On Hope

“Hope is not a single thing. It is more of a sliding scale that ranges across a scale from virtual certainty to utter desperation. It can range within a single conversation across this whole spectrum. You can raise a person’s hope, dash it on the rocks of uncertainty, raise it out of the waters and toss it around until the other person will grasp at whatever straw you throw at them.” – changingminds.org

I recently reconnected with an old blogger/first mom friend via Facebook.  Via private message she updated me on her relationship with her son and she inquired about my reunion. I let her know where I stood as I approach nearly five years in some kind of reunion.

Her last message to me said only this:

“Do you still hold out hope?”

I have not responded to her because to be perfectly honest, I don’t know how to answer that question.

I guess most would say “yes” and perhaps I do, but true to my nature I had to think about it a little more. Her rather benign question made me think far beyond what she likely intended.

What is hope and what does it mean to hold out hope in a reunion?

Changingminds.org defines hope as:

“Hope happens when someone sees something, decides that it is desirable, realizes that they may not get it, but believes that there is still a chance of getting it. To put it tersely, though perhaps in a complex way, hope is expectation moderated by probabilistic estimation of a desired event.”

Translated for me and my situation, I see reunion, I see meeting and getting to know my daughter as desirable and have realized that to date I have not gotten that. Do I still believe there is a chance?  How can I answer that without any input from her? With no correspondence? Based on events of past few years I say no, there appears to be no chance. Yet inside me is this conflicting desire, this, well, hope.  This unrelenting feeling that someday my child will want to know me and her brothers. Someday she will be interested, strong enough, caring enough, [insert her own word here] to know me.

Robert Louis Stevenson said ‘It is better to travel hopefully than arrive’.  Stevenson implies, to me, that having reunion hope can be  pleasant in itself. I can occupy myself with dreams and fantasies of coffee shops, and discussions of literature and hair coloring and hearing her laugh, being in her presence,of watching my sons face beam with love when they finally get to meet their only sister. Those are fabulous fantasies and I can be lost in them for hours. However, my reunion hope is often tinged with the very real fear that I will not be permitted to know my daughter, and also that even if I am permitted to, it will not be as perfect as my fantasy.

Should I have hope? Do I really want to know what waits for me there or is it better to be in my fanciful state? Or better yet, is it preferable to have no hope at all?

I know that I will always welcome her and I will forever miss and want to know her but I believe to have “hope” I need some sort of feedback from her. I have none. While she has not said “I never want to know you or meet you” (and once, four years ago said “I don’t want to meet yet”) she hasn’t said she does want to. To complicate things further for me, her lack of response and acceptance of gifts, is, to me, a very passive aggressive way of saying “I don’t want to meet you or know you and now would you please leave me alone”. That might be her true feeling that she is unable to express and yet it might be my own insecurity and fears speaking to me. How can i possibly know when I only know the feelings and thoughts of one person to the relationship? Mine.

My research shows me that there are three types of hope:

Desperate hope is when a deep need is felt. Someone who is desperate will do almost anything to satisfy the hope (with ‘almost anything’ being in proportion to the level of desperation).

Whereas desperate hope often has a negative connotation, optimistic hope is often positive. In both cases, the probability of achieving the hoped-for thing can be very variable, often sitting at a very low probability of occurring.

Realistic hope
Realistic hope is based on a fair estimation of probabilities. Thus, if something is over (say) 50% likely, then I might realistically hope that it will happen.

Oddly, I struggle to find myself even here.   I have seen many mothers and adoptees in desperation. They do crazy, outlandish things with the hope that the other party will finally respond to them. They show up at doorsteps unannounced, they stalk, they call, they write letters to adoptive parents or siblings. They rail on the interet on blogs. They flood email boxes with  messages.  They purchase and present massive amounts of gifts. That has never been me (and yet I wonder if that worked against me?)

Optimism? Hmm. Maybe. But again, based on knowledge of my own feelings not with any input from my daughter.

Realistic? How would one even estimate a reunion meeting probability? I would foster a guess that someone somewhere has indeed quoted some statistics on the # of reunions that happen, the # that succeed and the # that fail. But how could I use that data to formulate my own estimate? 

I can’t.

So I am leaning towards feeling I have very little hope. I am trying my best to be a realist given the information I have. I am trying to protect myself and my sons and my life from further desecration.

And while doing all that I hold onto this fantasy that someday I will get to hear my daughters voice.

Yeah, that’s contradictory. I know.

I hope you understand.

(pun intended)

11 Thoughts.

  1. Oh yes I understand comepletely. And oh how I wish I didn’t. I am certain you will understand.


  2. Oh yes I understand completely. And oh how I wish I didn’t. I am certain you will understand.


  3. Unfortunately, I too understand too well…. and the post timing is classic.. as i’ve spent the last few days pondering whether or not to contact my siblings… siblings that do not know I exist… and I would have contacted them already… if it were not for the fact that I’m afraid that it will kill any hope I continue to hold that my fmom will ever change her mind about talking to me. It’s been almost 10 years since I first contacted her… and as long as I play by her rules, there is that *slim* chance… that little sliver of hope… that she will change her mind…. reality? chances are she’ll never change her mind… so do i contact my siblings? hoping that one of them will be receptive… while killing the hope that fmom will come around? tricky business that adoption thing.

  4. Spangie – The doubts, the challengs, the thinking and rethinking can make one crazy, can’t it? I cannot tell you how many times I have second guessed every decision I have made. Should I have continued sending gifts? Should I have been one of those crazy stalking demanding types? Should I have shown up at her door step? Would all things I DID NOT do make a difference? (Curz apparently the things I did do, did not matter).

