' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: After the reunion: How do (found) mothers and daughters relate?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

After the reunion: How do (found) mothers and daughters relate?

In the last couple of weeks I've been in contact with several mothers who had reunions with daughters and one common thread ran through the conversations: that we feel the relationship is always somehow lacking.

'Tis true.

We can never be "the same as" a mother who raised a child from birth. I know that seems obvious but in the dealing with that reality, lots of tears are shed. Our daughters come, they go, they refuse to meet us, or they meet us and all seems well, and then they leave, usually without a word. They are just gone. Something we may have said that offends them--but we don't see how it might--is ostensibly the reason. Or nothing at all that we did is the cause of their leaving. Outside
forces, especially difficulties in dealing with the feelings of the adoptive parents, are typically the real reason, and while hey know that, but do not tell us. Why should they?

We didn't tell them why they were being involved in an "adoption plan." They just knew that one day they were living with people who were not their true, original, biological kin.

We see how our daughters and sons were educated and brought up differently than we would have raised them, and in least in the cases I'm familiar with, the stings and arrows of that haunt the relationship. They may not share our religious and political choices, even though they look like us, or resemble their father in striking ways.

And through it all, we who want to have a relationship feel: condemned as guilty, so often we accept behavior that we would not expect or tolerate from a child we raised. We often find it hard to raise our voices against such behavior, for we feel they may walk out at any moment. We feel we are always on shaky ground so we often are afraid to voice a true opinion, or have a natural reaction. The times I would relax with my daughter, after things had been going smoothly for a couple of years, would just as well as not lead to another break in our relationship. Up and down it went, it was like a dizzying merry-go-round when you are riding next a person who is there one moment, gone the next, then back again. And gone again. After a while, it just becomes exhausting. Some of us simply give up.

Because my daughter was raised with people of the same religious and political views as my own upbringing, we did not have major cultural clashes. We both were middle class. She was attracted to the life I came to have, with a large circle of writers and artists as friends. Yet she came and went in my life so many times with the attitude of I'm-never-going-to-speak-to-you-again-until-I-want-to that it was just exhausting. A friend of mine, another first/birth mother, who knew Jane through the years, said, "She loved you and she hated you at the same time." Bingo! It felt like she got it totally right.
This friend has sustained a relationship with her reunited daughter nearly as long as I. Yet she too always feels a remove from her daughter, whom she found. Another friend, who was located by her daughter, had a few heady years with her, and then was rejected. Yet the daughter remains in contact with other members of my friend's family, even sharing pictures of the woman's grandchildren with them, and being invited to some family functions, where the daughter makes it obvious she is not speaking to her mother. That has to be the most painful of all relationships; it would feel like such a betrayal by my siblings, by my own family. It is the daughter's family too, that is true, but it feels as if her participation in it is designed to make her own mother--a smart, generous woman--feel terrible. Another first mother had a relationship with her daughter for several years, until her adoptive mother moved to a retirement community closer physically to the daughter. Then my friend was relegated to an occasional phone call. With the grandchildren she feels less than a grandmother, though she is their actual biological grandmother.

Then there is me. My daughter died five years ago; I have two granddaughters. One I am in touch with, and feel close to, but she lives near the adoptive parents, and has a very good relationship with them, for which I am glad. If my daughter Jane had married someone from New York, the situation would probably be reversed. I found the other granddaughter whom my daughter placed for adoption after my daughter died, and we had a good relationship for nearly two years when she chose to fall off the radar of my life. After an email went unanswered, I emailed a couple of times asking for a response, and I got one: she had decided she was in a good place and didn't want to be in contact anymore. I thought things had been going swimmingly, I did not feel the same guilt with her as I had not given her up and tried to prevent the closed adoption Jane entered into, and my life was enriched when she was in it. (As I had some sweet and affirming contact with her adoptive mother, she was not threatened in the least by me. The granddaughter was in her twenties at the time, and not living in the same state as the adoptive parents.)

