Thursday, July 17, 2014

Secrets, Lies, and Shame: Why Do Birth Mothers Hide?



“Our Wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.” David  Richo


 A huge part of me wished she would have been dead.  After all, death would be the only acceptable explanation I could give her for not searching for me.  Yet after nearly 8 years, my prayers had been answered.  Years of daydreaming of who I was had finally been revealed.  I felt like I was in a dream.  I was Dorothy Gail being whisked away by a tornado into a fictious land of childhood fantasy.  Was this all a dream?  I was afraid to go to sleep.  So many nights I had dreamt of unlocking the truth.  The key to Pandora’s Box had been out of my reach for so long.  I feared shutting my eyes only to wake and find the box locked once more.  It just couldn’t be real, but it was.

I don’t remember being nervous during that first phone call.  I guess I was still in shock and unaware of what to expect.  Did she remember me?  Did she think about me after all these years?  I thought I might remember the sounds of her voice that first time I heard it again.  Though the voice I heard was not the voice of what I had anticipated to be of a mother.  It was that of a woman who sounded cold and uninviting.  I silently prayed I had the wrong number.  Surely, this could not be the woman who gave birth to me.  I then realized the fantasy was over.  This was real.  Like many other adoptees, I too had spent most of my childhood fantasizing about the mother I had lost.  Is she famous?  Is she royalty?  Is she even alive?  I guess what many of us don’t consider is that this woman too is an ordinary human being.  She doesn’t possess any superhuman powers extraordinary abilities.  No one is perfect.  I often feel like all birthmothers are put on some pedestal, because they did some heroic gesture by giving us a “better” life.  Other times, I feel like they want us to feel sorry for them as if they had no control over their actions.  While this may be the case for many of them, I don’t feel they all were forced down this path.  I believe some chose it.  Perhaps, there are those that just don’t want to be our mothers or a mother at all.  The voice I heard was indeed not one I had expected.  She did not appear happy to speak to me nor did she ask me anything about my life.  I was hurt and extremely disappointed, but I refused to let myself cry.  I spent a lifetime of birthdays crying.  I listened to her tell me she never thought about me.  Meanwhile the hole in my heart got bigger. 

I had to remember that she did agree to speak to me.  I had to do so on her own terms, which I agreed.  She told me I was not allowed to speak to her about her family.  Wait a minute!  I thought it was my family too.  What about my brother or my birth father?  I had so many questions, but she refused to answer them.  She immediately began to state she has no favorite food, color, holiday, or season.  She went on to tell me she was a simple person and did not want me involved in her business.  The conversation didn’t last very long.  All her answers were very quick and short.  She treated me as if I were some telemarketer calling to sell her the latest line of household cleaning supplies.  Are you kidding?  My search led me to this?  I was almost too much.  This was a second rejection.  Maybe I had expected too much.  After all, what good can come from years of secrecy, lies, and shame?

Since that first phone conversation, I have spoken to my birthmother a number of other times.  None of them were extremely pleasant.  Once I got a frantic phone call at work from her demanding to know what I wanted.  She criticized my parents, for telling me the truth about my adoption.  Clearly, I was intended to be her dirty, little secret until the day she died.  At times, she would call because she had discovered another member of the family had been in contact with me.  Why couldn’t she just leave it alone?  Why couldn’t she just tell me about my sibling or about the man who fathered me?  She lied to me by telling me she has no other children.   Paperwork I received from the adoption agency specifies she had a 2 year old son at the time she was pregnant with me, yet she refuses to acknowledge it.  Other members of my birthfamily have attested they know nothing about her other child.  Is that true or are they lying to keep my birthmother’s secret?  Maybe she even has more children than they realize.  After living a life of lies, you never know who you can and cannot trust.  I will not stop looking for my brother.  I only pray the end of my journey, doesn’t lead me to a grave.  Whether or not he is a good man or a horrible human being, is irrelevant.  As an adult, I deserve the chance to decide that for myself.     

