' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: My (relinquished) daughter talks about adoption

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My (relinquished) daughter talks about adoption

From left: Lorraine and Jane, 1988; same jeans, bought separately
Well before my relinquished daughter Jane died, I did have the opportunity to talk to her about adoption on tape. She knew I was writing a memoir to follow up Birthmark, and that I would include her story. I was visiting her and her daughter Kim in Wisconsin, where they were living with her adoptive parents.
They were on vacation at the time, and had invited me to stay there while they were gone. We had had our ups and downs over the years, but as I've said here many times, we always got back together. I refused to give up, and she eventually would call or respond to one of my attempts at connection. 
Readers of First Mother Forum who are adopted have been upset that I have tried to interpret what Jane's silences, and the silences of so many adoptees towards their natural mothers, might have meant. Over the course of the next week or so, I will be posting from an extended conversation that Jane and I had about adoption. I never did have the guts to talk about her comings and goings in my life after reunion in 1981 in any depth because I was afraid it would be too upsetting--and the cause of more friction. We spoke of it briefly only once, after the episode during which she changed her phone number, et cetera, and she said that she felt very close to me and my family, including my husband, Tony (not her father). I said, "Well then, Never go away again." 
She immediately said, "Okay." 
It seemed best to drop the topic and move forward.

Fellow blogger Jane will be posting soon about other matters, but until she does, here is a section from my upcoming memoir, that Hole In my Heart, Copyright 2011.

Ultimately Jane and I spoke over a period of several nights, the two of us sitting in the semi-dark on a couch in her parents’ living room, lights on low. Kim had long ago gone to sleep. On the tapes, I hear her light cigarettes, hear her asking me to have one with her, her hoping I’ll join her. Even though I quit three decades before, I occasionally lit up now and then, and so one night I have a smoke with her. I hear the click of the lighter that Patrick [her biological father] gave me, the polished-chrome Zippo that he had engraved with a single letter, a lower case l in script, the way I sign my name—lorraine—that I’d given to her. I hear the grandfather clock on the wall of the Zimmerman’s living room announce the hours, ten, eleven….

“I thought about you way more than I let on to my parents. When I lay in bed I wondered why I was put up for adoption, what my history was. I’d look out my window when the moonlight is reflected on the snow, and the sky looks royal blue, even though it is eleven o’clock at night, and I’d see the moon. That’s when I thought about you, because that was a safe time to think about it. And the rest of time I tried not to.” Though she mostly kept her thoughts to herself, she had spoken to Ann [her adoptive mother] about searching one day, and Ann said she would do what she could to help her once Jane she finished high school.
 How did you imagine me, I ask. “My mother told me you were young and poor, not married, that was it…But I had fantasies of you being older, and not being able to raise a child, that you were old and just scraping by.
          How old?
“Probably like fifty.”
We laugh. As if fifty were old. 
“Or that you lied when you left your name at the agency. Or that you left the baby with neighbors and never returned. I would lie in bed and wonder why I was put up for adoption, what my history was. Sometimes you were a movie star. You lived in California. I saw lights and glitter.”
Did you ever imagine that I was a prostitute?
“NO—that is just too horrible a memory to have.”
We laugh again. “Did you ever imagine that I was just some middle-class married lady?”
“Once. You had too many kids, like fifteen, and couldn’t raise them, and I was the last one. Like Agatha.” She was the adoptee who lived on the next block in Sag Harbor, and with some detective work we had found her mother still alive in Poland, and indeed, she was the late last child of a large, poor farm family.

Jane pauses, then goes on: “I wrote a million different endings to what would happen when I searched. I would go to Rochester and they would have the information and somebody would whisper something to me, or run out after me and hand me an address, and it would be old and I would have to track you down. And that had a million different endings. I would call and you would hang up. Or say, I don’t know what you are talking about. Or I would knock on your door and you would let me in and we would sit at a table and talk., like for four hours, and you would tell me why I was adopted, but that’s kinda ridiculous because it doesn’t take four hours to explain why someone is adopted. Or you would slam the door in my face.”--lorraine
Birthmark The conversation continues: Frank talk about adoption with my relinquished daughter, Part 2
and  Frank talk about adoption with my relinquished daughter, Part 3

Birthmark is the story of how I came to relinquish a child for adoption. It was the first memoir to tell a first mother's, birth mother's story and was extremely controversial when it was published in 1979. "She describes these experiences with such openness and raw emotion, without polemics or self-conscious feminist attitudes, that the impact of the book is overwhelming...a spectacular additon to feminist literature."--Library Journal


  1. Sad... I often wonder if my daughter will ever mature enough to talk to me like that. Or if she really did believe I was the Hispanic/Native American, drug addicted, prostitute that I was described as. I am glad you talked...

  2. Lorraine, Thank you for posting your daughter's comments. They had a deep and immediate effect on me as there have been many times in the past 30 plus years that I have looked up at the moon and thought of my children only to wonder if they were doing the same.

    Adoption is a lonely road.

  3. I, too, have wondered if my daughter thought about those things about me...
    Ahh! The full moon... lots of memories looking at the same moon as she - so long ago...

    Thank you, Lorraine - waiting for more!

  4. Thank you Lorraine for sharing this with all whom read at your blog. And I am terribly sorry that some others would look to discount/denigrate the love you had/have for your daughter.

    I have had many heart-to-heart talks with my daughter over these many years. Some of them mediocre, some of them shared with us both crying, some with laughter, some in the heat of anger. She too in the past had gone silent, withdrew...maybe I did too at times. Both of us for own reasons. Still through it all we have managed to hang in there with each other..one way or another. This reunion stuff is no walk in the park...even reunion can leave it's scars. But I do believe, deep in my heart....love given and love received, can make all the difference in the world. I believe it did in my reunion.

