' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Contacting siblings when a first mother is silent

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Contacting siblings when a first mother is silent

Whether to contact family members--when the first mother is not responding--is the question that comes up often, and it's a doozy. The adoptee who searches wants to be reaffirmed and warmly accepted by her first mother, of course, but failing that, what about all those other relatives out there, including siblings!? And if Mom is not responding to repeated efforts for contact, then what?

This question is going to come up more frequently as more and more adopted people are finding not only their true heritage (1/3 Eastern European, 1/4 Southern Italian, 1/6 Scandinavian, a smidgen of Jewish, Irish, etc.) but also...that they have relatives who are also curious about their DNA--and what do you know, blood cousins, aunts, uncles, even siblings pop up! Getting a message that in essence ties you to a family by blood is going to reveal parentage on a greater scale than ever before. While DNA
connections won't solve the issue of all the sealed records in all the damn states that still have them, they are making the concept of anonymity passe. Women who have been in the closet marked
Anonymous are going to be discovered. And unfortunatey some will not bridge the chasm between the two of you and welcome you.

When I first set out on this journey of adoption reform, I imagined this could never happen--how could a mother reject a child--but experience has taught me otherwise. The social constraints of the past, implemented with a hammer weilded by unforgiving families, legions of well-meaning (or just mean) priests and nuns, lawyers, therapists, social workers and family friends, has done its job of bolting shut one's internal door, much to the harm not only to the first/birth mother, but the child as well. For some, opening up, telling the truth to the family, and accepting the long-ago lost child is too much to handle.

But a rejecting mother does not have to control an adoptee's life until the end of time. The blood relatives you find are yours too, and nothing can eradicate that. They are your relatives in whatever connection they are to you, as well as your first mother's relatives. And you are free to contact them and reveal the truth of your origins, learn your true family history, as well as your own invaluable, and necessary, medical history. Contacting relatives after encountering a silent or rejecting first mother, is not so much a matter of "rights," but a personal choice. Your choice. 

This is a hard decision to make. Many adoptees do not cross this bridge, or wait until the parent dies. Others may tell you not to stir up trouble, and that your mother's "no contact" or dead silence must take precedence. Really? Why is that? In all likihood, unless she was adopted too, she has always known who she was and generally where and with whom she was conceived. She has benefits adopted individuals were denied by the old order of adoption. If you plan to do this, you might say, as gently as possible, that unless she tells them by a certain date, that you are likely to contact them yourself. You don't have to be confrontational, but direct. I'd use the word "likely" rather than "will" even if that is what you mean in your heart. Express your desire to let her be the guide--and the one who tells your mutual kin first. Tell her that you that you no longer want to be anyone's secret; that's a statement that could jolt her into action. Try not to sound nasty, but you can be firm. I have heard of good stories that have come out of this--of siblings or in-laws that pave the way with a woman who has been non-responsive to entreaties. And in truth, I have heard the opposite.

Whether to phone or write is up to you, but a phone call is much more direct, and the individual you call will not be in the position of "dealing with it later." While you are munching your fingernails after putting a letter in the mail, the receiver has a leisure of thinking--well, I will answer that...later, next week, or the week after that...or indefinitely. No matter what happens, hearing about a new relative involves change in the family dynamic--who knew we had a sister!--and that can be unsettling to siblings. Cousins, aunts and uncles, not so much. I am of the opinion that a phone call if possible is always better than a letter or a Facebook contact, unless that is the only route. As I understand it, most or all confidential intermediaries call rather than write, unless snail mail or email or Facebook is the only way contact is possible.

However, do be circumspect. Treat the call nearly the way you would calling your first mother out of the blue. Whether you call at work or call at home may be decided by what you know. There is no way knowing which is better, but start out gentle. Instead of "I think you are my sister, go with "My name is XX and I was born on XX in XX....and I believe that you may be my XX or..I believe we may be related." Then wait. Wait while this information sinks in. Wait for a response rather than filling up the space, even if your nerves are urging you on to chatter.

