' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Keeping secrets in adoption can make you ill

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Keeping secrets in adoption can make you ill

Reasons enough for the sealed birth certificates of adoptees everywhere to be released comes from this month's issue of The Atlantic:
"Research shows an association between keeping an emotionally charged secret and ailments ranging from the common cold to chronic diseases."
Reading this reminded me of when I held in the secret of my life: my daughter whom I relinquished. I lied to a doctor once who asked if I'd ever been pregnant, feeling like a criminal as I did so--but he was the doctor giving a physical which would qualify me for the company medical policy. If I told the truth, would I be fired from a job I so desperately needed and wanted? It was my first job after having to quit my last before I "showed."

As for the rest, I didn't so much outright lie for those first few years as feel I was somehow lying by omission by not telling anyone I was becoming close to that I had given up a child for adoption. Dating was a bust as I kept this canker sore of a secret inside. I was moody, difficult, distant--talk about not opening up to love. I was a woman with a past. I remember one man I spoke to regularly in the course of my work told me I was "hiding something." He was right, of course, but I said nothing. I wouldn't be surprised if he had even figured out my secret. As for illness, I was suicidal for a time, and one night weeping profusely I confessed my sorrow to a resident in psychiatry who had moved into my apartment building the same day I had. He prescribed uppers; they made me even more nervous and jittery than I am normally, and I would devolve into a crying mess at night as the drug wore off. I ate. I was enormously eager to fill my ache with food. I gained about twenty pounds in a few months. 

The only thing that saved me was the job into which I could fully throw myself and work long hours. Days I worked my regular beat at The Knickerbocker News covering health and science; two months later I was able to add reviewing ballet four or five nights a week--after working a full day. I would go to the ballet in Saratoga Performing Arts Center, drive back to Albany, write my review, and be home sometime after midnight to be back at work the next morning at 8:30 a.m. It was crazy, but those long hours were my salvation. I didn't have time to think or feel sorry for myself. 

A year later I had a few days of vacation time and went to Nantucket by myself. My first husband said he saw the pain in my eyes, and that if I walked by three times that evening, he would simply introduce himself. Main Street on Nantucket is a couple of blocks long and not being able to face going into a bar alone, I did walk up and down, just strolling and window shopping, killing time. The third time he saw me, he stopped me and asked if I'd like to go for a cup of coffee. I somehow kept my secret inside for a couple of months, but when he asked me to marry him, I told him about my daughter before I said yes. I felt like tarnished goods, and he had to know the truth. 

So whenever I read about secrets, I remember the awful pain of holding mine close. The Atlantic piece by Sarah Yager, all tidily footnoted, says that the "bigger the secret" the harder it is to keep. I'll add--and the more likely it is to lead to physical and emotional problems. 

I remember the utter relief when I came out publicly in a magazine piece for Town & Country in 1976. I shocked some people at the office, appeared on the Today show, and though that was somewhat nervous making--what a fucking relief it was not to have to hide my greatest sorrow anymore! Other magazine stories followed in which I said who I was--a mother who lost a child to adoption--and though there was usually some kickback in the early years (nasty comments said to my face or behind my back, hate mail, etc.) what I remember most was the relief. Take me as I am: a woman who lost a child to adoption. Yes, one of  "those women."  Birthmark followed three years later.

Luckily I did find some salvation, according to Yager, by writing about it: "Other evidence in favor of disclosure includes multiple studies showing that writing about a traumatic experience can boost the immune system." Well, I got that covered.

Yager adds that teens who confide in a parent or close friend report fewer physical complaints and less delinquent behavior, loneliness, and depression than those who sit on their secrets." Which would appear to be reason enough for anyone whose thoughts are filled with their own adoption angst to share it--with their parents, or friends or a counselor.  Facebook and closed list serves and blogs have opened up a whole world to people like us. We have found each other and can be free to express our deepest thoughts about the worst thing that ever happened to us. Yes, the worst thing. I did not write that word lightly. I believe it. The worst thing. The act that changed our lives forever. Others may feel differently, but losing my daughter was the worst thing that ever happened to me. 

But there is always the exception: a small group who seem to get along just fine by totally repressing intrusive thoughts about secret information: they are so tightly wrapped up they manage to hide their secrets--even from themselves. Are these the adoptees who are not interested in their true past, their first identities, the names on their original birth certificates? Are these the women who don't want to know their children, I wondered? Or are they, years later, so deeply invested in the secret that they repressed that the reason of the secret is no longer the problem; the fact they have have kept this secret so long is. Their lie of omission has gone on for years. If I could reach them I would tell them that letting out the secret is like finding a new breath, fresh air in their lungs and new space in their hearts, not taken up with...the secret. Letting go of it would be a new lease on life. The truth really can make you free.

