Speak Your Truth

I got a blog notification from LINK> Tony Corsentino, an adoptee that I now am glad to be able to read thoughts from. He notes people whose lives begin with severance and secrecy need to speak their truth. He goes on to say that secrecy in adoption makes one’s story into contested property, where truthseeking, not to mention truth speaking, can be received as betrayal.

He says the nearly universal expectation is that adopted people are grateful for their adoption—grateful to their adoptive families, grateful for a system that rescues infants and children from perilous circumstances, from abusive homes, from orphanhood. That expectation imputes a form of dependence to adopted people: that of being beholden to their adopters, and to the system that placed them in their adopters’ families.

Speaking one’s truth is an act of self-emancipation.

Often when an adopted person speaks of being adopted as a less than positive experience, their truth is labeled a “poor adoption experience.” The implication is that questioning the justification for severing a child from their original family must come out of the aftermath of a traumatic experience.

When the question is one of rights, the justification for denying people control over their bodies, it is the point. Storytelling is essential to moral argument. He goes on to note – this is true of adopted people who recount their experiences with adoption. I do not know whether to call my own adoption experience “positive” or “negative” overall. I was taken from my mother and given to people who did and do love and care for me. That’s a “positive,” surely.

Regarding his own search, he says “I did not find my birth parents until the fifth decade of my life.” In my own roots search, I was well into my sixties before I knew anything about my genetic and biological origins as regards my original grandparents. My own parents died knowing nothing beyond their names at birth and some sketchy information about one or both parents’ names.  

So, Tony notes – “I have reflected on all those factors—the barriers adopted people face in trying to reclaim their original identities, their sense of their place in the world, their cultural and ethnic roots, their family health histories—and I see no compelling moral justification for those barriers’ existence. Certainly no justification for the lack of support for adopted people who wish to overcome those barriers.” I agree. During my own search, it was like repeating dashing my head against a concrete wall.

The reason why individual trauma and harm matter in the stories adoptees tell is it forces other people to ask themselves whether it really had to be that way. Adoption is the legally sanctioned erasure of the child’s original identity.

Adoptees tell their stories because they believe that they have insights about adoption that non-adopted people will at least find intelligible. Even while acknowledging that it is impossible for people who have not lived severed aka adopted lives to truly understand. As the stories pile up, one has to admit that the harms are not all in one adoptee’s head but are a universal experience among them as a whole.

Mary Ellen Gambutti

Thanks to my friend Ande Stanley, a late discovery adoptee, who’s own effort in the cause she has titled LINK> The Adoption Files, I learned about this author, LINK> Mary Ellen Gambutti, today. In looking more closely at Ms Gambutti, I discovered this site LINK> Memoir Magazine, which I may look into submitting to some time in the near future. She has written several books and has a few blogs available on her author page at Amazon.

I Must Have Wandered is described as a memoir told through prose, and the letters, fragments, and photos of her infant relinquishment at birth in post-World War II South Carolina. Her adoptive parents were native New Yorkers, who happened to be stationed in the state at the time. Common in that time period – hers was a closed adoption. She reflects on the primal loss experienced by many adoptees. In her case, there were also the separations caused by a transient military lifestyle. The book includes her coming of age in the turbulent ’60s and the barriers to truth that many adoptees find, due to their sealed birth records. Add into the mix a culture of secrecy, which is often the adoption experience. Just as often, adoption includes a hefty dose of religious fervor. It is sadly a common enough story but universal in adoptionland and yet always highlighted by individual details. Like many adoptees, this woman’s genetic heritage was obliterated by her adoption, and then similarly to my own roots discovery journey, her quest for identity includes some degree of reunion. 

Gambutti also wrote a book of essays titled Permanent Home. One reviewer wrote that this book blends early childhood memories into what reads like a vision or a dream. Detailed is the trauma and loss many adoptees realize when they learn the circumstances that surrounded their birth. Her search is not supported by her adoptive family and trigger warning – there is abuse. Never-the-less a reviewer says the book is not a downer but reality. Common to the experience of many adoptees is missing health history and not looking like anyone else in their family.

 

A Near Miss

Almost every Thursday (though I sometimes have weeks long gaps or skip a week), I query literary agents for representation of my third revision of my family’s adoption story. I do not intend to revise it again and if I do not succeed, I’ll simply print a copy for my daughter and for my family of today and be done with it. I do not intend to be pessimistic but at this point, I simply go through the motions like it is my “job” – and in a very real way it is. My husband has taken over most of our businesses functions to leave me plenty of time to write and he remains more hopeful about a positive outcome than I do.