She had met her father some months earlier, and since she was born when I was not in contact with Jane, I can only imagine what she said about me. What Jane said about her father I did not repeat to this granddaughter, but he would have had no reason to not tell her what Jane might have said about me, and knowing what she said about me to our friends while she was living here, I can only suspect the very worst. She loved you and she hated you at the same time.

I know some parents don't speak to their children, and some children don't speak to the parents, in the real world, outside adoption. I know many parents and their children have lifelong problems. Children move across country to get away from their families. There are as many different kinds of relationships as there are people. Many birth/first parents do inexplicable things too, and after years of secrecy about the birth, cannot sustain a relationship with their reunited children, and choose to walk away. I know all these things. Adoption is painful. Adoption is always painful. No matter how much happiness it may bring a couple or a single person longing for a child, adoption is borne out of someone else's body and pain.

But what is also true is that after a mother makes an "adoption plan" for her baby, whatever relationship that occurs after reunion is never quite what many of us hope for. Maybe it does happen for some; but I've only had brief contact with one woman who said her relationship was all that she could hope for. Her daughter called her every day. I haven't been in touch with her for years so I don't know the current statues. Yet for most of us, once we gave our children up, we lost them. Whatever relationship we might have later on is never going to go back to what we hope for, or be sustained over the long haul. We lost them when we gave them up.--lorraine
From FMF
Why first mothers walk away from their children after reunion

Birthbond: Reunions Between Birthparents and Adoptees - What Happens After

"In 36 interviews with women who relinquished their children to adoption, the authors present anecdotal documentation of what happens when birth mothers and their children meet. The case histories are bittersweet. For some, reunion provides enrichment and release from guilt; for others the event is wrenching, especially when it occurs in the adoptee's adult life. In considering the many facets of adoption--including the views of birth fathers, adoptive parents, grandparents--the authors of this helpful study allow us to hear voices and attitudes that could change future adoption practices in this country."--Reed Business Information. Authors: Judith Gediman is a Connecticut-based marketing consultant; Linda Brown is legislative director of American Adoption Congress.The book was published in 1991 but is still relevant today.


  1. Ahhh, Lorraine, once again you have hit the bulls eye. I will only add that you describe my relationship with my lost-now-found daughter exquisitely. Through our 15 year reunion, the behavior you describe is exactly how my daughter reacts toward me. She loves me and she hates me. Yes, that's the truth. In our case, however, she does not realize she is acting in any way out of the ordinary. I cannot ever get past the fear that I am walking on eggshells with her....one slip and I will come crashing down. It is exhausting and disheartening many times.
    But then there are the times when she calls me, and lets me talk to her children (4yo and 6yo). The youngest asks can we do Facetime? And soon there they are, on my phone! And I hear my granddaughter saying, "Mommy, she looks just like YOU!!" and my daughter laughs. Those are the times when the silences, the unanswered messages, the anger spewing out, makes it all feel worth while.
    No, it's not the kind of relationship I wanted with her, but it is what it is.


  2. Kathy: Oh yes.

    Exactly what I knew. Up and down. Constant eggshells for a carpet. Some very wonderful times. So much sadness.

  3. (((((((()()))))Kathy,Lorraine>)))))))))))))))) As a daughter who found her mother 30 years ago, before I was actually out of the fog, while my true feelings were still repressed, before I even knew a thing about the BSE, I fear I treated my mother this way at times. It was all sweetness and light for so long, at first, but I did not let her get as close to me as she probably would have liked. I had such strong loyalty idsues....my adoptive parents were great.....and I didnt underdtand that I really could have two mommies and lovd two mommies. Now that I know, and am trying to repair any damage and get closer to her now, she is suffereing from early Alzheimers and doesnt want so many phone calls or tslks, and does not visit me anymore ....I have to go there. I am grsteful for the good times we have had, but now that Im out of yhe fog, I want, and need, more Mom and daughter time....and she does not seem to. Oh, if I had only known what I know now. I guess we can never grt back what was lost.

