' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Reconnecting with first mother after an emphatic shout: Don't Call Me Again!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Reconnecting with first mother after an emphatic shout: Don't Call Me Again!

What to do after a first mother gets an emphatic Get-Out-of-My-Life response from an adult child who was adopted, and then a decade later, hears that he is interested in communication, possibly a reunion?

Such a request for help came through FMF's Facebook page the other day, and  it's a story that is not unusual. I've heard from both adoptees who walked away abruptly and now, years later, wish to resume contact, and mothers who put aside any hope of contact to find that door opened. Now they are a tad dubious. If they say yes to reunion, will they be shut out again, and go through the same windfall of hurt emotions as before?

I urge adoptees who walked away to screw up their courage, make the contact directly, and explain honestly why they shut down the relationship before. One adoptee wrote saying that after reunion she found herself at the airport saying goodbye to her mother, and waiting for her adoptive parents to arrive--at that same run to the airport. The adoptive parents didn't know about the reunion with the woman's natural mother (kill me, but that term is the clearest here), and she didn't tell her natural mother the adoptive mother (and father) were arriving. So in the same airport run, she says goodbye to her natural mother and waits for her adoptive parents to arrive, pretending that the first event did not even happen! The woman felt herself juggling her emotions as well as time, and decided she couldn't handle the stress any more. So she totally cut off contact with her natural mother, did not tell her why. She simply stopped responding. Ouch!

An adoption story
Yet her juggling plight was understandable. For that I blame the American adoption industry, the failed social policy of sealed records and what that implies, and just plain ole' selfishness on the adoptive parents who will not face reality about what being adopted means to the adopted. It means a child has another set of parents out there, another family as it were, to whom they will always be related. Blood ties cannot be undone.

But how do the mothers handle this walk away (with tears) and then years later, the walk back? The woman who wrote said that when she called her 27-year-old son, he told her never to contact him again and slammed the phone down. She wrote six months later with her address, should he change his mind. She heard nothing. Now she had a letter from his fiancee, wanting to reopen communication.

The woman who got in touch was roiling inside, she wrote:
So 10 years later it's looking like this could happen, but I feel rattled by it. Looking for a little moral support to help me get through the reunion process (IF this is going to happen...it still looks unsure, since I haven't heard directly from him, only from a 'significant other'). 
The support group she once belonged to has disbanded and she's at a loss, looking someone to connect with--I'm hoping others with similar experiences will comment.

We know that men are less likely to search, but often do so when getting married or having children at the behest of the woman in their life--other than their adoptive mother. The wife or mother of their children understand the need for blood connection, for emotional as well as physical--health--reasons. To the partner a man can reveal his true feelings. The partner may feel that the man will be more at peace with himself if he makes contact; she may want their children's health history beyond one generation. And sometimes the man, with distance and time, may decide that he, on his own simply is ready to know his natural mother, to learn his story, to hear of his ancestry. We know this shift of attitude happens often. It happened in my daughter's family with her adopted brother, but by the time he was searching, the route I used to find my daughter had closed. We are not in contact, so I don't know if his story has an end.

The woman who wrote to me is already planning to respond, but insisting that she hear directly back from her son, not a third person. As I might urge her to hold her heart in abeyance until her son responds himself, that's usually impossible for a mother who wishes to reconnect. Still, some emotional caution is recommended, for the first disconnect must have been brutal.

As for the adoptee who cut off contact, and then reached out herself a decade later, her first mother did respond and the adoptee was looking forward to seeing her again. As for the rest, that's a story I do not know. I drop in and out of people's lives as they need. I'm sure the woman who wrote would like to hear of any experiences that echo hers. --lorraine

Say You're Sorry (Morgan Dane Book 1)
This book as far as I know has nothing to do with adoption! but popped up as a suggestion when I went to find something to post here. Seemed appropriate, and I smiled when I saw the book. It's a mystery. Sounds like a grown-up Nancy Drew.

An Affair with My Mother: A Story of Adoption, Secrecy and Love
By Caitriona Palmer
Excellent story and beautifully written. Very interesting to learn more about Ireland's handling of adoptions in the 1970s. A sad situation for all concerned.

This one I do know the story--the woman connected with her natural mother but the mother could not bring herself to tell her other family about her daughter who had been adopted. I look forward to reading the story.--LD


  1. My first contact with my daughter was when she was 18. I got a formal note back saying "I have my parents, I don't need you." It didn't read like something an 18-yr-old would say. I then got a call from the agency social worker asking me to meet her for lunch off-premises. My daughter's parents brought her to the agency to complain that I had contacted them. The social worker tried to hand her photos that I had left with the agency of Cyndi as a newborn, of me and my kids. Cyndi reached for them, and her mother batted them from her hand. The social worker handed Cyndi an updated medical history, and her parents said she didn't need it because she had their medical history. The social worker was horrified by their attitude and wanted me to know that she thought Cyndi felt more positively but was very much under her parents' control..

