' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: First Mothers: What not to do at the start of a reunion

Friday, February 17, 2017

First Mothers: What not to do at the start of a reunion

In an earlier post we urged first mothers to react with their hearts when a child--now adult--lost to adoption first makes contact, even if the words you hear put you off. What about the next step, once the first flurry of words and excitement is over, and the conversation continues?

From listening to adopted people for the last several decades, I've learned that a great many of them have spent their lives past the age of reason reassuring their adoptive parents in ways large and small that they love them, fully, deeply, completely. Because of what parents have said about them and to them--You were the answers to our prayers; I couldn't love you more if I had given birth to you, when we found you we knew our family was complete, I thank God every day for bringing you to us...they have fully absorbed the message that they are responsible for their parent's well-being and happiness. This message will be inculcated further if the individual was adopted after having children via nature failed, or a biological child's death. The burden the adopted person carries is heavy indeed, no matter how great the parents' affection.

I heard about one woman's speech at her adopted son's bar mitzvah, and she went on and on in that vein. Then young teen was adopted after the woman had several miscarriages, two births but neither child survived. The amount of suggested guilt this mother was piling on--I'm going to kindly suggest she didn't realize it--would have knocked out a rhinoceros. Anyone listening could grasp this, as well as the fact that searching for his birth parents would be a dagger to her heart. In an essay his mother had already written, she stated that at times she was afraid to leave her apartment because she was worried that he might disappear if she did.

Adopted people are taught in so many words and ways that they alone are largely responsible for their parent's happiness and well-being. The cues are can be subtle but they are continual, like a fine mist always in the air. These are the adopted parents who are likely to say: My son/daughter has never expressed any interest in the birth parents. I even asked him/her once if he wanted to search. We never talked about adoption otherwise. He/she said NO, case closed.

So imagine, even after all that, and all that is a lot, such an individual eventually decides to search. It is almost certainly going to be in secret. Now say that they find and meet their other mother, and now she starts telling them how miserable her life was when he/she was born. How the pregnancy and birth made her life a disaster. How awful her parents treated her. How she lived in hiding or was sent away in shame. How her father never looked at her in the same way again. How her boy friend deserted her. How she was raped on prom night when both she and her date got drunk. How her parents would not let her and her boyfriend get married. How she's never been happily married since. How her parents would not let her bring her baby home, and she had no where to go. How she has never stopped thinking about the lost child and how all she ever wanted was reunion...et cetera. In other words, out comes a whole litany of woe....drip, drip, dripping out with each word.

The feelings of loss of the time of relinquishment almost certainly come to the surface when we are faced with the object of our loss, our baby, now grown up. We are transported back in time to the younger and vulnerable person we were at the time we lost our baby. We felt helpless to stop the flow of events that led to our loss. So now we feel guilty, and overwhelmed with grief. We want to explain how societal and familial forces allied against us, and thus excuse our not being able to keep our baby. In telling the story of how our son or daughter was not kept, our sense of powerless and emotional miasma becomes the story. Unconsciously, we are building excuses rather than just saying--no matter what happened--I'm sorry. 

We may be asking for understanding and forgiveness, but what they hear is: more responsibility. Now instead of just taking care of one set of parents' happiness, the adopted person finds out that they were the cause of so much pain for another mother! And now her well-being also depends on them. It's no wonder some of them head for the hills.

Without even consciously thinking about who or what they will find, the adopted person is almost certainly longing to meet someone who will love and accept them unconditionally, like they imagined their mother must. They are not looking for yet another person whose need overrides their own. They want someone who will be a boon to their lives, not another person with impossible need spewing out a stream of misery. Instead of a mother who is there to provide for her grown child's well-being, they find another person whose happiness they are responsible for. And the next thought, unconscious or not, is likely to be--How in the hell do I get out of here? 

A friend of mine started a search decades ago, even hired an investigator, but she called it off mid-steam. At the time, she was sending her adoptive parents $1,500 a month back in the Midwest. She looked at me and said: What if I find someone who also needs $1,500 a month? Good point. While her example stresses a financial burden, it serves as a metaphor for its emotional quotient--What if I find someone whose future happiness also depends on me? I've got a burden enough as it is. 