    Hugs to you. Personally I hope you write them. It may be the catalyst that is needed.
    One of them may be able to convince her. It may be them she is afraid of. If they show her understanding and desire to know you, she may soften. And if she doesnt, have you lost anything more? You are essentially back to where you are today.


  5. An excellent analysis of hope and it’s different levels, Suz.

    Desperate hope is not a good thing, as in buying lotto tickets in hopes of solving one’s financial problems. Optimistic hope, harder to define. Implies a pollyanna, the glass is half-full approach, which can be a good thing or a total loser. Realistic hope is more like “I just had a great interview and I believe I may get the job.”

    Much more difficult to assess when others are involved, especially (as you expressed) you get no feedback as to where you are.

    When I led an adoption/reunion triad group in California, I heard so many stories. Reunions that started great and took a turn for the worse. Reunions where one party refused to meet/get involved and then that changed. One in particular comes to mind. A mom who had attended groups years before came back to tell others how time can change everything. She had found her son and he didn’t want contact. Even went so far as to threaten her with a restraining order when she learned of his wedding and sent a card. Thirteen years after her initial contact, he called and apologized and wanted to know her. Now they have a real reunion, not blissful, but at least some sort of relationship.

    That taught me never to say never. But it doesn’t happen for everyone,

    My reunion started great and has taken a huge turn for the worse. I still hold out hope for change. BUT I no longer have expectations.

    Expectations can get confused with hope. A long time ago, someone told me “manage your expectations,” and I think that was good advice. We can hope for something (realistic or not). But try not expect it. That’s a set-up for disappointment.

    Personally, I hope my son will get better (as in resolve his issues, become more stable) and that someday we will have a relationship again. But it’s a long shot, and therefore, I don’t expect it.

  6. My expectations have been the source of pain and frustration. They sneak in and seduce me. I’m not sure what managing them means, but it’s piqued my interest.

    Another note that I’m curious about is how does one define “statistics on the # of reunions that happen, the # that succeed and the # that fail.” What defines a successful or a failed reunion?

  7. Jmomma, on the statistics, I was suggesting that some smarty probably has or thinks they have defined those stats. I would likely disagree with them. And I agree. Failed or succeeded is in the heart of the reuniter. Some might consider my reunion failed. Some might consider it a success because I found her and she has access to all the things so many adoptees do not. I believe each one of us needs to self define.

  8. I have grieved the loss of my reunion expectations during the last five years and now hold out little hope of a relationship…I am at a loss as to what to do…I only know that doing nothing is an option and my bdaughter seems to like that option but I am in limbo and it feels like groundhog day..

  9. Wish I had some helpful words, but honestly I don’t – just a hope that whatever your daughter needs to open her head and heart to you reaches her, and that you meet.

  10. I found a pretty decent article about managing our expectations of others: Managing Your Expectation

    Here’s a piece from it:
    The trick to keeping yourself from having to experience negative emotions as a result of someone else’s actions is to not have any expectation either way about what that person is going to do.

    You must release yourself from your attachment to any outcome that is based on someone else’s actions or inactions!

    As long as you expect other people to always do what you want them to do, you will forever be setting yourself up for possible disappointment. Not because people are always going to let you down, but simply because eventually someone else’s decision will not marry up with what you think is best.

    As long as you have prepared for that moment in advance by releasing your attachment to any given outcome, then you will not have a negative reaction when the time comes.

  11. In regards to hope, as well as to expectations, I have a few thoughts based on my own experience as a reunited adoptee. First, let me preface my situation by saying that I have lived a very full and happy life, and that from a very early age I knew that I was adopted but that it was a closed adoption. I have never viewed myself as one rejected but as one that was saved (from abortion by my birth mother, not that she considered it) and accepted (by my adoptive family). I also try not to view my life as what could have been vs what was. What happened has happened, and I fully believe that it has been God’s will, period.

    Ok now that I have kind of introduced myself, back to your thoughts and situation. I have only read a few of your blog entries, but it seems that you contacted your daughter when she was (is) in her early 20s? I know every situation is different, but just to share mine… I was told by my adopted father (through an attorney) when I was 18 that I had the freedom to contact my birth mother if I desired to do so. As far as I knew (and now know for sure) she hoped from that day on that I would respond and contact her. I prayed about this for many years, and despite not having any negative thoughts toward her, my fear of the unknown led me to wait until I was 28 years old to make that contact. At that time, emotionally and mentally, I was ready for whatever I would encounter. As it turns out, I have encountered a wonderful person and have become very close to her. I still struggle with the reality of what family looks like for me these days, as I now have my adoptive family and have become close as well to both biological parents and their respective families. But that is another topic.

    From my perspective, I feel that your tendency to hope is good. It sounds like you do not expect anything from your daughter in the sense of entitlement but simply hope for the things that you desire. I can say that as an adoptee I also had hopes and tried not to pair those hopes with expectations. I had a really hard time early in my reunion when I realized that I had basically delayed the hopes of my birth mother for 10 years beyond what was legally possible. I realized that I had held in my possession the answers to so many questions and longings that she had been harboring for the past 10 years and 18 years before that. It was very powerful to realize the impact I had on her when I genuinely had not viewed it that way prior to our reunion and communicating our feelings.

    I have rambled quite a bit here, but I just felt compelled to share with you a little of my story and perspective. Feel free to e-mail me if you care to discuss anything.

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