Yesterday, I got the quickest rejection yet – like in minutes. Sharlene Martin of LINK> Martin Literary Management sent me this email – “I’m sorry but I recently did Jane Blasio’s book, Taken at Birth, and this would present a conflict of interest for me.” I didn’t know that of course, just sort of got lucky in choosing her (one of the challenges is deciding which literary agent to query). So, I looked into the author and saw that her book was published in July 2021. That is the closest I’ve ever come to finding a literary agent interested in the topic. I don’t know whether to feel encouraged or not at this point.

I was already aware of the story of the Hicks Clinic in McCaysville Georgia before yesterday evening. Dr Hicks was the Georgia Tann of Memphis Tennessee’s compatriot – with similar practices but in a different state, each seeking to grab their share of a lucrative exploitation of babies and hopeful adoptive parents. Adoptive homes are often an expression of secrecy, lies and shame. Everyone living there is living a false reality. Sadly, adoption is often not much different than human trafficking.

LINK> Jane Blasio is not the only adoptee to uncover the truth of their childhood as an adult. It can be quite unsettling for the person who discovers their parents were not the ones they were born to. These adoptees are often referred to as Late Discovery. Dr Thomas Jugarthy Hicks would tell his expectant patient that their newborn child had died at birth and then, sell their baby out the back door of his clinic to the hopeful adoptive parents.

Jane’s own story is that, at the age of six, she learned she was adopted. At fourteen, she first saw her birth certificate. This led her to begin piecing together the true details of her origins. It took decades of personal investigation to discover the truth. Along the way, she identified and reunited other victims of the Hicks Clinic human trafficking scheme. She became an expert in illicit adoptions, telling her story to every major news network that would have her. Her book is a remarkable account of one woman’s tireless quest for truth, justice, and resolution. 

I first roughed out my family’s adoption story in November of 2017 using the NaNoWriMo effort to jumpstart it with 50,000 words and the title Lost Chances: Frances Irene Moore’s Georgia Tann Story. In 2021, I submitted a short version of 8,431 words titled With Luck and Persistence (my completed manuscript is 87,815 words) to the Jeffrey E Smith Editor’s Prize with The Missouri Review. This year I am doing a very brief version, less than 1,500 words, for the True Family Stories contest with the Kingdom Writer’s Guild titled Surprised by the Miracle. The prize is nothing to get excited about but my husband long ago suggested I write a version for Christians, so this is that – where I won’t make an issue against adoption – I’ll only focus on the miracle that I didn’t end up adopted as well. All this to say, I can’t say I won’t re-write it in some form again but I won’t revise the long manuscript again or try to shop it if this effort ultimately fails. I still think I have a good story but the challenge is getting anyone else to believe that.

Refusing To Choose

Tony Corsentino

I get notifications from Tony’s substack – LINK> “This Is Not A Legal Record – Irregularly timed dispatches from my travels in the world of adoption.” Tony recently got married.

He writes – “I invited him (his adoptive father) and my biological aunt and uncle to my wedding not to force a reckoning—neither to heal a wound nor to inflict one. I did it because they were among the people I wanted present. And I did it as a protest against the expectation that I would have to choose who my “real” family was. I was conscious that no one in the world was asking for this convergence of souls. There are no cultural expectations or rules governing it, no script to follow. If anything, the co-presence of my adoptive and biological families signaled a breach in the covenant that we assume closed adoption to represent: that the family of origin shall disappear from the life of the adoptee, who shall be “as if born” to the adopting family.”

I say – good for him, pushing back on expectations !! He goes on to share –

On his last night in town, as I was driving him to his hotel, I told him that not only was I thankful for his kindness to my biological family, but it healed something in me to see him in a literal embrace. He replied with what I later learned he had also said to my aunt and uncle that day: that he was grateful to them for giving me to him. This remark, generously intended and deeply unsettling (I am no one’s gift; they had no role in it; my birth mother did not relinquish me for his sake), reminded me that my father will never grasp the nettle of adoption.

He concludes with this thought – “The legacy of the trauma and secrecy of adoption is that I remain isolated in my freedom.” I understand from my own sadness. Learning the truth about my parents origins, while answering lifelong questions, left me bereft. Not fitting in with either the adoptive or biological families – in truth. The ties that bind get cut and like Humpty Dumpty can’t be put back together again. Sadly, this is the truth about it. He notes that “Every move is risky.” regarding reconnecting and risking alienation from the people who raised you.

