' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: A relationship with my daughter goes awry. Reason unknown.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A relationship with my daughter goes awry. Reason unknown.

Jane and Lorraine, 1983
Just when everything is going swimmingly for a couple of years there, the tide shifts and the life raft of our relationship breaks apart again on the rocky shoals of Jane’s divided loyalties. 

She and I speak frequently, send each other presents, and appear to have found a comfortable plateau in our relationship. Our closeness, even with the disruption of adoption, reminds me of my relationship with my mother after I left home—we talked about once a week, everyday chitchat, and now Jane and I do the same: Here’s a recipe for a canapĂ© we call Memphis cheesies, made with Rice Crispies and cheddar. How’s Bill? He’s now working full time as a post man? Great. What’s Brittney up to? You got a steamer to “steam clean” your house? Whoa! Tony thinks I’m a clean freak, wait til he hears about this. Arthur is going to China to visit his daughter—you do remember she lives there? With Lulu, the girl she adopted from China? I’m painting the deck chairs white. You’re painting your bench yellow? You wanted that recipe for the turkey brine? Half apple juice, half water, cup of brandy, one and a half cups of salt.

One Thanksgiving Day she is a part of the event at our house, even though she is halfway across the country: She calls in the morning as my pumpkin pies are baking, she calls later when both our turkeys are roasting, she calls back later to chat with Evan [my husband's son] for nearly an hour before dinner, she calls again that evening to say her turkey came out great, using my brine recipe in her parent’s roaster. The symbolism us not lost on either of us—my recipe, their cooker, her turkey—and we joke about it. Christmas, January, early February, and all is well. 

Jane calls me crying one afternoon, seemingly moments after she heard Matt, the oldest of the two biological children of the Rhymers, has died in a skiing accident. A day or two later she is distraught as she tells me her parents are only planning on taking Tim, their natural son, and not her, to the memorial in a western state. I urge her to tell them that she wants to go; she does, and they buy her, and Britt, her daughter, tickets also. We speak a couple of times after she gets back. We have no fight, not even a whisper of an argument.

But then suddenly, a few weeks later, in early March, it is Wham Bam, thank you Ma’am, I’m outta here. First, she stops calling, second, she is cold and barely responsive the one time I manage to speak to her. Then I only get the machine. I call and listen to her husband's even voice on the answering machine, Please leave a message.

It obviously isn’t meant for me. I rack my brain trying to figure out what I might have said—after everything had been going so well—but come up with nothing. Her computer is dialup and she does not have email yet. Or email that I know about.  

What did I say, or do? 

All I can think is that for some reason she is going to show me how it feels to be abandoned, to have a relationship cut off without an explanation. It matters not that she found some psychic relief in my having searched for her, rather than having to find me, it matters not that we’ve been on cruise control for years now, she is punishing me in kind: She survived being abandoned, now it’s my turn. She would walk away and not look back.  

God, it hurt. 

Jane had pulled away before without a word, and then we’d resume relations as if there had been no break, but we’d been so close now for a couple of years and I mistakenly assumed that kind of inexplicable behavior was over. If she were an ordinary friend, I would have walked away long ago, not gone back into a relationship that made me crazy, that has so much power to hurt, that stops and starts seemingly without reason, that is so irrational.  

But Jane is my daughter. 

At the time, I do not know how common this is, but the blogs and the books are littered with stories like this: advance; retreat, advance, retreat, sometimes for good. B.J.’s [Lifton] mother sent her a printed card, Betty Jean cut off for a decade. There were other reasons—her mother was unwilling to tell the rest of the family about Betty Jean—but it was the printed card that stuck in her craw, and my memory. In the last few days, I’ve been in frequent contact with a woman who is in the process of mending a relationship with her natural mother, after cutting her off nine years earlier. Why? Because placating her adoptive parents who were freaking out over her new relationship with that woman—her other mother—and the adoptee found that balancing between the two, as well as managing her own family, was ultimately too much to handle. Understandable, right? But she had not bothered to tell her other mother that staying in touch was too emotionally fraught as long as her adoptive parents were so unhappy about it. 

What is so maddening is that when this kind of elimination from one’s life occurs, it happens without warning, without a clue why, without an explanation, and you are left there standing in the road wondering what the hell just happened. And that’s where I was.--lorraine 
Dusten Brown with his daughter Veronica shortly before he left for deployment with the National Guard. Provided
Dusten Brown and Veronica

Update on Veronica Brown. From the Charleston Post and Courier we learned that a Family Court judge on Monday ordered the immediate transfer of Veronica, who turns four next month, to her adoptive parents, and called for assistance from state and federal authorities after the girl’s father, Dusten Brown, failed to appear with his daughter for a court-ordered visit the day before.

Family Court Judge Daniel Martin's decree suspended a transition plan intended to gradually re-introduce the toddler to Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island, South Carolinia, whose adoption of the girl, now nearly four, was finalized recently in their home state. The decree also requests assistance from Dusten Brown’s commanding officer as he finishes a 30-day training mission with the Army National Guard. Martin’s order said he suspended the rest of the transition plan because Veronica “is being unlawfully withheld from her lawful parents.”

