' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: What did I do wrong now? Cont. Part 3

Friday, May 2, 2014

What did I do wrong now? Cont. Part 3

Happier times, Jane and Lorraine 
This is the third part of a four (or five) part series about my relationship with my daughter when, after a seemingly great couple of years of reunion, after knowing her for more than two decades, she suddenly and inexplicably pulled back. Links to the first two parts are at the end of this post. This is from my memoir still in progress, hole in my heart.

Summer.  I go to Wisconsin to pick up Britt [my daughter's daughter] for her summer visit, which will be for two months. Jane [my daughter] and Bill [her husband] are living in his small cabin in the woods, and Britt stays with the Rhymers [Jane's adoptive parents] during the week, and attends the same elementary school as she did before Jane married. Though Britt had flown by herself from Madison to New York before, after fanatics in airplanes brought down the World Trade Center, the Rhymers insist I come to Wisconsin to pick her up. I’ll fly in on Saturday, we’ll leave on Monday, and maybe I’ll be able to talk to Jane and patch up whatever needed patching. They will try to broker this, Gary [Jane's adoptive father] says.

No dice. Jane tells them she does not want to see me—not for dinner, not for anything. They say they are in the dark about as much as I am. Gary shrugs—Jane. I do not respond.  

Saturday evening the three of us—Gary, Ann [her other mother] and I—have drinks outside on their deck, marvel over a Scarlet tanager sighted across the narrow slice of the lake where their house sits, make pleasant chitchat. Britt is still with Jane and Bill, we’ll pick her up tomorrow at mass, where we will see them. Despite the coolness I've felt from Ann from a distance, and the intemperate letters, all goes well. After dinner, we watch television. Hey, life is complicated. These are the people who adopted my daughter, and “our” daughter is rejecting me. I feel like an odd duck—we’re friendly but not really friends—but there I am, enjoying their hospitality, about to fly back home with Britt. The weekend is remarkable simply because it occurs. 
Granddaughter Britt and Lorraine 

In many ways our relationship is a marvel, considering open adoptions are still rare. When Ann shares a story about Jane, she calls her “our” daughter. She says the neighbors know who I am, and that when asked, she tells anyone that adoption is better this way, that adopted people ought to know their other mothers early on, rather than later. How can I not feel a special empathy toward this woman? Jane is difficult. Besides her epilepsy, she specializes in uproar. And Ann sure hadn’t counted on her epilepsy, and then me—coming back is one thing, but I clearly am there to stay.  

As we file into church on Sunday morning, Ann sees to it that I am at the end of the pew, where there will be room for Jane. When she and Bill come in, Jane stops and greets ten people before she slides in, putting off the moment before she has to acknowledge me. The time seems longer than it must have been. I am quite sure that most of the people she was stopping to greet know exactly who I am, and that they are watching this performance with avid interest—Ah look, she doesn’t give a fig about her birth mother. Just as she is about to slip in, she quite obviously turns around to say hello to one last person. If Jane could have held up a sign that said: This woman means nothing to me! she would have. I am humiliated, Ann is shaking her head. When Jane can put it off no longer, she steps into the pew and nods with a forced smile, as if I were a teacher she remembered none too fondly. I nod back, and say the first thing that comes to mind: Your hair is great. 

She’d cut her long hair into a boyish bob. She’s looks pretty, and healthy too, as if this marriage to Bill 
has dissipated all the gloom of the past. She nods and is momentarily nonplussed. Mass is interminable, as I sit next to my daughter who is acting as if I am a post. Except for these few words, we have not spoken for over a year. 
Adoption Secrecy & its consequences

Gary, always the calm patriarch, hoping to broker some kind of detente, gets Jane and Bill to agree to brunch with us afterward. In the car on the way, Ann confirms what I thought, that Jane usually doesn't greet a zillion people on her way into church.

