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Birthday celebrations - Advice from adults who were adopted as children

(65 Posts)
guccigirly Thu 28-Jun-12 16:49:01

Every year my DH and children get very excited as my birthday approaches planning celebrations for the day. I on the other hand just want to let it pass without too much fuss. It is only in the last few years (I am in my 40's now) that I have realised that the reason for this is that my birth was not a celebration, I was given away by my unmarried 17 year old Irish Catholic mother a few weeks after birth.

Although I am now in touch with my Birth Mother and we get along, I still can't bring myself to enjoy my birthday. Can anyone who has been adopted as a child identify with these feelings or offer advice as to how I can overcome it and enjoy my birthday like everyone else ?

OlaRapaceFru Thu 28-Jun-12 16:59:50

I'm adopted too. I was adopted as a 3 month old into a wonderful and loving family (I was always an only child). My adopted parents always made a big deal of my birthdays and I had the most fabulous childhood and life with them.

I only discovered a few years ago (I'm ... erm ... rather middle aged now) that adopted people can have issues with their birthdays (there is an expression for it, but I can't remember what it is for the moment).

As an adult, after I left home and was living an independent life, there were a few of my own birthdays that I totally ruined.

Actually, I'm going to Google what it's called ... and will come back.

But - you're not unusual. It can be very common with adopted people.

guccigirly Thu 28-Jun-12 17:07:03

Thank you OlaRpaceFru for your post, I don't feel like a freak now!

I too was an only child within a loving adopted family and now you mention it, it was only when I became an independent adult no longer living at home that it became an issue - I hadn't realised that until you pointed it out.

I do remember my adopted Mother ruining my 16th and 17th birthdays totally and when I was 18 she admitted it was because I was then at an age that I could look for my birth mother by requesting my original birth certificate.

I have so much enthusiasm for family and friends' birthdays, but none whatsoever for my own.

FrothyDragon Thu 28-Jun-12 17:08:09

And I thought it was just me being weird... blush

I definitely identify; was glad to move away from my family aged 19, as it meant they couldn't make so much fuss.

It's guaranteed I'll end up in tears every birthday. Usually, for no apparent reason.

guccigirly Thu 28-Jun-12 17:12:37

I'm quite tearful on my birthday too, FrothyDragon for no apparent reason.

I am a well adjusted adult and I am one of those people for whom the glass is half full, not half empty. But I can't crack this one and become enthusiastic about my birthday. It is driving me mad (probably driving my DH spare too !)

I also find I love going overboard on gifts for people, but expect nothing or very little in return. I am positively overwhelmed when someone does something out of the ordinary for me.

OlaRapaceFru Thu 28-Jun-12 17:15:03

I was very lucky that my adopted parents never ruined my birthdays for me - ever.

I just did it myself - as an adult. I still can't think of the expression, even though I've done a bit of searching just now. I'll go and have another look.

OlaRapaceFru Thu 28-Jun-12 17:38:00

I think it's called 'birthday distress' and/or 'birthday sabotage'. If you Google those, specifically in relation to being adopted, there is masses of stuff to read.

In my adult years I've veered between ensuring I've had fantastic birthdays and ruining them. I remember one (a significant birthday party) which I sabotaged utterly spectacularly about 4 days beforehand - to the point that I canceled it.

I think a lot of it is that you always think, on your birthday "is my birth mother thinking of me today?". That sounds very simplistic - and obviously we're all different.

guccigirly Thu 28-Jun-12 20:37:57

Thanks so much OlaRapaceFru for your help and for looking that up for me. I will google that now. I had a family meal booked for 10 people this weekend for my birthday. Two members of the family had a falling out this week and I used it as an excuse to cancel the meal, even though the two who fell out are now speaking.

I used to think that when I was younger "Is my birth mother thinking of me today?" But now I am older and have met her I now always think - my birth wasn't any form of celebration for my Mother, she was busy making plans to get rid of me as soon as I arrived and that is hard to swallow. I understand things were different back then and the reasons behind her decision, but I always reflect on it leading up to my birthday.

