"On the contrary, Susanna. Ambivalence suggests strong feelings… in opposition. The prefix, as in "ambidextrous," means "both."  The rest of it, in Latin, means "vigor." The word suggests that you are torn… between two opposing courses of action." – Dr Wick, Girl Interrupted

Several months ago, in a restaurant in Northhampton, Mass:

"I am adopted, you know" he said.

"Yeah, I recall you mentioned that" I responded. Internally I found myself puzzled that he forgot he told me that before. Did he also forget that I am a mother who surrendered her child to the adoption industry?

"Yeah, well, so anyway. While I grew up partly in the States, I also grew up in the French countryside as my adoptive father was French" he continued. "It was tough at times but now, as an adult, I am thankful for all that it gave me. I am multilingual, cultured and have had many opportunities. I learned to better appreciate the challenges of my adopted life after I met the gnats" he continued.

"The gnats?" I inquired.

"Yeah, you know, my natural parents. Nats." he said with a smile.

"Oh, I thought you meant gnats, like those small annoying bugs that attack you at dusk or in damp places." I responded.

"Ha ha, no. Nats. My bio parents. It is my preferred word. Bio and birth seems so cold and harsh and doesn't give enough respect. Nats is more appropriate and comfortable for me." he said as he stuffed two pieces of his sushi roll into his mouth.

For a second I pondered debating what others feel about the natural parent reference. (Does that make adoptive parents "un-natural"?) I decided against it. I really wasn't in the mood to debate adoption terminology. If he wants to call his parents "nats" thats his choice. I wanted to enjoy my spicy tuna roll and watch the passing foot traffic in NoHo Center.

"Yeah, I found my mother many years ago and lived with her for a while. It was interesting." he continued on without my prodding.

"Oh?" I responded. I was hoping that my lack of dialog would make it clear that I really did not want to discuss this topic but he was steadfast.

"Yeah, I found her and lived with her for a few years.  It was really nice to finally see people that looked like me, had my talents, talked like me and such. I felt like I belonged there. I never really felt that way with my adopted parents. That was really weird but kinda cool. She was very nice to me. She really missed me and was glad to get to know me." he said with an odd tone to his voice.

"You lived with her for a few years?" I asked rather incredulously.

"Yeah, I needed a place to crash for a while and she was very willing to let me stay with her for as long as I wanted. So I did." sushi eating friend says.

"Wow. How did that go? Do you still see her?" I asked with a renewed interest.

"No. I moved on a few years go. I found a better place to stay and I left her place." He said quite dryly.

"Oh, do you still talk to her?" I asked.

"Nah, not really. She still wants to hear from me, still writes me, but I have no desire. I got what I needed. I have moved on. She means nothing to me. Family is the people you grow up with. Not the ones who give birth to you." He continued.

I choke on some sushi rice.

"She still contacts you and you don't respond?" I asked with a tone that was probably a bit too emotional.

"Oh, I do sometimes, but not because I want to or because she matters to me or I care. I just do it to pacify her. She will text me. Sometimes I answer her. Sometimes I don't. She will write. I don't write back. She calls. I don't call back. Sometimes I email but I am just doing it to be nice. I don't really want her in my life." He states firmly.

I begin to feel a bit sick and wonder if it is the sushi I just ate or the company I have chosen to keep for the day. I curse myself for getting into this conversation in the first place. I feel the need to escape.

"Will you excuse me, I need to use the ladies room" I say.

He must have forgotten who is he talking to. Would he be so callous if he remembered that I lost my child to a baby broker?  Do I want to remind him or do I just want to get the flock out of here?

After quickly paying the bill, saying goodbye to the friends at the table, I flocked.

A few days ago in a restaurant in Hartford, CT:

"I only answer her because I feel obligated to. I don't care about her at all. I wish she would not text me or write me or expect anything from me. She may have pushed me out of her crotch but she is not my mother. She is nothing to me." says the young, reunited, female adoptee standing in front of me.

I am reminded of my experience in Northhampton a few months back and experience this times wins out.

