' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Marriage after relinquishing a child--a good man helps

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Marriage after relinquishing a child--a good man helps

Celebrating our 25th anniversary 
Today is our 33rd wedding anniversary and after we did a quick stop at a church yard sale this morning and had coffee downtown outdoors--I thought about how my unknown daughter--unknown when we married--was a part of our lives from the very first time Tony and I met. Some of you know the story because I've told it before but today it's much on my mind.

We met at a Sunday brunch in February, introduced by a mutual friend, Gael McCarthy. We had both been on The Daily Collegian at Wayne State University in Detroit, and we both ended up in
New York City. My winter rental in Sag Harbor at the time had frozen and burst pipes, I was temporarily staying with Gael in Manhattan. She dragged me along to a brunch with friends, and then made sure I met this writer who was also there, someone named Anthony Brandt, because, as she said, she thought he was a nice guy and she also knew he was not connected to anyone at the time. In fact, his ex was at the same brunch.

We were both writers and when he asked me what I wrote, I told him unabashedly about Birthmark, my memoir about giving up my daughter. It had come out a little more than a year before, in 1979, and I had taken my share of grief about it--You wrote what? Who gave you the right!!!--but I didn't expect that from him. Writers, after all, write about what they know. And most are quite accepting of other writer's lives and subjects. At the time, he had a cover story in The Atlantic about his grandmother's dementia and how difficult it had been as a boy to see his loving grandmother deteriorate.

But his reaction was so casual I might as well said I had written a cook book. He didn't ask any questions, he didn't seem shocked. Hmm, I thought, that's interesting. Tony and I had lunch a few days later, and he told me about his favorite cousin: she had gotten pregnant at fifteen, came to live with his family from upstate New York in deepest secrecy, was hurried in and out of the house to see the doctor under a bulky winter coat so even the neighbors--who didn't know the teenager--would not see her--that's how shameful it was. Her boy friend's parents placed all the blame on her, and enlisted other boys from the football team to say they also had slept with her, though she insisted that was not true.

Tony and Lorraine 33 years ago
Tony's cousin Joan had a daughter who was adopted through someone the physician knew in Westfield, New Jersey. What Tony knew is that the experience forever changed his favorite cousin and she seemed never to get her life on track after that. There were multiple marriages, moves--even another child given up for adoption, this one a boy. At lunch I must have told Tony more about my personal odyssey, though I don't recall doing so, but in any event, my shame and secret of the past was simply a part of me at that point, not something hiding in my history. Writing the book and being so public about it meant that I never had to be secret about this. And what a relief that was!

Tony and I--both divorced, both older, me in my late 30s, he in his 40s--wasted no time once we decided we were good together. Within a month we were living together, and that fall on a cloudy but warm September day got married at the huge mansion of a friend's grandparents in Westhampton Beach. The house is so magnificent it has a name--Kinkora--rather than a number address, and was designed by Henry Bacon, who also designed the Lincoln Memorial. My "best woman" was a friend who was also a first mother, a fact that came out as our friendship was budding. She is also a writer and we are still close today. Our wedding announcement in The New York Times included mention of my memoir--thus included the fact that I was one of "those women" who had given up a child. I had hidden once, but I was done with that. I would never hide again.

By the time of our wedding rolled around that September day, I had set in motion a search to find my daughter. I had been involved with Florence Fisher's ALMA, attended meetings regularly, had already written stories about the inhumanity of sealed records and adoptee/natural mother (birth mother wasn't a term in use yet) reunion for Town & Country, Cosmopolitan, New Woman, even Parent's magazine--but felt that I couldn't search for her because she was too young. I'd actually hoped that since the data of her birth was in Birthmarkher parents would contact me, but that had not happened. Born in 1966, she was only fifteen in 1981. I'd heard in whispers at ALMA meetings that you could hire "the searcher" and he could find anybody. Yet I hesitated.

But not knowing where she was, or how she was, and having the innate but inchoate feeling that she needed me, tore me up. I'd written three letters to the agency through which she had been adopted in Rochester, New York, and only heard back that she was "fine and happy" with her new family and that I needed to get on with my life. One evening, a few weeks before we married, Tony and I had dinner with a friend, Peter McCabe, a magazine editor. He asked what was so magical about waiting until my daughter was 18--I wasn't going to steal her, now was I? I just needed to know. Why not now?

Indeed, why not now? Tony joined the chorus of why not now? and the next morning I called someone who knew someone who could reach the mysterious searcher. The cost would be $1,200, a princely sum in 1981 to me, but I had money from Birthmark and said: Do it. Find her.

As secret "quality control inspectors" for the Intercontinental chain of hotels, Tony and I spent five weeks in the Caribbean and all over South America on a working honeymoon, if you can call checking out hotel rooms and restaurants and services on the sly as guests for the corporate office "working." When we got back there was a letter waiting for me among the piles of mail--a letter that said my daughter had been found.

It is nearly impossible to tell you the relief that washed over me. Always I had worried that I would never be able to find her, that she was lost forever, that I would spend all my days looking at the faces of young girls, adolescents/teenagers/young women/middle aged women and wondering: Is that her? What does she look like? Who is she? Where is she? How is she? Now that horror was over.

