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birth mothers who do not want a reunion

(26 Posts)
user1485961675 Wed 01-Feb-17 15:24:22

I was taken from my mother at birth and raised by foster parents. This was many years ago, but I have always wondered where I came from. So recently I looked into it, and after a lot of trouble I found out who my mother was. She is now 79, and I have never known her, but would love to get to know her before it is too late.

I wrote her a letter explaining myself, but she didn't reply. I wrote to her sister, who was very evasive and unhelpful, giving me the impression I was unwanted. It seems my mother doesn't want contact with me.

Now this goes against all my conceptions of motherhood, but of course I might have some funny ideas. But please, can anyone here suggest to me why a woman who had her baby taken from her in 1952 wouldn't want contact with her offspring when the opportunity arose?

Babasaclover Wed 01-Feb-17 15:33:22

This is very sad for you.

Maybe a product of rape springs to mind?

Or she may have lost some of her marbles? 79 is very elderly.

You say you were taking off her, can you give some context?

user1485961675 Wed 01-Feb-17 15:45:23

Her 15th birthday fell the day after I arrived. Her family were upper middle class and went to boarding school. It was of course a scandal that she fell pregnant so young. Her parents intervened, and I was placed in private foster care. I know my mum was distraught, and was difficult. She was sent to Canada when I was just three, but she was having none of it and came back again. But family pressures weighed heavily on her, and she was expected to make a suitable marriage. That however never happened. She has never married and as far as I know, never had other children.

Reality16 Wed 01-Feb-17 15:56:43

The pain for her. She is elderly and may be protecting herself from any further pain. This isn't a slight against you or make her go against being a mother, but sometimes the pain of these things is ok much. I would imagine when you are approaching 80 is would be incredibly hard to open up old wounds. My gran tells me her confidenc drops a little every year (she is in he 80's) and she can't deal with high emotional situations the way she once could. I'm sorry that she dint want to meet though.

donquixotedelamancha Wed 01-Feb-17 17:04:25

"Maybe a product of rape springs to mind?" Wow, that's a fairly horrible and baseless jump. OP, I'd concentrate on sorting out your feelings about what is an unfortunate situation and not submit to worrying about speculation.

Its not a fun situation to be in, and no-one knows the real reasons; so I'll just tell you how I feel about my BM: She isn't my Mum, she's someone who donated some genes. The people who brought me up are my parents.

"can anyone here suggest to me why a woman who had her baby taken from her in 1952 wouldn't want contact with her offspring" Cowardice (or self protection if you want to be nice). Your BM has confirmed that she's not capable, or deserving, of being a parent. Maybe if she were younger it would be different, but there is no reason to think that. Having kids recently has shown me how hard they are, and given me some empathy for those who can't cope. That's understandable at 15; but I don't find it excusable- I can't imagine not wanting to move heaven and earth for my kids well being.

You've lived most of your life without these people. You define who you are. Perhaps some counselling might help sort out your feelings? Ultimately, you have chalk it up as her loss, and move on.

UnderTheNameOfSanders Wed 01-Feb-17 20:39:17

Re-opening old wounds
Not feeling emotionally strong enough to cope

It isn't a reflection on you. She doesn't know you. It is a reflection on how the circumstances were for her back in the 50s and all the events in her life since then. She will have been told to forget about you, and that it would be better for you to have a fresh start.


user1485961675 Thu 02-Feb-17 06:42:23

Thanks for these replies.

Please may I add that in the course of my researches I read Margaret Kornitzer's 1952 book "Child Adoption in the Modern World". I did this to get an idea of how things were in those days, and it was quite a shock. Now, your replies suggest several reasons for my mother's attitude, but none of you touched upon a matter mentioned by Margaret Kornitzer. On page 47 of her book she wrote "Whether there is always sufficient reason for adoption may still be doubted. An indifferent mother can still get rid of her child too easily ... and the law still permits free and easy placements".

Perhaps another quote will help. Kornitzer continues on page 49 with "The mother alone has wide powers to place her child with unsupervized people ... A parent alone may put a child in a stranger's permanent care without notifying the local authority. She can do it in a moment on the strength of the most casual meeting. The other party need not apply for an adoption order, either then or later".

