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Old 05-30-2015, 11:33 AM
 
Location: Albuquerque NM
3,165 posts, read 4,815,756 times
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Haven't posted here much but wanted to share about my reunion with my birth mother a couple of weeks ago. There has been a lot to process!

Some background: I was born and adopted in a state with closed records, but I knew my birth surname, which I was told 9 times out of 10 will be the mother's surname. But it was one of the most common surnames, so it didn't help me since I was born in a large city where there were thousands of people with this name.

I turned to DNA testing three years ago and within a year was able to identify who my bio father was. Since he died long ago, and I could find nobody still living who knew him, it wasn't much of a victory. Then about a year after this I found a close enough match (4th cousin) who had a very extensive tree including collateral lines, some with the right surname, and felt I had found my birth mother in this tree. My candidate was easy to locate in a directory so I called her, and it was her. This was a year ago.

She claimed to be "thrilled" that I found her, and was very gracious and generously sent me lots of family photos and history. She never married and never told anyone about me. I was correct about who I thought my father was based on DNA (they had a long relationship but my father was married to someone else, although legally separated). I was overjoyed to have all this information! Since she lives across the country we didn't meet right away and then the really bad winter hit where she lives so it seemed best to wait until spring. In the meantime we kept corresponding and had numerous phone calls.

I have to say when we first met in person it felt anticlimactic. I felt more excitement and emotion reading about other people's reunions than I did with my own! Maybe because we already felt like we knew each other through our many conversations and letters. In person, she claimed I reminded her a lot of her brother (who is deceased), both in appearance and voice. And over the few days we spent together I could see many ways that she and I were alike, both the good and the not so good! This felt strange and kind of uncomfortable, but that goes with the territory when you grow up with people who are not related to you and you feel "unique". Gone was that unique identity that I enjoyed for so long: now I was reluctantly feeling part of a clan that had been hidden from me all my life. For some adoptees I think that is a great feeling, but for me I couldn't get beyond a weird kind of feeling.

I think because she never married and raised no children of her own, she is emotionally very close to her surviving sister who lives far away, and also several nephews and a niece who are scattered across the country. She can't bring herself to tell anyone about me (afraid she will be judged especially by her sister), but I am curious about my cousins. She talked a lot about them and showed me lots of pictures of them at all ages, and of their children. It feels strange that I can know so much about them but am still hidden behind this veil of secrecy. I mentioned I will be traveling to a workshop in California very close to where one of her nephews lives, and she made it sound like she was encouraging me to look him up, but I don't want to be the one to "out" myself (and her past life) to the rest of her family. So another awkward feeling.

Even though the experience wasn't all "sunshine and rainbows", I'm really glad I followed through and went to meet her, and am looking forward to seeing how this relationship develops, or not, over time. Like many women her age (closing in on 80) she seems pretty lonely and maybe even a little depressed, although she says she's had a wonderful life. I think I am a welcome distraction for her now but don't have a sense of her expectations moving forward. And I am cautious too about wanting to barge into her family and getting involved in a whole new family drama.

Any thoughts and opinions from others who are in reunion (or not) would be welcome.
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Old 06-01-2015, 07:15 PM
 
Location: Kansas
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As you know, I am an adoptive mother and because of my son's functioning level he cannot understand adoption so this is a non-issue but I do have some thoughts and the first one is if you belong to any adoption groups where this kind of situation is addressed? I see you did an extensive search to identify your birth parents. Do you understand the relationship that the birth father had with the family? I am wondering if it was someone they knew and disapproved of which might add to the birth mother's reluctance to tell the family.

If I were to put myself in the birth mother's place, I think I would be very stressed by being contacted since the records were closed. She has welcomed you and given you family history but she is in an awkward position and she is an elderly lady. I am guessing that you understand the shame that women felt back then when they became pregnant and the man didn't marry them. Yeah, that was a long time ago. I am wondering what the religious affiliation is too since with some religions, this was really viewed not in the best light. Just because times change, people don't.

I think it is great that you found your birth mother. I really think I would be careful not to pressure her about meeting the rest of the family especially since she is elderly. I think that would be the respectful thing to do.

In your place, I would join a group focused on reunions and see how others approached it. I think it is a more difficult situation because your birth mother is elderly and undue stress could be especially bad for her. Try to imagine yourself in her place and go from there.
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Old 06-01-2015, 09:48 PM
 
1,879 posts, read 1,855,574 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aries63 View Post
Haven't posted here much but wanted to share about my reunion with my birth mother a couple of weeks ago. There has been a lot to process!