I was spared much of this because I was able to find and reunite with my daughter when she was 15. Her father was a married man I was madly in love with, which starts out kinda cheesy for a 15-year-old to learn. And I found a daughter who had epilepsy, and a host of problems because of that. So that last thing I was going to do with this teenager is burden her with a list of the sorrows of my life at the time of her birth. I explained but didn't go overboard, or cry when we spoke. Besides, within the week she read my memoir, Birthmark, and learned that I tried to have an abortion. But at the same time she learned how my feelings changed, and how she went from a worrisome blob into My Baby whom I desperately wanted. She read how sad it was to give her up.

Yet the first time she visited my home--five months after we met--we acted out a little docudrama in which she was ad libbing the script as we went along. Within a few moments she had directed the action to the grave site of some shared-but-unknown ancestor....and and suddenly Jane [my daughter] had her hands around my neck, shaking me violently, shouting: “Why did you give me up?” as she stared intently into my eyes, her voice rising. “Why did you give me up?” Whoa!

At first I was too shocked to respond, but I recovered and shouted: Stop! She might have been letting out a scream from her soul, but she was also choking me. Our play-acting came to an aborted ending. Over the next week we talked some more, and we moved on. But I will always remember the fierce look in her eyes, her hands on my neck, me wondering if we would ever get past that feeling, no matter how rich the patina our relationship acquired. Years will go by but we would circle around and always come back to: Why did you give me away? Don’t you know how much that hurt?

How I wish I’d simply said then: I made a mistake. A big, fat mistake. I wish I would have cut out all the padding of “That’s what it was like then,” and “I didn’t feel I had a choice,” and said: I’m sorry you were adopted. I’m sorry I gave you up.” If a friend falls down, you don’t start explaining about the rug that made her trip, or the crack in the pavement, your role is simply to be solicitous. That’s what I should have said that day: I’m sorry. But it would be years before I could speak that plainly. Today I realize how emotionally understanding she was, and I thank both her and her adoptive parents for giving her the heart to understand.

I was lucky in that I don't believe she took on responsibility for my well-being, even though later she did say she knew how her periods of silence affected me--and there were several over the quarter of a century we had a relationship.

Most mothers today who are found will come face to face with an adult--not a teenager--and relate to them as adults as we dig around in most likely the worst thing that ever happened to us. Tell the truth, but don't pile on the grief so that they now feel responsible for your happiness. They have had enough parental responsibility already.

Reading this will be upsetting to those whose children became distant after an initial closeness when they spilled out the sorrow. Do accept however, that no matter how your reunion is playing out, your returning adult child may have turned away no matter what you said. Reunion is incredibly emotional--every meeting is overwhelming at first--for both parties. For the adoptee, safety may be returning to known ground--without a relationship with their first mother. No matter what you say or do, it may be too much for some to handle.

Remember too that we are not in full control of what happens in an a adoptee-birth mother reunion, just as we are not in full control of any two-way relationship. Arctic icebreakers may not have been able to break through the wall that an adopted person may have around their heart, so don't beat yourself up endlessly. When we gave up our children, we lost a part of them, and our sanity depends on accepting that fact. We can't undo the adoption, and no one can ever take back what has been said. We can can only move forward.

What to do to repair the breach? I will write about this later, but in short, the advice is: Wait. Perhaps in a simple way you can say that they are not liable for your stability and happiness in a short note or email. Be upbeat. Accept that you may not hear back. Send a cheerful card on your child's birthday. Reach out periodically. Write a note or email that just says, Hello, thinking about you. Hope you are wellWishing good things for you. The current separation may not be the result of what you said, but internal pressure from adoptive parents, people that the adoptee loves and does not want to hurt.

As regular readers of this blog or Hole in My Heart know, my daughter came and went throughout our relationship. I was always examining what I might have done wrong when she was absent. In the end, after my daughter died, after I found and had a wonderful reunion with the granddaughter she gave up for adoption--followed by a so-far fatal break with her--I came to this conclusion:
The people who want to be in your life will be. You don't have to go chasing after them.

It was a hard truth to accept, and acceptance and inner peace came only after tears were shed, but accept it I did.--lorraine
Some of the above was adapted from Hole in My Heart.