I left the conversation.

Today, as I sit and recall these conversations I find myself actually grateful to my daughter.I am glad she chooses not to talk to me. I would much rather her be true to herself and her feelings than to be fake and pacify me or "tolerate me" or send me empty messages out of some sense of obligation.

I find the alternative quite sad and even a tad bit insulting and offensive, maybe even outright cruel.


18 Thoughts.

  1. WTF!!!! “Yeah, I needed a place to crash for a while and she was very willing to let me stay with her for as long as I wanted. So I did.” “No. I moved on a few years go. I found a better place to stay and I left her place.” He said quite dryly.
    ….considering his first mom took him in and let him stay with her as long as he wanted when he needed a place to stay, and then he felt it quite alright to “Dump” her when he no longer needed her, I would hazzard a guess that that would be his “nurture” talking and not his “nature”.
    How very, very fucking sad, and at some point your “friend” will realize, even more so for himself, than for his mother.

  2. Wow. Perhaps this man has some enduring qualities, but at this point the only word that comes to my mind is “Loser”.
    What a cold, selfish view he has. What causes people to get to that point, I wonder?
    Icky, Suz. Just icky.
    “I would much rather her be true to herself and her feelings than to be fake and pacify me or “tolerate me” or send me empty messages out of some sense of obligation.”
    I understand this statement. I feel it myself every day. With everyone.

  3. Wow, that’s terrifying. Does my son think these things? Am I just being a pest when I send an email or call? Does he regret meeting me and have no interest in having me in his life? How will I ever know for sure?

  4. Maybe – How will I ever know for sure??
    And dont freak out. These were TWO adoptees I met. They dont speak for all. (As someone told me today, the odd birds flock to me like flies to doodoo. I am lucky that way).
    One could easily argue that my daughters lack of contact with me is not her choice, but her waiting for me. And as I sit her being grateful for her lack of contact, she could be pissed off that we are not in contact.
    Who really knows? The ultimate mind frick in adoption. There are no absolutes. Its all fluid and constantly changing and what one person feels today they might not tommorow as they mature and recover more.
    Did you notice all the contrariness in the sushi eaters statements? He called her his mother, not his natural mother, he said he felt at home and comfortable, yet then had not use.
    That to me speaks volumes of confusion and ambivalence – which we who have been torched by adoption know all too well.

  5. Holly – What causes people to get to that point, I wonder?
    My guess? (Based other interactions with this gent) is that he has never felt a connection to anyone and therefore everyone is disposable. No one needed or valued him (so he thinks) so why should he need or value anyone else?
    He strucks me as a bit of a drifter with no real attachments or roots anywhere. Not uncommon with some adoptees.

  6. Yes, so many statements at odds with each other. He prefers to use “natural” because other terms are less respectful, yet he commits the ultimate act of disrespect by saying she “means nothing to me.”
    I’ve never been able to understand these hit and run reunions. What’s the point? Getting a few questions answered? Going through the trouble of searching, meeting, then just walking away? (There are some circumstances where that may be necessary, but it didn’t sound like that was the case, here.)
    I have read a lot of adoptees who say their feelings about adoption and reunion are constantly evolving with age and changing life situations. But that just makes the whole thing even more complicated.
    I’ve also read suggestions about staying in touch, letting the adoptee know you are there for them (ala Verrier), so I understand what you are getting at in regards to your daughter. But I can also say that if my son said he really didn’t want contact, I don’t know if I would fight for it. Might be easier to walk away (or would it, who knows?) And I don’t even know if he would ever say that, I’m just wearing my paranoia hat today.
    Adoption…what a mess.

  7. The fact that he created his own term to show respect and persisted in the conversation, ignoring your discomfort (whether he consciously remembered your relinquishment or not?) all oppose his claim that she “means nothing to me.”
    If she meant nothing he wouldn’t be talking about her.
    Sounds to me like the lies and deceit of adoption live on in his pov.