Some background: I was born and adopted in a state with closed records, but I knew my birth surname, which I was told 9 times out of 10 will be the mother's surname. But it was one of the most common surnames, so it didn't help me since I was born in a large city where there were thousands of people with this name.

I turned to DNA testing three years ago and within a year was able to identify who my bio father was. Since he died long ago, and I could find nobody still living who knew him, it wasn't much of a victory. Then about a year after this I found a close enough match (4th cousin) who had a very extensive tree including collateral lines, some with the right surname, and felt I had found my birth mother in this tree. My candidate was easy to locate in a directory so I called her, and it was her. This was a year ago.

She claimed to be "thrilled" that I found her, and was very gracious and generously sent me lots of family photos and history. She never married and never told anyone about me. I was correct about who I thought my father was based on DNA (they had a long relationship but my father was married to someone else, although legally separated). I was overjoyed to have all this information! Since she lives across the country we didn't meet right away and then the really bad winter hit where she lives so it seemed best to wait until spring. In the meantime we kept corresponding and had numerous phone calls.

I have to say when we first met in person it felt anticlimactic. I felt more excitement and emotion reading about other people's reunions than I did with my own! Maybe because we already felt like we knew each other through our many conversations and letters. In person, she claimed I reminded her a lot of her brother (who is deceased), both in appearance and voice. And over the few days we spent together I could see many ways that she and I were alike, both the good and the not so good! This felt strange and kind of uncomfortable, but that goes with the territory when you grow up with people who are not related to you and you feel "unique". Gone was that unique identity that I enjoyed for so long: now I was reluctantly feeling part of a clan that had been hidden from me all my life. For some adoptees I think that is a great feeling, but for me I couldn't get beyond a weird kind of feeling.

I think because she never married and raised no children of her own, she is emotionally very close to her surviving sister who lives far away, and also several nephews and a niece who are scattered across the country. She can't bring herself to tell anyone about me (afraid she will be judged especially by her sister), but I am curious about my cousins. She talked a lot about them and showed me lots of pictures of them at all ages, and of their children. It feels strange that I can know so much about them but am still hidden behind this veil of secrecy. I mentioned I will be traveling to a workshop in California very close to where one of her nephews lives, and she made it sound like she was encouraging me to look him up, but I don't want to be the one to "out" myself (and her past life) to the rest of her family. So another awkward feeling.

Even though the experience wasn't all "sunshine and rainbows", I'm really glad I followed through and went to meet her, and am looking forward to seeing how this relationship develops, or not, over time. Like many women her age (closing in on 80) she seems pretty lonely and maybe even a little depressed, although she says she's had a wonderful life. I think I am a welcome distraction for her now but don't have a sense of her expectations moving forward. And I am cautious too about wanting to barge into her family and getting involved in a whole new family drama.

Any thoughts and opinions from others who are in reunion (or not) would be welcome.
Your feelings are totally normal. The "abstract" has become "real".

Quote:
Gone was that unique identity that I enjoyed for so long: now I was reluctantly
feeling part of a clan that had been hidden from me all my life. For some
adoptees I think that is a great feeling, but for me I couldn't get beyond a
weird kind of feeling.
You stated that very well . Even though I am very fond of my extended bfamily (bmother died young, no living siblings), it is a weird feeling to now be part of their family even though I do like being part of the family (they have welcomed me with open arms).

I'll try and find some online stuff for you to read.

As you were the one that made contact, you may need to give your bmother a little bit of time. Many bmothers do need a period of time to get the courage up to contact family (and many do, although others don't). It is very hard for them as many in the general public look down on birthmothers. I'll see if I can find something that might help her. Whatever the case, I wouldn't make contact with the cousins without her permission.

Btw I was also a "secret baby", however, my bmother took the secret to her (early) grave. It is possible that if I had made contact, she might not have ever told her family but that is not something I will ever know. I actually received my OBC a long time ago and was reluctant to make contact because I suspected I would be a secret (I was born while she was on a working holiday) although on the other hand, she did have "mixed feelings" about the adoption. For many women of that era, they felt like they were caught between a rock and hard place.

Although adoptions were all closed back then, that was done more for the perceived benefit of the adoptive family rather than for the bparents - it was felt at the time that adoptive parents couldn't bond with their adopted children unless the biological parents were removed from the picture. Today, open adoptions are more common and when they are done seriously by adoption professionals (all agencies claim to be for open adoption but many do so because they know that they need to do so to appeal to expectant mothers considering adoption), the adoptive relationship can actually be strengthened. That can reflect reunions as well - my amum was supportive and our relationship is even stronger .

