' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: When an adoptee says: I'm not interested in searching....

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When an adoptee says: I'm not interested in searching....

Lorraine and daughter Jane, in NYC a few months after they first met
"Have you seen Philomena?" one friend after another has asked me. "What did you think?" 

Yes, I saw it and Yes, I liked it, wondering what they are actually asking. Like what is there not for me to "like" about Philomena? My brother asked about the nuns, others have asked about the slamming of the Church, and I tell them that yes, it was like that in Ireland and not much damn better in the U.S. I have a first mother friend who was told by a priest that she had to think of her daughter as "dead." (They are happily reunited today.)

Maybe the questions--did I like it or what did you think?" are polite ways of telling me they found the story sympathetic, and now understand a bit more about my life. 

But the next thing I hear from some is: Well, the records should be open but "they" (the adopted) don't have to do anything if they don't want to, right?"  Right, of course. Unsealing birth records will not force anyone to do anything. If they have shut off their minds and are not curious, so be it. This last statement came from a woman whose good friend in high school was adopted. The friend is now deceased but when they talked about adoption, the friend told my friend she was not curious about her original parents and never planned to search. Oh. So that is the main image of adoptees my friend has, even though she knows it wasn't that way for my daughter. What she vividly remembers is her friend from high school saying: not interested. 

One adoptee my age who pulled the plug on a search pointedly told me she wanted to see Philomena--for Judi Dench's performance. Meaning: not the story. Don't want to go there. I got an message yesterday from someone in college whose professor announced to a class that he was adopted and not interested in searching, but oh, maybe he would like some medical information. 

As someone who has been involved in adoption reform for three decades it is hard to hear this and not feel a tad let down, get a little squirt of the hormone that makes one depressed. But I know I have not been wasting my life: the clear injustice of sealed records awakes my own sense of justice and propels me forward, even if there is only one person on earth who wants the right to own her history, whatever it is. Not having the right to your own, true history is fundamentally wrong, colossally immoral. 

But to get repeated messages all through your life that you cannot know the truth of your origins does shut down many, and that is why, I believe, more adoptees are not clamoring for their records. The system has beat them into submission, and many of their mothers into hiding. Julia Emily has been pouring out her feelings in the comments about growing up in a family where she could never talk about the issues that were burning up inside her. Julia Emily has awakened that spark as her parents are near the end of their lives, but it will not happen for some. How does it even happen that having had the most basic information about your life denied, that one comes to not want it, nay demand it? 

My granddaughter taught me how. She was about eleven or twelve and I asked if she had seen the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, though it had come and gone before she came to visit us that summer. I knew it was a huge hit with girls her age. But during the school year, she was living not with my daughter, but my daughter's adoptive parents instead, and they were not much for taking her to the teen movies that were all the rage, nor were they driving her to town (they lived outside of a very small town, no movie theater) with her friends so she could be one of the gang who saw the most popular movie for girls her age that year. 

"Didn't you want to see it?" I said cluelessly.  

She was a tad irritated with my obtuseness, and replied: "What's the point of wanting something you know you can't have? I put it out of my mind." 

I've thought about her comment whenever I hear of an adoptee saying: I'm adopted, I'm not interested in finding out, searching, whatever: What's the point of wanting something you know you can't have? I put it out of my mind. My granddaughter had stopped wanting what she knew she couldn't have. 

I personally can't imagine not being so damn curious you would be planning a Watergate-style break-in every moment of your waking life to wherever your records are stored and getting your hands on your own information regarding your birth. But I'm not adopted. I was never told that the information regarding my own heritage and paternity was off limits. I never had to be curious because I knew. I just knew who I was because I was born to my parents. And about my own sense that I had to know who my daughter was when I relinquished her, I started thinking I would do everything possible to know her one day as I was signing the surrender papers.  

Though we think of the original birth certificates as being sealed from some long ago era when a glimpse of stocking was looked upon as something shocking, that is not the case. Though not the first state with sealed records, New York was one of the early ones to do so, in 1935 during the governorship of adoptive father Herbert H. Lehman. The sealing continued throughout the states through the rest of the 30s, 40s, and early 50s, Elizabeth Samuels notes in her historical survey of adoptee access to records.* As late as 1960, some forty percent of the states still had laws on the books recognizing "an unrestricted right of adult adoptees to inspect their original birth certificates," she states. Forty percent! That would be twenty states! Not the measly seven we have today that allow adult adoptees unrestricted access to their own original birth certificates. 

Samuels goes on: "It was only in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s that all but three of those states changed their laws to close birth records to adoptees." So just as  the adoption reform was gaining some traction in the media, just as adoptees were beginning to search in any number, only then did a great many states seal birth records from the very people they record. 

You do want to scream when you read that. And you can't help but know that this was the preference of adoptive parents. As for the birth mothers, we were hiding in shame and our protectors--the nuns, the priests, the social workers--thought it was for our own good to pretend those children we lost did not exist. They remember us as frightened, tearful young women who didn't want the whole town to know of our shame; they did not imagine that a great many of us would never forget and always want reunion. Sadly, that forlorn image is the one that far too many family and surrogate court judges have today. 

And here we are now: Did you see Philomena? You don't mean that everybody who's adopted has to search, right? I had a friend in high school, I have a college professor, I know somebody at work, yadda yadda yadda and they say they are not interested in searching for their real parents. (Don't beat me up here on language, adoptive parents, that is the way some real people talk.) 

I'd call this social engineering at its absolute worst. Tell someone loud and long enough they can't have something and they will stop wanting it. Natural curiosity will be subverted. In the case of adoption, stifled curiosity is coupled with a genuine fear of a second sense of rejection--what if an individual searches for her lost family, only to be told she is not wanted? My daughter considered contacting the other children of her biological father--whom she never met--but in the end, decided not to. We did know that one of his daughters harbored a deep, bitter anger towards her father, and wrongly was likely to transfer that to my daughter. I don't need more rejection, she said. As for the mothers who were told that their children will be happy and fine with their new lives and to forget them, many of us embed that admonition and are unable to act and do a search for our lost children. Far too many of us believe we have no right to do so.

Despite that fear that looms in every heart, it is the very essence of human nature to want to know your own history, your own heritage, why you have blue eyes instead of brown. Or conversely, where our genes are going in the next generation. Cicero put it like this: To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. It is long past the time for everyone to have right to know what occurred before she was born, and every mother to know what happened to her child, and how he is.--lorraine
If you are adopted or you relinquished in a closed records state, get involved. Connecticut, Colorado, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania have bills pending. If not now, when? If not you? Who? 

* THE IDEA OF ADOPTION: AN INQUIRY INTO THE HISTORY OF ADULT ADOPTEE ACCESS TO BIRTH RECORDS, Rutgers Law Review, Winter, 2001. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1281475

More on Philomena from FMF
Philomena: A forced adoption, a lifetime quest, a longing that never waned
Philomena: The Book
Sen. McCaskill supports adoptees finding their first parents
Is giving up a child for adoption a 'loving' decision?

Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption From a Place of Empowerment and Peace
This is a book not to miss. "A tough book for mothers who relinquished because whatever we may have told ourselves about the “good” reasons to let our children be adopted, these poignant and sad essays belie that with the sheer force of a body blow. I found myself with tears in my eyes as soon as I started reading, and they didn't totally dry up until long after the last page."--from my review earlier: Lost Daughters: Strong, brave essays written from the heart

WE GET PENNIES ON THE DOLLAR if you order anything through FMF and appreciate your thoughtfulness. Click on book jacket or title to go to Amazon. And don't forget the side bar ads from Blogher--and we hope you are not seeing adoption agency ones!



  1. This really hit home for me....imagine my disappointment when I found my daughter was one of those adopted people who "have no interest". I prepared intensely for my search and thought so fervently that my child at 18 needed to have this info and I would be damned if she had go go through hell to find me. Oh well, but I will never stop speaking out, tell my truth, work for adoption reform and obc/open records. Thank you again for your words of wisdom.

  2. I think the urge NOT to search may also be tied to a deep knowledge that looking at adoption and thinking about what its done and what it means is an intensely painful process. Searching brings up all kinds of things that most people would rather not deal with out of a basic sense of self preservation--intense loss, grief, anger, profound sadness, etc. Coupled with the legal obstacles, I agree that its much easier to just learn not to want. But once awakened, I think the urge to search is a powerful and nearly unstoppable force.