I haven’t spoken to my birthmother in over a year, and I have no intention of contacting her again soon.  The very last thing I remember was wishing her a happy birthday.  I send her a card for Thanksgiving, hoping my kindness would encourage her to treat me with the slightest amount of affection.  I even wished her a happy birthday.  I had hoped in doing so, she would call me a month later during mine.  I guess I was wrong.   I got another hysterical phone call.  She had discovered a family member send me a photo though Facebook.  She had only called to tell me to stay out of her business.  I made a decision that same day.  I could not continue to allow myself to keep getting hurt over and over again.  I had to end it.  At that moment I knew that this would be the last time I spoke with her. 


  When people ask me about her, I simply shake my head.  Maybe it will take another 30 years before I allow myself to become that susceptible to the pain all over again.  Lots of people might say to give her time.  She is hurting.  Why does it feel like everything is about her?  Her secrecy still controls my right to know the truth.  If adoption is supposed to be about the best interest of the child, why isn’t it?  Of all parties involved, adoptees are the only ones who get no choice in our adoptions.  What most non-adoptees and family members do not understand is that every day is a struggle.  Although a few other family members have accepted me, I don’t know if I will ever feel like a true member of their family.  The only thing worse than not having a family is having 2 families and feeling like a stranger in both of them.  I will someday find my brother and my birthfather.  I love it when people somewhat affectionately tell you not to search, because they don’t want you to get hurt.  I think what most people don’t understand is that we’re already hurt.  I do not regret my decision to search.  It was one of the best decisions I have made.  While most people I know discover who they are in high school or college, I have just begun to do so.  None of this has been easy and I am sure more challenges will come, but I will continue to stay strong.  No matter how much people try to understand you, they never will come close to knowing the lifelong trauma of being forced to grow up as someone you were not born to be. 


V. Marie I am a reunited adoptee from Louisiana.  I earned my B.A. in sociology from The University of New Orleans in 2005. My experience through adoption lead me to earn my M.A. in Community Counseling from Webster University in 2013.

I was adopted at 6 weeks old. My adoptive parents love me very much, but they weren't ready to deal with the challenges that came with an adopted child. They supported me my entire life, but they could not heal my pain. As I grew up, I began to see even more diffrences between my adoptive family and myself. I longed to know where I fit belonged. Around the year 2005, I began actively searching. I had doors slammed in my face and others who told me to give up and be grateful for what I had. I found my birthmother around 2012, and it was hardly the heartfelt reunion I had hoped for. However, I will not let that stop me from seeking the truth and searching for my birthfather and my brother. I have to be strong and keep going. The truth is that I was an unwanted baby. My birthmother made a conscience decision not to be a mother to her children. My birthfamily will never understand what I have gone though emotionally as an adopted person. I am still treated like an outsider by many of them. I have been fortunate to be welcomed by a handful of cousins. And although they have good intentions, they will never understand my loss and the pain I feel when I'm around them. I believe that adoption can a wonderful thing, but we have to remember that it doesn't without loss. What I yearn for most is to have a family of my own.


36 comments:

  1. Wow! Reading this, I can totally relate. Your story sounds almost exactly as mine. It took a while longer to find my birthmother as she signed a fake name on my birth certificate which led me down a waste of several months of searching until I finally completed the puzzle.
    I can tell you this.......You are not alone.
    I'm not going to lie and say it will be ok, it will work out, whatever was meant to be will happen, I hate hearing all that.
    But I will tell you this, you are not alone, this happens to others and I admire your strength and perserverance!
    Many would rather hide and continue the secret, that seems to be the easier route.
    Searching and finding is a true test of our emotions, strength and love for ourselves.
    follow my blog
    amysheartandsoul.blogspot.com

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    1. Amy,

      Thank you for reading my post. It's the kindness of birthmothers and adoptees like you that keep me strong. I will definitely check out your blog.

      All the best!