To First Mothers: When your adopted 'child' calls out of the blue

"Dusky's courageous, honest book puts a human face on the emotional minefield of adoption while navigating an often-hidden truth--that at the heart of every adoption, there are issues of loss, guilt, emptiness, abandonment and an incomplete sense of identity. Much more than a good read, Hole In My Heart integrates many important research findings that support the universality and truth of Dusky's personal experience."--David Kirschner, PhD, psychoanalyst, author of Adoption: Uncharted Waters


  1. Thanks so much for this Lorraine. I know how much mothers who have lost children have suffered. being an adopted child who becomes and adult have issues that I believe are harder to see. I truly thought I was responsible to make everyone happy from a very young age, and that's a hard burden to describe.

  2. "When we gave up our children, we lost a part of them, and our sanity depends on accepting that fact."

    I get what you're staying. But, for my mother and possibly for other mothers similar to her, that belief, I believe, is what has kept her from wanting a relationship with me. She thinks of everything she has lost rather than what she could gain by having a relationship with me now.

    1. That's sad, Kellee. She needs an outsider to talk to--a good therapist, but that is up to her to do, and you suggesting it probably wouldn't go over so well. But have you ever tried saying to her what you said here so succinctly and clearly?

    2. Nah, lost cause! Based on what I know of her, I'm 95% certain that she won't change her mind. I'm going to let her stay wrapped up in her cocoon.

    3. Well, just as first mothers have to live with the idea that their son or daughter will never want a relationship, and be with people who want to be with them, so should the adopted. Until she was dying--I mean, weeks away from dying--my acquaintance down the street I don't think would have welcomed her first born into her life. She was, as you say, too wrapped up in her cocoon.

    4. Kellee, as a first mother this makes me very sad. Remember, that she alone has the key to let herself out of prison.

      I suspect that she may feel safe, from the feelings of guilt, low self esteem, and the having to stare into the fact - head on - that she has caused some pain, albeit unintentionally, to her helpless baby, who is now an adult. This is a different motivation than thinking of what she has lost, in my opinion, and is much more powerful. But there is no-one who can rescue her, except for herself - first mothers have to first slither out from under that rock that shelters them! When they do, (sometimes) (often) they find out the air is clear, and they can allow some happiness into their lives.

      I hope that her view will change, but as they say, try not to be too disappointed if it doesn't. Best wishes to you.

  3. When my grown son found me, he wanted to finally know the other side of his story, or his truth from me. All he formerly knew was what he had been told for years from his adoptive parents. He had been living a lie for decades, having been told a different narrative about his beginnings, as well as a different narrative about me.

    Reunions are difficult, and if the adoptive parents do not support or accept the reunion, it becomes extremely stressful for the adoptee. No matter how hard you try, nurture does not erase nature, and many years later, adult adoptees are still trying to reconcile who they are with what their adoptive parents wanted them to be.

    I found I had to let go of expectations I brought to the reunion (not easy to do). At least I tried to keep any and all of my expectations in check, and then I was less disappointed. I have learned to stay steady, calm, and then hang on for a very emotional roller coaster ride.

    We cannot have a do-over for all the years gone by. No one can change or undo the past. We had to meet each other where we were, looking ahead rather than behind. Our only chance at healing and becoming whole was accepting our reality. We each have tried to honor our sad experiences and place them in a larger context.

    Time doesn't heal all wounds. This is one wound that doesn't ever heal, and the scar runs painfully deep and wide. Time is a thief for first mothers and our lost children. The ties that bind were cut long ago. In order to move forward, we must be interested and attentive, kind, and respectful. This requires effort from both of us.

    All we can do is let our grown children know that we love them, we are here for them, and then hope they have room in their hearts to forgive us and love us back.

    1. Well said. Losing a child to adoption is one wound that never fully heals.

    2. So true, Lorraine. Even though I've experienced a great deal of emotional healing over the 17 years since finding my daughter again, it's been a tough ride for all of us involved. I do believe her adoptive mom could have made things easier for all of us if she hadn't felt so threatened by me. But 17 years after our reunion, I'm happy, and have a good relationship with my b-daughter. And I got the a-mom to write her true feelings in my memoir. Giving her a voice in my book enabled us both to be publically honest about our feelings. www.christinelindsay.org Author of Finding Sarah Finding Me.

  4. Lorraine, very well-said and you have explained with great clarity, many things that are not easy to understand, except with time perhaps.