One thing that can help is to read up on the history of adoption - the Adoption History Project gives a lot of information about the history of adoption in the US:

http://pages.uoregon.edu/adoption/

Last edited by susankate; 06-01-2015 at 10:24 PM..
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Old 06-02-2015, 09:06 AM
 
Location: Howard County, Maryland
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OP, I'm curious as to how your relationship with your adoptive family is. Do you feel genuinely "related" to them, as part of their family? Do they know that you have reunited with your birth mother? If so, how do they feel about it?

Since you asked for opinions, I will offer mine. I hope you do not attempt to contact your cousins. Your birth mother kept the fact of your existence secret from them for all these years, so I think it's safe to assume that she does not want them to know about you. I can't read her mind, of course, but I think it's highly plausible to assume that it's not because of YOU that she's kept her mouth shut, but because of HER. That is to say, if she's feeling any shame about all this, she's not ashamed of you so much as ashamed of herself.

Agree or disagree with her views, but if you want to show respect to your elderly birth mother, you should honor her wishes.
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Old 06-07-2015, 12:44 PM
 
Location: Albuquerque NM
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Thanks for these responses, I hadn't checked this thread recently. I appreciate the thought that went into these replies.

@AnywhereElse, I do have a sense of where she's coming from. A few weeks after I first contacted her she told me how she was now reliving all the embarrassment and shame of her pregnancy and relinquishment, and it was keeping her awake at night. She said she called the agency a few days after giving me up to ask to have me back, but they refused because she had no job (she quit her job when she started to show with me). So I can understand that but I also wanted to reassure her that she did the right thing as far as I'm concerned, since I had incredible adoptive parents and extended family, and was raised with all the love and support that every child should have. She said that if she had kept me, it would have been a "rocky road" for me. She took a lot of interest in seeing my baby album and said she felt so relieved to see my family and what a happy baby I was. She was raised in a mainline Protestant family (and so was I).

My bio father did have a relationship with my birth mother's family, he was best man at her brother's wedding. So he and my birth mother were friends and double dated with her brother and his fiancé. There is a picture she sent me of the wedding party which I treasure, since it has her parents, her brother and his bride, and my birth mother as maid of honor and my father, and she was two months pregnant with me at the time, so I am part of the whole picture.

@susankate, thanks for sharing that information. While she can't bring herself to tell her family about me, she indicated that I could contact them if I wanted to. She seems to be kind of passive about it, which concerns me. I guess if I establish contact and things go wrong, then she can blame me for it. She came up with some silly ideas, that I should just show up at the next family reunion (not yet planned) and tell them who I am. At one point she said "I wish you could just drive me down to my sister's house and meet her." But I think these are just idle fantasies right now. She doesn't know what she wants.

@bus man, I had a great relationship with my adoptive parents, but strained with my two adoptive siblings, who suffered from mental health issues. I was the "favorite" (and youngest), and the "normal" one. But my parents and adoptive siblings are all now deceased. It is a lonely feeling, and except for two cousins who live far away (we exchange Christmas cards and occasional emails) I feel like I don't have any family anymore. So I am vulnerable in the sense of wishing I still had a family (I am unmarried/no kids) and this drives my curiosity about my extended biological family. Some of them seem like people I have things in common with and would like to know.

Last edited by aries63; 06-07-2015 at 12:53 PM..
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Old 06-08-2015, 08:02 AM
 
Location: Kansas
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I was thinking and maybe it wouldn't be the right approach but if you were my daughter, I might have you there sometime to simply meet family as a "friend". That might be a way to slowly introduce you into the family where you could feel them out and they could do the same with them. That could be easier for everyone.

My son's case would be a little different because of his functioning level but should he ever meet his birth family, I would initially not want them to try to explain who they were, be overly emotional, etc. but just introduce them like they were just any other person you might meet. He understands sort of that he is adopted but should his birth family just want to jump in there and being overly familiar, that would not be acceptable to me.

I think the approach of just showing up and telling them who you are might not be the best idea but it would get the introduction over with. I would leave up to your birth mother though.
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Old 06-09-2015, 10:40 AM
 
Location: Albuquerque NM
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Originally Posted by AnywhereElse View Post
I think the approach of just showing up and telling them who you are might not be the best idea but it would get the introduction over with. I would leave up to your birth mother though.
I already told her I wouldn't be willing to show up like that, with all eyes on me. Seriously? I think my preferences count also. I would prefer to have the opportunity to communicate with one or two of these relatives (via phone or email), and then if there are others who are interested in talking to me, they can contact me.

