“Why Isn’t My Mother Looking For Me?”
(c) 2011 Priscilla Sharp, Mother of Loss, Search Angel, Adoptee Rights Advocate
This is one of the most common questions adoptees rightfully ask at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, many assume it’s because their mother doesn’t care about them or, worse, is hiding and doesn’t want to be found. But that does not compute with the well-established statistics we have that more than 95% of mothers who relinquished a child to adoption are happy to be found and welcome the contact and further relationship with their son/daughter.
The reason that I have heard women give most often for not initiating a search for their adopted-away children is not wanting to “intrude” on the adoptee and the new family; they feel that, by signing the relinquishment, we mothers gave up all rights to the child, and it would be wrong or unethical for us to go back on our word, and that it could possibly have negative impact on our son/daughter to have us suddenly appear in their life. Many of us were told our son/daughter would be given their birth information and would be able to look for us; therefore, if they don’t contact us, we assume they are not interested.
Even if we do want to search, most of us are completely clueless that we are even allowed or able to or where or how to go about it. If we are not computer savvy, this information is nowhere to be found in the mainstream media, except for the occasional newspaper article or cable TV program on reunions now becoming more frequent, and even those do not usually provide information on how to search except for contacting the very expensive paid searchers who sponsor the shows.
For many of us, the years obscure the pain and memories. We really do try to “forget,” as we were told to. I know some mothers who actually forgot the exact day or year of the birth, and that probably has a lot to do with how we were drugged and then demoralized into submission. Some of us went off on a path of hard living – drugs, alcohol, inappropriate relationships – and our youthful lives became a blur. It’s shameful and embarrassing to think about our past behavior and not be able to remember the date to be able to sign up on registries, post in forums, join search groups, etc.
Here are some other worries mothers have expressed which have paralyzed us from searching:
· Fear of rejection (we have been conditioned to believe our sons and daughters have been told terrible things about us and will be upset with us and angry they were "given away"). Even the simple reason, “It was because I loved you and wanted you to have a better life than I could give you” is often met with, “If you loved me so much, how could you have let me go to strangers?”
· Fear that our child (now adult) did not miss or need us
· Fear of exposure if we never told our families or friends, especially subsequent children
· Fear of hurting subsequent raised children (“How could you have done that? Kept it secret from us all these years?”)
· Fear of dredging up and dealing with long-suppressed trauma, guilt, pain
· Fear that our son/daughter was never told they were adopted
· Fear that our son/daughter did not have a loving, nurturing home and will be resentful towards us
· Fear of letting anyone get too close – I’m not “worthy,” not "good enough," life has been complicated, personal life is "messy," substance abuse problems we don't want anyone to know about, etc.; son/daughter will be disappointed with us
· Fear of being asked who the father was and the circumstances of the relationship with him (affair with married man, promiscuity, or worse, rape, incest -- i.e., not typical "teenagers in love")
· Fear that I will find my son/daughter is deceased/addicted/behavioral problems
· Fear of upsetting the adopters and possibly incurring criminal repercussions (many of us were bullied into a place of fear and threatened with legal prosecution if we ever tried to find our son/daughter)
Of course, every adoption situation is unique, and you will never know the particular reason(s) your mother did not search until you ask. All we ask is that you keep an open mind and heart and try to understand things from our perspective and experience.