Birthmother’s Nightmares

The Boston Bombing COuld HAve Been my Worst Fears! Not Knowing...

A Day of National Horror Could be a Serious Issue for  a Birthmother with No Contact

“Turn on the news”.

I had spent the last hour or so with my 12 year old daughter, combing through a cabinet of memories saved from my childhood  away from the computer, away from the news. The minute I heard Rye’s voice on the phone, I knew something big had happened and I left the pile of my elementary school age reports, artwork, and crumbly old prom corsages. As my body moved to the stairs, to my bedroom, to my TV, I asked him…what’s happening?

“Just turn on CNN!” He said.

I expected that I would see that after weeks of threats, North Korea had done something horribly scary and stupid and the world dynamics had changed. I expected to see horror and dismay on the news, so as the image came into view, I wondered where. Was it Tokyo or Guam or Seoul? I was not prepared at all for the words that I could finally read when the channel identifier dispersed and I could read the news ticker headlines.

A Bombing at the Boston Marathon


The Boston Bombing COuld HAve Been my Worst Fears! Not Knowing...Still on the house phone with Rye, he is talking to me, but I am mumbling answers. My stomach has begun to do weird things and my breathing is altered, yet, I am reaching for my cell phone and beginning to text.

Both my oldest son and my brother live outside Boston. They get the same text:

“You need to tell me you are ok ASAP now please”.

Rye informs me he is on his way home, I mumble, and sit on the age of my bed, desperately trying not to freak out.

The Panic: Any Chance My Loved Were Hurt?

Earlier that afternoon, I had felt a weird anxiousness, an uneasiness, which I now prayed was simply nothing. It could not have been a sixth sense, it would not be a mothers intuition. I refused to panic, but I was forgetting how to breathe properly. My brain raced: they would not be there, I told myself. My brother did not have love for physical activity and crowds, but Max?

My son used to run, indeed that is how I eventually found my adopted child, though running records posted online. I moved past the text and gave in to temptation and tried to call Max’s number. After all, that’s what mothers do; we call our children to make sure they are ok. The phone rang and rang. Didn’t go to voice mail. I had visions of it abandoned, by the side of the road, under debris. Panic rose higher, like flood waters, that no logic filled sandbag can abate. I watched that same video of the explosion loop over and over on the news, and argued internally to control the panic,  posted a freak out on Facebook, and waited to find out for sure that my son and brother and sister in law were ok.

All this happened in about 7 to 12 minutes. That’s it. Thankfully, my phone made its cheerful beeping sound and I got the first text back;

Relief and then the Shakes of Unused Adrenalin

” I’m ok. North of the river in Cambridge, safe and sound.”

My brother chimed in soon after, but I had already been reassured by Jen’s posts on Facebook. My family in Boston was safe.

It would, however, take me the rest of the evening to calm down properly. It was less than 15 minutes of controlling panic for me and I was acutely aware of the physical and mental changes that happened in that time frame. Assuming I was immediately  prepared for a fight or flight reaction, I was full of adrenalin and had the shakes. I was aware that my brain had literally shut down; words failed me, I walked about in a stupor.

We ran to the market to pick up dinner fixings, and I aimlessly followed with no ability to make decisions. All I could remember was we were almost out of dish soap and I clutched the bottle of Ajax throughout the whole store like a talisman or reality. And of course, inside I wanted to cry; from horror at the event, at relief. Eventually, I made myself a drink and I thought about what I managed to escape.

What Would It Been Like if I had Not Found my Son?

Never before have I been so grateful for breaking the “Birthmother Rules”. Never before had I been so relieved to be able to reach out to my son and reassure us that he was safe. It was less than 15 minutes of worry, but it was complete hell. And I thought about what might have been if I had followed the birthmother rules like the adoption industry had expected me too.

When I found Max in 2004, my own detective work told me he ran, but the word from the agency and the single update from his other mother also told of his love for the race. I’m pretty sure that the words long distance and  marathon were used.  If I had followed their lead, and accepted that my son was “not interested in me”, then there is little more that I would know besides that. Increased contact was not encouraged and, based on the rules, I would have no way of being able to contact him except through the agency. There would have been no quick text reassuring that he was all right. There would be no way to quell the panic.

I cannot help but to think about missing that bullet and the cruelty that a closed adoption system perpetuates. I would have known I had a son in the Boston area and that he  was a runner. I would not have known his name and barely known his face. I would have had to call or email the agency and wait, I assume much longer than the hellish 12 minutes, to find out my child was safe since they would have to, in turn, reach out to his folks, and relay the message back to me.  I would only have the news reports and that horrible feeling an anxiety that I felt earlier might be given more weight. I would be searching through every image, of every victim, of every runner, searching for a familiar face. Chances are, I would still be in complete panic mode right now. The closed adoption system would support that I had no right to know if my child was ok and if, God forbid, he was not ok, no one would think I had the right to know that either.

Following the birthmother rules, I would not search, but wait for him to be ready, and if something terrible would happen, I would wait and wonder forever.   Maybe my child did get hurt during hurt  Boston marathon bombings? I would never know.

Thank God I Broke the Birthmother Rules

Yes, I have rejoiced before that I did not wait.

The joyful response of my Max when did contact him, our relationship, watching my children know each other, knowing that more years are not lost are all wonderful. But today, I am so relieved that I had the ability to reach out to my son and text him directly.

But I am only one who was lucky, who was spared the terrifying unknown. I can tell you that every time there is an unspeakable tragedy on the news, a tornado, a building collapse, a fire, a school shooting; birthmothers across the country who think their child might have  physical ties to that place, worry. We worry because we do not know and many have no way of finding out.