At Granny’s, which is as it sounds—hot coffee, hearty omelets and hash browns—this blended family takes over a big round table. Jane quite purposefully does not sit next to me and acts as if it is a trial to be there. She will show them what she thinks of me. Not much! Ann is on one side, Britt on the other, both providing cover. Jane’s bored and petulant demeanor tamps down everyone’s mood. She does not look at me, or say anything to me, and sulks when Gary asks her not to smoke. God when is this meal going to be over, when can I get out of Dodge? 

Improbably enough, I am being protected from my daughter’s impenetrable wrath by her other mother and her daughter.  As we leave, Jane and Bill light up outside of Granny’s, and I force myself to stay behind and talk to them for ten minutes, about what I do not know. She is on neutral; not painfully aloof, or snide, now that it is just the three of us, simply coolly civil. I walk away thinking, at least she talked to me. The Rhymers and I do not discuss this again, for there is nothing to say. 

Britt and I leave in the morning for New York. Britt—always an uncomplaining traveler who takes most things in stride—is amiable as ever when we get stuck in Milwaukee for several hours because of a storm. We have ice cream and I buy her a Harry Potter novel. Over the entire summer, I do not speak to Jane—other than to answer the phone when she calls to speak to Britt. Jane’s hostile tone announces she wants no conversation. I am merely the go-between for her and Britt, and an annoying one at that.--lorraine

NEXT: The year grinds on and my granddaughter wants answers: My (reunited) daughter doesn't speak to me: What did I do now? Cont., Part 4
Earlier parts of this chapter: 
First Mother to (reunited) daughter: What did I do wrong now?
What did this first mother do wrong now? Cont.


Growing in the Dark: Adoption Secrecy and Its Consequences by Janine M. Baer (above)
It's chock full of information and very readable.--Jane Edwards on Amazon. A short history of sealed records.  "Janine Baer is an adoptee and a long-time proponent of honest, compassionate adoption policies, including the right of all adult adoptees to be able to access their original birth certificate. From 1989 to 1997 she published the Chain of Life newsletter, which provided a forum where progressive feminists--including adoptees, parents and professionals--discussed adoption policies, shared personal adoption experiences, and articulated a vision of humanistic adoption."--Amazon

Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self by David Brodzinsky Ph.D., adoptive father and psychologist; Marshall D. Schechter, M.D., married to an adoptee; and the writer Robin Marantz Henig. Even after years of knowing my daughter, I found this simple, readable guide illuminating. I lent to it an adopted teenager I knew, who read it immediately, and lent it to her best friend, also adopted. They thought it was spot on. For an introduction to the lifelong psychological effects of being adopted, I can't think of a better book. --lorraine



  1. I wish I had even those kind of memories..... I have never had the joy of being a grandmother of any kind.

  2. Hi Lorraine: thank you for sharing these excerpts with us. I am eager to read the entire memoir when it is available.

    I must give Jane's AP's credit. The situation you describe would never have happened with my adoptive parents. At least her parents they were trying, as awkward as it was.

    As for Jane...I can't begin to understand why she was behaving this way. And why a lot of reunited adoptees do the same. It takes so much energy to keep up such negativity....could it possibly be worth it? Did it accomplish anything? I wouldn't think so.

    We are all familiar with my story at this point. But, even at this late date, if I were to hear from my first mother, I could never act so negatively. It would take too much out of me. Although I have such a problem with my AP's, that's not my first mother's fault. The circumstances would dictate that I would have to limit the relationship to phone calls or letters. It would be better than nothing, I would be willing to do it, and I would hope she would do the same. At least we could try. My AP's would have to be left out of it, or it could never happen at all. Years ago I never could have even considered it at all, as I have mentioned. There was a lot of brainwashing, if you will, by my adoptive parents. And it's taking me very long to emerge from it.

  3. I can feel my heart ache for you, Lorraine, as I read these parts of your story. Oddly, it also aches for your daughter, too. I don't understand why reunions are so difficult....life is so short and love and forgiveness should be offered freely. I hope to hear more about Britt....and how your relationship is with her now. Much love.....

  4. What a beautiful photograph of you and your daughter Lorraine.

    Thank you for sharing all that you do.