I'm thinking about the harm of the secret, because legislators, lawyers, judges, Catholic bishops and the ACLU state chapters who oppose unsealing birth certificates to the adopted think they are doing good by speaking up for silent mothers who have "moved on" with their lives and do not want to be reminded of the painful time of their lives. They assume they are helping mothers in the closet by allowing them to continue to live their false lives. They are "protecting" them from the reality of the truth. What they are doing instead is letting the hurt continue and spread, like a virus that cannot be cured with a miracle drug. Yet this sickness would shrivel and die in the light.--lorraine
How shame keeps birth mothers from embracing reunion
To Tell the Truth or Not, Continued: Secrets and Lies

The Adoption Reader: Birth Mothers, Adoptive Mothers, and Adopted Daughters Tell Their Stories With eloquence and conviction, more than 30 diverse birth mothers, adoptive mothers and adoptees tell their adoption stories and explore what is a deeply emotional, sometimes controversial, and always compelling experience that affects millions of families and individuals.--Amazon. Note: One of Lorraine's essays that originally appeared in Town & Country opens the book. 



  1. I have always thought you were so brave for coming out so publicly with your story in an era when having a baby out of wedlock was still considered scandalous and to be kept hidden. But I didn't think about how, in doing so, you also helped set yourself free. Thanks for turning your secret into a relentless voice for coerced victims of stolen children.

  2. Yes, Lorraine, thank you.

    Keeping other people's secrets is toxic, as I have learned.

    Love and mercy, xxMrsTBB

  3. This touched me I am a first mother who is still in the closet , I have told my husband but do not have the courage to tell my children who are 11,4,1. I just have kept this secret for so long I don’t even know where to start. My mother, sisters, brothers even my friends don’t have a clue, and I don’t know if I could tell them at this point. I briefly connected with my daughter , and she has told me that she doesn’t want any contact, I wonder if I had not been rejected if that would have given me the strength to come out of hiding . I would love the advice of other first mothers. I guess I feel that why should I tell my family about a person that wants nothing to do with us , I know in the back of my mind, I would feel better if I opened up to my family and friends but it is easier to live the lie.

  4. Ummm...my family did not know I had a child until I was coming out of the closet and had testified openly, with my name, in a trial for an adoptee hoping to get her agency file. I went home to Michigan and told my mother and my two brothers, all separately.


    Since your husband knows, you are halfway there. It is not easier to live the lie. Email me privately if you want to. forumfirstmother@gmail.com.

  5. Umm,

    I did not tell my three raised daughters about my relinquished daughter Rebecca until Rebecca and I reunited when she was 31. My raised daughters were 25, 23, and 20. I waited for over a month before telling them about Rebecca and debated not telling them. I decided to tell them because I wanted to have a relationship with Rebecca (who had found me) and I could not in good conscience try to keep her a secret. I also knew it would be difficult and stressful to try to keep her a secret.

    I appreciate how her keeping her distance makes it more difficult for you. I don't know when I would have told my daughters if Rebecca had not contacted me.

    Once Rebecca and I reunited, I felt a burden lifting and a strange sense of completeness. She told me that she too felt more complete.

    From what folks have told me, children respond differently upon learning of the lost sibling. Most react positively; some are upset because they will no longer be the oldest or the only girl, and the like. I have never heard of any child going over the deep end upon being told of a sibling.

    I told other family members over the course of the next two years. None of them had a problem with it.

    Your raised children and other family members will learn of your daughter eventually. No time is a good time to tell, but once you do, you will breath a sigh of relief.

    Here's a couple of posts I wrote about telling my daughters which you might find helpful.

    Telling my family About my first child

    Telling my daughters

    I'd encourage you to join a first mothers group. You'll be amazed how comfortable you feel talking to other mothers, telling women you just met things that you haven't told anyone else.

  6. Lorraine: Birthmark was amazing to read. It was very courageous of you to share your story, especially at that time when first mothers were basically all still hiding. I know from my own personal experience that no one ever thought of the first mother, and the pain of relinquishing her child.

    It seems that many first mothers are still in the closet, which is a shame, in this day and age. There is no reason to keep such a secret.

    But, secrets are still rampant in adoption land. It is a very complex mind game that people play with first mothers, and adoptees.

    Why is the truth so threatening? How could women be expected to give birth, give up their baby, and "move on"? Why can't I, as an adult, see my OBC and whatever file there might be on my adoption? Why are my AP's so upset anytime the subject comes up....to the point where I have just buried it and never bring it up at all.

    No one can live with all these lies. It may be difficult to tell the truth, especially if it has been hidden for a long time, but to live a lie of this magnitude is impossible. It does make one ill. All the powers-that-be, that put us in this position, have no idea because they are not first mothers or adoptees. Who are these people to tell me my life has to be fake? And that first mothers have to live with such a secret?

    I have no one I can talk to in depth about is, so thank you and Jane for this blog. Obviously we all need to unburden ourselves about this travesty.