  8. Sounds like a self-centered and heartless fellow, and as a mother whose son fades in and out of relationship (email only) it makes my blood run cold. I have heard some other stories of kids who moved right in with their birthmother, took every advantage, then cut her out of her life. Sometimes drug addiction and criminal behavior were also part of the picture. Sometimes not, and it was just inexplicable. Often, too much effusive emotion at the start of a reunion can be a sign of insincerity and the tendency to be a bullshit artist and narcissistic con man type, which is what that guy sounds like.
    I would not have wanted to be you sitting there listening to his tale, plus it sounds a little sadistic if he knew you had given up a child. Could it be he has a bad attitude towards women?:-)
    I met my son and his wife for dinner once, I thought it went great, then did not hear from him for two more years. I kept up with emails every few months and holiday gifts. Nothing was ever returned.
    Eventually he started communicating again, sporadic but never said anything about why he withdrew and I never asked. It has crossed my mind that I would never want him to feel obligated in any way to me, and he is very wary of obligation and has cut off his adoptive mother and family altogether, because of bad experiences growing up. I think this has left him with a huge distrust of mothers of any sort.
    Being pessimistic, I have feared at times he felt like the guy you described and I am always fearful of pressuring him in any way. This is especially true when he fades away and I do not hear from him for months. But on the plus side, when he writes again he is sorry for not writing, explains all the stuff going on in his life, including health issues, moving problems, job stuff etc….it is all very normal.
    One thing that has reassured me that he does want me in his life, even if at arms length, is that he and his wife have moved twice in the past year, and changed email once, and every time he took the initiative to let me know the new address and circumstances of the move. He could easily have just left and not told me. Also he seems like a really honest, responsible, and caring person, very in love with his wife and very loving of his pet cats….something we share in common.
    I don’t know what your situation is with your daughter, but I hope she will come around as my son did. My son came gradually around after 18 years of silence that I interpreted as total rejection… you never know.

  9. I communicated with my mom not out of obligation but because she pretended to be my friend. My mom(“my nat”)seems a lot like this heartless adopted guy to me now. Its been three years since my mom saying she couldn’t deal to my husband over the phone. My mom has “moved on.” I wasn’t given any respect…No Explaining. No face to face no anything. Real cold. I had brought my kids to see gramma. She had them call her gramma. She signed her cards to them “Gramma.” And now she isn’t Gramma anymore? I had thoughts of going to see her. To give her a hug and have some time with her. My friends say she’d probably call the cops on me if I showed up. Why would you be involved in my life then just drop us after everything?

  10. So many thoughts running through my head. Until you got to the his adopted father was from France part I thought you had run into my son.
    I’ll start with the “nats”. He knows what that sounds like – the annoying little insect – I don’t believe he doesn’t for a moment. I’d rather be called a birth mother than a nat any day.
    My son in the past, when I’d known him for about 8-9 years, suddenly disappeared for about 6 months. In my last conversation with him – that time- I was going to a benefit to help girls with babies. Last thing he said was can’t wait to hear all about it. Then nothing. Phone calls emails not returned. I just kept communicating with three word emails until he came around.
    Whenever I said anything about this disappearance afterward he would say he did absolutely the right thing he was tired of adoption. Turned out he had had a big row with his father’s kids.
    He never seemed to get that just walking out of someone’s life was a little unsettling.
    But of course as I write that I hear the adoptees in the audience going – excuse me – isn’t that what happened to us.
    So I sometimes wonder if in a way – that feeling is behind some of this – consciously or unconsciously – it’s payback time.
    As my doctor always says to me – that’s abandonment talking.
    In the recent dust up my son started talking about how I was exhibiting typical birth parent push-pull syndrome. I had no idea what this meant so – internet. The only place I could find it was on some – adoption is so wonderful – website. It was about birth parent often exhibit this ambivalence inconsistent behaviour.
    I know I may be biased but to me the only push-pull happening in our relationship is coming from him.
    I also think we should never underestimate how much anti-reunion propoganda there is out there. As the desire to know your family becomes more recognized and trashing birth moms becomes less pc, it just does what all discrimination does – it becomes more subtle and more insidious.