  5. This is such a painful unfolding of events! I can imagine how you felt in church that morning...waiting to be acknowledged in an insulting moment. Definitely passive-aggressive! I can't wait to hear the "why" as to what was going on with your daughter, Lorraine.

    I think adoption causes such an enormous BREAK between mother and child that it is nearly impossible to repair...unless both parties have extreme maturity, empathy, and have managed to heal somewhat from the trauma. I see many more peaceful relationships between adoptees and their "birth"FATHERS. There is less baggage between the two. The bond between mother and child is obviously much more complex, and understandably so. However, it makes for very, very difficult relationships. I think many times that the adoptee's pain is deep, unacknowledged and comes out in these "passive-aggressive" ways or more tangible ways, i.e. "you used the wrong towels!" or "you sent me an ugly birthday card." It's like they are looking for something "tangible" to pin their anger on...a **reason** that is more recognizable as opposed to the "invisible wounds" from being given up. I don't know if I'm being clear! Through the years of being in an "open" adoption, I know our daughter had a very loving and carefree relationship with my husband (her "birth"father) With me, it was always like we were walking in circles around each other...trying to figure the other out. It was strained, even when she was young. She waited for me to go to her for a hug, while I was waiting for her to come to me (not wanting to force myself on her). I'd finally go over to her and it would be a one-sided, awkward hug where she pulled away quickly. As time went on, those hugs got better and more sporadic, but in the beginning, the wall was there...even with a 9 yr. old. (that's why I don't think open adoption works...these are young children who are trying to process very adult issues concerning being given up)

    I guess "misery loves company" and I'm not wishing this kind of pain on ANYONE else, but I'm glad to know I'm not alone...that my experiences aren't unique with my daughter. I wish I could fix it for EVERYONE involved.

  6. Thanks for continuing to share your story. I agree with Julia here that Jane's AP's certainly deserve credit as you've given them. My daughter's ap's, and we're talking about the same time period, were absolutely furious with me for contacting them. I was told that "I had raped their family." I tried multiple times to open the conversation (I even had my young son spend the night at their house once)but they refused. I was treated like a criminal.

  7. Amy: Were either of her adoptive parents watching when you hugged her or she er, hugged you back?

  8. Amy said, "that's why I don't think open adoption works...these are young children who are trying to process very adult issues concerning being given up."

    Closed adoption doesn't "work," either. Adoptees are put in the unenviable position of dealing with very complex, adult issues from an early age. Unless the adoptive parents do not tell a child about the adoption (horrible idea), a child will have to deal with adult issues.

    As an adoptive parent, I don't believe open adoption fixes it. But I do believe it gives the parents and the child a chance to know one another. Sometimes, I am sure this does not work as anyone pictured. I know many open adoptions close because adoptive parents aren't up to the challenges involved in maintaining the relationship. I know some first parents pull back from an open adoption because they aren't up to handling all the emotions involved. It is far from a perfect solution, but it is something. If open adoption doesn't work, in your opinion, I'm curious what you would recommend? Would you prefer closed adoption?

    It sounds in your posts as if the Adoptive Parents were not supportive of the relationship? It's really on us, the APs, to be encouraging of a relationship and to ensure our kids know they can develop that relationship without fear of our reaction. But I do agree that at a young age, this is really difficult for a child to process. How are they supposed to act? This person who is family and yet who is also of a different family... it's all very complicated. It isn't easy, and it isn't going to come naturally.

    I recognize the complexities of an open adoption, being in one that has become increasingly complex over time. It isn't a magic wand that makes everything ok, but I do think it's better than the alternative.

    I do want to say all relationships have issues. I'm currently estranged from my parents and haven't spoken to them, or my younger brother, since January. They visited at Christmas and were rather terrible to my children (a pattern they have displayed with my older sister's children for years now). Their behavior was so rude that my older daughter asked me several times if Grandma and Grandpa hated her. When I tried to talk to them, my father blamed my girls (who are 4 and 2). He had very unreasonable expectations from children their age and refuses to change his behavior. I wish that my relationship with my parents was better, but my older sister and I both struggle very much with them. They can be demanding and very judgmental, and unconditional love has never been their strong suit. Perfection was required of us, and short of that, we were a disappointment. Add the layer of adoption onto the challenge that already exists in family relationships, and you have the potential for a very, very big heartache.