Before you set out on this, however, prepare yourself for rejection. This is a big step, and if your mother has rejected contact, you may face hostility from those you reach out to. If siblings, they may turn against you, and feel threatened by your existence. Will you interrupt their mother's life, and theirs? Maybe. Will their relationship to her change? Probably, to some degree--or at least an awareness of where they are in the family bracket. Instead of oldest, they may now be "second." The youngest may feel that she will now lose her special "protected" position. Or they may embrace the thought of you warmly, saying that they always wished they had an older sister or brother. Or that they always suspected you existed. I'm convinced some feelings between related individuals are communicated by ether.

DNA sites do pass information along, and you may be contacted yourself by a relative who is not your mother or father. Proceed with hope and cautiously.

I suspect that this blog will be somewhat controversial because it is my understanding that this advice goes against what other have said. We'd love to hear from those of you who have done this when a first mother is putting you off. But I will stick by my belief that no one should be denied an ancestry--or a family--because it will embarrass someone. And some of those women in the closet may surprise you. You'll never know without trying.--lorraine

On another matter: I received a letter from Barak Obama yesterday, obviously in response to the letter I sent him shortly before he left office asking him to pardon Sandy Musser. Form letter, no mention of the specific issue I sent. ______________________
Recommended Reading:
Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA
by Richard Hill
Informative, inspiring, a good story wrapped around lots of information by an adoptee.


  1. Thanks for this post. Too often we only hear of cheerful reunions. I was rejected quite harshly by my birth mother when I contacted her. I have a sibling that I would like to contact, but I am so stung by my birth mother's rejection that I don't think that I could take another.

    1. I know exactly how you feel. The pain of the rejection by my birth mother is still with me today, more than 30 years later. After she died, I contacted her only brother. He was shocked, but was very kind and welcoming. The big surprise came when I found that she'd never married or had any other children. I still can't understand her saying she did not want to have any contact, in any form or fashion with me, her only ever child.

  2. , I had a call this week from a man who was adopted at birth.... my biological brother. I am happy and excited but apparently he reached out to my .... our..... day 8 months ago. My dad has not returned the call. My dad is an amazing man and father and I don't know his reasoning... is it guilt, shame, fear... but I see how it has hurt my brother just from one conversation. I want to talk to my dad, but he doesn't know I know and I don't want to cross boundaries .... I am confused !!!

    1. He is your father and he is embarrassed by his ... let's call it indescretion that produced a son. Since you have handled the call from what seemed like outer space with grace, you surely have the same strength to tell your Dad about the call. From others, I have heard that when the "other" person (that would be you) brings up the contact from the adopted cousin/brother/etc. there is at first a little shock, and then relief. He needs to hear that you have heard the news and are not angry or disappointed in him. Proceed gently and from what you say, he will be responsive. Please let us know how this works out. Many adoptees will be reading.

    2. I don't know the circumstances. But could it be he wasn't told about the brother when the mother was pregnant? Not all birth fathers were absent by choice or death but because they didn't even know they were going to be fathers. That happened to me, when my daughter found me on one of the DNA sites (I had done it for genealogy purposes) I didn't return her call for months either because I didn't believe it. Because someone would have told me before, right? Like the mother, a college girlfriend. But she didn't so I look like the bad guy.

    3. Brian--Did you eventually return the call? I guess you did and I hope things worked out for you. Most people are not going to suspect that the father never knew, but it is something that every adoptee ought to consider when they are contacting the father without background from the mother. DNA doesn't lie.

      I personally had a friend this happened to, but fortunately for him, the mother of the son given up called my friend out of the blue and told him --some 20 years later--about their son, with whom she had reconnected. My friend, who knew about my story and read Birthmark,etc., told me when he called at that point that he had suspected something at the time because the girl friend broke off contact with him without a word and when she saw him at Grand Central Station a few years later just quickly turned away. He felt her reaction was strange and suspected...she had gotten pregnant.