  3. I searched for and found my son. He made sure I knew that he never thought of me, his history, his name, nor did he want to 'search' -not even for medical history. Along with these statements he also thanked me profusely for "making a plan to place" him, that he was "raised right", and that he is eternally grateful for his life given to him by his parents. On a separate occasion I brought up the fact that his OBC is sealed and he was puzzled because he a birth certificate! He has no need for any other documents because he has all he needs. Unfortunately, our relationship is now quiet and has been for over two years. We didn't fight or argue so I figure he meant it when he said he never thought of me and had no intention of ever searching.

  4. LLM: Agree, agree and agree. My daughter gave up thinking about contacting her siblings from her father because as she said: I don't need any more rejection. The fear of being rejected a second time by a mother who has been told to think of her child as "dead" or some such similar sobriquet is daunting and fearful. Why go there?

  5. I am a 47 year-old adoptee who was placed with abusive parents. I live with chronic depression, PTSD, hyper-vigilance, and autism. My pain tolerance tests are through the roof. When I was younger I used to routinely walk around with serious medical problems that I didn't even notice until someone else saw me and went into hysterics. Even now I have to ask myself, "Would this condition of mine upset someone else?"

    I gave birth to four oversized babies without so much as an aspirin. And I watched my first child, my only known blood relative, struggle to breathe and finally die a few weeks later.

    And none of that, nothing, not even the death of my own son, even came close to the pain of searching. That was an emotional train wreck, but it was a one-time event. This is like every part of my life, my history, my soul is being ripped down to their constituent atoms, and they all hurt.

    For 47 years I had no interest in searching because it hurt too much. I wouldn't be searching now but ignoring the pain will no longer make it go away, I'm damned to endure it whether I search or not.

    And for all my vaunted ethics and maturity, there's a tiny part of me that envies those who can still manage that trick.

  6. This certainly hits home! I think Lorraine is right....we adoptees have been brainwashed into submission. It took me, as everyone here knows, until I was in my mid 30's to start to realize that everything about my life was a lie. It took the birth of my first daughter, my first blood relative, to see that something about my own life was terribly wrong.

    At the height of the Baby Scoop/ Baby Boom era I lived on a block in NY where there were 3 of us adoptees. One is my friend, the black market baby I have spoken of. She was always VERY curious, but her parents never told her the truth. Her mother went so far as to fabricate stories of labor and birth....thinking back on it, the whole thing was a disgrace. Worse still, my AP's knew the whole story and I knew only that she was adopted and that I was never to say anything. So I didn't. Once again....there was the cloud of secrecy that still hangs over adoption today. As a child I realized there were a lot of secrets and a lot of things we DO NOT EVER talk about. That was the message. And I fully understood that I was not to question it.

    The other adoptee was a boy about 10 years older than me. He grew up proclaiming that his AP's are his only parents, he will never search, he is so grateful, etc. I saw him about 5 years ago and he is still in fantasy land.

    My adoptive mother thinks he is the greatest guy in the history of the world. Isn't he wonderful to feel and say these things? His parents were always so proud of him. This is her way of reinforcing to me that I had better feel the same way.

    Add to the mix that my folks were/are very good to me and my family. So I am in a position of conflict. How do I accept this goodness and generosity and then let my parents know that I need to know what they have been hiding all these years. There is an underlying feeling, and there always was, of strings attached to all this "happiness".

    What a mess!

    These records must be opened. I can not continue to live with this secrecy. Adoption, if it is to continue, needs a total overhaul. As it exists now it is a travesty.

  7. Tony Gambino's article in Slate speaks eloquently to this. Once he opened up to the idea of finding out the identities of the man and woman who created him he "rapidly shifted from a strict believer in adoption orthodoxy and secrecy to someone who wanted to know everything about his background."
    He writes "I have come to strongly believe that in the absolute right of adoptees to know about their birth background. I know also believe that birth parents should have the right to contact their children, once they reach the age of 18, with the children given the ability to either respond or to remain anonymous."


  8. Added to the blog this morning:

    I'd call this social engineering at its absolute worst. Tell someone loud and long enough they can't have something and they will stop wanting it. Natural curiosity will be subverted. In the case of adoption, stifled curiosity is coupled with a genuine fear of a second sense of rejection--what if an individual searches for her lost family, only to be told she is not wanted? My daughter considered contacting the other children of her biological father--whom she never met--but in the end, decided not to. We did know that one of his daughters harbored a deep, bitter anger towards her father, and wrongly was likely to transfer that to my daughter. I don't need more rejection, she said. As for the mothers who were told that their children will be happy and fine with their new lives and to forget them, many of us embed that admonition and are unable to act and do a search for our lost children. Far too many of us believe we have no right to do so.

    Despite that fear that looms in every heart, it is the very essence of human nature to want to know your own history, your own heritage, why you have blue eyes instead of brown. Or conversely, where our genes are going in the next generation.
    Cicero put it like this: To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. It is long past the time for everyone to have right to know what occurred before she was born, and every mother to know what happened to her child, and how he is.--lorraine

  9. Look at what adoption does. Look at the pain everyone is in. First mothers have a pain and anguish I cannot begin to comprehend. Adoptees like Lioness had and still have to deal with things no human being should ever deal with. Were adoptees ever supposed to be placed with abusive parents? Of course not...we were placed in order to receive a "better life".

    I had a decent life and I am still torn to pieces over living a lie.

    No matter what the situation, it does not work. And many people were damaged because of it.

    Lioness, I wish you luck with your search, and I wish you no more pain in your life. You have had more than your share.

  10. I think that only non-searching adoptees can answer the question of why they chose not to search, and that their answers should be respected and not turned into brainwashing or pathology in every case. As mothers we do not need to be second guessing or questioning their stated motivation.

    Every adoptee should have a right to their records, and to search if they wish, but not everyone has to, nor should those who do not search be stigmatized.

  11. Certainly each individual has the right to search, or not; everyone has the right to be curious and act on that curiosity, or unquestionably accept of a replacement narrative and do away with the real one. Yet hearing today about so many who do not want to search, who proclaim no interest in their own backgrounds, I thought of my granddaughter's comment--why hope to have something you know you can't. Obviously that applies to more things than just whether or not we see a certain movie. I might like to own a diamond necklace but I really don't think about whether I will or not, because it's unreal for me to want it. I will never had a diamond necklace.

    Just as our generation bought into the idea that the only decent thing to do was give up our children, many of those children grew up with the idea that not searching is the only decent thing to do. Though each of us makes our own decision, and we feel it is our own personal decision, we are all products of our age and attitudes, and our decisions reflect the pervasive norm.

  12. Julie Ellen, thank you.

    Just as our generation bought into the idea that the only decent thing to do was give up our children, many of those children grew up with the idea that not searching is the only decent thing to do.

    Exactly. As I blogged earlier: I was convinced that doing so would be unethical, immoral, selfish, and self-destructive. I believed it was the most awful and irresponsible thing I could possibly do.

    The rest is here: http://whosefacestares.blogspot.com/2013/11/wrestling-with-searching.html

  13. Maryanne: I guess I fall into the category of non-searching adoptee. But I have been brainwashed or "guilted", if you will, into this position.

    My posts have told the story. All details swept under the rug. Fake details and scenarios fabricated over the years to quickly dismiss any of my questions. I could never discuss anything regarding my own adoption or history with my AP's because I always knew they would come unglued completely. The message was and is loud and clear. Even though I was at the proceeding finalizing my adoption, we never spoke about it. I was almost 4 years old and have pretty decent memory of the day. But we came home, the one document we received that day was put in a drawer, and my parents basically pretended it never happened.

    That is only my story. I suppose other adoptees don't search for different reasons, but I was never really allowed to even choose my own reasons.. Add the fact that NYS is impossible to deal with, and I have convinced myself that I can not and will not search.

    I might have liked to do so. I wonder where I got my coloring, my freckles, my petite build, and my artistic abilities. Searching might have answered these questions for me, and these are just the tip of the iceberg. But I really feel like I was the last person anyone considered in this whole adoption mess. My feelings never mattered.

    But I will petition the court. It is the only thing I can do without destroying the other people in my life.

    It's a lousy position to be in. I feel like I spent the better part of my life being brainwashed.

  14. I read the link in your sidebar about Tony Gambino, who decided to search for his mother only to discover she had died years before while longing to know him. It just about broke my heart. I just cannot fathom the pain of wondering, of not knowing, of knowing death was coming and longing to just have some word to assuage her aching heart.

    I had to wipe away tears. Mother to mother, my heart just ached for how she must have suffered. I cannot imagine. As for Tony, living with the grief of never meeting her, of knowing she had been cruelly turned away when she sought out info... so much sadness in two lives. So much unnecessary heartache.

