' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Who Should Search--Adoptee or birth mother?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Who Should Search--Adoptee or birth mother?

Jeanette Winterson
"Do you plan to search for your birth parents" asked my impudent first mother friend at a reading by English writer Jeanette Winterson of her prize-winning 1985 novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.  Winterson brushed the question aside. "If they want to find me, they know where to find me" referring to her fame and her original parents in the UK.  Subsequently, though, Winterson did search and had a good reunion with her first mother, a story she recounts in her 2011 memoir Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal.

In her sad essay, My Birth Son Probably Doesn't Know He's Adopted, first mother Shannon Des Roches Rosa tells of her fear that her surrendered son will not search for her. She learns that he is speaking publicly about his ancestral heritage, which she knows "isn't genetically true" because she knows his identity. That causes her to think he doesn't know he's adopted, or perhaps it is "his way of reaffirming his unbreakable connection to his adoptive family." Either way, she believes it makes it unlikely he will search for her, and thus the possibility of reunion with him is remote.

Shannon Des Roches Rosa
If she and her son reunited, Rosa would tell him about herself and his father, that giving him up broke her heart, that she left the country after losing him, that she kept his baby pictures pasted under the bookshelf above her bed so she could look at them the last thing at night and the first thing in the morning, that she never stopped thinking about him, that she was never ashamed about being pregnant, that she "gave him a family who could do right by him," when she and his birth father couldn't, and that she "fervently believed he deserved only the best."

Rosa had a "semi-formal adoption arrangement that included pictures and even a visit or two with him as a baby and toddler." Her son's adoptive father closed off contact after his adoptive mother died when the boy was young. In an earlier essay, Facebook-Stalking My Birth Son, which Rosa describes in her later essay "as laced with bitterness and not entirely respectful to my birth son's adoptive family," she says "his barely-open adoption slammed shut ... and the gods of irony handed his father the closed adoption he always wanted."

Although she found her son on Facebook, Rosa tells us she hasn't contacted him adding: "I never will, even though my heart aches for the motherless young man unaware of his maternal spare. Disrupting his life is not a moral burden I'm willing to shoulder. I'll remain safely on the other side of the computer screen, ever vigilant and very proud of the remarkable young man who has turned out so well." Of course, it is unknown if Rosa's son might be stalking her, unwilling to make contact for fear of disrupting her life.

Unlike Rosa, I often thought of searching for my lost daughter Rebecca, born in 1966. The possibility of reunion helped me justify giving her up. I knew that laws required adoption records to be sealed, but I thought that I could go to law school and learn how to get around these laws. I told myself I would search for her when she turned 18, in 1984. I did not tell my social worker of my plan because I was afraid she might send her to China or somewhere. It did not occur to me that I could search before my daughter was 18; only much later did I learn of Lorraine and other mothers who reunited with their surrendered children when the children were still minors.

 I didn't search in 1984, although I read 1984 that summer as sort of a symbolic gesture. At that time, I was married and had three young daughters and a demanding job.  "Eighteen is awfully young," I rationalized. "Better to wait until she is twenty-one."  My life was no different three years later and I put it off again. I did make some feeble efforts, signing up for an ALMA registry, even scanning the classified ads on Rebecca's birthdays in San Francisco (where she was born) to see if she had place a "searching" ad.  

I was ambivalent when I thought about searching, which as time went by was more and more frequent. One minute I resolved to search;  the next I backed off. I told myself I would mean nothing to my daughter; we would have nothing in common (I believed in the blank slate, then). Finding her would damage my raised daughters, cause stress in other family relationships, make me an object of gossip. So in 1987, I decided to wait until my daughters were through high school and out of the home. I told myself I needed privacy and freedom from distractions before I searched. In 1995, when my youngest daughter was off to New York for college, I became involved in litigation over my job and didn't have the money I thought I'd need or the emotional strength to search. In 1997 my daughter, now 31, found me after an 11 year search.

Since my reunion, I have read many memoirs by first mothers and adoptees and met many first mother and adoptees through support groups and conferences. Lorraine found her daughter in 1981 because at the time it was possible to pay someone who could find just about anybody; today that person no longer exists, and outside of New York City, if you were born and adopted in New York State, a successful search without several substantial clues is next to impossible. Lorraine's daughter, born and adopted in Rochester, almost certainly would never have been able to locate her original mother.

