I’ve experienced so many emotions when it comes to my birth mother, relinquishment, and rejection. Although I’m about 8 years into the “Coming out of the FOG” phase, I still grapple with emotions and feelings associated with my birth mother and her decision in relinquishment. I can say, without a doubt that with knowledge of some of the truth, hers and mine it’s allowed me to accept that truth to move forward with my life.
1994 I was a 21-year-old single mother of a beautiful daughter. This was the year I would find out who my birth mother was, where she was, and I heard her voice for the first time. Eventually I saw her face.
After spending 21 years being lied to by my adoptive mom, I finally found her. My adoptive mom held the key to this information my entire life. Did she think she was protecting me? Perhaps, but I don’t think I will ever “Get Over” the fact that every single time I asked about my birth mother, who she was, where she was, and how I could find her, she lied to me. That’s another blog post.
Spending a lifetime and childhood filled with fantasies about “HER” I had always hoped that one day she was going to come back to get me. I visualized a car pulling up in the front yard, a woman getting out walking up to me saying, “Hi Honey, it’s me, your momma… It’s time to go home now… This was all a big mistake”. Many of you already know about my obsession with THE SKY AND I. It was my baby blanket growing up, and a safety net for me because I knew she was under the same sky I was.
As you can guess, my fantasy turned to reality and she never showed up. I waited and waited and waited. Today, I am extremely triggered by waiting on anyone for anything. Something deep in my soul takes me back to waiting my entire childhood waiting on my birth mother to show up, and I panic. I do my best to plan things in my life where I don’t have to wait on people. It’s hard for me to separate my responses to waiting on people as a memory of waiting on my birth mother, yet I know it to be true. I do my best to acknowledge it, yet I believe it will be a piece of the little girl in me always wanting my birth mother.
I remember around the time I found out I was adopted, (5ish) I started to have dreams about searching for my birth mother. I was a little girl in a hospital gown around 5 years old, running up and down the hallways of the maternity ward at St. Francis Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa. There wasn’t a single person in sight, just me. I was LOST. Everything was white. I kept running down a hospital hallway, ripping the white curtains back one by one, searching for HER. The hallway went on forever and ever and ever… I kept running, and running, and running. This dream has come and gone many times in my life.
Today, if I feel left, or lost at all, I panic. The little girl in me associates the current with the past, and it’s extremely hard to navigate. It feels like a PTSD episode.
Adoption- The “beautiful gift” that keeps on giving.
Searching for her was an everyday part of my life all through my childhood, teen years and adult life. As you can imagine when I finally found HER, it was the best day of my life. I wrote a poem that day, “My dream finally came true, the day that I found you.” I still have it somewhere, in a box tucked away.
I made the call. The call I had been waiting to make my entire life, and I said, “Hi Eileen, my name is Pam, I was born Aug 13, 1974 – does that date mean anything to you?”
I said, “Hello? Hello?”
She hung up the phone.
I called back, I hear her answer and say “Hello, Yes I am the woman you are looking for”.
I said, “I can assure you I don’t want anything from you. I would love to learn more about you, your life and I have some questions for you if that’s okay?”
She replied, “I have always thought about you each year on your birthday. You have a sister, she doesn’t know anything about you and I don’t want her too”.
We spoke a few more minutes and she agreed she would write me, and I said I would write her and send some photos. I was DYING inside not knowing what she looked like. We ended our conversation and said we would be in touch.
I prepared a photo album for her, and a letter with the poem in it. Mailed them off within 24 hours.
The wait began…
I met the mailman at the mailbox daily.
Did I mention I hate WAITING on people to this day?
This is why.
I called her.
I called her again.
I was totally in the fog and I had no idea what was really happening.
I decided after 6 months I had nothing to lose in contacting my biological half-sister. The one my birth mother said she didn’t want to know about me. I mailed her a letter, and within days I was on the phone with my half biological sister. This was also a dream come true. She was receptive and excited to speak to me and we ended up meeting not long after.
She spoke to my birth mother and convinced my birth mother she needed to meet me. Yes, I said that right. She CONVINCED my own biological mother to want to meet me. I still hadn’t accepted the truth.