About the idea that my birth mother is "elderly" because she is 78, she rejects that label. I think she still sees herself as a young woman. She said it makes her feel "old" to see her son as a 52-year-old man. She still lives close to her old high school and has regular lunches with her high school girlfriends. I think in many ways she hasn't really dealt with many of the issues of aging and to her credit (and genes) she is still in great shape. And I'll add that I think she is insecure and immature in many ways. It seems like she hasn't taken ownership of her past and prefers to live in a fantasy world.

So it gives me another reason to say it was a great thing to be adopted (referencing the other thread about "were you lucky to be adopted?"), knowing now that, to my birth mother, I am an embarrassment and inconvenience to her. A "dirty secret." At least I was raised by parents who were always proud of me and never ashamed, although I know I gave them some cause for embarrassment from time to time! Not that I fault my birth mother for her emotions, she has her reasons for responding that way to her life circumstances. She did say she told some of her friends about me and that their reactions were very positive.
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Old 06-09-2015, 07:15 PM
 
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Originally Posted by aries63 View Post
I already told her I wouldn't be willing to show up like that, with all eyes on me. Seriously? I think my preferences count also. I would prefer to have the opportunity to communicate with one or two of these relatives (via phone or email), and then if there are others who are interested in talking to me, they can contact me.

About the idea that my birth mother is "elderly" because she is 78, she rejects that label. I think she still sees herself as a young woman. She said it makes her feel "old" to see her son as a 52-year-old man. She still lives close to her old high school and has regular lunches with her high school girlfriends. I think in many ways she hasn't really dealt with many of the issues of aging and to her credit (and genes) she is still in great shape. And I'll add that I think she is insecure and immature in many ways. It seems like she hasn't taken ownership of her past and prefers to live in a fantasy world.

So it gives me another reason to say it was a great thing to be adopted (referencing the other thread about "were you lucky to be adopted?"), knowing now that, to my birth mother, I am an embarrassment and inconvenience to her. A "dirty secret." At least I was raised by parents who were always proud of me and never ashamed, although I know I gave them some cause for embarrassment from time to time! Not that I fault my birth mother for her emotions, she has her reasons for responding that way to her life circumstances. She did say she told some of her friends about me and that their reactions were very positive.
Aries, although you are already in contact with your bmother, you might find this little booklet interesting. It was sent to me from the NZ Deparetment of Children, Youth and Families when I reapplied for my OBC (I originally got it in the late 1980s but misplaced it).

http://www.cyf.govt.nz/documents/abo...ts-04-2005.pdf

(note that the first page is a blank green one)
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Old 06-10-2015, 06:17 AM
 
Location: Kansas
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aires63: I don't think that, or at least I certainly hope, that your birth mother doesn't feel the way you are perceiving it. What she did never had anything to do with you. You were an innocent bystander in the whole thing and if she told herself anything else, she was just being selfish. Lots of selfishness going around these days. Mothers can be very envious of their daughters especially when they remain immature throughout their lives. All mothers are not close to their daughters. Some never really bond with their own birth children.

I have one child born to me and one adopted to me. I can tell you that I often forget that the child that came through adoption isn't my blood relative. Many times I have thought in my head that he got his reddish hair from my Grandma even saying that to the first person that cut his hair when she asked where the red hair came from, his thrift from Grandpa, etc.

I never felt any magical love for the baby that I carried before he was born and I came to love him within the first few days after I got to know him and it was the exact same with my son that is adopted. I truly love both of the boys equally and they are my own.

My mother was a dreadful person. There was no "magic" in that relationship because she gave birth to me. I reminded her of her in-laws which she didn't care for. I got their looks and personalities. My brother was her chosen and there wasn't any room for anyone else in her heart.

This thing going on with your birth mother isn't about you but about her. I'm getting the feeling that you are lucky to maybe have not grown up with someone that never matured. I also tend to believe that we all end up where we were meant to be at least most of the time.

I hope this all has a happy ending for you. Quite possibly by the way you describe your birth mother, she may just be the family "black sheep" and others may be more likely to accept and embrace you as family.
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Old 06-10-2015, 06:22 PM
 
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Originally Posted by aries63 View Post
I already told her I wouldn't be willing to show up like that, with all eyes on me. Seriously? I think my preferences count also. I would prefer to have the opportunity to communicate with one or two of these relatives (via phone or email), and then if there are others who are interested in talking to me, they can contact me.

About the idea that my birth mother is "elderly" because she is 78, she rejects that label. I think she still sees herself as a young woman. She said it makes her feel "old" to see her son as a 52-year-old man. She still lives close to her old high school and has regular lunches with her high school girlfriends. I think in many ways she hasn't really dealt with many of the issues of aging and to her credit (and genes) she is still in great shape. And I'll add that I think she is insecure and immature in many ways. It seems like she hasn't taken ownership of her past and prefers to live in a fantasy world.