    Again, Thank You Lorraine and your daughter Jane too...

  5. Alaska mother of six story:

    What angers me about this (aside from the obvious abuse) is the fact that APs are so revered in American culture. This makes me think of the John Wyatt case. So many people saying baby Emma should stay where she is, these are the only parents she's ever known, are assuming that her APs are wonderful people who are giving her a happy life. It seems that anyone in this country with the money and inclination to adopt must be a candidate for sainthood. As this story proves, hardly.

    Great picture of you and Jane. I see the resemblance but I bet she takes after her father a lot, too.

  6. Robin: Oh, she did take after her father. I could see him in her more than me.And although she never met her sisters, the ones I have found on line...looks a lot like her.

  7. Lorraine,

    Thanks for your beautiful post.
    The word that comes to mind for me is "longing". We Mothers and our chldren both seem, in our quiet times, to have such longing for things to have been different.

    I know my daughter wrote me once saying that while she knew her mother who raised her loved her it wasn't with the longing she feels from me. She said its makes her feel sad for not having been able to be a direct recipient of such
    emotion for all those years we were apart. (36)

    Amidst your not so good memories you and Jane have some wonderful heartfelt ones too. I can't even imagine how much you must miss her.

  8. Lorraine,
    I notice how you reference to you and your daughters shoes and clothes.
    Funny, when my daughter and I recently spent a few days together we both packed the same two pair of shoes and have the same purse.

  9. I have this amazing friend, who is a natural mom. She's been kind enough to allow me to ask her questions, even when they are hard ones, in an attempt to know mine.

    One of the very first questions I ever presented to her:

    I always thought of my birthday as our day, and was convinced that that was the one day that she was thinking about me, and missing me. So I asked her, Linda (same name as my Mom too), did you think about him on his birthday? Her simple beautiful answer: Tam, I thought about him every single day. Every one.

    What a gift. For any Mom who is wondering if we think about you... only every single day. Like Jane, in different scenario's, different faces and different places... but every single day.

    Lorraine, I am so touched by this post.



  10. Lorraine:

    I love the picture of you and Jane. She always looks so comfortable with you!

    What is it with the moon? I spent the first 18 years of my son's life going outside at night and looking u[ at the moon, while sending prayers up for my son and wondering what he was doing at that moment. It helped me feel connected to him...the same moon that was shining down on me was shining down on him at the same moment. It gave me a sense of peace...

  11. I am reunited with my mother after 48 years. She was the one I was longing for my whole life. We look so much alike and our gestures are the same. I too would look at the moon, and hope she was looking at the same time. It was our connection, in my mind. There's a scene from An American Tale where Fievel the mouse looks at the moon and sings, Somewhere out There. My mom had a sad and terrible childhood, then she met Dad who pressured her to give me up. We are part black, though I am blonde and blue-eyed. I never knew until I met Mom. She told the agency I was Italian! I love her so, but yes, reunion is filled with unexpected emotions.

  12. To Raven and others who have commented similarly (as I now shall), I suspect our infatuation with moon and stars is that of all the things that may be going on in our childs lives, we share the same sky. I, too, often looked to the stars and talked to my daughter. While her view of them may have been different based on where she was in the world, they were the same stars. We had something in common, a cosmic connection.

  13. Someday I will post about the joy I had when shopping with my daughter Jane.

  14. Thank you for this post, Lorraine. I'm so glad you had this time with Jane. I loved hearing her responses to you. I wish I had been able to have such a heart-to-heart with my son. We sorta did, but I think not as honest as yours with Jane. Indeed, adoption is a lonely road and reunion doesn't provide all the answers or a solution. Love to you...

  15. Lorraine, I really appreciate you sharing this. I am going through some issues with my reunited daughter who has some serious problems. For me, it all was capped when she said I should be called "Mom" but listed her deceased adoptive parents, her natural siblings and adoptive extended family on her page but I was not on the list. One time, about 6 or so years back, she told me that I was not her mother but that she was my daughter. I think that might still be how she sees it. I guess once bought, forever owned. I can't begin to understand how she feels because our experiences are different, opposite sides of the same coin. I want to understand but I feel her resentment mixed in with the love and attempts on her part to create an unhealthy relationship that she can control. So I guess I am becoming one of those rejecting barfmuggles in her eyes and the eyes of her peers. I just can't take any more of the drama, emotional drain and lies. Maybe one day, she will have grown past all the guilt, resentment, obligation, self-absorption and will understand. I can only hope.

  16. Hey, thanks everyone. After Irene leaves I will post more of my (birth mother) conversation with my relinquished daughter Jane. I live on the eastern end of Long Island and Irene is headed our way.

    We've battened down the hatches, taken in the potted plants, put away the deck chairs, taken down the wind chimes (they are not for 70-80 MPH winds), bought batteries for the flashlights. The air is like pea soup right now, and it's beginning to sprinkle.

    It is likely we will be without electricity for a while but there are already repair crews in place. After a hurricane called Gloria in the mid-Eighties, we were without electricity for five days. We played a lot of Scrabble with a kerosene lamp.

  17. Be safe, Lorraine. I was thinking about you with the hurricane headed your way.

  18. This is so similar to what my son described. In his case he would look westward across the Atlantic and wonder about the person who had him with her for nine months and then nothing. I think we are all looking out into the universe wondering about the other, wondering how this separation came to happen.



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