    I waited 2 years, sent an Easter card, and got a phone call from Cyndi saying she wanted to meet me, but it wouldn't be for a while. Would next Sunday be okay? We had a lovely time, and wrote for 9 months. I had to send letters to her friend's house because her parents opened all her mail (she was 20 at this point). Just before her 21st birthday, I got a letter saying she couldn't be in contact with me, that she felt guilty for lying to her parents.

    Fifteen years later, I googled her name, found her married name and address, and tried again, giving her my email address in another Easter card. That was 15 years ago, and we're Facebook friends, meet once a year for a very short period. But we're in touch.

    Keep trying! Circumstances change. Will Cyndi and I ever have a close relationship? Probably not, but I do get pictures, am invited to see her daughter dance The Nutcracker, and know what's going on in her life to a small extent. That's more than I thought I would ever have!

    1. Good to read your story Karen. Yes, persistence and understanding -- hard but often necessary.

  2. Another great article as always Lorraine, you really understand adoptee's issues better than lots of mums. I love the title natural mum, I think it's a lovely title.

  3. I’m in a weird spot because my mum has been open with me, but unfortunately, I was born in the state of Utah. You’ve written enough to know about the screwed up laws in this state. The attorney involved moved to Nevada & won’t contact me—I doubt he has 30 year old records anyway. A place that was an agency (a searcher told me otherwise, but they’re incorrect) is no longer around. To get any additional information, i has to petition a judge who said that because my health problems are known, he saw no point in granting the opening of my file.

    I have one letter from my bio mother. Supposedly communicating was okay when I turned 18, but I can’t find anyone that fits her name, age, etc. anywhere. This has been an 8 year search & while I pick it up every so often, it’s so frustrating to be unable to obtain information. I’ve exhausted every lead I’ve had. :( Maybe I sound crazy, but I genuinely wonder if the name signed to the letter was fake. I know how to make people disappear online—I’ve never seen anything quite like this, assuming age is correct.

    1. Jay, I am sorry to hear that. One of the things I did was always have a listed phone number under my name. I never changed my name, but that was something I vowed never to do once I decided to become a writer, and that is the fourth grade!

      I guess in your case I would have to assume that her name changed, probably with marriage. If I were you, I would hire an investigator. But you may have already done that.

  4. I am glad to hear you say it is selfish of adoptive parents to not want their adopted children to know about their birthparents..especially after the adopted person becomes an adult. This is exactly what caused me to wait so long to search for my birth parents. I have some regrets about waiting so long.

  5. Every First Mother/Birth Mother relationship with her child is similar yet unique. Complexities of character, personality, sexual orientation, etc., etc., determines if a reunion will "ever" work. As I have stated here previously, some adoptees are invested in their victimhood to an extent that would require great courage to release and not view a first mother/birth mother as a villian, which at times this perception is supported by their adopted relatives and social environment as was in my own case. I follow my daughter, Joanna, on Facebook and these elements repeat over and over. I have paid a lifetime price for having made a decision that very quickly I regretted wholeheartedly. Still, I have learned to respect myself enough so that I do not allow blame from anyone including my daughter for a decision made for my daughter's well being at heart. Did anyone ever try to convince me that the most loving and best place for her was with me? The thought of an abortion never entered my mind. Social engineering prompted my every thought regarding being a single mother in 1969. Surprisingly or not this aberration continues today. Escalating infertility and profit is at the root of this evil, and until women are honored for their own birth right to have and keep their child, well I'm not confident much will change, especially with surrogate moms, bio engineering, Bot moms cloned babies, already in the labs.

  6. I lost my son to adoption at age 19. My 15yo sister gave birth 3 weeks before me and kept her child because he was “legitimate”. My parents flew her out of state to be married in a state w a less restrictive age limits on marriage. My sons father refused to marry me and so I was sent to a home for unwed mothers in 1993 - and yes, these places still exist in suburbia’s everywhere.

    I made contact w my son (age 18) 6 years ago and after an initial welcome was shut out 100% from his life. It shook me to my core. I empathize completely w what you have experienced. There is nothing like it in the world.