A month later I pulled up in the driveway of my birth mothers house. A surreal experience. I remember her coming to the door and laying eyes on her for the first time. She looked nothing like I imagined but it was her, none the less. She gave me what I would describe as a “Distant Hug”. It wasn’t the real embrace I expected from the woman that gave me life after 21 years apart. She invited me in and we sat around her dining room table. It was my birth mother, her sister (my aunt), my birth mothers best friend, my sister and me. She got a drink, and I got a drink. (alcohol) No one else was drinking but us. As soon as we sat down, the question started flying.
My birth mother said, “So, how was your life?”
I could have lied, or sugar-coated things but I chose to be honest.
“I’ve had a really hard life, I never bonded with my adoptive mom. My adoptive parents divorced when I was a year and the home I grew up in was extremely chaotic and abusive in many ways”
She got quiet.
I asked her if she could tell me who my birth father was.
She said, “He didn’t know about you and he wouldn’t want too”.
That was the end of that topic. She really didn’t share much about herself but a few details. We took a few pictures together and wrapped the visit up. I was there about 2 hours.
I was later told my birth father was dead by my birth mothers x- husband, but that was a lie.
In my mind this was the beginning of a hopeful relationship. I wrote her. I called her. She avoided me at all costs. My half-sister had even cut off all contact as well.
Year after year passed and I waited and waited for something, anything. What did I do wrong? I mean I only told her the truth.
What I did get was a Facebook message in 2010 from my half-sister 20 years later that my birth mother had passed away, and my birth sister NEEDED me to be there at the funeral to support her. I showed up. This was one of the hardest experiences of my life. Not only was I introduced multiple times as, “This is Pam, the daughter my mom gave up for adoption” but I was also totally omitted from the obituary. I was there, in real life but I didn’t exist to them.
I was able to speak to a few of my birth mother’s friends in attempts to understand her life, and to gain empathy for this woman that brought me into the world who abandoned me not once, but twice. I wanted to know more details on why she made these choices, so I began to ask her close friends some questions.
I learned that my birth mother was never seen without a drink in her hand, even throughout her pregnancy with me. She was considered an alcoholic by those close to her and they told me stories about her life that helped me gain a better understanding about her. During the 20 years of silence from her, I was angry. I was hurt. I was rage filled, and alcohol was the only thing that made a bit of a dent in navigating through this pain. It didn’t help me process anything, but it helped me not feel the truth.
It was fascinating to me that even though she didn’t raise me, I picked up this “alcohol thing” anyway. Alcoholism was something I picked up on not only through my DNA but in utero, before I was even born I was exposed to alcohol in the womb. It’s no wonder I spent 27 years addicted to it.
While learning more about my birth mother, her best friend shared with me that she was pregnant at the same time as my birth mother although she kept her baby. August 13, 1974 I was born. My birth mothers best friend said she sent flowers to the hospital for my birth mother when she gave birth to me, but they were returned to her because my birth mother used an alias in the hospital. She did not want to be found or discovered. They were never able to be delivered because of this. She said my birth mother worked up until the day she had me and went back to work the next day and she hid the pregnancy from everyone around. Her best friend is who told me she never saw her without a drink in her hand, even throughout her pregnancy. I was startled by this truth. I wondered how this impacted me in utero, although I guess I will never know?
Another one of my birth mothers friend shared with me that after my birth mother met me that one time and shut me out forever back in 1995, had expressed to her how upset she was that my adoptive parents got a divorce when I was 1 year old. She told her she wanted me to have a “better life” like she was promised, yet I was raised on welfare, food stamps in a single parent household. Not to mention the abuse I experienced at the hands of my adoptive mother and adoptive step brother. She said my birth mother never “Got Over That” and said many times if she would have known that was going to happen she would have kept me.
Adoption can’t promise a better life, only a different one.
