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Published Tuesday July 21st, 2009 at 2:36am

Original Article by Jane Edwards

Telling the Family
When my first daughter, Megan, whom Irelinquished for adoption contacted me through an aunt, I had to dealwith telling my three other daughters about her. My husband knew abouther – I had told him the night before we got married—but I wasconcerned, and a bit terrified, I admit, of telling my youngerdaughters who were 25, 23, and 20 at the time.

None of them wereliving at home, and the oldest was getting married in a month. It waslate November, and I did not want to distract from my daughter'swedding or the Christmas festivities by announcing a new family member,so I decided to wait until after Christmas to tell them. This also gaveme some breathing time to digest everything.

Even though Meganand I emailed everyday and spoke frequently on the phone, I waited tendays before I told my husband. It is hard to bring up the matter ofchild who has been relinquished. As I wrote in an earlier post, it felt as if my world was shifting. And of course, it was.

AlthoughMegan and I discovered we had major differences in religious andpolitical views – she was a Mormon and a Republican; I am not religiousand a solid Democrat -- we were alike in many ways, having the samesense of humor, enjoying the same movies, making the same spellingerrors. We shared details of our lives; we were soul mates. As timewent on, Megan pressed me to tell my daughters about her. My oldestraised daughter was working in Washington DC, the youngest wasattending college in New York, and my middle daughter lived in Salem,Oregon where my husband and I lived.

Megan and I arranged tomeet in Chicago where she lived in January. I had come to a place withMegan where I trusted her and decided to tell my other daughters abouther before I left. I believed that the shared pain of our separationhad forged an unbreakable bond between us. I wanted her to be part ofmy life, and I knew this could not be if I kept her a secret.

Aweek or so before I was to leave for Chicago, I asked my two youngestdaughters who happened to be at home to come into the kitchen and talkto me. I began haltingly – "There's this girl, woman…." (The girls toldme later that they expected me to say that I was a lesbian and had alover.) "She is a daughter I placed for adoption before I met yourDad." I've always been political and my middle daughter blurted out"Oh, so that's why you never ran for public office."

I told themI was sorry I had given Megan up. The girls questioned whether theirDad would have married me if I had kept Megan. I pointed out that theirDad took in stray cats so that a stray kid would not have been astretch. After a few more minutes, I left for a walk allowing them totalk among themselves. I forbade them from calling my oldest daughter,telling them I would do it when I returned.

When I came back,they both shouted at me to call their older sister—the one who had justgotten married. She had called from the china counter at Macy's in thePentagon City Shopping Mall outside Washington with some questionsabout her china. The girls told her she had a "new" sister. I can onlyimagine her expression when she heard the news. I called herimmediately and we had a tense conversation. It certainly wasn't thebest way to hear about this new family member.

The girls,especially the oldest and youngest were particularly upset that Iwanted to have a relationship with Megan, that I could possibly carefor this daughter -- whom I did not know, they insisted --as much asmuch as I cared for them. Their response was much like the lament of anadoptive mother who learns her adopted child is having a relationshipwith her birthmother: "How can she care for this woman who gave heraway? I was the one who changed her diapers, stayed up with her whenshe was sick, paid for her braces, and so on."

My oldestdaughter felt displaced; she was no longer the primo daughter. Myyoungest daughter, my fourth child, felt that I was excising her. Inthe twisted thinking we experience when we are stressed, she reasonedthat since I apparently wanted to have three children, that, if I hadkept Megan, she never would have been born. Since I regretted giving upMegan, I clearly preferred Megan to her.

My middle daughter hadless difficulty than the other girls perhaps because as the middledaughter, she did not lose her place in the family. She put togetherfamily photographs for me to take along to Chicago.

I gave them copies of B. J. Lifton's Journey of the Adopted Selfto help them understand why Megan searched for me and why I wanted tohave a relationship with her. My youngest daughter asked sadly, "Whereis the book for sisters?" Fortunately I came across an excellentpamphlet Sibling Reunion: A Letter to Those Who Have Been Contactedby Randolph Severson (1991). I sent each girl a copy with a letterassuring them that my relationship with Megan would not diminish mylove for them. (Unfortunately the book seems to be out of print. Amazonis asking $162.65 for its one copy. The only other book I know of thatdeals with sibling reunions is The Other Sister, a fictionalized account of a sibling reunion written by an adoptee in the persona of the raised sister.)

