' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: When DNA yields a first mother's (or father's) rejection

Friday, September 8, 2017

When DNA yields a first mother's (or father's) rejection

DNA is reaping more connections daily, to judge by the mail that First Mother Forum is getting about what to do as the trail to one's biological family heats up. Since cousins, aunts and uncles are revealed--seemingly more than direct hits to biological birth parents--the next obvious step for the adoptee in search, or the found family, is to see exactly who this new person is related to, and how. Especially when...no one has heard of this "cousin" or "niece" or "sister" before.

Then the questions begin. Uncles (who are brothers of the woman in question) express at first disbelief, and then...call their sisters, who are birth mothers--and since the brothers express doubt that the DNA can be accurate, there must be some mistake, right?--their skepticism feeds the woman's desire to keep the secret child just that, a secret. Unfortunately this chain of events is leading to many denials, especially from women like myself who gave up their children in the Sixties and earlier when we were told secrecy was the way we were supposed to live our lives. I imagine the thinking of these women goes, I've gotten away with this secret child and my husband/children/even my brothers and/or sisters don't know about her, and I'll just deny it. End of story. 

Of course, for the adoptee it is not the end of the story. It is the beginning of the next chapter.

Many adoptees, fearing rejection, turn to others to make the connection, or consider writing a letter. Sometimes that works. If the woman has been waiting for the phone call from her lost-to-adoption child, all is well.

But if she has been hiding under the metaphorical rock, she denies, and that denial is can be hard to dislodge. I've written before about having a friend a dozen years older than I who was always against reunions, and talked to her grown children about it so much when I was not present so much that they began to assume that she probably had a secret child. Just before she died, she told her oldest son, he was not her first born. Now everyone is quite sure who the father has to be, given that she carried a lifelong torch for a cousin. So when I say the secret can be buried under layers of denial, believe me. Immediate family members such as brothers and sisters and even parents--and other children who follow--may not know of the child. The birth mother who has built her life on denial of a first child may wish to continue living that way.

Letters to such a woman may be ignored. The writer/adoptee will never know if it was actually received, or intercepted by someone else who reads it and destroys it. A husband may see the letter and, never having been told the truth, urge her to ignore it. Older women may have dementia or Alzheimer's and be unable to comprehend, or respond, and other family members may ignore it, especially if they have never heard of this lost child. And the adoptee will get no response. He or she will never know what happened to the letter.

That's why I am not in favor of writing to a birth mother to make the initial contact--unless you already have gotten an affirmative about about approaching her. Over on the sidebar there is a link to Writing the First Letter.

If you have no idea how she will respond, screw up your courage and call. If you get her on the phone, first tell her you have something personal to discuss and ask her if this is a good time to talk privately. If she says no, ask her when you may call back. By this point, she may have figured out what you are talking about, that you are not calling to tell her that some long lost uncle left her a million dollars in his will. She may recognize a voice or certain speech patterns similar to hers. In all likelihood, she probably knows who you are. If she balks, quickly tell her that you do not want to hurt her or disrupt her life, which implies that she may keep her secret (you). I hate writing this, but I'm going with reality here, rather than sugar coating. Some women are impenetrable and may only proceed if they can keep the adoptee secret. I recently read a novel, Eden, in which this is a good part of the plot.

Since this is going to be frightening to do, write out a script of what you want to say. You may simply read from the script. I did this when I called my daughter's parents' house--she was 15 at the time--because I would have been too scattered to get out a whole sentence without losing it. It went like this: My name is Lorraine Dusky and 15 years ago in Rochester, New York I had a daughter on April 5, and I think that girl is Jane....

An adoptee would turn it around: I was born in XYZ on XYZ and the DNA indicates that you are almost certainly my mother (or sister, brother, aunt, cousin)....

You don't know what will happen when you make that phone call, but it does put control into your hands rather than someone else's, and control over your life and identity to a large part has been taken away from you. This not only gives you control, it is likely to yield more positive results than letting someone else be the go-between. The same is true of the adoptee calling a sibling, if the parents are deceased or in denial. They are your relatives, and you the adopted may contact them as you wish.