    I feel both parties should be able to search once the child reaches adulthood at age 18. Just as in any aspect of life, everyone is free to turn down the offer of a relationship. But at least there is the opportunity and the mystery and wondering will have been resolved, even if no reunion occurs.

    I obviously cannot pretend that I can know how I would have been as a 1960s adoptive parent. We must take people within the context of their own time, with the social complexities and norms that were present than rather than assigning our own modern views. But still, I find myself feeling I just could not possibly have denied a woman a chance to simply know, at the very least, that her son was safe and healthy and thriving. I struggle with the idea of denying just that little bit of peace to a woman about to die. I cannot fathom what harm could have come from such a simple, sympathetic action.

    I have not seen Philomena yet; I see about one adult movie a year in the theater. I am glad that it is igniting so much discourse about this topic outside the adoption community.

  15. I agree with Maryanne that only non-searching adoptees can answer the question of why they chose not to search.
    I really liked the way Tony Gambino describes his personal experience of coming round to wanting to know his roots, and that he does so without reproaching other adoptees who might not chose the same course of action.

  16. LLM, I agree... I "learned not to want" what I could not have. I knew my whole life that records were sealed, and I accepted it. I thought about going through the agency that handled my adoption ( I am an adult adoptee), but decided not to... Someday maybe, I thought. Then I heard that they unsealed records in IL. Holy shit, really? It took 6 months from the time I requested my OBC to actually receive it. Once I got it, a floodgate of emotions poured out after years of repression. I found my FM quite easily on my own. She ignored a couple of letters that I sent. One day I cold called her... I think that hearing my voice, she could not deny me. We've exchanged one email since, and I've thrown the ball in her court. I want contact, a relationship. Now it's up to her to decide what she wants. Either way, I'm glad I made contact and dealt with all of the feelings that I've repressed for a lifetime.

    1. I too, am an adult adoptee in IL and have gone my entire 47 years as one of the “I-don't-need-to-search—if-I-did-ever-meet-my-birth-mother-I'd-really-only-want-medical-information-And-I-really-only-wonder-if-I-look-like-her” people. My adoptive mom (who is the GREATEST, I might add) has always told me that she would do everything in her power to help me search if I wanted to. When I learned that IL unsealed the records in 2010, it took me 7 years before I finally requested my OBC in December 2017. My mom had an idea of my bmom's name, but it turns out she was close but a bit off. I even knew my birth name. I thought I would be completely unaffected seeing my OBC, but I opened it and a wave of emotion came over me to see all the info in black and white on an official document. Once I had my bmom's name, DOB, and city of birth, it took me all of about 10 minutes to find her through my internet search. It is now middle of April and I'm still sitting on this info (according to my search, I have 2 half-brothers and a half-sister). I hesitate to reach out for fear of disrupting this woman's life as I'm guessing her other children and husband know absolutely nothing about me (the oldest is about 8-10 years younger than me I believe). I don’t even think I’m looking for a relationship with her, just to know my story. I don’t know that I’m mentally and emotionally prepared to reach out and possibly never hear back, which is probably why I’ve hesitated all these years, but there’s a part of me that knows I’ll regret not doing so if I miss the window and she passes before I decide to finally do it. What’s a girl to do? :-)

  17. Gambino's story was great. It was his personal story and he did not even question why he didn't search before. I wish he had. It would have made a richer story.

    I give Lorraine credit for thinking this through and theorizing why some do, some don't. As an adoptee I have myself wondered how anyone cannot be curious. I have been ever since I knew I was adopted. My first thought was something like, okay, you're my mommy now but what about that other one? Why didn't she keep me? But I couldn't talk about that to anyone because I got the message that was verboten.

    Lorraine has spent a good part of her life on this issue and been public about it and people I suspect say all kinds of things to her all the time--some of them probably hurtful. I'm glad she wrote this post. It might wake some people up.

  18. I never had any desire to search. None. No brainwashing. It was just that I had what I needed in my parents. Why did I need more? When my birth mom found me, she wanted some instant connection and it wasn't there. When after she tried to meddle in my life (offering me parenting advice and telling me what products to buy) I told her that I didn't need a second mom, she got furious at me and berated me for loving my parents. I was 28 when she found me and I already had a husband and family. That was 5 years ago. I can safely say that I wish with every fiber of my being that she had never bothered to search for me. Not because it brings up some hard feelings for me, but because she brought chaos and a sense of entitlement into my life. Even after begging her to not show up at my door unannounced on holidays and expecting me to drop everything to listen to her drama...well, she's not the kind of person I'd want in my life. She has told me that she's my "only" mom and I shouldn't talk to my parents. My husband, has threatened to call the cops on numerous occasions because she starts ranting about how much my adoption hurt her...and she's starts scaring my kids.

    Why didn't I search? Because this is exactly what I was afraid of...a mentally disturbed stranger inserting herself into my life.

  19. Oh god. I searched. I searched. I searched. My aparents encouraged and helped me. For almost 3 years, I searched for my "first mom". I had questions. I had things I wanted to share. I had nothing but love for her. Do you know what I found? An angry, bitter, shell of a woman...who blamed me for ruining her life. That was 10 years ago. She died last year from complications of alcoholism. My half-sisters blame me for causing her to drink. The only reason I know she died was a two-line note from her attorney. The note was my inheritance. It read: "The day you were born I cursed my life. The day you found me, I cursed yours."

    So much for biology.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. My birth mom was an unpleasant surprise too. I searched 10 years for her. I was really excited about hearing her voice for our first phone call. Her first words to me were, "I am surprised to hear from you now. I thought you were dead." Then she told me that she knew I had sent letters to the agency for her several years ago, but she never requested them. She thought I was trying to reach out to her because I was dying. She said, "I thought by now you'd be dead." I kept hoping she would say at some point that she was glad I was all right but she never did. it never occurred to me that a birth mother would reconnect for an opportunity to express her hostility and cruelty to the child she relinquished. I just thought someone who felt that way wouldn't agree to have a phone conversation in the first place. There are all kinds of birth mother's.

  20. Lindie: You are dealing with a someone who may be disturbed or certainly have a skewed sense of your relationship to her.

    Do you think your birth records and those of others should stay sealed?

  21. There were three adopted kids in my adopted family. The oldest one, the mess-up mentally ill adoptee, searched and found. My a-mom became agitated.

    I, the independent, distant, moody, youngest adoptee searched and found. My a-mom freaked out. She cried, screamed and yelled, withheld affection, sent me disturbing letters, and invited her friends and family to her pity party. Over time it made her physically ill. Through the years a-family friends have told me, "You broke your mother's heart." They bring it up out of the blue, just for the chance to shame me. So did my a-dad.

    So, do you think the middle child adoptee in the family, the Golden Boy pleaser almost-perfect child adoptee, had any interest in searching? Nope. None. I can not even interest him in reading his case file. He wants to know nothing about his natural parents. His birth mother was a "vessel." Says he has no interest in knowing his ethnicity or medical history. This information not important to him and should not be important to any adoptee.

    The middle adoptee sibling is generally viewed as the most normal, stable, responsible, grounded one.


  22. Ripe,

    Sounds like my son. He is the only adoptee and only son with three bio sibs.

    The very first thing he told me was his parents valued curiosity above all else. Some years later I asked him why he failed us all in his lack of curiosity. He almost became deranged because I contacted his biofather. He was totally and completely hostile to even knowing about him. Real curiosity there! Seemed like fear and denial to me, And he couldn't talk about it.

    To me it is just sad.

  23. Lindie: Lorraine is right. You are dealing with someone who is mentally ill. I am sorry this happened to you. I dare say it is not the norm. And all records should not remain sealed because of the few cases like this. This is the point we have to get across to the legislature.

    Tony Gambino's story was very similar to my own. I read it three times. My "eureka" moment was the birth of my daughter. And still, it was not because I realized this was my only blood relative. Not yet. It was my adoptive mother's reaction and behavior that threw me for a loop. She did not come to the hospital. She was completely dumbfounded as to how to handle a newborn. She did not understand why I was so depressed after the birth. My post-partum lasted for a couple of months and she stayed away. Until she could enter a pretty, perfect picture, she could not deal with it.

    So I pieced together the fact that there are no photos of me as a newborn. I did not show up at my pediatrician until I was almost 2 1/2 months old. This MD lived on our block....the block where my folks had been already been living for 7 years. Had I been brought home earlier, he would have seen me earlier. On the back of the little pediatrician book is the space for the birthdate. Two dates are crossed out. The third one written in is the wrong one.

