Friday, January 1, 2021

New Year's Day: That time of year when we long to connect

It's New Year's Day and I am reading a terrific new book about horrific adoption practices called American Baby, subtitled the "Shadow History of Adoption," but as I read about how records came to be sealed, how babies were treated as goods to be sold/given to wealthy families, my mind keeps turning to the sadness that is dripping across my Facebook feed. Adoptees and birth mothers write about the despair of not connecting, decades after birth and separation. It's that time of the year when our social impulse urges us to connect.  

Mothers are distraught because their children, now grown and found, do not want to stay in touch after a brief reunion, or a non-reunion following connection via Facebook, email or telephone. Adult children are diffident about reunion, while mothers are breast-beating in sorrow, hoping, waiting for more. Adoptees are crushed that their found biological families--mothers especially--do not embrace them because of politics, strangeness, or just...because they can. My Facebook feed, which has eliminated nearly everything but adoption-related posts, is difficult to read now. I see less often the posts of friends from outside of adoption, even family members are less likely to come up. 

And while now and then a "good" reunion story comes through, the bulk of them are overbearingly sad. I try to write a few words of comfort, but I remember the days when my daughter did not speak to me, and how much it hurt. I remember my granddaughter once telling me that my daughter once said, "We are not going to see Lorraine" anymore now. That's when a letter to my granddaughter was returned with a bright red "Refused" written on it. My daughter's husband at the time was a postman. But that separation too came to an end. 

The beach near my home 

In time, Jane would call and begin the conversation with "How are you?" as if we had spoken only days earlier. I learned not to question her about the absence, the messages not returned.  What was the point? Did I ever get used to her comings and goings? Yes, somewhat. Eventually, I grew a protective shield. I cared less because how many times--after decades--was she going to stomp on my heart? Then things would be going great and I'd let down my guard and I'd do or say something that upset her, or her adoptive mother would say or do something that hurt Jane, and Jane's way of dealing with that was to shut me out. Again. 

Adoption hurts. Beginning there and moving forward with the knowledge that nothing will ever be as if the rift between mother and child did not happen may be the true beginning of healing for both sides. Honesty, without being cruel, can help. Adoptees can say, I just can't deal with this now, it's too much, give me some time. Knowing how much pain is involved for birth/first mothers who ache for reunion, I hope that that "time" does not extend into "forever." Mothers can admit the flow of painful emotions are overwhelming, but they should recognize that the child, if wanting reunion, needs them now as much as an infant does for sustenance. Now the need is for emotional sustenance. I cannot stress enough that the pain that rejecting mothers inflict by rejecting adoptees seeking reunion and recognition in the family is as great as an infant crying out for milk. 

For some, this horrid year of Covid and death will not have ended with the tolling of the bells at last night's midnight. Some reunions will never go the way we wish them to, and we simply must make do. The people who want to be in our lives will be; you don't have to go chasing after them. In the end, we all must accept that our lives can not be detached from our past. We can overcome a great many setbacks and difficulties, but they are still with us. It is what we do with them that determines our future and our peace of heart.--lorraine

PS: Soon I'll write more about that book American Baby, A Mother, A Child and the Shadow History of Adoption by Gabrielle Glaser. 


  1. Last night I watched the following, 1949 film:

    I was not prepared as a first mother for the revisited unleashing of pain. This film is a perfect example of the times,as it demonstrates the half truths and propaganda surrounding the advent of adoption agencies which sprang up following the war in the USA - the manipulation by social workers needing to sell their traumatized pregnant mothers babies. Like the mother in this movie, I too was told it was too late to get my baby back. This movie by Ida Lupino, is a masterpiece of directing and acting. The ending, well, see for yourself. Read the viewer comments. They are more telling than the movie...Lorraine, I wish you peace, prosperity and love in the new year.

    1. Thanks for the link/information about this movie.

  2. I too watch the cycle - which is apparently yet again rising to the "talk to me" stage... although I love her, I don't know if I can do this yet again. 11 years ago I lost my support, my spouse, and it feels as if allowing it yet again will kill me... a heart condition x's 2 now is not a good thing... I wish that it was different, but it isn't. I don't know if I can do this again.

  3. Ya, I won't be reconnecting with my son unless he disowns his adoptive parents. I have no wish to be connected to someone who is in relationship with people who stole my son. I know it sounds selfish. But I refuse to have abrelationshio with my son if he is going to be angry or disrespectful.

    1. Had we been confident enough to be "selfish", we may still have had our children

  4. A happy new year to you all and thank you from this adoptee for all your advice being from the Uk i would like to share a fantastic little movie that you may or may not be aware of completely unscripted which i feel having gone through a brief reunion is as close to the real thing as can be portrayed on the screen as fiction.

    1. Thanks for posting about Secrets and Lies, Anon. It was a big hit in the US when it came out but many of our younger readers may not be familiar with it. One of things that struct a nerve in the US was that records were opened in the UK in 1975 but still sealed in all but two states in the US.

      I saw Secrets and Lies just after my relinquished daughter contacted me in 1997. I recommended it to her in our first conversation. We did a lot of analysis -- the adoptee' professions as an optometrist to bring clarity. The brother as a photographer was to make things look better than they were.

