|Trace's story was recently featured on Al Jazeera|
"...If you love something let it go free…If it comes back it’s yours: If it doesn’t, it never was."
I saved this quote from my teens. It came in handy when I was trying to figure out if someone really loved me.
It hit me as relevant for parents who adopted us... you can be selfless for adoptees and you can set us free... especially when we are adults and go into reunion with our first parents.
This past week I had a long conversation with a friend whose wife gave up a baby for adoption 40 years ago. I played a small part in their finding the child she gave up at age 16.
Now they are reunited with Barb (not her real name.) My friends are trying to figure out what is happening to Barb now that she is in reunion with them and they are obviously looking for clues or signs that she's doing OK. They honestly don't know if they should reach out more... They aren't sure of anything because Barb is in the midwest and they live on the East Coast. They just can't pop in for a quick visit. (I told my friends that Barb is not in their "territory," which means they can't even guess what is going on with her adoptive family since she lives in "their" territory.)
Barb, an adoptee, is young (40) and navigating reunion, trying to balance life as a wife, mother and adopted daughter who now has her new-found first mother and her adoptive mother. It’s been three years.
The risk is Barb will upset her adoptive parents, who happen to be quite wealthy! (If she is not careful, they might disown her. Barb's husband sees this eventuality better than Barb does, my friends believe.)
Adoptees like me went through this dilemma, too. I didn't tell my adoptive parents anything. I tried and failed. Mine weren't wealthy but I did risk alienating them. I chose not to...
How do we keep our adoptive parents happy with us, especially when we are meeting our first mothers and fathers? Do we keep them separate? Do we tell our adoptive parents not to worry? Or do we tell them nothing?
Reality is most adoptive parents are not the ones in therapy or even thinking about this messy reunion stuff. Adopters have the upper hand as legally-defined parents to the adoptee, and can reject and disown the adoptee at this most important juncture of an adoptee's adult life. (I call this veiled threat emotional blackmail.)
My friend and his wife are good people. They don’t want to stir up any trouble. They simply want to know Barb and keep in contact. Barb has children so naturally my friends want to know their grandchildren. They are not pressuring Barb in any way. They are letting her make the moves…but for the past few months, Barb's been very sick. (These details are from my friends, and on Barb's recent Facebook posts.) They gave Barb her maternal-side medical history three years ago but new facts have come to light about ancestry, genetics and it could possibly help treat Barb's illness.
They keep up with Barb’s life via text messages and are on her Facebook page. Barb has not been communicating. Earlier this year they met with Barb and her husband and kids out of state for Barb’s convenience. It’s likely Barb kept this trip from her adoptive parents.(She put her phone on silent when her adoptive mother made several calls to her.)
Why? When Barb was contacted by her first mother, she was so excited she called her adoptive mother to tell her the big news. Barb learned immediately her adoptive mother was not happy at all and was in fact quite shocked. (Her adoptive mother could not have children, so naturally Barb and her brother filled that gap. Barb has said in so many words said her adoptive mother is controlling and always hovering.) I have no idea if Barb reads blogs or books by adoptees. Obviously she should!
Many of us Lost Daughters have been navigating reunion for years and have successfully dealt with issues of how much contact is good, and with who... So I ask your help and advice, Lost Daughters and blog readers.
- What can my friends do to stay close to Barb now that she is seriously ill?
Trace (Lara) DeMeyer (Cherokee-Shawnee-Euro) is the author of One Small Sacrifice and co-editor of Two Worlds and Called Home (Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects.) She also contributed to the LOST DAUGHTERS anthology and other adoption anthologies including ADOPTIONLAND. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to answer this post privately, please use email.
Link to Al Jazeera's Fault Line digital feature LOST BIRDS