Thursday, December 07, 2006

Adoptee Relationship with Birthmother

Okay, she's my mother, but I'm using birthmother because how else would search engines find me?

So I've been stewing about the difficulty of talking with my mother after forty six years of separation. She's in her eighties and mentally sharp. And while she's as welcoming and open and grateful as a searching adoptee could hope, still, I say good-bye with a sigh, heart heavy with disappointment.

Maybe I was hoping she'd be more interested in my life. Ask lots of questions. Express the interest that my adoptive parents lacked. But no. No questions about my childhood, my teens, where I went to high school, how I met my husband, how old I was when I had my children, zip. She does make the effort to call. She did sent me a family heirloom. She does send cards and brags about me to her extended family.

But that thing I really want and have always craved: parental undivided attention? It's still elusive.

Maybe she feels she has no right to ask questions about my past. That she gave up that right with signing the relinquishment papers. But we don't exactly stay in the present, either. She talks a lot about her life, her relationships, her family. And, of course, I'm grateful for all the information which is, after all, my heritage. But our conversations lack balance. Once more, I'm in the role of listener, the part I've played so long for my adoptive father it's a wonder that my ears still work.

And then I came across this bit of advice to birthparents by Dr. Robert Andersen in his book, Second Choice: Growing Up Adopted: "You may love your child and your child may love you, but the timing is bad and you will always be, in part, out of synch."

EXACTLY! We are out of synch. She's old now and probably lonely and may talk more than she used to. She's already parented three other children and watched two die. She's in a different stage now. Reflecting on her life, trying to make sense of it, trying to impart her history and that of her family before she dies which, as she points out, could happen any minute given her age. Maybe the real surprise is that longing for parental attention can be such as strong feeling at my age. While I don't want to regress and be reparented, I am sad that I took so long to figure out that adoption had such a profound impact on my life. As Dr. Anderson says, the timing is bad.


Blogger Doughnut said...

The need to be acknowledged for who we are, to be validated as part of a lineage we are genetically connected to; and finally to be accepted and approved of by "our" parents is something every child longs for.

Your mom is telling you her story and probably believes that is why you searched her out. From what you have said, I am assuming that you did all the leg work in trying to find her and that she never did try to find out about you.

I would struggle, as you are Nina because it would be hard to fathom a mom not wanting to know the details of a child she gave up rights to 40+ years ago. And to hear the words from her/him that she thought/prayed for you often; that she/he regretted the choice of giving you up and wept many times over it; that before he/she died, they would want your forgiveness for a wrong that cannot be righted in this lifetime. To me that would be a natural, human and parental response - and one more; to say how proud they are to know you, what you have become and that you will always and forever be loved and cherished as a daughter should be - unconditionally and inseparably.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I don't know for sure, but sometimes I think moms don't want to ask, because they don't want to forgoe the fantasy perfect life that we have had.

Well we adoptees have never been known for our timing have we?

9:32 PM  
Blogger dbannie said...

So often I wish my son would tell me what he wants or needs from me. I feel so much at a loss for how to "be" in this reunion relationship sometimes. I am better learning to operate from my
intuition in our relationship; and it works much of the time, I think.

He is still fairly young; around 30. I think he may never figure out in a conscious way what he might want or need from me and that I will never know directly from him. Maybe in part a difference between a good many, but not all, males and females?

10:24 PM  
Blogger Doughnut said...

I agree debannie with the differences in how males and females may express their needs. Its not that the basic needs are all that much different, its just how and when expressed. I am willing to believe that he has the same needs as every other adoptee, its just that he may not be able to identify or put into words what he would like to say or that he fears to do so. I don't know how long you have had contact with him or the extent of that contact but all those factors may be playing into this too. Launching out into uncharted waters is always risky whether parent or child in the best of times but when you talk about parent and adoptee - that really magnifies everything it seems to me. JMO of course.

4:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nina,

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1:05 PM  
Blogger suz said...

You know, Nina, I could say the same thing in reverse. My daughter NEVER expresses interest in me. I ask questions that are never answered. I share stuff that is never commented on. I inquire about her life and stuff never comes back.. Definitely out of synch.
I realize my daughter and I are different generations than you and your mother. (IN fact, I am guessing you are around my own age) but its still intersting to me. So much of what I see adoptees frustrated with, many moms are too.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Third Mom said...

Nina, your feelings, this experience, are what adoptive parents should hear BEFORE they adopt. Even when adoption is an appropriate resolution to a situation, adoptive parents MUST understand that their children will have these feelings and emotions throughout their lives. The myth of closure doesn't exist for adoptees or first parents.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Doughnut said...

What you said is interesting Suz. I think many of the same feelings adoptees have, the mothers/fathers have as well. Everyone must feel they are walking on egg shells in order to not talk about how they feel. Why?? Fear?? Fear of intimacy? Fear of being abandoned again? Or possibly out of respect and boundaries?

6:48 AM  

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