    He continued to contact other natural family members via social media which was both encouraging and disheartening. Why be Facebook friends w my sister in law who isn’t even related to you but not your siblings, or me? It was weird.

    It also let me know he was curious and scoping me out. It also felt as if I were under a parabolic lens 24/7 being judged - by others interactions and not my own. The same people who perpetrated his loss in my life were now chatting it up with him online. This was especially painful.

    When he again reached out to me via these contacts ... I just let him. I maintained my 100% honesty and openness policy. I have nothing to lose. I lost him already.

    Then the phone rings and it’s him on the other end and all of the years of therapy PTSD still kicks in because - I am losing him NOW - right NOW !!!!

    EMDR therapy has really helped. It took a very long time for me to find someone here in rural corn country to work with.

    Remembering that there is no rejection in reunion ... just processing for everyone.

    About the 3rd party- sometimes the people who love us know us better than ourselves. My husband certainly does and was the first to suggest that I find my son... he also has chatted w him over the past 6 years. I have talked to many late discovery adoptees who have said they needed this distance for quite sometime....

  7. My daughter was in her 40's when she found me. She was honest and said that younger, she had felt no need to know who both me and her father were. I'm glad to say that several years later we are all talking together. Her adoptive parents, their family, and our grandchildren are all fine, too. This does not happen without the right attitudes in place and graces given. I hope for all of you searching to find the positive responses that we did.

  8. I always appreciate how you both walk such a fine line of compassion for both sides in the adoption- first parent and adoptee. There are such complicated and difficult emotions, and it's so easy to get caught up in blaming one or the other for the choices they made. But really, both are just trying to navigate the pain the best they can.

    Any APs who may stumble across this... As an AP myself, please support the relationship between child and parents. It's enough that they were separated in the beginning. Loving your child means loving every single part of them, and that includes their family of origin. True love is not limiting or finite, so don't allow your worries and concerns over your own position in your child's life to limit their connection with their original family.

  9. I was kept at arm's length throughout my digital reunion with my daughter who found me, with only a few phone calls and letters during the first couple of years. Whenever I would bring it up, the topic of meeting in person was always avoided until I eventually found out her amom was not in favor of it, so I stopped asking altogether. Very soon after however, the relationship dissolved entirely when my daughter abruptly ended contact. It's been 5 years since her last correspondence, and a few months since mine when I realized she had changed her email address.

    We never even met ...

    Heartbroken doesn't even begin to describe how I feel. I thought I knew pain after losing her the first time but adoption truly is the gift that keeps on giving. I don't know how to heal from feeling so hollow now that I have lost her again, nor do I believe I ever will be able to. The only thing I know to do is to pick up the pieces and build back that wall around my heart I had torn down when she found me.

    After being made to feel like an incubator for so long, knowing that I am disposable to my own child as well has just utterly destroyed me.

    1. Anon--I am so sorry. I understand your pain because I would have been there too. One day a friend (who had reconnected with her daughter and they visited etc and had as normal a mother/daughter relationship as possible) said to me: We have to accept that we never will have a regular relationship, that when we gave them up, much of the bond was cut.

      I know that some adoptees and birth mothers have built exceptionally strong relationships after reunion, but they do not seem the usual. I totally can understand your sorrow; it is the result of the way adoption was imprinted upon the adoptive parents, and who thus transferred that to their/your daughter. Many hugs, you need them.

  10. Dear Anon - I only have this virtual hug to give you. As a first mother I know your pain. I spent 33 years wondering about my child. I was afraid to search...what if his adopted parents hadn't told him about me? What if he didn't want anything to do with me? When he turned 18. When he turned 21. When he turned 25. When he turned 30. I searched the "searching for" websites to no avail. I consoled myself with the rationalization that this must mean he was doing just fine without me and that I should be grateful for that. When that phone call came from the adoption agency, I was almost too scared to reply.

    I did and for the first year it was amazing. But as time wears on it is difficult for us both. I don't want to let him go again. I can barely hold it together every time we part knowing that someday he may let me go just as I let him go all of those years ago.

    What I want you to know is that it is never easy; whether you are in contact or not. It seems our destiny from that first goodbye is to carry a broken heart through our lives. I know now that mine will never heal. My new mantra is that no matter what he is my own. My child. I will bare a broken heart for him. I will bare 100 broken hearts for him. That is all I can do.

    The serenity prayer helps me. Reminding myself that I am trying my best to be whatever he needs me to be helps. This column helps. An extra hug for you from me. I know your pain.

    And as a ps to Lorraine. I stole your book Birthmark from the Evansville Indiana library just months after I gave birth to my son. It is worn and tattered. It saved my life that first year. Bless you for the work you do.

