Second Family Confusion ?

Matching Dresses

From an adoptive mother who has attempted an open adoption, which now appears in danger of becoming closed.

So birth mom requested before the adoption that we take annual photos together, our whole family along with her and her son. At the time we were fine with it, we’ve embraced her and her son as an extended part of the family and had no issue with us all having photos together. Well, here we are second year of photos and birth mom bought our daughter a dress for her birthday to wear. She told me about it and I thought it was so sweet. What she didn’t tell me was that her dress was going to match our daughter’s. She shows up with these “mommy and me dresses” for photos we are suppose to take as a family. Totally thrown of guard and didn’t say anything about it. Definitely bothered me though as I feel like that can be really confusing for my daughter as she gets older.

Second issue is that her birth mom is taking photos of our daughter with her biological son alone. I feel like this can be super confusing for a child also. She will see our family photos when we get together with birth mom and brother. Photos with her “second family”. The whole feels wrong to me.

Am I wrong in not being okay with these two scenarios? Like both of these cross boundaries and could be confusing for a young kid right? I don’t want her growing up thinking she has a third parent or another family like that. I guess I’m just looking for validation in my thought process before we address it with birth mom. It would be cute, if that was her mom but she isn’t, I am – and she didn’t even ask me if I’d be okay with it.

On response immediately noticed this red flag of insecurity – if she “was her mom but she isn’t . . .” Actually she is her mom and always will be. Such insecurity and denial of reality. When will adoptive parents learn that the biological parent IS mom and dad ? That never changes. These are the adoptive mom and adoptive dad. That is all the amended birth certificate did – give them rights of authority. It didn’t change the facts of the child’s biology.

Someone else pointed out what may be the crux of the issue – Wearing matching matching dresses with her mother, taking photos with her mother and little brother, are not confusing to that little girl. What is likely confusing to her (and what her adoptive mother doesn’t want to try to explain and justify to her because she knows it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny) is why can her little brother live with her mother, and not her ? The adoptive mother may not even understand what troubles her. This is not as uncommon as it may seem when an unwed mother gives up her first born and then later goes on to have other children. My paternal grandmother was one like that.

AND, why can’t she live with her biological mom ?! Because a selfish adult got attached to someone else’s child, and now that the mother is in a better position it doesn’t matter because the adopter/purchaser/adult; who should be able to manage their feelings appropriately; has the money and the power in the situation, and won’t let them go. This is why it is often suggested to a vulnerable expectant mother NOT to use a permanent solution to what may only be a temporary problem.

A reality check for the adoptive mother – Children need to know that they are loved by their parents! She’ll need the photos of her family. She’ll need the photos of herself and her brother. She’ll need the photos of herself and her mother. If you’re truly thinking of your adopted daughter, then you would understand why those photos should be the most talked about pictures framed in her room. It isn’t about you and your feelings. Think about how she will feel years from now finding out that you stopped contact because her MOTHER purchased mommy and me dresses ? Can you live with the hate, the backlash, the anger, THE TRAUMA!! That’s selfish. Are you really that blinded by a piece of legal paperwork ? Do you not see that it is ONLY a piece of paper and that baby has her mother’s DNA running through her veins! You do understand that there is absolutely nothing that anyone (including a judge) can do to change that ? Or are you really that selfish and controlling that you can’t see passed yourself and your own emotions ?

Never The Priority

From an Adoptee:

Do other adoptees feel as though they have never been a priority ? I struggle to explain it. Often it feels like I am just in the background of the lives of the people I love. Sometimes it feels like I am a tool they use to make their lives better. It rarely feels like people choose to be in my life for me. I can’t be the only one.

And she is NOT.

From another adoptee –  I feel like a ghost, an echo, invisible. It’s as if I am tolerated, even enjoyed sometimes, but not sought out or after. It is hard to explain.

And another – My whole life is basically me being used in one way or another. Even my closest friends mostly only call me when there’s a problem for me to solve. I guess that’s what I get for learning how to be the problem solver, because I learned early that I have only myself to rely on, while others have loving family to support them.

Yet another – Totally get that feeling. I’m in my 30s and still struggling. Except the way I’ve always felt with my family, my in laws, and definitely my biological family is the black sheep of every family. I really don’t feel like I belong anywhere.