I'd like to say to Shannon Des Roches Rosa that every time is a bad time to search and a good time to search. There's no magic time, or age, when you can be sure you will not disrupt your child's, or your mother's life, or be be met with open arms. This is true in countless cases. You can be sure, though, that if both birth mother and her child who was adopted wait for the other to act, reunion is not likely.--jane
"Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse"
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Elliot

My Birth Son Probably Doesn't Know He's Adopted
Facebook-Stalking My Birth Son

Why Be Normal When You Could Be Jeanette Winterson
Do First/birth mothers want to be found?
A Birthmother's Fears of Reunion

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? 

 It's fricken' brilliant. Read Lorraine's review:
Why Be Normal When You Could Be Jeanette Winterson
"Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is raucous. It hums with a dark refulgence from its first pages. . . . Singular and electric . . . [Winterson's] life with her adoptive parents was often appalling, but it made her the writer she is." --The New York Times:

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
"A striking, quirky, delicate, and intricate work . . . Winterson has mastered both comedy and tragedy in this rich little novel. . . . Winterson's great gift is evident." —
The Washington Post Book World
Next on Lorraine's list.


  1. Jane, I think this blog is beautifully written. The questions you ask are thought provoking. Hopefully every searcher asks themselves similar questions before searching. Speaking as one adopted person, I never questioned my right to know and to find. At the same time, had my role been reversed, I know I would have searched for my child.

  2. What a wonderful topic and article! I relinquished my son to adoption in 1990 (I was 19). I had a semi-open adoption. My son's adoptive mother would send me a letter and pictures once a year to keep me updated. I always appreciated that she didn't sugar coat what was happening through out each year.

    My contact information has been on file with the adoption agency and the state of Wisconsin since two days after my son was born. I wanted things to be easy for him to find if/when he wanted to search for me. I have always felt that it wasn't my place to search for him. I didn't want to disrupt his life.

    I had always felt that the second he turned 18 I would get a letter, phone call, or a knock on the door. It didn't happen until he was 20. I received a letter from him September 2010. It was brief, but I was elated, scared, sad, anxious, remorseful, etc. I could go on and on. In my excitement and anxiety, I typed a four page letter and sent about 100 pictures labeled with who was who from my family. (He know tells me that sent him into a panic attack, lol)

    I received a letter back saying it would be ok to call him. It took me about a week to build up the courage to phone him. That call lasted hours. At the end of the call, we weren't really talking but neither of us wanted to hang up.

    Now we've been in reunion for over two years. He was upset about something and said to me " You waited 20 years to see me, what's a few more days?" Too me, that one sentence spoke volumes. I knew the city he lived in and his last name, but I felt strongly that HE needed to make the decision to contact me or not. I feel the adoptee is the one that is hurt the worst, struggles the worst in the adoption process, and he/she needs to have control over who searches for who. The adoptee certainly didn't have any control at birth.

  3. bains3401,

    We're all different. I would have been beyond elated if my mother had sent me a ton of pictures of family members.

    I hope your reunion continues to go well.

    While I see your point about waiting for us (the adoptees) to make the decision to search, I have to say that I have heard many adoptees lament the fact that no one was looking for them, and they go on to ask, "Why should I seek out people who haven't looked for me?" These individuals often feel utterly rejected. . . .

    Maybe the best thing to do is to write the adoptee a letter to let them know that you are there and available when/if the adoptee decides s/he is ready.

  4. I searched and found my daughter when she was 15 yrs old ... in 1981. By doing the work and taking the risk to reunite I helped mitigate the harm of having relinquished her. Today is her birthday and I am so relieved and grateful to be a part of her life.

  5. I investigted searching when my raised son worked for a security firm. He told me once that,"Mom, you can fiind anybody..."Since I knew nothing of my son's whereabouts, I didn't believe him and, other than registering with ISSR, did not search. I used to imagine that my son was searching, though. On Feb. 18, 2000, I opened my computer and found out that my hunch was true. He had been searching off and on for 20 years. We've been connected since then. What I think is another example of "blame the (birth) mother" is the idea that there is so mething wrong with a mothr who didn't search. If you have a clue about how frightened and shamed we were made to feel, you wouldn't ask that question...