      When he phoned me with the news of a son he had not known about, they had alread met. His son was going to the same university as my friend, was majoring in the same subject, and, he said, weirdly enough both smoked a brand of cigarettes that were no longer popular--Kool. He was happy to meet his son; unfortunately, his wife (whom I also knew) did not want the son to be introduced to their children (the first son's two half sibs) or his grandfather. Unfortunately, I think that too often happens--the wife controls the situation and wants to protect the status and fortunes of her children.

    4. I did. We're slowly working through reunion, which is how I found this site though (obviously) I'm not a first mother. But I am a first something, father? So while my daughter knew she had a father out there in the big world, I didn't know I had a child out there. I had to wrap my brain around her existence, then the fact that her mother never told me, and back around to her existence. It obviously wasn't "Beth"'s fault, but I had to work things out on my end before I could even think about her. It sounds harsh I guess that I didn't automatically welcome this unknown daughter into my life on the first phone call, but that's reality unfortunately

    5. Brian--I get it but at least you are working at having a relationship. Give yourself credit for that and for your daughter's sake, be welcoming and introduce her to the rest of your shared family. What's done is done and you might as well find some way to enjoy your "new" daughter. She may bring you unexpected joy. Please check in with us now and then. Best wishes for a happy end to this story.

  3. Thank you for this article. I helped my fiancee to find his birth parents. His mother initially denied being his mother, so he wrote to his sister and cousins with great success. He was to scared to call! Now on his father's side, its a different story. He also is denying he could be the father. So my fiancee wrote his father's daughter, his paternal aunts, and cousins. No one wants to "get involved." I tried to get him to call them, but I think he is too scared of the possibility rejection.

    1. Denial is how we get adopted in the first place.

      Adoption just kicks the can down the road. I think at its core, people know its wrong to do to another human being. It is also proof that those responsible for it have been out screwing around creating children they are not planning on keeping and that embarasses them when we come walking up the front walk. What idiots to get themselves caught in that indiscretion.

      Your fiancee is correct. Nobody had to admit to anything and nobody has to do a DNA test. YOu can always tell those parents that wanted their kids, but could not figure out how to keep them. THe ones that refuse never wanted them in the first place. Thanks mom and dad. Love you.

    2. That's a little hard, Yose Mite. A lot of children were conceived not because people were so casual, but because birth control was not so simple as today. Until the Seventies, it was illegal in some states for unmarried people to even have a script for birth control pills, which only came into use in the mid-Sixties and even then, doctors were reluctant to prescribe it to single women. And single women were to embarrassed to ask for it.


    3. Being adopted is a little harsh, lorraine. If what you say is true (which I believe it was) then women and men knew better. So we adoptees have to be the casualty because you could not get birth control and you were going to have sex anyways? Thanks for confirming.

    4. Yose Mite is not only a little hard, she is also wrong. Most mothers are not only not in denial, but many, myself included, believed they were doing what's best for their child. They were sold a bill of goods by the adoption industry and led to believe that they were loving and unselfish and brave.

    5. Helga, hang in there and tell your fiance to remain calm and patient, if possible. Was any mention of a DNA test made? If his father says he "couldn't" be the father, that would certainly clear him from whatever he is fearing so much. It sounds like though, that since his relatives also are not responding, that he probably "is", and perhaps has lied to them. How about if you make the calls on your fiance's behalf? You're not as emotionally invested in these people, or the possibility of rejection. But it may be important not to expect too much from this man, who is acting like a coward, I think. He may be a lost cause, if that will be the case. Good riddance to bad rubbish. I wish you good luck, let us know what happens.

    6. Yose Mite, you are right in many ways, but the presentation comes off as a lot of noise and little substance. I wish it were the other way around.

      I read the links you posted for the adult adoption support group and learned a lot. It was good that you shared them, and I hope others will read them. Many of the thoughts expressed I might be hearing from my older son, if and when we are ever in reunion, and they are reasonable and justifiable.