OlaRapaceFru Thu 28-Jun-12 21:36:32

Some of the things you read about 'birthday distress' indicates that the lead-up days (or even weeks) to our birthday brings about these feelings, hence the sabotage sometimes. I completely understand and sympathise with you about canceling your birthday meal. sad

I haven't found my mother yet, so I'm not in the same situation as you. But I do know that putting me up for adoption was her only option - and I don't blame her for that decision.

But to get back to birthdays - it's something I tend to deal with on a year by year basis. Sometimes I have a great birthday, sometimes not. But it's hard to predict how I'm going to feel, but as you say, something trivial sets off the sabotage.

And, sorry, Frothy, I wasn't ignoring your post blush. Yes - tears for no apparent reason on a birthday has happened to me too.

(I was wondering whether we should get this thread moved into the Adoptions topic? Unless you want it to disappear after 90 days as it would in Chat, but not if it's moved?)

guccigirly Fri 29-Jun-12 10:54:59

OlaRapaceFru that's a great idea, but as this is my first ever thread on Mumsnet, I don't now how to go about moving it across. Please can you advise me how to do it? Thanks for all your help.

solidgoldbrass Fri 29-Jun-12 10:59:48

I have to say this has never been an issue for me (adopted as a baby). In fact I have two 'birthdays' - the date I was born and 'adoption day' which is the anniversary of the day the adoption was fully formalised - though these days the latter one is only really marked by my mum and me now my dad is dead. Sorry to hear that some of you have suffered it, though, it sounds rotten.

OlaRapaceFru Fri 29-Jun-12 11:02:38

guccigirly, on the right hand side - on the same line as your name, date and time of posting - is :

Add message | Report | Message Poster

Click on report and it brings up a message box. Just type a message to MNHQ that you'd like this thread moved over to the Adoptions topic, and then click on the bar below saying 'Report this message to Mumsnet'.

The moving over won't happen immediately, but they'll probably get round to it at some point today! Apart from the three of us on here, it's possible you'll get some more people joining in.

OlaRapaceFru Fri 29-Jun-12 11:03:29

Oooops - now four of us!

rubycon Fri 29-Jun-12 12:41:50

as a birthmum I can assure you that in my case I think of my child every day. I feel sad when I read posts like this, things were so different then to now.

BabyGiraffes Fri 29-Jun-12 12:59:38

If it's any consolation, I was not adopted and hate my birthday. My dh was adopted and as far as I know has no problems with his birthday. Things were very different in those days and dh has never looked for his birth mother but knows she most likely had very little choice in the matter (young, unmarried, rural...). I sympathise with your feelings but also find them a little bit self-centred (especially your description of your birth mother being too busy to make plans to get rid of you to celebrate your birth... - was that really what happened?). I am pretty sure that your adoptive mother feels absolutely over the moon about your birth because otherwise she'd not have had a child. Try to see it from that perspective. And if you don't want to celebrate your birthday, don't! I never do.

bunnywhack Fri 29-Jun-12 13:18:50

I was and i find in the lead up to it not every day mind but just little thoughts now and then like x amount of years ago I was being carried by someone who didnt want me then on the birthday itself that she saw me and decided not to keep me (can you tell i have issues?) I know nothing about my story I've looked into it a couple of times but not got far. It gets worse this birthday thing as i get older I just keep busy and try to put it out of my head

rollingfog143 Fri 29-Jun-12 13:18:57

Hope you don't mind an adoptive mum adding to the discussion. My (adopted) DD's birthday is a reason for a celebration because she's alive and loved and her life is about so much more than the circumstances of her birth and adoption. I'm so glad that she came into the world and although there is sadness that she couldn't remain with her birth family I am so very grateful that she is now part of our family.

I'm not adopted and often experience "birthday distress". I don't quite get why adults feel the need to celebrate their birthdays to be honest.