  6. As an adoptee from the BSE, I never questioned that I would be the searcher. I knew from when I was 5 that I would search and always felt that my mom and I would be close. I would have welcomed a letter or knock on the door from her; would have treasured it in fact and it would have helped validate me immensely.

    However, I also know some adoptees who would have rejected a searching parent because it would again be something that the adoptee had no control over. (Ithaka comes to mind)

    To me it is most important to have clear insight into what you as the searcher are looking for in info or a relationship and to have respect for the other party so that you will accept their parameters for a relationship as they often haven't had the months or years to consciously reflect on their emotions towards reunion.

    Adoptees can't be looking for a mommy or daddy replacement and birthmoms can't go searching for a baby to mother and sing lullabies to. The reality is that these relationships are unchartered,untried and take work. On tv you see the extremes- the honeymoon reunions at first meetings and the stalking horror stories. We're everyday people who are related yet separated and have to learn how to integrate each other into each other's lives. While we should all do some of the self-help work prior to search- the emotional response to much of the search/reunion process is so subconscious prior to the search or being found that it will continuously be a work in progress that will have many ebbs and flows. At least thats what my mom & I have faced these last 20 yrs. And I still count her as my mom and best friend....

  7. Kim wrote:" I feel the adoptee is the one that is hurt the worst, struggles the worst in the adoption process, and he/she needs to have control over who searches for who."

    As an adoptee, I come to a completely different conclusion. It is the adoptee who may feel rejected by his parents and it would be reassuring to have his first parents contact him and let him know that they want a relationship.

    What I am hearing underneath a first mother's reluctance to search is fear. Putting the onus on the adoptee to search is basically saying that even though he had no say in being relinquished, it is now his responsibility to initiate and develop the reunion. All the while knowing that secondary rejection is a distinct possibility.

    I think there are also differences depending on whether the adoption was open or closed. If it was semi-open and the child realizes that his parents know who he is, he will probably assume you don't want a relationship if you don't reach out to him. In a closed adoption, I still think it is better for the first mother to search as in this case the adoptee probably has no idea of the circumstances of his reliquishment and may just assume he was an unwanted child.

    An adoptee does need to have a say in the reunion and his wishes should be respected.

  8. Anon: I found my daughter when she was 15 in 1981, and her birthday is in a few weeks....I hope the forsythia in the back yard is in bloom again, by then, as it was on her birthday, even though she is gone.

  9. As an adult adoptee who has been denied contact, please search for him. Please contact him. I beg you to do so. I so wish that my first mother had done so with me. It still aches all these years later.

  10. A lot is said about a mother " rejecting " the adopted child but not much about the rejection of the mother...by the adoptee......rejection of the siblings...by the adoptee.........and the abuse of the mother by the a/mother........

    because the mother doesn't have the same financial situation as the adopter

  11. You're in my thoughts Lorraine, it's often the case with me that the weeks leading up to a birthday are the challenging times.

    I was able to make contact with my daughter when she was 18, as soon as I was able to I did that. We have been in reunion for more than ten years. Reunion is better than silence. It's a very challenging situation to be in too. I am grateful that I can send her things in the post and write messages I try very hard to keep my attention there otherwise I get sad.

  12. Whoever has the courage and wants to move beyond the secrecy and lies of adoption will benefit from searching. Leave your expectations behind and enter into reunion land with an open mind. Don't be afriad of distupting lives because if you are the big secret, then its time for reality to kick in. Living with fear is worse than facming whatever music may come. My reunion wasn't the happily ever after story I imagined, but it gave my life greater depth and understanding, and I met so very many wonderful people on my ongoing journey. wishing you all well, Lina in Australia

  13. When I turned 18, I told my adoptive parents that I wanted to search for my natural father. They were informed, but did not offer help. I told an adult friend who had two young adopted children. She was very open and offered for me to call her attorney. We set up a day and time for me to call her back to get his number. But 20 minutes before I made that phone call, I received a phone call from my eldest sister - a sister I never knew I had.

    It's okay if siblings search and find, however, care needs to be taken by the searcher (s) - for me there were four older sibs and my father and step sibs, too -- to be sure that the adoptee and adoptive parents are okay.

    I wasn't. My parents weren't okay, either. We fought, yelled. It was caos. Their secret was blown wide open by someone other than themselves. They should have told me the truth and chose not to.

    I tried to make peace between the two sets of parents. My two fathers were okay. My step mother was okay. But my adoptive mother was angry, hurt, and furious that the reunion was out of her control.

