' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: It's a blue, blue Christmas for many connected to adoption

Saturday, December 21, 2019

It's a blue, blue Christmas for many connected to adoption

At my house 
Ahhh, Christmas. Carols piped in at Starbucks. Christmas specials on television. Radio stations that play nothing but Christmas music from Thanksgiving until New Years Day. Presents. Buying and wrapping. Dinners, pies that you will bake. Phone calls to family members and loved ones far away. Christmas Eve in the Polish tradition--that means me--a meal so special it has its own word: Wigilia, pronounced vi-gil-YA. It's all centered around family. 

There is no way to avoid...Christmas, the holidays, Hanukkah, Kwanza, no matter what religion you are and what your beliefs are. For mothers who relinquished their child for adoption, for individuals who were relinquished, Christmas is always full of reminders of whom is missing around the table, but never far from our thoughts. Reasons why do not matter. We live with the present. 

A litany of my Christmases: The tearful family dinners before I told my family I had a daughter and gave her up for adoption.The ones just as bad when I didn't know where she was. And then, after I found her, the year she wasn't talking to me. The first year after she died, two weeks before Christmas. 

American Hotel in Sag Harbor 
I'm hearing from adoptees who are dying to write once more to their first/birth mothers who haven't responded to an initial letter--maybe it was too oblique, do I have to wait until spring, as I'm hearing from other mothers that I should? I've written six pages and I could go on...my birthday is this week and....

Or: The state of Wisconsin found her, she's in her seventies and doesn't want contact. Not only do I hope to meet her someday, I could really use some medical history...my son has fill-in-the-blanks and it's not from his father's side of the family.

Or: My son/daughter hasn't talked to me for several years and I wonder, do I send a card? Can I call? Send him a message on Facebook?

Or: My daughter (who found me and was thrilled to have done so) walked away six years ago and she stays in contact with my sister (!) the snake, and my sister has taken up the role of  "aunt" to my daughter, who acts as if I'm dead. So that cuts out having Christmas dinner with my sister and her daughter and family and the new baby I'm crazy about her because I just can't stand it, and it's just my husband and me and it gets pretty grim, trying to pretend I'm fine.

Or: You are a first mother celebrating with your family and no one mentions the lost member of the family because--really, it's painful for them too. But as the mother who lost the child, you have the option, and even the right, to bring her up. The person who hears you say something may in fact be the individual your lost son or daughter contacts first. You don't want a reunion quashed because you never said anything, and your brother/aunt/sister/cousin/father thinks you don't want to be reminded. The holidays, when many members of the family are likely to be around, would be a perfect time to bring up a topic long denied. Though I am not sure I would wait until dinner to do so.

Or: You the adoptee are celebrating with the only family you have ever known, and sit there with people who look nothing like you, and you can't help wondering: Where is my other family? I'm here, but sometimes I feel alone and like a stranger. Who are they? Who is my mother, my real mother--can I even think that?--and what is she doing today? Does she ever think about me?  You may love the mother and father and siblings you know, but that doesn't quash down where you might be,who you might be, on Christmas if you had been kept. 

The list goes on of how the missing member of the family resounds at this time of year. 

Collection of essays by
the adoption triad.
I'm sorry for each and everyone who is suffering the mournful wages of adoption in their own way. And I'm not going to pretend that any rejection you feel at this time doesn't hurt like hell; it does. So I can only tell you what I did those lonely, terrible holiday seasons, when I was not married, and when the rain never stopped:

I made plans with other people whose families were far flung or absent. You may think it's too late, but really, it's not if you are reading this tonight. There are other lonely people out there, and by cheering them up, you'll find that you will feel less sad too. If a holiday meal is out of the question, go to the movies--with someone or alone. If you have never been to the movies on Christmas, you'll be surprised to find that the theaters are full. Not everyone is celebrating Christmas. I've seen many a movie on Christmas Day. However, DO NOT PICK MOVIES YOU KNOW WILL MAKE YOU CRY. Or is there a Christmas event or concert somewhere near you might attend? 