My birth mother’s sister, who was my biological aunt is the one who upped the information as to who my biological father was because my birth mother wasn’t going to tell me. She explained that he was a pall barrier in my grandfather’s funeral and a friend of the family. He was approximately 10 years older than my birth mother, and he was married at the time of my conception. I was supposedly conceived out of a drunken one-night stand, after my grandfather’s funeral.
My birth sister said it was traumatic growing up in a household with an alcoholic mother. She said she never attended her school events, and that she wasn’t a good mother at all. She suggested to me multiple times that she wished she was the one given up for adoption, in other words I should be thankful I was! If she knew all about my experience growing up in an abusive adoptive home, I don’t think she would have said that.
I have sympathy for my birth sister, because of her upbringing. She’s expressed multiple times wishing that she was the one given up for adoption, and her views adoption was a “better life” so I automatically must have gotten the better life than her? Sadly, she too has surrendered a child for adoption, so her views are at the opposite end of the spectrum regarding adoption, and sadly because of our opposing viewpoints and a few other issues, we have no relationship today.
Every little piece of information has been an extremely valuable piece to me completing my puzzle. Every clue helped me understand better. Spending so many years numbing my pain with alcohol, running from the TRUTH I wasn’t in a place to process anything. Alcohol didn’t do anything for me to process my pain in healthy ways, and I can say now I had no idea how to process emotions in a healthy way. There was no living example of someone I could mirror, growing up on how to process feelings in a healthy way.
One day in 2012 it all came tumbling down on me like a TON of BRICKS.
I was just like my birth mother.
I didn’t want to be like her in the alcoholic area!
This meant I was going to die like her if I didn’t make any changes. I wanted my kids to have a happy healthy mom because that’s something I never had. I wanted my future grandkids to have a happy healthy grandma which is something my kids never had.
I was still angry at my birth mother, so I did a lot of praying about my anger towards her. She was dead for God’s sake. My anger was only hurting me. I was angry she abandoned me 2x. I was angry she kept me a secret from my birth father which resulted in me being given up for adoption without his consent. I was just flat out angry!
I knew if I was ever going to get to a place of forgiveness, I needed to try to FEEL what she FELT when she decided to make the decision to surrender me for adoption. I had to have empathy for her during that time, and even the years to follow. Why did she make that decision? What happened to her in her childhood to make her the way she was? What did she reject me for the second time?
To do this, I had to put myself in MY BIRTH MOTHERS SHOES. I had to TRY to understand her position in all areas of our journey. I started to ask a few birth mothers some questions, to try to understand better. I read “The Girls that Went Away” at an attempt to try to understand her better. Each area I learned about what a birth mother goes through was healing to me. Every area I began to understand more about why she made the decision she did, and I tried to objectively see things from her view, from her shoes.
It would be incredibly inaccurate of me to lump all birth mothers in one category, saying they all feel this way or that way. On the other hand, I’ve had a ton of people try to speak on behalf of MY BIRTH MOTHER in attempts to make me “feel better”. I see a lot of people speak for adoptees as well. No adoptees or birth mothers, or even adoptive parents all have the same cookie cutter situations or experiences. I had birth mothers tell me, “I’m sure she was broken hearted just like you” and “I’m sure your birth mother loved you and wanted you in her life, it was the pain she was rejecting, not you”.
Bottom line is, no one can speak for her. NO ONE. I was told she was a very cold person. Her neighbors would come try to bring her food, or cookies, or shovel her sidewalk and driveway and she would tell them “Leave her alone” and they said she flat out didn’t want to be bothered. She had a mean spirit, and if she was anything like me as a drinker alcohol only made it worse.
