I have a friend. She is older than me. Old enough to be my mother, in fact. She knows my story. She knows that I was adopted, that I was born in prison, that I struggled with my identity in my youth, and that I was cruelly rejected by my biological mother when I searched and found her over thirty years ago. She knew I continued to struggle over the years with feelings of anguish and inadequacy after the rejection from my birthmother, and that I wondered constantly about my biological origins. She listened sympathetically and supported me fully (or so I thought) as the story of finding my biological father unfolded.
After over twenty years of friendship, and me spilling my guts about my crazy adoptee-centric issues (closed records, lies, shame, rejection, fantasies, social media, stalking family members, DNA, family trees, etc.), my friend dropped a bombshell. A big one. One night, after a couple glasses of wine and talking about everything and nothing at all, she confessed: “I gave a child up for adoption the same year you were born. My daughter would be just a few months older than you.”
Uh . . . what!? I was dumbfounded. After picking my jaw up off the table and consciously unknitting my brow, I took a big gulp of wine.
At first, I was sympathetic. She told me she was shunned by her own mother and father and sent away to live with a relative during her pregnancy. She described being shamed by her family for being pregnant at eighteen and how she was coerced into relinquishing her daughter.
I think at this point I was uncorking another bottle of wine.
I asked her if she had ever heard from her daughter or from anyone on her behalf. She said no. I asked her if she had ever tried looking for her daughter. She said no. She went on to explain that through the years she “made sure” that if her daughter was looking for her, she had done everything she could to make herself “easy to find.” It sounded like she was simply waiting to be found.
I asked her if she wanted help finding her now. She said, “If my daughter wanted to find me, she could have. And she hasn’t.”
There were tears and more drunken talk . . . and when my friend left that night, I felt sorry for her. I felt sorry for her daughter out there somewhere. I wanted to do something about it, but it wasn’t my thing to do anything about.
That was nearly five years ago. Over time, I’ve given my friend’s situation a lot of thought. We’ve had a few discussions about it . . . but each time I bring it up, I get hit with, “You just don’t understand!” Really? Or, “Quit trying to push your agenda on me.” We end up frustrated and upset with each other. Now we don’t talk about it. It’s like this awful, sad, secret, adopted elephant in the room. Our friendship has suffered.
I don’t get it. She’s successful, retired, single, and has a grown son. Now that she’s retired she throws herself into volunteer work, which includes helping orphans in Mexico and mentoring foster children in her own community. As for the mentoring, she’s actually been mentoring foster kids for years—even before she was retired. I had always admired that she gave so much of herself to these motherless kids, but now I’m seeing it in a different light. In my mind, it’s like she’s trying to make up for orphaning her daughter. Of course, I shouldn’t assume this.
And about her being always “out there” to find . . . I’m not so sure she’s been truthful about “not hiding.” When she finally joined Facebook, she used a fake name. That’s kind of a big deal. Social media is one of the easiest ways for adoptees to track people down these days.
Of course, my assumption of her reluctance to be found makes me think of my own biological mother. She absolutely didn’t want to be found. That hurt. Now I have this friend who is behaving in a way that I believe is hurtful. I don’t think she’s dealing with her own emotions about relinquishing her child so many years ago. Maybe I’m wrong.
Anyway, it’s not my thing. It’s hers. I’ll continue to advocate—adoptees need to be heard. Birthmothers, too. Some just aren’t ready.
My birthmother didn’t want to be found, either, but I found her anyway. Read my story, The Lies That Bind, An Adoptee’s Journey of Rejection, Redirection, DNA, and Discovery
Hi Laureen, wow, that is so interesting. Thank you for sharing it. There are so many powerful emotions that are so deep and difficult surrounding the adoption experience. Especially in our generation and before. Rejection by your family can be so terrible but in my opinion, can be worked through, maybe. My bmo has cut herself out of my life completely because I told her she could not call herself my mother on social media. It’s because my mother is my mother and I that term would deeply hurt and insult my mother. Can not let that happen. She is 73 and lives alone with her cats. No husband, no other children. The hurt runs deep.
That’s rough–so sorry. My bmom also is still turning her back on me. I’ve come to the conclusion that she is not the kind of person I’d be interested in knowing anyway. It would still have been nice to get to ask questions, to see her face. And for her to ask about me . . . but she never has.
If your friend really wants to put herself out there to be found, she will join the different adoption/reunion groups like the adoptiondatabase, and she would register with the state reunion registry (if the state has one), where her child was born (or in some cases born in one state, adopted in another).
And if your friend REALLY wants to increase her chances of finding her child, she needs to do DNA testing with all four of the major DNA testing companies. So many adoptees are now using DNA as another search tool. If the child she relinquished (or a grandchild!) has done a DNA test with Ancestry or FTDNA or MyHeritage, or 23andMe, and the birth parent does not also have their DNA there, they will not be matched. If both adoptee and birth mother (or father or siblings, 1/2 siblings, aunts/uncles, 1st cousins, etc.), have tested, then they will definitely be matched. Adoptees wish that more birth parents and other family members would do DNA testing. Adoptees and birth family searching who are considering DNA testing, or have already done DNA testing, should join the DNAadoption group (a Googlegroup). They will help teach you how to use DNA as a search tool and how to understand your results.
Your friend’s child she relinquished may have searched for her, but if they don’t know her name, then it is very difficult for an adoptee to find their birth mother if she was born in a state that does not allow adult adoptees to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate (OBC). In my case, I was born in NY State, and my birth mother used a fake name on my adoption papers, so I probably would have never found my birth family in 2015 if I had not done DNA testing. NY State just signed the adoptee rights bill into law a few days ago, so adult adoptees born in or adopted in NY State will be able to request and receive a copy of their OBC starting in mid-January 2020, so it will now be easier for adoptees and birth family to find each other if they want to do so.
You can tell your friend that a lot of adoptees say the same thing, that if their birth mother wanted to find them they would have done so by now, so they believe they are probably not looking and do not want contact. But it is not necessarily the case. Many birth mothers do not think they can search, they believe it is illegal or they just do not know how to do it They do not know how many resources are out there, and they do not know where to go for help. They know their child’s birth name, but they do not know their adopted name, and the adoptee usually does not know their birth name, or the name of the birth mother unless they were born in a state that allows this information to be released.
The decision to search or not is sometimes a difficult one. A lot of emotions are involved. People fear rejection. But going through life saying “I wonder” is not as emotionally healthy as being able to say “I know”. The outcome may not be what you dream of, but you will know, and can move forward. Your friend probably wants to know what happened to the child she relinquished. Most birth mothers want to know at a minimum, that the child is OK, and that they were loved. If she really is not interested in finding her child and trying to establish some sort of relationship that is comfortable for both parties, that is OK, but she should try to at least provide the child she relinquished important family health history.
Nothing related to adoption is easy….. but the truth will often set you free.
Judy Sent from my iPad
So many emotions–so true. I believe she DOESN’T want to be found. It’s sad.