  4. as a adoptee, a daughter of no-one, whos adoptress loved her natural son and tolerated me the adopted one to "make the family look good", I endeavoured in my 30's to find my natural mother who -wanted nothing to do with me- as she had married well nd had daughters of her own????? So could I tell the adoptress that I made contct with my n mum, no way, I would have been as despicable as a nazi traiter, my life owned by the adoptress, after all look at what I was given, to make contact with N family -traitor!1! even tho the aoptress didn't car to own me, I could not be owned by anone else.....see what we have to live with adoptees are prisioners of adoptition, we never get to grow up, always having to please everyone else...the wst bit forme s never seeing my own genetic (mother!!!)face, how cruel is this monster called adoptition, but youll find majority of adoptees will not agree with me (brainwashing from birth is a powerful force)
    please know this from one who is not bias but lacks any control ver anything to do wth my identity

  5. june churchette

  6. I'm on the other side.

    Growing up as an adoptee, I never really FELT that adoption was forever. Oh, I KNEW that I would always be adopted. I KNEW that my adoptive parents would always be my parents. But, I also BELIEVED that one day I would meet my other mom, and she would want to know me.


  7. I found my mom 21 yrs ago. I was 23. I was welcomed with open arms by my entire family and am eternally grateful for that. That being said, I see the differences too. I don't have the family stories, shared memories. I don't have the sibling rivalry or friendship in quite the same way. I am treated differently in many ways by my mom because although I am her daughter, she didn't raise me. I do not have one ounce of hate for her (although I can understand when adoptees feel that) but I am affected by my own adoptee wounds. I often over apologize or overcompensate for disagreeing with her-because subconsciously- I'm afraid she might leave. You hit it on the head, Lorraine, when you said you lost your daughter. We lost our moms and when we come back thru reunion we can't get that time back. Mourning has to occur and a different type of mother/daughter relationship built. My mom is my best friend-the first person I call when I need to share something good; I'm working on being able to share the bad stuff too. But adoption is based on losses and until we accept that- its hard to build on the wins.

  8. Well said, Renee. I didn't know what to expect when I reunited with my daughter (she was 15), but I did not expect what was. She lived with us for several summers but her resentment and needs deeper than I could fill were a part of the relationship that nothing would change. We were in a good place when she died, and before she died she said some very comforting words, and I treasure their memory.

  9. So true, Lorraine, being reunited with my daughter was like a dream come true. When she took her own life two years ago, it was like I lost her for the second time. Your words are so true ' adoption is borne out of someone else's body and pain'. There's a huge minefield of emotions.

  10. Well said, Lorraine. This is a piece that should be published somewhere. While it certainly doesn't apply to all reunions, it certainly does to many that I've heard and/or read about. Relationships of any kind that embody an element of hate spell trouble from the get go. Toss in radically different political, social, and religious beliefs and values and you have a recipe for disaster.

  11. I've never really admitted that when I found out who my natural mother was I felt relief that she had passed.... what was I going to do with another mother?.... I did not have a warm or parental relationship with my 2nd mother......that may have been part of it ... and maybe for the other natural mothers here... that might be part of it.....

    .....Now, having talked with bio sibs, cousins,etc... and getting involved with others in the triad I do wish I could have met her..... and gotten to know her....as an adult.....

    ....seems to me that these complications are part of the wound..... the grief I feel is for the intimacy that we shared while she carried me with her and the unnameable shock that what was disappeared at the moment of becoming in the world.....longing for the small moment to moment intimacies between mother and infant....daily.... at the beginning of life....

    that is irreplaceable ... that is the dilemma.... reunion can be helpful but that beginning loss cannot be replaced.... somehow as an adoptee I have to learn to live without that... in my own way.... my natural mother might or might not been able to help but my take on mothers at that time was not so positive.....

    I don't know what it would have been like to know her.... I expected it would be very difficult..... but I want to tell you I love her... every moment.... I love her.... and suspect your daughters all love you.... for better or worse sometimes.... they love you....

