The Uncertainty Inherent

Today’s story is about a birth mother who’s daughter, put up for adoption, has rejected contact with her 25 years later thanks to the Dear Therapist article in The Atlantic.

My daughter gave a child up for adoption about 25 years ago. She already had one child, and although I offered to help her raise both children, she felt it wouldn’t be fair to us or to the baby, so she gave her up to a very nice couple, whom we both interviewed and liked. The couple has kept in touch with us both over the years, sending pictures and updates on their daughter.

My daughter always felt that in time the child would want to get in touch with her, and in fact, her adoptive parents have encouraged this, but the girl has always said she didn’t want to. This is very painful for my daughter. Can you give us an idea as to why the young woman might not want to meet her birth mother, or offer any explanation that would make my daughter feel less rejected? She has even tried contacting her on Facebook, and the response was that Facebook was not an appropriate place to discuss this relationship. But no reciprocal contact has ever been made.

Blog Author’s note – It’s tough being a vulnerable, under supported, financially struggling birth mother. I get it. In my own family, the two children put up for adoption have since reconnected with this but that does not un-do all the years of living lives separated into other families. Even for my own self, I’ve re-connected with my actually genetic, biological relatives but it doesn’t make up for not knowing each other for decades. It is better to know who they are, it’s just tough building a relationship after so much time has gone by. So I am interested in this response.

Answer from the therapist –

I’m glad you’re curious about why the woman your daughter put up for adoption 25 years ago might not want to meet her birth mother. I say this because you write about your daughter’s pain and feeling of rejection, but I’m not sure that your daughter has a good sense of how her adopted child might feel—not only about this meeting, but about the circumstances that led to the adoption and her life since then.

Something to consider: Adopted children don’t get to choose whether or not they are adopted, or what family they’ll end up in. Adults make these choices for them. Given their lack of choice in what happened, making their own decisions about how to handle their experiences later on matters greatly.

Of course, different adoptees will make different decisions, for all kinds of reasons. But too often, adults try to dictate how they should feel and what they should do with regard to their birth parents. Sometimes it goes something like “You shouldn’t try to find your birth parents; after all, your mom and dad will be so hurt.” Other times it might be “Don’t search for your birth parents, because it might disrupt their lives or that of their families. They chose a closed adoption for a reason.” Or: “You should definitely search for them, because you’ll regret it later if you don’t.” Or: “How can you refuse to meet your birth parents? Don’t you realize how lucky you are that they’ve reached out and you have the opportunity to know them?” None of this, of course, respects the feelings of the person who was adopted.

Right now, there doesn’t seem to be much regard for your daughter’s biological child’s wants or needs—your perspective seems to be all about your daughter’s desire for this relationship. In fact, there’s so little regard for this young woman’s feelings that your daughter, despite knowing that her biological child has consistently said she’s not interested in meeting, reached out to her on Facebook.

As for why someone who was adopted may not want to meet her birth mother, the reasons are as varied as the individuals involved. Some adopted children feel angry or abandoned by the birth parents, especially if there are other siblings who stayed with one or both biological parents, as is the case here. (This may feel like being the “unwanted child.”) Some adoptees don’t have those feelings—they are living a perfectly happy life—but there’s fear of the emotional turmoil such a meeting might bring. It could raise new questions of what might have been; it could reveal information that the adoptee would rather not have known; it could start a relationship that doesn’t work out, resulting in a loss that could be quite painful on top of whatever feelings of loss the adoptee already has.

I’ve also heard from some adoptees who have met their biological parents that they found the experience disappointing. Despite imagining that they’d have a lot in common with their biological parents, upon meeting they felt as though these people were aliens with different interests, worldviews, personalities, and values—leaving them with a sense of emptiness. Some have told me that they would have preferred to maintain whatever fantasy they had of their biological parents rather than be faced with the much starker reality.

All of this is to say: A lot can go wrong, so it makes sense that some adoptees would choose not to be in contact with their biological parents. But whatever this young woman’s reasons, she doesn’t owe your daughter an explanation. It’s not her job to meet your daughter’s emotional needs.

Instead, gaining a better understanding of what those emotional needs are might help your daughter feel less pain about not meeting her biological daughter. I imagine that she has a lot of complicated feelings about the adoption that perhaps she doesn’t fully understand, and talking to a therapist about them might not only lessen the intensity of the longing but also help her consider what she’s asking of her biological daughter and why.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that your daughter’s biological child may feel differently about reaching out at another juncture in her life. She may have some questions about the family’s medical history one day, or decide that she wants the experience of seeing her biological mother face-to-face. If that time does come, it will be important to focus on her needs. There’s a difference between a phone conversation and a meeting, and between a meeting and embarking on a relationship. The less this woman worries that her biological family might want more from her than she’s willing to give—which is likely how she feels now—the more open she might become one day to making contact. But even if she doesn’t, the most loving thing you can do for her is to honor her choice.

Post Adoption Depression

Yes, it is a thing.  I believe it is partly caused by unrealistic expectations.  Fantasy and reality have collided.  The difference between those expectations and reality create a very real stress and may even lead to depression.