    My mother also told me the same stories Tony Gambino heard. They chose me out of all the babies they could have chosen. I loved the story. I also loved the idea of Santa Claus, but I should not be expected to believe them now.

    Unfortunately, my state does not provide any information, and there is where our stories differ. But what Tony said so eloquently is true, and I think it is true for most adoptees. Someday we need to know these answers. No one has the right to keep this information from us. I am an adult. What I do with the information is my business, but it is mine to have.


  24. Tiffany said: 'I just could not possibly have denied a woman a chance to simply know, at the very least, that her son was safe and healthy and thriving. I struggle with the idea of denying just that little bit of peace to a woman about to die. I cannot fathom what harm could have come from such a simple, sympathetic action.'

    One of the things that comes over in all of your posts, Tiffany, is the humanity you recognise in your child's other mother.

    But I think you are unusual in that.

    When I first started trying to educate myself about the realities of adoption (once the make-believe had crumbled to dust), I was so shocked and horrified by the way first mothers were described. I won't repeat the worst of them here, but there was a plethora of utterly dehumanising terms and phrases ('any beast can give birth/I shed a woman when I was born/she was just reproductive matter/a temporary uterus/a breeder' etc etc) that were freighted with misogyny and that carried attitudes to living breathing women that would've fitted perfectly in fascistic regimes of the past.

    Mothers who are separated from their children by adoption are often dehumanised, whether blatantly (as in the examples above), or subtley (calling Julia Emily's natural mother 'the girl', or refusing Tony Gambino's mother the merest snippet of reassurance in her dying weeks are examples of this, IMO).

    The truth is that these women, women like me, are as complex and feeling as everyone else (and exhibit similar traits as everyone else, good and bad). You wouldn't think it by the way they, we, are regarded.

    That's why, Tiffany and Jay, your respect is so genuinely fortifying. It recognises our full humanity. You haven't binned that in order to feel good about yourselves, as many adoptive parents do. I respect you so much for that.

  25. @Lindie
    "Not because it brings up some hard feelings for me, but because she brought chaos and a sense of entitlement into my life."

    I get that. That is what my son's adopters brought to my life. Nothing but.

    Moreover, natural mothers don't need such a hateful, judgmental, holier than person in their lives. I am sure she will see that she is better off without that, as well. Perhaps adoption screwed your mother up, Lindie? Perhaps she is so damaged because of it she may have some issues (kind of like the issues many adopters may have at their own infertility, which in my opinion makes them just, as if not more nuts).

    Instead of being so judgmental, why don't you try a little compassion and understanding. I know, that so hard isn't it, when the people who adopted you are so much more worthy, so much better and so much more entitled to all of that than the woman who is responsible for you being on this earth. Get over yourself, please.

  26. @Anon February 27, 5:07 PM. who said,
    "Gambino's story was great. It was his personal story and he did not even question why he didn't search before. I wish he had. It would have made a richer story."

    I think his story was great too. For a short piece it delved deeply into his experience and provided a lot of information about it.
    However I strongly disagree that he didn't even question why he didn't search before. He clearly did, because the answer is right there in the article. He was born and adopted as a so-called "chosen" child in 1956, and until he was 13 fully accepted the doctrine of the era. He then "timidly" approached his mother who reacted with such an appearance of anguish that he felt he had broken a taboo. As a result he never brought up the subject again.
    Later, when his wife suggested searching, he lashed out defensively. He writes "How dare she bring up this forbidden topic? I guess I had been so seared by my earlier conversation with my mother that I adopted her view as an absolute: that it was unacceptable, inappropriate and insulting for anyone to probe this area, and if someone didn't accept my short explanation, they were attacking me - and my adoptive family."
    But eventually he "shifted from a strict believer in adoption orthodoxy and secrecy to to someone who wanted to know everything about his background."

  27. The comments section on the 'My Philomena' article (see top of right column on this page) needs some other points of view. The usual ones are being trotted out, allowing thoughtless assumptions to go unchallenged.

    My mind was opened by the words of others, especially those who live adoption, so we can do the same...

    (Someone just wrote 'I'm not an adoptee but I don't think adoptees should...' blah blah blah)

  28. Searching for first parents may be the most human desire an adoptee could have, but it earns the adoptee no approval points from ANYONE. If Approval is important to an adoptee, the desire to search and connect is squelched.

  29. I have an adopted sibling who has no interest in searching. Personally, I think it's because our aparents were so awful, he's afraid of finding something worse. Also because he is very angry about being placed for adoption in the first place. He attaches much shame and anger to his first parents even though he knows nothing about them.
    In our family, he is to good one, I am the bad one because I wanted to search since I was four.
    But I think most people will tell you that I am the happier one of the two of us.
    I think that is important.
    A while ago, in a nonsensical argument, my a mom gravely confessed that I had hurt her deeply over the years because I searched for and found my first mother. I think she expected me to crumple in shame. I did not. I threw her out of my house instead. For me, it was the last straw in a long dysfunctional relationship. I decided forty years of walking on eggshells only to be told I had continuously hurt her deeply for wanting to know where I came from was enough for me. And good riddance.
    I refuse to play those silly games anymore and I am better off without my adopters.
    For most adoptees adoption is a huge head game from the moment we are placed. Don't ask questions. Don't be sad. Comply with your adopters or be labeled ungrateful. I don't play those games anymore. It's been almost a year since I cut ties with my adopter. My life is so much better.

  30. Sam...
    First of all, you don't know my life or my experiences. If the adoption ruined my birth mother's life, how is that my fault? Am I expected to make her feel better about the experience? I'm sorry, but I don't owe her anything. She gave me life, yes that's true. And if she had come to me wanting to talk and build a relationship, I would have loved to get to know her. Instead, she charged into my life, demanding a connection that wasn't there instantly. Let me give you an example...After she made initial contact, I invited her to my house for lunch. She came in and instantly started criticizing the choices I made for the meal and that I "hadn't made an effort" (I had sandwich fixings out, and had made potato salad and cheesecake). When my kids arrived home from school, she demanded that they call her "grandma" and that they should "forget those other people". She went on to say that my daughter's clothes were inappropriate for the weather and my son "looked like a slob". My 6 year old was very confused and scared. That was just the first in a series of failed efforts I made to get past the craziness. She exhausted compassion and tolerance after the first year.

    But I know...blame me and my parents for her insanity. Yes, I'm sure that's the right thing to do. Because us adoptees are all ungrateful misfits and all adoptive parents are greedy and entitled. Yes. I've read that more than once here and other forums. You just can't stand it that I (and others like me) might actually be well-adjusted, happy, and content. That threatens you? Because maybe, just maybe, all that pain and suffering didn't transfer to me.

    And as for my actual parents. Yes, they are pretty darn amazing. They adopted 3 kids, and encouraged us to find our roots. They never lied to us about who we were or where we came from.

    Lorraine, of course records should be open. Everyone should be able to search and know where they came from.

  31. Lindie: Obviously something is very wrong with your first mother. This has nothing to do with you. I could not have tolerated this behavior for as long as a year. And the influence a person like this might have on your own children is just scary. She has problems, and you do not need her negativity in your life.

    Sam's comment to you was uncalled for. And rude.

    At least you have adoptive parents who tried to do the right thing. They did not hide the truth from you. Unfortunately, the truth wasn't so great, but your AP's were on the right track.

  32. I hope my kids will reach out to their first family at some point. I also hope they never have to search. To that end, I'm doing my best to maintain relationship with their first parents and some of the extended family. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and views. I come here to learn from you. Thanks for making me aware of the ways that I could negatively impact their potential relationship with their first family. There's no reason they can't have enough love for all of us if we'll all be mature about it.

  33. I also agree with what Maryanne wrote at 9:47am and Anon wrote on 2/27/14 at 2:58 pm. I don't think that adoptees choose not to search because they feel it is a hopeless endeavor. I think it is more complicated than that. Also, I don't like the implication in this post that those who search are doing the right thing and that those who don't want to search are somehow wrong.

    I very much enjoyed reading Tony Gambino's story. I can relate to that feeling of finding out that my supposedly teenage mother was actually an adult woman in her twenties. Another thing that struck me in Tony's narrative is the subject of names, which is so important to adoptees. If I met someone and he introduced himself as 'Tony Gambino', I would immediately think that he was of Italian ancestry. But if Tony G had stayed with his natural parents he would have been named 'David' and carried a Jewish last name. In that case, I would have assumed he came from a different cultural background. Not that either background or heritage is any better or worse than the other, of course, but I do see it as a significant issue, especially for male adoptees who carry on the family name.