And this – Only after I found out I was adopted did I start feeling like this. I question so many aspects of my life thanks to my adoptive mother and her controlling ways, I got so sick and tired of people defending her, saying she did it because she didn’t want to hurt me. As much as I hate to speak ill of the dead and given how much I loved her, (she died when I was 11, I didn’t learn the truth until I was 17) I can’t help but resent her and sometimes hate her because I feel like I was some sort of possession or weapon to be used against my biological mother. It’s a long and painful story to be honest, my family is pretty damn toxic, maybe I’ll be able to put it all into words one day, but right now…I just feel too much anger and resentment to be able to do so.

Another example –  I never felt like I wasn’t a priority to my adoptive parents with to their own biological children, I wasn’t accepted. I’m older now and it’s even more apparent the last 15 years. My adoptive parents adopted 5 kids in total and their biological children didn’t want anything to do with any of us. Always shunned us out. Even now, they never want us around their kids etc. It’s sad. I think they were jealous in some way. But I always felt like I did something wrong or I wasn’t good enough. Rejection trauma hurts.

This response is all too common (my mom was like that and passed it down to us girls) – I think my insecure attachment led to this. I am such a people pleaser and I tend to hide my emotions, so I’m not ‘a burden’. I’m deep down scared that if I act in or feel a way that others don’t approve of, people with leave me. With therapy, it’s gotten a lot better but my first instinct will probably always be to fawn. Another agreed – I think part of it is my people pleasing nature, I let people walk all over me and put my own stuff aside.

As the child of two adoptee parents, who now knows what my parents didn’t, who our original families were, this has been my experience too and on some level I understand – I don’t share life history with these people, it feels more like an accident of my parents’ birth – “I am a part of 4 different families. After finding my biologicals, I still don’t “fit” anywhere. It’s not at all a negative reunion story, I just don’t fully belong,” and that includes my adoptive relations. It has been the surprising downside of learning our truth.

Another adoptee perspective – I rarely even prioritize myself. I find more value in those around me than myself and feel I’m wasting time when I focus on me. I end up thinking that’s probably how others view me too. I’m also not sure what being a priority would look/feel like… I question if I’d recognize it or accept it, even if it were happening.

It is so universal, the wounds are deep and it never seems to get better – Even when I can look at how someone is treating me and can logically tell that I’m valued and a priority, I still don’t feel it. For me I think that it comes from feeling like an outsider in my family, I’m always waiting for the rejection.

I feel like I have to be super helpful just to get recognition that I’m a good person. It’s screwed up. I don’t feel good enough or worthy, even though I know I am… I still do these things to feel noticed and wanted.

Finally this admission – I am a reunited adoptee, very much integrated into my birth family. I was raised the youngest of four adopted children in a family that contentiously broke up when I was three. I was left out so many times in adopted family and am now having the experience of feeling excluded from something in my birth family. It has totally triggered my abandonment issues. The fact that I generally feel left out and am often alone, in general, with friends and family. Once again, I turn to forgiving others for not being who I wanted them to be and forgiving myself for wanting them to be people they are not. It’s tiring though. 

Choosing To Take That Risk

An adoptee offers a word of warning – to any hopeful adoptive parent who now wants to adopt, even though they already have biological kids:

Biological and adopted kids *should not be mixed*. Period.

Even if *you* believe you can treat your biological and adopted child equally (which is pretty fu****g rare), you cannot control how your biological child will treat their adopted sibling.

As somebody who has been treated absolutely *horrifically* by my adoptive mom’s biological kids, this has actually been the worst trauma of all, when it comes to my adoption.

And if you’re about to say “that isn’t always the case,” just stop for a second and consider these 2 things:

1. I don’t need to hear your “not all” bs, when I’m discussing the outright abuse I have experienced at the hands of my siblings, acquired by having been adopted.

2. If there is even a *miniscule* chance that your adopted child could experience what I have, and you wanna go through with it anyways, then you are selfish and careless. Imagine knowing that there is a possibility that your biological child may abuse or mistreat your adopted child, and you still chose to take that risk with a child’s life ?

And just today, I learned this statistic – even among biological siblings, sibling abuse is 5 times more common than spousal or parental abuse – it is actually the most common form of domestic abuse. And yet, adoptees also have an added layer of mental/emotional trauma due to having been relinquished by their original parents. The obvious difference between having been actually born to and having been brought into a family from different parents and circumstances is real and should not be dismissed.

