' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: B. J Lifton's Mother's Day card

Monday, May 9, 2011

B. J Lifton's Mother's Day card

In my earlier post today, I wrote about adoptee Betty Jean Lifton's negative reaction to a Mother's Day card her birth mother sent her shortly after their reunion. A reader commented that "it's kinda byzantine for a (reunited) mother to send a Mother's Day card to her own daughter." 

In trying to be brief, I did not do justice to the Lifton's account. Here's the full quote:
 "On Mother's Day, I received a commercial card [which read]: 

'This day that's known as Mother's Day
Is Daughter's day to me--
A Day for happy memories
In which I again I see
That laughing little girl of mine
So sweet in every way
Who grew into the lovely girl
That you are, Dear, today.'

She should have known there were no Hallmark Cards for a relationship such as ours. Imagine seeing on the rack in the drugstore, tucked in among 'Get Well', 'Valentine', 'Birthday', and 'Anniversary' greetings, a section entitled:  'To the Child I Gave Away' or 'To the Mother I Never Knew.' My card to her would read:

'This day that's known as
Mother's Day
Is Adoption Day to me,
A Day for wondering and regret
In which I again I see
That laughing little babe
Of yours
Who grew into the orphan girl
Who would search you out, Dear, one day.'

I did not respond to her card; nor did I write again. The taboo, the guilt, which I had internalized all my life, promised me respite if I would give her up. We were making a deal, the taboo and I: I would once again honor its restrictions just as she was doing in not openly acknowledging me. Mother and daughter--after all they had been through--would remain taboo to each other. Society had done its job well."

---Betty Jean. Lifton Twice Born


  1. The card may have been the last straw, but BJ's real problem with her mother was that her mother kept her a secret and would not tell her brother or other family. Eventually BJ went to the brother herself, and found him stuffy and boring. She also had problems with her mother not relating to her as an adult but as the secret lost baby. The card thing was symptom, not really a cause.

    She later regretted not reaching out more to her mother. She had searched when it was really unheard of, and there were no guidelines or examples of how reunion relationships could work.

    The last time I saw BJ she showed me a picture of her mother, in a nightclub in the 50s with some star of that era. She looked very glamourous and much like BJ, and BJ was very proud of that picture and of her mother.

    Things are sometimes more complex and ambiguous than they seem.

  2. Now that is definitely a sad testament to the realities of adoption and reunion.... sigh, there is no way to celebrate any of it.... it is too hard, too crazy and too sad.

    Ironically - the word verification for this comment is "cryin".....

  3. What has always bothered me is that there was a ten-year gap between the card and any rapprochement between BJ and her first/birth mother, and the sticking point seemed to be the "inappropriate" card.

    I agree that BJ Lifton's mother not telling the rest of her family about her secret daughter was the real issue, but my daughter so many times cut me out over things I couldn't even fathom. Yet her adoptive mother could actually tell her she did not love her in a pique, and Jane would patch things up in a week. Birth mothers are always on tenterhooks.



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