  9. Amy, did your daughter ever want to come live with you? Did she ever express anger at the fact that you and her dad married?

    And yes, I totally think that the dads get a free pass when the anger and/or passive/aggressive behavior strikes. The mother seems to be the primary target.

  10. Lorraine you are definitely a brave woman to hold up under such non communication with your daughter. Even the slightest feeling of being left out by my first son causes me major humiliation which quickly turns to hurt. I have only seen my first son 2 times. Once at our initial meeting in April 2006(he was taken from me without my seeing or holding him) and with his 2 half brothers (my raised sons) in July of 2008. Both visits were at his adoptive mothers home since he and our grandsons have always lived with her. The "other" mother was kind to me but on the last visit I could feel my first son pulling away from me. It has never really been a good reunion even from the beginning. I blame this on the half hearted efforts of the Lutheran Social Services inept intermediary. I still hold out hope that one day he will visit me and his "other family". I never hear back after leaving phone messages or after letters and greeting cards. Even the adoptive mother has now no longer replied to the emails she has initiated requesting more bio father info for the grandsons school work. It's the worst. So all I can say to each of us first moms is to stay strong and brave like Lorraine.

  11. Amy, I also have an open adoption with my child who is now a teen. I found myself nodding along to everything you wrote. I do not believe open adoption OR closed adoption work. I think they are both awful in their own right. Just wondering though, when you say that you don't think open adoption works, did you also mean that closed was preferable in your opinion?

    I am really enjoying these posts Lorraine, thank you for sharing.

  12. Amy wrote:"(that's why I don't think open adoption works...these are young children who are trying to process very adult issues concerning being given up)"

    And Tiffany asks:" If open adoption doesn't work, in your opinion, I'm curious what you would recommend? Would you prefer closed adoption?"

    I would have preferred having knowledge of who my first parents and extended family were but not being expected to have a relationship with them. I think that is too hard on a young child. It sets the child up for repeated rejections. I cannot imagine growing up in my large family with all bio-kid siblings and being the only one whose mother and/or father might come to visit or send an email or something. And what if she didn't come for the visit? What if she decided not to continue with the open adoption? I can't imagine anything more painful than having that happen when I saw first hand that my sibling got to live with and be raised by their natural parents. Having to deal with being given up once was enough.

    And another reservation I have about open adoption is that I think it is a ruse to get more vacillating expectant mothers to relinquish. And we all know these OA agreements are not legally enforceable in most states.

  13. Amy wrote: "I think many times that the adoptee's pain is deep, unacknowledged and comes out in these "passive-aggressive" ways or more tangible ways, i.e. "you used the wrong towels!" or "you sent me an ugly birthday card."

    It's not about the towel, people, and it's not about the card. These are what's known as "the straw that broke the camel's back". I believe B.J. Lifton's first mother would not acknowledge her existence to other people, would not tell her half-brother about her, and if memory serves me correctly, would not tell B.J. who her father was. There is a book called "Letters to my Birthmother...", written by adoptee Amy Dean, who has been criticized here at FMF. Ms. Dean was wholly welcomed into her first family by her n-mother and was expected to immediately become fully involved with the entire family. Amy told her mother she needed time to process all of this and although she was quite happy to be accepted, she needed to take things at a slower pace. Well, her mother totally ignored her wishes. Furthermore, her mother refused to name her father.

    These are the real issues that are angering adoptees and sometimes when the anger finally erupts, it can seem like it was over a trivial issue. But it is usually over the adoptee having his own wants and needs disrespected.

