Kept In The Dark

It’s hard to believe that adoptive parents agreeing to an open adoption would do this but apparently they will. Today’s story.

I just found out that my bio family was reaching out to me for years giving me gift and letters – which I didn’t receive. I went my whole life feeling rejected by my biological family, so I never searched. In May, I started my search. I found my family and I’m so happy and excited. Only to find out, I was wanted the whole time and my adoption was supposed to be “open.” I’m 27 now and I’m so upset that I went so long feeling like I wasn’t wanted. I feel like I’ve lost so much time with my biological family. I also haven’t told my family that I know this information now. I’m not sure if it’s even worth mentioning, since they were keeping me from them this whole time? I’m meeting my aunt and cousin in a few weeks and I’m so excited.

She adds this – My biological family sent me gifts my whole life and most recently they sent me a letter to reconnect when I turned 21…my adoptive parent just told me about this letter 2 months ago… I didn’t look for them only because I felt rejected by them. Had I known, I would have started looking for them when I turned 18.

One suggestion to this woman was to bring her lifetime’s photo albums. Make copies of the photos to leave with her aunt and cousin. This is an incredibly thoughtful gift in a situation like this. I remember when I met my cousin. We are related through our maternal grandfather. During her afternoon with me, she went through every one of the many photo albums her deceased mother had left her (her mother was my deceased mother’s half-sibling). I used my phone to photograph all of the photos she thought significant enough to tell me something about. By the time the afternoon was over, I felt as though I had lived the decades within this branch of my family that I had missed. Oh, the stories. I wish I had been recording everything she told me !!

From another side of this equation – I’m a birth mom who has tried keeping in contact with my kids (aged 13,12,11 now) within our open adoption but the adoptive parents haven’t ever followed their own guidelines that we agreed to, even from year one. There has been 0 responses from them in 3 years period. I still write every month and have asked how to send gifts and such with no reply. Your story makes me hopeful that, when the time is right (they turn 18), I’ll be able to reach out and have some sort of relationship with my children. It also makes me sad to realize they might be feeling the same rejection you have, when that is so definitely not the case.

Someone suggested to her that she keep copies of her letters – so they can read her words when there is a reunion.

Here’s another example – a similar thing happened with me and my daughter… They did give her the gifts I sent the few times I could emotionally pull myself together enough to do it. They never, ever sent the photos and letters they were supposed to, unless I hounded the social worker to hound them (clearly an emotionally exhausting and traumatizing effort. To top it off, my daughter was told and still believes that they sent me pictures and letters. Every year, they went through the motions of preparing these things, often with my daughter’s help, but never bothered to mail them to me – Ever.

Some honesty about reunions from an adoptee – Reunion is one of the hardest things I’ve had to navigate as the cognitive dissonance of mixed opposing emotions is a complex beast with no real resolution. Regarding your adoptive family, my advice is do not share with them if you feel you are emotionally not in a place to handle the response. Wait until you can have that difficult conversation whilst keeping yourself safe. This may take some time. (I told mine after the reunion.) I didn’t bring gifts when meeting my biological family, but I did take photos of me at different ages, and a loooong list of questions. The best advice I was given was to start the relationship the way I intend to continue it. Emotional openness and honesty are what I value most, as unmet or misinterpreted expectations can be kryptonite to such new fragile bonds. Remember, it’s your life and they are YOUR family, and we don’t owe anyone else anything.