After reading “The Girls that Went Away” I learned how relinquishment might impact birth mothers and this helped me understand this could have easily impacted my birth mother. They mentioned how things stood still, like everything remained the same as if frozen in time, around the time of relinquishment. It was interesting to learn this because when my birth mother passed away, I asked my sister to take me to her house. The same one I went to 20 years earlier and met her that one time. She said, “Oh, trust me you don’t want to go to mom’s house, it’s horrible”. I assured her that yes, yes, I did. I needed to see it. November 7, 2010, I pulled up in her driveway, and went inside. Everything was dark, curtains drawn with dark floral colored drapes almost looking like they were from the 70’s. It didn’t look like anything had changed from when I saw her the one and only time, although things were much darker and dirtier. Dust was extremely thick, she had oxygen tanks lined up in her living room. Darkness was everywhere. She died on her sofa, with COPD, smoking, on oxygen and an alcoholic who had shut everyone out. I needed to see this, so I could see what her last days were like. It broke my heart, but I was told that she didn’t only shut me out, but she had shut everyone else out too. Her closest friends hadn’t seen her in along while, neighbors said she wasn’t very friendly. My birth sister hadn’t seen her in many years, nor talked to her. She was estranged from everyone and died in that dark, sad, lonely place.
I wanted to know everything I could about my birth mother. I needed to know. Every piece of information about her and her life was like salve to my wounds. Healing to my spirit. It was hard to learn all these things, it wasn’t easy at all, but the truth is always better than secrecy and lies. I need to share that most of the information I found out about my birth mother was from other people who knew her, and experienced life with her. I didn’t get that privilege, but I hold all the information close to my heart from those who shared it with me.
You might say “privilege? She doesn’t sound like she was a privilege to know!” Anyone can easily say that, just like my adoptive mom told me one day, “You act like your life would have been so better with her!” I don’t care how mean she was, or how much of an alcoholic she was. I don’t care how many married men she slept with, or how many babies she surrendered for adoption – she was still my mother! I don’t care what she was or wasn’t. And it is entirely possible I feel this way about her because I sought her my entire life, searching, seeking, looking, dreaming, fantasizing about HER that it’s so hard for me to see the bad in her. I see a broken woman who was hurting. She was an alcoholic, and I know from my own experience alcohol is something people use to run from pain. To mask the pain, to not feel it. She was an alcoholic way before I was born, all her life from what I was told.
I learned this I wanted to learn about what her childhood was like, and what had happened to her in her younger days to make her the way she was. Instead of damn her for having sex with a married man, I wanted to learn what happened to her. I had to have the willingness to take myself out of my shoes and put them in her shoes. It was easy for me to have sympathy for her because her alcohol problem was a huge factor in the decisions she made. My alcohol problem was a huge problem in the decisions I made. If I threw her under the bus, I needed to throw myself under the bus and guess what? I did that most of my life. To forgiver her I had to forgive myself vice versa.
I learned that my birth mothers mother was mentally ill, and she tried to abort one of her first child on her own in 1942. Rumor has it that she (my grandmother) might have been pregnant by her father, but I don’t know this to be entirely true. I do know that the abortion attempt was a failed one, and my birth mother had a sibling that was born mentally handicapped who lived in a nursing facility her entire life who was 5 years older than her. She died in her 50’s. I always wonder how this impacted my birth mother? What other family secrets were there that I had no clue about. Whatever they were, I wonder how they impacted my birth mother? Was that what drove her to drink? Did she have some pain she was running from? Did something happen to her in her childhood?
Those questions remain questions today, but I can imagine she was drinking running from some pain just like I was for 27 years. The only difference is her drinking killed her. Mine is not going to kill me. She made mistakes, I made mistakes. I don’t have any hate in my heart for her, only hurt. I did hate her for many years, but it was only hurting me.
I’ve come to my own conclusion that many women who have children don’t have a maternal bond with that child, nor do they have the desire to be a mother. I personally believe based on the information that I know about my birth mother is that she rejected the pregnancy, and she was ashamed of her actions in having an affair with a married man. This was the reason she chose to give me up for adoption. Who would want to be reminded of such an event day in and day out?
I think about what if she would have kept me and what my life would have been like. A few years ago, I saw a lady on Dr. Phil and she was in bad shape on the show because she was conceived out of an affair with a married man who was her father, but her mom kept her. Her father and his wife divorced, her half siblings held grudges against her simply for being alive and being the product of her parents “affair” and this woman was a WRECK! She was hysterical at times crying and sobbing that she hates that she was born causing so many problems and ruining a family because of her parent’s actions. It was clearly a HUGE burden placed on her shoulders the minute she knew the truth. My heart ached for her, and I couldn’t help but realize that could have been me if my birth mother kept me.
