The Other Side of the Fence

Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.” – Marilyn Ferguson

I read, more often than not, of adoptees who are kept a secret, whose natural families shun them upon reunion, who don’t want to meet, who experience half assed reunions, who are asked to hide in cars much like their own mothers were years before when they were pregnant with the child. I know of families who don’t want to know the child/adult, want to continue to live with their heads in the sand.

That is not me and that is not my family.

I have told my closest loved ones since the day I lost my daughter about her. It was a litmus test. I did not go around screaming it, defining myself by my trauma, wearing a sandwich board. I did however schedule time in every relationship that mattered to me to share my daughters existence, loss to adoption and importance in my life.

Most got it and respected it. Only one person ran from it and frankly, I am glad he did.

Upon reunion, I had to run interference for my daughter. She did not want contact with anyone other than me (and even I was questionable at times). She made it clear she did not want to meet. She drew very distinct lines in the sand and boundaries for me not to cross. 

Having read enough adoptee psychology to understand to some degree, I stand on my side of the cyber fence and watch, wait, understand, react, don’t react, read, and more. I get it. I can relate on my own level. Thanks to the adoptee friends I know and love, I can kinda understand her. I try not to push. I try to understand. I give space. I give time.

This is not so easy for my other children, my nieces and nephews that she has denied contact with. How do I explain to them? What do you tell a 16 year old girl who wants to know her oldest cousin? How do I explain to her that the fact that my daughter wants nothing to do with her has nothing to do with, well, HER.

Upon reunion, my 16 yo niece (who carries the same name as my daughters amended name), got very excited. I shared my daughters myspace with said niece just so she could see her pictures. My niece, without my knowledge, sent my daughter a friend request.

I freaked out. She doesn’t want contact! She doesn’t want contact! OMG. Niece, what did you do?  Turns out my daughter ignored or denied it anyway, mini crisis over. Even still, it was painful for me to look at my nieces face. “Why doesn’t she want to know me?”

Guh.

Its not you honey, it’s really not.

When I found my daughters youtube video, I shared it with my mother and my sister. My mother, my daughter’s grandmother, apparently viewed it a lot. Daughter writes me, rather angry at all the views she has gotten. She makes it private. No one can look at it now. My mother confronts me weeks later asking me why she cannot see daughters video.

Guh.

She was uncomfortable Mom.

Uncomfortable with her grandmother looking at a video? I am not a pedophile, she joked.

Yeah. I know.

My eldest son asked early on if he could meet his sister. He asked when we would meet her.

Uh. Maybe never, son.

While he is doing really well with this stuff and does talk about it, I do see the discomfort, the confusion, the lack of understanding. “Shes my SISTER. Why doesn’t she want to meet me?”

How do you explain the horrors of adoption and the damage it does to a nine year old boy? (Sure, I have my daughters feelings to be concerned about but damn it, my son has feelings too.)

No amount of explaining and counseling on my part will change the fact that from my sons and nieces perspective she does not want to know them. What if she changes her mind 10 years from now? Will they understand? Forgive her? Or will one or more of them be caught up in the rejection they feel today that they reject her then? (God, I hope not).

My oldest niece is in her freshman year of college. She is studying fashion. My daughter herself is quite the fashionista. Niece is a true angel. Fun, outgoing, beautiful, caring.  Last year when she got accepted, she was very nervous about going away to school. She wanted someone to talk to about it. Someone that had recently done it or was doing it. My sister, her mother, asked me if she could write to my daughter. My sister said it would be wonderful (in her opinion) if my daughter and her daughter (2 years apart in age) could become friends if even via email. They could share fashion tips, talk college campus, etc. “Nicole always wanted an older sister”, my sister tells me.

Uh. No. Sorry. She doesn’t want contact.

Same sister has a tendency to be a little over zealous in the family inclusion department. She thinks everyone should be invited to everything. Should do x y and z.  She has repeatedly asked me if she could contact my daughter. 

Um. Don’t you dare, I told her. If you do something stupid and screw up this fragile relationship of mine I will never forgive you.

When I send my daughters photos or extracts of her correspondence to family members, I strip off her email. I don’t share her myspace, her blogs or her photo albums.

She doesn’t want contact.

When a member of my daughter’s natural family chose not to share her existence with extended family, I went a bit ballistic. This goes against every bone in my body. She is not a dirty secret. Don’t be ashamed of her. Be ashamed of this country we live in that allows these adoption practices.

Furthermore, I really believe this family member is putting themselves and their family (also related to my daughter by blood) into some serious bad karma by living in lies and denial.  I believe strongly that unspoken lies, secrets, denial will manifest itself SOMEWHERE in that family constellation. It’s bound to blow up in their face sometime. Why wait for the explosion?

When I asked for an explanation from this family member, the response was that they were protecting the other children. Daughter doesn’t want contact.  Family member has other children to consider. They have feelings too. 