    My siblings opened up a torrent of rageful angry adoptive relatives who ended up attacking me for accepting a reunion. It was terrible. Very few adoptive relatives accepted and were kind after that.

    This happened in 1974. I suffered greatly. Still do. There is much backlash on an adoptee who speaks out after being found - especially when others know the truth and the adoptee is unaware of the complete truth.

    Yes, I would have searched. However the attorney would have helped me, I'm sure there would have been a bit more care to ease the shock. Expectations were put upon me to just get over it and move on, well, to dump an entire load ontop of a teenager is too traumatizing: not just a natural parent, but siblings, extended family, a deceased natural mother.

    In our case, there should have been rofessional help, counseling for all immediate and extended families as well. But none existed.

    Use the resources you have and reach out. Be careful. The person you search for has no idea what you will say. Be gentle. The other people in the found-person's life will also be affected.

  14. LegitimateBastard:
    Searching and finding was so iffy, especially in the year you mention, long before the Internet. Unless you had access to "The Searcher," or had some clues, or etc. or were adopted in Kansas, Alaska, or Alabama in 1974, it is likely you would never have found your biological family through regular means, no matter what lawyer you used.

    I remember exactly how unusual reunions were in 1974; most adoptive families could not handle them at all. Adoptive families stopped speaking to the children they had loved and raised, for they saw their curiosity and need to connect with their roots as a rejection of the adoptive bond. I was around in that era, and I heard of many cases of adult children being written out of wills, or adoptive parents never talking to the adoptee again. I'm sorry you suffered so much anger for being found, but the alternative mostly likely would have been never finding out who you were. It is also possible that if you managed the search, your adoptive mother would have gotten increasingly upset, no matter what you did. You being contacted at least took responsibility out of your hands.

    You mention only the rage of the adoptive family; did you ever have a relationship with your biological siblings?

  15. Kim wrote:" I feel the adoptee is the one that is hurt the worst, struggles the worst in the adoption process, and he/she needs to have control over who searches for who."

    This is something I could have written in the bad old days. Bull. Mothers should search, introduce themselves, and allow the adoptee to call the shots. But to not search is wrong. I was wrong.
    I too could have found my daughter when she was 15 years old. I'm just that resourceful and she lived in a small community. But I didn't want to upset the Disney family I placed her into. Wrong! I damaged her psyche by abandoning her and I would have helped her by finding her early. How I got everything, EVERYTHING, ass-backwards I can not figure!
    For those of you here pre-reunion, do everything you can to find your child. They deserve that much from us.


    I couldn't agree more. 4 years ago I hit my adoption wall as I like to call it. I just simply couldn't take anymore; the bickering with amom about getting to gether, the not knowing if my son really wanted me in his life, the self loathing person I turned into each time I did have a visit, the panic attacks brought on by worrying about doing & saying the right thing, the groveling to stay in his life when I DID say something wrong. I felt like I just couldn't do it anymore; not for me, for my son or even my family. I have always felt like I have let my son down by not atively pursuing a relationship with his family(I have never been allowed to have a relationship with him, just his mother.) I got to a point where I had to choose between my family and the son I was raising or my son that I placed for adoption.

    Ultimatley, I chose being healthy and here for my son that I am parenting. I haven't reached out to my son (I placed) for fear that doing so would upset him. I tried; I have cards and letters sitting in a box in the back of the closet addressed to him yet never mailed. I understand all about ambivalence turning to inactivity. I am there now. What started out as me taking a "breather" has turned into 4 years of inactivity. What right do I have to suddendly resurface after being gone for so long? His birthday is in a few days & I am contemplating dropping him a card to let him know that I haven't forgotten about him. That is if my brain doesn't convince me to do otherwise.

  17. I do not think any of us can tell others it is right or wrong to search and contact based on our own outcomes, good or bad. There are so many variables and unknowns that we cannot know until we contact, and then we have to deal with the consequences of our action, good or bad, and with the other person's reality and needs, not just our own.

    My contact to a 16 year old turned out to be wrong, and if I had it to do over I would wait until he was older and out of the adoptive home. What I did was no help to him or to me. Others like Lo and many others had great outcomes in contacting young teens. There is no one right way or right time, and it is always a chance that only you can know if you are ready to take. Those of us who wish we had done differently either way have to move forward beyond that, because nobody can change the past.

