' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Daughter reveals why she walked away after reunion, Conclusion: Part 5

Monday, May 5, 2014

Daughter reveals why she walked away after reunion, Conclusion: Part 5

Jane and Lorraine--before or after this break? Don't remember. 
A continuation of the story started on April 27.  (Taken together, they are a chapter from my memoir-in-progress, hole in my heart. 

A few weeks later. It is a gray cold day, Tony is outside raking leaves. I want to be alone when I make this call. I sit in the kitchen at the table and punch in Jane’s number. Bill answers, registers neutral. He says they are working in the yard, he’ll tell her I’m on the line. Would she even come to the phone? A minute later Jane picks up and says, Hello. I breathe deeply and begin:

I know we talked about this before, and I’ve told you what it was like back then, but today I just wanted to say, I’m sorry—I’m sorry you were adopted.

I wait.

I don't know what to say, she says.

That’s all right, I wanted to say this once. Like that. 

We speak for well over an hour—about how she and Bill were fixing up the yard, painting furniture, her job as a home health aide. We speak like a mother and daughter. Maybe she’ll talk to me now, I think when I hang up. Maybe. By this time I knew she had a computer, but she had not given me her email address, or asked for mine, and I had not brought it up for I feared being rebuffed.

Once again, silence.

It happens to others, why not me?  One mother, whose daughter spent ten years trying to find her, says she always finds herself apologizing for something. To us first mothers, it feels as if there are all kinds of ways adoptees punish us.[1] Everything seemingly is going along fine, and then Phfft! and the illusion of a relationship disappears to be replaced by a void. Was it ever real, or only a phantom?     

Life continues—magazine pieces to write, I get a book-doctor job, write columns for The Sag Harbor Express, see friends, go to the movies. Yet Christmas is especially dreary that year. Tony and I spend a raucous Christmas Eve with his large contingent of nieces of nephews and their children, but the next morning when I go to mass I cannot hold back the tears when we turn to our neighbors, shake hands, and say Peace. I have no peace in my heart.

I miss my daughter.

Spring. She phones and when I pick up I hear: Hello. How have you been? I do not ask her why I have been in exile, and now why I am no longer. I know there is no answer she can, or will, articulate. We resume as before. Now she gives me her email address. Now we are on good terms again. But now, I am wary. Of saying the wrong thing. Of saying anything that might be misconstrued. Of relaxing too much. She could shut down at any time, for any reason.

It would take a long time to figure this one out. Over the months she let slip, in half-finished sentences, what had been going on: She had been determined to prove to her mother that she, Jane, deserved to be loved. There’s no way to explain without telling the story that leads up to her hitting “delete” on our relationship. At the memorial service for the eldest of the Rhymer’s two biological children, Ann let slip this comment: He was my favorite. 
Lorraine today

That’s a hard truth to hear in a family where none of the children are adopted; but in a family where there are adoptees? It ate at Jane, for it was irrefutable proof that the mother she grew up with did not love her, or her cherished older adopted brother, the way Ann loved the children she bore. A unfortunate comment, yes; but we humans are always coming up short. Parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles in unbroken families don’t intend to choose a favorite, but it happens, usually without the chosen one having done anything deserving. The roll of genetically coded dice has seen to it that this one will closely resemble a parent, or a grandparent, in face, physique, faculties and personal quirks, and there you have it. What was regrettable was that Ann gave voice to her feelings. And all her children heard it.

While the adopted son who lived far away was fuming, Jane let on that her own hurt gave way to proving that she was a good daughter, worthy of Ann’s love, and since Ann hated me--Well, she, Jane, would show her how little I mattered. How to do that? Ignore me, as if I too had skied off a cliff. Maybe Ann would love her more then. Irrational, right? Feelings by their very nature are irrational. They come out of our deepest needs, they rule when we want them to obey logic, there is not rational explanation.

Jane once said: “If I move close to you, then I have to move away from the other. I feel like a magnet 
torn between two poles.”

It ain’t easy being adopted.