Myvisit with Megan and her family seemed to go well. When I returnedhome, she began to email less frequently. She came to visit in Apriland June, though, and met all three girls. They got along well enoughand visited each over the next several years. In 1999 and 2002, Megancame to our family reunions and met her aunts and uncle and most of hercousins.

Going Public

Soonafter Megan and I connected, I learned about the struggles going onacross the country for open records. In March of 1998--only a fewmonths after our reunion--I saw a news clip about Ballot Measure 58that would amend Oregon law to allow adult adoptees to have theiroriginal birth certificates. I drove 50 miles to Portland and attendedan outdoor rally for the Measure. I knew no one else and felt lost. Oneof the speakers was a birthmother. No way could I tell a group ofstrangers about my daughter.

In the fall of 1998, a birthmotherfriend hosted a fund raiser for Measure 58. I suggested to Helen Hill,the chief petitioner of the measure, that she run an ad in the PortlandOregonian with names of birthmothers who supported the measure tocounter the false statements by the adoption industry that motherswanted confidentiality.

Several days later, Delores Teller, abirthmother working for the Measure, asked if I would appear in the adalong with several other mothers. While I was not yet comfortable withmy status as an "out" birthmother, I agreed. This full-page ad appearedtwo days before the election and was a huge success. I was in a picturealong with four other mothers surrounded by the names of close to athousand birthmothers. Lorraine's was one of those names. Measure 58won with 57 percent of the vote.

As for being pictured in thead, I found that it was a good way to tell co-workers and acquaintancesabout Megan, a whole lot easier than telling them in person. A fewmentioned that they had seen it but mostly I didn't get any response.(Most of my closest friends had met Megan when she visited in June.)

Meganhad tried to get her original birth certificate shortly after weconnected, but the State of California, where she was born, turned downher application, as per its law. I had hoped Megan would appreciatewhat I had done, perhaps increasing her esteem for me. I sent her acopy of the ad, but she did not respond.

Once Megan met me and Ihad answered her questions, she began to pull away. She made it clearthat I was second best, a bastard mother. The only "compliment" sheever gave me was telling me that "you made the right decision in givingme away," which was painful to hear. While our relationship continued-- she was responsive to my suggestions that I visit, or that shevisit, and we got along when we were together -- I had increasingdoubts about her commitment to a continuing relationship. Far frombeing a soul-mate, she did not even feel like a friend.

We wenton in this vein with less and less communication and more and moredisagreements through emails, primarily over adoption. Megan, atrue-believer in Mormonism, insists that all children born "out ofwedlock" should be placed for adoption with married heterosexualcouples. I believe that adoption often does more harm than good and asa society we should support keeping mothers and babies together. Thisis the substance of our quarrels, but I think there is a deeper issue.Megan believes that God ordained her adoption. If she were to questionthe institution of adoption, she would have to question whether sheshould have been adopted; thus questioning God, an act of heresy, and,more personally, questioning who she would have been if she had notbeen adopted.

To keep up our connection and to help out theirstretched finances, I sent Megan and her four children birthday andChristmas presents each year. A year ago she emailed me and asked menot to continue. She said it made her uncomfortable. I think, though,that part of her reason was a desire to deny the bond between us. Icould not be her children's grandmother since God had made her someoneelse's daughter, and thus I could not act like a grandmother by sendingpresents.

In January her oldest child, Rachael,a college student in Utah, asked to come and visit and did come thispast February. Megan was aware of the visit and apparently did not tryto prevent it. I've written about these events here. Her next childtells me she wants to come this fall.

I have met adoptees whosebirthmothers met them once and said, "I'll answer all your questionsnow but I do not want to see you again. I haven't told my family aboutyou and I don't intend to." I have thought this to be incredibly cruel;these mothers were rejecting their children a second time. Now thatthings have not gone well with Megan, I sometimes think I should havedone this and spared my daughters the stress of learning about theirbiological sister. On balance though, I think it was best to tell them.

Next I'll blog about how my daughters' reacted to Megan and how she reacted to them.