  18. Etropic- please drop your son that card. I can't tell you what it would have meant to me to have had a sign from my mom before I searched that she was thinking of me.

    After I found, I came to a decent place where I understood that she didn't feel that she had the right to search; I learned to accept that when she said she still feels like she did the right thing in relinquishing me its her way of coping. Every action she made prior to signing relinquishment papers more than 6wks after my birth- indicate that my adoption truly wasn't a 'choice' but that she resigned herself to it because all the other options she tried to arrange fell through. But it would have meant so much to me-provided so much validation of my self-worth had she searched.

    I'm ashamed to say that although I always considered my birthday to be 'our' day- that I felt hurt when my neice was born on my birthday 9 yrs ago and my mom was there in the delivery room. She told me how much my neice looked like me with a head full of black hair- and my other neice and nephew from my birthsister were both blondes -so this neice truly took after my side of the maternal family. My birthday is right around thanksgiving so as adult as I am, as much as I know my family loves me, the little girl who spent every birthday trying to find a different time each year to think about her mom so maybe they would be sharing a thought sometime on 'our day' still has a brief pang of jealousy when I see my mom at my neice's bday parties each year. How bad is that??

  19. Maryanne, thanks for reminding others reading your comment that my contact at 15 with my daughter WAS THE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT THING TO DO. My daughter's aparents had already tried to locate me, or get updated medical information, and while my coming into their lives at that time did not change our daughter's medical treatment, they believed that my return into her life would be very good for her self-esteem.

    Maryanne, you may think that it was the wrong time, but in the end, maybe it wasn't. No matter that you did not have a great reunion at that time, you did send your son a message, did you not? That you were out there. I don't remember the details of your reunion at that time, but I do know you said his adoptive family was not great.

    The message Jane and I would like to send is that if you feel in your heart it is the right time to search, then you should. I had been writing to the agency in Rochester, NY (Hillside) over about a decade and I felt strongly that she needed me; it turned out that she did.

  20. Renee: Your feelings are just honest and considering the angst that adoption causes, perfectly normal!

    We can't always tell our feelings what to do. For instance, you would think that after reunion in 1981, a relationship up and down, but still a relationship for more than 25 years, and my daughter's death in 2007, you would think that I had some "closure," to use a word that psychologists like to throw around today. Yeah, right.

    Incidentally, I was born with a full head of black hair, my mother told me, that fell out and then my hair came in very blonde. Now it goes from dark ash blonde to blonde with the help of high lighting. My granddaughter's hair is the same.

  21. Lo, you and Alison and others really did find kids who wanted to know you as teens, and then there was Julie Welch whose kid was given back to her at 12 because the adoptive father and stepmother did not want him. Also Lee Campbell who has had a life-long relationship with her son she met as a young teen.

    Seeing those who were successful did influence me to make a contact, but for me, it was not the right time for a lot of reasons I did not find out until years later when my son finally trusted me enough to tell his story.

    He could not deal with two mothers at the time because the one he had was bad enough, mentally ill and somewhat abusive, and both parents were furious at me for showing up. It caused more grief in an already unhappy home situation, including several moves that may or may not have had to do with me. But my son was the one who had to suffer the consequences.

    In light of this, I do not trust my instincts or feelings and think a bit of logic would have been the better way to deal with the situation. Sometimes following one's feelings without considering the consequences for others can lead to disaster. I learned this too late.

    I feel fortunate in now having a relationship with my son, because I know many who made contact at young and not so young ages who were rejected, and that has never turned around for decades. But for me and my son and his circumstances and temperament, I really wish I had waited longer. He did not need me at 16, I was just a stranger he feared might make demands on him and one more complication in his life.

  22. maryanne, Regarding considering the consequences of searching. It's a catch-22. You don't know the consequences until you search. When my daughter Rebecca found me, I was involved in litigation and planning my daughter's wedding. I was also dealing with others issues. Of course she knew none of this.

    Were those the best circumstances for a reunion? No Was there a better time? No.

  23. My mum searched for me 13 yrs ago and I never tire of telling people it was simple 'the best day of my life'. I had initiated a search 6 yrs previous, but was halted by amum's emotional blackmail. It was/is all I ever wanted and I wish we could have reunited before we did. I looked for her around every corner from the age of 9 (when I was told). I would have done it eventually, but I love it that she looked for me.