  14. To answer the question of if I think "closed" adoption works better...no, I don't. I suggest to anyone curious about how an adult adoptee in an open adoption feels and the issues they may face, read sisterwish.com. So much of what she describes correlates to things my daughter has said that she felt. I believe that the relationships between my "kept" kids and my "adopted away" daughter might have stood more of a chance of working out if we had "reunited" with her later in life. I think resentments have built up over the years between all of them. My 19 yr. old daughter was "kept" child number 5...the first girl to come along after my "birth"daughter. The relationship between the 2 is VERY strained. I think there is jealousy on both ends. Each were "first daughters" and I guess that's hard for them to share that place..."first" born and "first" kept. When we're all together, those 2 battle for my attention more than any of the others. My "birth"daughter told me once when she used to see me rocking her baby sisters, that she wished I would have rocked her that way. She has never actually verbalized wanting to come live with us, but she told me (through tears) that she felt she belonged with us. She also used to cry all the way home in the backseat of the car after visiting us. Amom said it took her a couple of days to recuperate emotionally.

    But now, despite 20 yrs. of history and "memory making" it appears that my "birth"daughter suffers the SAME issues that later-reunited adoptees face, plus all the suffering and confusion she endured during her growing-up years. Yes, she got to see us and know us. And she also got "rejected" over and over and over when we had to leave her or she left us. Saying good-bye repeatedly was too much for *me* and my husband to take at times, and we fell apart almost every time she left. It kills me to think she may have felt anything similar.

    Actually her aparents were fairly encouraging of the relationship between us and our daugher, UNTIL she turned 18. Then, it was all basically turned over to her and she didn't really know how to handle everything by herself. It probably overwhelmed her...having to remember birthdays and holidays and basically keep in touch. Which in turn left us feeling suddenly shut out.

    All families have issues, yes. We didn't speak to my husband's parents for most of our marriage...going on 28 yrs. But what happens in adoption is very different. You're breaking what I consider after having 7 kids, a very sacred bond. A mother is supposed to die for her children. Which I say I basically did when I gave up my daughter. I took a bullet to give her a "better life"...or so I was told. You just don't give up your child. It's unthinkable, and yet I did it. Relinquishing a child should be the VERY LAST resort. My daughter was born to young parents. We would have grown up! All we needed was temporary help, but the "powers that be" felt we needed to lose her forever. No one knew going in that the adoption would end up open. My parents were fine with me losing my child forever. I'll never forgive them for that.

    "Closed" has been proven not to work, as I feel open will end with the same conclusion eventually. Open adoption was "invented" to lure mote girls/women to place their babies. It's exactly what happened to me. "Open" adoption wasn't presented as an option until I started voicing my opposition.

    Lorraine, sometimes the aparents were present during the hugs, and sometimes not. She's not super affectionate to begin with, so I guess it just felt awkward to her...idk. Of course I took it as her not liking me. Wonder if she thought I didn't like her? :(

  15. @Robin...

    I whole-heartedly agree, and that's what I was trying to say. It's like the final straw...what opens the flood-gates and the anger spews out. The only thing that can be verbalized or pointed to is "the wrong towel" or "the ugly card." Those are **tangible**...those can be **seen**

    BTW, I just ordered that book a few days ago! I hope I can learn *something* from it!

  16. And sometimes the rejection (towels, cards, whatever) is just about the unacknowledged anger and deep-seated feelings of abandonment that the adoptee can not process because it stems from a per-verbal time. Sometimes the mother does nothing wrong NOT--but whatever she does, it is the wrong thing.

    BJ did have a real reason for shutting out her mother but other times it's nothing that the person does but comes out of the anger over the initial "rejection" the adopted person feels. And now this woman/mother is all lovey-dovey? Not so fast.

  17. Lorraine, you are so right about the mother doing anything wrong, but for some reason it's just the wrong thing. I've often wondered about what I might do differently if I could go back in time and quite honestly I must say not much. Most of us, I believe, at least from what I've read and seen, have done everything within our power and then some in an impossible attempt to try and "fix" things.

  18. My takes on both B. J. Lifton and Amy Dean are quite different from Robin's. The facts that I presented in a post several years about about both women came from their books where they presumably presented themselves in the best light.