Not long ago I came across these wise words at a blog called Fugitivis, written by adoptee, Harriet J: 
Story of relinquishing my daughter
“This is not to say that everything about adoption is wrong, but everything about adoption is painful. For our modern, legal concept of adoption to exist, families must be broken. Adoption is not, and can never be, a best-case scenario. It relies upon the worst-case situation having already come to fruition. From there, you’re working with what is instead of what should be. That should be will never go away. For the entire lifetime of everybody involved in adoption, that should be exists, and it hurts. What is can still turn out to be wonderful, beautiful, incredible, but what is will never be what should be. It is that should be that necessitates education, sensitivity, and trigger warnings, because it never goes away.”[2] 

[1] Because I can hear adoptees saying: Wait one minute! My mother won’t even talk to me and she pulls all kinds of stunts, let me say that I know that is true. I’ve heard enough stories about recalcitrant first mothers, disappearing first mothers, first mothers who write letters saying DO NOT CONTACT ME AGAIN, but I’m talking about what happened to me and writing from the viewpoint of first mothers who have been cut off and know not why. I’ve heard many, many unhappy mothers talk about trying to maintain a relationship, but everything they do is somehow all wrong. 
[2] Adoption Sometimes Gets All Fucked-Up, 101, Fugitivus, April 20, 2010.

To start at the beginning, read:
First Mother to (reunited) daughter: What did I do wrong now?
What did this first mother do wrong now? Cont.
What did I do wrong now? Cont. Part 3
My (reunited) daughter doesn't speak to me: What did I do now? Cont., Part 4

People have asked me repeatedly when the book will be coming out. As of right now, I don't know. I thought I had a deal with a small publisher, but the contract was not one that I happily could sign due to some provisions of the contract. Birthmark is the story of how I happened to relinquish her, my early involvement in adoption reform; it ends before I found her in 1981. It was the first memoir from a first mother and was extremely controversial when it came out in 1979.

"I bought and read Birthmark after seeing an op-ed from the author in support of current legislative efforts to open original birth certificates to adult adoptees. As an adult adoptee myself, I was impressed with Ms. Dusky's raw look inside herself and her life story, including most notably finding herself in the position to make the heart-wrenching decision to permit someone else to raise her child.
"Any adoptee who has the emotional wherewithal to want to see how the mother who gave them life may have felt about it should read this book."--from Amazon


  1. Jane's magnet comparison, so true.

    Shortly after reunion, my n-mother wrote my a-mother a heartfelt letter. A-mom was angry about it.
    I asked if I could read it and she replied, "NO, I threw it away already!" I felt sick.

    She had four of her own natural children before they got me, and she still decided to hate my n-mom from the start, for no real reason.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, Lorraine.

  2. "A magnet torn between two poles." Yep. That is basically it in a nutshell.

    If my first mother had ever written a letter to my a-mother, as in Mary's case, my a-mom would have just died. Because the girl was not a person. Once my a-parents got me the girl was no more, and at times I think they truly believe, mom especially, that I share their ethnic background, family tree, etc.

    In my case, there were comments from family members that slipped, as in Jane's case. One adoptive cousin always told me I was not really a cousin because I was adopted. One uncle felt compelled to tell me that "your mother had you and threw you in the garbage." Nice.

    So, between A-parents, and ignorant family members, it took and is still taking a long time to sort this all out. If I ever do.

    As Mary stated, there is no real reason for all this ignorance and hate. But I was always stuck in the middle of it, and it stinks.

    Thanks, again, Lorraine.

  3. The day after my first F2F with my son, his a/parents wanted to meet me to "thank me." We met at dinner. First SHE said,1.) " We always told him he was adopted.He always asked me to tell him stories of the 'lady who had me. I told him she loved you so much she gave you up, but I love you too much. I could never give you up."
    2.) "I had my daughter 11 months after we adopted him.I had 2 in diapers at t he same time."
    3.) "We always rent a house by the beach for the whole family every summer.We just got back."
    Then she literally ignored me for the rest of the dinner.I realized immediately she came there to put me down. With #1 she told me she loved my son more than I did. With #2 she told me she was fertile, and with #3 she was saying she was just as affluent as I was. If I could have walked out at that moment I would have, but I was trapped against a wall and my daughter and granddaughter accompanied me to dinner. HE was O.K. but meeting her was one of the worst experiences of my life.

  4. Ouch-Anonymous.

    I get everything you are saying.

    You are sitting there and making the remarks that are going through your head--of not, sometimes you are too shocked to say anything, or don't realize how she is putting you down--and you know that to SAY ANYTHING is rude.

