Dear Annie: “Still the Mom” was jealous that her daughter has found her birth parents. Adoptive parents get the short end of things when we see TV shows and read articles about this. The public gets teary over the joyful reunion, and the adoptive parents are rarely mentioned.
Searching for birth parents is about the adopted child knowing their biological roots, which helps them form a more complete image of themselves. But on an emotional basis, it is difficult for adoptive parents, even though studies show overwhelmingly that adoptees feel closer to their adoptive parents after meeting their birth parents.
I’d advise this mother to let go a little. Her daughter will, in time, appreciate the woman who rocked her as a baby, dried her tears and shared in her accomplishments. This is a bond the birth parents don’t have.
— Adoption Counselor in California
Dear California: Thank you for your comforting words. We received hundreds of letters in response to “Still the Mom.” Read on:
From Richmond, Va.: Your answer was correct. The majority of adoptees searching for their birth parents are not trying to replace their adoptive parents. They want to fill the gaps in their histories. My adoptive mother said it best: “The reunion is not about me as a mother or my relationship with my daughter. It is about her finding what she needs to become whole.” I can offer two more good resources: The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York (adoptioninstitute.org) and the American Adoption Congress (americanadoptioncongress.org).
Boston: Forty years ago, my teenage daughter relinquished her newborn baby girl. The remarkable, fearless adoptive mother told the child often that her birth mother thought of her daily. She kept a duplicate treasure album of the girl’s photos, report cards, awards and poems to someday present to her birth mother, and at 18, the child was encouraged to do a search. The relationship with our family has evolved nicely and allowed us the pleasure of seeing her become a wife and mother. The adoptive mother IS her mother, my daughter is her loving friend, and our gratitude is forever.
New York: I am a therapist who works with adoptive families. It is normal to feel her daughter shares something with her birth family that she doesn’t. The birth family feels the same way because she shares something with her daughter that they never will. Here’s another resource for adoptive families: the North American Council on Adoptable Children (nacac.org).
California: Ten years ago, my daughter was contacted by a daytime talk show, saying someone from her past wanted to meet her. She was reunited with her birth family on national TV. I was totally stunned, but when called up on stage, I said, “I want to give the birth mother a hug and thank her for giving me the opportunity to become a mother.” Neither my daughter nor I has much contact with the birth mother now, and my daughter told me she is thankful we chose her.
Louisiana: I am the birth mother of a 45-year-old man. His adoptive parents loved and nurtured him. When he was an adult, he found me. For the first year or so, it was like a honeymoon. When I met his mom, we were polar opposites except in one area: We both wanted the best for her son. At 45, my birth son still calls his real mother first, and I am privileged to hear from him from time to time.
Chicago: My son was not interested in contacting his birth mother until he married and wanted his medical history. She was so happy to have the contact. I told my son, “You can never have too many people who love you.”
Texas: As a birth mother, I can tell you that birth parents feel just as uncomfortable. When “Still” complains that she has to share her daughter with strangers, she is being shortsighted. The birth mother shared her daughter with strangers and didn’t get to know her. Instead of being jealous, she might be thankful someone gave her the opportunity to be a mother.