It is a crash in the “high” of adopting (basically the excitement is over), the dopamine is no longer being released.  The sad fact is that the adoptive parent finds they still have the same emptiness troubling them that drove them to adopt to begin with.

Life had been a flurry of emotions during the adoption journey: hope, relief, frustration, waiting, excitement, and not to mention adding another person to one’s family.  Not having the hormone fluctuations related to birth does not mean that the adoptive parent won’t have their own share of emotional fluctuation.

Of course, new parents of both genders have emotional reactions to 1) sleep deprivation 2) new roles and 3) reconfiguration of daily life, but having this is not the same as hormone induced postpartum depression that a delivering mother experiences.

So, with a newborn, sleep deprivation can certainly be a factor. If an older child was adopted, then the reality of a traumatized child may be very different than the idealistic vision hopeful adoptive parents  expected.

An adoptive parent may even grieve for the child who is now in their own home, who they may love desperately, only to find that child dreams of his original mother coming back to reclaim him.  An adoptive mother can never replace the original one.

So a couple does CHOOSE to adopt.  If those circumstances turn out to be hard to live, like any biological parent, they need to deal directly with it.  If it’s all NOT what the adoptive parents expected, they should seek help and learn to deal with the reality. That’s parenting and adoptive parents have signed up for it voluntarily.

Depression sucks regardless of what it’s caused by. Affected parents need to seek help, see a trauma informed therapist, seek out specific resources, get on anti depressants if necessary – but NEVER just throw away a child.

An Un-fill-able Yearning

Now my adoptive grandparents did love us.  It is true and I’d never say they did not.  My adoptive grandmothers were both deeply religious too.

One of those Facebook quizzes that goes around quite a lot asked –

14. If you could talk to ANYONE right now who would be?

My answer was –

My real grandparents – never got to know them alive

Hearing about them from newly discovered “real” relations does help these nebulous persons become more real for me but nothing can fill the deep desire in my heart to be in their presence, to feel their personal energies and to be held and in deep conversation one-on-one with them.  That will have to wait for the great reunion that can’t occur while I yet live and breathe on the Earth plane.

The closest indications I have of their natures, is what my own two parents were like in life, and I do believe they embodied the deepest core characteristics of the parents that my own parents never had the opportunity to know because they were each given up for adoption and raised by strangers – even if the strangers were entirely well-meaning (which I acknowledge they were).

Hiraeth

I have started reading The Lies That Bind: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Rejection, Redirection, DNA, and Discovery by Laureen Pittman.  I may have more to say about her book when I finish reading it.

Yesterday, I came across this concept of Hiraeth. It is a Welsh word meaning a homesickness for a home or place to which you cannot return, somewhere that perhaps never was; nostalgia, yearning or grief for the lost places of one’s past.

Hiraeth is an unattainable longing for a place, a time, a person or people; a history that no longer exists or may never have actually existed at all. To feel hiraeth is to feel a deep incompleteness and yet recognize it as familiar.

There was something left undone within me when I embarked on discovering my family’s true origins.  There was a deep desire for the real.  My original grandmothers both nursed and cared for my parents for several months of their lives, approximately 6 to 8 mos of those lives.  This is far different in my own mind than the mother who gives up her baby at birth.  These women were beginning to know the person that these babies were becoming.  I cannot imagine the pain that followed them throughout their lives.

This morning “family of choice” has a different meaning for me.  My adoptive grandmothers chose my parents to raise as their own.  I cannot say that my original grandmothers truly had a choice.  They were pressured into relinquishing their child.

As I have been uncovering their stories, there is a deep longing in me to know them and I never really can.  I’ve been able to find some cousins and an aunt who can share with me some things about the persons I long for, including the grandfathers I’ll never know as well.  It helps but cannot fill the hole left in my soul when my parents were taken from their parents by strangers to raise.

Losing A Mom

Many of us have lost our mothers.  Whether we had her for a short time, almost no time at all, like my paternal grandmother who lost her own mother at age 3 mos.  Or whether we had her for a bit longer, like my maternal grandmother who lost her own mother at age 11.  Or whether we had her for much longer.  I lost my mother in 2015 at the age of 61.

My mom carried a deep unhealed wound that was caused by the unintended (unintended by her own mother) separation from her mother when she was exploited due to financial desperation.  When my mom tried in the early 1990s to get her origins information and reach out for contact with her original parents, she was told her mother had already died and that devastated her.

There was an emptiness that my mom carried her whole life and it was real and not imagined.  She was alone in a real sense with the issues that her life presented her with and we all are in reality.

Death is inevitable.  I accepted that almost 20 years ago when I learned I was positive for hep C but would never be treated for that.  Even though I knew nothing about my original grandparents and my own parents were still alive, my OB said he was more worried about my heart than my liver.  It seems he was intuitive.

Having now located who all 4 of my original grandparents were, I also know they all died of heart related causes.  Both of my own parents also died of heart related causes.  So I have to take my own health seriously in the aspects related to that.

Even so, no one can save my life.   We are all born to die and the timing of our death is never known until it is upon us.  What matters to me is the quality of the lifetime that I have available to me.  I do my best to honor that gift.