Of course, he is right about this – “There is no such thing as the successful resolution, or closure, of an adoption.” And closing with “There is still much that I cannot say, hurts that I dare not inflame. There is still no inclusive we. There is only me, standing in particular relationships to the particular people I care about. It’s a kind of paradox: the further I go along the path of reunion, the more fully I perceive this atomism into which adoption fractures the idea of ‘family’.”

Adoptee Margot Tenenbaum

I watched a Wes Anderson movie titled The Royal Tenenbaums. The rest of my family chose not to. What really got my attention was the character of Margo Tenenbaum played by Gwyneth Paltrow. The character as written and her behavioral traits mirror what I have read from so many adoptees.

Paltrow as Margot

I knew someone had to have written about it. I found it at a site called LINK> Very Troubled Child from where the image above was found. The creator, Alberto Favaretto creates unique travel bags, he writes – “Margot Tenenbaum was adopted at age two. Her father had always noted this when introducing her. She was a playwright, and won a Braverman Grant of $50,000 in the ninth grade. She and her brother Richie ran away from home one winter and camped out in the African wing of the Public Archives. They shared a sleeping bag and survived on crackers and root beer.”

Another WordPress blog, LINK> Film Genres, shares Margot’s failed reunion with her biological family this way – “Margot’s lack of a father figure comes about mostly from her adopted father’s refusal to accept her as one of his own children. Each time she was introduced to anyone by her father, he always referred to her as “my adopted daughter.” Margot snuck away from home at the age of fourteen to find her biological father, only to have him “castrate” her in a sense by cutting her finger off when chopping wood. She sought out for her biological father and he essentially cuts her off with the removal of her finger. The removal of her finger created a gap that she can be seen as constantly searching for something to fill with.”

In Vogue, Christian Allaire wrote just over a year ago – LINK> What Makes Margot Tenenbaum’s Style So Good, Even 20 Years Later – Margot is an outsider. That’s only underscored by her fashion sense: She’s decidedly more fashion-forward than the rest of the Tenenbaums. But her looks, while distinctive, are never overstyled. In one scene, she’s smoking in the bathroom while painting her toes and wearing a tight, nude slip dress. You get the sense that she does this very thing—in the same exact outfit—every single day. “She was known for her extreme secrecy,” says the narrator. “None of the Tenenbaums knew she was a smoker, which she had been since the age of 12.” Margot has an air of mystery to her, and her chic, demure wardrobe only adds to this.

From Brain Mass, Sociology, Family & Childhood, LINK> Character Analysis of Margot. Margot was adopted at age two. This is the foundation of her identity issues. My response will always come back to this foundational issue in Margot’s existence. Margot may feel as though she is not really a part of the family and just an attachment piece to the family when she is continually reminded publicly that she is adopted. This act will intensify feelings of rejection and low self-esteem. As a child, she appears to be in desperate want of nurturing. This lack of acknowledgement intensifies the obscure feelings she may be experiencing due to her being adopted. Adoption does influence a child’s development. The specific issues that a child will experience when he/she has knowledge that he/she is adopted are: separation, loss, anger, grief, and identity. Between the ages of 7 and 12, the adopted child experiences the “full emotional impact” of being . . . (more at a paywall there).

Enough for today’s blog. I just recognized how richly the adoptee character of Margot in this movie was developed. I’ve had so much exposure within a group that prioritizes the voices of adoptees. where I have spent a lot of time the last few years, since my adoptee parents died and I started on my own genetic, adoption influenced, roots journey.

Tony Corsentino

On Twitter @corsent

I only just became aware of this person and thought I’d share that awareness. It was said “His posts critical of the adoption industry are thoughtful and should be amplified.” So, my first awareness was this graphic.

Finding him on Twitter, I found this LINK> Substack post – titled “Why Is That Controversial?” with a subtitle “Adoptees have a stake in the fight to protect abortion rights” by him which I will give you below some excerpts from.

He writes – “adoption services in the United States and other industrialized countries commodify children, treating them as social wealth that is transferred from the less resourced to the more resourced.” That is certainly the truth of the matter. Exploitation of the poor.

He goes on to note – I am a product of a closed domestic adoption, for which the reigning justification remains, even now, the idea, developed during the “Baby Scoop Era” (1945-1973), that relinquishing an infant under circumstances of secrecy solves several problems at once: a child gets a loving home; hopeful parents get a child to raise; and a “mistake” is “erased,” allowing the birth parent another start at making a better life.