Remember: It is always much easier to say no to a go-between rather than the person asking for herself. This certainly demands courage, but you may never find the answers you are hoping for or the relationships with relatives you may desire to know--or the medical history you want--unless you reach out yourself. Only you can decide if it is worth trying, knowing you may face rejection. You control the situation.--lorraine

Anyone have any stories to tell about making such a call?

Also see:

Contacting siblings when a woman denies she is 'the' first mother

Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA

on November 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase


  1. I find DNA testing an unjustifiable intrusion on the privacy of people - what right do adoptees believe they have over the rights of other human beings? Even I would never ever think of intruding of a family member's privacy - so why adoptees and what about the privacy of their natural mother if she was raped and her family did not know about the fact she was impregnated through rape as a young girl or was impregnated through incest - it is like spying on people where are their human rights? Totally one hundred percent against any adoptee unjustifiably intruding on another human beings life - who gives them that right to breach the law?

    1. Did you mean to say that DNA testing is an intrusion on the lies and secrets of people? Adoptees have EVERY right to find out who their biological relatives are. If a child was conceived out of rape, that's truly horrible, but that should have no bearing whatsoever on a child's right to seek their our their relatives and roots. Something, I might add, that birth parents (unless adoptees themselves) never had to wonder about.

    2. Brenda, I cam test for my dna all I want. It's mine. No matter who raised me and who gave birth to me it is still mine. It's not for anyone to say I can't have it because one person,one generation kicks me out of the family. Your post is so indicitive of the feelings of society regarding adoptees. Once that adoption is done we are considered 2nd and everyone else is first. I have a moral right to know where I came from,who is responsible for my existence, what my biological family name is,who my grandparents were,my medical information,and the circumstances of my birth. Not just for me but for my children aND grandchildren and future biological lines. The same as everyone else. To say know to someone,just one human part of that biological family is just cray. To maybe protect someone's feelings? It can be done gently and with compassion. But to deny someone a dna test because they are adopted? Just no. No one can control a whole segment of the population that way. Dpen

    3. @Anonymous. Thank you! You said what I was thinking in my post, but didn't express nearly as well.

    4. Our dna is our blood. For someone to say we can't have it is just ludicrous. Same with our birth certificate

    5. "I find DNA testing an unjustifiable intrusion on the privacy of people - what right do adoptees believe they have over the rights of other human beings?"

      I have read some pretty offensive stuff directed at adoptees, but this really has to go in my top ten list, and you might have even broken into the top five. Congrats!

      I'm an AP. My daughter's DNA belongs to HER. Period. It doesn't belong to her parents, it me and her dad, it doesn't belong to her extended family, it doesn't belong to anyone else besides HER. This is one of the MOST basic tenants of humanity- the body of a person belonging to no one else besides themselves. How in 2017 can you possibly put forth such a notion as to say an adoptees own DNA is not their own property?!

      Your comment is disgusting because it treats adoptees as some sort of possession. A human being who simply exists on one hand by the magnanimous acts of their first parents in allowing them to live and on the other hand by the charity of their adoptive parents in taking them in. You are stating that because of a decision by the mother to place her child for adoption, that child is forever barred from knowing not only their genealogy but also their medical history.

      I have a harsher word I would like to use right now, but since this is Lorraine and Jane's blog space, I'll refrain and simply say that's total crap.

      God, reading that got me started in a right rage this morning. Adoptees do NOT deserve that kind of crap thrown at them.

    6. [Even I would never ever think of intruding of a family member's privacy - so why adoptees and what about the privacy of their natural mother if she was raped and her family did not know about the fact she was impregnated through rape as a young girl or was impregnated through incest - it is like spying on people where are their human rights?]

      You want to know something? If you, as a human being, go through an extremely traumatic event such as rape, and someone contacts you asking if you'd welcome a relationship, it is as simple as saying "No."

