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Published Wednesday May 20th, 2009 at 6:59pm

Original Article by Jan Baker

Some people feel that once a mother relinquishes her child to adoption, she also is relieved of any sense of duty or obligation to that child. Certainly, the responsibility to raise the child falls squarely and exclusively on the adoptive mother. However, once that child becomes an adult, if a reunion occurs, the mother who gave birth now needs to step up to the plate and fulfill certain needs of her child.

There are certain basic items that I feel birth mothers in reunion with their adult children owe them. While these obligations are not complicated - that does not mean that providing these needs to their children is always necessarily easy. I almost dislike using the words "duties" and "obligations" because I feel that a birth mother should offer acceptance and truth to her child as loving gestures, and not out of a sense of duty.

First, I feel that a birth mother in reunion with her child above all else needs to provide her child the unvarnished truth - all of it. Generally, only she knows the first chapter the beginning of her child's life story. This includes the basics of their conception and the circumstances which led to their relinquishment. These two items are generally not terribly difficult for most birth mothers to provide. When the pregnancy occurs after a rape, however, of course, it may be very painful for a mother to reveal. However, I still feel that her child deserves to know the truth. An even stickier wicket is a situation in which the birth mother may not be certain of the birth father's identity. That is certainly not a pleasant truth to reveal - but again, the adult adoptee should know this fact as well.

Some birth mothers, however, are somewhat reluctant to divulge the name of the birth father. Many birth mothers were treated poorly by the birth fathers once their pregnancies were revealed. However, I think it wise to keep in mind that many of the birth fathers were quite young at the time that our children were born and should not be judged forever for the errors in judgment that they made so many years ago. Just as we may not have handled our unplanned pregnancies as well as we wish that we had, the same is true for some birth dads. If we birth mothers wish not to be harshly judged, we should accord the same compassion for some birth dads. There are also a whole assortment of other reasons why a woman would not wish to share the father's identity with her child. However, no matter what negative feelings a woman has about the father of her child, she needs to "fess up" and provide her child with the name of the birth father. I don't care if he's a serial killer, a prominent politician, a rapist, a renowned surgeon, a Nobel prize winner or a clown in a circus - the adopted person still has the right to know his identity. No mother is entitled to keep that information secret - it is morally unjust to do so and is blatantly unfair.

Second, birth mothers owe it to their children to finally acknowledge their relinquished children - proudly - and completely. That does not require placing an ad in the local paper and revealing the news to the entire world, but, I think there is a responsibility to at least share the news of your child with friends and family. Not only does your child deserve to be "taken out of the closet" and not considered a secret any longer, but, other family members should have the right to know them.

Our children deserve to know that their birth parents openly acknowledge them, love them and are proud of them. It is the least we birth parents can do for our children.

How do we after so many years of cautiously guarding our relinquished children's existence do we suddenly develop the courage to reveal the truth of their being to the world? As a birth mother who faced that task, I will be the first to admit that it is not easy. However, I will also let you know that finally lifting that burden of holding in a boatload of secrets is immensely freeing. Initially, it will be most likely be very difficult, but ultimately to finally release all the bottled up regret, shame, and grief is lifting an enormous burden from your shoulders. It is the only way to work through the pain, and then the task is to incorporate your adoption experience into your life. "Forgetting" did not work, no matter what you might have been told. We can never forget - we never totally "get over" the experience of losing a child - but we can learn to incorporate it into our lives are - and go on to live a full and genuine life. As long as we hold onto the secrecy and lies though, we will forever be stunted, crippled and not whole.

No one needs to blurt out the details of a relinquished child without some time and adequate preparation, but, it should be done as quickly as possible in reunion. It is cruel and unfair to our children to expect them to remain secrets too far into a reunion.

Certainly there is no guarantee that our all family members will instantly, happily and warmly accept the news of another family. It is unrealistic to expect that they will not need some time to absorb the news. Nevertheless, they should be told. They deserve to know about another family member as much as your adult child deserves to be acknowledged - finally.

There are a myriad of ways for a birth mother to finally come out of the shadows and learn to deal with and heal from her adoption issues. Adoption support groups can be very helpful and are available in many cities. If you live in a smaller or rural locations, there are many on-line support groups to help. In larger cities, there are some excellent adoption therapists who can guide you. Reading about reunion and adoption healing can be of enormous help in your recovery as well. And yes, it is recovery - recovery from a lifetime of buried emotions - grief, regret, shame and denial - to name a few.

Four years have passed since my son found me. I had never told a soul about his existence - including my husband and other children. When I first heard that he was searching for me, I was numb and in profound shock. I was overcome with a whole complicated host of conflicting emotions - joy, fear, shock, happiness, regret and shame. I was thrilled at the opportunity to know him - but terrified about what affect telling people "what I had done" - relinquishing my child - would have on my life. I felt I had committed a grievous sin and was terribly fearful of being rejected and judged harshly. I knew that my son deserved to be acknowledged though - to know me - and I welcomed the opportunity to finally know him.

All our life situations as birth mothers are varied. Whatever your circumstances are though - you owe something to the child that you gave birth to - whether you raised that child or not. Reunion could most likely be one of the most challenging experiences of your life. However, it also has the ability to offer some peace, resolution and a sense of wholeness that nothing else can. I reached out for support and guidance and persevered and you can too. Heal yourself and become a part of helping your adult child to heal as well. They must heal on their own, in their own way - in their own time. However, you can help them by finally loving them, providing pieces of the puzzle of their identities, and acknowledging them fully and accepting them back into your life.

Recovery will not be easy, but, it can eventually improve the quality of your life significantly. Developing a good, healthy relationship with your adult child can also become a source of enormous joy and satisfaction. It all begins with one small step. Reach out - and ask for help. For those of you, not yet in reunion, consider a search. Whatever else the end of your search brings - it will eventually bring some resolution and peace.