  7. Umm,
    Since your oldest kept daughter is 11 I would tell the kids ASAP and I wouldn't tell my husband I was telling them. Just do it, like the Nike ad states.
    I know many mothers that have BIG trouble with kids they raised because they didn't tell their kids about their sibling. I'm talking about kids that had good relationships with their mother and then POW, they stop talking to her for years at a time. If it was a one off I would say, well that's weird. But it's not a one off. There is a pattern among 1st mothers. These kids are so betrayed that their own mother didn't have the decency to tell them they have a sibling out in the world. That they shut her out of theirs. And is it any wonder your adopted out child doesn't want contact? If I hadn't told my family my daughter would have walked away, too. Not telling others is a form of rejection. A HUGE form of rejection.
    The reason I suggest you not tell your husband before telling the kids is he may try to sway you against telling the kids. My husband put up a huge resistance but in the end he knew that if he stood in my way I would have had to leave.
    And the child that doesn't want contact today may come back in a year or two or twelve and want contact then. It will be so much easier if you tell the family. And how about having a cake on her birthday every year? If I was an adoptee I would feel pretty special if my family marked my day even if I wasn't ready for contact.

  8. @ Barbara: You are a first mother. Therefore, your opinions from a first mother's viewpoint are very valid.

    As an adoptee, I IMPLORE you: do not suggest having a cake on the birthday of the child that was adopted out. Birthdays are VERY triggering. I become incapacitated every year at my supposed birthday due to a depression that sets in and will not leave...until a few weeks later. This idea does a lot of things, but it does not make me feel special. Please re-think this idea.

  9. Telling an 11 year old that she has a sibling who wants no contact is a very heavy burden to place on young child. Additionally, not all eleven year olds have the same emotional level of maturity. Thus, there are many, many factors that need to be considered. Personally, I'd wait till the children were older. Just my opinion as a first mother.

  10. No once an adoption has happened people are not fine, not a one of them. Some deal by pretending (even to themselves) that it didn't happen. But many find there is not a person anywhere that has a scant idea how to talk to a mom of such immense grief. I think the fact of the victim having a support person or few has more to do with coping than with if they talk about it or not. Reminds me of queen for a day or the contests where women are given a prize for the best rape story. You have to deal with this the way you can, not what is going to please others.

  11. To Barbara: Please take this in a spirit of kindness. Not every adoptee has happy thoughts about or wants their birthday acknowledged or celebrated.

    I would consider very carefully how the adoptee feels about it before arbitrarily deciding it's in their best interest to hold a celebration of any sort.

    I have forbidden my fmom to have ANY acknowledgement, celebration or otherwise of my birthday. Why? Because I'm heartless? Far from it.

    I'm from a closed adoption and birthdays for me growing up were torture. Put on the smilie face for everyone publicly and then privately bawling my face off secretly later wondering "I wonder if she is thinking of me".

    But when she came back I considered that this was a moment truly shared only by my fmom and me, and I thought we have both had pain from this, maybe this can be one day we can comfort and share as mother and daughter.

    Until I found out that my birth and subsequent adoption was the grande finale to absolutely heinous, abusive, selfish and cruel actions on her part willingly against me because it "made her feel good" and besides I "would never know" which somehow justifies it all.

    I told her I will never have anything to do with any of it EVER. Why would I want to celebrate that? Frankly, I would rather have never been born at all than her do that to me.

    Mine is an extreme example I'm sure, but nevertheless, many adoptees feel that to celebrate their birthday is to celebrate the separation and the loss.

    You may want to tread carefully around some of these things.

  12. Anon at 9:20: you are absolutely right. And your case is extreme, but many adoptees feel the same way.

    The idea of my first mother somehow celebrating my birthday, when I don't even know what date it actually is, turned my stomach. I am sorry if I sounded less than kind in my post, but the idea just sickened me. My birthday is a huge problem (for me) every year. But I have to pretend and put on a smile for my AP's, who, of course, always want to celebrate. This has always been a problem, ever since I was a child and found one of the famous "birth announcements" that had the wrong date printed on it. Adoptive mom would never answer the question. I still have no idea what the date is. The whole thing, like everything else in my adoption, is fake. This is not something I want celebrated.

  13. Julia Emily:

    What I really hate about your story is , you are going to be the good daughter until the end, and your parents are going to die, and they will never tell you the true story. It sounds as if they do not know a great deal, but I cannot understand why at this point they will not share with you what they know! I don't understand how anyone can be so massively cruel.

    But I think this happens in that generation and before quite often: A cousin in husband's family was adopted; the cousin was pretty sure that an uncle knew who her parents were, or at least her mother and what her story was. She asked him before he died. He refused to tell her.

  14. Lorraine: I hate the same things about my story that you hate, believe me.

    I don't think my folks know a great deal, as you say. They did not ask many questions at the time, never met the girl, never asked for her medical history, never asked about my father.

    My A-dad holds the same opinion about every and any adoption. He gets bent out of shape when he hears that an adoptee searches or has made contact. He claims it is "selfish".

    My A-mom is threatened, I think. And she can't bear to ever have anything not be perfect, if I am stating this correctly. I posted her reaction when I gave birth and went thru post-partum. She couldn't handle it. She stayed away.