  34. Yes, Lindie your adoptive parents are so amazing and obviously taught you to be compassionate, empathetic and understanding towards your mother. Whatever.

    I'd like to hear both sides of the story, not just yours and the adoptive parents.

  35. Right or wrong is not what Lorraine is saying. She is pointing out the situation and wondering why. I don't think she wants to criticize, but is trying to figure out why people don't want what should be theirs.

    Say "I'm not interested" and we encourage the idea that changing the status quo is not important. If only a small group of people want their OBCs, why all the fuss? Why bother? If its only a few who want their records, they must be the troubled ones, and how many of them can there be? Adoption is great. Let's leave those mothers who don't want reunion in peace. If its only a small number lobbying for change, the obvious conclusion is that those who do must be the ones who didn't have great families. So why do anything? Status quo works.

    A follows B here. The reason gay rights and gay marriage is such a big deal is because so many people came out of the closet and are asking for their rights. Like it or not, adoptees in the closet are the reason the laws haven't changed.

  36. Lindie said:
    I never had any desire to search. None. No brainwashing. It was just that I had what I needed in my parents.

    You sound like my daughter. I hold nothing against her for not wanting a relationship. I sure didn't act like your bmom!! That's absolutely unnecessary what she said and did, Lindie!! But my daughter did say she might be interested in the future; so still hold out for hope! Thank you posting!

  37. Tiffany said:
    I read the link in your sidebar about Tony Gambino,

    I can't seem to "find" that?? would love to read it; can someone "point" me to the link, maybe??!


  38. "Ripe said
    There were three adopted kids in my adopted family. The oldest one, the mess-up mentally ill adoptee, searched and found. My a-mom became agitated.
    I, the independent, distant, moody, youngest adoptee searched and found. My a-mom freaked out. She cried, screamed and yelled, withheld affection, sent me disturbing letters, and invited her friends and family to her pity party. Over time it made her physically ill. Through the years a-family friends have told me, "You broke your mother's heart." They bring it up out of the blue, just for the chance to shame me. So did my a-dad.
    So, do you think the middle child adoptee in the family, the Golden Boy pleaser almost-perfect child adoptee, had any interest in searching?"

    Boy Ripe are you a bigot much? Are you aware that many so called mentally ill adoptees are NOT mentally ill or have some emotional frustrations BECAUSE of abusive adoptive parents who also get that (and by lying to psychiatrists) label slapped on the child they have purchased because they are not happy with them or just outright don't like them? It has happened and still does. Closed adoption and just being adopted can alone make adoptees unmotivated, depressed and apathetic. I think the way you view your adopted siblings is horrific (and let me guess you are the golden child right?) and unfair. People wonder why the adoptee rights movement fails so much and one reason is the fact that so many adoptees treat each other like crap online and offline. Adoptees are not synchronized or uniounized and comments like your prove this.
    Lindie I am leary of adoptive parents who push for the child they bought to search because I smell a set up. Yes adoption agencies will deceive adoptees at their request. This is why every adoptee should have a blood/DNA test to make sure the woman they are told is their mother really is.

  39. Lee, the sidebar on the right:


    Do not miss this:

    My Philomena

    I searched for my birth mother and learned two things: She’d recently died. And she’d been desperately searching for me.

    Do leave a comment.

  40. Let's put the shoe on the other foot.

    I searched for my child. What I found is a religious bigot who did nothing but preach to me, act holier than thou and behave hypocritically and condescending towards myself and my family. I am so much better off without that in my life..whew.

    Now, lets sit back and wait for the comments about what an evil monster I am; since it's okay for people to have no compassion or understanding. I'll be waiting...

  41. Anon3:48. The oldest adopted sibling has Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental disorder. He suffers from paranoia and psychosis.

    You are correct that I may have characterized my siblings too narrowly. There has been literature written about how adoptees fall into three basic categories. Literature that is familiar to many of us who have read up on the effects of adoption to a child. The three categories are: the mess-up child, the withdrawn/ mysterious child and the Golden child. I didn't make this up.

    In my family we had one of each kind of adoptee, if it is possible to categorize siblings in this way. We are certainly all complex individuals.

    I was not the Golden Child, not by a long shot.

    The Golden Child was my middle brother. The Golden Child typically has a strong need for approval. If the child senses that the adoptive parents are threatened by the idea of him searching, the desire to search is squelched.

    I was the withdrawn one, the one with emotional frustrations.

    My oldest brother had no labels slapped on him other than "rebellious teenager." I wish my a-parents would have taken him to a psychiatrist when he was a child, as I think early diagnosis would have helped. But they did not believe that kind of thing.

    It is so hard to make things clear when leaving comments. One wants to be concise.

  42. I can not believe some of the comments here! First off, Sam does not know Lindie's situation and has not lived through it. Sam's comments and attitude toward Lindie show not only rudeness, but , once again, a complete lack of understanding about the situation.

    Ripe is correct. Adoptees have been categorized this way for quite some time now. I was a Golden Child until I was almost middle aged. Outwardly, I am still seen as one of those golden adoptees.

    Think About It says that "adoptees in the closet" is the problem with getting laws changed. Maybe so. But understand that a lot of us, like myself, are in that closet because we were thrown there. I would have liked a full-out search. God....I would have liked to ask questions without starting a war! I can only do things that my AP's are not aware of. Sounds ridiculous to some people, but it is the fact. I have been told to just do it, go through my father's desk looking for papers, ask all the questions I want, insist, search, don't stop until I get exactly what I want. After a lifetime of my AP's thinking secrecy is the right thing, how do I do this now? It would kill them. And I would be solely responsible for destroying them. At this stage of the game, I waited this long, I've played their game, and I have to keep playing it for the most part.

    Adoption is extremely complex. If the stupid laws would allow me my information, I wouldn't be in this jam. My state has so far done nothing for me. Expect put me in a position where I can accomplish nothing. And those who are not in my position simply do not understand.

  43. Anon 6:56, I understand where you are coming from, also any adoptee who finds an intrusive mentally ill mother and cannot deal with her after repeated tries. We all have our deal-breakers, and for me, finding a religious bigot, or one who was cruel to animals, would make it very hard for me to relate to that person, relative or not. I have a mixed race marriage and another mixed race long term relationship among my children, so a bigot would be really problematic. My youngest son's wedding looked like a meeting of the UN!

    I have been very lucky that my found son has similar religious and political views to the rest of us, is not in any way a bigot. My sons are all agnostic, my husband atheist, I am culturally Catholic but in no way fanatic. We all love animals and respect boundaries. We all support gay rights and civil rights.

    Some relatives, though, are impossible to deal with, which creates a different sort of dynamic and situation like some of you are living with. We need to understand each other, not accuse.

  44. Ripe's difficulties and pressures in searching for her first parents is kinda amazing, and I give her kudos for her courage in going ahead against those extreme parental pressures. She withstood a great deal. Julia Emily is enduring the same kinds of pressures from her aged parents. So many people do not search until their only reunion is with a grave. It happened to my husband's best friend--not only did he learn he was adopted from a cousin when he was 12, his father, 20 years later, told when he was dying--don't search or talk about being adopted with your mother--it will kill her. So he didn't. When she died, he asked his aunts and they told him who his mother--and father--was. They always knew. But by then, both of his natural parents were dead.

    Adoptees, first mothers, and adoptive parents from an earlier era were all brainwashed into the idea that once separated mothers and children we were never supposed to reunite, and that ideological thrust on all sides is what prevents us from getting speaking out in numbers in legislation that would unsealed the original birth certificates. It's maddening, but that's where we are today. What's sad is that some of the younger APs have the same repressive attitudes. Not all, but a good many. And some of them have a hammer hold on the media, where it is difficult to get enough attention to what should be seen as simple injustice to a whole class of people.

    We are all products of the message that searching is "bad." It takes a brave soul to break out. But every person who does speak up gives courage to someone else in their shoes to do the same. And then we will have change.

    In New York, however, I am discouraged because our powerful enemies of adoptee justice are unmoved, and I feel nothing will change them. Gov. Cuomo has not said a word. And so here we are. Anybody with a New York adoption connection--OR NOT--please write to him.

    On another note, Maryanne is right: finding a son or daughter, or a parent, who holds the same general outlook on life does make everything so much easier. I knew my daughter's adoptive parents were also Catholic, and so when we met there was a certain understanding and acceptance of where each side was coming from. However, they are practicing Catholics; I am lapsed into agnosticism, yet I did not find it repugnant or uncomfortable to take my daughter, and then her daughter, to Mass on Sunday--until my granddaughter said she didn't want to go. And politically, we were all on the same liberal page.

