' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Surviving the holidays as a first mother or adoptee

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Surviving the holidays as a first mother or adoptee

Christmas lights 
Christmas can be the bluest time of the year for us in this strange sorority of adoption--first mothers and our lost children, the adopted and their missing mothers, and the fathers too who think of the children they do not know.

It can't be helped. The music of redemption and joy is in the air, and the constant barrage of ads reminds us of those we can't send presents to. We may had a joyous reunion with a lost daughter a few weeks ago, only to find that she won't respond to our texts or emails. Or a son's girlfriend has given away a grandchild, and it is triggering all the remembrance of that awful time
of giving up our own son or daughter. A reunited (adopted) granddaughter with whom you may have had a wonderful reunion has told you that she's in a "good place now" and you should buzz off. 
Lorraine and Jane, 1983

Readers know that my own daughter, after 26 years of reunion, died of her own hand in 2007. We certainly had our ups and downs, but of course she's on my mind. I take comfort in knowing that though her life was plenty troubled--and with more than being adopted--she is at peace now. 

We've all got something. I know that may seem trite, and when someone not cursed with our particular trial says it we want to say: You can't possibly understand what it was like for us to give up our children. Or: You can't possibly know what it is like to feel abandoned and adopted by strangers, no matter if they were good and loving parents or not. I've been there, done that, but unless we are going to curl up in a ball and give up, we have to figure out how to go on. 

No matter who we are, or how comfortable our life seems to an outsider, life is a series of problems. I was watching the reruns of Downton Abbey last night. In particular, it was the episode in which unmarried Edith reveals to her grandmother, the formidable Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham (portrayed by Maggie Smith), that she is pregnant and the father is missing somewhere in Germany. Unless she hides the pregnancy and birth, Edith will give birth to a bastard, and be ostracized from all polite society. Her class will turn their collective back on her. (Doesn't sound like it was much different in my day, either.)

You can see that the wheels are in motion for her to give her baby to a tenant farmer. Maggie Smith, in her indomitable way, says to her...Life is a series of problems. You solve Number One and then you go on to Number Two, and then Three...We conquer one and then the next one comes along.

Christmas is one of those problems. I can't tell you it will be easy, but it will be over.

In the meantime, make the most of who you have in your life. Smile when you don't feel like smiling, because the simple act of doing with your face will give you a slight lift.

Be generous with your time and empathy. In the act of doing good for someone else, you will reap a reward yourself.

Pretend to have good time with your family, and you will have a better time than if you give into moping. Enjoy the family, extended and near and in friendship, who do appreciate you.

Say a prayer for your missing loved ones, and hope they are having a good holiday. They may be doing the very same for you. If you are searching, never give up.

To those who have been rejected by their found son or daughter, remember that the people who want to be in your life, will be. You don't have to go chasing after them. And the same holds true for adoptees who searched and found, and are not welcomed into the bosom of their natural families.

Remind yourself that while it is a tragedy that you could not stop your grandchild from being given up for adoption, it is not your baby that came out of your body. You are not under the spell of oxycotin now. You can only control yourself, you can't control others. Though the act of losing a family member--especially a grandchild--is triggering all the negative emotions of your own relinquishment, cry and then accept. You cannot stop what another is determined to do.

To those who are waiting to hear once again from a reunited daughter or son, remember that they are roiling with emotions of "what if" she had kept me. Focus on the happiness of those few hours in that Starbucks when you were together.

In the end, no matter what is thrown at us, life is what we make of it. I know this is all advice you may have heard before, but that's because these nostrums just may help you get through the season. Jane and I wish everyone here the very best of holidays with love and sharing and family. You give us support and love as the years go by. In many ways, 2014 has been less than a good year for me, but we've all got something, right?--lorraine

Finding peace as a first mother on Christmas

Does my (birth) mother think of me on Christmas?

The Adoption Reader: Birth Mothers, Adoptive Mothers, and Adopted Daughters Tell Their Stories
A stellar collection of essays that anyone touched by adoption would be happy to have during the holidays. Full disclosure: Lorraine has the first essay in the book.



  1. Only another first mother knows how much a little extra support means at this time of year. I hope 2015 will be a better year for everyone and that all our surprises will be good ones. It will be interesting to see what Downton Abbey gives us; I'm especially interested in the fate of Edith's baby.