The Capobianco's home on James Island
Meanwhile, the Cherokee Nation, of which Brown is a member, and thus his daughter also, according to their laws, had already transferred custody of Veronica to Brown's wife and his family members, where she continues to live with them in Oklahoma, while Brown is completing his training elsewhere. In his order, Judge Martin asked Brown, or a representative of him, to show up in an Oklahoma court to comply with his order for immediate transfer. Brown might be able to challenge the adoption in Oklahoma, but as South Carolina has asserted its jurisdiction, according to the Post and Courier, that seems more unlikely. The adoption order was registered in the district court last Wednesday. Brown has 20 days to challenge it.

Baby Veronica's biological family: Court fight will move to Oklahoma
Veronica custody dispute likely to end with more confrontation, experts say
Judge orders Veronica’s prompt transfer, asks for prosecutors’ help after father misses visit

Adoptive father John Roberts: Not impartial in the Baby Veronica case 
 'Baby Veronica' adoption will go forward
Adoptive parent shares thoughts on having returned a girl to her mother



  1. Lorraine, I am sad reading about the pain that went with having a relationship with your daughter. I am a mother through adoption, and I do have my insecurities when I think about my son's possibly meeting his birthmother eventually, but I'll never hold my son back from her. Also, my son will be raised knowing that he must do the right thing and marry a girl if he gets her pregnant because I don't want him to put any girl through what Jane's father put you through.

  2. I feel the same as the title of this post: A relationship with my son goes awry. Reason unknown.

    I found my son three and a half years ago. We were five months into reunion and attempting to build a relationship and getting to know each other but then he stopped responding to my texts (we've never gone the email route and there was an obvious kibosh on emails and phone calls). The few responses I did get over the following year had been courteous yet curt. I've been puzzled as to why he's now silent. I feel like a dangerous intruder. We didn't have a fight, exchange harsh words, nor approached anything even considered a disagreement yet, no doubt about it, I've been dropped. Thank you for the reminder that 'retreat, approach, retreat' feels like what I'm experiencing, which I didn't recognize because it's been a gradual occurrence. I've been preparing myself for the possibility of not seeing him for a decade or so, which is such a crappy thing for two people who agreed to never let the other go ever, ever again. There are no guarantees in life and I may never see him again.

  3. Lorraine,

    Being new to this blog, I am slowly gathering the details of your tortured, beautiful, complex, remarkable family. This might sound presumptuous of me, but I feel a bit like a birth mother and that probably is what attracted me to sites like yours. Nina, while not my biological daughter, bonded very closely to me during her early months and years because her mother was too ill to pay attention to her. Now, at only 6 years old and being raised by her biological mother Rayna, Nina sometimes has conflicted feelings and expresses resentment that I "returned" her. She makes "returned" sound negative, like we "gave her back" because we tested her out and she was not the child we wanted. This feeling of resentment is reinforced because we do have an adopted son, Lenny, whom we chose to keep because, in her young eyes, he IS the child we wanted. Of course we talk a lot about how very much her mother always loved her and how hard she worked to get her back and how sad she would have been if we kept her, how we love her and want her very much too but would never have kept her from her mother, but that doesn't always make her feel reassured about our feelings toward her.

    While I feel that our families have formed as supportive and cooperative a network of love around Nina as possible, I have already begun to experience some of what you have posted here. There is a waxing and waning component to our relationship that is not lost on me and makes me feel vulnerable. With both Rayna and Nina, we go from periods of frequent, warm, very close contact to civil but distant times. Of all my relationships with people whom I love, those with Rayna and Nina have the most power to take me to the pinnacle of happiness or the depths of depression, depending on the amount of contact they want to have with me. And it is all up to them, of course, they have to power to decide how much contact they want with me - and they can change their minds at any time.

    The waxing and waning periods happen with no explanation - during the distant periods, I too go over and over what I could possibly have done wrong. I expect that this situation will only get more complex as Nina grows older. I am confident that in Nina's situation, the right thing was done and this is the best outcome for her, but still - doesn't mean she'll completely understand and it is a journey I must live to find out.

    Your writing is beautiful, by the way - and Jane was lucky to have you for a mother.


  4. Oh my gosh...we go through the same thing with our "birth" daughter too. Only she does it to our kids (her full-blooded sibs) as well, which hurts me worse I think. She comes on like gang-busters...can't get enough of us. Then, she disappears. I don't even know if she realizes that she does this. She is 28, and we have "been in reunion" since she was 9. You'd think we'd have established a comfortable pattern, but nope. It's so emotionally draining, and I'm sorry for ALL of us (adoptees included) that have to struggle with something that should be so normal.