    Lifton met her mother, intending only a one time meeting. After the meeting, her mother sent her a sentimental card which angered Lifton and Lifton did not even acknowledge the card. It was only after a ten year hiatus when Lifton attempted a relationship that the issue of Lifton's mother refusing to publicly recognize her or name Lifton's father came up. These events were not the cause of the ten year break. The card alone was not responsible but it helped Lifton justify her contempt for her mother.

    Amy Dean was extremely angry at her first mother long before she met her. Dean blamed her mother for an unhappy childhood although Dean's mother has nothing to do with selecting the adoptive parents.

    Dean's mother was overjoyed when Dean contacted her and tried to bring Dean into the family. Naive, perhaps, but not malevolent. Dean was cold and cruel in her response. She did not communicate in a meaningful way that she simply needed time. She harped on her mother's small transgressions like having dirty dishes in the sink and asking Dean to take off her cost and visit when Dean brought her a Christmas present. Within a year of the reunion, Dean cut off all contact.

    What comes across in Dean's book, and to a lesser extent in Lifton's book, is that seeking out their mothers was about their needs. They lacked empathy for their mothers who in Lifton's mother's case had been abandoned by her father, and in Dean's mother's case, had been victim of rape. Both women were forced to give their children up.

    True, both mothers initially refused to tell their daughters who their fathers were. Refusing to disclose the father is not rare and is a subject we hope to write about soon on FMF.

    Lifton's mother eventually identified her father. Dean's book ends when Dean cuts her mother off. After several years and therapy, Dean asks her mother again about her father and and Dean's mother refuses to tell her, likely out of anger from being cut off after she tried so hard to have a relationship with Dean.

    Both these stories tell us that if the parties want a relationship, they need to rise above pettiness and be open and honest with each other. Slamming the door rather than trying to iron out differences is unfortunately too common in reunions.

  19. Jane,
    Your comment makes it clear to me why so few reunions are successful. You come across to me as saying that adoptees need to be endlessly patient, understanding and self-sacrificing. Sorry, but what you wrote doesn't fly with me. Amy Dean's mother needed to give Amy time to integrate this whole new family into her life instead of expecting her to immediately attend all family functions and act as if she had never been separated. Furthermore, in most cases, an adoptee can only get the name of her natural father from her mother. It is usually not even on the birth certificate if the child was born out of wedlock. I doubt my relationship with my first mother would have continued if she had refused to name my father.

  20. The problem, Robin, is that Amy Dean's mother didn't have a clue about why Dean acted the way she did. The mother believed as many mothers who are found do that her child had come home and wanted to be part of the family.

    Wile adoptees who search don't want a new family, this is not obvious to mothers who have grieved for their lost children for years. Mothers may believe they are doing their child a favor by bringing them into the family rather than keeping the relationship a secret or refusing to acknowledge them at all. Adoptees may be uncomfortable with these "coming out" parties but they don't refuse to attend; they just complain afterwards in their memoirs.

    If an adoptee were to say, I'd like a relationship with you, I just don't want to meet your family yet, things would go better. Instead, they disappear and mothers have no idea why. They may reappear and mothers get their hopes up only to be disappointed again. Eventually trust breaks down and mothers say they just can't care anymore.

    You'll see in Lorraine's next segment what was bothering her daughter -- but her daughter didn't tell her for a long time.

    And yes, of course mothers should disclose who the father is.

  21. My recollections are different. I remember reading that Amy did tell her first mother on several occasions how she felt and what she needed. But regardless, the moral of the story is that once a child is given up for adoption, no matter the circumstances, the mother and child relationship will never be the same. And any reunion or even open adoption relationship will most likely be fraught with misunderstandings and confusion.

    All we can hope for now is that by telling our stories more expectant mothers with crisis pregnancies will not fall victim to the bullshite spit out by the adoption industry.

    And while we're at it, let's do all we can to help Carri, in Columbus Ohio, get her 5 week old son Camden back.

