' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adoption Reunion: The Gift/Card Quagmire

Monday, May 9, 2011

Adoption Reunion: The Gift/Card Quagmire

This Mother’s Day I was truly blessed. My first daughter, Megan, whom I surrendered at birth, sent me a beautiful plant – actually four beautiful plants all together in a basket. My youngest daughter, Julie, sent me wonderful treats and flowers. I had brunch with my two middle daughters, Amy and Lucy, and two grandchildren who gave me charming cards. I am thrilled with everything! More important than the gifts and cards, though, was being recognized and remembered.
From Megan
Our calendar is filled with gift-giving/card-sending days --- Mother's Day, Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, many others--promoted by purveyors of candy, flowers, jewelry, clothing, cards, gadgets, nagging us to do what we want to do, remember those we love. These occasions can send those of us separated by adoption into a tailspin.

From Julie
I spent hours shopping for a birthday present for Megan the first birthday we spent together after our reunion, finally settling on a blazer she could wear to her new job. I’ve been to many support groups where birth parents agonize about what to send or whether to send anything. If the adoptee has children, there’s another gift or non-gift to fret over. We know the gift or card needs to be sensitive to our children’s feelings, but what do they feel? The last thing we and our children share is our feelings. We’re navigating the reunion journey without a map.

And, like adoptees who send birth mother cards, we may stumble. A. M. Homes described a birthday card her birth mother sent her as “a putrid pale—pink with roses, the color of femininity, of a box of sanitary napkins.” Betty Jean Lifton suspended her relationship with her birth mother when her birth mother sent her a commercial Mother’s Day card: “She should have known there were no Hallmark Cards for a relationship such as ours.”

I have to believe, though, that these negative reactions stemmed more from anger at the original abandonment than the content of the cards.

The truth is that there is no card or gift or gift that works for every situation. It really is the thought that counts.

(Patrick McMahon, an adoptee, has developed an excellent line of adoption specific cards. He has also recently published a memoir, Becoming Patrick.)
Lorraine here: My day was quiet but fine. Without a daughter to ignore me (see profile if you wonder why), I couldn't be hurt, now could I? When a man on the street at a shop offered a Happy Mother's Day, I smiled and said: Have a good day too, and went on my way. Cards arrived on Saturday from my step-son, my alternate universe daughter, Jennifer, and her son.

With all the restaurants jammed for the holiday, Tony and I thought we'd have a burger at the somewhat new and somewhat upscale burger joint in town we haven't tried yet. But it was wall-to-wall families with active children and a loud music  background. No thanks, we said, and moved onto a deli and got a wrap and two iced teas to go. We ate it peacefully at the water side on a picnic table, watched three young girls wade in the water (which must have been cold), and sauntered on home before going round to visit friends who gave us some of the left-over food from their Greek party the night before. Last night we watched the end of The Amazing Race--no one was adopted, or a birth mother, or trying to kill her birth mother, or otherwise involved. Hallelujah!

But adoption on television is a topic coming soon. It seems to be everywhere.  


  1. I didn't hear from my oldest daughter on Mothers Day and I'm wondering if those hallmark cards I have been sending lately have ticked her off. But as you said it's really about the abandonment not the cards. I will continue to reach out and hope that sometimes I do it in a way that is satisfying to her. She has suffered enough; I don't want to add to her pain. And here I thought I was being unselfish to place her with a married couple. What a bunch of bull I bought!

  2. I am happy for you that all your children paid homage to your motherhood :- )

    But about the B.J Lifton thing, I hafta say I think it's kinda byzantine for a (reunited) mother to send a Mother's Day card to her own (reunited) daughter, even if that daughter did have children of her own.
    That would take a lot of understanding on the daughter's part, IMO.

  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXsyXjZPvGU&feature=share

    No I would not give you false hope
    On this strange and mournful day
    But the mother and child reunion
    Is only a motion away
    -Paul Simon

  4. Lovely plants that Megan sent. Nice step forward, I am sure it doesn't mean everything is hunky-dory, I know how that one goes.

    Sometimes when I do something kind and reaching out to my own mother I feel a need to pull back and protect myself immediately.

    The trauma is so real and the aftershocks so shocking. I think all the language people use and different tools to minimize what really happens to adoptees and their families perpetuate difficulties in reunion and confusion to the point of alienation of ones own feelings, at least that happened to me.

    I hope my mother's had a good day, I too got over my bad self and reached out to my mother on mother's day, it left me feeling content.

    My heart also goes out to everyone who because of their own mothers or their own children couldn't do what should be natural and welcome in anyone's life

  5. The 20th of May is my first born daughter's birrthday (53) and although we have connected and spoken over Skype and the phone, we have not yet reunited. (She and her wife live a few hundred miles away.) What can I send her for her birthday? (We also have widely differing political opinions, which we have agreed not to speak of! lol) Thanks for suggestions.



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