One of those biological kids admits – Even though I love love love my adopted siblings and dote on them as much as possible, it does not erase the resentment. I resent them for “taking” my parents away and they resent us for being born to the family. They will NEVER know I resent them and even my parents don’t, but mixing adopted kids with biological kids is brutal on both sides. Then, goes on to give some additional context – 1) my siblings are far too young to have any idea & 2) I don’t feel upset that I’m not adopted. I do have a completely normal jealousy, at times, that they take attention away from me, since they’re the center of attention for the whole family. And I recognize that there will be obvious friction between me and the younger siblings, though it is not there at this present moment. In the future? Absolutely. And tries to clarify this – the resentment is towards my parents, the jealousy is towards my adopted siblings. Very different feelings. I never said the suffering on both sides was equal. Mine is typical sibling jealousy. My adopted siblings have a deep rooted trauma and a robbing of their history. I am working through it. I was already 19, when my younger adopted siblings moved in. My work is understanding that my parents don’t love/care about them more. They are simply young and traumatized. They require more care than I do. I am learning to understand the truth that I don’t need my parents as much as I often feel I do. I have an anxious attachment style with rejection sensitivity, a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life, so I am learning how that affects the way I feel about my parents.

So, the honest truth is – a HUGE percentage of adoptive parents WILL show favoritism towards their biological child, over their adopted child, whether they mean to or not. And the extended family treats them differently as well.

This, from experience – I would go as far to say, even if the adoptive parents have grown biological children. I freely tell people that I was adopted from foster care. I don’t normally share that when my adoptive parents died, their will left me in the custody of their eldest son and his family. Truth is, none of their three adult children ever agreed their parents should adopt me. When they died, I was kicked out of their son’s house and was told “nice to know you, you’re on your own now.” Adoption has so many layers that no one thinks about. And every time a hopeful adoptive parent or adoptee still in “the fog” (believing in the feel good narratives about adoption) counters a trauma or negative experience with their own beliefs, it not only insults and minimizes the pain they are responding to, but also minimizes the INFINITE number of situations they couldn’t possibly know about. Please stop pushing back against people with the lived experience who are trying to prevent even more trauma, by sharing your own limited experiences.

It Really Was That Bad

Today’s story –

I was adopted from foster care when I was 12. I was adopted into the same home as one of my biological sisters. Being adopted was the only way I could stay with my younger sister, so I consented. I knew my first family, as I lived with them to the age of ten. Having to leave them, especially my siblings, destroyed me.

Nearly as bad was the family I ended up with. My adoptive mom berated me constantly, and could be very cruel. I was told that my sister and I weren’t wanted, and that’s why my mother kept her other (three younger) kids but gave us up. That we were lucky that she chose us. The day of the adoption she told me that my life now was between her and Jesus.

I have a good relationship with my biological mom and stepdad, and their kids. I love them, and they love me back with a kind of enthusiasm that I never experienced in my adoptive home. Awhile back, my adoptive mom sent me a message, trying to apologize. It was painful, but it made me know for sure that things were as bad as I thought they were.

From the adoptive mom –

A couple of years ago we sat in the livingroom and I made an attempt at making an amends with you. I thought if I had stopped drinking and stayed sober, then the past was the past.

At the beginning, when you moved into our home, I made a feeble attempt at reaching out to you. You cringed and would not trust me, would not call me mom. You already had a mom and I had not even showed I was a safe person. I couldn’t and didn’t listen to your silent pain.

I know I verbally and emotionally abused you. You went to therapy but it didn’t work and I was glad because I did not want my neglect to be exposed. I knew I was guilty for causing the demons that haunted you.

At the height of your anorexia, you were hospitalized and yet I was jealous of you. I know I was insane. It was my own mental illness more than the alcoholism.

I just wanted to tell you that I am so ashamed of not giving you the childhood you deserved. It was my loss, I never really got to know you. I take none of the credit for your strength.

Genetic Mirroring

People often see what they expect to see. It is natural to expect to see some resemblance among family members. I remember comments flowing from my adoptive maternal grandmother to the staff of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society about how much alike the two children, one boy and one girl, she adopted from them looked like “real” brothers and sisters, ie had a family resemblance.

Today, someone in my all things adoption group wrote –

A frequent occurrence throughout my childhood was that someone would stop and tell my to my adoptive mother how much I look like her. Now, I’ve seen pictures of moms and daughters, who look like each other. But me?? I don’t look much like my mother, aside from dark hair and pale skin and glasses. I can’t see my features in anyone, or in my mind’s eye even. I may have connected with a biological uncle and I’m looking through his friend’s pictures and I can’t see me anywhere. I don’t know what I look like well enough to try to compare. I’m about to take a selfie to try to help myself out. I usually think about genetic mirroring more in the context of TransRacial Adoptees (which I am not), so this is really messing with me.

