' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Tell Dear Abby: Birth mothers think of their children lost to adoption.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tell Dear Abby: Birth mothers think of their children lost to adoption.

Jeanne Phillips ("Dear Abby")
In advising a brother not to talk to his sister about the baby she lost to adoption, Jeanne Phillips, aka Dear Abby, joins the sorry parade of media personalities whose ignorance about adoption is no barrier to giving advice on the subject. These charlatans include Marguerite Kelly, Carolyn Hax, Ann Landers, and deadly doctors Laura, Phil, and Drew. They mislead the earnest souls seeking help as well as perpetuate popular stereotypes about adoption.

Here's the brother's letter and Abby's response. 
DEAR ABBY: Please help with something that has been on my mind for years. I am one of your male readers. I have a sister, "Eileen," who is a bit older. We had a wonderful childhood and are close. When Eileen entered college, she became pregnant. Because she was unmarried, she and Mom went to a different city and she had the baby. I believe the child was placed for adoption. I don't know if it was a boy or girl. Eileen returned home, finished college, got married and now has a family. It was never mentioned again. I sometimes wonder if she thinks about the baby she had. I think about it a lot and wonder if I should ask her, or if it's too painful for her to discuss after all these years. I sometimes think I have a niece or nephew out there and wonder what he or she is like. Should I ask my sister or just leave it alone? WISTFUL OUT WEST
 DEAR WISTFUL: I'm sure your sister also sometimes thinks about the child she placed for adoption and wonders what he or she is like. However, unless she raises the subject with you, my advice is to leave it alone. If it has never been mentioned again, there is a good reason for it." 
Here's how First Mother Forum would have responded:

DEAR WISTFUL:  We commend you for your sensitivity and caring. The answer to your question is "yes, definitely." Talk to your sister about her lost child and offer to help her search for him or her if she wishes. Your sister is likely suffering great pain from the loss of her child and great stress from keeping this secret. Although she may be hesitant at first, she may welcome the chance to unburden herself.

Mothers who lose children to adoption have many reasons for not discussing their child but their silence does not reflect their thoughts. It's more than likely that your sister thinks of her child often, perhaps several times a day.  She may be trying to follow the script laid out for her by well-meaning adults--that she would forget and go on with her life--by acting as though nothing happened. She may feel that something is wrong with her because she can't forget. She may believe that silence is necessary to protect herself and your family from shame. She may not have told her husband about the baby and she is afraid of upsetting or even losing him. She may be afraid of hurting the children she is raising.

If she opens up to you, encourage her to join a first mother support group and read about adoption.  Origins-USA, American Adoption Congress, and Concerned United Birthparents provide information on support groups and helpful books. If she is interested in searching for her child, The US Department of Health and Human Services has an excellent guide to searching.

To our readers: Offer your advice to WISTFUL OUT WEST and send it to Dear Abby. (www.DearAbby.com; or snail mail: PO Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069

 Dear Abby 6-28-12
American Adoption Congress
Concerned United Birthparents
US Department of Health and Human Services, Searching for Birth Relatives

From FMF:
Does my natural mother ever think of me?
When your adopted child wants to visit her birth mother
On grieving for a grandchild not placed for adoption
(Pro)Adoption Special: Dr. Drew encourages teen moms to give up their babies


  1. I sent my response to "Wistful". Hope they actually read it.

  2. Dear Abby: Your adoption propaganda, like everyone else's, is not fooling many of us and many more will see the light in the coming years. Thanks!

  3. There is so much ignorance about us it never fails to amaze me.

  4. Great response, Jane.

    I would have been overjoyed to learn that I had an uncle who knew about me and wanted to find me. That he felt something was missing by not having me in the family. When a child is given up for adoption, it is not only the NPs' loss but a loss for both extended families as well.

  5. I think it is wonderful - your response. I think "Dear Abby" needs to get an education - not from an agency or public opinion.

  6. Perhaps a middle ground might be to suggest that brother gently ask his sister if she would like to talk about the surrender. She might be glad to be asked, and was keeping quiet so as not to burden others. If she is not interested in discussing it though, he should leave her alone and drop the subject. Nobody but she herself really knows how she feels about her experience and what she wants to share with family members. Boundaries need to be respected.

  7. I hope this reply was sent to all the papers that print "Dear Abby"

  8. I like your reply. It is interesting how it highlights the effects on siblings, uncles, etc. I have two older full-sibling biological brothers, and my natural mother was the oldest of five, with a first cousin born within three weeks of my birth. The whole biological family knew about me, and the relinquishment, and they all have had their questions, thoughts, and concerns over the years. It affects the whole family, especially the adoptee's siblings, and the natural parents' siblings. This is important to realize and something adoptive parents (at least mine) do not really (or maybe do not really want to) fully understand.

  9. The first "Dear Abby" (Abigail Van Buren) is long gone. I believe this is her daughter, who has taken over the column. The Abby I knew was kind to first mothers and open to reunion. It was through her column that I learned about ISRR, when she responded to a mother who had found her adult child. ISRR is how I reconnected with my son. It was the only thing I ever did, even though after several years I considered hiring a searcher. When I wrote to her to let her know and thank her, she printed my letter. Maybe I should scan it and post it, so we don't forget the original Abby. Her sister, Ann Landers, was not of that mind, praised adoption and discouraged reunion.

    Please remember and honor the original Abby. She was our friend. This woman is not.

  10. I am a birth mother who has been in reunion since 2006. There is not one day since I relinquished my son that I did not think about him. When my raised son was old enough to understand, I told him about his older brother that I had when i was 17. It never ceases to amaze me how someone who is supposed so intelligent can be so ignorant. I think Dear Abby needs to read "The Girls Who Went Away" by Ann Fessler if she really wants to answer questions about adoption and its afermath!

  11. Excellent advice, I hope somehow the young man will get it.
    Educate, educate....so many need it!

  12. WTF is going on with Dear Abby's hair? Who has a look like that? Leery and preachy, why does she make me think of the Church Lady?

    I miss the Church Lady. I do not see people who look like that where I live.

  13. Sorry but i don't understand your comments. the first dear abby actually took someone else's baby! and the advice you would give is great except that natural moms think of their child every minute of the day. this is why they always look or some distracted. trauma and their loves are constantly on their heart.



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