They are right of course. I understand that. Cuz, see I have feelings too. I feel for her, and them, and my sons and my mother and everyone else trapped in this DO NOT CONTACT restraining order of adoption reunion.

What am I supposed to do?

I believe I have been the educated, understanding compassionate natural mom. Perhaps even to a fault.

I have often wondered if my protecting (ahem, overprotecting) is a good idea. What would really happen if my mother emailed my daughter? Would she stop contact with me? Or might she soften up? Even though she drew this line, does she ever wonder why no one else has contacted her? (Um, cuz I told them not to?)

Guh.

Crazy head feeling coming on.  Must stop writing.

17 Thoughts.

  1. She said, “no contact”. You’re respecting her by not giving your extended family means of contacting her. You’re respecting her needs when you say, “she said no contact”.
    Does it matter what she’d “really” do if you did otherwise? Even if she continued to have contact with you, you would be guilty of disrespecting what she says she wants.
    I think it’s too bad you’re in the middle, but it’s really about respecting her, IMO, not about what contact she’ll allow or not.
    You could say you’ll no longer be in the middle and let the chips fall where they may, but you’d have to be prepared for the possibility of your adult child deciding she just doesn’t want to be bothered (though it wouldn’t really be rational of her to hold YOU responsible).

  2. Cara, I am guessing you are an adoptee. I dont know. Regardless I agree with you but my point wasnt really about managing her and her needs but the needs of others.
    They matter as much as she does.

  3. It’s weird, reading this makes me feel better.
    I don’t know why, it doesn’t change my situation, and the logical part of me thinks I should feel jealous of your attitude, but I find it comforting for some reason.
    Maybe I am crazy.

  4. Joy – I am glad. For it was you who inspired those thoughts. After reading your post this a.m. on your siblings, I thought alot about my daughters siblings and family. I thought about how my situation is not the standard. If anything, its rejection in reverse. Alot about people who want to meet her but she doesnt/or isnt ready/or whatever to meet them.
    Try and find research or a book or a support group for the Spouse of a Natural Mom (when the spouse is not the natural father). Try and find research on the affects of adoption on the entire family constellation (again, beyond mom and child). Where do these people get to go for help? Who helps them understand that when an adoptee rejects reunion its not the natural sibling/indivdual he or she is rejecting.
    We hear so often about the discarded adoptee and all their feelings but little is written about the siblings and other family members who are also affected. They have a voice too (even if they dont know it). They have feelings too. They matter just as much as the adoptee and the natural mother.

  5. My point wasn’t that the other people’s feelings don’t matter, but that your daughter is an adult with the right to associate with whomever she chooses. I’m not suggesting that I don’t feel bad for your family’s hurt feelings.
    As I said, you can, if you choose, just tell your daughter you won’t be responsible for keeping the “gate” anymore because it’s not really your job.

  6. Cara – Understood. I really feel uncomfortable speaking for her at all. What if she changes her mind, doesnt tell me and I am still marching around with the no contact orders? what if she thinks they arent contacting her because she thinks I am ashamed or havent told people about her? What if she is afraid to ask after her years of no contact requests?
    You are correct. She is an adult and should/can speak for herself. What what point do I stop doing that? If ever?
    Just thinking outloud here. Not really expecting an answer.
    Ugh.

  7. Hi, Suz, first a hello from what seems like a long time absent, although it’s only been about a week.
    So hard, so hard. I think that you have no choice but to do what you’ve been doing – respect your daughter’s wishes, continue to build your relationship, and hope that over time her confidence will grow to the point of letting you and the rest of your family in.
    Which of course puts you in the position of having to live with the endless unknowing, and with all of the questions from family members who want to know your daughter as well.
    Ugh indeed, so very hard.

  8. I’m sorry Suz, I don’t understand your daughter at all. Truly don’t get her “no contact” attitude.
    Also agree it is not your job to be the gatekeeper. (I know you didn’t ask for it).
    I hope something changes soon for you all. It sucks all around.

  9. Oh Suz, you know I don’t understand her. How it would suck to play interference as you do. It took a long time before I had contact with my aunt without Mom C in the middle. I’m not sure if that was my idea or someone elses. I wanted to get to know Mom C first and wasn’t ready for anyone else. Remember that M has in effect said “Not now.” not “Not ever.” You must have hope that she comes around. If she has any energy to be involved with anyone, it should be you. While I’m sorry that others in your family have hurt feelings and you are the one that has to tend to them, IMO keeping her for yourself makes sense for now. Just my 2 cents. Love you, R

  10. The positive here Suz is that she is allowing you contact which isn’t much right now, but that is something to build on for sure…and yes hold out HOPE for more. The Utube thing could have easily been downloaded and copied onto a DVD for posterity (and numerous viewings of course).
    I am thinking she is still sorting it all out, but the fact that she hasn’t refused contact with you is great. The door is open a crack and by respecting her wishes, the hope is she will open the door further. I think it is wise to let this be her choice, in her time even though it makes no sense to us. In her mind, the adoption was not her choice and probably made no sense to her. So until she can make some sense of it all, she is at least allowing you contact albeit at her rate of speed. Still hurts. Adoption is like a big rock thrown into the pool of life. The ripples continue to affect time and people long after the event. I know I don’t have to even say that. I state the obvious sometimes too much…although what is obvious to some, isn’t to others. Just an “outsiders” view. Hang in there with her Suz…a breakthrough could come at anytime.