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  2. Oh my, as a firstmom I hate this...she probably is cold to everyone she meets. So hurt by life or adoption that she never got over it. So makes me sad, because I would give anything to meet my daughter. Always, Jenny

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    1. Hi Jenny,

      I do not know how she interacts with co-workers or even friends. However, I have been told her cold attitude toward me extends to others in her family. She may be hurt, but her choices are what caused her pain. I say they were her choices, because she willingly chose an adoption plan. This is something a lot of people have a difficult time accepting. Yes, it does happen. My birth family admits to knowing of the pregnancy, but they looked the other way. It takes more than one person to make an adoption happen. I had no choice in my adoption. Unlike my birthmother, I hope to use my pain to help others. I will continue to tell my story. I am not an "angry" adoptee. I just have the courage to seek the truth. I am the invisible minority that society still fails to recognize. I will speak the truth about my birth family and my adoption experience even if people don't accept it. If I don't speak up for myself, than who will. Thanks for commenting :-)

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  3. I think as an adoptee, we all have some expectation of what our birthparents will be like, whether we realize it, admit it or not. I think it may even be some fantastical relationship we have always just wanted but never received. But these are our perspectives, challenges and voids. Our birthparents may or may not have similar feelings. Try and understand that giving you up for adoption may be from a very painful experience that she has never wanted to remember, revisit, or talk about. But you have every right to feel the way you feel. I am so sorry that you were not able to have your questions answered because I think that is only what most of us want. I more sorry that she made you feel rejected again. This community does not reject you. I am grateful for your openness about this experience, thank you.

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      I definitely agree with you. We all have some sort of romanticized idea of what our birthparents will be like. As a child, I often dreamt of a faceless woman at night. I only heard her voice, but she was kind and I felt loved around her. I can understand there may have been trauma behind my adoption. However, I still deserve to be treated with respect. I cannot tell you why my birthmother reacted the way she did. I only know that her attitude toward me extends out to other members of my birth family as well. This is obviously a seriously troubled woman. Even so, I believe she as well as other birthmothers owe it to themselves and to us to heal so that we adoptees can get the closure we so very much deserve. Thank you for your kind words and I wish you the very best of luck in your adoption journey.

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  4. So sorry this has happened. Keep in touch with other family members. Mothers who have had a baby out of wedlock are so brainwashed it is pathetic. As a mother of loss, I can tell you that not one day has gone by that I have not cried for my baby, and still cry to this day. She is 22, but wants nothing to do with me. She, herself, has a lot of issues. I would suggest continue sending cards for holidays and birthday. Hopefully she will come around. My heart breaks for you.

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    1. Linda,

      I am so very sorry that your daughter is not ready to accept you back into her life. I would give anything to have a birthmother that wanted to be a part of mine. I have tried to have relationships with other family members, but my birthmother's attitude toward me is what keeps them distant. They would rather distance themselves from me than upset her. I don't send cards or call my birthmother anymore. I have attempted many things, so I will leave it to her to make the next move. You cannot make someone love you. I refuse to waste any more of my pain on her. I prefer to spend my time sharing my experience with others in the adoption community, hoping that my story can help someone else realize they too are not alone. I wish you all the best, and I hope you will continue to follow my posts.

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  5. Desiree Bailey (birthmom 1988, reunited via e-mail)July 29, 2014 at 5:26 AM

    If I had been your birth mother, I would have been so excited to have contact with you! I'm so sorry that this was not the case for you.... I wish I could hug you right now!

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    1. Desiree Bailey, your kind words bring tears to my eyes. The love and support I have received from my adoption family has been overwhelming. It is what keeps me going. Your daughter is extremely blessed to have you back in her life. I wish you both the very best in your reunion journey. Hugs!!!

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  6. Hugs sweetie.....if you were my baby I would hold you tight and never let you go.....

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    1. Jan Louise,

      Thank you for your kind words. It's a wonderful feeling to know you have the support and love of others. Hugs to you :-)

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  7. I would love it if my child wanted and needed me. Instead, despite finding my child a decade ago, I've got someone who doesn't think I'm worth the effort to meet.

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      I am so sorry that your child is not ready to have a reunion with you yet. I hope that one day she is ready to meet you. It sounds like you were the one who searched for her. I applaud you for having the strength to do that. I used to wish with all my heart that someone was looking for me all those years. Sometimes I think it even makes the relationship better knowing that the mothers looked for us. Don't give up hope just yet. Stay strong.