Another birth mother horror story – I reunited with my son when he was 27. I found out that NONE of the letters I wrote him were forwarded (I can’t say whether it was his adoptive parents, my own mother or the agency at fault). His adoptive parents even disposed of the only gift I was ever able to give him – a small teddy bear that I sent with him to his adoptive home. I was livid when I found out he didn’t have or even recall the teddy bear and texted his adoptive mother myself. I refused to involve our son in this, but we had a semi-open adoption. I got letters and photos for the first 5 years. In those letters, she mentioned the teddy bear often, and the bear was stationed on his dresser in early photos – like it was important. Now, she recalls none of this, and even when I sent her the picture as a “reminder,” she gaslighted the entire exchange. I tried to reach out a few times after that, as it seemed important to our son, but eventually got brushed off enough that I gave up. She really made it evident that I wasn’t worth her time, even though I met her for dinner once thinking that it would be a good thing for our son. In retrospect, it was just a 3 hour grilling session to gauge my intentions and the dynamics between me and our son since our reunion. I would say tread cautiously and remember that there may be many people playing puppet with your truths. I will never know who decided that my son wouldn’t get my letters. I was a minor and trusted my mother to forward them to the agency, as they played middle man. I often wonder if my mother actually did. Were my letters screened like an inmate and deemed inappropriate. (I wasn’t the typical rainbow birthmom…I expressed my grief, love and regret often). Did these letter ever make it to their final destination, at which point the adoptive mother nixed them? I’ll never know, just as you may never know. I’ve accepted that I will never know the entire truth as to why my letters never reached him.

Another reunion story from an adoptee – I reunited with my Dad’s family when I was about 28/29. I brought things because I was traveling. I found out that I was wanted by his family and it’s a lot to unpack. Give yourself grace. I would say tell your adoptive family but maybe give yourself some time to process everything you want to say, so you can be in a safe place emotionally to handle their reactions. If they don’t react well, you will be strong enough in that moment to respond however you need to.

From a perspective of fairness, I will add this one from an adoptive parent – I want to be able to do better as an adoptive mom and not cause our child this pain some day. I want this child to have a connection with her roots and biological family but how can we get to a place were we can feel relaxed about the safety of this child and all the trauma she has already endured from her biological family? Her mom just asked to be able to write letters but I haven’t given her an answer, all I can think about is – all the emotions that will be stirred up and all the trauma and feelings this child has had to endure through 5 years of therapy. How can we allow this child to have contact with her biological family, when the fear is so big that she will be hurt again?

And the response to that one ?

Know your place and it isn’t first! As an adoptee I can tell you – iF my adoptive parents had hid ONE thing about my adoption EVER, no matter how much I loved them, I would have removed them from my life! As a adoptive parent, it’s not your job to be a savior, decide what information you wish to share or not share. You cannot love away an adoptee’s trauma, pain, and hurt! We adoptees all have first families and need age appropriate knowledge. I counted, in your one paragraph post the words“ I, my, we” used nine times. Nine! Biological family and roots was used four times. And not once in a positive manner!! Repeat not once did you say anything positive about your daughter’s DNA family. Mom was used once and her wishes you’ve tossed to the curb. Then you used “our daughter.” NO, she came from someone else’s body, sperm, and DNA. Your savior complex is screaming loud and clear. Now please understand I am also a biological mother and an adoptive mother and your way of thinking is wrong. You need to read The Primal Wound, The Body Keeps Score, and Being Adopted, the Lifelong Search for Self. They are not easy reads but you are now raising an adoptee. You need to unpack everything you believe about adoption, understand your fears and fragile thoughts come from being a second mother, and no, an adoptive parent is NEVER a savior.

 

A Miscarriage of Justice

The origination of many adoptions is the traumatic experience of having a miscarriage. One miscarriage leads to another miscarriage – that of taking a woman’s baby for one’s own self. It is often an act of trying to overcome honest grief and sorrow by inflicting a lifetime of grief and sorrow on another woman. Our society condones this behavior by creating mythic stories that adoptees often call the rainbows and unicorns narrative of how wonderful adoption is. In truth it is not more wonderful than the realistic slings and arrows of everyday life and for some (the adoptee and the birth mother) wounds to carry forever. Some eventually experience a reunion with one another and while these are mostly happy stories (but not always), there is no way to make up for decades of life going on with different trajectories for each person.

