' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: People say the rudest things to first mothers

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

People say the rudest things to first mothers

What to say when someone says something inappropriate or downright offensive? As Thanksgiving weekend, the occasion of many a difficult moment, Jane and I thought we would open the blog up in the next few days to all of you who have ever heard a disturbing word that triggers anxiety around adoption. I'm going to start off with a few of the humdingers that I've heard and add here what I wish I had said:

Upon hearing that my daughter lived with me and my husband long enough to have a summer job and later, go to school looked up and said: “You are our worst nightmare,”—an adoptive grandfather at a dinner party, while the hostess was getting dessert. 

I should have said: You are mine.

His son went to Siberia to get a child, it turns out, simply to avoid women like me. The speaker had once been the director of a major cable arts channel. I said nothing because our hostess returned to the table and the subject was dropped. 


An attorney with several friends who have adopted; he is childless and is the god father of a girl adopted from another country: “What part of your pie chart was not selfish when you looked for your daughter?” 

I should have responded: What part of your pie chart is designated for compassion? This is beyond what even opposing attorneys have asked me in court, shithead. 

Our friendship has never really recovered. 

An acquaintance, her filters undoubtedly dimmed by wine: “You are nothing more than a reproductive agent!” 

Should have said: And you my dear, are nothing more than a crude ass. 

I said nothing, but got up and fled out the door. 

An adoptive mother, when I was referring to my daughter's adoptive parents: They are her parents, not her "adoptive" parents

I should have said: What am I, chopped liver? Or, Don't you think that might be a tad insensitive to say to me? She wouldn't have any parents without me, her natural mother! You will always be your (insert foreign country of origin here) daughter's adoptive mother. 

I was speechless and got felt myself go white in the face. Remember, my daughter had lived with my husband and me for several summers and later on for most of a year. I was way more than a distant part of my daughter's life. 

Said to me by strangers at social events, numerous times: I read your book. [Birthmark, the first memoir from a mother who relinquished.] Said with disapproving tone. Followed by silence. Now what? What can I possible say? 

I should have said: Your tone indicates you were not happy with it. Why is that? Perhaps you are adoptive parent whose adopted children have expressed no interest to you whatsoever about their original heritage? Don't you think that's strange? How have you raised them that they are not curious about their very existence? 

Said by a relative by marriage: I think adoptees ought to leave well enough alone and not cause all this trouble. You never know what they are going to find....This person knows me quite well, and has visited the country of her ethnic origin twice for family reunions. What could I say? I said: nothing. If she wasn't convinced already, I was not going to be able to change her mind. 

Jane here. Shortly after my daughter Rebecca was born and surrendered, I ran into some friends from college.  As we were talking, some acquaintances of theirs, a husband and wife, came by with a young baby. My friend mentioned that she had not know they were expecting a baby and the woman said "adopted."  The husband added with a short laugh, "Yeah--we're helping out some dumb girl." I wanted to add "Yeah, and some boy too." A little later, the baby kind of slipped in his mother's arms to an awkward position. The husband who was short said: "He's a big clumsy kid. They were supposed to match us but they didn't."

When I told a relative who was pushing her own daughter to give up her baby how painful it was to lose a child, she responded with "Well, that's just you. The other birth mothers I've known just felt relieved."

When I've criticized adoption in conversations with relatives, I've been told "That's how you feel; no one else [in the world] feels that way." Other times, they give me a warning look and tell me to "shhh."

Another relative scolded me for expressing negative thoughts about adoption.

I've heard many adoptees say "I want to find my birth mother so I can thank her for my wonderful life." They think they'd be complimenting her--when in fact thanking her is heard as a terrible insult meaning: Thank god you didn't raise me. What kind of life would I have had?

From an adoptive grandmother:  "My daughter and her husband are kind and loving people but the two boys they adopted are nothing but trouble. I suggested that it might be helpful for her, her daughter, and her daughter's husband to read some books about adoption, particularly The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child and Betty Jean Lifton's books. She gave me a puzzled look: "What's there to know?"  I also suggested that since her daughter had the birth mother's name, that perhaps meeting her would be helpful to the boys. She shook her head. "I don't understand why that would be helpful; my daughter is their only mother."

Years ago when I was practicing law, a man came to see me about a divorce. He said he and his wife had two adopted children. I told him that no matter that they were adopted, he would have to pay child support. He responded indignantly "I never wanted those kids. I just signed the paper to make her happy." I was stunned; adoptive parents were supposed to be perfect. wanted to say: "How dare you! Mothers lost their kids so they could have a stable parent family." I said nothing and I did not end up representing him.

My boss invited me and other employees to a shower for a colleague who with his wife just adopted a baby girls from Korea. I had to congratulate them and pretend to enjoy the event.

Of course we didn't say any of these things we imagined saying because we turnabout is not fair play in adoption. Consider the bickering that went on at the last post (and is still as I write tonight) when I expressed the concept that friends and family seem to think it is permissible to be insensitive to our lifelong pain. 

Several wrote that it was insensitive of us--to still react to such triggers, or to even talk about it here, at a place that should be safe for first mothers [see name of blog], because "they [adoptive parents] were not to blame" for the adoption of our children. You can "not be to blame" for the death of a loved one, or someone who was raped, but most people in polite society would consider it imperative to at least be sensitive to that particular individual's pain. This seems to be a concept they cannot grasp, and prefer to tell us we are wrong. We say having to deal with an adoption even decades later causes pain; they say, but we didn't cause your pain. Right. We get that. But what do you say to people who are hurting because they were say, sexually assaulted? Can you simply be sympathetic without being defensive and saying: But we didn't rape you! Why don't you want to let us continue talking about sexual assault? That you can't be sympathetic because you didn't do the assault? 

This is not a closed blog, and we wouldn't have it that way. We learn too much from too many people to do that. But what became incredibly clear was that first mothers are supposed to suck it up and never react to their sorrow when reminded of it--because that might bring someone down. Jane and I got tired of trying to explain, and in our own macabre way, made some sick jokes. Then we were criticized for that because, well, that caused more irritation and was inappropriate. It was not other first mothers who got upset. 