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  8. Thank you for writing from the heart. As a fellow adoptee, I have had a reunion with my first family but I still very much relate to the feelings you have...of having two families but not feeling a complete part of either. I'm so sorry.

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    1. It has always been difficult for me to find my place in this world. I have good adoptive parents, but I sometimes I still feel like I'm nobody's baby. Even though I struggle with this daily, I know that true happiness can only come from within myself. I cannot get that from either family I have. I would love the acceptance and love of my birth family, but I may never get that. As an adoptee, acceptance is the one thing I want and crave more than anything. It is a torture that our non-adopted peers will never understand. Every day is a challenge, but I did not come this far to quit. I still continue to search for my brother and my birthfather. Evidently, my birth family has been consumed with secrets, lies, and deception long before I was born. I thought by finding my birth family, my journey would have ended. Now I realize that it's only beginning. Good luck and remember you are not alone.

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    2. I'm a birth mother who reunited with my son two and a half years ago. I found him, but he had wanted to search for me and had been told I was dead. Adoption breaks people. The idea that adoption is about healing is part of the myth of adoption put out by a multi-million dollar adoption industry. Everyone wants a loving mother, and you drew the short straw in that lottery. My guess is that even if you had been raised by your mother you would have had issues with her and might well have ended up in the same place where you are today. I'm so sorry for all the hurt you've endured. The world (the country anyway) needs to know that the fallout of adoption is more likely to be pain than anything else. I, too, thought finding my son would "fix" me. It's absolutely wonderful having him back in my life, and I love him to bits, but the damage done when I lost him has left unhealed scars that even he cannot do much about. I've learned, with time and with therapy, that I have to find wholeness within myself, independent of the other people in my life, no matter how much I love them. You say you want acceptance, and that is a very deep need. It just may be that that acceptance will have to come from you yourself. I wish I could tell every reluctant birth mother and adoptee to be open and accepting. Love is all we've got in this world, and to deliberately spurn it is hurtful to everyone involved. Maybe your mother will wake up one day, and maybe she won't, but here's what works for me when things seem bleak. I got this from my therapist, so I can't take the credit, but I tell myself everyday, "There's nothing you can do. And no matter what happens, you're going to be OK." It's hard t believe at first, but tell yourself that often enough and after a while you begin to accept it. You are not alone, as others here have said. You may not feel as if you belong with/to your mother or your adoptive family, but you belong to the community of birth mothers and adoptees who know the path you are walking. {{{ }}}

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    3. I just wrote a long reply that seems to have disappeared. Crap. Long story short, I'm a birth mom in reunion with my son. It's a wonderful reunion but not without many difficulties caused by adoption loss. We need to tell our stories. The world needs to know. Adoption breaks people. Be kind to yourself.

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    4. Hi Pam,

      Thank you for reading my post. I know my birthmother will never accept me in her life. I can deal with that. What truly hurts is how selfish she is by denying me a relationship with my only sibling. I have an older brother. She left him when he was only 2. The sad part is he was raised somewhere in her large family, but no one will give me any information, because of the way she bullies them. I only hope that he is not damaged from being abandoned. If I didn't have support of the adoption community, I don't think I could keep going. For that, I am truly grateful.

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    5. I hope you and your brother can establish a relationship. Sibling relationships can be very powerful. Your mother sounds like a lost cause, but I hope you won't let her stop you from connecting with your brother. Is he interested in a relationship with you, or is he "under the influence?" (Of your mother, that is.) All these things--reunion, relationships, finding our own identity--take time. Things will unfold. And you will be able to use your experience to help others. That's a huge benefit to you and those you help. Without your pain you wouldn't be as understanding. I wish you well.

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    6. Ronnie Marie,

      The truth is you may NOT have an older brother. Having worked in such a bureaucracy, I can tell you paperwork is not 100% accurate. More like 60-70%. The others may very well be telling you the truth, that there is no brother. I'm sorry, but this is a fact you must know about this kind of paperwork, so that you aren't chasing a ghost which can drive you into a depression. Best to you. I'm sorry about your birth-mother, but some persons want their privacy and it is nothing personal. She knew she couldn't raise you properly. I'm not sure what your thoughts are on what else she should have done.