    I was accepted, rejected, tolerated....but those remarks are just plain rude. Anyone else have any thoughts? About what she might have done, said? (If she hadn't been trapped...)

  5. to Lorraine - this was heart wrenching .. Thank you once again for the courage to speak the truths about adoption, relinquishment, and reunion.

    To Anonymous 11:02 that is just cruel, I am wishing you strength and healing.

    To Julia Emily, I feel like I'm chasing you around the comments section.. LOL.. As I don't know if you saw my other posts to you. To summarize ... Please look for the book, "The Girls Who Went Away". And I hope you will take a look at www.DNAAdoption.com. I have personally seen many adoptees find their roots with hardly a scrap of info. "the truth is out there!"

  6. My daughter and her family have chose to ignore me, this is very hurtful not to even acknowledge my existence, I am at a point in my life that I don't know if I will ever be able to open up to her again.

  7. Hi Julia: Yes, I have seen your posts! Between taking care of my AP's and my daughter having her wisdom teeth extracted, I have not been on the computer!

    I have read Ann Fessler's book and I own her DVD. I have read every scrap of material out there, to be sure. I have a petition pending to open my adoption file. But, as far as DNA, it seems every site charges a fee or wants a donation. My husband is not on board with this at all, so I would have to find a way to do it without using a credit card or PayPal.

    I guess I can't blame him....he simply does not get it. Aside from not being an adoptee, he is an engineer who thinks only in black and white. This emotional struggle that I am drowning in doesn't resonate with him.

    The next step is to tell my AP's I want to obtain a passport. If they have any documents at all, I will somehow have to ask for them. But at this stage of the game I am beginning to doubt that they ever had more than they already gave me, which was my finalization decree.

    Thanks for all your help. Closed adoption is a mess. And now we are on the threshold of Mother's Day, which I can't even begin to think about. It is the most depressing day for me, aside from the day we always used as my birthday.

    No one thought of this when they told first mothers that they would "forget" and shuffled babies around like we were stuffed toys. Five decades later, I am still grappling with this!

    1. Julia Emily
      Thanks for your candid response! I even forgot my own original "screen name" here in my effort to reach out to you.
      Just today on the yahoo group for DNAAdoption I saw two more people find family. One has located her natural mother and the other, her father. About the money. 1) it's free to read info and to join the yahoo group 2) the DNA tests are about $100. $89 on sale at 23andme and about $100 at FamilyTreeDNA. Surely your marriage allows you the discretion on how to spend $100? Maybe you have money from a gift, or you earn your own paycheck? I don't see how this is your husband's decision at all. In a real pinch I would say you could have a friend use her credit card, but that type or going around your spouse, I can't endorse. Hope you check it out. I will not hound you about it further I promise. ;-)

      For those who are curious how could an adoptee find their parents through dna? To give you the example from today, an adoptee had a "dna cousin" match from one of the reputable testing sites. The match agreed to contact. Further analysis of the data shows this match is her aunt. The aunts ethnicity matches what she knows of her father. The aunt had only one brother.
      Father = found.
      Often it is more complicated but that's the gist of it.

  8. Julia Emily wrote:"No one thought of this when they told first mothers that they would "forget" and shuffled babies around like we were stuffed toys."

    LOL, I like that....stuffed toys. What a great analogy. I know I've referred to us adoptees as chess pieces but stuffed toys is even better. Hehe. Thanks for the laugh :)

  9. I understand what your daughter was experiencing Lorraine; I came to a similar conclusion myself with my reunion. It gets to a point where it is saturating and destructive to maintain the unnatural situation of having two Mothers, neither of whom is getting what should be a normal and mature relationship. One Mother getting a dutiful and obliging relationship and the other not getting what is wanted to be given because of the complexities of the reunion relationship. Neither Mothers nor adoptee gets true fulfilment either way. It's too late. The damage of adoption cannot be undone, nobody wins in my opinion.

  10. @Julia E., if you have to tiptoe around your husband, I'll be happy to help you. I'm not familiar with the sites, but if it's a matter of forwarding a sample of sorts, you can use my name, address etc. and I'll help with the fee. If it's credit card only, we can easily use my Discover card to discover your connections. Go for it!

  11. JO,

    Your post is spot on and pretty much sums up how an adoptee and BOTH mothers feel.