  24. As a BSE firstmother, I began searching for my daughter shortly after the surrender. When she was about 3, I recall writing to Florence Fisher for advice as search resources were severely limited in the early 70's. I felt like I was "driven" to find and unable to rest until I did. I can't even wrap my brain around the concept of not searching. Looking back, I can't imagine why anyone could possibly believe that forcing or convincing a mother to give up her child is a good idea when in fact it's truly barbaric. When I finally found, I made it my mission to be the best mother I could possibly be.

  25. Wish my mom had looked for me. I was waiting for a mom to pass, but once I neared 50 I thought it was time.

    Mom said she didn't want me to find out I was adopted, so she never looked.

    Dad said, "I never thought you'd find us".

    I'm 50 now, a mom is 83, and still in good health. I'm glad I didn't wait any longer, even though it's been more painful than I could have ever imagined.

  26. I always knew I would search for my daughter after she turned 19. I assumed if she was eager to find me, it would happen soon after she was of legal age. Considering all of the adoptee perspective information I had gathered, I didn't want to her to spend too much time hesitating, worried I might not want to be found. That is how I developed my 19 year strategy.

    I painstakingly (thought I) prepared myself, including seeking 8 months of counsel from an adoption therapist, to help me navigate.

    Even though I found my daughter (via Facebook), I contacted her adoptive parents first (because I thought that was the most considerate route). They responded to my 5 page letter, including photographs, with a "thanks, but no thanks." Mind you, these are the same people who 19 years earlier couldn't bestow enough love and support for me because of my 'gift' to them. I sent them a few more letters asking them to reconsider, but they rebuffed me, very coldly. Within a few months, when I knew my daughter was back home from her 1st year of college, I decided to circumvent them and contacted my daughter directly. Apparently, that decision has never been forgiven.

    5 years post-reunion, my relationship with my daughter went from magic to tragic. She slowly and now permanently cut me out of her life. Nothing in particular happened, it was a gradual decline. When I asked her to open up to me about why this was happening, she slammed the door so hard in my face, I'm still reeling months later.

    The entire time we were in reunion, her adoptive parents made it clear that they felt I was subversive and a potentially dangerous influence. My daughter graduated with honors, holds a stable job and her own apartment. While in reunion, we didn't get to see each other often, but when did, her parents did their level-best to torture my daughter by making her feel guilty for conducting a relationship with me.

    Barbara wrote "allow the adoptee to call the shots" and that was exactly what I did, but it also put me in the 'last person to be considered' column. In the end, I was made to feel my feelings counted the least, I was the easiest person to disappoint and I was supposed to accept whatever crumbs were thrown to me. I held the short-stick because I gave her up along with my rights to being treated humanely and considerately. Her adoptive parents even told her (she was 23 at the time) "if we wanted an open adoption, we would have had one". I also learned they hired a private investigator to track me for an unknown period of time. Must have been a boring detail for that investigator.

    To preserve what is left of my sanity, I hold no hope one way or the other about the future. The most painful lessons learned is even with every ounce of consideration I applied to this situation, the people I thought I allowed (yes, I selected them) to parent my daughter, told me what I wanted to hear, when I needed to hear it. Also, my daughter, as a woman, might not be the person I hoped she was.

  27. Hilary: I wish your story were unusual, but it is all too common. The levels of guilt that adoptees incorporate into their DNA (through nurture, not nature) is tremendous and has bollixed up many a reunion. If the adoptive parents, who have been good in every other way, are wary of, or outright against, a satisfying reunion, the adoptee has to make a choice, and only a few make a stand and want to have a good relationship with their natural parents, if it means destroying the familial relationship they have had all their lives. It's understandable.

    You probably did nothing, but the pressure on your daughter that you describe--hiring a PI! to track you--borders on nuts.

    I had a quarter of a century relationship with my daughter until she died in 2007, and just when I thought everything was fine, she would drift away. She once said that she felt like a magnet, the closer she got to one, the more she had to pull away from the other. And my daughter's adoptive parents had been welcoming at first because of medical reasons, but as the years went by, and her mother developed early signs of Alzheimer's, her hatred of me became more pronounced.