      As for birth control, I can provide an addendum from the '70's, that many forms of birth control were available, but either caused damage or did not work:
      The Pill - Caused (for me) continual vomiting and a host of other symptoms. One girl I knew had a stroke at the age of 18, caused by The Pill, and ended up in a wheelchair.
      IUD - caused bleeding and uterine pain, fever, and had to be removed.
      Contraceptive foam - Ultimately,did not work. There were many products available at the drugstore that were similar, and - they were all prone to fail.
      Getting tubes tied - the doctor refused, saying I was "too young"! After he had already delivered two children for me. This was hurtful and shocking. I suppose he was afraid of getting sued.

      Perhaps all this has changed, or maybe not, perhaps only the legalization of abortion has caused a drop in pregnancies. The good old condom is the only other failsafe method, which of course is not acceptable to most men, forcing the burden of birth control, and any consequences, onto the woman.

      None of this serves as an excuse for adoption of course, but I provide some personal experiences by way of history. Best wishes to you.

  4. I have a bit of the opposite situation. I am still silent to my bio mom. But I have formed a Facebook friendship with my half sister (five years younger than me) without involving bio mom (my reasons for that have been described in other responses on other posts). It's not close and she feels more like a friend with similar experiences than a sister. But bio mom is a topic we both avoid unless she is harassing one of us (because it usually means she'll start on the other in short order). My long winded point is that contact with the bio siblings can be good and positive even with cutting bio parent out.

  5. This is a very good post with useful advice about contacting other family members if the mother is silent or rejecting. Sometimes the best choice is to move on to other family members. As Lorraine said, be aware that the results may vary. but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    Yes. Yose Mite, some parents never wanted their child and still do not when contacted by the adult. That is a sad fact of like, just as some biological and some adoptive parents abuse their children. Some people are rotten parents lacking in empathy for their children. But it is wrong to say this is true of all parents who gave up a child for adoption.

    You seem to have no comprehension of what life was like in the 60s and after for many women. Some of the moms here were so young, (14, 15,16 and a few even younger) that they barely knew what sex was, let alone knowing anything about birth control or that it even existed. Many of us had sex because we were in love and wanted to express that love, and thought our boyfriends would marry us. Do you have any idea how many moms "had to get married" in those years? We all knew some, and thought that surely the guys who claimed to love us so much would do "the honorable thing" and marry us.
    When they did not, the pressure to give the child up was intense and what we really wanted did not matter. The experts took over and it was like we were on a conveyor belt like sheep to the slaughter.

    Sex was not spoken of when we were young, and there were no realistic classes in school. My mom never had "the talk" with me. The best I got was a little film about menstruation in Girl Scouts. As Lorraine had said it was both difficult and embarrassing for single women to get birth control, and for us Catholic girls it added to the guilt that we were not only "doing it" but preparing to do it! I know it sounds bizarre if you did not grow up in that culture, but trust me, this was a factor. I was in college with my first ever boyfriend, and I did not even know what a condom was! Evidently neither did he. We relied on our vague understanding of the Catholic "Rhythm method:, only have sex at safe times of the month. Guess what, for us and for countless huge Catholic families, it did not work.

    I need to add here that for some other moms, it was not a love relationship and they did not really chose to have sex. They were forced by the man through coercion and fear, and in some case brutally raped. Rape did not get you a legal abortion back then. My child was really a love child, beloved by me and his father after nearly 50 years, with bad life consequences for all of us. I can't imagine the extra baggage and grief of carrying or being a child of rape. But I know mothers from even that tragic situation who welcomed their adult child. We are all different, our situations are all different. Blanket condemnations of any group, parents or adoptees, are not really true and are hurtful.