If this society was a just one, we could be taking care of our mothers and our children instead of allowing money to drive the exchange of human beings to fulfill the thwarted desires of the people with the financial means to purchase a baby. Oh I know, most adoptive parents don’t view it that way. I know most adoption agencies and facilitators don’t want to view themselves from a perspective that they are baby sellers in it to make a profit. It is so easy for people to delude themselves with feel good stories.

I don’t have a lot of optimism that the profit motivated adoption industry will end any time soon. I am only heartened that some of us keep trying to make the point that children belong with the people who conceived them. Children need to grow up within the genetic, biological familial roots from which they emerged. Yes, sometimes parents die. This has happened to my own grandmothers – both of them – and we’ve lost more than one mom in my little mom’s group that has existed a bit more than 17 years now. We’ve also lost a couple of fathers too.

Orphans do deserve care within a family structure but there is no need to change a child’s original identity or name in order to provide for them. Some parents in our modern society get messed up – with drugs, with violence, with the criminal justice system. These people need intensive restoration into functioning members of our society. It is complicated and not a quick fix. I’ll readily admit that.

Glad I Was

I almost didn’t know what to write today. It seemed as though I had said it all in the last few days. But then an exchange with my mom, not long before she died, came back into my mind. She gave me editing privileges on her Ancestry account. She had done the family tree thing but it was all based on the ancestral lines of her adoptive parents and my dad’s adoptive parents. She admitted to me she just had to quit working on it. It wasn’t real, she knew that deeply, not in the sense Ancestry is meant to record. But quickly, she added, “you know, because I was adopted. Glad I was.”

What else could she say ? She didn’t know anything but her adopted life. Scarcely knew anything beyond her parents names of Mr and Mrs J C Moore – that doesn’t tell a person very much, though it proved to be accurate. She knew her name at birth was given to her by her mother as Frances Irene. Oh, she tried. Tennessee would not give her her adoption file even though she carried a deep certainly all the way to her death that she had been “inappropriately” adopted. Such a careful way she worded that. She knew Georgia Tann was involved and she knew about the scandal. She actually learned about it when it came out in the newspapers in the 1950s while she was yet a school girl.

She was devastated to learn from the state of Tennessee that her birth mother had died. Closing the door to her ever being able to communicate with that woman who gave her the gift of life through her own body.

It is that “Glad I was.” that haunts me today. I didn’t know about adoptee fog until recently. In fact, when I first entered my all things adoption Facebook group, wow, was I ever in it !! Adoption seemed like the most natural thing in the world to me. It was so natural that both of my sisters ended up giving up children to adoption.

What I want to say clearly this morning is – Adoption is the most UN-natural way for a child to grow up. Having one’s birth certificate altered to make it appear that total strangers actually gave birth to you when they did NOT. Having your name changed to suit the desires of your adoptive parents ? It is a fantasy. A pretend life and adoptees feel it keenly, as my mom clearly did “it just wasn’t real to me”.

The thing my mom could be glad for is that she had a financially comfortable upbringing and some perks such as travel along with her adoptive mother. She also suffered some coldness and harsh judgement because her natural body structure would never be lithe and thin as my adoptive grandmother took such pains to make her own. I know, I suffered a humiliating embarrassment in a public restaurant in London from her over the sin of taking a piece of bread and putting some butter on it.

My maternal adoptive grandmother was an accomplished and phenomenal woman. I grant her that. But I am convinced she bought her children when she found she could not conceive. I am no longer a believer in adoption and until I run out of things to write about – I will continue making an argument for family preservation and an end to separating babies from their natural mothers. I will defend allowing such children who are unfortunate enough to be adopted to keep ALL the ties to their identities – their genuine birth certificate and their name (unless and until, it is their choice to change that).

Why I Celebrate

Birthday Hat, created by my husband

My 67th birthday comes up in 2 days now. The image here is from early in my marriage, before our sons were born. We will celebrate 33 years this June.

