happen to rich girls too and are sometimes even worse because a family can afford high levels of concealment and secrecy.No-ne is immune.

  2. What a wonderful, heartfelt post. I didn't know your husband was a writer Lorraine!

    I hope & pray that Cindy is able to find her sister, and that she in turn is able to know her natural family.


  3. Lorraine,
    What a beautiful post from your husband, and what a grand tribute to you! He must be a wonderful man.

    Sharing this passion we feel over the wrong done to us and our babies with someone who loves us is really a lovely luxury. I know how many women don't and am grateful every day that my own husband understands that some days I have to write my anger, just cry, or simply feel the loss even after 43 years. It never goes away, and he understands that. While I don't need his permission, I couldn't do what I do without his support.

    Seems your husband is similar. What fortunate women we are to have them. But, what fortunate men THEY are to be loved by rare and passionate women like us! LOL

  4. When I first met my husband Birthmark had recently come out and when he asked me what my book was about, I did not hesitate...it's easier, I guess, when the book is out there than when you are working on it. He did not blink, in fact, his reaction was so ... bland I wasn't sure he heard me. His deep understanding of all the issues I believe stem partly from his early exposure to his cousin's anguish.

    And oh yes, he is a writer. He just published a book on the search for the Northwest Passage: The Man Who Ate His Boots.

  5. Thank you for sharing the truth. So many in the adoption world are seeking just that....The Truth. I especially enjoyed the quote from Justice James Heiple!

    Heather G!

  6. A heartfelt sentiment, and I hope it works out for your cousin. But I did react to your one comment about adoptive parents. Please don't tarnish all adoptive parents with this issue. My adopted daughter was abandoned at birth, and we have (and are) actively searching for any information about her birthparents. If we are able to find any information we would welcome contact with her birthparents, as we have with the foster mom who cared for her for the first year of her life. We send the foster mom photos, and show our daughter photos of her regularly. And I am not upset when my daughter says "that was my mommy", I am grateful that she had a loving presence in her life before us.

  7. What a beautiful post... thank you Lorraine's husband :)

    I, for one, was heartbroken after I found my child and was treated by him and his adoptive family that his brother, myself and my extended family meant nothing; that those blood ties were something to be overlooked and dismissed as if we did not matter at all.

    His mannerism's are so much like mine. His musical talent was "god" given, according to them, not something he inherited from my family.

    We are all dismissed and overlooked, because they want to live in the fantasy land of "as if born to", even though he looks nothing like any of them (but DOES me and my family).

    The reality is that blood ties DO matter. One's money, material possessions, gifts to our children or brainwashing them to believe they did not belong with their natural families can erase that fact~ no matter how hard they try.

  8. I was raised by an orphanage reared mother who spent 92 years wondering who her mother was. When my three children began asking who their first mother was, I promised them then we would find her someday. We did --I say we as it took me to break through Iowa's secrecy codes. Hopefully my book about finding these secret people will soon come out by North Star Press, St. Cloud. MN. A very good detective story by a mother who saw her children's basic needs and filled it. How stupid these secrecy laws are in this day and age.

  9. What a beautiful blog post. One that I will treasure. My natural mother did not meet me (her choice) but knowing Lorraine and her book Birthmark, and how it really helped me, my gratitude cannot be expressed in words but in thanks.

  10. Nice piece. I hope Cindy is able to locate her sister. Unless the placement was totally illegal with the adoptive parents name put on the birth certificate as being the natural parents, and no adoption took place, there should be a lawyer involved as well as a doctor and some record of a legal private adoption.

    Private doctor/lawyer adoptions were legal and common in NJ and NY. If it was NJ there was a notorious lawyer in Newark whose name slips my mind at the moment, but NJ searchers like Joe Collins could tell you. The name I remember is Stanley Michaelman, but I may have that mixed up with a NY lawyer.

    Good luck with the search.

  11. Thanks Maryanne for the suggestion.

    Tony's family is helping in any way they can, and this is truly one of those cases of finding an old paper, or someone remembering a name. And if anyone knows of a woman in her early 60s adopted from Westfield,NJ, send her our way.

  12. Hello Lorraine,
    I am so grateful for your lifework in adoption reform. It is my heart's medicine, really.

    Could you please forward this email to Anthony...thank you very much.

    Dear Anthony,
    I have been really on the periphery of adoption concerns for quite sometime to protect my heart from the deep pain that comes from an unrequited reunion. In reading your words tonight about what kind of country would drive young women to separate from their children, I was reminded of my own questions to my younger sister for past decades: What kind of family were we, are we that we would have urged one of us, me, to give my child to strangers. I have been appalled by this truth with increasing momentum as I age. TO STRANGERS? I would not even place a pet with strangers having been involved in pet rescue for about 40 years. Years ago a professional person commented during the adoption process for a dog that it would have been easier for her to adopt a child! Each time I take in that reality for my son, I am appalled without limit.

    What kind of family were we, what kind of world allowed this, on and on and on the question goes, creating a deep and incurable wound and scar.

    I love your comments about adopted parents who can ignore that birth parents ever existed in current law.

    Also to say that many years ago when I was doing a book signing at a local store, one of the kids in the store asked if I were adopted. For one instant in eternity my being moved to that reality and my first thought and inner response was that I wouldn't have know Bertha and Simon, Anna and Maurice, MY grandparents. It all happened in a flash and I floated to nowhere land in that instant, feeling deeply what an adoptee may feel.

    I thank you with all my heart for your words. I needed to read them. You are a brilliant writer and I appreciate that as well.

    Thank you so much, Jane Guttman



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