  22. Oh Robin, please don't be negative. Reunions can be and have been very successful. The people I know in these reunions are busy living fun lives and are not here blogging! Those of us who have not been so lucky are sharing our stories and perhaps hoping that we can gain insight and knowledge that might help our own situation or perhaps help others. And, btw, i totally get what Jane is saying.

  23. @Gail,
    I consider my relationships on both sides of my family to be positive for the most part. There were times when both my n-mother and I did and said things that were insensitive. My relatives on my n-father's side did not even know I existed, so they did not have a sense that someone was missing. Since my n-father was already deceased, I can't say what a reunion with him would have been like. Although I highly doubt that he would have wanted to hear from the child he so adamantly did not want.

    I have never read any story online or known anyone IRL who had a wonderful, problem free reunion such as you describe. I have known of reunions that went well for several years but then some issue caused by the adoption separation reared its ugly head.

    I also made my previous comment because I cannot get out of my head the scene on Teen Mom where Dawn, the social worker, tells a crying Catelynn that "this isn't goodbye, it's see ya later". I think presenting adoption as having the opportunity to have some contact with or knowledge of your child while s/he is growing up and then reuniting again as one big happy family when s/he is 18 is another manipulative tool of the adoption industry to encourage the e-mother to relinquish.

  24. I am curious, seriously, why can't we realize that this is not a blame game? I know that some folks think I am mean to my daughter - but like I said before, it seems to be the only way she communicates with me at all. Also, the fact is this isn't about blame, but feelings......

    I am confused.

  25. Good bye--I'll see ya later?

    My stomach turned when I read that. It is so not that. It's If I see you later, our separations and modern adoption will have fucked both of us up to the point where it will be hard to have a relationship that isn't immensely difficult and hurtful and painful--FOR BOTH OF US.

  26. Regarding the topic of open/closed adoptions from up thread...

    My husband and I were not willing to enter into a closed adoption from our very first discussions. We both felt it was unethical to the child, and in some circumstances, the mother (i.e., when the mother does not choose it). A child grows up into an adult, a person who we believe has a right to her own story, history, genetic connections. For us, a closed adoption was just not an option.

    So what is the best way to go about having an open adoption? No one knows as the jury is still out on that one. My daughter's life as an adoptee in an open adoption is a bit of a social experiment, which bothers me to no end, but there is nothing I can do about it. I cannot look into a crystal ball and know how she will feel someday about every choice I make regarding contact. I cannot know how she will feel about her parents. I cannot know how they will act, what they will do, if they stay together, if they remain in her life... I cannot know anything. And it terrifies me for her. I literally am awake some nights, in the wee hours of the morning, thinking about it. But that doesn't bring any more clarity or understanding.

    Robin says what she would have preferred. I get that and totally understand it. Amy described what her daughter felt and the struggles she has faced with her open adoption. Sisterwish is a blog I do read, and that sheds another perspective. The problem? None of these ladies are my someday-adult daughter. She is an individual, as we all are, and knowing how others feel in their particular situations can help me understand possibilities, but it is still not a crystal ball into how my daughter will feel.

    I do know these things. First, our daughter's parents want openness and asked for it, and we promised it. While I wholeheartedly agree open adoption is used as a carrot by the industry and some adoptive parents, that is not how my husband and I view it. While our contact is only barely legally enforceable in our state, that does not inform my moral choices. Open adoption is where we are at, and the contact isn't going to change right now.

    Second, I was there. I do hope that it will help my daughter to hear from both her mothers that they both love her very, very much. Sometimes, when someone is backed up against a cliff, she has no choice but to jump. I was there, and I know how much it broke her mother's heart to give her up.

    Someday, as my daughter grows, and we keep our dialogue open about her feelings, she may not want to have contact. If that was to happen, rather than simply cut things off, we would seek counseling (something my daughter will likely need anyway) between our families to try to work things out. If that didn't work, I would talk with her mom and we would work together to determine if contact should be put on hold for a bit. I know her mother loves her very much, and I am sure that if contact was upsetting our daughter, her mom would step back. My contact and what I do (pictures, emails, videos, etc) won't ever change because my promise is not our daughter's obligation to keep to her mom, but mine.