  5. I hope my natural family will reach out every year. Especially now that I have a granddaughter. You would think that would mean something to my father, but it doesn't seem to. I sent a picture of her to his sister, but I don't know if he knows about her.
    My adoptive father died in 1990, when I was 26. I consider my natural parents to be my parents. I don't care what society, or other people say about that.

    His daughter and granddaughter live with him. The ones my parents kept are so special and lucky, and I'll bet they have no idea.

    How do you decide one child is worthy of love, and another not?

  6. That last sentence is a shot to the heart of the matter. Fathers especially can feel less than connected, and many do. Some people, and men more than women, can cut off their emotions. It may be guilt over not having stepped up at the time and you in the flesh reminds him of that; it may be just...a lack of emotional depth; it may be feeling that he is not capable of taking on responsibility for another child and grandchild. And it may be because he's an old crank! I'm so sorry it's like this for you, and we here send you our good thoughts.

  7. Your father's kept daughter may be pressuring him not to have a relationship with you. She wants him to show that she is more important to him than you. Since she lives with him, she has his ear 24-7.

  8. Lorraine's comments regarding fathers' inability to connect emotionally with some of their children are a very sad reality for many children. I have known a number of men personally who were like that. It does a lot of harm to children , grandchildren, also.
    It always fascinates me when they cut off the children they father in their early years,
    but then, when these fathers discover "fatherhood" in their later years...sometimes when they are entering middle age or older..they are just delighted to have a toddler or two running around to "keep them young."

  9. I don't think it's fair to speculate that his kept daughter, as a third party, has anything to do with this. Not fair to the daughter, and not fair to adoptomuss, who could feel that she is being victimized by her father's other daughter. This gives her father a "pass", when (in my opinion) the response to his adopted-out daughter is ENTIRELY on the father's shoulders. Blaming his kept daughter makes it sound that "if only - if only . . .", something could be actually done to change this situation.

    The one option that hasn't been brought up, is - he simply doesn't care. Or doesn't care enough. Or isn't capable of caring. Adoptomuss, I have been reading your story over the last few years, and we have had a few conversations online. Based on all that, this is the conclusion that stands out, above all else. It's very painful to accept, but I think that realizing that is the only thing that will help you to heal.

    You've made a wonderful life for yourself - and you may have inherited some traits from your natural father, but you didn't inherit his serious character and defects and reluctance to hear anything from anyone, other than what would make him feel good about himself. I'm so glad you are not like him in those ways.

    I was not adopted out, but I was "tossed out" of my family when my parents were divorced; since my mother was persona non grata, so was I - and I had no contact with my siblings for years. As an adult, I moved to the other side of the country to be reunited with them, and although they were somewhat friendly - but guarded - I realized that I wouldn't know them any better than if I were 2000 miles away. After 12 years of therapy, exploring "why?", "why?", the therapist offered, besides saying they "felt guilty": "They just don't care." This was an awakening for me, and it explained everything about their behavior which was a mystery all this time. It set me free, and suddenly I felt like I was let out of jail. I am hoping that you will entertain this idea, maybe in therapy; I think it may do the same for you.

    I'd be so happy if you could stop mourning this father, who doesn't want to be a father to you in any way, no matter what his reason could be. But I would lean toward the simple and obvious, based on what I have observed of your story over the years. You've been suffering for a long time.

    It's a waste I think to focus on him, and it will not lead anywhere. Just because someone is a birth relative, it doesn't guarantee that they "care", in fact if they don't, we would all be better off not trying to figure out why.

    You have a conscience, which is why you may feel it's something you did, or something is wrong with you. Believe me, I've been there. It's not you, it's him, and nothing could have changed his behavior.

  10. Thank you, New and Old, for answering, and yes, the final but hard words from your therapist were the words that set you free. I feel somewhat the same about the granddaughter (who was relinquished by her mother) who I haven't been in touch with for more than five years. The people who want to be in your life will be; you don't have to go chasing after them.

    This granddaughter wrote a really nasty piece about "WLWs," or White Liberal Women who relinquish their children. It was brutal and unforgiving. Since her own mother who relinquished her was dead, she lashed out at me, not only there, but in commentary apparently through a friend at a site following a story about hole in my heart. I feel no need to go chasing after her--especially since she wrote that essay (since taken down), and the comments left by someone close to her. I don't want someone that nasty in my life.
    The people who want to be in my life are.

    1. Pauline Trumpi EvansJanuary 22, 2021 at 4:39 PM

      To Lorraine: An on again, off again relationship with your daughter (and you tried so hard to make it work) and now rejection (lashing out) by your granddaughter.

      Adoption: The gift that keeps on giving. (Heartache.)

    2. I'm so sorry, Lorraine. It seems that when adoption is a player in a relationship, things can go south and disintregrate, suddenly and at any time, without warning. Perhaps because there will always be some great anger (whether is it acknowledged or not, and whether it's recognized, or not). Still, if the feeling is intimidation or hostility without any resolution, I think your feelings are correct. Everyone has so much serious trouble in their lives, there's no reason to encourage more. Adoption has so many facets and perspectives, and it seems impossible to reconcile that.

  11. I'd love to share details of my story with you (adoption,search, and reunion) if you're interested. But prefer to share privately. If you're interested, please let me know. I enjoyed your article on writing the first letter, which is the reason for my post here. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with others. I'm certain it means a lot.



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