    Ironically, among my extended family of cousins--on both sides!--I found many conservatives whom I know do not vote the way I do. They are in Michigan, in small towns; yet my immediate family is quite political and liberal--as my parents, especially my father, were.

  45. Yes, it is easier when you and your child have shared values. But just to be clear, it would not bother me if my son were more religious than me in any religion, as long as he was not bigoted. Not all religious people are. I admire those who have genuine faith and use it for good. Nor would it be the end of the world if he voted Republican or disagreed with me on some political issues. Right now I am pretty fed up with all politicians of any party. The thing I could not stand is a cruel or hate-filled person. I have friends who are quite conservative but good people and we agree to disagree.

  46. One of the most destructive things about adoption is the severed ties of the extended family both past and present.

    One thing that I enjoyed by reading about Tony is that he had a beautiful relationship with his grandmother. Even after she admitted that she was the one that encouraged his mother to relinquish. I hope that my son gets to know his grandmother.(She encouraged me to relinquish because of our church and the propaganda that it was, 'best for the baby to have two married people raise him'. She even suggested the AP's, in which she is very regretful of.)

    I have a friend where I work that is feeling the effects of adoption. His father was adopted. And although his father had great AP’s his father felt the need to search. His search didn't start until he had become a grandparent.

    My friend is grateful for this. He has three children and wanted to know where his roots came from because of his children. My friends father found his family and the father's reunion was just ‘ok'. As for my friend, the reunion with his grandfather was wonderful!

    However, it is become very controversial because the AP’s never dealt with their infertility and truly believed that my friends father was theirs, meaning, that their ancestry was also the adopted son’s ancestry. So, for my friend, his developed relationship with his grandfather was taken personally as an attack toward the AP’s. My friend felt such a connection with his grandfather that he named his youngest son after him. Now, imagine the outrage from the AP’s!

    It is not about the AP’s. I am not trying to be dismissive. Just the same as it is not about my close friends that I may consider family.

    @Lindie, I am a mother of a relinquished child. When I read your post it created a deep fear in me. Is this how my son feels? And if so, how am I going to deal with it…..it is painful to hear.

    I realize that I was taking your situation personally and that I shouldn’t. I do feel sorry for your mother however. I feel sorry that she is not getting the validation that she is seeking. I am not saying that the validation needs to come from you. And it sounds like that even if she was getting validated it wouldn’t be enough. My sister is this way with her children. It is always about her and whatever they do it is never good enough. They have had to cut her out of their lives…..sad.

    So, what I am saying, I feel sad for her loss. I also feel sorry for the rest of your family that are missing out in getting to know you. There is more family than just the mother.

    I’m starting to think the healing from the effects of adoption for the natural families is going to take generations…..until the AP’s and maybe the adoptees in each particular family are passed on from this life.

    ……………………...Unless, you are the lucky ones and figure it our sooner.

    Meanwhile, I am going to be for family preservation.

  47. ((sigh))

    Once again, blog authors striving to put into context and generalize that which is unique and individual to each adoptee.

    A one size fits all approach rarely works or adequately describes a person's reasons for doing or not doing a course of action; especially one so emotionally charged as searching for your biological family.

    Not surprised to see the words "brainwashing" or in essence accusations of poor helpless adult adoptees being beaten emotionally into submission and learning not to want that which is out their reach.

    OF COURSE an adult adoptee NOT wishing to search must be flawed, diminished, raised by deranged adoptive parents or insert other standard response.

    Bottom line: those of us (like myself and a few other commenters here) who simply have no interest in searching are a threat to First Mothers on this forum who must believe we feel a fundamental connection to our families through biology, so naturally we must be labeled, studied and pitied.

    That's okay ~ we can take it....after all, most of us have already learned to accept societies stereotypes and misnomers about us. Anyone find the irony here?


    Just sign me,

    Unimpressed in the Midwest

  48. Any political movement depends on the action of the people who will benefit from the desired change. Do nothing, expect nothing to change, the status quo will reign.

  49. Lorraine,

    I did passive searching for years, i.e. looking for her searching for me. I was not willing to cause my mother harm - the what if she never told her husband, child, what if, what if. If I had been aggressive and hired someone would I have been successful? Who knows.

    As to why adoptees don't try to get the laws changed? I think it is a combination of many different things including lack of knowledge. The two sets of parents know about the laws because they were adults - we just grew up knowing there was no way to know, that our records were sealed. It just was. I don't think it dawns on many that the laws can be changed and then if you stand up publicly... Then there is also the loyalty card/factor - despite having parents who aren't going to be upset and will help you do it - that loyalty thing kind of holds you back. And if you got the kind of parent who would go bonkers then...

    I still remember sitting at the table with mom and another AP friend who was telling us that her son had searched, reconnected, and she had given him the ultimatum of them, or her, and if he chose them he was out of her will. Mom lit into her and tried to reason with her but there was nothing that could change her mind. That loyalty required one or the other. Sorry, that isn't love that is possessing and some adoptees know that would be the outcome.

    I read this post today by a very mature 17 year old. You can almost understand why she doesn't want to search one day - she explains it in the post. Perhaps when she is older that will change but I can understand her reasons not to - we all have a vision of who and what our mother is like in our mind.


  50. My grandson, who was born after the reunion of my son and I, will be forced to have a hidden relationship with his natural family, despite the fact that he is not adopted. My son's other mother is so hostile towards me and my family (her son's original family) that our grandson will not be permitted to relate to us as his own, or to include us in his idea of family.

    Unless someone changes this. Says it's not okay. Says what they want.

    I understand that I don't understand what life is like as an adopted person, but I also understand that we can't all wait till people die before we are able to choose and think freely about our own lives. As difficult as it is, it is healthy to do so.

    One thing that saddens me is when adopted people feel responsible for everything and everyone. Julia Emily, you are not responsible for the situation you find yourself in, nor for your parents feelings about your wish to search, but I respect your feelings and know that you know your own particular situation best.

    It just saddens me. My son once asked me if I was disappointed in him that his adoption had been an unhappy one. As if it was his fault. He couldn't see that he was not responsible for that. And that his parents were.

  51. Cherry: it's a shame that you son's other mother acts the way she does. Her actions will have an effect on generations of family members, as you have pointed out. And your son's feeling of responsibility? As unusual as it might seem to you, or to anyone reading who is not an adoptee, I can understand it. Is it logical? No, of course not. But he was made to feel this way, and it would be very difficult to make him feel otherwise.

    Maybe we adoptees are looking for "permission". Permission to search, to ask questions, to delve into a subject that just seems to bring out the worst in so many people.

    If my AP's had done just a few things differently over the years, or had tried to be a bit more open and less threatened, I probably would not feel so much responsibility for my own situation. And responsibility for their well-being.

    I was with them yesterday. Here are two people in their 90's, both in poor health, who do firmly believe the "adoption is wonderful" fantasy. Aren't we living proof of just how wonderful it is? Now is not the time to burst their bubble.

    Adoption does different things to us all. It took me a long time to start coming out of the fog. The subject was off-limits, which brings me to middle age with elderly AP's. And sealed records. And not much hope from the great state of NY! I've written letters, signed petitions, emailed officials....but that is really all I can do while my folks are still with me. I guess this is why progress is so slow.

    Anyway, just reading these comments shows the many different views on adoption from many different sides of the issue. Everyone has a different angle on it. I don't know what the answer is. Once again....the great social experiment gone wrong.

  52. theadoptedones said " we just grew up knowing there was no way to know, that our records were sealed. It just was."
    Absolutely, this was me in a nutshell. I had no idea that there was a movement to open records until I heard on the radio that illinois had unsealed our OBCs, and then I found this site and my eyes were opened.

  53. But JuliaEmily......that's just it.....not all of us find adoption to be a social experiment gone wrong.

    You were right the first time: that we all come to experience adoption differently and no set of "rules" or one size fits all applies.

    Unimpressed in Midwest

  54. Many of the recent comments mention the children and grandchildren of adoptees and first mothers. Clearly adoption has a multi-generational impact that cannot be dimissed.

    I wonder how those adoptees and mothers who are uninterested in searching or have troubled reunions will react if their children have a strong desire to re-connect with the natural family? Maybe Lindie can speak to this issue. I don't know how old her children are now, but what if they (or their kids) decide to fully re-connect and call the first mother "grandma," use bio-family names, etc? They may also want to have relationships with siblings, cousins, aunt, uncles. At some point adoptees, first mothers and adoptive families may have to address these relationships whether they want to or not.