Well, the past is a foreign country where they do things differently. You have suggested rape, losing her marbles, pain, shame and emotional weakness; but I wondered if any of you have observations about indifferent mothers? Perhaps my mother is totally indifferent?

UnderTheNameOfSanders Thu 02-Feb-17 07:50:55

Being indifferent is of course a possibility.

However if she is indifferent now I suspect that is because she had to learn to be to cope with all the other emotions of losing her baby at such a young age. i.e. a coping mechanism.

I very much doubt that a girl who got pregnant at 14 and gave birth at just 15 was indifferent then . It would have been a very highly charged situation, one over which she probably had little if any control.

But again I stress, whatever reason there is behind your birth mother's choice not to meet with you now, it isn't about you, she doesn't know you, it is her frailties. She can't be the person you want/need her to be, but that isn't your fault. It's just how it is.

flowers once again.

user1485961675 Thu 02-Feb-17 09:12:31

Thank you for that UnderTheNameOfSanders. Most insightful.

Babasaclover Thu 02-Feb-17 09:15:59

You may be right. Some people are just indifferent to things that the majority of people find highly emotive.

I'm sorry you didn't get the chance to meet her. Would her sister who wrote to you be interested in meeting up? It might be nice to meet someone of your own bloodline?

Kr1stina Thu 02-Feb-17 09:23:55

My BM is the same. I first made contact many years ago when she was about 50 and she refused to meet me for years. She then agreeed to meet me once , very reluctantly and briefly. It wasn't particularly helpful .

I don't think she's indifferent to children in general as she seems to have a relationship with my two half siblings. I can only guess that to her it's so far in the past it seems like another lifetime. Like it happened to someone else.

I was very hurt by what seemed to me to be her callous attitude. But when I talked to her I realised that he was still processing this as a 21 yo. She has never talked to anyone about it and I think felt that she would be judged as she has been at the time, as wicked and shameful.

She's from a similar background to your BM but was 21, working and engaged to be married when I was born. She agreed to place me for adoption because she has decided not to marry my father and came under a lot of family pressure. Her family moved her aboard and then she wrote breaking off the engagement .

Are you sure that Kornitzers book is an accurate reflection of the experiences of BM in 1952? From your brief quotes it seems full of the unpleasant and judgemental attitudes held by SW and others at the time .

I wonder if it would help you more to read about the experiences of BM written from their point of view. I'm not sure how much this is covered in books like The Primal Wound, which I'm sure you will have read as it's an adoption classic.

Bekksy Thu 02-Feb-17 09:45:03


So you are 65? If so you know how times have changed and how things would have been for your birth mom. How she was probably forced to give up her baby. How she would have had no choice and has probably had to live with it for her whole life. She was sent away to save the embarrassment of her family, probably ostracized for so many years. The black sheep. She has probably been living with this for 65 years and by the sounds of it (never got married, never had kids) she probably never got over it. Maybe, it's just too much to deal with now. At 79. The emotional impact of having your baby ripped from you would have been something so terrible. Unless you have actually been in that situation you would never ever understand it.

I am a birth mother who gave up her child at 16. However it was my choice and I have never regretted my choice and would happily meet my daughter. No one would understand that because no one else was in my situation, living my life at that time - but that is the decision I made and I stand by it. It was the absolute best option for my child and for myself. No regrets. But I had support, my family was there for me, I had a boyfriend (not the father) who I am married to today. I was never alone.

This poor woman may have lived her whole life regretting and mourning for a child she lost. The family she lost. The life she lost. Thinking she would never get to see her and finding ways to deal with it. Highly likely as it was a long time ago and finding your birth mother / child was not exactly the done thing.

She has found a way to deal with this and maybe, at this stage, cannot cope with it. Perhaps it will take some time and perhaps she will come around. Perhaps it will be too late for her and you. However I would strongly suggest you do not take this personally, do not look at this at her rejecting you again. This is a coping mechanism and it is probably all she has. Remember that she obviously did not have any support from her family, she probably lost all her friends, your father obviously did not stick around. She was a 15 year old child, alone and deserted at a time when she needed help and support.