  12. Bravo. Great post. Completely agree and sadly live/d it.

  13. I know I've written about my experience with finding my daughter after 37 years, but since this is an appropriate subject - here I go:

    I surrendered her 1969, and from early on my daughter had known her nationality and even listened to the language in music! So I was very pleased to hear that; I had to contact the amother, as I had no recent address for my daughter. Unfortunately, that went really bad - as the amother said in response to my letter (September, 2006)to her:

    It has been somewhat surreal to have something I feared happening for thirty-seven years, suddenly become a reality...
    And it was also part of the agreement that the birth mother would agree that she would have no relationship with the child - forever. The records were sealed, and we were assured anonymity in order that our daughter would be a true member of our family, and that there would never be cause for concern that the birth mother would at some point change her mind and want to be a part of our daughter's life. It was this agreement that we put our trust in.

    YIKES!! And unfortunately, I received a letter from my daughter basicly saying the same thing. She does not want contact at this time (that was January, 2007), but she does love me and "I am truly grateful for that you gave me up to for adoption". She has a very close relationship with her amother, so I don't hold out too much hope until her amom dies... bad to say that, but I don't think it will happen anytime sooner. Her amom is 8 years older than me (I'm 65), so... I did wish her a Happy 40th by Facebook, and I wrote her a 12 page letter, after her first letter to me, to give her all her medical information, which she did not have, and details about her birth and telling her (& her amom) that I did NOT sign ANY kind of paperwork that I would never contact my daughter, only gave up my parental rights!, but she again asked me to NOT contact her and when she was ready she would initiate it! So I sit here 5 years later waiting...

    Oh, in another letter I received from the amom (sending the 12 page letter thru her to my daughter) really burned me - about this quote (in bold) from her:

    As I said, I will forward your letter to M to follow-up on as she wishes. I will wait, however, until after Mother's Day and her birthday (May 14th). Those two events are being celebrated with a new triad - M, I, and her new mother-in-law. It's a very special time for her, and I don't want anything to detract from the happiness and joy she is experiencing.

    ARG!! So infuriating! A "new" triad?? okay, lady!

    Oh, and my daughter has always addressed her letters to me by my first name, but of course, I'm the one who made first contact! (re the last subject thread). I have to say I am more calm and satisfied that I DID search, just to find out that she IS alive and well and did not want for anything!

  14. Oh Lee, someone once said to me words I found oddly comforting: You didn't deserve that.

    I'm so sorry. So many stories of adoption/reunion are just plain painful. I did hear from a natural mother who wrote to her daughter (through the adoptive parents) but got nasty letters back--if she contacted them again they would call the police, daughter writes, I live in fear that you will contact me on my birthday, etc.

    Fast forward.

    Adoptive mother or both adoptive mother and adoptive father die. Daughter contacts her first mother; all is well.

    And from a searcher I am close to I hear of the many searches she initiates when the adoptee is quite old. All too often the first mother is deceased, or has Alzheimer's or dementia. Time waits for no one.

  15. Thanks Lorraine - you at least give me 'hope'!! We shall see! And you will be the first to know (FMF) if things DO change!! LOL!

    Also, I wanted to comment on your subject matter "How does a baby feel being a 'gift'? thread - my daughter said in one of her letters that - she believes she was the 'gift of love' to her aparents...

  16. When I met my mother 2 1/2 years ago I felt an instant connection. I'd never seen a human being who looked more like me. It's stunning how much we look alike. I wanted to be close to her, but something was wrong. She soon started getting nasty, sending cruel tests and emails, and said some hurtful stuff. I kept trying, because i love my mother and wanted her to be in my life. She doesn't seem to feel the same about me. We try, but just don't seem to connect. This past mother's day I sent her a Vera Bradley bag and wristlet. My 16 year old daughter and I picked them out. I bought a card and lovingly wrapped and shipped the gift. I got no response.

    We weren't speaking at the time, but a few weeks later we had a reunion at her friends home on Fire Island. She told me that she thought I had purposely gone out and bought her the ugliest bag I could find in order to anger her.