If you like to exercise, and the weather permits, start the day with a morning run. It is amazing how that can energize you and lift your spirits, even if only for a while. But on Christmas, even a while is good. 

If you can't find anybody to be with, try to find a place you can volunteer. I remember seeing the movie "Brooklyn" around this time of the year, and on the first holiday the star (Saoirse Ronan) is in America, she ends up serving at a parish soup kitchen. Someone gets up and sings a haunting Irish song that had the roots of Enya in it. It is a good way to get through the day. A first mother friend of mine has found one soup kitchen--of course they are serving more than soup on Christmas--or another and done this for many years. I know she walks away feeling less bereft, less lonely at the end of the day. 

Cherubs on the credenza 
Even if you don't go to church regularly but feel like it this year--Go! There is always a first time.Truth be told, me the (mostly) agnostic tries to find a place to celebrate Mass on Christmas morning, no matter where I am. There's likely to be Christmas caroling and the service will be beautiful, and to me it feels familiar, even if I don't know a soul in this particular church. I will beat back tears (not quite successfully) and turn to the person next to me and behind me and in front of me and shake their hands and say: Peace. Peace be with you.

And most of all, remember this: Christmas is only one day. One day. Surely you can survive that. Put on music you like, cry if you must (been there, done that).  As for the conundrums above, there is no single answer.Write the letter if your heart tells you to. Make the phone call if you really really want to. Send a message. But tell yourself that there may be no response. We can only control what we do, we can't dictate what others do. 

Do I miss my daughter at this time of the year? Of course I do. After 26 years of an often unpredictable, topsy-turvy relationship, and living with the demons that she had, she committed suicide on December 12, 2007. Of course I miss her, even as I tell myself that her unhappiness was chronic, that in death she found the peace that eluded her in life. Yet of course I miss her still. 

I have one granddaughter I will call on Christmas--she's going to visit her step-dad. I have another, given up for adoption by her mother, I won't phone. After my daughter's death I reached out to her through the state of Wisconsin, and ultimately we connected. We had an initial time of good vibrations, but we have not been in touch for several years. A rather nasty essay she wrote about White Liberal Women who relinquish has been taken off the internet, but attacks by someone who knows her in the comments section after a story about hole in my heart remain, and are likely to into infinity. So be it. 

After so much time has passed, I am numb about this, and her. Adoption hurts and those comments, and that angry essay, are testament to that.The huge difference between my feelings about my daughter and her is: I did not give her up. I tried to talk my daughter out of doing so. She was not in my body. Time and distance has dulled whatever ache I once felt. 
Sunset tonight with tree lace, 4:24 p.m. 

No one gets away easy. 

These simple words have been a guide post for me: The people who want to be in your life will be. You don't have to go chasing after them. So, love the people you are with. Love and appreciate your friends and whatever family you have. Focus on them, not on what you do not have, and may never have. 

So, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever holiday you are celebrating. The pagans celebrated the winter solstice, which is today. And that, Dear Reader, is the origin of the "Christmas" tree. And after today, the daylight will begin being longer, a few seconds by few seconds every day.  

No one can make our troubles magically go away, but let me share with you a song I heard some years ago Nashville that I found particularly poignant and made me count my friends, my husband, family, my blessings.--lorraine


  1. One of the online birthmother groups lights candles on Christmas Eve in honor of all separated by adoption. It's a way of knowing we're in this together, even if our circumstances and reunions -- or lack thereof -- are different.

    1. Yes, our lives are different in the particulars, but underneath there is the current of shared memory of our great sadness.

  2. Thank you for sharing your reality which mirrors that for so many of us. This morning I saw a meme on an animal rescue Facebook page that I follow here in RI-"Wear your tragedies as armor not as shackles." A Christmas wish of peace is sent your way Lorraine.

  3. This is beautiful! My son was taken from me against my will 41 years ago. I think about him every day.I learned where he lives now. I have his phone number and want to call him but I'm afraid. I sent a Facebook message to him last year when someone gave me his information. He thanked me for my concern but wanted to "think about it." I fear I may push him away for good if I try again. I hate Christmas! ��

    1. I'm sorry to hear that, and I know how disconcerting his answer was. You could just send him a message that says, "thinking about you at Christmas time. Whenever you are ready, I would dearly love to meet you." But again, you must be prepared for a non-answer. Hold fast to those who are in your life.