    When you mentioned being the last person who feelings counted, I certainly had that in my relationship with my daughter, and understand what you mean. We are supposed to be able to absorb everything. Her adoptive mother could say the worst things to her, as I have written about before, and they would patch things up in a week. I would do nothing, and I had the door slammed in my face. After a while I came to see that as a pattern that would never end.

    I wish I could be more encouraging, and say she is only going through a phase. But it is likely to be a recurring phase. Unfortunately, there are no re-dos in real life.

    All I can suggest is that you recognize that this syndrome of rejection after reunion is as common as roadside wildflowers. Take care of yourself, find joy and meaning in what you do have in your life.

  28. Hilary,
    There are some similarities in your story and mine. My daughter found me after searching for 11 years. After several months of daily emailing, she began to distance herself.

    Initially, I allowed her to call the shots. Things got better for me when I took more control. I wrote an article about problems in reunions based on what I learned by reading memoirs of adopted daughters which you might find helpful. Why Reunions Go Awry: What Memoirs of Adopted Daughters Tell Birthmothers

  29. Jane & Lorraine - thank you both for your comments; very appreciated.

    Lorraine, your daughter's magnet theory is spot on. There has been a constant push/pull, heavily in my favor initially. When I became aware of it, I tried to keep my daughter balanced and asked her to be sensitive to her adoptive mother's insecurities. I also encouraged her not to lie about seeing me, even though that seemed to be the easiest path. I foolishly believed if I demonstrated my stability and even-tempered patience, I would win them all over eventually. I'm self-sufficient and don't need anything from them (something they warned her about repeatedly; the potential I was coming back because I needed money). It never mattered. I suffered with last minute plan shuffling/canceling, my tearful daughter on a the phone telling me her parents wouldn't let her follow through on months old plans. I had to stifle my pain and be supportive & understanding. I listened her tell me about the terrible things they said about me. When my daughter was a teen and didn't come home at curfew, her parents went out to find her. When they did, they scolded her and told her she was going to end up like me... an unwed, pregnant teenage loser. This infuriates me because I was in school, employed, insured and made a choice to have my baby and give her to a childless couple. I selected these people, who won me over with their promises and fabricated stories of love & support. They manipulated me at my most vulnerable time. What an ignorant fool I was.

    My daughter, unlike me, is very reserved/guarded. She rarely verbalizes her feelings and I never wanted to press her. At a rare and vulnerable moment, she asked me if my mother was alive (my mother died when I was 15) when she was born, would I have given her up. I told her that definitely would have been a game-changer (true). She also told me she thought we could have managed fine because we are both smart & resourceful. That hit me in the gut, but it was my first insight to my daughter's perspective, which she kept very hidden.

    We have been dancing around big white elephants from the start. Since our time together was so infrequent, I didn't want to be the heavy. I thought keeping our time together fun was the path to choose. Was that the right course? I felt like it lead us here; our failure to address this heavy load eventually broke our backs. But I can see it was likely unavoidable I honestly have no regrets about the way I have conducted myself from the day I found out I was pregnant. Well, there is one, and that is ever believing adoption was a solution.

    My last correspondence from her was terrible (I'm almost certain she had one of her parents write it). She broke my heart when she canceled our long-standing plans with an outright lie. I could not understand why she couldn't tell me the truth. I have always been approachable and understanding, even while I was getting body-slammed routinely by this relationship. I sent her a letter, very heartfelt and sensitive and asked her to level with me. I told her I understood her parents made our relationship challenging and that I respected what a difficult position she was in. She sent back a scathing, bullet-laden attack and told me it would take her years to recover. Until that time, if ever, I am expected to disappear. Since my letter did nothing but offer encouragement and understanding, her attack was unwarranted and seemed to be completely unrelated. Based on the decline of our relationship, I believe she saw a small opportunity to justify eliminating me as a complication. I do understand how difficult her situation is, but her way of handling it makes me realize I may not like the person she is. That, along with being completely betrayed by her parents, have been the hardest pills to swallow.

  30. Oh Hilary. You have been through a lot with your daughter, and I will just repeat what I said before: take care of yourself.

    My daughter's parents were not as bad as yours (in relationship to me)...well, I don't know. Things did get pretty bad after several years. One of her worse insults was: You are just like Lorraine --an insult that is not even imaginable if the child is someone you gave birth to. It also encapsulates what the parents feel about the adoptive bond, and think of the birth mother, in this case, me. Sadly, her adoptive parents are like many.