      That's it. You're an adult, presumably the adoptee is a mature adult. No one is going to force you into a relationship that you don't want, and of course no one has the RIGHT to force you into a relationship, either.

      They do, however, have the right to ASK. Just as you have the RIGHT to say "No thank you."

    7. So, according to you, if the tiny percentage of women who gave up children to adoption were raped, 6million adoptees have no right to contact a family member who voluntarily tested their DNA because it may hurt a mom who may have or may not have been raped? What about the adoptees who die waiting for the courts to deny good cause, or perhaps even worse have to watch our children go thru unnecessary and potential painful or harmful tests that a family history may have excluded? We would love to go to the courthouse, pay $20-$30 and to obtain our birth certificate and contact our mothers directly. But in most states actual and factual laws stop that. Instead we take the legal way around and test our DNA, compare it to other voluntary tests subjects and contact cousins, aunt's/uncles and siblings. and as discreetly as possible try and find our parents. Do we like it? No, but it's what the law allows. So if you have something to say about it, get off your high horse and change the laws!

    8. What are you afraid of?

      No adoptee is anybody's dirty secret. I believe in outing anybody who keeps their child a dirty secret. Give them enough time to do the right thing, and then if they don't tell everyone they know .

      No rape conceived adoptee deserves it either. They didn't ask to be conceived or born. When will society stop punishing children for the crimes of their fathers?

      Tiffany: Excellent post and this is why I defend adoptive parents at times. I so often here "bio parents are great/adoptive parents are bad". Sometimes, it's reverse, and you just proved that.

    9. An unjustifiable intrusion? Who's forcing DNA testing? DNA tests are voluntarily done. They are done by anyone wanting to find more family. Theres not a box to check that if someone was adopted you don't want to know them. Come on! Give me a break. An intrusion, lol

    10. As an adoptee, my right to know who I am outweighs your right to hide who you are.

  2. What law? It is human nature to want to know where you came from, period. Everyone has the right to learn that and use the means that are available to them, including DNA. Manmade laws that prevent people from knowing their true identities are the only illegal and immoral "laws" here.

    Some mothers who gave up children who were the product of a rape have been involved in opening up records here and have emerged as leaders. The rape doesn't make the child bad, or condemn them to a special class where they are not allowed to find their true paternity--and maternity. Besides, your example who condemn all adoptees to not use DNA when it may be the only means available to them, considering the unjust laws currently in place in all but nine states. While the blog is of course open to all, I will note that it appears from your scant profile that you are in Australia. Which has its own terrible history of adoption....

  3. Plenty of rape victims love their babies and either keep them or wish they had kept them.

    Australia has a horrible history with coerced adoptions, but today they have implemented reforms that would be a good model for the United States.

    What about all the women who are thrilled to find their children due to DNA testing?

    It is amazing how pervasive the argument for "birth mother privacy" is. People don't realize that adoption records were sealed to protect the privacy of adoptive parents, not the first parents. And this system was ushered in by Georgia Tann, the mother of modern adoption in the United States, who was basically a serial killer.

    1. Now I have a new description for Georgia Tann, serial killer. Thank you Steve!

    2. 'People don't realize that adoption records were sealed to protect the privacy of adoptive parents, not the first parents.'

      Completely correct Steve.

      It is being spun the other way so as to maintain the angelic image of APs, and to continue to misdirect anger towards the natural parents. Twas ever thus.

  4. There is no law against adoption search or against finding relatives through DNA. The several cases I know of personally could not have been solved any other way; these were adoptees who had already tried everything else and met only dead ends. One was a woman who found her biological father and was welcomed, another a woman who found a younger cousin who led her to a sister and the rest of the family. Her mother is deceased, adoptee is in her 70s, but she was able to see pictures and get some background. Nobody else in the family knew about her, but she was welcomed with open arms.