One response, totally mystified, writes – Why did this happen to me too??? My mom is white and I’m native with dark skin and dark hair.. she is white with light skin and blue eyes, like why did people say that….

I have seen this said of husbands and wives, who obviously are not genetically related, that they grow to be more alike in appearance the longer they are married. So one comment noted – Children will take on the facial expressions of their caretakers, which can make them appear more like adoptive parents than they would otherwise. I believe that this is possible. Genetically, often mannerisms and personality traits are more similar among biological family members.

So, I do agree with this person’s perspective and experience – People will see things, if they think they have to. I remember my adoptive father telling someone I was his son, when they asked who I was. I couldn’t be more different than him and this guy squinted his eyes and looked at me for a while before saying, yeah I see the resemblance.

I do look like my brother who is a biological child of my adoptive dad and stepmom. I’m the adoptee. We are 17 years apart. I helped raise him and he also mimics me a lot. I’ve heard everything from jokes that my adoptive dad had an affair and adopted me so my adoptive mom wouldn’t suspect, people laughing their asses off when they say we look alike and I reply I’m adopted, then finding out – it’s true – and of course, that’s awkward… or adoptive mom getting jealous and trying to find traits to pretend we look alike and “it’s just the same”. To me it is messed up because they fail to acknowledge my difference. They’re trying to fit the square peg into the round hole with all they have, instead of celebrating my differences.

Celebrating our individuality and differences. Isn’t that what we all should always be trying to do ?

My Unorthodox Life

This program is being discussed in my all things adoption group this morning. It is said that “The whole storyline was so upsetting. The adoptive family is awful.” And also this, “One of the characters is looking for his “birth person” and is scared to hurt his adoptive mom by calling her his birth mother. Adoptive mom says stuff like “I thought I’d be dead when you start looking” or “Can’t you ask your private investigator to ask questions to her rather than make contact?”. So much insecurity, jealousy and emotional blackmail.

One adoptee notes – My adoptive mom did the exact same thing . As if it’s about HER “trauma“ (which honestly is self inflicted).

And there is this about the show – The adoptive mom also got pregnant shortly after adopting, and begs him to not change his name, even though she falsified his birth certificate! She’s like “I want you to stay happy,” when he is obviously depressed, tormented, hasn’t dated anyone in years, etc. The biological son (his brother by adoption) is calling him an idiot for doing it because “we have the best parents in the world” and “you’re the one who started this problem.” Then hangs up the phone on him. They are doing all they can to sabotage any reunion. His poor birth mom. He doesn’t even pick up on the fact she wanted to keep him.

I haven’t see this one but last night we suffered through A Serious Man – written, produced, edited and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. All we could figure out by the end of the movie was that it was the Coen’s revenge on their Jewish upbringing. I kept thinking – if I was Jewish, it might make sense. There is no adoption thread in that movie.

In my mom’s group, there are more than the usual number of Jewish people. So, I have been exposed to some of their experience. The one that stands out large for me is the mom who had famously large breasts and then developed breast cancer. She had boy/girl twins the same age as my youngest son. Though she had a great attitude going into the experience, she died rather quickly. I was somewhat impressed by the way her Jewish community was there for the whole family throughout that ordeal.

My paternal grandmother died of a heart attack the day she was to be released from the hospital following breast cancer surgery. She was originally from Long Island NY and my understanding is that there are a lot of Jewish people there. I have a smidgeon of Ashkenazi Jew. I suspect I may have gotten that from her. Another mom in my mom’s group lives in the town on Long Island with the same name as the surname of my paternal grandmother – Hempstead. The family goes way back with historically significant sites in New London, Connecticut (a diary covering a period of 47 years from Sept 1711 to November 1758 by an ancestor, Joshua Hempstead, is still in print).

Heal Yourself First

Couples need to heal from their infertility and come to grips with not being able to conceive a child before inflicting themselves on a traumatized adoptee. Much of what you will read in today’s blog comes from an adoptee writing on this issue – The Importance of Fully Grieving Infertility. I have chosen what I share here selectively and have added my own thoughts as well. You can read the original blog at the link.

Receiving a diagnosis of infertility is a devastating loss. It’s natural to feel angry, sad, disappointed or a combination of a bunch of different feelings. You may want to start the process of becoming a parent through other means as soon as possible, in an effort to fill that aching, empty space in your heart.

Please don’t start the process of adopting a child until you have fully grieved your infertility, let go of your initial dream of having a biological child, and are truly ready to adopt.