There is so much I am grateful for but first and foremost it is that I was not given up for adoption. I could have so easily been lost to this family I grew up within. My mom was a 16 yr old high school student in El Paso TX who found herself pregnant with me and unwed. My dad had just started at the U of NM at Las Cruces that year. They are both deceased now. When I was cleaning out my parents belongings to ready their house for sale, I discovered that my mom had kept every love letter she got from my dad during that time. I also found a note where she was worried about telling him she was pregnant.

Both my mom and dad were adopted. That is why I think it is a miracle I was not given up. My mom’s adoptive parents were well to do, had made a lucky early investment in Circle K just as the stores were beginning and on top of that my adoptive grandfather was a bank vice president. My adoptive grandmother was a socialite. I believe it was actually my dad’s adoptive parents who were always poor, entrepreneurial sorts who made custom draperies for a living, that preserved me in the family and supported my dad in marrying my mom.

Because I was preserved my two sisters were born. Maybe they would have been or maybe my parents would have gone their separate ways but that is not what happened so it is a moot point. I believe I have now fulfilled my destiny in this life. Within a year of my parents deaths (they died 4 mos apart after more than 50 years of marriage), I had uncovered who my original grandparents were. I have met or made contact with an aunt and some cousins for each branch of my grandparents families. I am the only link between them because the four of them went their separate ways.

My maternal grandmother remarried but never had any other children. My maternal grandfather also remarried but didn’t have any more children with his third wife. Yes, he and my grandmother were married at the time she conceived my mom. It will always be a mystery why he left her 4 mos pregnant and why after being sent from Tennessee to Virginia to have (and probably expected to give up) my mom, he didn’t respond when she returned to Memphis and tried to reach him. Her desperation led to Georgia Tann getting her hands on my mom . . .

My paternal grandmother had a hard life growing up. My dad was conceived with the assistance of a Danish immigrant who was married to a much older woman. He probably never even knew about my dad. My grandmother simply handled it as the self-resourceful woman she was. She did remarry twice and had 3 other children. At the time my dad died, her last child (my aunt) was living only 90 miles away, totally unknown to my dad.

I celebrate that I am alive and I am happy to have now become whole in ways my parents (who died knowing next to nothing about their origins) never were. I had to wait over 60 years before that happened for me. It is true that, if my parents had not been given up for adoption, I would simply not exist at all. Even so, there is much wrong about the practice of adoption (I write about that here all the time) . . . including that the state of Tennessee denied my mother access to her own adoption file in the early 90s. No one told her when the law was changed for the victims of Georgia Tann to be given access but because of that law, I now possess all of the documents in her adoption file. In her file there were black and white pictures of my maternal grandmother holding my mom for the last time at Porter-Leath Orphanage. It was to that storied and respected institution that my grandmother, in desperation, turned for temporary care of her precious baby girl. The superintendent there betrayed my grandmother by alerting Georgia Tann to my mom’s existence.

At the Dorchester in London
thanks to a trip with my adoptive maternal grandmother

Cousins Through Adoption

My aunt called me last night to tell me that her only son, my cousin Allan, had died this last Saturday. It was a bit of a shock and not a shock because for several years she would often ask me to pray for him due to some health challenge. When I mentioned his poor health to her, she said he was actually doing better lately and she worried about him less. He was a security dog trainer and he was doing a meet and greet with a potential new client when he literally dropped dead, with his wife nearby waiting for him in their car. The ambulance arriving was what alerted her that something had happened. So, he died instantly without pain doing what he loved.

I became closer to my two aunts – both from the paternal side – after my mom died and then my dad died 4 months later. I really didn’t have much contact with them for decades until that happened. It is like they came to fill a bit of a void for me of connection to something childhood. In fact, I told my husband – cousins are a childhood thing. They connect us to when we were children. My husband remembers meeting this cousin and I remember it was when we visited my aunt at her parents home in Pennsylvania before we had children. In fact, I wasn’t seriously close to this cousin had it not been a reuniting with this aunt by telephone and hearing constant updates on him. My aunt will be 90 this coming December and my cousin and his wife had just celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary on April 2nd. I don’t even have a photo of him, though I do have a recent photo of my aunt that she sent me one Christmas not long ago.