In short, the indignities never seem to stop coming, whether you are "out" or "in the closet" still as a birth mother. But if more of us do speak up whenever we can, we will make a difference. We have come a long ways since the days when to admit you gave up a child was nearly impossible. Now celebrities are even beginning to come out: Joni Mitchell, Kate Mulgrew, Mercedes Ruhl, Patti Smith. We know there must be many more. But we still have a long ways to go. Every time we can manage to speak up--and though our responses are what we would like to have said, we should go down into the well of our being and find more tact, though still make our point. With tact. But sometimes tact gets in the way of making the point. Sometimes honesty trumps tact. 

We invite all first mothers--and adoptees--to add to the blog and tell us what insensitive things have been said to you, and how you wish you had responded. Have a happy Thanksgiving!--lorraine and jane

As with same-sex marriage, difference of opinion on adoption is way beyond 'disagreement'
Why Ellen Page and the movie Juno bugs me--even years later
Why not choose adoption? The longterm effects of relinquishing on first mothers
How to Answer: Do you have any children?
Explaining Adoption Reform Issues to the Hip, Educated Masses

RECOMMENDED READING Waiting to Forget: A Motherhood Lost and Found
A fabulous memoir by Margaret Moorman, published in 1996.  
Waiting to Forget is a mother's story of coming to terms with the child she gave up for adoption over thirty years ago. In 1965 Margaret Moorman was unmarried, pregnant, and still in high school. Forced by societal pressures to give her baby up, she suffered emotional trauma both before and for years after the birth. At forty, she gave birth to a daughter and found herself terrified by the possibility of losing her younger child, a fear she can now trace back to her uncertain decision to give up her son. 

The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child
A therapist, adoptive mother, and biological mother challenges some long held assumptions about the impact of being relinquished and adopted into a non-biological family. Controversial to some, but always a consistent source for adoptees, first parents, and adoptive parents. 



  1. I have a friend who I was discussing open adoption with once who told me that mothers only stay in contact with their children to get money out of the adoptive parents. Another friend of mine cut me off once, saying that "adoption isn't all bad" in response to me telling her a specific story about my reunion with my child. This same friend also knows someone who adopted. Of course prior to adopting, the PAP had a situation where the mother changed her mind. I had to hear my friend's rant about how awful it was that the mother could change her mind after the PAP had met and held the baby. When I responded that it was probably for the best for the child to stay with her mother, my friend told me that it didn't matter because the baby would grow up on welfare.

    I have a sister who adopted. I was going to talk about this situation in the prior post but by the time I saw it, the comments had gotten completely off the original topic. My sister told me that through the sessions she was required to attend by the adoption agency, PAPs learn that "all birthmothers aren't monsters." I heard her outrage at finding out that being in the delivery room was considered to be coercive (which still didn't stop her from going to the hospital for the birth). I heard all about the many "situations" that she turned down, one of which was adopting a child who was the product of rape because she didn't want a child with a rapist's genes.

    All of these people knew that I had relinquished my daughter and that it was incredibly painful for me. Most of the time I did respond to these hurtful comments so I don't have to regret that I didn't say anything or wish I had a witty comeback. However, it was almost worse because I couldn't change their minds. It just makes me feel invisible.

  2. Eileen, those are pretty painful situations you describe, especially with adoption so close to home. As I said in the previous post, I didn't have to deal with it in my immediate family, as you have. And like you, I often don't say anything because I know I won't change anyone's mind. The comment that was the most shocking to me was the relative who thought closed adoptions ought to stay...closed, adoptees and first mothers ought not to "open that can of worms." What could I say that would change that individual's mind? Nothing. I didn't feel invisible, but I know what you mean. I felt, like, has everything about me that you know been for naught? Am I just blowing smoke?

    Yes, the comment conversation at the last post went in another direction, and that is how Jane and I decided to do a whole new post about the situation of hearing hurtful comments. Thanks for saving your story for this one.

  3. I think the most hurtful thing that was ever said to me was that my loss of my daughter to adoption and her placement with the people who raised her was "meant to be." No...never. A pregnancy is meant to make that pregnant woman/girl a MOTHER...not to allow someone else to lie and pretend. I am told that I am not her parent, but for quite a few weeks, I was her only legal parent and, for all the years after, in my heart and in my pain, I WAS A PARENT. The adoptive parent who can really generate compassion for the natural mother is a rare bird. You see, if they feel that compassion, then they have to accept with it the truth that the mother and infant should have never been separated based on youth, income, education or "what the neighbors might think." And to think that we were 'relieved' or that we 'got over it' is wishful thinking on their parts as is the idea that this was something we were not coerced into. We were brainwashed, coerced, threatened with a life on the streets or worse and a life of misery for our babies. Yeah..not coerced? I don't think so.

  4. Said by one party guest as an aside to another about me when I was sitting with my cousins' twin adopted babies. I was admiring the babies and the one woman said to the other, "Don't leave her alone with those babies! Watch her! You know how 'those women' are! She'll try and steal them!"

    Said to me by an acquaintance who had no idea I was a first mother, "You know how those birth mothers are! They're all sluts!"

    Said by me to an employer after he found out I was a first parent. "I'm firing you because birth mothers have questionable morals."

  5. Dear Lorraine and Jane,

    Anonymous here (the anonymous who was fired from her job). I'd like to add one more if I may.

    I went into therapy a few years back to deal with my issues around adoption. I specifically asked that whoever counseled me not be IN ANY WAY connected to adoption. The counselor they paired me with told me on my second visit that she had a confession. "My mom dropped me off at the side of the road one day and never came back. She abandoned me and I'm hoping that if I help you with what you did I can learn to forgive her."