I totally agree with him on this point – “There is an enormous moral difference, however, between relinquishment and adoption as intervening in a crisis situation for which there is no better alternative, versus instituting a de facto social system in which people are coerced into producing children for transferal to other, unrelated families.” The first responds to the death of the child’s parents (growing up, I actually did think my parents were both orphans – had no idea there were people out there that we were genetically related to) or in serious parental circumstances like unrelenting drug addiction. The social system we could find ourselves in now looks like it could become a regime of forced birth and subsequent child trafficking.

Women who relinquish children carry a lifetime of emotional impact. I read about that time and again. Here’s one comparison of both having an abortion and relinquishing a child to adoption – “It’s hard to convince others about the depth of it. You know, a few years after I was married I became pregnant and had an abortion. It was not a wonderful experience, but every time I hear stories or articles or essays about the recurring trauma of abortion, I want to say, ‘You don’t have a clue.’ I’ve experienced both and I’d have an abortion any day of the week before I would ever have another adoption—or lose a kid in the woods, which is basically what it is. You know your child is out there somewhere, you just don’t know where. It’s bad enough as a mother to know he might need you, but to complicate that they make a law that says even if he does need you we’re not going to tell him where you are.” ~ Ann Fessler from an interview for The Girls Who Went Away.

As adoptees, we simply cannot accept Amy Coney Barrett’s proposition (who is herself an adoptive parent) that relinquishment reduces “the consequences of parenting and the obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy.” It shifts the consequences, transforms them. To invoke the desires of hopeful adoptive parents, to say that forced birth-plus-relinquishment meets an unmet demand for the opportunity to parent, is to say that pregnant people, and the offspring they create, are to be pressed into a social experiment of incubating and transferring the raw materials for making families. Clearly, hopeful, affluent adoptive parents are a powerful political constituency.

Relinquishment is catastrophic. It is a failure to preserve the bond between a parent and their child.

It Actually Does Matter

I have known quite a few people who were not entirely happy with the family of their birth but those of us who have been touched by adoption lost the family of our birth. Some of us find our way back. Today’s blog is inspired by a story in Severance Magazine written by Kristen Steinhilber titled My Biology Matters. It Did All Along.

She writes – “It took me more than three decades of fairytale-oriented platitudes and assumptions thrown like bombs my way about adoption to piece together one very relevant thread: everyone who told me that biology doesn’t matter—including both sides of my own adoptive family—had intact bloodlines and genetic histories. And that what they were really saying, whether they meant to or not, was that my biology doesn’t matter.”

I encountered something like this as well. When I was first learning about my original families (both of my parents were adopted), I was attending a writer’s conference in St Louis when one of our members questioned me – If the adoptive family was good, why does it matter? As we talked, it slowly dawned on her that if she wanted to know, it would have been a fairly easy thing for her to learn as much as she wanted to know from her older family members. Not so for adoptees.

She goes on to write – “. . . withholding and secrecy—are encouraged in the world of adoption when it comes to the biology of adoptees. In fact, withholding and secrecy are legally enforced through sealed birth records. So when I found out, I assumed this was normal, understandable, or even maybe for my own good. My adoptive mother may have even believed that herself.” And adds, “since I’d always been told that adoption was such a gift, I didn’t feel I had the right to it. I pushed my own feelings away and suppressed what was in my gut.”

Even my adoptee mom, after being denied her adoption file and being told her mother was already dead, tried to put a good face on it all as she abandoned trying to do a family tree at Ancestry using the adoptive family details saying “it wasn’t real” and I understand that but needed to say at that point “because I was adopted, glad I was.” Though I doubt she really meant that, what else could she say at that point ?

She describes her experience of reunion – “I had a beautiful reunion with them for years and ‘fit’ naturally. Not in the same way that they fit with each other; that’s simply not possible when you miss out on all those years.” This has been my experience in having genetic biological relations reunions – I can feel these are really, truly the people who I am related to and at the same time I can’t make up for all of the years they were living their lives and I wasn’t in them. It affects my feelings towards the adoptive family I grew up with. I’m like my mom in very real ways – they aren’t real anymore, though at one time they were. The love remains for the good people they all were and are, yet they are also “strangers”, not actually related to me in reality. 

