Paying Debts

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many..” – Winston Churchill

One additional item to add to the list of things that should be provided to natural mothers after surrender is a credit counselor.

The nature of the adoption transaction has the ability to set up a debtor/creditor situation.  Specifically, it can create a situation where one or both parties to reunion feel something is owed to them. As in a debt must be repayed. They lost and now they want to gain. Something was taken from them and they want it back.

I have heard or read three different adoptees speak of this recently.  Two of them feel that their mother “owes” them something. Both adoptees stated that until that debt is paid, they don’t feel like they have to give any part of themselves to their natural mother. Its her punishment.

The other adoptee feels that she and her natural mother both paid dearly for their loss and there is nothing owed. The debt is paid in full.

Very troubling murky emotional waters I see here. Much like the River Styxx. Please dont pay the Ferry Man.

I will admit the “owing” mentality frightens me. I suspect my daughter shares the same position. I owe her. I must be honest. I don’t believe I can ever repay that perceived debt and that frightens me. All I could do (and have done) was find her. Assure her that she was wanted, is loved and answer any and all questions she may have about her birth and surrender. I am required to answer those questions honestly, when asked, regardless of the emotional pain it may cause me. That much I owe her.

Beyond that, what can I seriously do?

No amount of my love, my caring, and my giving can ever get back what she lost. It’s physically impossible. I cannot personally repair her broken identity. I cannot make her feel whole or make her feel better about the situation. It’s not my place and I frankly don’t think I could if it were my place. That type of emotional work, I believe, needs to be a done by an individual. We choose to feel better someone else does not make us feel better.

Do I feel tremendously responsible for her possible pain? Absolutely.

Am I the only one to blame here?


There is my parents.
Her father.
Her fathers parents.
Her adoptive parents.
The agency.
The Catholic Church.
Society at large and more.

Do they owe her too? Perhaps.  But I don’t see that type of owing mentality being directed there. I see it being directed at the mothers.  The mothers, who in many cases, were as much a victim as the child was.

I did not gleefully give up my daughter. I did not do a happy dance on her amdended birth certificate. I was deeply and forever changed by the loss of her. It was not a good thing. Read that again. It was not a good thing. I was never happy about it. I did not benefit in the least. I lost a hundred million bajillion times over. I was permanently scarred.

However, I suppose that’s human nature. Aren’t our mothers to blame for everything? Shoot. I have struggled with my weight all my life. That’s my mothers fault, right? She did not teach me proper eating habits or exercise.  If I was 10, that excuse would work. Since I am 40 it doesn’t.

But what of this “owing”? Is that really what my friends mean? Do they really expect their mothers to hand something over and it will be all better? Perhaps a family heirloom? Maybe Great Aunt Marthas five carat yellow diamond? Will that settle the score?

I don’t believe it’s really about “owing”. I think it’s more rooted in anger.  Very justifiable anger related to adoption. Since the mother gave birth and the mother signed the papers, it’s her fault, right? She must pay and she will pay by having her child withheld from her. Only now, it’s the very child doing the withholding.. Years ago our parents punished us. Now our children do. When will it stop? When will we realize we all want the same thing? To have our children and mothers back? To be loved and held?

There was once a time, years ago, many years ago, when I felt people owed me something too. In most cases it was my daughter’s father. I wanted him to suffer and I wanted him to pay and pay dearly. I was hurt and it was his fault (was it?).  At some point in my recovery, I began to realize that my anger towards him was only hurting me. He could care less. He did not even know I was carrying it around. Yet it ate at me daily. I further realized that even if he did “pay” it was not going to get my daughter back. I was still going to feel shitty and awful.

That was when I started to direct that energy elsewhere. To fight the system and the beliefs that took my child from me. That is where I can make a difference and  I am proud to say in the lives of a handful, I have.  For me, that is a better way to channel my grief.