    It took me so long to come to all my realizations that, in many ways, I may have perpetuated their myth that everything was/is fine. And we get along, but we never, ever discuss anything of such importance. Everything was always swept under the rug, even when they were much younger.

    Now I am in a spot. This is not the time to bring this up to them.

    I am still waiting for my non-ID. I did file the papers to open my records. I am hoping NY changes it's law. Other than that, at this precise moment, there is not much more I can do.

  15. Julia Em:

    Not only just "hoping" NY changes its sealed records--you are doing everything possible, right? Writing to your legislators, Gov. Cuomo--is it possible you could lobby on this coming Tuesday in Albany?

    Unsealed Initiative is coordinating this. Our chief Assembly sponsor, David Weprin, will be holding a press conference. If you were able to go, I think you would get a great deal out of it for yourself.

  16. When I say "hoping"....I do mean that I am doing what I can as far as emailing legislators, writing letters, contacting the Governor, etc. Whatever is posted on Unsealed Initiative's FB page to do, I do. But I can't be as far away as Albany, as much as I would like to be part of this.

    I am trying, and am more involved in this effort than I have ever been involved in anything! But my time is not my own, so most of the "in person" things have to be let go, I am sad to say.

  17. Maybe "commemorating" is a better word than "celebrating" the adoptee's birthday by their mother. In situations where there is no reunion, or where the mother has been rejected, the commemoration of the day is for the mother, not the adoptee. If it makes the mom feel better, fine, as long as she is aware she is doing it for herself. On the other side, I do not think it the adoptee's place to either encourage or forbid this once they are reunited.

    I find the idea of having a cake and celebration with your current family a bit creepy, and imposing your pain on them. For those who feel the need to do something, perhaps a donation to a charity, or doing something nice for another person on that day would be more meaningful.

    Those who are reunited need to work out what works for them, be it a card, gift,email or phone call, or for the lucky few a visit.Birthdays are fraught with mixed emotions for both sides.

  18. I'm going with maryanne here. Before I found my daughter, her birthday wee/month/spring altogether, was a depressing time for me. Until one boy friend suggested we go out to dinner and raise our glass for her, wherever she was. I have to say he turned around the whole day; it didn't feel so godawful depressing then. So I do understand the idea of the "away" family doing some kind of commemoration in honor of the member who isn't there.

    JE: I know the idea freaks you out, but it could provide comfort for the family that is searching for you.

  19. I just wanted to thank you guys for the advice, I really like the comment of telling my family individually as opposed to telling them as a group. My exchange online with my daughter was very brief , and she does not know I have hidden her away all these years maybe it is a blessing in disguise and will allow me to go into a reunion with her in a more healthier way. I do have one friend that knows about my daughter and has been nothing but supportive, and also my husband has always encourage me to share with our children in terms they can understand about their sibling. I know that my feeling of rejection are not rational the people that love me will continue to do so . As far as losing the respect of my children or them not speaking to me well I don’t fear that because we don’t do that in our culture. In fact there is not a word for adoption in our native tongue. Yes, we do take in orphans but we do not change their names nor or they cut off from their natural family. At the time of my daughter’s adoption I didn't value my culture, my traditions, or myself . I thought that her adoptive parents were better. I realize now that she didn't have a better life just a different one.

  20. Lorraine: it was the way it was presented that made me freak:

    "If I was an adoptee I would feel pretty special if my family marked my day even if I wasn't ready for contact."

    No, I am sorry, but please do not presume to know what an adoptee will feel.

    How about someone letting me know what my birthdate is...so I can celebrate in my own way? Why is this hidden?

    How miserable is this institution? We can't even discuss birthdays without triggering all sorts of emotions.

    As an adoptee: I have people presuming to know what I want, people who claim to know what is best for me, politicians telling me if I can or cannot have my birth information, telling me to be grateful for a life that is a lie.

    No. I am sorry. Just no.

    Yes, I am upset. No one has the right to decide what to do with my life, except me. And I am placed in an impossible position where I can do very little about it.

  21. People should carefully consider all angles when it comes to celebrating and/or commemorating a birthday. As a firstmother, I went all out with birthday celebrations for my reunited daughter only to find out later that she considered her birthday her “abandonment” day as she felt I abandoned her even after she found out that I hadn’t. After my discovery, I stopped recognizing her birthday and then got chastised for that. So sometimes you just can’t win. The best thing to do is to honor and respect the birthday person’s wishes as individual situations are all different.

  22. Julia Emily. You said a mouthful right there... and said it perfectly.

    No. I am sorry. Just no.

    Maryanne. You say it is not "my place" to forbid my birthday commemoration because I'm reunited if I understand your post correctly. This is not a personal attack but you don't know my situation. Daisy has it right - respect the birthday person's wishes. Julia Emily's situation is different from mine but I have no doubt her pain is just as deep and she needs what she needs in her own way, as does Daisy's daughter, as does every other adoptee. And if fmom's need to do their own thing and the adoptee doesn't want to or isn't able to, then do it privately if needed... yes, even after reunion.

