Do Say and Do Tell

“There’s another world inside of me
That you may never see
There’s secrets in this life
That I can’t hide
Somewhere in this darkness
There’s a light that I can’t find
Well maybe it’s too far away”
– When I’m Gone, Three Doors Down

A friend of mine, an adoptee, recently asked for my advice. She wanted to know if I, as a natural mother in reunion, would want to know potentionally hurtful things that happened to my daughter growing up. This friend was pondering sharing more of her life experiences with her natural mother. She was worried that things she wanted to share, which many would consider abuse, would be upsetting to her mother.

Would I want to know?

Yes. Without question. And I told my friend that.

I want to know ALL of my daughter. The good, the bad and the ugly. I want to know whatever she would want to share. For my friend (and my daughter) to share only the good pretty parts of their life is not real. It’s the mask. Its not reality.

Would I be upset if I were to learn my daughter had suffered any type of abuse? Of course. That wasn’t supposed to happen, right? My daughters adopters were supposed to be perfect, golden, UberMom and Dad, right?  Adoptive parents NEVER abuse, hurt, their adopted children? Right? Only natural, biological families do that?

Umm. No.

That bad natural mother/ubergrand adopters is a prime ingredient  in the adoption koolaid recipe. We are spoon fed even force fed the beilef  that adopters are better than us and therefore more worthy. Some of us even get it in an intravenous line. Straight to the heart.

We somehow summise that this means adopters are frolicking in fairyland with home made cookies, fluffy bed sheets, June Cleaver and butterflies. Never does the thought of abusive adoptive parents  enter the picture. WE would do that. NOT them.

So, gulp, gulp, gulp, we drink the koolaid and OH, YEAAAAAAAAAAAH, take my baby you perfect adopters.  Its clearly dangerous for her to stay with me. Why wouldn’t I give her to you? Every mother wants to save her child from danger. Clearly I am danger with a capital D.


But what if you believed that crap? What if for twenty something years you live night and day believing your child is better off living in fairyland than with you? What if you use that belief, that dream as a salve, an emotional Burts Bees, for your broken heart?

It can be quite a rude wake up call to find out that your child did not grow up in fairy land but instead grew up with Adoptive Mommy Dearest.

Would I want to know?

Hell yeah

First and foremost, it would help me understand my child. If child was distant, cold, rude, evasive, knowing they were abused as a child would help me understand some of their behavior.  Perhaps more important, it would help me to respond appropriately and not make things about me, adoption, that might actually be rooted in their own pain and trauma.

They have trust problems? Well, not only were they adopted but they were abused by their adopters. Why would they trust me? The very person they may feel PUT them in that situation,

For me, I would want my daughter to be “real”. Herself. All her bumps, bruises, ugliness and beauty. For we are the sum of all our parts. Our shadow selves included.

Don’t tell me what you want me to hear. Don’t paint me a pretty picture. That’s fake. I hate despise fake people.

Do not assume I cannot handle it. That will for sure send me over the edge. Let me decide for myself what I can handle and cannot. I find it insulting when someone assumes, for me, that something is too painful for me. Huh? How would you know?

Yes, its possible my child may blame me for the abuse. After all, I put her there right?  I gave her away to those abusive adopters?


I did not select her parents. The agency did.

I was not told of any past abuse, any drinking problems, psychological problems. I wasnt even told that infertile people need therapy to deal with their own loss and issues. Why would I be? Full disclosure to me, of all that is wrong with adoption (and potential adopters) might prevent the agency from getting their nice chunk of baby selling change. Gasp. I might change my mind?

No, I would  not take responsibility or ownership of her adoptive parents actions. They are theirs and theirs alone.

If my daughter ever shared painful stuff with me, I would hug her. I would be sad and angry WITH her not AT HER. I would ask her how I could help (and that might mean NOT helping). I would thank her for sharing it with me and for trusting me. I would do whatever I could to validate her. I might share my own simliar experience (if I had one and sharing it was appropriate).

I would really want to hold her close and run my fingers through her hair.

Yes, friend. Tell your mom. I believe sharing difficult stuff, real stuff, develops relationships. Deepens relationships.

Let your Mama hug you.

Shes been waiting a long time.

9 Thoughts.

  1. I don’t think my birthmother would want to know because she totally swallowd the Kool-Aid. Her favorite sentence to me (when referring to my a-parents) is: “You’re so lucky!”
    Which I am actually beginning to believe is absolutely true.
    And on the converse side, *I*, as an adoptee, want to hear all the stuff, all the Truth, good or bad, regarding my beginnings – the relationship, the secrecy, the pregnancy, the adoption, all of it. It’s my life. But she won’t tell me any of that because she doesn’t want to revisit the hard truth.

  2. Susan – Yeah, clearly, this is my view and my friends. It is also the view of many of my “era” of moms. Older BSE moms (I am post Baby Scoop) definitely swallowed a more potent Kool Aid recipe. I am also, from what I have been told, a bit of an enigma. I am probably more REAL than my daughter ever wanted me to be.

  3. My mother drank the KoolAid – gallons and gallons of it. I tried to share with her various mothers’ comments and websites, trying to give her permission to grieve. And I tried to share with her the truth of my adoption experience (which was quite ugly). I tried, because I needed to – I needed to (for my own healing – of which her healing was a part).
    But it was to no avail. I have a terrible fear that my honesty killed her. But I know that not daring to face the truth killed her. She just couldn’t go there. Fighting every little hard truth ate her alive. It didn’t help that she was always loaded on Oxycodone (for the radiation damage done to her mouth & throat nerves). Ugh. All so sad. That’s all I can write about it at the moment.

  4. I am awfully glad you’re so real. Especially for the way you lay out boundaries of support, describing the way we (moms) are not responsible for the afamily actions. Guilt can be disabling, and sometimes it’s hard for me to see straight.

  5. That’s one of the zillion imaginary conversations I have in my head with my first mom. Her asking how my childhood was.
    And while it wasn’t abusive – actually farthest from it – the matter of my HER (whom I always imagined in my Mother’s eyes was She Who Must Not Be Mentioned) the silence, dismissals, invalidations, ad nauseum… even in my imagination I’m trying to “protect” my first mom from feeling bad, by not mentioning any of it to her. How sick is that? That you can’t even be honest in your daydreams?
    I just spent like the longest time reading your past posts. Man…..

  6. I’m swallowing hard.
    I so completely love my children, sometimes it takes my breath away. But a perfect home? As a human being, I’m prone to the same challenges of everday life – marriage, finances, work, too little time, health problems. I do my best, but am no perfect mom – far from it.
    It’s difficult to think that someone has pinned their hopes for their child’s perfect family and future on this imperfect human being.

  7. Great post Suz! I could not agree with you more about honesty leading to intimacy and a deeper relationship. I hope that adapted daughter heeds your words and shares with her mother although not all moms are of the same cloth, they are still “mom”. And I do hope moms share with their daughters likewise all about the pregnancy, the father, the relatives, the birth and the like. All kids want to know they were wanted, loved, looked forward to, how the birth went, who did what when…our kids who are even adults seem mezmerized whenever we talk about it with them.
    Nothing like keeping it real Suz….

  8. I never really stopped to think about it, but Mom C doesn’t really ask about my childhood. You know me, prone to verbal diarrhea, I just tell and tell and tell but she doesn’t ask. Maybe because she is afraid of more stories like the one of me sleeping on the bathroom floor. While she’s told me I can tell her anything, I’ve never told her she can ask me anything…interesting thoughts to ponder there. Great post! Love you, R

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