    It's only been 2 years for me in reunion, but I can say that birth mothers would help themselves by not expecting a fulfilling and strong connection, right off the bat. It will definitely take awhile (meaning years). My son does want a relationship, but there is not much communication at this point. I hope to get to know him, and allow him to know me, even if it is sporadic contact.

    As my husband said, "He was raised as someone else's child, and you are just an older woman he has met." Believe it or not, that gave me some comfort. It is the reality - unavoidable, but practical. If we can understand this and go with the flow, and not be too anxious, it will help a birth mother in reunion.

  5. New and old--You're right. We mothers who long for reunion want a relationship, and the other person may not, or be unsure of what they want, or can handle. If mothers ask for too much in the beginning it may be off putting. We forget that as adults they have already broken away perhaps from a close relationship with their parents, and are not looking for another. Mothers have to take their cues from the returning son or daughter, but be open to what that person can give back.

    There is more to write about this. But this post was already getting long...so there will be more to come.

  6. As more time passed post reunion and re separation, Iallowed more of the painful reality to seep in. it seems that my daughter, Joanna not only was/is coerced into choosing sides, but has invested in "her adoption story" with significant people in her life such as relatives, close friends, work relationships. (This being more unlikely for a first mother, since our shame, loathing and fear has kept the dirty secret at bay for as long as possible). This includes, but is not limited to receiving ongoing sympathy for not only being given away to adoption but also what may have been learned when reunited. Anything that could go wrong between us post reunion (human error) became more justification for denying a loving ongoing reunion between us. I am not one to walk on glass indefinitely as this can only undermine and poison an honest loving relationship between us.

  7. I think we give up our motherhood too easily. As if we've internalised the message that we are unworthy to be our own child's mother.

    I had that message from being a pregnant 16 year old. On reunion, diving into the world of online adoption discussion, I virtually heard nothing but the same message - 'You are not your child's mother. You are not even worthy of that' - from both adoptive mothers and adoptees. Only a very, very few said otherwise.

    It had taken me years to take my place as my son's mother. That is my truth. It does not have to be his, or anybody else's (though he often refers to me as that). In doing so, I am able to offer him more, emotionally, than I could when I agreed to the diminishment and dismissal of myself as his mother. By knowing what I am, I gain courage to reach out to him and be strong and loving for him.

    Telling myself that I'm just another older woman he has met really does us both a complete disservice. We are not that. If we were, it wouldn't hurt so much, or mean so much.

    1. Cherry, you are "another older woman he met" who happens to be his mother. Not one other woman on the planet can say that to your son, though any woman among thousands might have adopted him! [Gnashes teeth]

  8. your posts are wonderful, insightful, and so thorough. Brava

  9. Great advice. I made the mistake of adding my first-mother pain to our reunion. Sadly, both my daughter's adoptive mom and me were tugging on the same girl's heart. It nearly tore us all apart. Thank God I learned a thing or two, but the damage was done, and it took years to undo. www.christinelindsay.org

  10. "just another older woman he has met"....hardly describes the relationship. We gave birth to these adult children. We have a connection to them that no one else has.
    We have information for them. We have answers for them, and hopefully, we will be able to have a relationship.
    When my son and I had our first conversation, by telephone, long distance..since we lived thousands of miles from each other, he asked about his ethnic background. Then he asked about his father. Next, he asked about the "social climate of the times"...his exact words. And, then he asked why was he given up for adoption. He wanted to know the history of his father and me, and everything else, which no one else could tell him.
    What little he had been told was very misleading...not exactly dishonest...but not really true, either, because so much had been left out.(I wasn't there to tell it)

  11. I agree with others and you of course. Well written and thoughtful. I want to add an additional perspective on where the perceived burden may come from. I walked this field of mines.

    Adoption blogging. I blogged at writingmywrongs.com for over ten years. Many of them before I found my daughter. I spoke at conferences, ran online and in person supprt group. I was a search angel and reunited over 200 mothers and children. All before I found her.

    When I did find her and we communicated a few times (email only, aol instant messenger once). I learned she had googled me (of course) and found my blog. She said it "made her puke" and she wanted me to stop writing. She did not want me to talk about or share "her story". (Readers of my blog will know I share my story and rarely, if ever, shared what she said or details about her but that is not the point...the point is that she saw more pain, more neediness). What if I had not been a blogger? What if her first insight into me was just a letter and then a meeting?