    My mother shall we politely say, abused her privileges. Decided "getting rid of me anyway" gave her carte blanche to do whatever she wanted to me. She was all the things I described at the time in the past, and has been very cruel about it in the present (and she rejected me once already but I still took her back with open arms even though it was decades later). Rather than apologizing and trying to make things right, it's MY fault for causing it all in the first place (excuse me?), if she had kept me it would have been MY fault for making her life difficult (what?) and if I can't handle what she did that's MY problem (as apparently I asked to exist and have all this crap). So why do I owe her MY birthday celebration/commemoration after everything she put me through when it was already painful enough in the first place?

    I don't forbid her from doing her own thing privately if she so chooses, but yes I forbid her from including me in it or forcing it on me or making me any part of it. I do NOT want to have ANYTHING to do with it. Not every fmom put their child up for adoption with kindness and compassion and their child's best interests at heart. Some of us were just worthless pieces of **** to be got rid of. My fmom was all about herself and what was good for her regardless of crossing boundaries and betraying and violating her own child. And as I said my case is extreme.. but the adoption itself is like a death. Loss of the most important person in your life - your mother. Loss of everything about you. Loss of your very self as you - or the you that you were supposed to be - is completely obliterated. What is to celebrate? I would MUCH rather celebrate my reunion date with my mother. That is truly the first time she welcomed me into her life. For the record I do love her and tell her that every day and mean it, but it does not take away any of the pain, and that likely won't change until such time as she is able to look herself squarely in the mirror, admit what she did and say sorry with conviction.

    But as far as my birthday she lost that forever by her own actions...

    Julia Emily may I borrow your words again please?

    NO!!! I"M AM SORRY ... JUST NO!!!

  23. Anon 9:50 : our situations are different but I understand what you are saying 100%. You are right when you say your first mother lost the right to your birthday completely, and she did it to herself.

    Closed adoption is such a horrible nightmare. Who ever thought this could actually work was nuts.

    I was so upset by the idea of a first mother celebrating the birthday of the child she gave away that I could barely see the keyboard to type my reply! Knowing how I feel about my "birthday" I really lost it over that post.

    My AP's always want to celebrate, every year. But, on the other hand, whenever I asked about the birthday discrepancy, they would dismiss it as if we were talking about the birthday of my dog. I am "hung up " on it, I am told. It doesn't matter. Nobody knows the date, A-mom once tried to tell me, because I must have been born around midnight. Please. Where did that nonsense come from? SOMEBODY had to be there when I was born, and it has to be recorded somewhere. And how could by AP's take a baby into their home and not even bother to find out?

    Who are all these people to play games with my life, from the moment I was born? I'm at my wit's end.

    Anon, you are absolutely 100% correct in how you feel. And no one has the right to tell you otherwise.

  24. Just an addendum to my recent post: I am in no way trying to attack or blame first mothers across the board. From all my reading, especially here on this blog, first mothers are suffering just like we adoptees are suffering, and in some cases, more so.

    It's the birthday thing. I can not take the subject of adoptees birthdays, how they are handled, how my own was/is handled. It's just not right. If it's so important, why can't anyone have the decency to tell me what the date is?

  25. Perhaps I'm wrong, Anon March 15 at 9:59 PM, but I think Maryanne means a *private* commemoration by the mother for the mother - a comforting ritual that wouldn't be imposed on the reunited child. Just that if the adoptee found out about it, it would still be the mother's business to continue marking it as a day of personal rememberence because it is important to her.

  26. Anon 9:50,Given what you have said about your mother and her behavior towards you, no, she has no right to make you participate in her birthday celebration for you, and she should respect your wishes about that since you have told her what your wishes are. Whatever she does for herself is her own business but she should not include or inform you. I was mistaken in what I said before, and was not thinking about the mother forcing the adoptee to participate. I should have remembered how different our individual circumstances can be.

    I am really sorry that she has treated you badly. I do not see where you owe her love or anything else. Some relationships between relatives just do not work if boundaries are not respected.

  27. @Julia,

    You are obviously quite upset about how you've been treated and rightfully so. How about considering finding info about your blood relatives by sending in a DNA sample to one of the family tree sites like 23and me? Some people have been able to locate relatives this way. Additionally, perhaps asking your ap's to provide info. that might help locate a sibling as opposed to a birth parent since you may need help one day when they are long gone. Just a thought.

  28. Julia Emily, I can see why you feel so badly about birthdays, not even knowing your real one and living with so many lies and roadblocks. I know you did not mean all birth mothers in your comments about yours. I hope you are somehow able to get some true information about yourself.

    Birthdays should be handled as the adoptee wants, once the adoptee has told her mother how that is. I always sent my son birthday greetings and presents since I found him, since he never said not to or sent anything back, even when I did not hear back from him. If he had sent something back or told me to stop, I would have stopped sending anything. If a person does not want gifts or cards, the one who keeps sending them is acting like a stalker. No means no.