    There is no need however to lay yourself open to be abused like you describe again. Take care of yourself. This is one case where I truly think you should step back and let her find her own way to you, if she ever can. Step back for your own sanity and self-preservation.

  31. Jane wrote:"My daughter found me after searching for 11 years."

    My understanding is that Rebecca found you (or a family member) right away and that it was you who rejected her attempts at contact for 11 years. I would have more respect for you if you would own up to your mistakes in reunion, admit your mea culpa, and encourage others not to make the same mistakes you did.

    I hope that Hilary's story will be read and taken very seriously by any expectant mother considering adoption. No matter what the agency or attorney tells you, once a child is given up for adoption there is only a small chance that you will be able to reunite when s/he turns 18 and become a family again.

    Adoption in most cases causes so much damage that it is foolhardy to believe you can give your child up for others to raise and then connect again in a meaningful and unstrained way when s/he becomes an adult. It does happen but not nearly as often as adoption workers would lead you to believe. And if this is what you are expecting, there is a very high probability that you will be sorely disappointed.

  32. Robin,
    As I've written in more detail on several posts, Rebecca began searching for me in the fall of 1986, shortly before she turned 20. In February, 1987, she contacted a relative by marriage to whom I was not close. In early 1991, she contacted the relative again. Both times, the relative conveyed the information to my husband who conveyed it to me. Because of a series of miscommunications, I did not know who was trying to find me nor given contact information.

    In November, 1997, Rebecca contacted the relative again. This time the relative told me my daughter was looking for me and gave me contact information. It is true that I thought the person trying to find me in 1987 and 1991 might be my daughter. However, the first time I was told that she was a girl in Utah or at BYU. I had specifically requested my daughter not be placed with Mormons and I had always assumed my request had been honored. The second time I was told it was someone who knew me in college. Within a few weeks of the calls, I had forgotten about them. When I thought of searching, I didn't even think of contacting the relative.

    Because of these miscommunications, I urge adoptees never to try to to contact their birth mothers through someone else. If Rebecca had contacted me directly, I'm sure I would have responded positively. I had often thought about her and I had made an effort to connect with her by registering with ALMA and the AOL reunion registry.

    True, I could have done more when I learned someone was looking for me. I lived in Salem OR at the time. I knew nothing of AAC, CUB, or the Portland search and reunion organization, Oregon Adoptive Rights. I worked full time, didn't watch daytime TV, and knew little about reunions. I had never heard of Lorraine, BJ Lifton, or any other adoption writer except Florence Fisher. I knew of her only because I happened to see her book lying on a table at the Salem Library about 1988.

    I did not reject Rebecca. I do feel guilty that I didn't try harder to find out what was going on. I thought of her often and the desire to find her increased as time passed.

    The lessons learned from my experience: contact your birth mother directly, not through someone else. If you can't find her, get help through a search and reunion support group organization. If your birth mother doesn't respond, try again within a year or two. Don't wait five years.

  33. G Dean here. I wanted to thank FMF for your kind words and advice re: contacting my FM in a September 2012 post. Thank you to Robin and Lorraine for encouraging me to call her. It took a while, but I finally did it. We spoke for 2 hours and I feel like a weight has been lifted. A thousand times, thank you! G Dean

  34. G Dean, so very happy to hear you connected and so far, so good. A great weight was lifted from you. After I found my daughter, someone I did not see often thought I had had a facelift.
    A great weight was lifted from me.

  35. @G Dean,
    I'm so happy to hear that you made the call and things went well. I can't remember what I wrote, but I am delighted if it had a positive effect on your and your first mother's lives. After the first time I spoke with my n-mother, I felt like 50% of my pain just dissipated into the air. I wonder if the other 50% is still there because I was never able and probably never would have been able to have a positive reunion with my n-father as well.

    However things work out, I am glad that I could play some small part in helping you to feel lighter and more at peace. Wishing you all the best.

    Thanks for the heads up, Lorraine :)

  36. I can't imagine searching for a birth parent before the internet. How different it must have been. Thanks for sharing

  37. A belated thanks for your advice. Things have worked out and I am content.



COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish.

We cannot edit or change the comment in any way. Entire comment published is in full as written. If you wish to change a comment afterward, you must rewrite the entire comment.

We DO NOT post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.