    1. Excellent points, Maryanne. And I'd like to add to them if I may. Marriage, in and of itself, was not a solution unless both parties were of legal age and/or had parental permission. Additionally, one or both members of the marriage had to have a means of financial support. Two poverty stricken teenagers without any family support generally would not do well trying to raise a baby. Back in the 60s, teenagers were not allowed to get married without parental permission. In many states, males had to be 21 years of age to get married. This situation made it easy for the social workers to convince teenagers to surrender to the forces of adoption using "the best interest of the child' as their main talking point.

  6. Amen. As a Catholic myself I was embarrassed to admit to anyone that I was having sex, and god knows, asking a doctor for birth control was anxiety-ridden. I managed not to "go all the way" with my Catholic boyfriend in college, but that ended after we did not marry, I moved away, and fell in love with an older man. Even then, it was not as if it was a thoughless thing to have sex without birth control, it was that birth control was not an easy matter. And like Maryanne, I never had a talk about sex or birth control with anyone.

    1. What a difference a few years can make! Just seven years after Lorraine surrendered Jane, I found myself a-virgin-but-not-for-much-longer, a freshman at a progressive public university (Berkeley!) whose student health service was EAGER to recommend and/or prescribe modes of contraception to anyone who asked.

      The pharmacy charged a dime for a pre-filled inserter of contraceptive foam or a condom. Fifty cents bought a month's supply of birth-control pills or a tube of contraceptive jelly; if memory serves, a diaphragm cost a dollar.

      Obviously the availability of birth control didn't answer every question and solve every problem... but I felt very, very fortunate to have protection so readily available. I'm still appreciative.

  7. My grandmother told me I was a Stark when I turned 16. Around the same age my mother told me I should not go to the Kansas City area and get married, "you will marry a relative. Don't marry a Stark. They are your relatives." Aside from this no discussion of the subject has ever occurred. At family reunions there are glares toward "Mom" indicating she came up with a child when she was not pregnant. No one discusses my family connection. I was told to call all older ones aunt or uncle. They would appreciate it. I am now almost sixty. Relatives tell me I am not of the family but refuse to tell something they clearly know. The answer is. "The older ones know but out of respect for someone's feelings they won't tell." Starks and Hooks are relate five gens back? Should I test? Almost everyone is dead. My grandchildren need to know their true heritage not lies.

  8. Sounds like some people need to just grow the fuck up, and I happen to be related to them.

  9. Yep mine did this. Told me not to exist to anyone she knows. Too much for them to handle? BULLSHIT. Grow up and put your big girl panties on. Then tells everyone if they respect her they will pretend I don't exist. Then tells my sister "Oh I never said you couldn't talk to her" at least that was what was in the cold as ice letter my sister wrote to me then telling me never to contact her. 99% of my bio family won't talk to me cos they've been told it's rude if they act like I exist. Every day for years I wake up angry. Then my sister asked me (without wanting an answer) why I couldn't remain a secret and wait for "Mary" instead of "our mother" to tell. Well, because she told me she has no intention of telling.
    Do these kept siblings ever use their brains and think, gee if my older sibling wasn't given away I would not exist? If I had not been given away, she would have very unlikely married their father and had a ginormous number of kids/half siblings. It's thanks to MY pain that she's alive and she should show a little more gratitude.

    Let me give you the names of the cold, heartless people from Rochester, NY I am related to:


    Sorry did they think I was going to agree to being a dirty secret? And the thing is I'm not even doing anything wrong exposing their names. I'm here telling the truth about how they treat their own blood, their own kin, and refusing to be a dirty secret.

    So you think my first mother couldn't handle it? Well, she could have met nice Megan. Now, she meets pissed off Megan but hey she had YEARS to do the right thing.

    I'm not one to fuck around.

    Oh and I have 2 cousin who were talking to me and then started to ignore me to appease my first mother. Well, one is marrying an adoptee. You bet your ass I wrote him EVERYTHING.

  10. Lorraine,
    I've written you before. My birth mother remained silent....I shared my search story with a co-worker and found out he knew my first cousin who lives in the city I am in. I asked him not to say anything and he didn't. As I got to thinking further I decided I am a 51 year old woman....I can contact anyone I want and one day I asked him to reach out to my cousin. He did....she was shocked, concerned I was a scam or a sibling. She gave him her email address to give to me. Upon our first email exchanges I found out she married a man that I knew as a young girl as our families had a mutual family friends. Too funny.