  11. I wish my mother wanted me to have contact with all of the people in her family that I would love to have in my life… Some of which, I think would want to know me too.
    But, so it goes.
    I’m really sorry you’re stuck in the middle of all of this Suz. Most of all though, I’m sorry she doesn’t want more contact with you.
    Adoption screws lives. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? But I think I want to create a bumper sticker and stick it on my car (when I get my license and when I get a car).

  12. Adoption just SUX.
    It’s screwy no matter which way you look at it.
    You’re right Suz – words are starting to get out there about the effect on adoptees – just a litte – at last – but so much is forgotten about the ripple effect of this evil word – ADOPTION.
    I also wonder about the effect this is having on my kids and their generations to follow. Their own existence has been effected by a small “plop” in the pond – and it’s ramifications just keep going on and on and on.
    It’s just not right.
    It just shouldn’t be.
    I’m so sorry that now you are being caught in the middle.
    Hugs,
    C.

  13. I have just written and erased enough times to know the right words just aren’t going to come to me. Maybe because there aren’t any right words.
    sigh…..
    (((Suz)))

  14. suz — gah is right. Boy do I understand. And yes, I’m in it from the other side. I’ve been in this reunion thing going on 27 years and it has not been easy. It’s taken me a long time to gather up my own little shreds of self esteem and say that if Those People really don’t want to have anything to do with me or my family, then they’re not really worth being in my life. It’s been a long hard road. I know you don’t feel that way about your daughter and you probably never will, but it’s the only thing that’s given me even a crumb of emotional relief, to stop being the dog always begging for a pat on the head.

  15. Ouch. This is really painful to read about, I can’t imagine how challenging and confusing it must be to live it.
    I think it’s wonderful that so many in your family want contact with your daughter, and I hope that one day that wish can be satisfied. I think I understand a little bit your daughter’s reluctance. She’s a teen (18, right?), and damn but those years are tough identity-wise, no matter what your family situation is. I remember in my teens I encountered a genealogy book of family history compiled by a distant relative. Everyone in it was long gone, only a bit of them revealed, but they were mysterious and interesting to me. I liked the feel of a connection to them.
    I wonder if all of those wonderful members of your family might want to write something about themselves, include a picture or artwork they’ve done, to introduce themselves to her in an entirely one-sided way. “This is who I am.” Nothing about “this is what I want from you.” Maybe this isn’t the kind of person that your daughter is, maybe she doesn’t wonder about her genetic inheritance, but on the other hand maybe it would be more comfortable to her to know something about each of them before deciding whether or not to meet them. Maybe she’s just worried that these people know more about her, (or think they do), than she knows about them.
    Forgive me if I’ve been too bold in my suggestion. Maybe you’ve already talked to her about something like this, maybe she’s made it clear to you that even this would be “unwanted contact.” I’m so sorry to read about this challenge in your life, I hope it resolves for you soon.

  16. This is older, but I still want to comment:
    Would she stop contacting you if you let your mom e-mail her? I can say surely that the answer is YES. I’ve only had contact with my birthmother and if I got some random e-mail from any family members, I would likely never get in touch with my birthmom again.
    I’m sure it’s insanely hard, but you HAVE to let her call the shots on this.
    My birthmom friended me on MySpace and I deleted my profile shortly thereafter and was kind of put off by the fact that she had pictures of ME on her MySpace.
    I can take the ‘nudges’. She sends me stuff at Christmas and cards on my birthday, and she recently told me she wanted to take me on a cruise for graduation. Nice thought, but really, I don’t know her. I’ve spent a grand total of about nine hours with her in person.
    I wish (I think) that it were possible for me to just throw my arms open and accept her in to my life and be best friends, but I’M SCARED. If she had the potential to carry me for nine months and then just give me away, who knows what she’s capable of now? And I’m not saying that in a negative way, that’s just terror speaking.
    I hope I’m not coming off insulting or angry here because that’s not what I’m going for.

  17. Malleigh – Thanks for your comment. If you continue reading you will see I most definitely have. I am sorry your natural mom had boundary issues and could not respect your need for space. My daughter and I have never friended each other on any of our many online places. She made that clear two years ago and I have respected it. If you havent read this, read my post in my Popular Post section called The Nose. You will see how deeply I respected her boundaries regardless the impact to me.

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