Without the truth I wouldn’t be where I am today. Without the knowledge regarding my birth mother, especially her alcoholism I would have never made the choice to stop drinking. August 13, 2012 was my birthday, and the last drink I had. I was determined to NOT die like my birth mother. My kids deserve more, and I deserve more.
Learning all this information about my birth mother, has helped me form my own conclusion about her. Some days I feel like she just wanted to get rid of her problem, “ME” because I was a reminder of her irresponsible actions. Part of me believes she truly wanted me to have a better life, because that’s what the adoption industry and our society feeds birth mothers so they guilt them into making the choice to surrender. Part of me believes that she was destroyed after I met her that one time, learning the truth. The other part of me feels like she’s just a cold-hearted woman who’s in a lot of pain. I have done my best to take myself out of my shoes and put myself in her shoes to bring healing to my spirit and understand her decision better.
Her decision has impacted every area of my life.
Although I’ve gained a better understanding, I still hurt – daily. My “Mother Wound” is a very deep wound. Like many adoptees, I struck it out in the mother area not once, but twice. When I dreamed my entire life about this woman, for that reunion to fail it’s left me devastated. I don’t believe it’s something I will ever forget or get over. It’s something I am learning how to process the best I can while I live a sober life. I don’t run and go drink 5 glasses of wine anymore or a 12 pack of beer to NOT FEEL IT! I must feel it to heal it. Some days I ponder how much more fun life was when I was drinking. This handling “feelings” business when it comes to all this adoptee trauma is no damn joke! Before in my drinking life, I would skate through life with never processing anything.
Alcohol was only a band aide on my wounds. Knowing my birth mother was an alcoholic her entire life, helped me understand her coldness and decision making. Alcohol was a major factor in some terrible decisions I made in my days. How can I look down on her, when I am no different? Really none of us are, we all make mistakes and have issues.
I guess for me, being born and causing so many people so much pain in the process is something I have carried deep in my soul for 43 years. I’m working on finding my worth aside from causing so many people so much pain but it’s a struggle daily.
Once I was able to put myself in my birth mother’s shoes, I then was able to meet and find my birth father. I had more questions, needed more answers. I won’t go into all I learned about him at this time, but one thing I learned is that he’s a raging alcoholic which rocked me to my core. So, you mean BOTH my birth parents are alcoholics, and I picked this alcohol thing up and they didn’t even raise me? This was another aspect of the driving force behind my decision to stop drinking. I didn’t want to be anything like Him in the alcohol area.
I wanted to break the chains of this generational curse and the chains of this cycle of alcoholism because if I didn’t do it who was going to do it? That was an always has been one of the hardest yet best decisions I ever made for myself, my kids, and my future grandkids for generations to come.
As I end, I would like to share that I would never be able to put myself in my birth mother’s shoes, if I hadn’t learned the TRUTH about who she was. When we don’t have our truth, we can’t heal. No more secrets. No more lies. Every adoption person deserves to know their truth, because we all deserve the chance at being able to put ourselves in our birth parents shoes to gain a better understanding of WHY?
WHY DID THIS HAPPEN TO ME?
WHAT HAPPENED TO MY BIRTH MOTHER?
WHY WAS I ABANDONED BY THE WOMAN THAT SHOULD LOVE ME MOST?
NOT ONCE BUT TWICE?
Knowing all the above information has helped me make the choice to come to a place of acceptance. I have to be honest, as long as my birth mother was alive on this earth I always had a tiny piece of hope she would change her mind about me. It’s only after she died was when the reality set in and I knew there was no more hope at all in us having a relationship. Please don’t judge adoptees for feeling the way they do. You have no idea how much adoption hurts us, along with the secrecy and lies involved in most adoptions today.
Withholding the truth, no matter who it is, (birth parents, adoptive parents, etc.) is wrong. The truth is everything to adopted people. It doesn’t mean it won’t hurt but it’s always better than living a lie.