I understand it when she says, “The spiritual and psychological isolation of having two families but not belonging to either has ripped me from limb to limb . . .” That’s the painful part of it all. While I do now feel more “complete” and know my ethnic and familial roots, I don’t actually belong to either family group in any real way. It is actually very sad and only now do I allow myself to feel this, brought almost to tears by the truth of it. It is the sense of not belonging that plagues many adoptees and now I understand passes down the family line to their children as well.

She talks about the massive number of adoptees who stand in solidarity for adoption reform. At least, I am one of those now as well.

It Was Divinely Orchestrated

Texas State Senator Donna Campbell

So the Texas State Senator, Donna Campbell, appeared on my radar Sunday when I received an email notification from The Adoption Files blog by Ande Stanley. She writes – “One of the biggest stumbling blocks to the unrestricted access to original birth certificates in the state of Texas has been the Texas State Senator Donna Campbell – (I add, who not coincidentally is) an adoptive mother who has voted against allowing access every year since 2015.” Texas Monthly has had Senator Donna Campbell on their Worst Legislators list.

State Senator Donna Campbell as an adoptive mother shares her story in a Houston Chronical article featuring state officials that have adopted (there is a bit of an infuriating paywall but I include the link anyway). Her voice was described as breaking when she talks about promising her youngest daughter’s birth mother that she would “take good care of the baby” and calls the adoption divinely orchestrated. Pro-Life legislator Donna Campbell says also that she actually said to the birth mother, “You had a choice nine months ago, and you chose life and you will be blessed, and I will always take care of this child.” So like a politician to do double duty with their recorded statements.

It happened when she went to the hospital nursery to give a message to another doctor, and she heard people discussing a baby. “There was conversation about, ‘This baby is so cute’ — everybody wanted to take the baby home,” Campbell recalled. “They said, ‘Do you want to take the baby home?’” She said it turned out that the mother had been headed from San Antonio to Houston to find an adoption agency and went into labor in Columbus. Campbell and her husband had been talking about adoption but hadn’t moved forward on it. The decision was made quickly, and she asked to talk to the mother to thank her for the little girl she named Anna Beth after her own mother. “It happened just like that. But you know, so many others that would like to adopt, it doesn’t come that easy,” Campbell said. “This is truly divinely orchestrated.” God meant it to be – a lot of adoptive mothers will say that.

Lori Holden wrote Donna Campbell an open letter – Let’s talk – adoptive mom to adoptive mom – on the Lavender Luz website. “I understand having fears about adoption and, by extension, fears about making changes in adoption law. Change can be scary. For decades many states have had laws on the books to protect people from the humiliation of unwed pregnancy or the shame of infertility or the stigma of being born to unmarried parents. In response, we have put up walls to hide the shame and stigma and humiliation.”

“One of those walls is the practice of closing birth records for one group of people who, due to circumstances of birth, to this day do not enjoy a civil right that all other citizens in your state do. It is time to re-evaluate the existence of this wall, as so many of your Texas bipartisan colleagues in the Senate and House were eager to do at the close of the legislative session last month.”

When you say privacy I wonder if you are confusing it with secrecy,  which takes simple privacy and wraps it in toxic fear and shame. Privacy is chosen, secrecy is often imposed. Secrecy exists because shame exists. With openness, by unsealing records and providing equal access for all, we can dissolve the shame and  vanquish the need for secrecy. Regarding the privacy issue, accurate birth records should be kept private from the public but not secret from the parties directly involved.

As you may already realize, the Internet and advances in DNA testing have enabled birth mothers and birth fathers and their now-adult children to find each others’ identities by skirting laws that were constructed in that era of shame and secrecy. Psychotherapist Karen Caffrey, who is an adult adoptee with birth family from Texas, says, “Family genetic secrets are very soon going to be a thing of the past.”

There is more in her open letter at the link I’ve supplied.

The What If Of It All

Michele Dawson Haber

Today, I was first attracted to a blog by this woman, Michele Dawson Haber, in which she shares imaging her father talking to her while making coffee. “What’s this? Why so many steps? Do you know the coffee we drank in the old days was just botz (mud) at the bottom of our cups? A life like yours, with such complicated coffee—Michal*, it makes me happy that you’re not struggling as I did.” *Michal (מיכל) is her Hebrew name.