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  9. as an adoptee who's reunion wasn't all rainbows and sunshine, i thank you for writing about your second rejection. so many adoptees (myself included) never even thought of the possibility of a second rejection. i hope other adoptees read this so they are prepared for this possible outcome. i hope you find your birthfather and brother and have a joyful reunion. for myself, the best part of my reunion was discovering i have a younger brother and we hit it off from the first moment we met!
    i wish you good luck in your search and peace of mind no matter the outcome.

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    1. Hi Erica,

      I am glad you are able to have a relationship with your brother. My brother is older than I am, and we may even have the same father. I will have to determine that later. Thank you very much for the words of encouragement, and I wish you all the best in your sibling reunion.

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  10. Dear Veronica,
    You are not alone in being treated terribly by your first mother. I was in touch for a short time with mine, and she was friendly at first but then started treating me like a pestilence. Dismissive and mean. It's like salt in a wound. Why would our mothers be so cruel? It's like they blame us for the discomfort and regrets of their past. I'm sorry you have to live with this pain, too.

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    1. Dear M,

      Sadly, many of us are living with this pain. I hope that by telling my story others will know they are not alone. Being an adoptee can be a lonely struggle especially when the majority of your friends were raised in their biological families. I am so sorry your first mother treated you the way she did. None of us deserve that. I hope that one day she is willing to let you into her life.
      Veronica

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  11. I am also an adoptee who didn't find the rainbow at the other end of the search. Although my situation was different (I was not the dirty little secret...she just was too overwhelmed to stay in reunion), that feeling of a second rejection is very difficult to swallow. Adoption reunion is definitely a roller coaster of emotion and it begins another phase of the adoption journey. Keep talking to others, stay in touch with those relatives that you can and never give up trying to complete your circle. Best wishes to you in your journey!

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Thank you for reading my post. There are so many stories people see on television about joyous reunions that it gives other non-adoptees a false impression of what we really deal with. I will never give up hope on finding my brother and birthfather. Eventually the truth will be revealed. I am sorry your reunion did not end well. I know that pain all too well. Thank you for the kind words.

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  12. Veronica, my heart bleeds for you and others in your situation. May God continue to bless you, look over you and guide you to your brother and father and may that reunion be blessed! "Seek and ye shall find..." - I am not a church going person, but I believe and I believe that God works in mysterious ways. Your mother might find that you end up and the better path in life and maybe with your brother and father in tow!

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Thank you for the kind words. I will not give up. It can get really difficult sometimes. Many times I want to give up and just walk away from it all, but I know the pain will still follow me wherever I go. I am slowly working toward healing from all of this. I will not give up.

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  13. Your final paragraph is the most personally relevant and important thing I've ever read. The thoughts and feelings you expressed - "every day is a struggle", "feeling like a stranger in both families", "we're already hurt", "lifelong trauma of being forced to grow up as someone you were not born to be" - perfectly communicated my existence. They are sensations that have made life full of angst in the least and very painful at worst. I have never uttered the phrase "Thank you" with more sincerity than I am right now.

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  14. Dear Anonymous,

    Many people never seem to understand our pain. I have found one of the best ways to get through it is to talk about it. I know that in doing so I am helping other adoptees who may feel like they are alone. I should truly be thanking you. It's the support of other adoptees that keeps me going and allows me to the courage to share my story.

    Thank You

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  15. I have had the honour of working with adoptees and their natural mothers.