  2. My computer and FMF are having trouble getting along these days! I typed a comment which blew up. Let's see if this works....

    Great post! I hope everyone at FMF has a great holiday.

    I will be pretending again this year. Just like I did on Thanksgiving and like I do every day of my life. I guess I am a better actress than I realize. People come back year after year for the holidays, and they all seem to have a good time.

    Christmas will be over soon. Thank God. I am looking forward to a new year. Hopefully some progress can be made in adoption reform in 2015. That, and my kids, are what is getting me through this.

  3. I want to wish this wonderful online community all the very best this holiday season and in the coming new year. You help me move on, despite the pain of separation - my own separation from Nina and my son's separation from his first family. Lorraine and Jane, thank you for creating this community, and for embracing those of us who are not first mothers.

    Many of you know that one reason I relate to first mothers is due to my own separation from a child whom I love like a daughter - my former foster daughter, Nina. Our holiday season this year is tinged with a sadness beyond mere separation from Nina. Two days ago, we met some of Nina's extended family, and some things that I feared have come to pass.

    We found out that Nina and her mother Rayna are, once again, homeless - this time in a far away state with no support whatsoever. There were some terrible details, details that make me paralyzed with fear for Nina's safety. I would like nothing more than to fly out to them and give them a Christmas - tree, food, presents and all. But Rayna will have nothing to do with me.

    It is clear to me now that in Rayna's current state, she no longer is able to parent Nina. I have pledged support to her family here in California to find a way for them to somehow assume guardianship of Nina. I ask that you please hold Nina close to your hearts in this season of giving, that she may not end up in a remote foster system and instead be reunited with her relatives (especially half-siblings, who are being raised stably and happily) here in California.

    1. Oh Jay, I am so sorry to hear all this, and I know that you will do whatever you can to support Nina's extended family to gain guardianship of her. Our heartfelt thoughts are with you and Nina and we hope to hear in the coming months that you have succeeded and her family is able to find a way to take her in and raise her with love and stability. Many blessings to you and yours.

    2. Jay I'm so sorry to hear of what has happened.
      I wonder if Rayna's inexplicable reaction towards you some time ago was a precursor of this period of mental ill health. Is there any way of knowing whether she still regards you in the same way, or whather she could accept help from you once more?
      I am thinking of you all.

    3. Cherry, I get a lot of strength from your well wishes! I suggested to the family that I would love to just talk with Rayna, briefly, but it wasn't received very positively. One thing I worry about is the family members I am in contact with are blood relatives of Nina's half-siblings, not Nina herself. What if they don't want Nina to get something better that what her half-siblings have? Are they telling me the truth when they say Rayna does not want my help? I have no way of knowing.

      Technically, I can find Rayna, because she gave me all her information (social security number, etc.) when she first became homeless. But I don't want to invade her space. Honestly, Cherry, I have not done much besides crying over the situation - and finding out from other family members that at least Nina and Rayna are alive.

      My husband and I have talked about flying them back to California, to be closer to family. But in her homeless state, I am pretty sure Rayna will think we are doing this to adopt Nina. Ugh.

      Anyhow, Cherry, I really appreciate you holding us in your thoughts. I am supposed to meet with Rayna's family again in a month, and will keep you posted of developments.

      Hugs and Thanks again,

  4. What a touching post Lorraine. Thank you for it, and for creating this space for us to express ourselves, and hear each other, and have conversations that are rare both online and in our daily lives. I know it will take a huge amount of effort to create so many well-written, well-researched, thoughtful articles, full of links and references for us to follow if we choose. You do so much and I appreciate it so much, as I do the understanding I often feel here.

    Warm wishes and thanks to everyone who comes here to listen, share and learn.
    I hope this coming year brings you good things, things to cheer the heart.

  5. Merry Christmas Lorraine & Jane, everyone. Wishing everyone who is searching finds, those who are not embraced will soon be, and all growing relationships become stronger.

  6. Thank you for this post, Lorraine. I wish you and Jane and your families holidays filled with love.

  7. Lorraine and Jane

    Wishing peace in this season. You have both helped me through on several occasions in my journey through "coming out of the closet" of adoption and reunion. Thank you for being here.