My adoptive family relations became more complicated for me once I discovered who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adopted and their siblings were adopted except my dad’s step-sister who is the biological genetic daughter of my dad’s second adoptive father – yes, he was adopted twice in childhood after his adoptive mother divorced – as my youngest son said not too long ago, “you have a very complicated family”, well yes) and started having reunions with my genetic cousins with whom I have no shared life history but through whom I acquired insight into my original, genetic biological grandparents. I also acquired digital copies of photographs of my genetic family members. It is difficult to build relationships with decades of not knowing you existed between the two of you. I take a patient perspective on it and allow it to be whatever it will be. My genetic biological family is important to me and made me whole but there are still these other people with whom I have life history and I have begun to reintegrate them into my life as well.

So, while I was on the phone with my aunt, I thought of my cousin Christy. She is the daughter of the other aunt (that step sister by adoption) I’ve become closer to with the death of my parents. She recently turned 80. I remember my youngest sister sharing with me that she, Christy and Allan used to get into mischief at my Granny’s house (my dad’s adoptive mother). So I told my aunt, I would call and let Christy know and my middle sister as well. My youngest sister ? I am estranged from her, due to the severity of her paranoid schizophrenia which created a wedge between us due to cruel treatment by her towards me as I tried to administer my deceased parents’ estate and create some kind of ongoing support for her now that there are no parents to provide that.

My memories of my now deceased cousin are complicated in ways I would rather not share publicly. He is part of the story of why Thanksgiving was wrecked for my family. My uncle died due to the complications of Lou Gehring’s Disease during a holiday football game on TV as my dad and uncle’s family awaited Thanksgiving dinner to be served. There was always that watching of football games as part of my family’s holiday. The dinner was interrupted and the holiday ever after a reminder of his death. My cousin was only a child when his father died. This cousin was strikingly similar in appearance to his dad and I believe my paternal adoptive grandparents came to relate to him like a replacement for the son they lost that Thanksgiving Day.

RIP Allan Hart. May your dear wife, Christine, find comfort in the closeness of her own mother. They were living on the same property with her at the time of his death. I can truly say of ALL my cousins – God made us cousins. No truer words could ever be said since none of us are genetically, biologically related.

They Always DO Grow Up

A question was asked – when adopting a child, particularly a baby, do the adoptive parents ever think about what will happen when that child is an adult ? And by that I mean after the parents are dead. Will that child have a legacy or a family or a tribe (other than their friends if they are lucky enough to have friends) or partners to last a lifetime ?

The person posing the question goes on to wonder – did you ever think, will your child when they are an adult, get what they need or deserve from family property ? Do you really think that your adult will hold onto a claim to your family ? When everyone is sitting around talking about Aunt Jenny, how will that make your adult child feel ?

One response was this –  you adopted a child to love, that does not automatically extend to other people, who may not feel the same way as you, the adoptive parent, when it comes to sharing an inheritance or even in how they actually feel about the adopted kid. Lots of families and other people “play along” with the game of pretending the adopted child is the same as if you had given birth to them for the adoptive parents sake. Sadly, there have been cases of adoptees who have been denied family keepsakes, etc after the adoptive parents’ death specifically because of the adoption. Adoptees told they are not worthy because the charade is over.

Adoption in most cases is very much about the baby. The savior/hero thought process of most adoptive parents focuses on the baby/child. It’s such a short term view of a real person and their entire life.