  55. @Ripe,
    well I think all adoptees are somewhat paranoid because all of us somewhere deep down inside feel our mothers rejected us when we were babies and that is partly because closed records barred us from knowing the truth. Your older brothers problems are NOT his fault, I hope you will remember that and be kind to him. I hate the way these "experts" categorize us, and I have to say that uh, these 3 types can be found in natural family's too. I know of one where the first son was an acid droppin hippie and the other two were nerdy bookworms. How the two nerdy ones differed I am not sure, but I bet there were some differences. I think the most rebellious adoptees are victims of abuse many times by one or both of the adoptive parents. Just like many kids who aren't adopted are, it is called acting out especially when the child has NO control in getting help or ending the situation (in my day there was no term such as a child abuse and no one cared if a child was abused or at least that is the impression I got). I think it is harder for kids who are adopted and abused because it is hard enough not to have the freedom to know who you are but add to that a monster in your face every day, it is too much stress. I do agree that different adopted children in the same adoptive family can and do act differently but the same is said about birth order in natural family's. It needs to be acknowledged too that none of us are related to each other and yes, we are all going to act different. The golden child in my adoptive family was the middle child, a rather bully bitch girl who I still hate and she did look and find though and never hid it. So not everyone fits into the box non adopted people who built it want to throw us in. The bottom line I think is that growing up adopted is NOT healthy and screws up our emotions which will effect our behavior in one way or another. I know I will catch hell from some for this but I think these adoptees who don't want to search are expressing that this is how THEY have screwed up emotions. The main point is however when it comes to the entire issue of opening adoption records not all adoptees have to agree. The records should be open to all so those adoptees who do want to search can.

  56. Unimpressed in the Midwest: No one here is trying to impress anybody, I don't believe. But, I hold fast to what I said. This IS the great experiment gone wrong. For exactly the reasons I stated and you basically stated the same thing. It may have worked for some. It may have worked for you. It most certainly did not work for us all. And that's a failure, in my opinion. An epic failure that no one seems to want to take responsibility for. When an experiment or an idea works for all, or at least the vast majority, you can call it a success. Adoption is not a success. Not by a long shot.

  57. Having been involved in adoption reform for so long, I have seen so many people change their minds about wanting to know. My daughter's adopted brother did not want to search or find out anything when I reconnected with my daughter Jane. I offered him access to the same "searcher" who found across state lines, from either direction--mother to child, child to mother. Not interested. Since he was adopted through the same agency in Rochester, it probably would have been possible.

    Ten years later the Searcher was gone, and her brother's own search was futile. End of story.

  58. @ Julia Emily

    I absolutely agree with your views about adoption as a social experiment. Only someone with absolutely no understanding of human beings could have ever thought it up.

    I also share a protectiveness towards my aged parents (though I am not adopted) which means I shield them from many of the deeply painful effects of adoption, even though they are actually responsible for my son being adopted away from our family.

    So they bobble along in largely ignorant bliss, saying they love me and saying ludicrous things like 'let sleeping dogs lie', while I feel sometimes incapacitated by the weight of grief for my own loss and the losses of my son.

    I know it's not the same, but I recognise the scenario somewhat. I feel compelled to care for them, feel guilt at the thought of hurting them, but feel crushed by the anguish that has resulted from their failure to help me, their daughter, and my son, their grandson, when we were both very young and needed it.

    It is very difficult to put your own feelings at the centre of your life.
    But it's essential sometimes.

    Not doing so has led to many women losing their children to adoption, and I'm sure many adopted people losing a chance to reunite with their original family.

    If OBCs weren't sealed, your situation would be very different. I wish I could help you, from here over the Pond.

    If there is a way, tell me how.

  59. One of my husband's employees is in his late 40's and adopted and another of my husband's employee's wife is in her early 40's and adopted. They have all been friends now for over 10 years and my husband was there when they met for the first time. He said the man immediately shared he was also adopted and attempted to engage the wife in a conversation about it. He told her he had always wanted to know more about his bio family, but the records were sealed and any search had been fruitless. She replied she had no interested in knowing anything about her bio family, had never attempted to look and never would. She said her adopted parents were her only parents as far as she was concerned. After that they never talked about it again. I wonder what makes them have such different opinions? Interestingly enough the man says he wouldn't adopt a child himself, but the woman has expressed interested in adopting a child recently to give their a bio child a siblings. She is no longer fertile and has had several miscarriages attempting to have another child.

  60. Cherry said...
    @ Julia Emily
    "I absolutely agree with your views about adoption as a social experiment. Only someone with absolutely no understanding of human beings could have ever thought it up"

    Actually I think it is the opposite and they did know how much it would hurt both mother and child and that is why they did it. I think people like Georgia Tann and Herbert Lehman wanted to destroy the family unit for various reasons and those who can't conceive today don't care because they are angry, jealous and feel bad about themselves so they are more than happy to buy into this abusive system..

  61. People like Meh Unimpressed in Midwest are the reason most original birth certificates are sealed. Your disinterest and talking about it to your friends and family hurts all of us. BTW, what are you doing here? You are so not interested that you come to this blog to knock the writers who have done a lot to unseal OBCs.

  62. I'm continually having to tell adoptees who want to search that the state they were born in changed the laws in x year and here is how you get your OBC.

    We as a collective group have failed to get the word out to the general public where many adoptee's reside - like G-Dean above - random luck he saw the change on the news.

    How can we do better at connecting to the masses of adoptees out there?

  63. Unimpressed in Midwest said "OF COURSE an adult adoptee NOT wishing to search must be flawed, diminished, raised by deranged adoptive parents or insert other standard response."

    I'm an adoptive mom, admittedly, but I didn't read it that way. Certainly, everyone is an individual. But we often examine a group of people and look for reasons, similarities, explanations for behavior, commonalities... stereotyping and generalization are frequent in all aspects of our lives, especially as we strive to understand a system like adoption. Adoptive parents are frequently generalized here as not caring about adoptee rights, having issues with birth parents, having not dealt with their infertility, not caring about their child's history or biological roots. As an AP, none of these generalizations fit me, but I don't take offense at those statements. They are obviously coming from somewhere and are based in certain experiences. I know those types of APs as well. Are they the majority? We have no real way of knowing that answer. But they impact first mothers in a very real way, so they are discussed here on a first mother site.

    There are adoptees who will not fit into the profile described in this post. But that doesn't invalidate that there might indeed be adoptees who do, and I see in the comments that some are relating to what was said, so there is obviously truth in it.

    In my limited experience, my friends who are adoptees have gone through varying stages in their lives, from not being interested to having mild interest to being very interested to searching and going back and forth between any of those states infinite numbers of times.

    There is no one size fits all for ANYONE. I've never met an adoptive mom who is exactly like me. But if we cannot speak in generalities, then we would not be able to discuss anything, so when certain descriptors don't fit me, I take it for what it is worth and respectfully add my voice to the discussion to represent my outlook.

    Regardless of any lack of desire to search and irrespective of the reasons why, it is wrong to seal OBCs. Point blank. Simply because there are some adoptees who do not wish to search does not change that. My daughter will always know her other parents, yet she has no right to her OBC from the state (although we do have a copy for her). Regardless of whether she continues to choose to maintain her relationship with them or not has nothing to do with access to her truth, her history, her birth record.

  64. @ Tiffany,

    I pray that you will continue to advocate for your child's mother and father. Even if/when your child says she/he wants nothing to do with them because of the hurt. I hope that doesn't happen, but it might.

    Please don't be silent. Continue to advocate.

    My son's amom closed the adoption and in the same breath says," I am not keeping him from contacting you."

    But, she certainly isn't helping either.......

  65. @ Anon March 2nd @4:12

    you say, first mothers "who must believe we (adoptees) feel a fundamental connection to our families"

    I don't feel that way. If anything it is I, who feels a connection to my son. He may not have felt a bond at all.

    That is his journey. But for me....his mother. The bond is there and it is not going away.

  66. @ Cherry: Your scenario is very much like mine, albeit from the other side of the adoption mess. I feel for you because, though not in your situation, I understand the aspect of dealing with your parents, and their past decisions, etc. The similarities are amazing! And thank you for your understanding and kind words.

    I had to smile when you said your elderly parents "bobble along in largely ignorant bliss"! My adoptive parents are right behind them! My father's often-used quote is "why rock the boat?" Why would we ever upset this perfect little family unit by bringing up anything from the past?