    Of all the terrible things that have been said to me, I think that was the worst. :-(

    1. The Catch 22 is we hear that that adoptees seldom get adoption-oriented therapists who COULD understand the burden and conflict in being forced to be a "well-adjusted adoptee" in an abnormal status, while you were hoping for a neutral counselor despite that stats (by Benchmark Surveys and others) suggest "58% of the U.S. population is "touched by adoption" so the odds were stacked against you. It's also rare for a person's views to NOT be shaped according to his/her personal experience and biased perspective.

    2. Oh,my gosh....I am so sorry that happened to you. So many things in today's post are horrible...this must have been like a punch in the gut...this is the worst.... I am so sorry that you had to go through that...such a betrayal by those who are supposed to 'help'.


  6. Despite my son being treated terribly by his adoptive mother, I was still prompted to remember that 'after all, she did do everything except give birth to him'.

    That hurt. It erased the hugeness and depth of my experience, carrying him so closely to me and talking to him as he grew, giving birth to him and all the immense and unforgettable feelings that accompanied that. I guess it was intended to erase me, and to provoke a sense of unending guilt and gratitude in my son towards his adoptive mother.

    A friend gave me some perspective:

    'Let's be more accurate here. She didn't do everything except give birth to him. She did everything from the point of his adoption onwards.'

    Subtle but crucial difference.

    She also added 'And now he's come to find you. Now you can do things for him too!'.

    The second really hurtful thing I want to mention involves the sympathy my dad has towards my son's adoptive parents.
    He is most sorry for them.

    Not me, his daughter who lost her son because her mum and dad didn't help.

    Not my son, his grandson, who lost his rightful place in our family and lived where he wasn't loved as fully and as unconditionally as he deserved, and who thought for so long that his mother didn't love him or that there was something wrong with him for not being kept.

    No, my dad reserves his sympathy for my son's adoptive parents.

    He also gives my sister's daughter money for Christmas and her birthday, in front of me, knowing that I am going to see my son the following day, whose birthday is a few days after my neice's (which I make known). I stand there, watching my dad not acknowledging me as a mother, or my son as my son (his grandson), even though he has recently spent an important family weekend with us all.

    I thought of saying something, and if anyone has any advice I'd love to hear it. But I feel I can't demand he gives him a gift, and I actually think my son would be horrified if I did that. I've already told him I wanted him to include my son in his will on an equal level to my neice, and he berated himself that he hadn't thought of it. Perhaps he was just being an old fella, but it stil really hurt.

    Sigh. On it rolls, on and on...

    1. Just a little update, six months later...

      Out of the blue, and without me saying anything, my dad sent me a cheque, saying £*** was specifically for my son for him to enjoy as he felt like. I thanked him for thinking of my son, and he said 'No need to thank me, it feels natural now'.

      So he has emotionally evolved, I feel. Thank goodness.

    2. Thank you for your original post and for this update. It is very gracious of you to acknowledge that he has evolved....there are those who would hold a grudge forever. I wish you the best.

    3. Cherry, nice update. Thanks for posting.

  7. Believe it or not the worst things ever said to me were due to adoption via my(very)abusive adoptive mother's mouth. There were no smart replies I could of given her because the outrageous words and insults that she has said to my face only deserved a smack across hers which I wish I still could give her.

  8. It's not adopters' fault that our children were adopted?


    Well, whose fault is it then? The Easter Bunny? Santa Claus?

    I was talking about this on Facebook--about the way the market works in adoption.

    Adopters claim that the market for adoption is all supply-side. That they can only adopt babies because "birthmothers" already gave them up.

    Except that's not how an infant adoption happens and it's not how quite a few of the older-child adoptions happen either. (For example, these people who adopt the children of deployed military servicemembers against the parents' will. Yes, this is A Thing, and it didn't start with Terry Achane or Dusten Brown.) Instead, the market for adoption in these cases is driven by people who want to adopt a child. They go to an agency, express that desire and the agency goes out and procures children for them. Or when there's not an agency involved, these people go to court and petition a judge. The agency does not have a storage building where they keep a ready supply of babies for PAPs. That family-court judge does not come to your house and offer you a child to take into your home.

    In other words, the market for adoption isn't supply-side, it's demand-side. If that weren't true, there wouldn't be (as I saw one adopter putting it someplace or another) ten PAPs waiting for every newborn baby.

    If no one out there wanted to adopt a child, the state would have to come up with another solution to deal with families in crisis. It already does this with some families that have demonstrably created a poor environment for their children: it invented the foster care system. Most people won't adopt those kids, and many of the kids aren't available for adoption in the first place due to their situations being temporary. So this is the state's solution.

    Adoption happens because PAPs want it to happen and for no other reason. If they all decided to get a pet rock instead, and I dearly wish they would, no young families would be split up as is now happening. They might use temporary foster care til they get on their feet, they might seek out kinship care from time to time, but they wouldn't be permanently and legally deprived of their children (or the children deprived of their parents).

    We give these people too much of a pass when we accept demonstrably inaccurate arguments from them. They need to face up to their own responsibility. Sooner rather than later would be excellent.

  9. It has been 49 years since my daughter was born. We've been reunited for almost 25 years. I've gone through so many cycles of hurtful comments, "wish I had saids" ... way to many to list. I was extremely active in the adoption reform movement for 20 years or so...am still. I have presented at several conferences surrounding adoption education, awareness, reform etc. I've been able to educate folks on "my" perspective on the adoption process, and currently facilitate a search and support here in Arkansas (the only one in the state, I believe). What has come of all the pent-up responses I did not make, the oftentimes paralyzing ambushes, I have developed a knee-jerk reaction to one comment I often hear in "polite society."
    When hearing the "joking" remark referring to the cost of some decision, or option that someone will say: "THAT WILL COST YOU YOUR FIRST BORN." No matter where I am, no matter what the surrounding situation, I reply (loudly, usually) "I don't recommend that...I did that...it is extremely painful." I don't go any further...I just let it hang there...I have done this for so many years, that I actually enjoy watching the reactions. People rarely respond, but I absolutely LOVE the stunned silence that follows my rude outburst...Once in a while someone will come to me and ask questions. I always do what I can to educate folks, let tham know that random comments can/do hurt. This may seem crass to you; I guess it has become my very own ramdom "ACT-UP" or civil disobedience.

