' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Contacting one's child after the photos stop

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Contacting one's child after the photos stop

Dear First Mother Forum:
My son turned 20 this year and I would love to send him a note, letting him know that I have never forgotten him. His birth father and I each wrote him a letter before he was born explaining why he was given up for adoption.

Assuming his adoptive parents gave them to him, he has some pictures of me when I was pregnant with him, and of his birth father, as well as pictures of me with him and his adoptive family when I gave him to them. They sent pictures over the years when I requested them, but it has been a little over 10 years since I last requested/sent anything. 

Not because I don't care but because life moves on and you have to move with it. I really
just want to let him know that I have never forgotten him, that I did get to spend time with him before he went to his new parents, and that I am available for contact, etc. I also want to make sure he is happy and doing well. At age 9 he seemed to be doing great and his family always sent good pictures. Suggestions anyone?

Dear Anonymous--
Your comment was disturbing because it so reflects the modern adoption way--no real contact between child and (birth/natural) mother, but! photos from the adoptive parents. Better than nothing, right? This might have sounded good at the time of relinquishment, but in reality hard to live with as the years passed. 

That's left us with a question here, were you able to send things--photos, presents, letters--to your son? That might make a difference in how he feels about you contacting him now. It certainly was the case with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and all mothers ought to be forewarned about abruptly cutting contact with their children. Openness in adoption is not just for the natural mother, but for the adoptee, and suddenly disappearing from their lives is internally read as being rejected and abandoned twice. 

Yet if that was not the case, and you were only allowed photos--pictures of your own flesh-and-blood as the years passed--it is understandable how that would have cut open the wound year after year. It wasn't an option for me, but my god, imagining myself, I can see how this would have left me an emotional minefield for weeks every time. So I can understand why you stopped asking for the photos as he grew, and probably every year he looked more like you or his father, or a grandparent or uncle.

As for his parents giving him the letters and photos, I wouldn't count on it, even though the adoptive parents sound as if they were living up to their part of the bargain. It's never going to come up, as in, Hey, did those other people who conceived and bore me leave me a couple of letters? And pictures? From the adoptive parents' point of view, I can see how this would be avoided, and they would simply never bring it up. However, that doesn't give them a pass not to bring the subject up themselves. After all, the adoptee doesn't know such letters and photos even exist without them telling him. 

Because adoption is a taboo subject in many an adoptive home, adoptees grow up feeling they cannot broach the subject themselves because they rightfully intuit that doing so will hurt the adoptive parents. That is the real pity. Adoptees want to talk about being adopted and their beginnings, but stay silent. Adoptive parents reinforce the silence thinking: Well, if Johnny were curious, he'd ask. But he doesn't, and they don't and the wall of silence is ginormous and creates its own wall of separation between adoptee and the only parents he has ever known. Then adoptees don't search until their adoptive parents die, and then--it is often too late for a reunion. 

As for letters, we have heard about this situation many times. Letters written, never delivered. In one story we know, a natural mother passed a note (identifying herself) to an adoptive father in a retail store because she recognized her infant. The note was kept, but not given to the son. Years passed. The birth mother sought out her son through a confidential intermediary, but he refused to meet her. Yet when he told his adoptive parents about the request for contact, the father retrieved the note and gave it to the son. That changed everything, and natural mother met son soon after. Last I heard, the reunion and relationship was going well.  

So it's possible that will be the case here. You really have no choice but to plunge forward, make the contact, write a letter from your heart (read our page about writing that letter), send a photo, and do write about why you, the birth/natural mother, stopped asking for photos. Your son may not even know that photos were sent. I can't imagine saying, Smile at the camera for your birth mother! That sounds sick. 

If you see this, please write back and let us know what happened. We wish you the best. Don't want any longer. For a mother-and-child reunion, there is never a better time than now.--lorraine 

Note: This comment was originally posted at an old blog. While we discourage that because it's likely no one else sees it. This blogging platform has no way to cut off commenting past a certain date. 

Jane and I will be on vacation ourselves until the end of August and will not be checking the blog often, so comments may not be posted as quickly as usual. 

Writing the First Letter

Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
"In this brilliantly crafted and compelling memoir, Dusky covers all perspectives: her own grief and pain as a first mother, her daughter's anger and longing, and the adoptive parents' fears...I was equally astounded by her ability to flawlessly weave in facts about adoption practices over the years, the impact of adoption on both adoptees and birth mothers, and the lack of progress to unseal records.

"Whatever your perspective or personal connection to adoption, I highly
recommend this book. Even if, like me, you think you’ve read enough.
Even if you think you have nothing more to learn, it will be an eyeopening
experience."--Denise Roessle, author of Second-Chance Mother: A Memoir in Adoption Today magazine. 



  1. The adoptee voice is often difficult to hear and understand. Both first parents and adoptive parents might benefit from reading the comments to this website. http://confessions-of-an-adoptee.tumblr.com/
    I suggest reading all 417 comments, to date, to absorb the experience.

  2. Thanks, momengineer. I was not familiar with the site. I just took a look at it, Definitely valuable.



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