    Now that we have a relationship, he likes getting presents, thanks me, and has sent me some nice Christmas presents. I always try to get something he will like and use, like a zoo membership, bird feeder, cat statue to name a few. The most important thing is really listening to your adoptee and doing what they would like and feel comfortable with, not what you feel like doing.

  29. @daisy: I have considered those DNA testing sites. My friend ( the black market baby) did so, but the results she received didn't lead her anywhere. The idea is always in the back of my mind.

    Asking my AP's about a possible sibling would open the same can of worms that any other question would. It's really not something they would be able to handle. Which is most of my problem.

    All these secrets in adoption have gotten us nowhere over the years. I guess most of the politicians and lawmakers have the same way of thinking my AP's do, otherwise change would be a lot more welcome and a lot faster. It is archaic thinking, but I see it with my own eyes every day. If I wasn't smack in the middle of this situation, I honestly wouldn't believe it myself. But I appreciate the suggestion!

  30. Julia Em:

    At the public hearing on unsealing the records in NY, I sat by an adoptee who found her mother through one of the DNA sites. She did 23 and Me but also transferred the data or did another DNA site and a woman she did not imagine could be her mother--the woman was into genealogy --was her mother!

    You might enjoy reading Richard Hill's book about using DNA. Just search for his name in FMF's search function and you'll find Jane's review, right now the title escapes me and I have another deadline!

  31. It was only this morning, at the ridiculous hour of 3:20 AM, that I wrote about my friend who was a black market baby from 1956. She had done DNA testing on various sites, and all her leads fizzled out.

    Then Lorraine writes that I should try DNA testing.

    This afternoon, the same friend called me to say that today, on one of the sites, she found a FIRST COUSIN! Which means that their parents were siblings. She is, I am sure, now going to find who she needs to find. Her a-parents went to their graves thinking they had done everything possible to make sure she was never going to find out she was even adopted. And today, this news!

    I am shaking as I type this. I think God is telling me to try DNA testing. It can't hurt. Here I go...

    Thanks, all!

  32. O/T... Another adoptee suicide.


  33. Julia Emily, I would LOVE to hear good news from you after a "DNA" search. The best of luck to you!

    Robin, I did not know L'Wren Scott was adopted. So tragic.

    On a not quite unrelated matter, I would really appreciate getting advice from adoptees and first mothers on this forum. As you all know, it is no secret to our son that he is adopted. We have tried to handle this aspect of who he is, with him and with our friends/family/acquaintances, with sensitivity. As he is getting older, however, he is now having to field questions from his friends. For example, some of the parents on his baseball team probably talked to his teammates about him being adopted because they approached Lenny and told him that we "are not his real mom and dad." It agitated Lenny and I of course feel protective of our 5 year old. How best to have him respond to his teammates (remember, they are all 5-6 years old)in a way that acknowledges he has two types of parents while sending the message that it does not imply he is different in an inferior way?

    I have a number of perspectives from adoptive parents but would really like to hear from adoptees and first parents. Thanks,


  34. @ Jay: this is the type of thing that used to happen to me as a child. I have to really think about this. What a shame that it still happens.

    My AP's never really handled it, but that was a different time.

    A five-year old really can't understand the whole story. It is simply too much for a little mind to grasp. Of course, you have to try to explain by being as honest as possible, and do so on his level, for now. And always be prepared for his questions to become more complex as he grows older.

    As he gets older he can digest more information. That is the problem with my situation....I was given the child's version of the story, and nobody ever went any further with it.

    This is very difficult. As I think about it, I will hopefully offer more suggestions.

  35. @ Julia Emily

    I have my fingers crossed for you!

    @ Robin

    When I learned she was adopted, I thought also of her first mother who will doubtless never be told that her daughter has died, and who might spend the next however long hoping for reunion. Adoption is so utterly, inhumanely cruel.

    @ Jay

    I don't know what to advise as I have no other children and am not adopted, so I feel out of my depth to advise. I wish I could add something useful but I don't feel I can. I wonder if others will see your posting here? I hope so.

  36. Hello Jay, this is just a suggestion - 5 is a very young age so for beginners how about telling him that he has two "real" mothers and two "real" fathers just as some people have two "real" grandmothers , and some have just one, while others might even have 3!!! Families are all different and not everyone has the same "number" of various members.

  37. In the spirit of what Rose says, I remember overhearing my two (step) grandsons bragging: Younger boy says, I have 3 grandmothers!

    His cousin, a few years older, calmly says: I have four. As in: can you top that?

    It really was about who had more grammas to fuss over them and give them presents.

  38. Hi Jay, I'm an adoptive mother also, so not really the opinion you are seeking but thought I'd weigh in. I just wanted to say that I tell my children every family is different. My older daughter has friends who have a mom and a dad, who only have a mom, who have grandparents as the primary caregiver, and one with two dads. We talk about how there is no one kind of family, and as she is a big Stitch fan, we use their family as comparison. A baby comes from a mama and a papa, but families come in all different shapes and sizes and for all different kinds of reasons.