I am sorry that this has turned out like this for you and I am really hoping that my explanation does help you in some way and helps you see this from your mothers perspective so that you can maybe understand that there is probably a lot more to this than you can see.

Kr1stina Thu 02-Feb-17 09:48:15

That's a very compassionate post Bekksy. And I'm sorry for your loss.

user1485961675 Thu 02-Feb-17 11:37:59

Babasaclover ... her sister doesn't want me to contact my Mum, so there's no help to be had there. I get the impression my Mum is a troubled woman, and she certainly has moved about quite a lot in her life, never really settling anywhere. Perhaps her sister thinks me suddenly turning up might make things worse.

Kr1stina ... I've read a few books about this. John Tresiliotis in 1973 and Howe & Feast in 2000 addressed this issue of reunions, and after reading them I didn't expect too much. It seems reunions often don't last because nothing can replace the years spent apart. Even so, it was worth a try. Now I'm just at the stage of trying to understand. But I was interested in your comment about your BM thinking like a 21 year old, as if she hadn't progressed since. That is an observation I too have made with some older people. Kornitzer's book, by the way, isn't pleasant reading, but does give a good idea of attitudes in 1952.

Bekksy ... thanks for your thoughts. I can quite follow your train of thought, and cannot fault a word of it even if I wanted to! My only question is, if she has had a miserable time of it, wouldn't it be an opportunity to meet me here towards the end of her life? There might be great consolation in that for both of us. But I can readily see that if this has been a major issue her entire adult life, then maybe it is all just too much to bear any more. I suppose I have done all I can, but the last word is that it is all a tragedy.

Kr1stina Thu 02-Feb-17 11:53:52

I think most reunions don't last because they are not really reunions . Yes technically these people have met before. But one party doesn't remember it at all and it's a lifetime away for the other. They are in fact total strangers.

It's only on day time TV where it's all about love at first sight. In RL it's just two stranger who have their own lives and often a lot of baggage.

BM gave up a baby and they meet a grown woman. Adoptees often have a fantasy of a perfect mother and they meet a very ordinary middle aged or older woman . No one remarkable.

Unless they are both able and willing to work at a relationship, it usually just fizzles out. Most people have their own seperate lives and families and biology isn't everything. Sometimes it turns out to be nothing.

When I met my BM she was a competent professional woman in her 50s in a LTR with a decent man. But she still thought that people would judge her for having sex with her fiancé in 1961. I don't think she had ever talked about it since so her perspective hadn't changed with the passing of time.

She dealt with it by compartmentalising everything. I spent a few hours with her and she asked nothing about my life, not even if I had children. She told me she had tried to abort me. I don't think she's a cruel or callous woman, she was using me like a counsellor in a very detached way.

So very cut off from her past and her feelings I think. I guess it's been her way of coping and she doesn't want to open the Pandora's box now.

Offredalba Thu 02-Feb-17 19:51:07

This is a question that is frequently discussed among women who have lost children to adoption. I have never encountered a mother who was indifferent, but then they would be unlikely to be within such a group.
I think that you have made excellent points Bekksy and Kristina. I have a couple to add. Losing a child is an extraordinarily traumatising experience in any circumstance. People recognise this when a child dies, but those who suffer loss through miscarriage, infertility or adoption rarely receive similar understanding or support for their grief.
I read a statistic ( that I can't vouch for) that 40% of women who lost children to adoption never had another child. I was certainly made to believe that I was completely unsuitable to be a mother and a liability to my child. When I later married and gave birth to my second child, it took a long time to feel worthy of being his mother, and I felt guilty for being so selfish as to think I could raise him.
Past adoption practices were frequently brutal and added to the trauma for many women. Mental and physical health issues experienced by these women have never been recognised or addressed in this country, so it is unlikely that your mother ever received counselling of any kind.
Lastly, when my son contacted me, there was a very short period when I thought of pulling away from the whole reunion, because I knew that I couldn't bear to lose him for a second time. I often wonder if that is a factor for the women who refuse to meet their children who were adopted.