  10. I think the most hurtful thing that was ever said to me (and believe me, there were plenty), was by my own son, who claimed that "god put him where he was supposed to be", at our first and only meeting. The years in my life following that fateful day I left the hospital without him were pure hell for me at times and that is what he say's to me. I realize that was not him talking, but his adopters. Brainwashing at it's finest.

    I guess their god told them to cut me off and give me no updates after just a few years too.

    That god, such a nice deity he is, eh? Not to natural mothers, apparently.

    1. my aparents often say: God chose you to stay with us.

    2. And the bastard condemned your mother to hell on earth...don't tell me She works in mysterious ways. Another reason to be an agnostic ethicist.

  11. Rather than dredge up old misery, (not that I do not have any) here is something a little different. This is from a poem a day list I am on. I thought it was lovely and relevant to the adoption experience. A peaceful Thanksgiving to all.


    What the Heart Cannot Forget by Joyce Sutphen

    Everything remembers something. The rock, its fiery bed,
    cooling and fissuring into cracked pieces, the rub
    of watery fingers along its edge.

    The cloud remembers being elephant, camel, giraffe,
    remembers being a veil over the face of the sun,
    gathering itself together for the fall.

    The turtle remembers the sea, sliding over and under
    its belly, remembers legs like wings, escaping down
    the sand under the beaks of savage birds.

    The tree remembers the story of each ring, the years
    of drought, the floods, the way things came
    walking slowly towards it long ago.

    And the skin remembers its scars, and the bone aches
    where it was broken. The feet remember the dance,
    and the arms remember lifting up the child.

    The heart remembers everything it loved and gave away,
    everything it lost and found again, and everyone
    it loved, the heart cannot forget.

    "What the Heart Cannot Forget" by Joyce Sutphen, from Coming Back to the Body. (c) Holy Cow! Press, 2000. Reprinted with permission.

  12. Dear Lorraine Dear Jane,
    At this right moment the law don't give me the chance to talk about it.
    You know I completely agree with this post. They still want mother to stay in their closet.

  13. the latest......at the birth of my 4th grandchild but the first of my raised daughter....I have a very failed reunion.....from my SIL..." first of your grandbabies who've been able to really enjoy and be a major part of xx " quoted directly from my phone....
    yeah right......I really need reminding.....
    passive agressive much?

  14. Thank you all so far for the comments. I hope this post is not upsetting, but giving everyone a chance to vent all the things that have been said, and that you will go into Thanksgiving with at least a certain prepared mindset for what might be said, and be ready to deal with it.

    Love the poem, Maryanne, thank you; Love the idea of responding to "this will cost you your first born" which is something I have never heard.

    I do think sometimes people say triggering things non-maliciously. Is it possible, Jan Louise, that the SIL was merely acknowledging that she has not forgotten your sorrow? First mothers often talk about how the lost child was never even acknowledged in the least in the family, and how that hurt--this is quite the opposite. SIL might not have meant to be offensive, but actually quite the opposite. I understand your reaction totally--who needs to be reminded? But she may understand your sorrow more than you realize, and that comment was meant in good will. Maybe tell her how you reacted that day? It might do some good. Yet I do know how difficult this could be. I'm thinking of two conversations I could have that I have just held back from having.

    I'm also sure that adoptees have heard a lot of doozies that are horribly insensitive and hurtful.

  15. All of these comments come out of ignorance (not knowing) rather than hate or intending to hurt the other party. When I was searching for my BParents with the help and support of my AParents I had many non adopted friends ask why I wanted to find "my real mom". I had to correct them and say I have two real moms the one that raised me and the other who due to societal pressures placed me for adoption. It was by educating them that I was able to help them not make ignorant comments to future adoptees. I think we in the adoption community can help do that rather than get nasty with people. Those who are closed minded won't listen in matter what but those who are open minded are more likely to listen if we avoid being nasty to the ignorant party on the other side.

    -An Infertie Adoptee

  16. My best friend insulted me last fall when I confided in her that I should have kept my first son. She said "you would not have been a good mother"!
    This is the same best friend who knew my first son's father while her was in Viet Nam in 1969 and then helped me find a photo of my self at age 19 when I needed one for my reunion with my first son. I could not believe she said that to me. In response (I always turn the other cheek) I told her it was very hard for an outsider to understand the feelings of another mother of loss in our situations unless they had experienced such a loss. Then left the restaurant very upset and hurt by her rude comment. All because my best friend's niece adopted two boys that are biological brothers. So of course adoption trumps being adopted or being a first mother. Now she is no longer even a friend. Just wish adopters and their cohorts would be a little more open to honesty.

  17. A little late weighing one, but I've some comments that really hurt.

    1. "Nobody can FORCE you to give up a baby" I said Really? Homelessness was the only option given to me by my family. What should I have done?

    2. "Well, I'm sorry you have a hard time with this. My adopted daughter's birthmother said that she loved her so much, she gave her away" I said, Crap-you didn't really tell her that did you?

    3. And the ever popular "I don't know why your "birthson" spends so much time with you - it must kill his "real" parents" I'm still trying to think what to say about that........

  18. when describing how i was treated during my maternity home, delivery and surrender experience; "that can't be true. you are out of the universe with this." or how about "i am convinced that you BELIEVE all that happened" or "how much did you get for the baby" or " you deserve this for giving away your baby" ( said in the context of being beaten by my ex. or after i had my second child ..."ah, one you can keep!" or "my boyfriend would never let me become a statistic. or my father, (who refused to help me in any way when my child was born, but helped my two sisters keep their little bastards) when he learned i was searching "...now, i know you are curious, but it's JUST curiosity..."

    i think it is counterproductive to respond to these insults. my respose has been to look at the speaker as though they are a specimen under a microscope; ie, coldly and clinically.

    i think silence is a good response to such incredible ignorance, rudeness, thoughtlessness, cluelessness, and/or stereotyping, myself.