    Open adoption is no more a fix to the brokenness than closed adoption is. It is all a recipe for heartbreak, and I realize I cannot change, fix, mend, or in some cases, even mitigate that. All I can do is be my daughter's mom, love her, support her, let her know all her feelings are valid and acceptable, and help her work through the tangled mess life has handed her. Through it all, I intend to keep the promises I made because any less, and I wouldn't be the person I want to be for my daughters, so we will continue to work through open adoption and do the best we can.

  27. @Tiffany,
    Did you mention that your daughter's first mother is no longer participating in the open adoption or am I confusing you with someone else?

  28. @Robin, no, she still is, but not as actively as before. I know we will for sure see them next month at something I invited them to go to with us, and hopefully we will see them this month as well as she mentioned that possibility. But it will have been almost a year either way, by their choice. I believe without knowing anything for certain that it is emotionally difficult for her to handle visits. So I remain open but do not push.

    In the fall, she moves to another state. I am not certain what that will mean for already infrequent visits as right now, we live in the same area. But we have already said we will go there to visit her at least once next year, maybe twice.

  29. Tiffany wrote:"I believe without knowing anything for certain that it is emotionally difficult for her to handle visits."

    I understand that you don't know for sure the reason for the reduced visits, but being emotionally difficult is not, in my mind, an acceptable excuse for a first mother to cut down or cancel visits. The child will most likely interpret this as just another rejection. I really don't think youngsters have the emotional capability to understand this. It would just hurt. I do see OA, for the most part, as just another social experiment, and one that in 20 or 30 years will have worked out about as well as the BSE.

  30. Robin, I understand what you are saying. I can't say much more without going into details that I won't reveal publicly because they belong to my daughter, but I did not envision this type of relationship with her parents.

    I already stated that I think OA is a social experiment, that I don't think it's a fix or any better than closed adoption, and that I do not think it will magically help my daughter. So, we agree on all those points.

    But I am struggling very, very much with this because I hurt for her. I wish there was some easy answer, but there isn't. I just went and found a place to sit at work for a while and collect myself because there are moments, like these, when it really hits me how much hurt my daughter will someday be handed and asked to deal with, and that just breaks my heart for her. All the love in the world from me, all the good intentions and attempts to keep this open adoption, to do the best I can for her, cannot ever fix what is broken. In the past, I have said that I would willingly give up my daughter to her first parents if it meant I could fix this for her and prevent her from feeling any pain from adoption. I get a lot of flack from APs for that, but it's true. I would go through any amount of pain to prevent her from having to... but I can't. I can't and couldn't fix it. This is what it is, and like I said, the best I can do is be there for her.

  31. Robin said: '...being emotionally difficult is not, in my mind, an acceptable excuse for a first mother to cut down or cancel visits'

    The choice of the word 'excuse' feels trivialising to me. Why not 'reason'? That would keep them their fully-rounded humanity.

    I agree with the point you're making though.

  32. @ Tiffany: your daughter is so lucky to have your love.

  33. I noticed I edited out something from my comment that I feel is important, so I'm adding it.

    "...but I did not envision this type of relationship with her parents." I want to add this:

    Even though I wanted contact for my daughter, what I need to be sure of is that I never harbor any negative emotions of any kind towards her other parents. I will remain neutral, positive, understanding, compassionate, but I will not be negative in anyway. I honestly do believe that it is very hard for her mom to handle this, and who on earth am I to judge her for that? I just cannot fathom the depths of such grief. It is not my place, and more than that, I can't find it within myself to feel anything but sadness and compassion combined with grief for our daughter. I will allow my daughter to form her own opinions (negative or positive) without a negative bias from me - I have seen here over and over how an adoptive mom's personal feelings can cause such pain for her child, and I will not be that person.

    @Cherry, thank you, but I am a thousand times over the lucky one in this relationship. I am incredibly grateful every single day to have been chosen to love my daughter and be called mama by her, and she deserves the very best, so I try very hard to be what she deserves.



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