Adoptions are as unique as people so it's impossible to say whether any of these points are relevant to your mother, User.
It's kind of you to want to understand her better, but healing of mothers is never the responsibility of the adopted.
Can I suggest Anne Fessler's book 'A girl like her' and any of the reunion series by Evelyn Robinson. They might be helpful to you.
Wishing you all the best.

StiginaGrump Sun 05-Feb-17 01:32:58

I think indifference is very unlikely, enormous trauma seems much more probable. A 14 year old pregnant at that time from a middle class home certainly wouldn't have consented to that situation. To sex? Maybe and maybe not...plenty of girls then didn't even know the basics. It seems monumentally unlikely she was indifferent to any of it. I actually find it difficult to believe that someone didn't exploit her. I wonder when she knew she was pregnant? My gran only knew with her first when she was 5 months and her friend told her! The situation, the delivery, the separation, the on going ramifications must have been huge. I would bet she has spent her life with a terrified child internally who was never supported to process the events, she was so young and those times so bleak for girls in that situation. To be sent away, forcibly separated and to then be unable to marry and have children all implies great trauma.

Sorry OP that you haven't got more out of the experience, she isn't your responsibility and it sounds like she is no longer able to take any for you either.

Actually my birth mother was pretty indifferent but she was older, chaotic and had a few of us she didn't keep and the ones she did she didn't care for in any obvious way. Who knows why.

People are complicated, adoption not usually conducive to good maternal mental health (sorry Bekksy am obviously not including you in that generalisation, am pleased yours worked out wellsmile we all do as well as we can with what we get, your biological mother had such a lot to deal with.
Hope as you process it all it sits a bit easier on you.

Haffdonga Sun 05-Feb-17 12:44:34

There are a lot of wise comments on this thread but it must be very hard for you.

Another aspect is the enormous cultural/class/social pressure of the time for people of that background. (You say your bm was upper middle class, boarding school background). Having parents of similar ages and backgrounds myself I have been shocked throughout my life by just how different their approach is to dealing with family trauma. They genuinely believe and have had it instilled into them for life that the best way to deal with emotion is to hide it. The best way to deal with difficulty or traumatic events is to never ever speak about it. As a result of going to boarding school from a young age neither of my parents had the same emotional attachment to their parents or expected to have that type of bond. They always look rather uncomfortable when they see me telling my dcs that I love them - for them that's over sentimental and embarrassing.

So who knows why your bm can't bring herself to meet you but she may genuinely be conditioned to believe that least said soonest mended and that the painful and traumatic memories that your meeting would bring are best buried deep and left untouched.

And PPs are right. She clearly cant be who you need her to be. I'm so sorry. It's obviously her loss.

PresidentSheCock Wed 08-Feb-17 20:37:54

I'm sorry this is affecting you.

I haven't any first hand experience myself of giving up or being given up, but I do have a story to add.

As a teenager when I was around 15 I was sleeping over at my boyfriends house and he was at work. His mum had a few friends round and they were all a bit worse for wear. I had gone out through the kitchen to the back for a cig and they musn't of realised I was there as they carried on their conversation. Bfs mum in a drunken confessional was showing the friends a letter her child she had given away when she was 20 had written to her. The child was now roughly 35 years old and had expressed an interest in hearing from her or meeting her as they had questions they wanted answering now that they had their own children etc.

Bfs mum confessed to friends that she had no intention of replying, even with just the answers child wanted and no visit etc. As she didn't want the child to judge her for going on to have another child with their dad which they then kept just two years later.
They'd both been students at the Time in uni and it was a new relationship; they chose to give child away because they felt it would jeapodise their futures. When they next fell accidentally pregnant, when uni was done and they had a house and jobs, they kept baby #2 and married (and divorced not long after. Bfs mum kept custody but was never very maternal and struggled to bond (even now they aren't close)

Anyway my point is that she refused to reply or meet up because over the passage of time she had come to fear that her child would see her reasons for the adoption as petty and that they would judge her harshly for it and for her future decisions. She was a very fragile woman and she wouldn't have been able to deal with someone coming out and saying "well look at all the good it did you" which was kind of what she thought would Happen.