    The relationships are never complete. There is always something that gets in the way. I had a good relationship with my amom and a superficial one with my first mother. But always felt that i was not enough for anyone.

    No matter how books are read on either side all participints have to much deep longings for the situation to be different. No matter how much an mom loves her child their will a;ways be the pain of not having your own, no matter how much its stuffed down and negated. The first mom, no matter how much may feel it was in the child's best interest or was coerced will live with the fact that they lost a child and no amount of reunion will replace what was lost. The adoptee loses so much and no matter how caught up we get in understanding the mothers, living with the fear of hurting one or the other,living with the judgments of a society that chooses not to see the truth..it is destructive to our very souls at the very start of our lives.

    No wonder we can't just all get along....to much deep baggage from all sides. We all need to retreat into ourselves to safe ourselves.

  12. When I made the error of calling my daughter's amother in an attempt to "connect" and "understand" - she offered to allow me to stay with her and her husband while she arranged for me to meet my daughter. I politely thanked her and said no. She then told me that she "Paid" $500 for her and only had to go to court once. Which I was horrified to hear. That my daughter would, of course, forgive me if she told her to.

    My daughter later told me that she punished her for the phone call. Which I find sad.

    I still feel sick to my stomach over the entire thing at any time it comes to mind. I can't imagine why she feels the need to be cruel, but she seems to fear being rejected and enjoy control. I don't know.

  13. Hi Jessica: So funny how you muddled up your screen name!! So sorry I drove you crazy! LOL

    My good friend, the black market baby I have mentioned, found her father's family through DNA. She says she will help me when I want to pursue it.. Thanks to everyone who offered!

    Going to present the passport idea to my AP's first and see if they have any information other than what they have told me. Probably after Mother's Day.

    As far as hubby....it's just another obstacle. Try as I might, he does not see any of what I am saying or feeling. Which is interesting on it's own because I think the majority of people not involved in adoption think like he does. Kind of like talking to a brick wall. Unfortunately, some of these people hold all the cards as far as adoptee right's legislation.

    @ Lori: Maybe you are right....maybe your daughter feels the need to be in control? As an adoptee I always felt like my life was decided for me and controlled for me. I didn't ask for it to happen, yet someone found it necessary to relinquish me, and strangers were found to take me. These strangers, according to the law, became my "as if born to" parents. How was this the right thing to do? It's a weird position to be in. So, maybe subconsciously, your daughter is searching for a way to control the situation.

    JO said: "The damage of adoption can not be undone." That is the statement of the century. Because the damage is very deep, and way too complex to fix by reuniting. The other adoptee that I mention here ended up with a reunion that became a nightmare. Her first family gave her years of grief before they started any kind of civil relationship. And she hasn't talked to her a-parents in over 18 years. She was looking for answers, and closure and ended up a mess, divorced, and on all kinds of anti-depression medication. Not pretty.

    @ Robin: Yep!! Stuffed toys. It's always the mental image I get when I think of babies being shuffled around like that. And no one realized we would grow and become actual people. With feelings and opinions! It's really almost impossible to believe.

  14. Mary said, about her amom: '...she still decided to hate my n-mom from the start, for no real reason.'

    This mystifying and wholly unexpected reaction happened to me too.

    Before we reunited, I imagined my son's other mother and sisters would be really interested to find out more about him and the story of him - how he came to be, how he came to be a part of their family too, where he might get some of his personal qualities from. I thought they would be really pleased to know more about their son and brother.

    For my part, I thought I would be welcomed at their table, as an extended part of their family, being the first mother of their son and brother. I thought of them as an extended part of mine, being the family my son grew up in, and being people my son recognises, feels, loves as and calls family (as he now does us, his first family).

    I honestly believed there would be accord and respect between all of us, because we all love my son/her son/their brother/this wonderful man and we are all someone important to him. I imagined his other mother sharing childhood videos and memories of him with me, and me sharing the story of his earliest life and arrival in the world with them. I thought we would all be like a newly widened circle around him.

    It never once crossed my mind that hate would meet me. I still don't understand it, but I no longer try to, it is just too toxic. But it damages my son so much - division is the last thing he wants.