  4. Thank you for this poignant blog Lo. This Christmas will be better for me since I finally got my courage up and wrote actual letters with a picture included to my close direct maternal family members. I wanted them to know that I am alive while, I am alive. Well I heard back from my brother yesterday in a lovely email. For any adoptee reading this I would say make the contact with whom you want your birth parent doesn't speak for every one, and really you have nothing to lose by trying. Like Lo said keep your expectations low, and maybe you will be pleasantly surprised like I was.
    I wish for all of us in the community peace at this time of year.

  5. Thank you Lorraine as an adoptee I have and continue to find your forum so comforting even after a successful reunion nearly 3 months ago, this Christmas I have never felt so lonely even though my birth mother tells me she has never felt so settled and hopes to bring the baby that is deep within me out! I have no idea how to do that or what it even means seasons greeting to you all and I wish you all to find however small some personal peace. xx

    1. Your feelings of "loneliness" are most likely the unsettled feelings you have as you somewhere consider the life not lived, what life might have been like without the interruption of adoption. Your mother feels "found," and now you feel lost. Time should make you feel more settled with what is. Hugs, and Merry Christmas.

  6. Thank you Lorraine hugs to you and have a peaceful Christmas

  7. "My daughter (who found me and was thrilled to have done so) walked away six years ago and she stays in contact with my sister (!) the snake, and my sister has taken up the role of "aunt" to my daughter, who acts as if I'm dead. So that cuts out having Christmas dinner with my sister and her daughter and family and the new baby I'm crazy about her because I just can't stand it, and it's just my husband and me and it gets pretty grim, trying to pretend I'm fine." This is me, except it's now 15 years without a word. I'll Google her several times a year, around her birthday or Mother's Day or other day of significance. This year I didn't send an email with just "Happy Birthday" in the subject line. There are two grandsons, 12 and 13? 13 and 14? who don't know I exis. When they learn of this chapter of my life, my young honorary sons and daughters (I'm a "road mama" to many musicians and their young families), always tell me it's her loss, because I'm awesome. And it doesn't have to be, shouldn't be this way, but we all know the adoption constellation is complicated from all angles. So, I'll go see Little Women and make a prime rib dinner for two and serve it on my good china. And remember that it's just one day.

    1. Hugs to you, Gretchen. OF course I was thinking about you. You are awesome! And full of fun and life and joy. Your day at cozy cabin sounds swell, along with your Christmas slippers!

  8. I know you know my crazy story...10 years ago, I lost my husband...no kids...my daughter walked away 4 years ago. I wish her well, think of her daily...and continue to live. I don't do the tree (new pup is massively destructive) and see only people that actually wznt me in their life. All will be what it will be...happy Christmas!

  9. Call me "Elizabeth" because I find "Anonymous" annoying, but am not tech savvy enough to change it. Anyway, I am a single mother by way of adoption of a boy, now a teenager, who was a toddler when I adopted him. I am not conflicted (vis-a-vis birthmothers) about having adopted him because his birthparents were incapable of raising him (drugs, crime, etc.). However, I have great compassion for birthmothers and children on the "adoption triad", and have little patience with people who want to adopt and believe that adoption is primarily about rounding out THEIR lives. (I am equally contemptuous of people who go to crazy lengths to bear biobabies, creating and destroying any number of embryos in said quest.) My son is not an "easy" child, but I love him so much my teeth ache. He wouldn't be any couple's first choice, which is fine by me. So...just sending love and best wishes to all the biomothrs out there. Ther ARE mothers like me who want to adopt children who truly NEED mothers/parents.

    1. Elizabeth, We always say adoption is for children who need parents, not the other way around, and you certainly fill that bill. Thanks for leaving a note here to be read by one and all. Merry Christmas to you are yours.

