Friday, July 22, 2011

Why Isn’t My Mother Looking For Me?

“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.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Priscilla's Open Letter to the Catholic Church

Would Jesus Discriminate?

An open letter to the Catholic Church on the issue of restored birth certificates for adoptees, by Priscilla Sharp (Mother of Loss ‘64/Search Angel/Adoptee Rights Advocate).

I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that made me think of your curious stance in legislatures around the country in opposition to restoring access to original birth certificates (OBCs) to adopted persons. I should say, frankly, your unfathomable opposition — in particular, your reliance on the ungrounded argument that abortions will somehow increase if mothers are not promised forever anonymity and ‘privacy’ from the shame of bearing an out-of-wedlock child. Come on! Get real! In the 21st century you insist there are pregnant girls so frightened of being ‘outed’ they will run and get abortions before relinquishing their babies for adoption??? This is so ridiculous and ludicrous that it makes the mind boggle.

And you keep bringing this up year after year, in every legislative hearing, even after we have produced piles of studies from states that have restored OBCs that a) the abortion rate has actually gone down and b) the only reason domestic adoptions have slowed is because more girls are opting to raise their babies with more family and society support to keep families together.

You also insist that mothers were somehow promised confidentiality, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. We’ll say it again and keep shouting it until you hear it: There were no promises given to any mother except the threat of criminal prosecution if she ever tried to interfere in the life of her baby and its new family. For every woman who comes forward and asks for anonymity, we can also bring you hundreds more, if not thousands, who begged for some assurance from the social workers and nuns, and were ‘promised’, that their children would be told about them and could find them some day. None of these so-called promises are in writing and, in fact, they were all lies. The adopters and their minions, the social workers, told the mothers whatever they wanted to hear to pry their babies away and get them to sign the relinquishment.

Today, adopted persons in most of the civilized world and in six states of the U.S. are able to get their original documents and learn their names and heritage and genealogy. Many of your fellow churches are in full support of righting the unequal treatment remaining in the U.S. states which still bar adoptees from accessing their OBCs —a blatant discrimination in that OBCs are and always have been available to every other citizen who was not adopted.
So, would Jesus discriminate? Of course not! Why do you?

 © Priscilla Stone Sharp, 2010, All Rights Reserved

A Letter from a Recent Reunion...

Dear Priscilla,
  I just wanted to say thank you to you for finding me!  I am the mother of -- born in March of 1962.  My day December 17, 2010 started normally.  My husband and I were headed out the door Christmas shopping when the phone rang and the man on the other end said he wanted to talk to me about the -- family; he sounded like a salesman, so I assumed he was going to try to sell me the -- genealogy.  My husband is pointing to his watch indicating we have to leave.  I became a little irritated at the conversation at this point and curtly asked exactly what this phone call was about.

  This "salesman" got right to the point and asked me if March  31, 1962 meant anything to me.  Well, you can imagine, I was shocked and since the only people who knew I had a son in the world were my parents, brother and I told my husband before we were married, I quickly said no, whereupon I heard the most disappointed "ohhh" that I've ever heard.  Realizing now that this perhaps is my son, I quickly retracted the "no" and said yes, you are my son?  He, of course, responded by indicating he was and the rest has been the most wonderful miracle, the most absolute happiness that I've ever experienced.  My love for and my bonding with [my son], I believe, started at that conversation.  Then I received a picture of him and his wife and I was just thrilled!  I recently met him in person and am very proud to claim him as mine!

  The Christmas of 2010, I received the best present I've ever received; the gift of a son!  Not only a son, but I have two wonderful grandchildren!   So, when I say thank you, it seems woefully inadequate.   You've changed my life!  I've never been happier.  Thank you for finding me!

Update June 2012:
So glad you're out and about with the adoption work.  So glad that you're continuing with that work as it's vital to us Moms who wonder always whatever happen to my son; I hope he's well and doing okay.  Many thoughts like that pop into our heads from time to time all through the years and are always remembered and included in prayers every night.
[Since we last spoke] I have had a grandson who just was graduated from high school ...  How wonderful, isn't it?   We were invited to Pittsburgh for his graduation.  On Mother's Day, I spent my first Mother's Day with my son.  How absolutely wonderful.   I can't express in words how much that meant.