Caught In The Middle

Some circumstances in life are just plain hard to judge. I understand the point of view of this adoptive mother, even so, where is the compassionate middle ground. I haven’t decided. Here is one adoptive mother’s point of view –

I had to discuss with my son’s biological mom that there are boundaries and if she wanted to be involved in any way then she needed to understand them and honor them. My son is MY son, not hers. We came up with a special name that we refer to her as. Never mom. Also we discussed social media. She is never to address him as her son. He is not her son. She is to call him by his given name. I understand that biological moms have to deal with the emotional aspect but so do the adoptive moms. She is no longer his mother. A mother is far more than giving birth. A mother raises you and puts you first. I am very close with his biological mom. I have a great relationship with her for my son’s sake and it was a surrender. She was not forced in any way. But she is not his mother any longer. I am. I accept her role in his life as a special person who loves him. But I am his mother, not her. And she understands and respects that. She is thankful that I allow her to be a part of our family. I didn’t take his mom away from him. She took her role as mom away from herself including by making bad choices and choosing drugs over parenting. I’m his mom and will always be. She will always be a special person in his life but never his mom. Advice to other adoptive moms – set boundaries and don’t let biological moms walk all over you. Let them know their role in the family now.

The person who revealed this mindset commented – I find this very sad and very controlling. What if the child decided one day to call his birth mom “mom” ? She can’t call him her son ? This is sad. Birth parents grieve too. They hurt too. Even parents from foster care. They grieve. They lost their child. I wish we can offer empathy to birth parents especially from foster care instead of looking down on them and using innocent children to hurt them and the child.

I do feel that putting a child in the middle of this situation isn’t fair to the child. The same kind of thing happens very often in divorce. I remember trying to walk that difficult middle ground. “You still have a mother who loves you. And you still have a father who loves you. But we are not going to all live together anymore.” Life is complicated enough. So how to simplify the situation suggested above ?

I do agree with this perspective – “I’m sure the only reason the biological mother agrees with this is so she can have something to do with her son. There is a difference between a ‘mom’ and a ‘mother’ but it is ultimately up to the child to decide how to view each one of these women. Not the biological mom or the adoptive mom.” These two should not be playing their own issues off with the child caught in the middle.

Someone else disagreed and I do see this point as well – No difference between a mother and mom to me. I have two moms and two mothers. Same difference. It’s not confusing. I see no reason to distinguish a difference or set them apart.

And in fact, this is a valid point – If it wasn’t for the biological mom, the adoptive mom wouldn’t even have her son in the first place. I don’t give a damn if the biological mother’s rights where legally severed, she is still his mom at the end of the day and always will be the woman who gave birth to him.

I am still seeking what I sense is an important middle ground. I understand the need for the adoptive mother to be the final say in most of what happens in this child’s life, to maintain her parental authority to make decisions – at least for a minor child. Yet, emotions and feelings are less clear. I believe that most children actually are capable of keeping the two women in a separate yet proper perspective. My heart tells me that is the truth.

What I am sensing is a possessiveness, an ownership of one person over the love of another person, by putting the magical role of motherhood into the middle of this situation. As the divorced mother of a daughter who’s step-mother married her father and so, the two of them raised my daughter, I already understand what a difficult balancing act these situations are. I did attempt to put my daughter’s feelings and interests ahead of my own. My daughter and I have discussed how similar her childhood was to that of someone who was adopted.

Believe It Or Not – I Do

Today’s story –

I wanted to share a little story as I believe we retain memories from when we were in the womb and I’m tired of people saying infants don’t experience trauma being separated from their mom or that we were too young to remember. I’m a domestic infant adoption. I was adopted before I was born and it was finalized 3 months after. My mom never saw me or held me outside her body. They wouldn’t let her because they were afraid she’d change her mind. When I was a kid, I tried to get everyone to call me Storm. I wanted to change my name. I felt, deeply, that I was Storm. Nobody would call me that, and some made fun of me, so I stopped, but I still called myself that on the inside. Fast forward many years. I met my biological mom when I was 21. I immediately recognized her and even recognized her smell. I asked her if she’d named me. She said yes, I named you Stormy.

Here’s my personal version. On my mom’s original birth certificate that I received with her adoption file from the state of Tennessee, her mom’s name is listed as Lizzie Lou Stark (her maiden name which is common on birth certificates, she was married, her married surname was Moore). I have referred to my original maternal grandmother as Lizzie Lou ever since I knew her name. Finally, met some of my mom’s maternal line cousins (my mom died in 2015 knowing nothing except that her parents were Mr & Mrs J C Moore – not a lot to go on, so common and vague), they refer to her as Aunt Lou. Well, my middle sister, born 13 mos after me was named Lou Anne. There was a sister in law of my dad’s adoptive mother we called Aunt Anne as children. But the “Lou” part ? My husband has theorized that as my mom wasn’t separated from her mother until she was about 8 months old and was physically present with her until she was 6 months old, deep in my mom’s infant memory was the name “Lou”. Therefore, this story this morning made me smile and I read it to my husband.