Why? Because, when you pursue adoption, your infertility journey will affect more than just you.

Adoption is not a solution for infertility. Pretending it is — without doing the hard, personal work — will just set you and your future adopted child up for failure.

You’ve probably heard it time and time again from your infertility counselors and adoption professionals. But I think you should hear it from an adoptee — someone who will be forever changed if you are unable to move forward from your losses.

As an adoptee, I’ve watched infertility take its toll on my parents, friends and family members. Even just having seen the effects secondhand, it’s clear that this is often a diagnosis that causes lasting emotional and psychological damage.

About 1 in 8 couples will struggle with infertility. That’s a lot of people walking around with a lot of pain in their hearts.

This is a loss, and as such, you may experience the stages of grief. As hard as it is to believe, this is actually a good thing, because it means you are processing your loss and are on the road to the final stage: acceptance. And only once you feel acceptance should you start considering adoption.

If you don’t resolve your experience with infertility, it could cause serious mental, emotional and physical harm to yourself and to those around you. You may start to resent your partner, your emotions might develop into depression, you risk not feeling able to find happiness because of the lingering hopes and dreams of “maybe we’ll still get pregnant,” and all of that stress can take a toll on your physical health.

Unresolved issues can affect all of your relationships — the relationship with your partner, with yourself, with your friends (who all seem to easily have children) and eventually, upon your adopted child. Moving forward into adoption under these circumstances may feel like you are “settling” for your “second-choice” way to build your family, and that’s not fair to the child you may adopt.

I don’t write this blog to promote adoption (I think it is all around a harmful choice). So I can hope that adoption isn’t your own answer for building your family. I do know that you staying stuck in grief isn’t good for you or the ones you love either. You may ultimately decide to live child-free. What is important here is seeking a good quality of life by working through your feelings and letting the unproductive perspectives go. 

Adopting a child does not fix anything. There is no replacement for your original dream of conceiving and giving birth to a biological child. When you’re an adoptee, viewing the world’s preoccupation with having biological children is hard. It’s probably hard for couples who discover they are infertile. That is one of the reasons it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that you will never have a biological child. It is unfair and unrealistic to believe any infertile, potential adoptive set of parents will no longer experience grief over not having biological children after they adopt. One of the reasons I don’t believe adoptions are actually a good thing. Honestly (and adoption is ALL over my own birth family – both of my parents were adopted and each of my sisters gave up children to adoption – I wouldn’t exist but for my parents’ adoptions and even so . . . my perspective has changed over the last several years, obviously).

Another Rejection Of Me

For many adoptees, simply the fact that their original family is not raising them is a rejection. That is why this story really touched my heart.

I’m an adoptee that’s been recently reunited with my first mom and her side of the family. They have been so welcoming and want a relationship with me, and it’s been so great getting to know them. Unfortunately my adoptive family isn’t taking it well. I’m just so sad that they can’t be more supportive and are taking it personally. I’m not surprised at all by my adoptive parents reacting this way, but my one safe person (my adoptive paternal aunt) is also taking it badly. I wish I could just have the joy of reunion without the overwhelming guilt. Their rejection of my biological family feels like another rejection of me. I so wish they could share in my happiness. They say they can somewhat understand my curiosity about who my biological family is but they don’t understand why I want to have a relationship with them. My biological family on the other hand has expressed wanting to meet my adoptive family and it breaks my heart that the feeling isn’t mutual. I hope they have a change of heart, but in the meantime I am grieving.

Unrealistic Expectations

I am really short on time today. I will tell the story without the comments. When my own daughter was a toddler, my childcare choice of a private home modeling themselves on a family structure went from my daughter LOVING to go to being tearful at being left there. It troubled me so much, I left work and went back only to see a larger boy bullying her through the window in the half door. I removed her that very moment. I found a woman with one daughter who was seeking a “companion” for that daughter. Never did my daughter get better care, rested and well fed and happy when I picked her up each day.

Here’s the story from a jealous adoptive mother without additional comments today due to time constraints.

“Those of you who have adopted and are working moms, I need input. We found a great person to do childcare for us. She lives nearby and doesn’t charge a lot. She is a great mom to her kids and loves our little girl.

The problem that we are struggling with is that our little girl loves her a little too much. She is so excited to see her and gives her BIG hugs that we do not typically receive…

I know this sounds like jealousy, but being adoptive parents, it is so hard to see this affection given to others when you do not get the same in return. She is only 9 months old and has been with us since she was 2 weeks old, so we have no doubt she cares for us and knows we are her parents, but we are debating on her going to another friend who is more of a grandmother figure than a mother figure.