  5. Jay, I'm sorry to hear that Nina does not understand what you went through, and how you made the right decision for her and her mother. One can only hope that one day Nina does completely understand. Knowing more about you makes me understand why the Veronica Brown case is so upsetting to you.

    Thank you for writing here. And just, thank you.

  6. Thanks Lorraine. In the end, I feel that when we bring children into our lives, it is our choice, not theirs, and we must love them enough to let them go. I am sure you understand that only too well. I wish for lifelong intimate bonds with Nina and Lenny, but will just have to see what happens as they grow. One is my former foster daughter, one is my adopted son - each presents its own complexities, yet each have enriched my life beyond my wildest dreams.

    As for Veronica Brown, I just found out that the Brown family suggested to the Capobiancos that they share custody of her - spend the school year with them in Oklahoma (where they offered to keep her in touch with her biological mother and those sibs as well), send her to the Capobiancos for the summer and alternate holidays. The Capobiancos rejected the offer. Terrible, terrible. Of course my strong reaction is shaped by my own experience - I keep seeing Rayna's face before my eyes and can't imagine doing to her what the Capobiancos are doing to the Brown family.

  7. Oh, Jay and everyone, that is so sad. I don't think the Capobiancos are aware what they are doing to the girl. Though they don't see it that way, they are treating her like a possession they feel they bought and entitled to. And they have the support of the girl's mother, and so they feel entitled to pursue this course of action. I cannot find any good feelings towards these people, or Justice John Roberts.

  8. I am an adoptee who just started my healing journey at 50yrs old. I think that maybe your daughter is suffering from ptsd symptoms probably brought on from the unfortunate trauma in her afamily. For me personally any feelings of loss can trigger my urge to push people away so I don't get close to them and I dont have to lose them ;(
    Im working on it :) you can see my story at http://www.adoptees-anonymous.com I hope you find each other again be patient good luck

  9. Oh Lorraine, this touches my heart but as an adoptee I "may" have some insight into why your daughter suddenly pulled away. I think it comes down to the plane ticket... being the one who wasn't invited and having to ask to be. I'm the person who wrote on another of your blogs where my fmom really didn't give - well I'll be polite - didn't care about me at all. The adoptees mindset is that you don't belong, you're not wanted, you're in limbo - not the person you were supposed to be but not really the person you've been expected to be in your afamily either. You have 2 names and you're both and yet neither. The plane ticket and not being invited is a slap in the face. If it were me, it would remind me once again that I'm the worthless one who got tossed away. If your daughter felt that way at all, I can understand why she would be angry at you for that. I think she's lucky that you at least cared for her as much as you do. I wish my mother felt the same for me.

  10. Er...I'm not the one who didn't include her going to a funeral for her other family...and it does get worse.

  11. please don't take this as an attack - I'm well aware that you had nothing to do with it. But I can see how potentially there is a connection for her where that being left out was a reminder that "you're not one of us, you're just the adopted kid". And in her mind, she is "the adopted kid" because you put her in that position.. hence the resentment and anger towards you even though it was her aparents that left her out.

  12. Understood. The reason for the break is coming.

  13. Anon 10:30am wrote:" The adoptees mindset is that you don't belong, you're not wanted, you're in limbo - not the person you were supposed to be but not really the person you've been expected to be in your afamily either. You have 2 names and you're both and yet neither."

    That's one of the best descriptions I've ever heard of being adopted. Adoptees are neither fish nor fowl. We are not 100% of our adoptive families nor our original families. It's a hard row to hoe.

  14. I'm aware my comment on this post is a year late, but I am not talking to my birth mom now and was researching things I could do to stop feeling guilty about it. I remembered as I read the comments about the push pull part of the relationship, and its natural/UN-natural cycle. My birth mom and I butt heads on a lot of issues and recently I had to cut off contact with her because her opinions about my life and my beliefs. I also carried the burden of having to be the one who did all the work. (make all calls, come visit) It is too much of a burden to carry all the weight of contact. In her eyes, if I do all the work, then it gives her acknowledgement that I want to have relationship. If I didn't call, then it means I do not want to have relationship. She recently posted an article on facebook about how you can't be a Christian and support gays, I commented respectfully about how I disagreed. She went off on me publicly about how I do not know the bible, and how I have never been happy. (I am very happy, I am doing my life's work, I have a wonderful loving boyfriend.) I respectfully commented back that this could have been a healthy debate, but it turned personal. I de-friended her and told her to take care of herself. My guilt is that I was supposed to have her in my life for the past 20 some years, but am I supposed to have her in my life for the next 20? Heavily burdened? Do not put all the pressure of contact on the adoptee to reach out to you, reach out if you want, if denied, let it go..

    1. Ann -- what I've said in many posts comes down to this: The People who want to be in your life will be, you don't have to go chasing after them.

      My daughter came and went a zillion times it feels like--it was probably only six or seven times over a quarter of a century, but it always hurt like hell and then she would always just call and say: How are you? and we'd pick up from there. In this particular case....her adoptive mother was the reason.

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