    I later learned (via her) that she classified her aMom as a cross between a jack russell terrier and a sparrow (her words) and that aMom was neurotic and needy. I am quite confident my blog, the depth of my pain, scared her off. Of course there are likely other factors but from her perspective she was raised by a needy woman and is found by yet another (or so she assumes based on viewing the one dimension of my blog).

    Its been over 12 years since I found her. We have not met. We have not spoken on the phone. Only emailed a few times 12 years ago. I have stopped blogging (for my own reasons not because she asked me). My long winded point is these impressions (false as they may be) can come from many sources. I am not suggesting mothers not blog or share their stories. Rather, be aware of yet another area that will impact you reunion.

    1. Suz,
      I surrendered my son in 1968 and began speaking out about my experience in 1969. Florence Fisher, of ALMA, began going on TV talk shows in the early 70s, and reunions were being televised even back then.
      Newspapers, women's magazines, and other shows were featuring the pain of adoption separation and the emotions of reunion.
      So, even without the internet, there was plenty of emotion and pain that was being exposed. Before I found my son I read many of these articles and watched these shows.
      I joined CUB in the 1980s, and a couple of other reunion support organizations..
      Never did I hear a mother who expressed pain and loss described as "needy" but nowadays, I often hear "anyone" who expresses emotion for just about any reason described as 'needy"...it just isn't cool to express pain these days...at least not in public, I guess.
      Even some crime victims are laughed at and mocked. I think our culture has become less compassionate in general.

      I also think that some people may be less able to deal with the emotions of others, imagining that "emotion" may imply some sort of an obligation.

      I have heard the argument that the "relinquishment/adoption" story can 0nly belong to the adoptee. But, I didn't hear that argument until recent years. Parts of the "story" begin when the natural parents are not even pregnant yet, so there is no child, no relinquishment, and no adoption at that point. These lives are intertwined and there is no one "owner" to the story.

  12. I gave up my son after getting pregnant at 17. reached out to find him after 53 years. Best decision I ever made. Not only was I able to answer his questions, but we are building a relationship to make up for lost time. We talk almost daily by phone, text, or internet. Live 1200 miles apart but have spent 3 vacations together since we found each other 18 months ago. Life is good !

  13. I also think it's important to respect our own experience. For that reason, I don't think we should minimize the impact that the loss of our child has had on us. The crucial thing, in my opinion, is that we take responsibility for soothing that pain ourselves, and not expect in any way that our found son or daughter do that. That isn't their job.

  14. I feel like the odd mother out here. My son and I were matched by ISRR (Soundex) 26 years after his birth. He'd had a miserable life, his a-parents were estranged from him and then passed. It was me and only me. He was so very needy and expected me to make it all better. I struggled with meeting his demands and we had many ups and downs. Now, almost 21 years in, things are good, as "normal" as they will ever be. But that initial loss still hangs over us and causes pain. I believe in reunion. But also know it's very, very hard and doesn't make everything all better.

  15. I think this post is right on target. Looking back a couple years, I remember now that when I first heard my birthfather's voice on the phone (and I had opened the records not him so I wanted the reunion) and he said well, I am your father I had this explosion of dread and fear. The reunion did not go too well for me (rejected after thinking it was all fine) so I was thinking who knows it was a premonition...but now I think its about what you said here. I distinctly thought OH SHIT ONE FATHER IS BAD ENOUGH now there is some other man who I have to lie to and try to please, I'm too tired for this. Which was strange because my relationship with my afather is not bad, and I don't usually think of it in those terms. Yes, I think its true adoptees wish somewhere there were parents who just loved them for existing, but most can never admit that. And there is no doubt that KNIFE THROUGH THE HEART of your parents is the message sent to adoptees about searching.