So it gives me another reason to say it was a great thing to be adopted (referencing the other thread about "were you lucky to be adopted?"), knowing now that, to my birth mother, I am an embarrassment and inconvenience to her. A "dirty secret." At least I was raised by parents who were always proud of me and never ashamed, although I know I gave them some cause for embarrassment from time to time! Not that I fault my birth mother for her emotions, she has her reasons for responding that way to her life circumstances. She did say she told some of her friends about me and that their reactions were very positive.
From what you said in your first post, I actually didn't get that impression about your birthmother. My impression is that she wants to overcome her feeling of shame and to let her family know but that she needs a period of time to tell them. There was a lot of judgment back then towards women who got pregnant before marriage and if they didn't have support (whether familial, boyfriend or community support), it was often very difficult to be able to keep and raise the child if one had none of the above support. One does have to look at the 1960s as they were and avoid looking at them through 2015 eyes. It might be worth reading books like "The Girls who went away".

Try to think of it not as "you" being the source of embarrassment and inconvenience but more the fact that she had sex outside of marriage. That was often used against the girl as well - i.e. she "proved her irresponsibility" by getting pregnant outside of marriage and thus "such an irresponsible girl would ruin her child" and thus should do the "responsible thing" and give her child to "responsible married parents". So she would do so because she was told it was what was best for her child but by doing so she would also then be accused of being an "abandoner", after all, "what person gives away their child?". For many women it was a lose/lose situation - she would be considered "irresponsible" if she kept the child and "ruining the child's life" and she would be considered "irresponsible" if she didn't keep the child and called an "abandoner".

She may well still think of herself as that "irresponsible woman" and if so, she needs to get counselling and advice from women who have been in her position and hopefully by doing so, she may be able to move forward and become a better birthmother to you. You say she has told her friends - was that after you contacted her? If so, that is a step in the right direction.

It might be worth her contacting the following organisation:

CUB - Concerned United Birthparents

In earlier posts, I posted some links and it might be worth reading them. Understanding history can help one to understand one's bparents a bit more. As I said, my bmother passed away and took her secret to her grave. I did sometimes feel shame about that but I do understand why and understanding history has helped a lot in that regards. Also, I was born while she was on a working holiday and coincidentally, I got my OBC just after I came back from a working holiday. I then wondered what would have happened if I had gotten pregnant in the UK. At the time, there would have been a lot of help in the UK (far different to even 10-20 years ealier) and I probably would have been able to raise my hypothetical child but it is quite probable that I would not have gone home to Australia until the child was old enough for school and I might not have told them until then, not because I would have been ashamed of my "child" but because I know that back then, they wouldn't have been accepting at all. As for getting pregnant during school years? Not even discussed, I instinctively knew that having a child out of wedlock would have been considered a cardinal sin. And I'm the same age as you! So I can only imagine how it would have been in the mid 60s when I was actually born and without any of the help that was available when I was the same age as my bmother.

Btw even though the following is fiction, it is similar to what many girls would have gone through in many western countries.

Gone up North for a While | Television | NZ On Screen

In this film, it does show the bmother taking her child home where things go OK at first but when her child becomes sick, she loses her job, her childcare place (finding childcare of any kind would have been extremely hard) and is likely to get kicked out of her tiny little room. OK it is a drama but it does give a bit of an idea of what things might have been like. Women needed to work back then to support their child because very little other assistance was available yet they often didn't earn enough to pay for childcare of any kind which for many women, made their situation almost impossible. When I go back to my "hypothetical situation" above, when I first went to the UK, I was working as a typist and was on such a low wage that there is no way that I would have been able to raise a child without the government help that was available. If my bmother had decided to raise me, she would have had to still work yet would have had to find money for childcare out of what would have been a very low wage. She might have been sacked from her job when she did become pregnant (I have no idea if that happened to her or not but it did happen to many women (and if one was a nurse, air hostess etc, it is quite likely one would have had leave their profession altogether)). The thing about the organisation that arranged my adoption is that in the 1940s, they were actually set up to help women parent their child (they had quite a good plan that helped solve the childcare issue and they also had supporters that would have helped women find jobs). However by the 1960s, that had gone by the wayside as they became an adoption agency. In theory, the help was available but in practice they didn't want any of their girls to know about this help because by doing so, the girls might have actually wanted to keep their babies which was against their policy at the time.

Last edited by susankate; 06-10-2015 at 06:41 PM..
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