I cannot make it better for my daughter. For now, I have done what I can. The next steps are up to her. I will help if she asks. I am here. I will go to her the instant she calls. I will drive to her in my slippers and pajamas and I won’t even do my hair. I would send her money to get to me. I would pay for therapy for both of us – or her alone. But I will not assume she wants any of those things. I will just be here ready and waiting should she ever ask.

I can however work to make it better for other moms and children of the future.  I “owe” them the knowledge of my experience. Perhaps it can save one mama or baby from having to experience this trauma.

8 Thoughts.

  1. Very great post. But I got stuck at the credit counselor part because, in essence, it’s a great idea in itself – literally. I ended up having to pay my medical bills, on my own, and it totally screwed my credit.
    So, I’ve got some more reform going on in my head…

  2. I am an adoptee, and if I dig down deep and am totally honest with myself… yeah. There is a part of me that feels my bmom owes me.
    It’s simple: Whatever the circumstances, she chose to give me up. I didn’t have a choice in the matter. She did.
    That said, I would be satisfied with the way you’ve handled your daughter. That’s all I ever wanted from my mom. Love. A little regret. Open arms. “Score” settled forever and ever amen.

  3. Did you see my post on blogspot? The one about the price we paid? Guh, I read and am dumbfounded at this. I get it, I do. But then I again I don’t. I paid so much, I am still paying the price. J paid so much, and is still paying. When does it stop? I don’t know the answer to that one. For each of us perhaps it is different. I don’t understand anymore why J is the way she is, than I understand why your M is the way she is. I wish I had answers, the gods know I do. But I don’t, all I can do is the best I can everyday. Sometimes it isn’t so good, but hey it is all I can do. I wish I was going to see you this weekend. Perhaps I can, I will have to wait and see what finances are before I Can say yes. I did try to call you tonnight, jut to ask about the trip, but I know you don’t like the phone and ah well mail me the number you will be at, I’ll give you a call.

  4. That is so good to see that of list of people who should take blame. Yes; the Catholic Church should step-up; and own some of the blame. I enjoy your blog; your a great writer.

  5. I agree with Andie.
    I have a lot of anger towards my mother now – simply because she won’t step up to the plate and have some contact with me. Any contact.
    If she had handled things like you have – the dept would be cleared.
    The sad thing I see – is that there appears to be many in our situations where one side of the mother/child equation is unable to allow themselves into the debt clearing arena – to allow the healing to even begin.
    Adoption screws up so many peoples lives.
    Poss. xx

  6. Yeah I do think adoptees are owed because we had no choice. I actually told my mother this some 20 years ago and she was less than pleased.
    BUT I also think the “debt” can be paid. And if I were your duaghter, I would definitely say the debt has been paid in full.

  7. I know it sounds so unattractive, but in a way I do feel owed. The problem with it is, the debt and the wound is so deep, when does the debt ever get paid in full?
    In the beginning I felt the state owed me my real name. Because they wouldn’t give it to me I had to go else where to get it. Now that I have it, if I’m going to be really honest, I do believe my mom owes me a response to my letter. Intellectually I accept as much as I can that she is traumatized, but still.
    What frightens me is the possibility that nothing would be good enough for me. If I got a letter, would I then feel owed a phone call? Or if I got a phone call, would I then feel owed a meeting? And then after the meeting, would I feel owed a relationship? I don’t know, but I think the answer is yes.
    I think that’s the nature of search though. The balance of power in the relationship is always in the hands of the found.

  8. The word “debt” never entered my mind.
    I am an adoptee and I never felt that my bmom owed me anything. I searched because I recognized a void in myself and tried to fill it.
    If a debt is owed it should be payed by those who created the circumstances by which the void came in to being: a society that forces parents to abandon their children and a church whose dogma is so outdated that it considers such children to be chattels, if it considers them at all. Sorry, I guess I’m angrier than I realized after 45 years.
    In truth, birth mothers and adoptees are victims. Some are so damaged by the process and the stigma of adoption that they cannot recover. The rest of us try every day to find something to fill the void, to be whole again.
    Thank you for the blog and your insights.

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