    If this happened to my adopted daughter, I would be more concerned about how she felt and ask her specifically if she would like me to talk to her friends or their parents. At that age, many children need help resolving bigger issues. I'd also give her the words to use for the next time- "I have two real moms and two real dads." Really simple. I would encourage role-playing the situation with him to help him practice responses, such as the kids then asking, "Why do you have two moms and two dads?" We have been doing role-playing with my oldest daughter to help her deal with some mean things one of her friends says to her, and it's been helping.

    I am realizing one of the most difficult parts of being a mother is not being able to protect my children all the time. :(

  39. Julia Emily, Lorraine, Rose, Tiffany - simple and elegant suggestions, thank you so much! And Cherry I always appreciate your notes of support.

    Tiffany your thoughtful, insightful advice is welcome. I was actually thinking of you as well when I asked for suggestions, but decided to speak to the major thrust of this forum.

    I have gone with the suggestion of "two real moms and dads." I think that is perfect for this age. One friend has already come back to my son with, "But the mom and dad you live with are not your first mom and dad. You don't get to live with your first mom and dad." The answer we have for our son is, "But I get to be loved by two moms and two dads."

    I agree with you, Tiffany, that we cannot always protect our children. But I definitely will do what I can to minimize Lenny being alienated because of his status as adoptee. I think some education is in order as I wonder what the parents are telling the other kids on the team. But at this age, I don't want to make it too complex.

    Julia Emily, do write if you have any further thoughts.

    And Robin, you are an adoptee whose comments I have always respected for their insight. So, if (and only if, this is not a demand!) you have any thoughts from your own experiences that you feel might be helpful, I am all eyes.

    Thanks again,

  40. "But you get to be loved by two mothers, etc." is exactly the right spirit. Now let's hope to high heaven all mothers are up to it.

    I get mail through the blog about those mothers who aren't and it is always heart-breaking to read.

  41. @Jay,
    I did see your query and I am actually giving it a lot of thought. I just don't have any pearls of wisdom about it at the moment. Also, I am feeling quite sad about another adoptee suicide (L'Wren Scott), even though I never knew her personally. But I will pop back in later with my thoughts on the predicament that your son finds himself in. And I thank you for asking for my input.

  42. Jay said, "I agree with you, Tiffany, that we cannot always protect our children. But I definitely will do what I can to minimize Lenny being alienated because of his status as adoptee."

    Oh, I didn't mean not to do anything! :) I meant that before our children hit school age, we are there to be a buffer during most interactions, educating when necessary and correcting the person, or creating boundaries. Once school age hits, our children are on their own to deal with these issues, and instead, we have to teach them and empower them to respond in ways that help them feel better about the situation.

    No one likes being different when they are young, and during the teen years, this desire to simply fit in gets even stronger. All children walk this road of being teased for being different in some way, but for some, like adoptees, that difference is so wrapped up in their identity that it cuts really deep.

    I gave this some more thought and realized the same parenting methods apply for this as for bullying, when it comes down to it. Not saying this is bullying, just saying these methods will work just as well.

    It depends on the child and perhaps even the situation which they are most comfortable with, so I would role-play them all.

    1. Answer the taunt or question simply and directly. "I have two real moms and two real dads."

    2. Reply to the question/taunt with a question. "Why do you care?" This can buy time for your son to think about his response or even cause the questioning to end. For example, the kid might respond (as so many do) "Because." Your son can say back, "Because isn't a reason." Then he could either give a response to the taunt like above, or he could change the topic and redirect the situation.

    3. Turn it back on the other person. (I actually am having trouble doing this with your case, but it can work in others, like "You don't look like your mom." Response, "So, neither do you.")

    4. Choose to not respond. No one has to answer questions or respond to comments if they don't want to. Your son can choose to walk away.

    I googled, too, and I came across a book I'm thinking of getting called WISE Up Powerbook for children who are adopted (they have one for foster children, and I looked at the sample pages and really liked it). I can't recommend it as I haven't read it, but it looked interesting.

  43. Robin, please take your time - and thank you for putting the thought into addressing my problem. I understand how you must feel about L'Wren Scott.

    I too have had a gloomy week, with the death of a professional mentor whom I held in high regard. And I had one bittersweet piece of news today that has me teary. Nina and Rayna have moved to a state where Rayna's brother lives. They are living with the brother and it sounds like life is stabilizing for them. Nina has a little cousin to play with, has started school and is happy. And I am happy for them - but the "bitter" part is my loss of direct contact with them. I am grateful to hear about them through other family members, but am sad to be rejected by the two people I poured my heart into the most.

    Ah well, visiting this forum gives me the support of others surviving similar or worse losses.

  44. @ Jay

    The rejection may be temporary and things may change as Rayna's mental health stabilizes. I hope so.