  19. "All of these comments come out of ignorance (not knowing) rather than hate or intending to hurt the other party."............

    Although I know this wasn't meant to be dismissive in any way on the part of the poster, this type of generalization is an example of how first parents are marginalized.

    To say that ALL comments against first parents come out of ignorance is a sort of backhanded, though unintentional, justification of those comments. It's as if, in believing they weren't meant to hurt us, that in turns excuses them. It does not.

    The point of Jane and Lorrain's original post as I understand it is to point out that such comments are rude and hurtful no matter the intent behind them.

    And I would also respectfully submit that many hateful things said to first parents, myself included, were said deliberately by people who should have known better given that they saw what we went through.

  20. As a teen firstmother from the BSE, I've had many rude things said to me. If I had to pick one, I'd choose being told that "I abandoned my baby" which is rude, crude, hurtful and plain wrong. Conversely, I supposedly made "the loving, selfless choice." In reality, I was duped and my child was taken.

  21. My least favorite comments are:

    "How could you give you child up? You were an adult, you could have kept him?" (I was 19, and still solely dependent on my parents.)

    "What a wonderful gift you gave to a childless couple!" (My son was not a gift. I did not decide to give him up. I was pressured into it.)

    "You made the right decision." (Uh, not... see above)

    "Don't you wish you hadn't found him," after our reunion went awry. NO! I would never wish not to find him and know him, regardless of the outcome.

    I wish people with no experience with adoption would think before they speak.

  22. There is no way "You are our worst nightmare" comes out of ignorance. This was a highly educated media professional who said this to me; nor did "What part of your part chart was not selfish when you searched for your daughter?" by an attorney. Or: screamed at me (by cultured friend of "nightmare" grandfather, whose son went to Siberia to avoid a first mother issue: You are nothing more than a reproductive agent.

    Out of ignorance? Really? You are making it difficult for me not to say something snarky.

  23. Some things I've heard as an adoptee:

    From my 18 yr old brother (I'm 50) "You will never be part of our immediate family", "You do not meet our families standards for niceness". From Dad, "I agree with what my son said".

    From Mom, "I call you the spoiler", "Please don't contact me so I can heal from my operation, no cards, no flowers"

    From my bio cousin, regarding her mother's wedding, "There was no reason to think you would want to be invited", and "There was no reason for anyone to question your death, and your are wrong for thinking that".

    From my Dad's sister, "The family heirlooms were divided among the 5 siblings. If you want anything you can ask your father, if you had a better relationship with him", and the ever popular, "I wish I was adopted".

    From both Mom and Dad, separate occasions, "I wouldn't mind if I were adopted".

    From everyone, most recently a co-worker, "Your real mother is the one who raised you".

    There are more, but I'm tired.

  24. One of the kindest things anyone ever said to me, was said by my husband: People might say you wouldn't have been a good mother, but you might have been. There is no way of knowing. You never had the chance.

  25. There have been *so many* but the one that stands out the most at the moment is when adoptive mom and I were discussing "birth"daughter coming out and confessing she was gay. Amom said to me, "I don't have anything against gay people...I just didn't want to raise one!" and kinda giggled. She said that TO ME...HER MOTHER. I *should* have replied, "Well then, give her back to me! I would have cut off an arm and a leg to raise her!" Gay or not, that's my kid!! Conceived, carried, and birthed by ME. Ugh...and of course several comments about amom being the *real* Mom...made by amom herself. :/

  26. This is an outstanding post, and the comments, while often painful to read, are also cathartic. Our voices need to be heard.

    Where to begin with hurtful comments??? I think the most frequent one I've gotten when I've dared to attempt to talk about relinquishing my son has been "I could NEVER do THAT!" or some variation of the phrase (i.e. "how COULD you...?") I never knew how to respond to that, but in more recent years, I might be inclined to say "when your back is against the wall, you don't have much of a choice. I hope you never experience that."

    Another time, shortly after giving birth, and DESPERATELY wanting to talk about my newborn son as any proud new mother would be, I was met with a screaming banshee in the form of a friend's mother, who berated me at the dinner table, actually screaming at me for having the audacity to talk about my baby after I "abandoned" him. I could only get choked up with tears, but I should have left the house.

    Another time, I received yet another picture of my son that was half a picture, his sister being cut out. I got a number of these kinds of photos in my "semi open" adoption. I assumed it was the adoptive parents doing this, but now I realize it was probably the agency, but who knows. I never asked. Anyhow, I complained to a "friend" that I wish I could have a whole, in-tact picture of my son that was not something cut from a larger photo. She lit into me, saying I had NO RIGHT to my son, and how DARE I expect ANYTHING AT ALL because I gave up that right when I signed those papers. I was stunned. My son's parents chose to send me pictures and updates, even if they were minimal, and while I am very happy I got what I got, I had to be a good little birthmommy and not complain about any of it, I suppose. But beyond that, my "friend" felt I shouldn't get any information at all and she was very angry about the whole thing. It is interesting to me because she had a baby at 16 or 17 that she was struggling to raise, and I often think SHE thought I took the "easy way out." As if....

    There are so many more instances, I could go on and on here. I'll stop for now.

    Hope everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving And here's a shout out to Anon xoxo

  27. Wonderful post.
    Being a Birth Mother I am so glad now so many never knew till I was in my 50's and they knew enough about me that they kept their opinions to themselves :) I will always speak my mind and piece. Great BLOG

    Since I have met my son I can well imagine the things he overheard at all the gatherings they showed him off at today as Thanksgiving nears I am so thankful to have him back in my life and know that he knows he was LOVED, because he was.

  28. Hi Lorraine,
    The kind words do help and I'm glad your husband had some for you. Your actions with your daughter throughout your relationship indicate that you would've been a good mother. My husband has been supportive and both he and my raised son have told me several times that I've been an awesome mom. When I found my daughter, I made it a priority to be the best mother I could be as I'm sure you and others have done as well. I suspect we were trying to make up for lost time which of course was an impossible task but nonetheless one worth attempting!