Another adoptee shares – I have a similar story, though not nearly as amazing because I wasn’t adopted until I was 13 months old. But I wasn’t talking yet, and in 1978, my parents were told I’d have no memories of my first year of life. Once I could speak, I asked what had happened to my dog, and about my yellow house with a fence. Both of those memories were accurate I found out when I found my biological family. Also, anytime I pretended to be someone else with my friends, I picked a name similar to Nicole. It turns out my first name was Tiffany Nicole, and I was called Nikki.

And one more for Foster Care Awareness Month – I was put in a temporary foster home from birth to two months when I was placed with my adoptive parents. From the time I could speak, every baby doll I ever had I named Amy. I found out at age 20 that my name in foster care was Amy.

Unreasonable Fears

I remember worrying the first time we visited our egg donor after our oldest son was born. We were there to try a second time with her to conceive a sibling for our son (spoiler alert – we succeeded). As his gestational, biological but not genetic mom, I was worried about how I was going to feel when she interacted with him. That turned out to be an unreasonable fear on my part because it was clear that she had ZERO confusion about what her role in our family was. She had 3 genetically related biological children already. She has always been interested in the boys but from a distance, never initiating contact with them. They are linked to her as their genetic mother at 23 and Me and so they have an avenue of contact without concerns about my monitoring any such interaction.

The truth is, no matter the reassurances prospective adoptive parents were once given and regardless of the continued practice in half these United States of maintaining sealed records and denying adult adoptees the right to their own origin information, it is a whole new ballgame now. Inexpensive DNA and social networking platforms now make it possible for adoptees to discover and reach out to their original, natural families. Adoptive parents best get over it. Therefore, today I share a piece from Slate because the advice this nervous adoptive parent receives is spot on. I will excerpt the original question (my asides in parentheses) but share the response in full. If you want to read the entire piece – you can go to this link – I’m Devastated My Daughter Secretly Contacted Her Birth Mother.

Dear Care and Feeding, Apparently, when our adopted daughter went through our files a few months ago looking for her Social Security number, she found some adoption records with her biological mom’s name and a little bit of info, and she used it to find her on Facebook. We did a closed adoption and have never had contact with the woman.

I didn’t think she cared who her bio parents were, or about being adopted. (Truth – adoptees always care, even if it isn’t apparent.) She and her biological mother have been talking for about three months, but she hadn’t told me because she was afraid we wouldn’t approve or we would think it was a rejection of us. (And her instincts appear to have been correct.)

They’re planning to meet at a coffee shop, and from the messages, bio mom sounds very eager to meet my daughter. I know I should be happy that they’ve been reunited, but I can’t help feeling hurt and rejected, like I’m not enough for her. I am terrified that this woman might try to take over my role in her life and become her mother figure in adulthood. I’m also apprehensive because my daughter has kept their relationship a secret. It worries me that they have been talking behind my back.

The main reason I’m writing is because my daughter is now wanting to involve me in the in-person reunion, and her bio mom wants to meet me too (we never met when I picked my daughter up from the hospital). I don’t want to go. I chose a closed adoption for a reason. 

The response –

Dear Tale of Two Moms, I understand how hard this is for you. If you chose a closed adoption because you didn’t want the bio mom involved in your life in any way, and you’ve spent 17 years certain that your daughter “didn’t care” that she was adopted or have any curiosity about her biological parents, this development must make you feel that your world is tilting on its axis. I’m hoping you can take a breath and think this through clearly, setting all of your own feelings aside for a moment.

Your daughter is offering you the chance to participate in something that’s important to her. Is she making that offer because she truly wants you and her bio mom to get to know each other? Maybe—maybe simply sitting with the two of you will be helpful to her and bring her a sense of wholeness or resolution that she is seeking as she enters adulthood. Or maybe she is asking you to join her simply because she wants you to feel included, to make it clear to you that her desire to meet her bio mom is not a rejection of you. Or how about this? Maybe she’s nervous about this meeting and wants to be able to lean on her mom. Or—for all you know—maybe she’s acceding to the bio mom’s wishes: The woman who gave her up for adoption would like to know who has been the mother to this child. To reassure herself that she did the right thing all those years ago—and/or to have the chance to thank you. And the daughter you raised is kind and generous enough to want to help her do that.