    I am finding it impossible to put my feelings at the center of my life, as you suggest. But you are right. I need to work towards that end. It is extremely difficult, especially while caring for my AP's on a daily basis.

    And if my state would just open the records, at least I would have some answers. Without rocking the boat, so to speak. It really is so long overdue that I honestly can't believe it is still an issue.

    And I agree with you that whoever thought this was a good idea had no understanding of human beings at all. How do you just pass babies around from one set of parents to other parents, closing all records, erasing all history, and think it's a good idea? Obviously no one thought about the babies.

    @ Anon 3:52 : You raise an interesting point, but I don't think that is it. Or at least not all of it. Georgia Tann and others like her, in my opinion, had so much to hide and were making a great deal of money. Obviously they didn't care about tearing families apart. They were stealing children left and right, and it became a very big business, as we all know. I think Georgia Tann, in particular, starting sealed records so there would be no paper trail. No one could search for the babies she had stolen and placed, and no one could question her practices. To read the history of the adoption industry is just sickening!!

    To think that it is still going on today is even worse.

  67. BJane said "I pray that you will continue to advocate for your child's mother and father. Even if/when your child says she/he wants nothing to do with them because of the hurt. I hope that doesn't happen, but it might."

    I can't know how our daughter will feel at various points in her life. Just like it is very hard for her mom to be around right now, it might be hard for our daughter to be around her at some points. I will always respect her feelings and needs and honor her wishes. At the same time, I will always be truthful with her about what I know of the situation- how incredibly hard this decision was for her parents, how heartbroken they were, especially her mother, and that the love they feel for her is indeed real. Life is not always easy or straightforward, and adoptees must live with the decisions their parents made, and I get that. But I know the cost of this decision for her parents, and I plan to be honest with my daughter about that truth. She may have any feelings she has about it, and they are valid, but I hope she will someday understand how hard this choice was for them and how cornered they were into making it. I was there, and I witnessed it all, and I carry that for our daughter. I know. I have never witnessed such sorrow, and I hope to never again.

    Also, I have my own promises to keep. If our daughter chooses to not have contact or a relationship, I will respect that. But I made a promise that I would have contact and keep her mother informed, and I will honor that promise, mother to mother. It is very wrong that your son's adoptive mother is not keeping her promises to you, and I am so sorry for that. It really upsets me when adoptive parents do that to first parents, and that's why I support making these open arrangements legal. It is, I believe, quite rare that a first parent poses a danger to a child, and in all other cases, adoptive parents and first parents should obtain mediation if they are having problems with the agreed arrangement.

    I do know we are blessed. Our daughter's parents are wonderful people, and I say often that if our daughter were to turn out exactly like them, I would be proud of her. I love them and appreciate their presence in all our lives- our older daughter thinks they are just amazing. I only wish they were more present, but I understand the heartache involved.

  68. bless you Tiffany, you are a gem.

  69. Anonymous, I just saw your comment above. Thank you so much. You ladies who post here are all so lovely, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to learn from you all.

  70. Tiffany, I hope that your daughter does not end up in a place like her other mother...where she has to give up a child. I know you didn't mean that, but when I read your comment, that thought leapt out at me. No one wants their daughter or son to be someone who gives up a child, or as someone said the other day on Facebook in response to the L'Wren post (shared by a non-adoption friend) "ditched the kid."

  71. Tiffany, I hope that your daughter does not end up in a place like her other mother...where she has to give up a child. I know you didn't mean that, but when I read your comment, that thought leapt out at me. No one wants their daughter or son to be someone who gives up a child, or as someone said the other day on Facebook in response to the L'Wren post (shared by a non-adoption friend) "ditched the kid."

  72. Lorraine, I'm not at all sure what I said that came across that way. I often reply from my phone while laying with my kids at night, and it's not the best method if forming cohesive thoughts.

    Goodness, no, never would my husband and I encourage our daughters to give up any potential child for adoption regardless of their age at conception. We have actually discussed this several times so I can say that assuredly. It would of course not be ideal, but I don't believe that a lifetime of missing your child and us missing our grandchild is the solution to making some bad choices along the way of life. Would we support her if she chose adoption? Yes, reluctantly, but we would. But we are not those parents who would force or even encourage that choice, and we are those parents who would help so that education was completed and continual supper was there to help ensure our family stayed together.

    I am mortified that anything I wrote might have come across as otherwise because I believe so strongly in this. I love my daughters, and it would be a cold day in hell that I would ever, ever want them to go through what my dayghter's other mom has endured. It breaks my heart that she had to, and as a mother, I could never encourage my daughters to walk that road. Never. There's just about nothing I wouldn't do to prevent it.

  73. I think it is a teensy bit out of bounds (actually that is being nice - it isn't any of your damned business actually) to criticize an adoptee for not searching. I searched for many years, and yes, the fact that I was denied information was maddening. I thought I found my brothers for goodness sake, but his wife was freaked out by the search so I got cut off from that, too... But you must understand that it is fundamentally a personal and private decision. Not yours. The adoptee's alone. So when searching and searching for years in the past with no resources, you discover no one is looking for you. And it hurts all over again. Now, with all of the resources available to us, with states opening up records, when searching AGAIN and now once AGAIN seeing that no one is looking for YOU. Well gee - are you seriously puzzled why we don't want to look? Sorry, but I understand it completely.

  74. You can interpret the blog however you want, but I am not "criticizing" adoptees who do not search, but puzzling over why they do not. It seems to the general public weird if someone expresses no interest in their own background and ancestral history, and the blog was merely puzzling over how that impulse can be shut down.

    But a few have chosen to interpret even discussing this--at a blog by first mothers for first mothers, as criticism. When it's not. All people are different.

    I was thinking about this from the point of view of someone who is adopted and has no reasonable means of finding out who he was when she was born, and how it must seem hopeless to search. The good news is that this year so many states have bills that would unseal the OBCs that I feel we are reaching a tipping point. Especially if your state is one of them, get involved.

    I didn't understand the part about your brother--a biological sibling? An adopted brother? His wife was freaked out? I have no idea who you are talking about. Please explain.

  75. Hey, Anon,
    I never criticize anyone--first mothers or adoptees--for not continuing to search after putting their heart into it and getting nowhere. I do have a problem with adoptees and first mothers who proclaim loudly to the world "I'm not interested in searching." This reinforces all the myths about adoption and leads legislators to believe that only a few malcontents support opening records.

    Frankly, I've found these "no interest folks" eventually find they do have an interest--a very strong one--that they suppressed for many years.

  76. I am an adult adoptee. I was always very curious, but I did not search because I had very little information and knew that finding out more would put me into very embarrassing/humiliating situations. I would have to contact my adoptive parents' lawyer and beg for information or reach out to people that might not be related to me after all, if my research was incorrect. Also, I was told many times all the reasons that birth parents don't want to be contacted and that I should be grateful I was not aborted. My birth mother was also slammed. I was told she was "promiscuous" and a "flake." So, yes, I believe there are many ways in which adoptees are conditioned not to search. That was definitely the case for me. I got a lot of positive feedback for being "strong" enough and "grateful" enough to my adoptive parents not to wonder where I came from. However, I'm older now and more in touch with my own needs, so I've embarked on my search despite all the conditioning. So far, it has been painful. It is difficult to approach potential family members as a stranger, especially when they don't understand why I want "to know." I contacted the lawyer who did my adoption and she acted like i was calling from outer space and could not imagine why I would trouble her with such a thing. I guess we'll see how it all ends up, but I don't plan to give up.

    1. Make the call. Read the page post at the blog (see the sidebar) about writing a letter, and see my add that I know think phone calls are way the best way to go. You say it all in the last line. You will always regret it.

      Say: Do you have time to talk about something personal?

      Then spit it out in one sentence: I was born as XYZ on ABC in DEF.. and I believe that date and place will mean something to you. I have my birth certificate and your name is on it.

      You'll never know unless you do.

      There's lots more to read at the blog if you poke around and search for adoptee reunion, etc.

  77. When any asks why you would "want to know," do ask them if they know who their parents, relatives, ancestors are....even if you know they do, because that ought to shut them up. Or you might say, "Why wouldn't I want to know? You do, or are you adopted also?" It might seem rude at first, but say it sweetly, and don't let 'em get you down.

    1. PS: It's too bad the lawyer is a jerk. She must not be aware that the world has changed, adoptees are speaking up and acting out their dreams. You are the by-product of an old case--and since time is money...you don't represent that. Maybe you even need to pay her an hourly fee to check her old records.



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