I come from a long line of coffee drinkers. The pot was always prepared for the timer to begin the brewing before any inhabitants of the house woke and wanted a cup. After my mom died, I spent several quiet treasured morning drinking coffee with my dad out on their deck as we watched the dawn turn into sunrise. When I returned to my parents’ house following my dad’s death, as I walked through their kitchen, I heard him clearly say in my mind, “You miss your old dad, don’t you ?” Exactly as he would have said it in life. I admitted that I did miss him already. With my mom’s passing, . . . oh, I heard her a lot say “You’re doing really well.” many times while sitting on the toilet in the bathroom where she died in her jacuzzi tub. So much that I finally had to let her know – “enough, I don’t need to hear this any more” – and it stopped.

Yet, what really touched my heart was Michele’s piece in May 2021 in Salon about her mother’s letters – “It’s my mom’s fault I stole her letters.” I found letters like that among my parents things as I cleared out their residence after their deaths only 4 months apart. I wish I had read Michele’s piece before getting rid of my parents’ love letters to each other that my mom treasured enough to keep for over 50 years. Just before I began that work, I had read a piece by a woman who’s mother had destroyed her love letters from her father. The mother had said these were private between your father and I – and for that reason only, I let the letters go after having coincidentally read only one but a very relevant one – as though my mom reached out from beyond the grave to make certain I at least saw that one.

Michele writes in her personal essay for Salon – “I felt guilt wash over me. The debates with my two sisters over whether it was ethical to steal her letters replayed in my mind. In the end, we decided that the information in those letters belonged not only to our mother, but also to me and my older sister.” But I had not and so chose a different course based upon someone else’s story. Michele goes on to say, “the question of privacy continued to gnaw at me. I knew that if I had asked my mother 20 or even 10 years ago for permission to read the letters she would have said, ‘Are you kidding? No way. What’s in those letters is none of your business.’ And so I did what I always do when faced with a conundrum: I researched. In her book The Secret Life of Families (subtitled How Secrets Shape Our Relationships and When and How to Tell the Truth), Dr. Evan Imber-Black distinguished secrecy from privacy. A secret, she wrote, is information withheld that “impacts another’s life choices, decision-making capacity and well-being.” Conversely, if a piece of information is truly private, then knowing it has no impact on another’s physical or emotional health. 

Michele goes on to share, “In my fantasy argument with my mother, I would say that her secrecy about my biological father did impact my well-being, that depriving me of my genetic heritage handicapped my ability to shape a strong identity.” I agree with her reasoning on this one.

I had read one note (not even a letter) from my mom to a friend, stressing about how my father might react to learning she was pregnant. She had conceived me out of wedlock as a 16 yr old Junior in high school. My dad had just started at the U of NM at Las Cruces and it appears they wrote each other almost every day, though mostly these were the letters she received from my dad, except the note I read. I remember when I figured out that I had been conceived out of wedlock and how in my heart (though only for a few months) I turned against my mom because of that. I didn’t want her to touch me, such as take my hand. Hopefully, she thought only that I was asserting some independence because I was growing up. It was just all those “nice girls don’t do that” lectures she had given me. As a grown woman now, I know that she didn’t want me to make the same mistake. I hastened to get married with a month yet to graduating from high school even though I was not pregnant. My parents supported me and we had the fully formal church wedding and reception in my parents’ back yard. I suspect my parents were afraid I might turn up pregnant like my mom did and so did not discourage me from a marriage that lasted long enough to conceive a child 4 months after I married and then ended in divorce when she was only 3 years old.

Finding that letter further softened my feelings about my conception because I could clearly feel my mom’s emotions and concerns before my dad knew he would become a father. Anyway, this long story shorter. I didn’t keep the letters but sent them to the local landfill along with other items my mom had kept from their many journeys – souvenir booklets and the like. Reading Michele’s story makes me regret that all over again, and I have felt that regret before.

After my dad died, I learned from my cousin, who’s father was my mom’s adoptive brother, that it was possible to get the adoption file that the state of Tennessee had denied my mom in the early 1990s. It is a pity they didn’t let her have that because it would have brought her so much peace. My own journey to rediscover my original grandparents (both of my parents were adopted) only took me about year after my dad’s death; and then, I knew who ALL 4 of them were and something about my ancestors. What I didn’t expect was gaining cousins and an aunt. Even though I am very happy to now have family that I am biologically and genetically related to – I will also admit how difficult it is to create relationships with people who have decades of history lived that I was not any part of. Thankfully, they have all been kind in acknowledging me (and sometimes the DNA makes it difficult for them not to).

Do read the links above to Michele’s stories. I’ve made this blog long enough that I am not going to include any more excerpts beyond the coffee bit and some of her thoughts about personal letters.

Unreasonable Fears

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

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

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

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

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

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

The response –

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

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

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

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

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