No matter which one of these possibilities is true—and all of them may be true—you should brave this meeting. It’s the right thing to do. Will there be tension? I suspect this is up to you.

And please try to let go of your distress about your daughter keeping her correspondence with her bio mom a secret from you, and talking to her “behind your back.” She did so because she feared you wouldn’t approve or would feel rejected—and she was right, wasn’t she? You don’t approve; you do feel rejected. Your terror, as you describe it, that the woman will take over your role in your daughter’s life is something for you to work out (I hope with the help of a therapist, because it sounds like you are having a very rough time with this). You can’t pretend any longer that your daughter’s adoption at birth isn’t a part of her life story.

And I will remind you, too, that the amount of love we all have available to give is not finite. If it turns out that your daughter and her bio mom do develop a real, ongoing relationship at this point, it does not take anything away from you; it gives your child one more person to love and to be loved by. I’m not suggesting that jealousy and envy—and insecurity—are easy to rise above. What I’m suggesting is that for your daughter’s sake, you make every effort. And if, in the end, nothing comes of this reunion except that your daughter is able to satisfy her curiosity about where she comes from, I hope you’ll make an effort to understand and support her in that too. For that matter, if things “get complicated” and go awry, as you also fear, and your daughter ends up heartbroken, your job will be to support her through that too. Because you are her mom, and that’s what moms do.

Difficult Relationships In The Moment Of Dying

Even when an adoptee is able to find and attempt a reunion with their biological mother, it doesn’t always go well.  Case in point, a woman who tried to create a relationship about 11 years ago. The woman and her mother talked on the phone for months almost every single day. During that time period, they were supposed to meet multiple times.  The mother always ended up backing out – every single time. The adoptee tried to give her mother the benefit of the doubt, but it hurt more and more every single time this happened.

She found out 2 days ago that her biological mother had been put into a medically induced coma and a decision was made to pull the plug and her mother died. This woman goes on to say – I didn’t really think I would have any feelings in regards to her passing as I didn’t have a relationship with her. Yet, last night I didn’t get much sleep and I’ve been in this fog since I found out. I haven’t cried, but I have been feeling a little bit of regret.”

Then comes the kicker for her – she finds out that her mother put  her and a younger sister (age 19 and was raised by her biological dad, a step mom and somewhat their mutual biological mother) down as her next of kin, which is technically true but can have unintended consequences.  She has learned that they will both have to sign the paperwork for the funeral home to cremate their mother and will be required to make all of the decisions about her services.

She goes on to say – I know nothing about this woman. I’ve hated her for so long that I literally blocked her in every way possible. Why would she put this responsibility on me? It has made me so mad. And I don’t even know if everything has already been paid for or if my little sister and I have to pay for it. I literally can’t afford to pay for anything else right now except my bills. I am seriously at a loss. 

And yet, there comes another woman in similar circumstances with a different experience.  Her biological mother is dying but recently blocked her on Facebook. She is distressed because she won’t even get to say goodbye to her mother. But sympathetically, she acknowledges that she would also be mad if someone tried to make her responsible for her deceased mother’s expenses, especially since her mother won’t even speak to her.

And she goes on to acknowledge – Either way, it’s tough – especially when we are told all our lives that we aren’t rejected – we are loved and wanted and then you grow up and get rejected all over again.

The experience of yet another woman reminds me of my own mom . . .

I spent years hating my birth mom. She died the month I decided to start looking.  Then my siblings found me to let me know she’d died before I even started. I was not involved in anything and I really didn’t know her. Sometimes I wish I could have been there, or been acknowledged some way. I don’t know what’s worse.

One biological mother who gave up her child to adoption wrote –  if I died, I would put my daughter down as a person on the list.  I would want it to be her choice for once.  She could choose to be a part or just drop her biological mother for good. I just feel like it would be rude not to include her, even though our relationship is bad, I would still want her to have the choice.  I know, kinda crap after the fact but I’m trying not to make any more decisions for her.

Being an adoptee is complicated business, even once the adoptee is grown and a mature adult.  First of all – no one can make you financially responsible in this situation.  Do not sign anything and make the case that you are NOT legally related to this person.

However, this is always true – grief simply is complicated terrain for most people to navigate.  There is nothing you might feel that can be labeled “wrong” … it just is how you feel. Anger is OK. Rage is OK. Sad is OK. Indifferent is OK. Relief is OK. Feeling nothing is OK. And most importantly, remember, none of this is going to be a permanent heartache in your life going forward, though it may always remain a painful memory.