  10. It's hard to realize that in reunion, things might be going well today, but maybe not tomorrow. However, I think the inverse can also be true - There might be complete silence today - but in the future, given time, that may change.

    My reunion with my younger son at first had warmth; over the last five years that has diminished, and these days he doesn't want me to come to visit him, but only wants to see me if he is in my city for some reason (I'm in the next state). A "no exchanging of gifts" moratorium was put in place 2 years ago; I still sent gifts to his son (my grandson), but they are not acknowledged or commented on at all. My son is still friendly, and we correspond by texts and email - but has mentioned often that although he has time to read texts, he doesn't have time to respond (I didn't ask or say anything about that?). He made up a story about a trip he was taking, when I asked to come visit for his birthday. To make a long story short . . . I didn't push or say anything, but this kept up for awhile and sounded more improbable - several people said to me that I should have realized from the start, that there was "no trip." I wish he didn't feel the need to lie about not visiting, something simple like "that won't work" is OK, he started using that later on :)

    Not sure what's going on, but I will have to wait until we are together in person and will inquire. The last time I saw him (which was in the Summer), he said "I don't know when we will see each other again."

    Maybe I did something wrong or offended him, I hope not. But it seems to be a consensus (from therapist, husband) that maybe it is too much for him, too intense (his feelings). No way to know, and we don't have much history, so it's really a question mark. I think that what has been described in this thread is more common than not, for whatever the variety of reasons may be. We don't have the perspective of our adoptee natural children, and there's no way we can know what their thoughts are. We can only be as kind as we are able to, and live in present, treat them as the older children or adults, they now are.

    Happy Holidays to everyone, definitely as Lorraine says, accept what is - But never let hope die, don't be naive, but always that it might improve given time (probably a lot of time, but that's out of our control - if it doesn't happen, be happy with yourself that you tried your best.) Best wishes to everyone.

    1. New and Old...I was out of reach for a day and half and just read you comment now. Yes, your son certainly seems to have drifted away. You probably almost certainly did nothing to "offend" him other than relinquish him as a child, for whatever the reason. That sense of abandonment sticks like glue and for many, it's really impossible to change the narrative. As long as my daughter was alive, I never knew how much I could trust whatever relationship we had. When we first gave our children up, most of us "lost" them; a trust was broken; nothing was ever going to be as if we had raised them.

      Thank you for telling your story and for your words of wisdom. I hope you and yours did have a good Christmas. xx

  11. Where's that little happy face button? Once again, your hammer hit squarely. Happy holidays isn't really appropriate but how about "wishing you all the best, Lorraine." Leslie, or whatever my name is

  12. Such a thoughtful post, Lorraine. I love this blog, and have kept up with the posts, although I don't comment often anymore. Partly, it is to focus on raising my now preteen son (mainly, being a listener when he asks me to be that ear for him) and partly, it is because I have increasingly come to believe this is a forum that is more for me to read and learn from and less about sharing my perspectives as an adoptive parent. There is nothing I can say that would make things better for separated natural mothers (parents) and their children.

    This comment is for me to wish you and Jane and your families peace in the coming year. I hope all natural mothers and their children, in reunion or otherwise, found themselves surrounded by people who love them and want to be with them. For my son, this Christmas was special as he got to meet his sister in person and they are in contact, mainly by text, since. Both are overjoyed, and I pray it is the beginning of what will be a brother-sister bond for the rest of their lives (he is 11, she 19).

    Much Love,

    1. Jay, that is a burst of good news for your son. I am always glad to hear from you.

  13. For first mothers, the internet has been both good and bad. It's good in that we can share feelings with others in the same boat and they understand. On the other hand, we read of situations where we are outright rejected or used to fill medical forms. Then, we read about first mothers who refuse contact.

    My point? First mothers may *expect* to get hurt and this is why they pull back. Just my opinion. In conclusion, though, I do think mental and emotional preparedness is a good thing. Discussing our situations and feelings is much better than pre-internet when we did not have an easily accessible forum and often bottled things up.

  14. You have my sympathy, understanding, and sincere thanks for sharing and for your sage advice.
    Hugs and much love xx <3



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