    Knowing these stories, when a mother who had been searching for years for a son born in 1964 contacted me, I urged her to try DNA search. She had been thinking about it but was hesitant. She had registered with all the registries, search angels could not help her as the birth was in upper NY state. It seemed hopeless. Soon after sending her DNA info in, she got a call from a fellow saying "I think I am your son." He had joined the same DNA group several years ago. They now are happily reunited and she thanked me for urging her to do DNA search. I used to be skeptical that it was a needle in a haystack but now am impressed with the many adoptees and mothers and fathers who have reunited this way. It is very worth trying. Although not all families welcome the adoptee, many do and some have been hoping to meet them for years.

  5. Thanks for the great story, Maryanne, for I too know some that just heart-warming and wonderful. So many mothers feel that they have no "right" to search and so are waiting for their children to find them, and for some, DNA is the only way.

  6. Brenda, I don't understand you lady. I clicked on your profile and it seems to indicate that you support open records. So why the hell are you against adoptees finding their roots through DNA testing? Also no one in the world has a right to tell someone that they do not have the right to know who they are. That is communist and psychotic. Even a birthmother has no right to not let her child know their own identity. The immaturity involved in closed adoption continues to just blow my mind. It is the human race at it's WORST and most unevolved.

  7. On the subject of rape and pregnancy go watch the movie "Little John". It is a true story and bashes the birthmother privacy theory.
    And Lorraine! I wish you'd get rid of this annoying CAPTCHA. It forces yo to pick stupid pictures at least 3 times and even if you think you've done it right it tells you you've made a mistake and you have to start all over again. It is painful to write a comment due to this!

    1. I WISH I could get rid of the stupid catpcha, but I can't, as far as I can tell. Do people who actually pick a name and come back repeatdly have to go through the captcha? I don't ever have to...

      and to the other commenter--We moved to a less expensive area of Sag Harbor because our old house need upkeep we could not afford, and a newer house is overall better for us.

    2. I too wondered why you moved since you loved your beautiful old home so much. Thanks for the explanation. Too bad the new place needs work as well. One thing after another...

    3. We have been without a working kitchen for nearly a month...have a fridge and a stove but no running water in the kitchen and a leaky sink in the bathroom that needs a major fix as well as some electrical wiring in this house that is totally amatuer hour and screwed up! As soon as the kitchen is done (should be next week, the new countertops are coming Thursday) we will move onto the downstairs bath which has the leaky sink glued to the wall, no fan, and a dangerous shower, and a throne that is in the obviously wrong place. But fixig that will not be nearly as disruptive as not having a working kitchen since August 7, if you want to get technical, as I just have. But I do have wonderful new kitchen cabinets, now, and icky blue tile and very crummy cabinets are gone.

  8. Well, DNA testing is here, there is no turning back the clock.

    As opposed to other forms of inquiry, I think posting a DNA sample and hoping for a possible match is really benign and non-intrusive. Above all else though, everyone has a right - a RIGHT - to know their beginnings and their natural (birth) origins. It may be perceived as a threat to a birth mother whose child was conceived of rape, and I don't wish any more pain for her. On the other hand, perhaps, as they say, the truth will set you free. Why continue to punish the victim (the mother, by continual fear and dread of her child someday contacting her), and the child (not his/her fault in any case)? Isn't the man (rapist) solely at fault and worthy of shame? Not the mother?

    Australia's history of forced adoptions is gruesome and tragic. DNA testing however, is a blessing.