  11. So you stole a copy of Birthmark, eh? I am sure that you were the one the book was meant for! Since it is many years later--for both of us--I think that you would get a great deal out of the follow up memoir, hole in my heart. It covers some of the same ground as Birthmark in the beginning, but different with the winds of time at my back but t hen tells the rest of the story.

    It's clear you understand the title. Hugs, my sister.

    1. It is so humble of you to suppose that I didn't buy "a hole in my heart" as soon as i stumbled on your blog by accident and realized that you were "my Lorraine". Please note that I bought this one. This blog and that book are saving me again. ..36 years later thank you thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts. You are a saving grace for many

    2. Lisa, you have completely made my week! I loved hearing that you never returned or simply stole Birthmark from the Evansville Library. Eventually, library copies returned to sale via the used book market and that is pretty much all you can buy today. I don't normally encourage thievery, in this case...love it! Thank you for your encouraging words.

  12. Well, I reached out once again when my daughter became a grandmother. I wanted her to connect to the little boy..... she pretended, was nice, polite, and then said I was a toxic negative person and shut me out again Sigh. I know that at times I have normal emotions that aren't the pretty bright things that would make her think that I was all fairy-tales and unicorns, but for the most part, I am a pretty nice, happy lady. In fact, my students say things like "she's the happy teacher" about me... I have resigned myself to the fact that nothing I do will ever be enough and have moved on. I wish her well. For me, I have a lovely great grandson that I am going to try to get to meet this summer and his mother is a lovely girl who works too hard and deserves happiness. I wish my daughter well, but I won't try again. I hope she tries with her sons and her grandson....I think that they would be a joy in her life.

  13. It’s been several years since I’ve posted on this forum – just because I needed to take a break from adoption.

    I was a 19-year-old orphan when I gave up my daughter when she was three days old. I spent all our time apart waiting for her to be an adult, so we could begin a relationship. As a goal-oriented person it served me well to have a time-frame with a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel - all I had to do was be patient. Giving her up was the worst pain I’d ever experienced, but I strangely and heavily-invested on a future together.

    When I reached out to her adoptive parents when she was 19 (I eventually found out she asked if she could find me on her 18th birthday, but was rebuffed), I was told in no uncertain or unnecessary terms to go away. But, my daughter fought to meet me, and being as determined as I am, her wish was eventually granted (by her begrudging adoptive parents) about three months later.

    We had a great start and were able to see each other every few months, but her adoptive parents hemmed, hawed, and attempted to thwart every visit. Over the five years we were in contact, our visits became more infrequently and strained - I could feel her pulling away. Understandably, as her adoptive parents even threatened to pull funding for her final year of college. I thought once she was on her own things get easier, but they didn’t. We didn’t talk too deeply about it, because I was afraid to do anything to upset the apple cart.

    After a series of broken plans, I finally confronted her about it being time for us to be open and honest with one another. I told her I could handle hearing it was getting too hard to conduct a relationship with me rather than getting plans cut short or broken last minute, which was always a crushing blow. I sent her a long, compassionate email about understanding how difficult her situation was (trying to see me and dealing with her adoptive mother’s insecure fits). In response I received a cutting email*. She said her adoptive parents “did you an incredible service by raising me in a way that you couldn’t.” And, “if I ever feel ready to resume a relationship, I will reach out and let you know.”

    I cried a thousand more tears and went back to therapy. This hurt as much as giving her up the first time.

    That was over five years ago, and she is now almost 30 years old. I never contacted her again and 99% of me thinks I never will. I don’t think I can “walk back” through that door. I know there is danger, peril, and her adoptive parents, who clearly wish that I had their baby and then vanished forever, and I don’t think I can ever forgive them for treating me so horribly.

    *I strongly believe my daughter’s adoptive mother wrote this email

    1. I'm so very, very sorry, Hilary. There are just no words for this type of sorrow.

    2. Hilary--I just read your comment, and I too am oh so very sorry. As you say, you can't walk back through that door. I have not been in contact with a granddaughter who is also in her 30s, and we have not been in touch for several years. Though my daughter lived with us at various times for several months at a time, eventually I began to feel that no matter how smooth I felt things were going, she might walk away by either taking offense at some nothing comment, or because her other mother was causing her too much grief and pushing too much hate towards me. Consequently, I could not trust that my daughter wouldn't simply do it again, and kept a close guard on my heart. Yet every time she pulled back after months or years of a good relationship, it hurt, it hurt like hell.