    I've been disrespected and degraded as his mother (how on earth does that make him feel?), and he has been given ultimatums and subjected to severe guilt trips by her too. Now his son, my grandson, will also face some of the same, as he also becomes tangled in this insistence that we are nobodies at best, and worthless despicable creatures at worst. How my son lives and manages all this I have no idea, but I do hold his a-mom culpable for this situation. Instead of trying to deal with her feelings (I have to deal with mine, our son has to deal with his) she continues to try and rearrange the world so that it remains as she wants it to be rather than how it is.

  15. Julia Em; You may have written about this at a previous post (I can't keep track) but I actually think the opposite--MOST PEOPLE UNDERSTAND WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO KNOW THEIR HERITAGE, AND find it weird when they meet someone who says, not interested. That's why the referendum in Oregon passed, and people there can get their OBCs without redactions!

    Sorry to say, your husband just doesn't want to be bothered or for anything to change and I am so sorry that he is being obtuse. Because he is.

  16. Hi Lorraine: you are right about my husband. He knows what he knows....that is it, black and white. No grey areas, no emotion. I am used to it, but when this situation really started to get to me, I thought I could get him to understand. He is one of those people we talk about who never had anything ever happen to them. The whole Beaver Clever thing. Fortunate for him, but not for anyone trying to get a point across to him.

    But I am slowly plodding along. My friend has offered me her credit card. So, after Mom's Day, depending on the result with my AP's, I may take her up on it.

    @ Cherry: your post illustrated what probably would have happened if my AP's ever met my first mother. There is no compassion there. Zero. Now....if this girl did not agree to relinquish me, isn't it common sense that my AP's would not have me? It's crystal clear to me. Yet, she remains "the girl", never to be mentioned unless it can't be avoided. I am sorry you had to go through that, and I am very sorry for your son. There is nothing to be gained by any of this.

    Why is everyone in adoption so defensive? Why did my friend's parents never tell her she was adopted? My other friend had her first mother's name hidden from her all during her exhaustive search. My AP's are story unto themselves. My husband. Aren't we all adults now? Why can't the participants in this debacle stop the charade and be truthful?

    God help us.

  17. Cherry, your post is so sad, as is Anon's Ma6 6, 11;02 am. I wonder if it comes from a place of fear (of rejection from her son), jealousy (of your relationship to him that she cannot have- that of being his first mother), and anger (that you have come into their lives and caused all this).

    Parents are supposed to be the purveyors of the ultimate in unconditional love. Sadly, this isn't always reality, and some parents think nothing of causing their children great pain and hurt by their own stubborn actions. I am sad for all the adoptees caught up in the middle between first parents and adoptive parents. It's heaping further tragedy upon an already tragic situation.

    Thank you for sharing your story, Lorraine.

  18. JO,
    Your comment was da bomb.

    I think adoptive mothers often feel threatened by first mothers, especially those women who adopted during the BSE. Adoptive mothers were told back then that an adopted child was a blank slate and that s/he would be the same as a biological child. There, of course, didn't seem to be much, if any, conversation as to how the child would feel about all this. By feeling a connection to the natural mother or seeking her out, it is telling the a-mother in no uncertain terms that she is not the child's true, real, and only mother. I think search and reunion also bring up the insecurity that many APs have that blood truly is thicker than water and that THEIR child will end up preferring their blood relatives and might even abandon the adoptive family altogether. Also, at one time 'illegitimate' children were considered tainted, unfortunately, much like foster children are today. But I guess somewhere, somehow, someone figured out that children born to unmarried parents were just as smart and healthy as those born in wedlock. And that a lot of money could be made off these kids. Woot! Woot!

  19. @Julia Emily,
    I'm glad I didn't offend you when I said your comment about stuffed toys made me laugh. I know you weren't trying to be funny. Something about you referring to us as stuffed toys just struck me as hilarious. Adoption is such a serious subject that sometimes we just need to laugh. And I guess it's a good sign that I haven't completely lost my sense of humor after dealing with all this adoption sh*t.

  20. A) stuffed animals is perfect.

    B) Robin, everything you said. Right.

    Now--good night everyone!

  21. I think that there has to be a certain amount of give and take in every relationship - whether adoption is involved or not.

    Julia E: Actually, I was talking about my daughter's amother being cruel and wanting control. My daughter exhibits some of these behaviors (okay, a lot of them), but after the incident with the phone call, I understand that these are learned behaviors.



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