  9. I used to write under the pen name Amyadoptee. I have tested with the three major companies. I went on the advice of a dear friend of mine. I started out with the mitochondrial DNA test which was really a jab into the dark. I stayed in the dark. I then tested with that company with their autosomal testing. I needed health care info. My same friend recommended the next company. I got more detailed information which I was desperate for. In January 2017 I tested with the third company. I hit the jackpot. As I was testing, my half sister tested. We were matched immediately. I found my father and my sister within one sitting. I also tested with two members of my biological mother's family. I did a quick search of people who graduated in my Dad's town and found her identity. I wasn't looking to reunite with her as I knew she wanted nothing to do with me as Maryanne, Lorraine and others familiar with my story know. I did write her a letter. I kept it unemotional as I could but I did tell her that I would not hide. I did mention that it might be a good idea to tell her sons, my half brothers, about my existence. She took it as a threat and sent me a cease and desist letter. I realized then that she was a total nut. I couldn't run fast enough from her. I got exactly what I wanted from the search. I find my father and my sister. I will wait for my biological mother to pass to tell my brothers. I have the letter and the DNA. I never wanted to hurt her or scare her. I have pictures of her as a young woman and an older woman. I understand things now. DNA testing is a mutual consent thing. You are matched based on that. Brenda Coughlan, I swear you sound just like my biological mother. An adoptee did not sign or consent to any thing relating to their adoption. No adoptee is honor bound by it. My choices nor the choices of my father were not honored or even respected. I have a sister who wanted a baby sister. I was placed without his consent. My biological mother took advantage of that little tidbit to get revenge. Sadly that is a fact. I know it is. It's all okay. I have my knowledge now and no one especially my biological mother cannot ever take it from me.

    1. Thanks for writing, Amy. I am sure there are others with similar stories who will find your story comforting, in the way that it can be to learn that we are not alone. Again, my thanks for taking the time and trouble to leave a comment. And hugs.

    2. Amy, yes, I remember you. I am so glad you found and have a relationship with your father's family.

  10. If I choose to get tested and put my results out there, the only way I'm going to find a match is if someone else that shares my DNA also puts their results out there. It's clearly mutual consent, not an invasion of privacy. Why place all of the blame on an adoptee? Does an unsuspecting brother, aunt or cousin have the right to get tested, but the adoptee does not?

    If DNA testing an "unjustifiable intrusion," then is it unjustified for anyone on the planet to be tested? Or are you condemning only adoptees for wanting the same information everyone else has?

    1. Great comment, Megan. Hits the nail on the head.

      Lorraine wrote:"If the woman has been waiting for the phone call from her lost-to-adoption child, all is well."

      My mother was pretty much waiting by the phone. The first time I spoke with her she said, "I always knew you'd find me." But that doesn't necessarily equate to a relationship that will be problem-free or mean that the relinquished child will always be welcomed with open arms into the family fold.

      Adoption, as we all know, is more often than not way more complicated than that.

  11. All true, Robin, but we first mothers sometimes forget that the realtionships with our natural mothers without adoption had its bumps and difficulties. My realtionship with my mother comes off extremely well in hole in my heart, I've been told, but there were many fights along the way that I did not write about! The difference is, of course, is that neither of us was going to go away and we both knew that. When adoption interfers with the relationship, it's a good idea for everyone to be careful and aware of how easy it is to hurt the other person.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Robin, because so many adoptees are afraid to make that call to their birth mother.

  12. One thought that stays in my mind as an adoptee who has tested DNA, found my mother, and remain waiting months for a response - while everyone can deny a child/sibling/etc, I will never be able to deny having a parent. Another strike against me.

  13. Sorry, but no. No adoptee has to prepare for rejection. All parents must prepare for being found. Mine learned the hard way not to fuck around with me. I outed my entire clan to their friends and to other family members, and they 100% deserved it. I was very nice to them, considering they're shitty individuals, and I said enough is enough.

  14. Replies
    1. Thank you, except I did it before I knew I could be sued for libel. I had no idea people can sue you even if you have proof that they have treated you wrongly. But hey when your adoptive father banked around a million a year and he has a damn good lawyer....
      Anyway, I am done. It's a waste of energy at this point. I am putting this all to good use and hoping I can help others.

  15. "In all likelihood, she probably knows who you are. If she balks, quickly tell her that you do not want to hurt her or disrupt her life, which implies that she may keep her secret (you). I hate writing this, but I'm going with reality here, rather than sugar coating. Some women are impenetrable and may only proceed if they can keep the adoptee secret. "

    I'm sorry Lorraine but where do you get off telling anyone it's okay to make someone else a dirty secret? I didn't get to know my coldhearted biological family because they wanted me to be a dirty secret and I don't play by those dastardly rules. I didn't gain immediate family members, but I did keep my self respect and a good set of morals intact and that's more important.

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