  16. I guess I see this a little differently. As an adoptee it is hard to realize that when you were born no one was happy about it-no caring family showing up to welcome you and your mother being miserable about the whole thing. Most non adopted people had a very different experience coming into the world along with happy pictures surrounding this event. Then if you encounter a birthmother later who tells you how awful the whole thing was for HER and how her life was ruined etc. for me that would just make me mad. Whether intended or not it comes across as blame and laying guilt upon a totally innocent party, whose existence was the direct result of the actions of at least one of the birth parents. The adoptee did not cause this and are not responsible for how it affected the birth parents' lives. Maybe in a way I was lucky since my birth mother never spoke to me so never put me in that position. I know the birth mothers have suffered greatly before, during, and after the adoption but I would say be careful of how you bring this up, if you do, since it can be taken the wrong way and at least for me would have turned me off. I would rather have heard something like "I am so glad you found me, I have never forgotten you, and hope we can get to know each other." I think most adoptees are very understanding and feel great compassion for what their birth mother's went though but when it comes across as "things were great till you came along" then that can trigger anger.

    1. Adoptee123--
      This post exactly mirrors what you say--so...I don't understand see seeing things differently?! The post was written to warm mothers not to dump their sorrow on the adopted person and scare them away. So we are in agreement. Also, though the situation was miserable, this does not lessen the intense love and longing normal mothers--all mothers--feel for their own children, especially right after birth.

      I am sorry your birth mother never spoke to you.

    2. Maybe it is because we are seeing things from different sides of the fence so to speak. I would not be scared away I would be outraged and angry and that is the difference. It would never occur to me to feel responsible for her sorrow I would just be pissed off. Some adoptees no doubt might feel and react differently and then not want to feel like they had to take on that responsibility but either way the result would be the same just for different reasons/reactions I guess. Just my perspective for what it is worth

    3. I agree, Adoptee 123, and Lorraine, that we birthmothers must learn what not to say upon reunion. I think the post said that very clearly too. As a birthmom, I made that horrible mistake (unintentionally) that giving up my daughter broke me. Of course this was adding a lot of blame on her, and I didn't realize that until many years later. At the same time, her adopted mom and dad were reacting to our reunion with their own brand of pain. What a mess for many years to come. Only through graciousness on the part of my birthdaughter, and eventually me, we have a truly special friendship now.

    4. Thank you Christine. I am glad that you have a good friendship with yout daughter now but sorry that it started out a bit rocky. Just like birthmothers need to let adoptees know that thanking them is going to sound different to the birhtmother than the adoptee intended, birthmothers also need to know that hearing that the whole experience was terrible can be taken by the adoptee quite differently and they would be reluctant to say that. Saying that it was so painful because they had to give the adoptee up will be much easier to hear than some other details that come across as blaming. And if an adoptee had a great adoptive home, that is what their life was, having their mother voice that as a mistake can seen quite differently by the adoptee. I think discussions like this can help since sometimes it would be hard for people to say what they are thinking and might bury their feelings which the other person is not aware of but will still affect the relationship. None of us received a manual on how to handle all this and we all step on each others feelings sometimes usually with the best of intentions but IMHO mainly not knowing where the other person is coming from.

  17. adoptee123
    I don't see much difference between being pissed off and leaving, and not being pissed off but overwhelmed and leaving. Maybe you see it so differently because you are so angry to begin with because your mother did not speak to you at all? But I don't know if you found her alive or dead, assuming you found her.

    Lorriane's post is really a warning to birthmothers not to dump all their grief on the adopted person. You agree with that from what you say.

    1. The difference is if you want to understand where an adoptee might be coming from or how they see the situation rather than only how it effects the birth mother. I doubt very much that I am the only adoptee (actually I know I'm not) that feels this way and it was really hard to say it in public but I felt it needed to be seen for people that want to understand what some adoptees might be feeling. I did not say it to hurt anyone but just to be hones. As for my mother, no I am not mad at her, disappointed yes, mad no and she is dead now.

    2. I guess my point was that talking about how miserable the birth mother was during the pregnancy and after can come across as blaming the adoptee. I know that is not what is intended but it can feel that way. And anyone who feels like they are being blamed for something they did not cause is going to make them angry. Maybe i was not clear about that so that is why. I am not sure why you chose a screen name so similar to mine-makes this discussion a little confusing.

    3. Adoptee123, thank you for saying this. I am also an adoptee who ran across this blog doing some research for someone. As I browsed, I became more and more annoyed. I get that it's a forum for birthmothers, but it seems like the only focus on adoptees is that they were "brainwashed" and it needs to be corrected.