We know that this other person would care for her very well and she would be just as loved there. I would just blow this off as being ridiculous, but my husband feels the same way. He wants her to go with this other person even though it is further for us to drive and more of a hassle.

What would you do? Are we being ridiculously selfish and we should just be happy that she loves her childcare person so much? I thought that here I would at least get some understanding, my heart is hurting.”

OK – just one comment in response with which I agree (I also had several “mom” friends with twins who had nannies when their children were preschool).

She needs to be grateful that her daughter loves who takes care of her. My crew loves our nanny of seven years. She like family. I’m glad my kids have such a strong bond with someone else.

A Life in the Shadow

Actors – Rose Byrne as Rebecca Skloot and Oprah Winfrey as Deborah Lacks

On Friday night, my husband and I watched The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on dvd. It is one of those occasional unexpected finds that impacts me deeply. Oprah Winfrey plays Deborah Lacks in the movie based upon the book. Since my name is Deborah, I connected with this powerful, at times tragic, portrayal of Henrietta’s daughter. Since the title of my blog is Missing Mom and that is what drove Deborah, who lost her mom at such a young age and who she was always missing, needing the truth about her, felt somewhat like I how felt about my missing grandparents (both of my parents were adopted). So, I am happy to share Deborah’s story here. I highly recommend either the book or the movie.

The only surviving daughter and fourth child of David Day Lacks and Henrietta Lacks, Deborah “Dale” Lacks Pullum spent most of her early life wondering what happened to her beautiful mother and worrying about what it could mean for her own life and identity. Day was Henrietta’s first cousin, neither had living mothers and were being raised by grandparents who had them sleeping in the same bedroom. No wonder by the age of 14, Henrietta was pregnant. Day married her 6 years later when she was 20.

It is hard for Rebecca Skloot, an independent science writer, to gain Deborah’s trust given her early life of familial abuse, followed by the general disregard of the scientific community for Henrietta’s family. Deborah’s need to connect with her mother’s story is intensified by her difficult childhood and a non-existent relationship with her father, whose lack of attention has disastrous effects on her emotional life:

After Henrietta’s death, Ethel and Galen move in with Day to “help take care of the children.” But Ethel always had a hatred for Henrietta because Galen was attracted to her, and she transferred that with gusto to the children. She forces them to work the farm all day without food or drink and beats them if they disobey. In spite of Deborah’s protests, Galen sexually molests her as often as he can.

Despite the beatings by both of these guardians and the molesting by Galen, Deborah felt closer to Galen than she ever had felt with her father. When he wasn’t hitting or molesting her, Galen showered her with attention and gifts. He bought her pretty clothes, and took her for ice cream. In those moments, Deborah pretended he was her father, and she felt like a regular little girl.

Enter Lawrence’s (who was Henrietta’s oldest son) wife, Bobbette. She insists that they take in and raise the younger Lacks siblings to get them out of the clutches of the abusive Ethel and Galen. Bobbette makes it pretty darn clear that if that couple ever touches Henrietta’s kids again, she’s going to open up a can of ??? on them.

In Henrietta’s absence, Bobbette also acts as a mentor and inspiration to young Deborah. She tells her to stay in school because that’s what will get her success in life. She also encourages her to fight off the advances of her boy cousins because, she said, “That’s uncalled for.” She warns Deborah about the dangers of first cousins having children together.

Deborah reads articles about HeLa cells (named after an abbreviation of Henrietta Lacks name) with a dictionary in hand and learns to use the Internet to make sense of her mother’s immortal life. Her brothers don’t understand her need to pursue something that has been so hurtful to them. Deborah is quite clear in her mission: “All this stuff I’m learning,’ she said, ‘it make me realize that I did have a mother, and all the tragedy she went through. It hurts but I wanna know more, just like I wanna know about my sister (her sister Elsie had defects that eventually institutionalized her, where she later died young). It make me feel closer to them, but I do miss them. I wish they were here.”

The need to know and to be in control of her past is always stronger for Deborah than the need to forget her past and protect herself from future harm.

Her older brother, Lawrence, never stopped taking care of Deborah. He put $6,000 on his credit card to pay for her funeral. She died less than a year before the book, written by author Rebecca Skloot, about her mother was published.

“Henrietta had been chosen by the Lord to become an immortal being. The immortality of Henrietta’s cells had something to do with her telomeres and how HPV interacted with her DNA.”