OlaRapaceFru Fri 29-Jun-12 18:16:06

rollingfog143, you don't actually need to have a birthday celebration planned to suffer from birthday distress - it can happen, party or no party; it happens because of the date, not any potential celebration.

rollingfog143 Fri 29-Jun-12 20:26:42

I know that, Ola, my last sentence wasn't really part of the discussion just thinking out loud. Like I said, birthdays can have a negative impact on those who grew up within their birth families, too.

guccigirly Sun 01-Jul-12 23:42:35

BabyGiraffes I have a good relationship with my birth mother but the fact is that she is very flighty and has her own agenda for her own life, I have been in touch with her for 20 years and after many discussions with her I have all the facts surrounding my birth. She has had my home address during these 20 years and has not once sent a birthday or christmas card. She had no intentions of keeping me and only 12 months after giving me away she became pregnant to someone else and had an illegal abortion (before the law was passed to have one).

My adoptive mother died when I was 17 and my adopted father when I was only 20. Being an only child this was tough, I had to grow up fast. I'm not self centred at all, just a realist. My birthday distress probably has something to do with the adoption and also not having any living peers (my grandparents are all dead too).

guccigirly Sun 01-Jul-12 23:59:48

Bunnywhack I can really understand how you are feeling. If you have a look on the website www.afteradoption.org.uk there is a freephone number you can call to help you with how you are feeling or your search. It does get easier as you get older.

Solidgoldbrass I am glad that things have worked out really well for you. Thanks for joining in the discussion.

Rubycon, I sympathise with you for what you are feeling and thank you for joining in the discussion. I know it's not easy.

squeakytoy Mon 02-Jul-12 00:01:34

I am adopted and can honestly say this is not something that I have ever thought about.

I do wonder on my birthday, more than other days, if my birth mother is alive and if she thinks about me on that day... although knowing what little I do know of her, that is quite unlikely. sad She had already run off with the man who was my birth father, leaving behind 2 very young children and a husband. She was only 24 then, so god knows how often she may have gone on to repeat this sort of behaviour for the next 20 years possibly..

I was an only adopted child too, and my dad died when I was 24, mum when I was 39, and no other living relatives at all.

I am lucky though in that birthdays are alway celebrated with a lot of attention in my husbands family, and I am always spoilt rotten by my husband, MIL and stepkids.. (see, not even got any kids of my own... and that is the one thing that gets me down... no blood relatives in my life at all and never will be).

guccigirly Mon 02-Jul-12 00:18:32

Squeakytoy I am glad to hear that your birthdays are celebrated so well in your family. My family spoil me too (my husband and children) but I become a bit quiet and withdrawn in the lead up to my birthday. I am glad this doesn't happen to you.

Regarding your birth mother, would you be interested in tracing her? You wouldn't have to meet her and make full contact if what you discovered was not to your liking. After Adoption could help you with this. She may have sorted herself out later in life and you may even have half siblings. I have four half sisters but they know nothing of my existence. My birth mother still keeps me a secret from those around her. Having been an only child all my life, I look forward to her maybe one day telling them.

squeakytoy Mon 02-Jul-12 00:25:54

I know I have the two half siblings that are older than me. I dont know if they know of my existence, quite possibly not, and given the circumstances of her leaving them behind when they were small boys, I am not sure they would really want to know me. Not sure if I could put myself up for that sort of rejection really.

I have often toyed with the idea of trying to find her, and have done half hearted searches on the internet.. with no success, but I guess she has name changed along the way. (must be a scary thought for a lot of women who had babies adopted, long before the internet and computers, as they would not have even imagined that technology would become so advanced that tracing people is much easier these days).

Maryz Mon 02-Jul-12 00:39:12

It is interesting (and sad) to read that so many people have difficulty celebrating their birthdays sad.

Both my (adopted) children are teenagers now, and both hate their birthdays. ds1 refuses to celebrate at all (he is 18) and so we have to downplay it every year, usually giving him a few presents in and around the day so as not to make too much of a big deal of it.

dd gets very sad, she doesn't really enjoy it at all, and gets herself into a bit of a state every year. She feels she should want to celebrate, but obviously has very mixed feelings.

Neither have any contact (yet) with birth family. Both refuse to discuss it, despite my best efforts.

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