  29. First of all, I think we all need to cut ourselves some slack when we don't think of the perfect retort at the time something rude is said to us. This happens with everything, not just comments that are adoption related. With that said, here are some of my experiences.

    "Your mother did what she thought was best for you."

    No, she didn't. She thought it would be awful to be given away by one's own parents. She was forced.

    "My cousins adopted a child. She's a teenager now and she's fine with it."

    I wish I knew her secret. Although since she is still a teenager, I wonder if she has really processed what being adopted means. Plus she is still financially dependent and under the influence of her APs.

    "Everyone suffers loss. Adoption is no different. My grandfather died before I was even born, so I never got to know him."

    I lost my entire family on both sides, and the way the laws are structured I was NEVER supposed to even know who they are. Besides, your grandfather would have fully accepted you. As Cherry implied in her wonderful comment (11/26/13 at 11:57 am), adopted people are often not fully accepted in either family, and often feel like neither fish nor fowl.

    At a social gathering with people of all ages where a couple of adoptive grandparents insisted on referring to their adopted granddaughter, at all times, as the ADOPTED grandchild. The bio-grandchildren were referred to as the grandsons or by their first names.

    I really wanted to ask them if they considered the girl to be their grandchild at all. It seemed to me that they didn't. I was also tempted to ask what they were planning to do about inheritance. Would the adopted granddaughter be left out? I suspected she would be, but of course it wasn't appropriate to bring up such issues. Sometimes we have to pick our battles.

    It is still socially unacceptable in this culture to speak of adoption as anything but good and right. Even when people are so blatantly showing how stigmatized adoptees are.

    I wish I had 13 billion dollars a year to counteract the adoption industry's message.

  30. Really lovely poem, Maryanne, most fitting to the adoption experience. Thank you. Also a thank you for people like Lorraine's husband. What he said was kind and wise and so true.

  31. I am adopted and when I was very excited and happy and sharing the story of my reunion with coworkers, a woman who spoke broken English understood enough to say, "a mother is the one who raises the baby, (implying the birth mother isn't the child's "mother"). I have been told that my identity isn't important. I have had a lot of close friends be outwardly prejudice about my Moslem nationality and my brother's Mexican nationality-- yes we weren't raised in the culture of our nationalities-- we know nothing about Moslem or Mexican cultures, but we physically resemble members of that culture. Our friends and family don't associate us with our ethic nationalities, but it still makes us feel isolated. People of those cultures think we are part of their culture, but we tell them we are adopted. In other words people adopt, and try to forget the baby was a certain ethnicity, since they got the baby as a baby to shape their way.

  32. Awww...you guys have me crying. You see, I somehow never thought I would be a mother, told my mother that when I was five or six, she of course didn't believe me--what I actually said was that I would die if I ever had a baby. That was my story and I was sticking to it!

    Then at 18 I met a young man named Tom--on Thanksgiving Day, oddly enough at my cousin's wedding--and somehow the two of us screwed things up enough that we did not get married. Then, we both had daughters a few months apart. He was married and got to keep his daughter; metaphorically, I did die because giving her up was the worst thing, the hardest thing I ever did, the worst thing that ever happened to me, and her.

    Most of you reading here know the rest of the story. Tom died in 1977, days before his divorce was final; today his daughter and I are an alternate universe mother and daughter pair. Her birthday is tomorrow, we just got off the phone. ♥

    (For those who have no idea what I am talking about, our whole story can be found if you search for Alternate Universe Daughter in the search option on the Home page.)


  33. Lorraine, my lovely husband said something similar to me as yours did to you. I felt truly, deeply loved by his understanding.

    Referring to my earlier post...

    I know exactly why my father, my son's grandfather, behaves the way he does to both me and my son. Guilt. He could've helped me when I was pregnant but he didn't, and that lack of help from both my parents led directly to my son being adopted.

    But rather than deal with his uncomfortable feelings of guilt, he chooses to ignore the vast suffering of me and my son. And each time he does that, I love my dad less.

    When I got married, my son sat right by my side, with my new husband right on the other side.

  34. ... and - despite the failings of my parents even today - my sisters, niece, cousins and husband love my son. Adore him. As do I.

  35. Walking out of the Vince Vaughn movie, Delivery Man, my husband said "A real father is the man that raises you." Really, you say that to me, a first mother? Geesh! I get that depositing sperm is different than carrying a baby for nine months, but still, geesh. No compassion for all the young adults struggling with identity in the movie. DNA does matter!
    My husband has never been able to be compassionate of my utter sorrow over losing my daughter to adoption. I don't go to him for compassion; just don't talk to him about it at all. One more reason it helps so much that Lorraine and Jane do this for us. It's so nice to come to a place where we are understood and acknowledged.
    Rita (my anonymous name)

  36. Rita: The best way to post anonymously but so that it doesn't come up as just another ANONYMOUS (with your name at the end, thank you) is to click on the "Name/URL" option and just put in the name you want. YOU DO NOT NEED TO LEAVE URL.In your case, Rita. For next time! And for all other readers too. It is not clear the way it is set up by Google.