I found this story very interesting – So I’m adopted: my grandfather left me a trust fund and none of the biological grandchildren have one. They all contested his will. They didn’t understand why I received a trust fund. However, they did all receive some money from his estate. I was the one who saw my grandfather weekly and never asked for money or anything. He would take me out for dinner and always slip me a $20.00 for gas. I was always grateful. I loved my grandfather best because he was like me – his parents died and he was abandoned with his brother. So we both had that hole in our souls. When he was dying, I made sure I was there with him. I was the product of a forced adoption and I have an adopted son (from foster care). He will receive a portion of the trust from my grandfather and the trust will be split with my husband. I made certain to set it up for everyone five ways. My adoptive parents are still alive and the will they have created is so stupid that I just cannot. However, I will get some amount monthly until I die, then my remaining money goes to their own blood relatives and is divided up among them. My kids will receive nothing. When I’ve shared the will with a few close friends, they are all like WTF ! The way my adoptive parents hold money over my head, even at this stage and age, is so annoying and uncalled for ! I wish people realized you cannot be buried with your money.

This really spoke to me on more than one level. I don’t know what the laws are now but when my mom’s adoptive parents created a generation skipping trust, my mom told me that it was against the law for adoptive parents to disinherit adopted children. So, my mom and her also adopted brother, received income from the trust but cannot cash it out. However, my mom also struggled with the way her wealthy adoptive mother held money over her head. I also experienced that when I went to England with my adoptive grandmother. I had very little in the way of spending money. She was like – I paid for this trip, be grateful (as I watched her spend freely on her self). It’s not like she had to directly earn that money with hard work. My grandparents got in on the ground floor of Circle K when it first started. It made them wealthy as the stock appreciated. My grandfather retired as a vice president of a bank. He died at a relatively young age – in his 60s. My grandmother lived 3 decades longer on those funds and traveled the world and was always giving money away in philanthropy. I think she did it to earn respect. She actually grew up poor.

One more story and I have to end this for today – my son was placed at 4 days with his adoptive family. He is now 33. Typical closed domestic infant adoption. He lived with and cared for his maternal adoptive grandparents for the last five years. They both passed on either side of Christmas. His grandmother’s literal last words were “don’t kick him to the curb”. She must have sensed what was coming. The family gave him to the end of March (about 3 months) to move out. Once he was out of his grandparents house, he will continue to get paid $500/month but only for a year. They want to basically be done with him. That’s how his adoption ended. Thankfully, he has moved “home” with me and I am happy to have all of my kids back. We’re planting fruit trees now. I changed my own final documents years ago to provide for all four of my children equally.

Birthday Blues

My birthday usually falls near the Memorial Day weekend. Many years, I had a L-O-N-G celebration of existing. It was a happy and self-affirmative occasion.

However, when I began to learn about the trauma associated with adoption, I discovered that the day an adoptee was born is not a happy occasion for many of these persons. It is a reminder of abandonment, rejection or at the least, that the parents from who their life descended are not raising them.

Until an adoptee matures and begins to break through the fog of how wonderful it was that they were adopted narrative, many wonder why they act out or sabotage their own birthday celebrations. What is wrong with them ? Everyone else seems happy to celebrate their birthday.

And now I understand better and can see the difference between my own birthday and an adoptee’s. I remember as well there was some confusion about my own mother’s actual birthdate, though eventually it settled on January 31st and now that I have her adoption file – I see the errors and their eventual correction.

Yesterday, I watched a youtube video the Birthday Episode by My Adoption Story by Lilly Fei and the conflicted feelings, which I remember my own mom having about her adoption are so obvious. Two things stood out for me – when she said she was “found” and how she described the way some international adoptions of transracial children involve the child having birth dates that are estimated based upon physical characteristics because the actual date of birth is unknown.

One adoptee writes – One reason I hate my birthday is because its a celebration of the day I was born and then placed in a nursery just sitting there because my birth mom didn’t want to get attached by holding me. It annoys me that this reason even bothers me, but it definitely does. People who aren’t adopted have great stories about the day they were born and how all these people came to see them and hold them and there are pictures. Yeah that doesn’t really exist if you’re adopted.

