Tuesday, June 17, 2008

When adoptees search and their first parents don't want to be found

I'm sure that there are as many reasons as there are adoptees for searching for their first family. My reasons were pretty common:

1) having medical/genetic info
2) knowing who I look lie
3) understanding the reasons for my relinquishment
4) having a connection to my past
5) general curiosity

I was not looking to replace my adoptive parents. I hoped to have a relationship with my birth mother, but at the age of 30 I wasn't expecting to have some sort of instantaneous Mother/Daughter bond that could transcended the past 3 decades.

I had been searching, albeit on and off, for more then 10 years when a social worker finally got to my file, opened it up, called Iris and confirmed that she was indeed my birth mother. Seems so simple, that you wonder why it takes so long!

At first Iris did not want to have contact with me. When she placed me for adoption in 1970, she was told that the records would remained sealed forever, to move on and forget about me and that I would never be able to contact her. She followed the news over the years though, and new that "forever" was not very likely and she figured that one day she might end up hearing from me. She once shared with me that she had kept a slip of paper from the hospital that had my time of birth, weight and length written on it hidden away in a drawer just in case I ever wanted it. So some part of her must have thought that we might one day be in contact again.

So once I had found Iris, then what? We lived 1000 miles apart, so distance was certainly a factor. I think it gave Iris a bit of peace of mind that I couldn't just drive over and knock on her door. But the biggest obstacle was that Iris had never told anyone about me, including her 37 year old daughter who still lived at home.

Over time we built up a relationship through email, phone calls and letters. We've even met face to face a couple of times when I was able to make the trip back to Ontario. But I don't know how I would define our relationship; it's certainly not mother/daughter, and I wouldn't even say it's at the level of Aunt/Niece. Maybe because of our age and generational difference (Iris is 40 years older then I am), our relationship is almost like what you would expect if you met one of your Grandmother's friends and took a liking to her and kept in touch with her. But at the same time it is much more emotional, primal even.

And it was this emotional part that made me reach out to her via email today. You see Iris is having surgery next week. It's nothing serious or life threatening, but she is 77 years old and not in the greatest health, so any medical procedure is going to have some risks. I reached out to her today, as gently as I could, to let her know that I am scared that something might happen to her during her surgery and I will never know. I tried to explain that it hurts to know that I have a sister out there who doesn't even know that I exist. I tried to explain my fears of losing my only connection to my first family.

Alas, her fears are much more deeply routed then mine. She is not at a place that she can admit to anyone that she had a baby that she placed for adoption 38 years ago. She worries for Madelaine's mental health, something that she has hinted at as being a concern or not stable. She can see no good in including me in her life.

I gotta tell ya, that really hurts.

My logical, intellectual side understands and tries to see things from her point of view. But the rest of me is really just trying not to cry right now. And it's hard to even explain or understand why. This is a person I've only ever met twice, how can she have such a huge impact on me?

When we were first in reunion and going through an intermediary, the SW sent me this article: "Why Won't My Mother Meet Me" It was very helpful at the time and I think I will reread it again today.
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