  37. I am convinced that the general population is completely ignorant. I met a woman at a party last month who mentioned that she was adopted. I told her that we adopted our daughter at birth and told her a little bit about what having an open adoption is like. She said emphatically that her adoptive parents were her REAL parents, that she had NO NEED or INTEREST in ever finding or meeting her first mother and that she was confused why anyone would think that was necessary. I explained to her briefly about the Baby Scoop Era, what society's views on unwed mothers/children without fathers was like in the early 1960's when she was born, and that her first mother probably had no choice in placing her for adoption. She was probably forced to make that decision out of duress by her parents. The woman said, "Well, she had the choice to HAVE SEX!!!". Ummm, yeah, her and every OTHER person out there! Ack! The conversation went down hill from that point. Another incident happened last week when my daughter's 6th Grade class attended a middle school assembly called Aim For Success in which abstinence until marriage is discussed/promoted! During the discussion the instructor made some very ugly analogies basically equating people who have sex before marriage to "damaged goods" and that no one would want to marry them! My 11-year old raised her hand and informed him that she was adopted and what he was saying was disrespectful to adoptees and their first parents. The instructor used this as a perfect example of why you need to wait until your married to have sex! My daughter again raised her hand and told the instructor that what he was saying was rude, untrue, and that he needed to stop saying it. Evidently all hell broke loose...followed shortly thereafter by a phone call home from the school counselor and principal. So, I absolutely agree that people are completely stupid sometimes! But I am hopeful that if the people who's lives have been impacted by adoption speak up and share their experiences and perspectives that it will light a glimmer somewhere in these people's minds. If we keep our mouths shut, though, that is never going to happen. And I don't have to point out that I adhere to the principle that if someone is rude, you have EVERY right to let 'em have it both barrels blazing! ;)

  38. My mom was pressured into giving me up when I was born... she's talked about how painful of an experience it was for her, and I can only imagine. Reading so many of your experiences makes me so sad. I am so grateful my mother and I found each other again, and I only feel like our lives have been "righted" since we've been brought back together. I am also grateful so many in my family... birthfamily or adopted family... have been so loving and understanding towards both my mom and me.

    For those of you who have heard such hurtful comments from people, particularly from the children taken from you, please just remember... they are wrong. You don't deserve that hate; you deserve love and understanding, and I'm really glad there are forums like this one to at least try to make that clear.

  39. My younger son was reunited when he was 15. After almost a year of letter writing, then phone calls he and I flew to his home country to visit his mother and family. It really was a very good visit despite the language difficulties. His whole family welcomed us, and they were so glad to have their grandson, nephew, cousin, brother back in their lives although only his mother, aunt, and grandmother had known about him prior to our search.

    At that first visit he said to me, I really love my mother and family but I think I had a better life being adopted and living in the United States. I said no, I think you had a different life but not necessarily better. Keep in mind, he was 16 and, as such, "things" were important, especially electronic things. He saw the material possessions he had that he wouldn't have had. I reminded him of how good a mother his mother was to his little sister. She was a good mother, she didn't have support from her family to keep her son. But if she had she'd have been a good mother. Now he is almost 31 (in 2 weeks) and he's living in his home country with his wife and sons. I think he sees now that his life wasn't better, or worse, just different. I know we have been blessed and not everyone has been so fortunate but there is room for two mothers in one life.

  40. RMB - what a lovely, lovely post. Thank you, it means a lot to hear that.

  41. I have read the ongoing comments to this post and the previous post with overwhelming sadness at the disdain shown first mothers and adoptees - countered to some extent by the embracing, understanding compassion of a few. I wish I had more time to comment but my days right now are consumed by work and by finding ways to help a mother help herself and her daughter - so they can stay together forever.

    It is incumbent upon us APs to understand that adoption happens most often through circumstances far different from that of a "sinning mother, recognizing her "mistake" and then trying to find kind, benevolent APs who will help her move past that mistake." Long past the Baby Scoop Era, we have complex sets of circumstances, familial and socio-economic, that lead to vulnerability and insidiously forced relinquishment. The desire of APs, for babies in particular but often young children as well, adds to the subtle but decidedly successful manipulation of first mothers. I want to thank Tiffany, Cherry, Robin and others for your insightful comments. I want to add that I am disturbed by J (the formerly anonymous AP?) whose language, while seemingly conciliatory in her later posts, still exudes a feeling of superiority over what she appears to view as these stupid first mothers who go out there, engage in promiscuous activity and make "mistake" babies.

    I want to end on a hopeful note as we approach this Thanksgiving. As I seek out sources and people to help Rayna, the mother of my former foster daughter, Nina, I am amazed by how many people, even strangers at the other end of the telephone line in some remote government office, have been willing to help us when I say I am trying to help get some stability into this mother and daughter family unit, to keep them together. I can tell you that if Rayna ever places Nina for adoption, it would be due to a feeling of being "beaten down, tired of fighting, being overwhelmed," as she puts it. I am gratified by how many people have joined me in my commitment to helping her get past those feelings - and helping preserve a family, for a change.

    Here's to being thankful for those scattered people, many of whom I have crossed paths with in these past few days, who readily assist with family preservation even when it is a family they don't know and a cause they don't consciously think about.

  42. Lorraine,

    Ignorant does not mean stupid. It means they do not understand the hurt that adoptees and first mothers go through. And how could they unless they experience it? As hard as my AParents have tried to understand it, they never will. 2ndmom is right most of the population is ignorant. They maybe highly educated in other areas but they are still ignorant when it comes to adoption.

    Even if the intent isn't to I hurt it doesn't make it less painful to hear these stupid things.

    -An Infertile Adoptee

  43. RMB - Thank you for saying those kind words. I read them several times as they brightened my day.

  44. Jay, your post brought tears to my eyes. The level of respect and love and care you show to Rayna and Nina is just so moving.

    Also, those unseen individuals, maybe in an office somewhere, caring too, recognising the humanity in another person, doing a little more than they need to, just to try and help. So moving too.

    Although this thread is about the awful things people say, the respect shown by some of the writers here is so restorative. It really does help. Really. Enormously.

  45. I've had some painful things said to me over the years, some from my own mother and sisters. I don't know how many times my mom has said "you can't talk, you gave yours up." Why can't they see that I didn't give my kids up, I gave them a life that I couldn't give them at the time? It hurts, every time.


  46. Elizabeth,
    Wonderful insight!

    As for negatives, I know of an adoptee whose adoptive mother told her that she shouldn't bother with her first mother because the first mother was a sinner for having sex outside of marriage. The fact that this "sin" brought her her wonderful daughter did not mitigate the sinfullness.