 She is found! I remember shouting to Tony. She is found!

Jane and I in 1982 
I might have gotten around to finding my daughter sooner rather than later, but it was easier with Tony by my side, quietly believing that it was the right thing to do. My daughter, whose name was Jane, came into our lives soon after. She came for a few days, then weeks, then most of the summer. At times she lived with us. Tony was like a step-father to her. When she was down, he listened to her and sympathized; he took care of me when I was emotionally roiling, as the course of reunion never does run smooth. We went to her wedding in 2007, danced alongside her adoptive parents, and seven years later, were there together at her funeral. Tony is supportive of my involvement in the adoption reform and adoptee rights movement, he has understood and accepted how it is the driving force of my life--to see that as few woman as possible go through the particular nightmare of losing a child to adoption because they cannot find the way to care for that baby, to see that adoptee/mother reunions are at least possible for those who wish them, and to lessen the pain of the unfathomable loneliness of those who have yet to share their secret with their loved ones.

No one would ever chose to have their life take the turn that mind did, but here I am today, and I've survived. Tony, my partner and deep love of my life, has made the journey so much easier. We worry about the future financially, we sometimes get on each other nerves, we do many things differently, but we have a good life and we recognize that we have been good partners for each other. And today, 33 years after he sang Sweet Lorraine in front of our wedding band, I can't imagine my life without him in it.--lorraine
PS: My best woman used the same searcher and found her daughter shortly after I found Jane.

Family Reunions: Missing the one lost to adoption
Secrecy in reunion: How can I tell my adoptive parents? Or my other family?
Who Should Search--Adoptee or birth mother?
Family Reunions: Distorted by Adoption


  1. Happy Anniversary! I love what you've written here and am so happy that you found a good man. I tell my husband all the time how grateful I am that he supports my reunion with my son, and he seems bewildered, as if he can't imagine doing otherwise. But I know he's special, as is your Tony, because I had two previous husbands who were not supportive but threatened. It's always heartening to see a successful marriage like yours. Congratulations.

  2. My husband, Jay, is a real sweetheart. He totally wonderful about my lost daughter Rebecca. He is also great with her children when they come to visit.

    Husbands accepting their child is something I often hear from first mothers. Certainly puts to bed the myth that if you don't give up your baby and keep him a secret, no decent man will ever marry you.

  3. Happy Anniversary! What a beautiful tribute to your husband and to your wonderful relationship.

    My husband and I also met and married later in life - moved in together within 2 months of meeting one another and married at a friend's beautiful home in an intimate ceremony (not a historic home, like your venue, but beautiful nonetheless). I hope we get to see 33 years together as well!

  4. Your husband sounds lovely as well as your life together. I believe you are a very strong and dedicated woman who tries to educate and prevent unnecessary adoption. I am glad your husband has helped you along your journey. Happy anniversary to both of you, and wishes for many more happy years together!

  5. Amen! My Henry saved my life and sanity. Happy anniversary! We just celebrated our 32nd in February.

  6. Congrats! Have a very happy anniversary !
    My hubby never could have married a woman with a child, relinquished or kept. Sad. He can't understand my being upset about adoption, period. My thinking has changed over the years, his has not. Sigh.

    So happy for you!

    1. We've talked about this before, and I am sorry for your loneliness on this, JE. I know it is hard.

  7. I'm an adoptee, but my husband has been my rock as well. I met him when i was 16 and in a great deal of pain. I used to tell my friends that i was adopted, and they would always say the same thing, "Your adopted mom is your real mom". I would just agree with them, but in my heart i felt different. When I met my husband I told him I was adopted and he said, "Wow, that must be terrible". That was all it took. I fell in love right then and there!

    I left home at 19 and moved in with him. We got married a few years later and I gave birth to my son, the first blood relative that I had ever seen when i was 24. We have 4 children now, ranging from age 17-28. Life has been good.

    1. Adoptam: It is so amazing when somebody just speaks from their heart, rather than blah blah blah...I am sure that having drummed into you...your adopted Mom is your real Mom made you feel so alone and not understood.

      People, just react with your heart!

  8. Happy Anniversary! I too had a supportive husband during my search for my daughter. Unfortunately he passed on before our reunion, but I was so fortunate to have him share my anger, tears and the emotional roller coaster of that time. Thanks Don! Love the wedding pic of you and Tony! Hope you have many more years of love and laughter.

  9. Happy Anniversary - it is so important that you have someone who love & supports you, but more importantly, respects your feelings even if they can't completely understand them.

    My (current) husband is the first person in my life that I've completely opened up with regard to my experience of giving up my daughter - what it meant to me psychologically these 26 years. He was involved in our initially successful reunion and then when it failed, he was there to hold my hand and help me out of the trench of depression I fell into. He is the first person who has understood the complexity and treachery of this situation. It is invaluable to me to have him.

    I'm happy for all of us who have found our partner. The one who will champion our causes and not take advantage of our weaknesses. I worked especially hard to find him and he was kind enough to wait for me to find him!

