Share on Facebook  |  More Articles

Published Friday April 24th, 2009 at 6:49pm

Original Article by Linda

I’ve always been candid about my birthmother status. In the initialpost-adoption years it was easy for me to tell people I lost a child toadoption, and they were always sympathetic and praised me for myselflessness. As the years went by and I assumed other roles--wife,professional student, employee, aunt--the birthmother role moved to theback of my mind; but it was always there. Later, when I marked the yearmy daughter turned 18, and a few years later, when most of my workcolleagues were her exact age, my birthmother role became moreimportant. I started to talk about it whenever the conversation lentitself to the topic of single motherhood or unplanned pregnancy, andwithin the year my daughter contacted me and we began the“reunification process.”

Those who were supportive during mypregnancy, relinquishment, and beyond--my sisters, my college friends,my husband--were thrilled; others, not so much. Even though sheinitiated contact, I was perceived as interfering in her life. The bestexample, oddly enough, is provided by my estranged sister. Minutesafter I spoke to my agency that afternoon in January 2000, I phoned mysister at work and said, “Sarah called.” At first she didn’tunderstand, but then she was like a parrot, repeating everything Isaid--my daughter’s “new” name, where she grew up, where she went toschool--and she shared the news with one and all. She had just starteda new job and became fast friends with the woman who was training her,who often remarked that she felt as though she already knew my sister.Suddenly this woman was avoiding my sister, and my sister had no ideawhy. A few days later we learned that the woman’s son and my daughterattended the same school; she knew my daughter’s parents well. Withinthe week my daughter called to tell me that this woman contacted herfather (her parents had been divorced for several years) and told himabout the drama that had unfolded; thankfully her father was well awareof the reunion and told this woman he thought it was wonderful, but itwas apparent she didn’t share his sentiment. My sister finally sharedan elevator with her, and all the woman would say was “I’m never goingto speak about it again, but these are two of the most loving parentsI’ve ever known,” referring to my daughter’s parents. My sister quippedthat the woman felt as though she knew her because, in fact, she knewher niece, and the woman couldn’t get out of the elevator fast enough.This woman, who never met me, wasn’t happy that I was reunited with mydaughter.

For me, that reaction is typical of women who aren’tmembers of the adoption triad. The men who know I'm a birthmother seeit differently. It’s very black and white to them…I lost a child toadoption, she found me, and now she doesn’t speak to me because I gave her away. She’s angry and hurt, and surely confused.

Iinteract with more men than women in my work. In the past several yearsthe universe has arranged for me to cross paths with a lot of adoptivefathers. It happened again this past week. I attended a networkingevent at a chic local restaurant. I was having a wonderful conversationwith a man my age, and we got to the subject of kids. I said, “I’mchildfree, for many unselfish reasons,” and I could see the puzzledlook on his face. So I joked and said, “I rarely bring this up on thefirst date, but I’m a birthmother. I lost my daughter to adoption 32years ago, she found me, we had a rocky reunion, and she hasn’t spokento me in the past four years.” And then I said, “You’re childfree, too?”

Hesmiled and said he had three children, adopted siblings. I just rolledmy eyes and commented that every other man I meet these days is anadopted father. His kids were in and out of foster care, their motherwasn’t a good girl gone bad, more the stereotypical crack whore versionof a birthmother. I just told him what I’ve always said, thebirthmothers I know are among the most courageous, tenacious,responsible women I have the pleasure to know. He confessed he nevermet a birthmother before. I laughed, pirouetted and said, “Well, thisis what a birthmother looks like. We’re everywhere.”

Andit’s true. We ARE everywhere. We’re your neighbors, your colleagues,your best friends. We’re in your book club, your gym, your church. Andyet, here in the 21st century, so many of us still harbor a secretlife, and haven’t told a soul that they lost their child to adoption.How often have you been lauded for relinquishing your child toadoption? Probably never.

I think the adoptive dad I met thisweek gets it, but how much would you like to wager that he tells hiswife he met a birthmother and she was a woman just like her?

Adoptiontouched me in another way this week. Last Monday I was perusing theonline corporate classifieds at work when I spotted an ad from a womanrequesting adoption information. I instantly responded by directing herto NJARCH, the New Jersey Adoption Resource Clearing House, the HeartGallery, a nationwide, online photo gallery featuring foster childrenawaiting stable, permanent homes, and the Evan B. Donaldson AdoptionInstitute. She responded in kind, mentioned she was still reeling fromadoption “sticker shock.” I explained that was precisely why I steeredher toward the state agencies versus the “boutique” adoption agencies;if she was serious about providing a loving, stable home for a child inneed, she could do the most good through these public agencies. Andyes, I provided full disclosure, i.e., I let her know I was abirthmother and involved in all things adoption for over 30 years.

WhenI mentioned it to Lorraine, she said it was a brave and good thing todo. I don’t know about brave, but I do know it was the right thing todo. Even though my adoption odyssey didn’t have a fairy tale ending, Ihave to believe that contemporary adoptions hold the promise of awin-win, happily ever after ending for one and all.