    Sometimes it takes a while for the penny to drop, about how someone tried to help you and you didn't realise it.

    That happened to me and I am now so grateful and thankful for the caring love of an aunty who I didn't realise till much later was really trying to help me and my son to stay together. Her actions were framed as meddling by those with more influence over me than her, but now - after counselling - I see clearly how truly loving her help was. I hope Rayna realises what your involvement in her life was fuelled by - something good and loving. It may take time but hopefully not too much.

  45. @Jay,
    The answer to your question is: THERE IS NO ANSWER. I realize that isn't very helpful, so let me explain. I have read other questions like yours from other aps and even fps and the underlying question is, "How can I make it easier, better, more carefree for my child to be an adoptee?" And the answer is, in my humble opinion, YOU CAN'T. Despite what Julia Emily's adoptive parents think, despite what my APs and the majority of the APs from the BSE think, raising an adopted child is not the same as raising a biological child. There will always be a stigma associated with adoption and that is what your son is facing. The stigma is really the issue of belonging. The adoption industry likes to spew the bullshite that adopted children are exactly the same and that they don't face any particular discrimination, except it appears not everyone got the memo that adopted kids are to be considered full members of their adoptive families. For the majority of people in the world, family means those with a blood connection.

    I agree that saying things like "I have two real mommies and two real daddies" can help. Personally, I think Lenny should just respond that you and your husband are his real parents and let those pesky people deal with it. It does get annoying and tiring always having to defend one's position in the family and having to educate people that adoptive parents are the child's parents. But, unfortunately, this is Lenny's lot in life. He was dealt a difficult hand, like so many of us, but at some point he will have to make peace with it as best he can. I liked your comment at 5:15 pm on Jane's post dated March 19, 2014. What happened to him is sad, it is tragic, but most of us eventually come to some kind of acceptance about the bad things that have come our way. But I really do believe that with your wonderful guidance and deep concern about Lenny that he will understand that you are his real mother (the same as his natural mother) and let the naysayers be damned.

    So that, dear Jay, is my non-answer. I know it is probably not very satisfying, but I think you will agree that it is better to accept and deal with the fact that adoption will probably always be a hard issue for your son, rather than trying to fix it. I think the best thing you can do is be there for him and support him when these kinds of negative comments about his adoptive status come up. Children can be cruel and many children are teased and taunted about any number of things. But being questioned or ridiculed over the issue of your own parents giving you away, is, in my opinion, in a totally different universe.

  46. Tiffany, I totally understand what you are saying about not being able to protect your children as much when they become more subject to peer influences. Thank you for more great suggestions for responses. I also think the WISE up Powerbook looks interesting.

    I actually have not read any books to Lenny about being adopted. We have talked about it, but not done any reading. It might be time to start that - especially as he is reading quite well on his own now and likes some quiet time to himself to read before bedtime. I will find some good books for him to read - and we can discuss them if he wishes. Tiffany, any suggestions for a 5-6 year old? (He is reading at about 1st to 2nd grade level).

    Robin, I am so glad you took the time to write. How true it is, what you say. My mother's heart wants him to not have to deal with being adopted at all, so he doesn't face any taunts, any future feelings of isolation or difference. But it is what it is, and his status as an adoptee will be with him for the rest of his life. As you say, I cannot change what happened to separate him from his first family and place him with ours, but I do want him to be able to handle the comments of others assertively and not be subsumed by hurt.

    There is a boy in Lenny's class right now who has been following him around on the playground and taunting him. My son's reaction to the taunts is to go to the nurse's office and ask her to call me to come bring him home (in that sense, Tiffany, it certainly is a lot like bullying). Luckily, Lenny has a fantastic teacher and, together, we are working with both my son and Lenny on ways to stop the negative interaction. All of your suggestions for responses are really helpful in addressing how Lenny can go back to enjoying school once more. So, thank you!

    Last but not least - Cherry, your words (and Lorraine's to me, privately) were extremely comforting as I deal with the pangs of loss over Rayna and Nina. Cherry, I too hope that as Rayna regains stability for herself and Nina, that she is able to see I would never have separated them from one another - that I was trying to help them as a family unit. But in the meanwhile, as Lorraine said to me, I am dealing with the fresh pain of loving and letting go. Perhaps that is why I feel such a kinship with the first mothers here - while not the same, I know the pain of loving a child and letting go.

  47. Robin, you say, "the underlying question is, "How can I make it easier, better, more carefree for my child to be an adoptee?" And the answer is, in my humble opinion, YOU CAN'T."

    Then you say, "I agree that saying things like "I have two real mommies and two real daddies" can help."

    Why would you agree that saying things like the above can help, when you have already shouted that there is nothing, in your opinion, that would make the adoptee's situation better?

  48. Anon 8:04pm,
    I am not going to respond since what you wrote came across not in the spirit of understanding but as a snide comment. Jay specifically asked me for my input on the situation with her son and I gave it. If she would like any more information or clarification on what I wrote, I would be happy to give it.



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

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

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