  8. Merry Christmas Lorraine and Jane. Great post and good advice. I think all the sayings, while perhaps might be considered trite by some, are timeless and well worth heeding. As you often say, we've all got something! My mother is my inspiration each day when I greet the morning even though she's been gone since 1986. Even though half her face was paralyzed and disfigured from brain surgery along with multiple other issues, she smiled a half a smile every day and I only heard her complain once in 16 years which is amazing to me. Whenever I get down, I think of her and I get right back up!

    1. 16 years is a long time to endure. A great role model. Merry Christmas!

  9. I too, wish you and Jane a peaceful day tomorrow and the coming year! I too have learned so much about adoption and unrequient reunions. Hope that 2015 will be the year my daughter makes contact!
    Happy Christmas everyone!

  10. Merry Christmas to all! A big box arrived today from my oldest son Mike and is currently sitting under the tree. I am a happy Mom:-) Another son and girlfriend are arriving tomorrow.

    1. Yes, Maryanne, we all know those good moments. Savor and enjoy and thanks for the Christmas card!

  11. Maryanne, my heart beats with joy for you. I love happy endings and you certainly deserve one.

    1. Thanks Gail! The unusual gift is a very pretty hand carved Black Forrest cuckoo clock. Cuckoos for the cuckoo?:-) Actually we both like birds and bird feeders and carved stuff, so this works. I am certainly enjoying every good moment. There was also a lovely card of one of their dogs by the woods behind their house, and a promise to be in touch more now that his work schedule is easier.

      Other son and girlfriend arrived with no problems and we are doing lots of fun stuff and going to the gym. After many years of uncertainty this is all good.

  12. The pain of union is a climax of all the pain built up along the trail of loss. The anger and helplessness in loosing both mother and child to adoption desires and so called pregnancy guidance counseling. In a world that would prefer to help themselves to your child than help mother and your child. The misery of knowing a mother will be in pain, unable to change the past, and the unworthy feelings expressed nearly three decades later, the gulf between mother and the entitled, where by letters were seen as payment in full for a life time of pain, for all the natural family members. This father heart breaks we can not be united in full, the arrogance in some feigned triad setting, where the joy rests solely with the power of the entitled.

    1. Thank you Scott for your comment and letting people know that fathers--original, first, biological fathers--remember their lost children and feel the pain of that loss too.

  13. I hate the holidays.... I have for years. I am supposed to be happy and all that good stuff, but the truth is, I hate it. I love giving gifts to my family, and enjoy those things given to me. My heart, however is not in it.... I hate the holidays.

    1. Oh, Lori, I am so sorry. I can empathize Every Christmas between the time I gave up my daughter and our reunion, I had this sense of loss even as I enjoyed my other daughters. I would try to imagine my lost daughter and put her in family scenes.

    2. It is not just the thing with my daughter - it is the fact that I am alone, tired and done.... In the last 5 years, since my husband's death, I have struggled with the winter and with the holidays...... It is not getting better.

  14. I held it together through the actual 'day' but now feel bluer than blue.

    Ladies, don't give up your babies, you will regret it all of your life.

  15. I was resigned to NOT being blue over the holidays. I failed; again.

    Christmas is double jeopardy because my daughter’s birthday is December 20th. I relinquished her on the 23rd. On Christmas Day I 1988, I was in so much pain I wanted to end my life (figuratively; I've never been suicidal). So, Christmas, for the last 26 years has been a consistent reminder of her and therefore tarnished.

    Almost 2 years ago our reunion went south, on a speeding rocket. She asked me not to contact her until she contacted me. And for 2 years I honored that request. I broke this not-agreed-to-agreement on Christmas Day and sent her an email wishing her a Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas.


    It’s only been 3 days, but it feels like 17,000. Yesterday, I barely had the energy to put on pants.

    At the end of the day (or the Holiday), my takeaway is: I am angry with myself. Angry I ever invested a day thinking: 1) she would care, 2) her adoptive parents would be human, 3) she would understand, above all, I (thought I) put her first.

    I’m tired of being sooooo understanding of the other points of this stupid triangle. Aren't we are all human beings and we are all entitled to SOME humanity? I feel weak and unable to move on. It is the only facet of my life this sentence applies to.

    So, I still hate adoption with the fire of a thousand suns.



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