    I have found few people who really understand the pain for both and who can explain to both how the other feels.
    Where are the trauma specialists that are needed for this work?
    Adoption is big business and its all about the money- no matter what anyone says.
    Deep down no mother gives her creation away. She is forced by patriarchal society to do so.
    Un husbanded mothers were seen as Eve ill Eves after all.

    http://www.originsnsw.com/mentalhealth/id2.html

    Adoption was a social experiment in which babies born to unmarried mothers were taken at birth and given to strangers for adoption.
    It was claimed to be in the best interests of the child, who would be protected from the slur of illegitimacy and would have a better life in the adoptive family.
    Adoption enabled infertile married couples to have a family, and the State saved money on its welfare bill."
    Not allowing mothers to see their babies
    The practice of not allowing mothers to see their babies, which was said to make relinquishment easier for the mother, continued into the 1980s in many hospitals,"
    "to part a woman from her child in a violent manner is a most dangerous step to take. It will so unstabilize her that she may emerge from the shattering experience as an entirely different personality." (Ellison)
    adoption workers were aware of some of the problems suffered by mothers. The list includes depression, anxiety, insomnia or excessive sleep, loss of appetite or excessive appetite, personality disturbances, vague fears and doubts, loss of self-confidence, strong feelings of rejection, regret at having surrendered their baby for adoption, and feeling that they have 'destroyed' their child by surrendering him for adoption. They may have attempted suicide."
    Real cause - trauma of separation."
    "Every adopted child, at some point in his development, has been deprived of this primitive relationship with his mother. This trauma and the severing of the individual from his racial antecedents lie at the core of what is peculiar to the psychology of the adopted child.... The ego of the adopted child, in addition to all the normal demands made upon it, is called upon to compensate for the wound left by the loss of the biological mother."

    "The child who is placed with adoptive parents at or soon after birth misses the mutual and deeply satisfying mother-child relationship, the roots of which lie in that deep area of the personality where the physiological and the psychological are merged. Both for the child and for the natural mother, that period is part of a biological sequence, and it is to be doubted whether the relationship of the child to its post-partem mother, in its subtler effects, can be replaced by even the best of substitute mothers. But those subtle effects lie so deeply buried in the personality that, in the light of our present knowledge, we cannot evaluate them."
    Natural mothers and their adopted creations need proper trauma therapy with a third party and not someone who only looks at the sunny side of adoption business- for there is none.
    The Baby Thief was my first read years ago-as pointed out by a criminologist who was involved in research years ago. She knew about the dark side of adoption.
    Steve Jobs knew about it too.
    Both mothers and adoptees suffer, so agencies could make and make a profit.
    Only in a patriarchal society could this be allowed to happen.
    If this was the animal kingdom there would be an outcry- removing babies from their mothers is unthinkable.

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  16. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you for reading my post.

    Are you a therapist or social worker?

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  17. Oh my goodness. I'm so sorry so many adoptees have to search for their mothers and find disappointment or nothing at all. I'm a first mother who gave my first two babies to adoption. I have regretted it every day of my adult life. When my life and mental health stabilized I found a triad support group that prepared me to reach out and find my daughters. I was successful in my search and reunited with them when they were teens. I never wanted them to feel like they had to search for me. I wanted them to feel loved and welcomed. We have the best possible outcome in our reunion I've ever heard of, and I've seen many over the years. I gave them access to everything in my life. Welcomed them into my home and let them know they've always had a place waiting for them. They're MY children. It wasn't easy, we had our ups and downs but through it all they got the message that the bond between us has always been there, will always be there and NOTHING can ever change that. They call me "Mom" and I couldn't ask for more than that.

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  18. As a mother I tried.... I searched, spent the thousands it cost to find and then I was not the one rejecting. I never hide. I never lie to her. But it is a one way street.... she hates me, hides, lies, rejects, uses and abuses me.... I stopped trying a few months ago and I love myself again.

    For all the adoptees that are rejected, I am so sorry. I wish that I was mother of you all. I don't even understand how a mother could not know that it would be so painful (rejected child here - dumped and left in foster care at age 12).....

    But in truth, I am glad I backed away this time. I can't do another decade of hate and abuse.

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    1. Lori,

      Thank you for reading my post. I cannot tell you how sorry I am to hear your reunion did not go well with your daughter. I don't know your daughter personally, so all I can say is she may be hurting a lot more than she is able to handle right now. If my birthmother tried to come into my life again, I would probably want to hide and possibly reject her too. It would just be too hard to accept her into my life with the possibility that she will leave all over again. Rejection issues are very real and affect many of us adoptees throughout our entire lives. I hope that one day she will have the strength to welcome you into her life.

      :-)

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