    My cousin then had a conversation with her mother (my aunt through marriage) my uncle, her dad has passed. She then spoke to my birth mother's younger sister....and one April evening I went to a restaurant and met my first cousin, her sister...also my first cousin who was in town visiting, my aunt through marriage (my birth mother stayed with this aunt and her husband, my uncle while pregnant with me) and I met my mother's sister! I took pictures of me growing up and they kept saying "Oh she looks like X, look at this she looks like X"!

    My Aunt went to see my birth mother and told her of our meeting...she did not want to read any of my emails, did not want to see the photos we took that night. This was the first time my birth mother and her sister spoke of her pregnancy and me. My grandparents forced her away...sent her to Arizona from Kansas. Did not speak to her the entire time she was there which was fall of 65 until they picked her up in June of 66...3 months after I was born. No one....not one person...ever talked her about what she went through....no one ever spoke of me. She felt outcast and alone and unloved. It effect her to this day...so much so she cannot see a photo of me.

    She does not want my cousins to introduce me to any of their extended family. My Aunt has been asked not to introduce me to her children. I have many cousins who live in my near vicinity. I have 4 (more than likely) full blood siblings, they do not know of me. I believe it is a matter of time before someone closer to my birth mother finds out....I really don't want to have to introduce myself to my sibling until after she dies. It would be best for them to hear her story......she's never told her husband of me and both myself and my Aunt believe he is my father, they will be married 50 years in November.

    I left it up to my Aunt as to whether or not she wanted to keep in contact with me. I told her my desire to do so. She said, "No matter what, I am your Aunt and i want to keep in contact with you." She also told that she told my mother that she is here for her. She is not here to judge her, she loves her and if she needed someone with her to share her story with her children she would be with her. My mother is not ready, she is scared. I hate that I represent probably a very sad, scary and lonely time in her life. I want her to see her beautiful granddaughters, I want to know her, but I will wait. It has taken a lot of courage to reach out to my extended family, but like you say.....I don't want a be secret.

    In ending, my Aunt and I are having lunch together Saturday. I hope to hear more of her trip to see my mother and get some medical information regarding my family. This is my story, thus far, I hope it evolves into something more positive and relationships blossom.


  11. I met my first mother at the age of 13, I will be 36. However, lately she has told me she does not want me to contact her anymore....this is mainly because, I believe, I am not like her other kids as she has told me in the past. I do not pick up the phone every time she calls, sometimes 20 times a day, or take her emotional abuse. My siblings tell me they love me and I am their sister, and the way she feels is not the way they feel, but I still feel uncomfortable and am not sure what to do because there is so much drama with my first mother. Any advice, I am at a loss....

  12. I know people will hate me for this, but I'm going to state a fact- not an opinion- a fact anyway. Any biological mother who behaves like that deserves to be exposed. At least to members of the family. I don't care if they even conceived in rape. You don't blame a baby, then an adoptee, for the crime committed or the sin committed. I don't care it was difficult for you, traumatizing for you, whatever the case may be. I've mentored and volunteered with rescued child prostitutes aka child rape victims and if these youth are taught they have no right to be asshats to people just because of what they went through, then neither does any first mother! Any. I'm not buying the "it's just too hard for them line." Grow up. Simple as that. Learn to deal with your past or face the consequences.
    Giving someone the cold shoulder because you can't face reality shows you're fucked up in the head.

  13. Contact others. If a birthmother doesn't want to engage, carry on without here. There will be a few who will be kind. Find the kind people you're related to and block out the mean ones. Life is too short.



COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish.

We cannot edit or change the comment in any way. Entire comment published is in full as written. If you wish to change a comment afterward, you must rewrite the entire comment.

We DO NOT post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.