      "And if an adoptee had a great adoptive home, that is what their life was, having their (birth)mother voice that as a mistake can seen quite differently by the adoptee." This sentence jumped right out at me. I did have a great adoptive home. Having a wonderful home life and family certainly has never been a mistake to me. I am not responsible for anyone's happiness, neither my parents' nor my birthparents'. It's simply my good life from the day I was born and what I know. While I know that a birthparent will look at how life might have been different and is trying to share how much they love the child they gave up, to me that's just talk that doesn't have anything to do with me because it wasn't my choice and because a good life is my reality.

      I do know my birthparents (not sought out by me). They are nice, I have a pleasant relationship with them. But they are not my parents in my mind, and they have been respectful and acknowledge that I have no responsibility to fulfill their emotional needs from choices they made before I was born. She has overstepped on occasion but I've been forthright and explained my feelings as an adoptee. We don't need tricked or manipulated with the way birthmothers handle things; we need to be respected also that just maybe we, while sorry you are hurting still, were not even born yet and didn't make these choices, and recognized that just maybe our lives have been pretty awesome and not a mistake or brainwashing to US. It's been OUR LIFE.

  18. I would find it very difficult to have a meaningful relationship with my son if there was no room for my experience as a human being.

    A hugely significant part of that experience was being pregnant and giving birth to him - the most important and meaningful event of my life - and losing him when he was adopted - without doubt the most painful and grievous event of my life. Both events inform my life now.

    I talk about these events with sensitivity to my son and myself. I am clear that his birth was an absolutely wondrous thing, and his loss was beyond agonizing, and that he is certainly not responsible for my pain, that it was adoption not him that is the cause for me.

    If my son met my talking about these deeply painful events with anger or 'rage', it would create an emotional barrier between us as I would seek to protect my most profoundly painful feelings from attack.

    I often see adoptees taking on the responsibility for other people's happiness, and I tell my son he is not responsible for mine. But perhaps it would be that sense of being responsible for everything and everyone that might cause him to interpret my own deep feelings about the events in my own life as his fault. They aren't.

    I do believe though that no relationship can fully survive either party being attacked, particularly when those parties are already so vulnerable, as first mothers and adoptees are.

    1. CHERRY: Remember the headline is:

      What not to do at the START of a reunion.

      Of course we should share our stories in time, but not go on and on and on, esp. at the beginning of a reunion.

  19. I think sometimes first mothers talk about their pain as a way of saying 'This is how much you meant to me'.

  20. I wonder if a big difference in adoptee reaction is political worldview...I came in thinking that mass scale institutionalized adoption is always about controlling and dominating women's reproductive lives. So if my b mom said she liked her choice and it didn't hurt I'd be shocked! Actually I'm more hurt by how much my bparents accepted the situation despite showing signs of trauma from it. Questioning the order of the world seems pointless to them and in commonsense terms there was no other realistic choice, so why think about it too hard, that's their view. To me it just sounds like babies are disposable, me/I am disposable to them, really all parent/child ties are disposable under eno ugh social pressure. I find that depressing. I guess I wished for a hero somewhere but there are none.

  21. I agree with you Cherry that there has to be room for my experience in the relationship. To just be the supportive parent may be appropriate for a child, but the reunion usually happens between two adults.

    My reunion began in 1992 so it is more than 25 years old. It began with a honeymoon phase but soon the problems surfaced. She was estranged from her adoptive family but wanted to play the head games with us that caused the adoptive family to throw their hands up in frustration. Our relationship was much like what Lorraine’s was with her daughter from what I gather from her book. I saw her doing things I didn’t like. She has now been married and divorced four times. I was chasing her around trying to fix things, trying to include her in my family (she told me she would have taken her own life she had the bad luck to be raised by me), went to all her daughter’s gymnastics meets and drove her to school, and generally tried to be there for her, and for my thanks she walked away from me for four years and hurt not only me but for no reason dumped my other daughter for two years also. She has returned sort of but if I start to trust her a little bit she says or does something else that hurts.

    Earlier this year my son who I raised died. I am overcome with grief at his loss. He was a good man and I loved him so much. This has also changed me. I feel I wasted years on this adopted-out child for nothing when I could have spent that attention on the child who did love me and consider me his mother. I will never chase her again, in fact I will speak to her kindly if she calls but that’s about it. I just won’t do it anymore. "Adopted" feels like a disposable child. I am tired of being a disposable mother.



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