      In any event, when I felt the beginnings of that kind of relationship with the adopted granddaughter, I basically said I wouldn't put up with it again. That was at least five years ago, and you know, I no longer care what she does.

      Of course it's different when it is your own daughter, but sometimes you just have to walk away and make your own peace with the situation. Many hugs and much empathy to you tonight.

    3. Thank you, Tiffany and Lorraine,

      It’s been an eye-opening, horrific experience from start to finish (although it is never truly finished, until I am).

      I never expected this to be an easy journey, but I was so naive and felt my good intentions would be understood, simplistic as that sounds. I never imagined the people I allowed to raise her (because that is exactly how I see it) would turn on me so viciously. Worse, I never imagined my only child would think I thoughtlessly dumped her, and I didn’t want her - and for her to feel so comfortable gut-punching me. It is hard to be completely misunderstood and for my true intentions to be twisted and turned into something so malignant.

      At this point, the best thing for ME is to stay away. I know the door will stay closed unless I try to open it. Possibly, when my daughter becomes a mother something may stir within her, although she is the sole heir to a nice estate and she is very aware of that. I’m not going be a voluntary walk-on for this team who clearly has no respect for me – even though I was the quarterback (sounds flippant and I don’t care). I’ve done nothing wrong and I won’t settle for the poor treatment I previously ate by the handful.

      Lorraine – you said “eventually I began to feel that no matter how smooth I felt things were going, she might walk away by either taking offense at some nothing comment” completely resonates with me. And that was my wrong turn during our initial reunion, as I tipped-toed around every land mine, trying to save and protect this precious relationship.

      Mostly, I’m tired of women who give up children for adoption being painted as poor decision makers and cellar dwellers. I made what I thought was an informed decision (it wasn’t) and the punishment has and will continue to be incredibly painful.

      With all of that said, my life is good. I am fulfilling myself in many creative ways. I am writing, creating art and doing things I truly enjoy. It is the first time in my life I've given myself permission to take risks and explore the right side of my brain. I have a loving and supportive partner of ten years. He has been the biggest champion I've ever had and it is so nice to finally have that.

    4. Dear Hilary--

      As someone once said to me, we lost our children when we gave them up. We can search and reunite, but of course it is never the same as if the break did not happen. I too have a mostly peaceful, fulfilled life with my husband of 37 years, who has been my rock. We are doing fine, considering.

    5. I'm going to add here, Hilary, something that I think both mothers and their sons and daughters need to remember: The people who want to be in your life will be; you don't have to go chasing after them.

      When I've gotten down about my granddaughter, I remind myself of that thought.
      Have a good day--and I know you will.

  14. Hilary,

    I think, truly, that while reunion is apparently something we all crave, that it is also a form of closure. I tried for many years to "undo" the weird of the non-relationship that my daughter and I had... then I realized that it wasn't mine to undo and that I could be happy with me and those that want to be in my life. I wish my daughter well, but I have to be happy and have a life.... So, I am at the content stage of knowing that I did all I could and love does not fix everything. I am, for the first time since June 7, 1981, happy.

    1. ”Then I realized it wasn't mine to undo.” Yes, it kind of was Lori. You gave up your daughter once, and my guess is she like most adoptees, have a fear of abandonment due to relinquishment. Unless your daughter was physically or emotionally abusive, your one job was to keep trying. I've been in reunion for two years, and it has been the hardest of my life. I believe that both Mother and child have to go to a place that is so painful it physically hurts. To truly feel the pain that adoption causes.

      I Believe that is why most reunions fail. If one party can and the other can't, neither can begin to heal. “I wish my daughter well”, I’m sure she really appreciates that. But as long as you are “content” that’s all that matters right?

      Your daughter may be unable to be able to go there right now. Meeting your first mother is intense and, she may need time to process. Your job as a mother is not to give up on your child, ever. I can't imagine how your daughter feels About another abandonment? An adoptees biggest fear is that our first mothers will leave again. You chose to close the door rather than keep it open. I venture to guess that your daughter is not ”for the first time since June 7, 1981, happy.”

  15. Anon,
    I feel your pain. After finding my daughter after 48 years, we emailed each other for 7 months. Regularly on my part, and sporadically on hers. Both of her adoptive parents have passed away (bless them). Her last email was upbeat, but have not heard from her in 7 months. I continue to send emails every 3-4 weeks in the hopes that she will respond. Don't know what went wrong. She has two daughters, my granddaughters (22 and 18). I so pray everyday that I will hear from her again. Would love to meet her and my granddaughters, but I am coming to the realization that it may never happen. Heart-broken every day.



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