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

Original Article by Linda

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

Those who were supportive during my pregnancy, relinquishment, and beyond--my sisters, my college friends, my husband--were thrilled; others, not so much. Even though she initiated contact, I was perceived as interfering in her life. The best example, oddly enough, is provided by my estranged sister. Minutes after I spoke to my agency that afternoon in January 2000, I phoned my sister at work and said, “Sarah called.” At first she didn’t understand, but then she was like a parrot, repeating everything I said--my daughter’s “new” name, where she grew up, where she went to school--and she shared the news with one and all. She had just started a 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 idea why. A few days later we learned that the woman’s son and my daughter attended the same school; she knew my daughter’s parents well. Within the week my daughter called to tell me that this woman contacted her father (her parents had been divorced for several years) and told him about the drama that had unfolded; thankfully her father was well aware of the reunion and told this woman he thought it was wonderful, but it was apparent she didn’t share his sentiment. My sister finally shared an elevator with her, and all the woman would say was “I’m never going to speak about it again, but these are two of the most loving parents I’ve ever known,” referring to my daughter’s parents. My sister quipped that the woman felt as though she knew her because, in fact, she knew her 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 my daughter.

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

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

He smiled and said he had three children, adopted siblings. I just rolled my eyes and commented that every other man I meet these days is an adopted father. His kids were in and out of foster care, their mother wasn’t a good girl gone bad, more the stereotypical crack whore version of a birthmother. I just told him what I’ve always said, the birthmothers I know are among the most courageous, tenacious, responsible women I have the pleasure to know. He confessed he never met a birthmother before. I laughed, pirouetted and said, “Well, this is what a birthmother looks like. We’re everywhere.”

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

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

Adoption touched me in another way this week. Last Monday I was perusing the online corporate classifieds at work when I spotted an ad from a woman requesting adoption information. I instantly responded by directing her to NJARCH, the New Jersey Adoption Resource Clearing House, the Heart Gallery, a nationwide, online photo gallery featuring foster children awaiting stable, permanent homes, and the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. She responded in kind, mentioned she was still reeling from adoption “sticker shock.” I explained that was precisely why I steered her toward the state agencies versus the “boutique” adoption agencies; if she was serious about providing a loving, stable home for a child in need, she could do the most good through these public agencies. And yes, I provided full disclosure, i.e., I let her know I was a birthmother and involved in all things adoption for over 30 years.

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