Many adoptees feel anger and negative emotions that are understandably directed at their birth family…It is not actually the birthday itself. Yet unavoidably the birthday is a reminder of what happened – back then – so each year, when that birthday rolls around, it all comes back into sharp and painful focus. It is what was done to that baby, for whatever reason at the time of birth, that is the actual problem.

One possible strategy for an adoptee is to change the focus of their birthday. Take a few or even several hours of time out on your birthday. Just you – go somewhere you really like, and reflect, alone, on your current goals and how you hope to achieve them. Keep your thoughts written down. Look at them a few times during the following year. Then when the next birthday rolls around, go over your thoughts again and revise them for the current reality. One adoptee found this kind of birthday event to be helpful in overcoming the birthday blues.

One other suggestion is to deal with all of your negative feelings BEFORE your birthday. Don’t avoid them because then you will feel sad that day. By acknowledging your feelings and seeking to understand what they are trying to tell you, you can then let them go for that day and celebrate the fact that you are resilient, you are a survivor, you are worthy to be loved and celebrated, you rock this life (even though you have that trauma of having been adopted).

For more insight, you may wish to read this Medium essay titled Birthday Blues. Adrian Jones says – “There is one certainty with my birthday: I will find a way to sabotage it. As sure as the sun rises each morning, my birthday will somehow become a fiasco. For most of my life it has been like this. I wish it would stop, but it won’t.” He goes on to write what he has discovered is the source of his pain and the anxiety he feels as his birthday approaches –

“You see, I’m adopted. Born a bastard, I was separated from my biological mother at birth. The woman I spent nine months preparing to meet was gone in an instant. In my most vulnerable state, I was motherless. Without mother. At the time, I was overcome by a high degree of trauma, a trauma that cannot be undone. Worse, this trauma is precognitive. I, like millions of my adoptee crib mates, do not know what life is like without trauma, as we were introduced to life in such a traumatic state. Due to recent scientific studies, we know this to be true. Babies are born expecting to meet their mothers, hear their voices, smell their scents, taste their milk.  When their mothers are not available, they become traumatized. If puppies and kittens must stay with their birth mothers for a few weeks before being adopted, why is it okay to separate a newborn from her mother at first breath?”

There is much more to read in that essay. I highly recommend it.

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.

Using Bio in Reference to Family

When one spends time within the larger adoption community (this includes original family, adoptees and former foster youth as well as adoptive and foster parents) the precise use of language sometimes becomes an issue. For my own self, I am entirely willing to learn to use the most appropriate language while giving a large tolerance to the words anyone else uses because we are all doing our best to improve and reform circumstances that have historically not been in the best interests of the child who ends up adopted or in foster care. That is really the most important issue – the well-being of our children overall.

Some of the adoptees or former foster youth have had reunions with their original family that have not gone well at all, only heaping more heartbreak and rejection on already wounded souls. Some had really crappy experiences with their adoptive or foster care families. Life can be incredibly hard at times for a lot of people. I try to always remember that and I too fail to be compassionate and sympathetic enough at times. We all do. Rather than beat ourselves up over our mistakes in judgement and actions, we really can only try to do better in the next instant – every instant after every instant. Life is for evolving ourselves and through our efforts to make ourselves a better human being overall, we evolve our families, our communities, our countries and our planet. It is an on-going process that never ends.

Whatever we call our parents, it can only be whatever feels right to each of us personally. I think every one of my own children has called me by my familiar first name of Debbie at some time or other and it has never truly bothered me. It does get complicated when adoption is in one’s family history. I called my mom’s adoptive parents – Grandmother D and Grandfather D – they were very formal people. I called my dad’s adoptive parents – Granny and Granddaddy. They were very humble, salt of the earth kinds of people.

When I learned who my parents actual original parents were – in my heart, they did take the place of my adoptive grandparents because they are truly the genetic, biological ones. However, I never use a “grandparent” identifier with them. It is their names that I use – Lizzie Lou, JC, Delores and Rasmus (though he preferred Martin, I like the more Danish version personally). So though, when I think of grandparents now (having only learned of them after the age of 60, after they were long deceased and I will never know them but second hand through other descendants of theirs), I think of the original ones but I never use the childhood identifiers for them.