So self preservation. That can be a reason to refuse contact.

Offredalba Thu 09-Feb-17 03:49:05

You might find this interesting OP.

user1486956786 Sat 18-Feb-17 05:35:10

I definitely support the idea that she may just be indifferent. There is usually a reason why people are this way. What happened to her shows she probably wasn't close to her family (no support), her sisters behaviour would also suggest she too has no real sense of family either as cannot understand why this may be important to you.

My partners mother is a very odd character. She had him young, openly admits she didn't want him, but she did raise him, but he was sent to horrible homes, left alone a lot, she refused contact with his dad who has since passed (and did nothing wrong).

He didn't have a good childhood, and it's reflected in how he is as a dad. He finds it so hard, he loves his child but genuinely doesn't know how to really be a parent, what's normal, etc. I see this total void of love and emotion through 3 generations. It's so odd for me as I just cannot fathom how natural love and maternal / paternal instincts are non existent.

I know not relevant to adoption but hope it gives you an insight into the different characters out there and how it shapes people and passes through families.

2old2beamum Sun 19-Feb-17 15:36:58

I have thought about this for a few days. I am similar age to you (well a little bit older!) and was abandoned like you by my mother. I was 6 years old when she dumped me on Paddington Station (no jokes please!) It seemed ages but my father turned up and I went home with him. I still can see her walking away and her seamed stockings and high heel shoes.

My father did remarry to an evil bitch who disliked me intensely (another story)

When I was in my mid 50s I managed to locate her and wrote her a letter saying what I had done with my life ( happy marriage, midwife, 3 children and 4 adopted children at that time) I needed or wanted anything more.

The letter I received back was rude telling me not to contact her again as I was part of her life she wanted to forget. To me this second rejection was worse than the first, and even now still hurts.

I did try and get in touch with her daughter from 2nd marriage but she also treated me with total disdain.

Bloody hell this has been cathartic Never written anything like this before. I hope OP you find some closure, take care xx

Offredalba Fri 24-Feb-17 05:36:13

Hi OP. I came across this and thought that it might be helpful.
All the bestate.

lazycrazyhazy Mon 07-Aug-17 19:42:44

Sorry to resurrect this thread. Not sure If over 5 months counts as a zombie...

I was adopted and later traced successfully. I spent some years in counselling re adoption. I handled one case where the BM didn't want to know because the child had been born as the result of an affair after the DH of the BM had died. She was older generation (born 1920ish) and didn't want to be reminded of her shame.

However, the adoptee, after much heart-searching contacted half sisters and went on to have a rewarding relationship with them.
As others have said, not necessarily indifference but deeply buried pain.

When i received counselling in the UK in the 1980s in order to be given my birth details, the counsellor said "I am obliged to warn you that (although this is unlikely) you may find out you were conceived as the result of rape or incest. Do you wish to proceed?" I thought that was fair enough as some people may not have thought it through.

I feel for you and hope you have found resolution. Sometimes, if reluctant parents are contacted by a professional intermediary they are prepared to agree to an exchange of information at least.

sparklybuttired Tue 08-Aug-17 08:00:02

My mother had me at 18 and I spent a while in care when you discuss it with her you can hear the distress in her voice I have suggested councelling but she feels she deserves this pain.

My nana brought me up saying that (spent a lot of weekends there ) we should have took you I didn't realise what she meant u till I found out the above when I was 30. However o never got to discuss with her why she didn't as she was frail and my mother did not want me to have to live with the guilt that it could have upset her and they she died. Unfortunately from the conversation I had with my nana her views did not change and whilst I lover her very much she could be a very narrow minded person and when you are brought up with such morals they are hard to change

I understand your need to see your mother I met my birth father at 30 years of age unfortunately if she is fail her sister will probably be of the view of my mother.

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