    Whatever I do is twisted into something bad. I have 4 children, and she has no interest in them. She babysits her kept sons little boy every weekday while his parents work.

    I've pretty much given up at this point. I pretend it doesn't bother me, but it's the worst.

    This is unrelated, but I want to mention it. This past Sunday I met my mother's second husband, my brother's father for the first time. He almost fell over when he looked into my eyes. i know that he saw my mother in my face, the woman he once loved. His second wife was there. We were not introduced. It's such a strange feeling to meet people who know my mother, and to see their reactions when they meet me.

  17. Oh, adoptomuss...I know that hurts. How can it not? I don't understand why anyone would say that about a present. I hope you told her that your daughter (her granddaughter) picked it out.

    She doesn't appear to want you to recognize her. I qwon't even try to psychoanalyze what's going on with her.

    Take care of yourself.

  18. Lee...from someone who has been where your daughter is in a way...she is and has always been treated as the property of her adoptive parents.

    It's like a "loving brainwashing" if there is such a thing. She has been so dependent on them her whole life and they have successfully kept her as a child, "their" child for all these years. When I look back it almost feels and looks like Stockholm Syndrome...I had no idea that I was "in that".

    Even though your daughter looks like an adult she has no power at all to do anything different. Now enter the mother-in-law...I would bet that in a way she will try to keep the daughter from having much of a close relationship with her as well ultimately. She can't share her.

    Your daughter wants to care about you...but she can't, not now, because she even has this "gate keeper" that she has developed a dependence on. Her mother who raised her makes it look like love, but she needs that girl, HER daughter, to validate her so much and has little else in life to validate her.

    You do not deserve this. I didn't deserve it and neither did my mother who not only gave birth to me but IS my mother. No one owns another person, but they sure do try. My prayer is that some day your daughter will wake up like I did and ask herself what on earth is going on here...this has to stop. I can have two families, even 3 or 4...I DO have all these families. So much of what has been told to me is NOT true.

  19. Thank you Julie for the bit of encourgement that my daughter "might" come to terms regarding having another family! It gives me hope for the future!

    Thanks again!

  20. Great post. I have never reunited with my mom, but have been in reunion with my father for 7 years. It is just as tumultuous. The first year was hesitation on his part - thinking I wanted his money. After his pushing, I began pushing back when he opened his heart. Thankfully we are at a comfortable place. It took years to get here!

    One thing that isn't discussed as much is how adoptive parents react to the reunion. My mother was outwardly always so open that her daughters were adopted, but if I ever asked any questions, she would instantly become cruel and hurtful. Unfortunately i've learned to "live a lie" with her in order to keep the peace.
    Adoptive parents need to be told before they adopt that no matter what, the adoptive child will search. Make peace with that in the beginning.

  21. I reunited with my 3 children 3 years ago and it has been nothing short of horrendous! I was a 12 year old when their father took me out of my mother's home. I endured 7 years of physical and emotional abuse from a convicted murderer and pedophile. He was and is a dangerous man, who I knew would do to my kids what he'd done to me. I made sure he would never have the chance! My children found me and were welcoming at first, but I soon realized that they wanted their pound of flesh. They only wanted to give me an opportunity to pay them what owe, always asking for money, but ignoring me on Mother's Day and any other chance they could get. I lost everything I worked for because I started drinking and couldn't function anymore. I put myself through college and worked my way up in my company and lost it all to alcohol; I am fighting for the home I bought right now because I went from middle management to earning $13 an hour.. I have to say, that the one thing that hurt the most is the blatant disregard for my youngest son, their brother. I suppose they resent him for growing up with with me, but he had no more say in the matter than they had. They ignore him when he waited all his life just to meet them. After lbeing reared by their abusive father from 12 to 19,. There is no room in my sanity, to now take abuse from his children. I do thank God that they are alive and well even if I must sacrifice being with them once again, to save us all.