  11. I find what these adoptees say incredibly sad – for their first parents and for them. My initial reaction is to blame their adoptive parents for not doing enough to give these young people the confidence to own both sets of their parents. Lately, though, I’m equally frustrated that the adoption industry isn’t getting this and therefore not stressing with with PAPs.
    I just read Dawn’s post about their recent visit with her daughter’s mother – what a contrast. What a shame that her message hasn’t become ubiquitous in adoption yet.

  12. Maria – So sad about your mom. She has had so much loss and pain in her life with losing you and then her son. I cannot imagine what she is going through that would make her cut off contact with you. But I agree, adoption is an equally opportunity family destroyer traumatizing moms and adoptees alike and causing us to display very similar behavior when attempting to manage our pain.
    Hugs to you. I do hope you realize that it is not YOU your mother avoids but the pain and confusion she is ill equippped to handle.

  13. Margie and UM’s comments make important points:
    The influence of the adoption industry is a big factor. They claim to support “open” adoption and reunion, but their actions show that they really don’t want the mother around too much. In their view, reunion is a chance to get medical history, and that is about it.
    The adoptive family also makes it difficult for the adoptee if they fail to be genuinely supportive. And as we know, many are hostile to the idea of reunion. This can come from many quarters, such as siblings, grandparents, etc. The anti-reunion sentiment does not have to be limited to the adoptive parents and it can exert incredible pressure on the adoptee.
    P.S. Maria, don’t give up on your mother. She may be in a diffcult place right now, but she can get through it and welcome you and your children into her life.

  14. Jeez, this story made me lucky (in a pukey kind of way) that my son is not ambivalent, even though instead he is punishing and abusive. It is clear that I matter to him.

  15. Incredulous! Literally my mouth was hanging open when I read this. I hoped the few days ago comments were the same guy — can’t believe it’s another adoptee saying the same thing!
    I would agree that there is some major ambivalence. He’s staying in an emotionally-neutral zone while discussing emotionally-charged issues. He said he never felt like he fit in with his adoptive family (I can relate to that!) but he felt totally at home with his natural family. The fact that he doesn’t think he “needs” his natural family may be a smokescreen — the more he says it the more he’s trying to convince himself. There is a huge sense of betrayal to the adoptive parents when the desire to know the natural parents comes up.
    I myself have not met my “Nats” (I’m not even going to comment on that weirdness…), but just the thought of meeting my birth mother brings up feelings of guilt in me. Adoptees are programmed to feel this. Somehow the desire to know our roots means we are “ungrateful” for what were were “given” as adoptees. Like we owe some debt or something.
    I think if this guy was even remotely in touch with his heart he would have been aware of the daggers he was throwing at you, and the lies he was telling himself. I have great compassion for him. How sad to be trapped in a mirage of his own making…

  16. I havent read the other 16 comments, I just want to say my comment and then I will read them.
    Im sitting here sobbing. Im an adoptee and Im sitting here sobbing…….from what these two adoptees said.
    Call me stupid if you must, but I cant comprehend, I never will, how other adoptees feel like that.. I dont get it, I always believed until of course I blogged that adoptees were all like me, they loved their adoptive parents with all their heart but they yearned for their other mother and father too.
    Yeah Stupid and Naive…
    Then I found blogsville and learnt that some adoptive parents are complete sadistic horrid fuckwits that abuse their adopted child, and then I learnt that there were adoptees who abused me for feeling how I did…
    But to read this, to read that two adoptees openly and vocally spoke in that manner just fucking hurts, and I am an adoptee and not a mother who lost her child to adoption
    Im so sorry Suz that you had to endure that 🙁

  17. the hell?? those f***ing ungrateful, ignorant bastards. Especially the one whose mom opened her home for them to live there a few years and then “moved on.” You wouldn’t even treat a friend who opened their home to you like that. I would’ve laid the smackdown.

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