  10. Happy Anniversary (belated). My late husband was the rock that kept me from sliding into that abyss that so many women slid into after losing a child to adoption. He would listen to my stories about her for hours and was very supportive. When we met the adoption had just been finalized (even though I did not know it had been) and it was very hard for me to believe that I was never going to see her again.... he even asked me if we could stop the adoption..... He was wonderful and loving.

  11. Happy anniversary! What a lovely story! I wish you many more years of happiness together.

    For those of us inclined to marry men, there is absolutely nothing like a fine one. Mr. B and I have been together thirty-three years, and will celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary next spring.

    I never would have survived the grief and humiliation of being shucked by my family of origin had I not had a whole, sound relationship upon which to create a new family. Instead of just family, my relatives are divided between what I now call my family, and my "family of origin." My family also comprises one blood relative and his wife and mother, who have stood by me loyally.

    Best of health and luck to Lorraine, Jane, and my other FMF friends, from whom I've learned so much. This site is nourishing... a favorite word of my late lamented grandmother, who was that, herself, to me.

  12. I love a good story, and yours is a good one. Belated happy anniversary.

  13. Happy Anniversary to you both!! I too found a great partner/husband. We are married for 24 years now; and he helped me thru the searching and then being rejected/no reunion with my daughter, who is now 45.

  14. I commented a few days ago but I don't see it here so I must have messed up somehow....but I do not want to miss wishing a great couple a Happy Anniversary. Like your, Tony, I married a man who always knew about my lost baby and encouraged me to search when the opportunity arose. That was in 1990. It has been a roller coaster ride with me since then but he hangs on and has become quite outspoken about adoption over the years.
    Whenever I see a photo of your handsome Tony I expect that he will speak in a lovely Scottish accent for some reason. You make a beautiful couple. Hugs, Joy

  15. I commented a few days ago but I don't see it here so I must have messed up somehow....but I do not want to miss wishing a great couple a Happy Anniversary. Like your, Tony, I married a man who always knew about my lost baby and encouraged me to search when the opportunity arose. That was in 1990. It has been a roller coaster ride with me since then but he hangs on and has become quite outspoken about adoption over the years.
    Whenever I see a photo of your handsome Tony I expect that he will speak in a lovely Scottish accent for some reason. You make a beautiful couple. Hugs, Joy

  16. Anonymous: what happened to the boy being raised by adoptive parents instead of his natural parents/ A quick google didn't yield a follow-up story and that decision is from 1991 or 23 years ago...

  17. The biological mother eventually got her son back. I found this on a page with ads covering some of the copy and I could not get rid of the ads. But Melvin was eventually returned to his rightful real mother and he did not see the adoptive family after age 8. He apparently died young--leaving a 5-month old son--but I could discern the date of his death. Anyone?

    Pope is scheduled to be buried today, leaving his wife, his
    five-month-old son and two mothers who are mourning his death. Born on
    Oct. 7, 1983, he was mistakenly given to a woman who later put him up
    for adoption. Meanwhile, that woman's child was taken home from a
    Spalding County hospital by the Pope family of Griffin, who named him
    Cameron, and raised him as their own.

    But during the Popes' divorce in 1988, Jodie Pope discovered that the
    hospital had mistakenly switched her baby.

    Pope quickly tracked her biological son to the Moores of Fort Knox,
    Ky., and sued for custody.

    Eventually, Jodie Pope won. "We were trying to live day to day, trying
    to let Melvin know that life could be happy," said Jodie Pope, 41.

    Melvin had severed ties with the couple who raised him to age 8. As of
    Wednesday, the adoptive parents were not aware of his death.

    "Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh, Oh," said Edith Moore, 56, who lives with
    her husband, Eugene, in Kentucky.

    The Moores said they loved their jovial, hyperactive child who spent
    his early childhood in both Germany and Kentucky. During the legal
    battle with his biological mother, the couple fought not to let him
    go. A Fulton County judge eventually awarded custody of Melvin to the
    Moores but gave Pope extensive visitation rights.

    The first time Melvin visited Jodie Pope at her home in Griffin,
    during Thanksgiving 1991, she refused to send him back to the Moores.

    Eventually, the court gave the biological mother custody.

    The new family has had its difficulties. Jodie Pope had to break it to
    Cameron that she wasn't his biological mother. But, he was still her
    son. She wasn't about to let Cameron go.

    Confusion and anger consumed the two boys. Cameron was heartbroken and
    jealous of his new brother. Melvin, the Moores' only child, was now
    adjusting to a big extended family, a divorced mother, an absent

    Eventually, Cameron and Melvin became brothers. They rode bikes
    together and played T-ball. Cameron, familiar in his surrounding,
    behaved as an older, protective brother. Their bond blossomed.

    But they both dropped out of school. Cameron Pope, who lives in
    Dallas, is currently attending night school for his GED, his mother

    Melvin Pope, who was home-schooled, never completed high school. He
    had been married less than a year to Ashley, who gave birth to Dylan
    five months ago. The new father had been working as an auto detailer,
    but was trying to get back to school and earn his GED for a
    better-paying job.

    The Moores have not seen Melvin for a decade. The last time was at an
    attorney's office.

    1. from this link:



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