  22. I reunited with my daughter two years ago and I feel what everyone is saying. Walking on egg shells and making sure I don't say the wrong thing. Plans being broken. Seems like when we meet she gets excited to meet again and then falls off. It's like I'm all in and she's in when she wants to be. I should be grateful for what I have and I am. It's just not what I expected. I try not to have any expectations, which doesn't diminish the longing to be further on in the relationship. This might be just where it ends up. She doesn't confide in me and does not look at me as someone who she can get close with. She's just not like that. Me, I'm and all in or all out kind of person. I'm not shy. I tell it like it is and she states that she loves that about me. However, when it's not reciprocated, it's hard to build on. Am I making any sense here?

    1. Yes, you are making all kinds of sense.

      The relationship will never be as if ... you had not given her up. I tried not to have expectations either after I reuninted, but it took many years of being accepted/rejected /searched out/rejected/searched out...to come to a place where I really did not have expectations...well, I'm not sure I ever got there totally, but the last time my daughter called up after several months of being cut off because of something she did and I told her it was hurtful...I said, Look, if you are back, don't do this again. She immediately ! agreed and wanted to change the subject, but she did not say: What are you talking about?

      She knew.

    2. Anon, you're in good company. Little that goes on in a reunion makes much sense. On and off, approach and avoidance. Hang in there -- eventually you will get closer to your daughter or you'll be over the walking on eggshells and be able to focus on other things in your life.

  23. I am in the process of getting to know my birth mother by letters through a social worker at the adoption agency which placed me at birth 40+ years ago. This thread is very helpful in that it is a reminder of how important it is to have reasonable expectations and to appreciate each other in the present. l am the one who initiated the search, and wrote the first letter. I was so relieved that she was alive and responded! For years I told myself I didn't need to open this "Pandora's Box". I didn't know how much it would mean to me. I am anxiously awaiting a second letter from her. My adopted parents have been very supportive, and they hope that I can have a positive relationship with her. We will see how it goes!

  24. I just want my mom back. My amom is my best friend has been for a long time. But there has always been something missing for me. Sometimes, when things aren't going so well I cry out for her, begging for her to guide me, to show me. And sometimes when things are going well, I talk out loud directly to her. Wishing she was there to giggle with me. I think of her, seriously, on a daily basis. But, as I am narrowing in on her with my active search and longing of our reunion I have one fear. That she won't understand the feelings I have carried for her for 50 years. The longing for her in my life, the needing of her in so many aspects of my life. I love my amom with all my heart. But I love my mom with all my heart and soul.

  25. My daughter found me 4 years ago. I was supicious that it was legit. She had info had done a search. She called me we talked I tried to verify and was given gov info that she could have but I WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE. TOO BAD She mentioned a serious illness. so that was a bit of a red flag for fraud. I returned he communications and she on the weekend never responded. PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE? I TOOK A SABATICAL THEN reached out. she still did not respond at a normal interval. She kept saying lets meet. Fianlly 4 years lateer she came here. I really do not find her someone I would want to know as a friend. She violated info about some dangerous teens that I knew about and pretended to shmooze them after I said it is important not to engage I HAD BIG REASONS...she defied wanting to look hip and non racist or something. She lives hundreds of miles away different state. She announced that she had bought me flowers and was so good to help someone out to buy some too. I LIVE IN A PLACE WHERE A CERTAIN ETHNIC GROUP GETS SCAMMED ALL THE TIME She was doing all this virtue signalling by being taken and tricked . Was she being defiant or trying to look cool? She continued not getting back to me on Christmas which is also 2 days after her birthday...so I put my foot down and said something on vm . There was no thought that maybe that time was sensitive for ME

  26. I pushed wrong key... want to finish...that she did not listen to her Birthday vm or text or Christmas ..same for days and then went back to actually listen AFTER / then insulted me. I think she was playing with me and trying to get back. I have never felt love for her. I feel guilty. I see her as inferior. in many ways. Also I admire what she had done with what she is. I grew up with a Mother who felt that way or tried to act like it. I have far surpassed my own Mother in being a paid Classical music performer. All these feelings and lack of truly friend -like between female relatives is a sorry state . I see some Mothers and daugters really on each others side.



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