There has long been a raging controversy over the use of the word “birth” to denote the parents who conceived and birthed children who were later surrendered either voluntarily or involuntarily (forcefully taken). Here is one perspective on that issue –

I personally loathe the term ‘birth mother’ and prefer ‘bio’ to differentiate between adoptive parents and family I’m related to by biology. I don’t understand why Lee Campbell (founder of Concerned United Birthparents) insists that ‘birth’ is not offensive but ‘bio’ is. Biology denotes DNA; genetically unrelated surrogates can give birth, so it’s not an inclusive term, as far as I can see. Anyway, as an adoptee—the only person among ANY of my family who had NO CHOICE—I’ll use whatever term I please. I adore my maternal biological family, including my late momma, whom I didn’t get to know past infancy. I feel far more connected to her than I ever did to my adoptive mother. I have three living maternal uncles and we are CRAZY about each other. We don’t use qualifiers referring to each other, but in cases when clarification is needed, I specify with ‘bio’.

Some of the push related to language was actually influenced by the adoptive parents when the whole industry was going through radical change in the 1970s. Social workers started to push positive adoption language. You had adoptive families complaining about the previous terms: they didn’t like natural mother because then they were unnatural. They didn’t like real because that made them unreal.

Many original mothers and their offspring do dislike the term “birth” because a woman who has given birth to a child is much more than just a woman who gave birth. There is a bond formed in the womb and all the conditions and circumstances that occur during gestation that will forever be a part of any human being and of course, there is the genetics as well.

Here is another perspective from a former foster youth who has adopted a child out of foster care – I always refer to my own parents as my biological parents. I honestly don’t have much relationship with either of my parents. I have learned through the years they are truly incapable of having a safe parent/child relationship. And honestly they are simply my biology. Nothing more. As an adoptive parent, I have learned and respect my daughter’s mom and family and refer to her mom when speaking to her as simply – her mom. In posts on the internet I try to always use first family. I will add that I only use first family in areas of the internet when needing to differentiate. In real life, it is simply family, mom, dad, grandmother, etc and no one has ever been confused over whether I was talking about adoptive or her first family.

Another one added – I call my son’s Mom, his Mom. His first family, his family. I can’t handle the terms that make the moms less than.

I totally agree.

And many of these women really don’t like “tummy mom.”

There is also another kind of family where the adoptive parent is actually “kin” related to the adoptee. I know one of these kinds of situations rather well. So one who is a former foster youth wrote –

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I will call my bio parents whatever I want. They are not my “real” parents, because neither of them raised me. It is incredibly offensive when people ask “your adoptive (kinship) mom, or your real mom?” No. My kinship mom IS my
“real” mom. Our relationship is far from perfect. My raising was far from perfect. But she’s the only person who I’ve ever felt comfortable enough regarding our relationship to call “mom”, and I’ll continue to do so.  I hate the phrase “real mom.” My mom is my mom.  Period.

In my own case, my biological, genetically related daughter was not raised by me after the age of 3. She ended up being raised by her dad and step-mother.  My daughter considers my ex-husband’s wife her mom. I accept that. I carry enough conflicted emotions for not raising her – regardless of the reasons that came to pass. But I do acknowledge that her step-mother was the one that was there when my daughter was sick, in trouble or needed a compassionate heart to listen to whatever. I do have a decently good adult relationship with my daughter. I am grateful for that much.

August Rush

Did I ever write about this movie here ? It is one of my favorites.

While not the story of an adoption, it is the story of mother child separations. It is about a baby taken by deception shortly after birth and placed in an orphanage. It is about genetics. About deep bonds. Both of his parents are musicians – one classical and one modern. It is Robin Williams as a villain.

The music is wondrous and the music brings his natural parents together at a moment of improbable but tear jerking reunion.

I highly recommend it.