As a mother of two adopted adult children, I had been going to the Forget Me Not Family Society (FMNFS) meetings in Cloverdale for over a year, and I thought I knew about Moms (birthmoms) and adoptees. My sister Bernadette was forced to give her baby to what society told her was a “better family” because she was given no support to keep her precious little newborn.
When I started going to the meetings, my eyes were opened to the suffering of moms and adoptees and to how my perception of adoption had been warped by the way society has molded this tragedy into a supposed fairy tale ending. I gained a new awareness of the enormous unbearable grief of birthmoms and adoptees, and the desperate need to find “the missing piece of the puzzle.”
My son, Peter, used the words “missing piece of the puzzle” when he was asked to give a eulogy at the funeral of his birth father, who died suddenly at 47. Before the funeral, Peter had never used the expression. Although I thought I knew how he needed to know his first families, as I sat there at the memorial service, I realized how complete he felt after finally meeting his “blood family,” as he calls them. Both of Peter’s birth families embraced him as their own, and he uses the word “belongs” when talking about them.
I came from a huge family. I was one of 11 children, and my children, Peter and Samantha, had 55 first cousins. All I saw was a huge loving family embracing and loving them both, yet Peter said he felt they were looking down on him. I know that was not true; or maybe it was true, and I didn’t see it.
To go back to my beginning as a mother: I was unable to conceive, and although I saw many specialists, there were no medical explanations or answers. I could not even think of my life without a family. So we put our names on the adoption list and waited a few years.
I knew, or I thought I knew, the grief the birth mothers were feeling, because of my sister Bernadette’s grief. I honestly believed that they wanted a better life for their children and that they were unable to give them that as single moms. I never really realized that if they had been given emotional and financial support from their family and the government, and if society changed its perception of single moms, that this would have made a difference.
When I first heard this at the FMNFS meetings, I felt a panic-like feeling inside. If all those things were in place, I would never have been a mother. I always believed and vowed to give my children the best upbringing I could possibly give them. We had wonderful times and tough times, but they always knew how loved they were, and still are. They were and are the most precious gifts. That may not be the most appropriate word, but my children were SO loved - and we never took that for granted. I gave thanks every day that the moms had chosen US. Unlike many of you who had no choice, the moms of my children were given families to review and choose. Hence, we WERE chosen to parent our two beautiful children.
Because of society and my selfishness, I was terrified that the moms would change their minds and want their children back. At the time, I believed that because I could not conceive, God had chosen you “birthmoms” to carry my babies.
I even FELT when my babies were born. On the day Peter (my eldest) was born, I actually told my mother-in-law, “I feel my baby has been born.” On the August day Samantha was born, I felt the urge to call the social worker to find out how long an estimated wait I had. Ten days later I was called, and told that my baby girl had been born on the same day that I had called. Originally, the social worker told my husband, David, and me that we would not be on the top of the list to adopt until May of the next year. The mom was presented with a list of 10 profiles, all of which she rejected. The mom was given a second list, and from that list, she picked us. I feel very strongly that we were chosen by the mom and God to parent “Denise,” who we named Samantha.
On the day we received Peter into our lives, I said to David as we were driving home with Peter from the social worker’s office, “I feel my womb leaping with joy.”
I sent photos of Peter and Samantha with a letter of how they were doing at six months, and I received letters back from the moms. In my mind I kept the birthmoms in all the major decisions, thinking how each would feel about this decision and that one. I looked forward to meeting both moms when my children were 19 years old. I even kept extra photos of them for when I did meet them.
You can see how incredible my bond was with our children: your children, as birthmoms, and mine as adoptive mom. However, as we all know, there is not ‘happily ever after” for any of us.
It is well accepted that the first five years of a child’s life are the most important developmentally. With the birthmoms’ love for our children, and our five years of protection from society’s mores, I believe that we all gave them our best to help them through the tough times—a chance that a lot children don’t get. We were always there for our children. I believe the birthmoms were always there too, even though they were not physically in their children’s lives. Before the school years was a wonderful time, and my memories are as vivid as if they were yesterday.
I rue the day our children had to go to school. Up until then they were the happiest children you would ever meet, surrounded by unconditional love, happier than any child I knew then, and I knew a lot of young children their ages. Although they knew they were adopted, they were sheltered from society’s perception of adoption.
To Peter and Samantha’s birthmoms:
Your children had a wonderful life with us. They had a great start, then a rough journey but now they have come full circle. My son, Peter, has the pieces of his puzzle and is now catching up to his chronological age as he was stuck emotionally before finding his first families. He is now training as a chef and has many friends and a very fulfilling life. My daughter, Samantha, does not yet have the missing pieces of her puzzle, but we continue in our search for her birthmom and first families. Samantha is a wonderful mother to three beautiful children. She has completed training as a paralegal and is preparing now to specialize in automobile injury claims.
As an adoptive mom, I am very grateful for the chance to travel this journey as a Mom, which without you, I would never have had.
Peter, although very bright, had many learning challenges and he had difficulties with the school system and making friends. After he actually made it through school, I realized how, as an adopted child. The other children at school picked up on that. It was the same with Samantha when she went to school. Again, Samantha is very intelligent but struggled to belong in school and dropped out after Grade 10. She was bullied and went from one school to the next trying to fit in. After trying all I could to make her happy in school, I realized that the bullying was because she felt she was different or the kids at school made her feel different.
As teenagers, at times it was hell for them. I think for us it was even more hellish, as I felt I was failing them, and failing their birthmoms, who had entrusted them to us. I have spoken to many adoptive moms, and they too are dealing with these same issues. Sometimes the feelings are more profound because of the child’s sudden separation from their birthmom: their “missing piece of the puzzle.” My heart aches for the struggles they are going through. As adoptive parents, we are very proud of how our children have struggled through tough times. They have become warm and loving adults, have now made many friends, and are making their own decisions on where they are going with their lives.
Samantha has a beautiful letter from her birthmom, written when she was born. At 19 years old Samantha put her name down with the Ministry, but her mother has not done the same. Now she says, “If she does not want me, then I don’t want her.” We know this is not true, but she will never know this UNTIL she meets her mom. I pray every day that her mom will call the social worker. I never understood why Samantha’s birth mother did not call the social worker on Samantha’s 19th birthday. Now I do, after attending FMNFS meetings and hearing that birthmoms don’t feel they have the right to search.
This is a doubled-edged sword: mother and child not feeling they belong, feeling different due to society’s perception of adoption, and the birthmom feeling she does not have a right to be in her child’s life. Both mother and child are so afraid they will be rejected. My son, Peter, has his pieces of the puzzle and is now catching up to his chronological age as he was stuck emotionally before finding his first families. Samantha now has three beautiful children and is a wonderful mother but still does not have her missing piece.
I am only sorry that I did not have the support of the Forget Me Not Family Society in those earlier times, to help me understand these complicated issues.
Thank you all, for sharing your struggles and your stories—happy and sad, good and bad. May we all eventually have our “happily ever after” and continue healing.
I apologize to you all now, for changing our children’s names, and having the birthmoms’ names erased from their birth certificates (by society) like the moms never existed, and our babies never existed before they came to us. I thought, and was told, that changing their names would make our children feel like they had started their lives with us. Now I realize, thanks to the FMNFS meetings, how painful it is for moms and adoptees to be erased by society and by adopting parents. If I had it to do over again, I would not change my children’s names.
Reprinted with permission from Adoption Circles. Adoption Circles is published quarterly by the Forget Me Not Family Society.