  47. Since this post is about thoughtless or unkind things said to us, (I prefer to let the comments roll right over me) but here is one. A very good friend of mine,upon hearing I was going to a gathering with a person he had never heard me talk about before, asked me what she was like. She's very nice, I said simply. When someone else mentioned she had given up a child for adoption, he added"How nice can she be" To top it off, he is a "birthfather" Other than that he was my best friend for 21 years until he got sick and moved to his daughter's In this case, the positives so outweighed the negatives that I wasn't going to let my sensitivity get the better of me And yes, he knew I had given a child up The weird thing was, when I found my son it turned out that this man's house that I had spent so much time at was just 2-3 miles from the high school my son was attending during part of that time(unknown to me) What doesn't kill you makes you stronger

  48. Amazing comments--I don't know what is more amazing--someone's mother saying, You can't talk, you gave yours up, or the How nice can she be? from a birth father...? Did you ever say anything to him about that crack? He deserved a smack, wouldn't you say?

  49. @Lorraine I have said so many stupid thoughtless things in my life that I figured the "How nice can she be" comment was mild. No, I didn't smack him. He sometimes wondered out loud where his son who was given up was and though it cannot be the same for the father since they don't carry the baby and give birth, he was really a very nice sensitive person. He was a lot older than me and had some retro attitudes sometimes

  50. I understand about the need to let some thoughtless comments roll off your back. As I have with the friend who thoughtlessly yelled: You're nothing more than a reproductive agent!

    We were able to patch things up, amazingly enough, and now we never never say anything about adoption. She is a dozen years older than me, and weirdly enough, one of children, who is also my friend, thinks that she has some very personal connection to adoption that she does not admit to. I also know that her good friends are adoptive grandparents of a son or two--the "worse nightmare" guy. I think she was influenced by them--and that is what they think of the natural mother of their grandson or sons. So be it.

  51. I ran across your blog months ago and I read it often but have never posted a comment. I want you to know that your blog has been so helpful to me as an adoptive mom. My husband and I are adopting four children from the foster care system. Their parents' rights were terminated before we met them. I think that you and all your loyal first mothers have given me such insight into what it must be like to have to relinquish a child. I guess I just wanted to say that your blog has given me so much insight into adoption and the grief and loss all parties experience. I also realize how important it is for me to talk to my children about their first parents. You are doing important work to educate folks. Thank you.

  52. Caryn, I had an open adoption from 1983, open in that I heard from the parents with letters, once a year, how my daughter was doing. Some years, not hearing at all.

    I know that it is very painful to give up a child, and for the child to be given away. Why, how could you do this? Did I mean that little to you?

    After her birth I thought I would die, from grief. After two years, I came to terms with adoption, I never gave away my child, I will always be her mum. I am always connected to her, in my heart.

    Like the child who is stillborn, the child who is dying from cars or dead from drugs. I am still her mum. Living, dead, adopted, what ever. Still mum. Still feel towards her like a mum does towards her child.

    We have been reunited, for over 10years now. Yes, it has been bumpy, and even though I know I am not her Mum who raised her, I know I am her mum inside me. I just do not expect her to respond to me like that. Or if that comes about, it is because we have that relationshipl I am happy being somebody in her life. I could have been nobody. Now we have a chance to be somebody to each other. And we show care for each other.
    And that is ok, being a mum is about caring.

    I do not speak much about my adoption to anyone except those who have been birthmothers themselves. It is easier to do that, for me.

    Wishing you all the best in your being mum to four kids.


  53. probably the worst comment for me was something so simple. thirteen years after giving my daughter up for adoption, having the 'open' adoption i had signed on for be closed by the adoptive parents, i ran into someone who used to be an agent for an adoption agency. she congratulated(?) me on sticking with my choice to adopt commenting, "good for you; the hardest part of my job was convincing the girls to actually go through with it." how nice.

  54. I had heard of horrible stories from the 60's and 70's from 1st moms, but I had really hoped it had gotten better. I have an open adoption. We placed an ad and a mother contacted us directly without an agency. This was her 4th adoption and she was parenting one child herself. I don't feel like she was coerced. We built a relationship. I love her and always want the best for her and my daughter. My husband and I are both infertile. What would you suggest for people like us whose only option is adoption when we feel very strongly that we should be parents? I don't want to promote bad situations like the ones expressed, but I really do want to adopt again.

  55. Dear Anonymous:

    We are devoted to stopping adoptions of infants and young children because of the grief adoption causes not only for the first mother but also the child. However, we understand that some adoptions are necessary, and there are children in foster homes who do need to be adopted.

    Please read our permanent page (link below our logo) WHAT WE THINK ABOUT ADOPTION.

  56. Anonymous @ 4.23 said:
    ' I don't feel like she was coerced. We built a relationship. I love her and always want the best for her and my daughter. '

    Your choice of the word 'my' instead of 'our' speaks volumes.

    You might 'feel very strongly' that you should be parents but, as a result of the sense of entitlement and self-absorption leaking out from your post, I don't feel you should. I don't believe that a child adopted by you would get his or her needs recognised.Including the one that recognises his or her other mother as precisely that.

  57. 1. You're not a mother.
    2. At least I'll keep my baby, you're a deadbeat.
    3. How could you be so selfish?
    4. You chose this you're not allowed to be sad.
    5. I would never give up my baby I love them too much.
    6. Get over it already you'll have a new baby.
    7. I can't believe you pawned your responsibilities off on someone else.
    8. You don't deserve to have more children you'll probably just give them away too.
    9. You should have tried harder and maybe you'd have your baby.
    10. At least CPS didn't take my child away (He was NOT taken away from me but for some reason several people I know like to twist the story when they're mad at me).
    11. I know I'll be a better mother than you because I want my baby and you clearly didn't.

    The list goes on and on but I'll stop there. I didn't expect to be viewed as a saint but I did expect at least a little bit of understanding from the people that rave about how wonderful adoption is. It's funny how they're so in love with the idea of adoption until they meet a birth parent then their tone completely changes. The adoptive parents are seen as compassionate and loving people while I'm viewed as a selfish beast and people aren't subtle about how terrible they think I am.

    1. Disgusting comments...so sorry you had to hear these stupid things. Hugs to you.



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