Finding the Grave of a Relinquished Child

What’s even worse, when the unthinkable does happen, often in the traditional adoption system, no one thinks to let the mother know. There was a comment just the other day from a mother on my Birthmother Grief piece over at Adoption Voices Magazine where she talks of this as it is her reality.  She writes:

“As time passed, I started spending time occasionally looking for info. on him online. I could never find anything, until last year when I came across his obituary. I have never been as shocked as that moment. I contacted his birthfather who then contacted his adoptive father and found out he had taken his own life. Now I live with constant, secret grief. No one in my life other than my husband knows of my son’s existence. I have no one to share it with. His adoptive arents had not tried to contact me at all. Though I understand they had no obligation to, it hurts to know they made no effort.”

I used to live in fear of that. How very sad that some adoptive parents have no compassion to even THINK that perhaps the mother of this child would like to know.  For both adoptees and birthparents searching, there is nothing more than heartache than to find a grave at the end.  And to find out that, death by suicide, does pretty much remove any hope that your child had a better life. It’s a sure sign of emotional un-health.

Of course, there are many adoptive parents who are completely opposite.  For instance I have been so touched by the compassion of Ruthanne Toner who comments here. She is the mother of Alyssa Toner, the adoptee who tragically died before her search took off and speaks of how she hopes she can share her knowledge about Alyssa with her birth family.  This is how it should be.

The bottom line is that the great majority of mothers who relinquished wonder about their children. We hope and pray they are happy and healthy as promised.  There is nothing worse than not knowing.

Every time I read a sad story about a tragic death and I read that the deceased was adopted, I know somewhere out there, a birthmother is wondering and doesn’t even know her heart is breaking.


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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine,, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

6 Comments on "Birthmother’s Nightmares"

  1. zygotepariah | June 8, 2013 at 9:04 pm |

    I reunited with my mother when I was 26. When she told her parents the first thing her father said was “Is she about 5’7″?” Apparently when I was a teen he would go to the local shopping mall (not telling his family since I was never discussed again once I’d been given up), sit on a bench, and watch teenaged girls walk by, searching for one who looked like his daughter. At one point he thought he found me. He’d remembered this girl for 10 years (it wasn’t me; I’m 5’3″). The surreal thing is, the mall he went to is the same one I went shopping at with my adoptive mother. Strange to think that at some point I might have walked past a man sitting on a bench searching passing faces for his granddaughter.

    Sadly, for some adoptive parents, particularly ones who never got over their infertility, I don’t think it’s a lack of compassion that makes them not think the first mother would like to know about her child. It’s that they really do believe (or want to believe) that the child is “theirs”. At least that was true for my adoptive mother; it hurt her too much to think that I in fact came from another mother. And obviously the sealed records system in which I grew up perpetuated this game of pretend. Out of sight, out of mind.

    • Agreed on adoptive parents having unresolved issues that are not addressed prior to adopting. I am sorry to read that your parents let those unresolved feelings impact you. The sad thing is that everything I’ve read is that adopting never heals their infertility either.

  2. Victoria Gallegos | June 9, 2013 at 12:59 pm |

    I too had a close call with disaster and not knowing. My son contacted me after he got my phone number from a friend of his. She babysits for me on occasion. Later that same afternoon we had the worst tornado storm in the last 50 years, and it was the worst in the town he lived in, the town next to mine. It was such a relief. I had known where he was for the past 6 years, but that night would have been hell had he not been texting me throughout the entire storm letting me know he’s okay. I am sorry you had to deal with that 15 minutes of terror, but I am so thankful that it was such a short time.

  3. Cora Davis | June 10, 2013 at 10:27 pm |

    I I had a baby at 18, relinquished my rights to what I thought was perfect parents because my best friend at the time was good friends with them. I have felt only emptiness and hole in my heart since day one. It was supposed to be an open adoption, only to find out the adoptive parents never fulfilled my wishes. Well, fast forward to 18 years later, my daughter contacted me by phone. I was thrilled and adored her. She told me her parents said all these lies, like I never wanted her, I was a drunk and into drugs- which is not true. My daughter had told me she wasn’t getting along with her parents, they were alcoholics, she wanted to quit school and all this turned out to be my worst nightmare. She was a senior in school, and a week later from contacting me, she asked me to meet her. I met her and she wanted to come stay with us. Thought she had a good head on, and wanted to get her life straight. I brought her home with me, enrolled her in school to finish her senior year. A month later, found out she hated it here at my house, I was strict, and so on. She lied about watching my sons, running them around, which wasn’t true. Since then, she calls and yells, is really disrespectful, and says I lost my only daughter. I can’t take all this anymore. Now, after 6 mos. we have gone from a mother/daughter relationship to a bitter drama high school relationship. I haven’t talked to her in 2 mos. now. It breaks my heart. Never in a million years would I have ever thought it would of all turned out this way. Oh and yea, my best friend… Haven’t seen or talked to her since they all got my baby.

  4. kendracyrus007 | June 13, 2013 at 2:11 am |

    What a touching post! While many people think that birth mothers are uncaring, this post should make them realize that this is not always the case. I’m glad you were able to get in touch with your son.

  5. Kim Shields-Shilling | June 28, 2014 at 2:29 pm |

    My son would be 30 yrs old on Feb.6,2015 & was born at Clayton General Hospital south of Atlanta, Ga.on Feb 6th 1985 @ 11:22pm.I later named him but the agency lied to me about all assistance to help w/therapy etc.& my bills went to collections.Later saw agency on cover of the National Inquirer! I felt sick! I love & miss you Stephen Rsy Shields.Where are you??? I’m perm.disabled at 49 yrs old & hope I can help keep u and ur kids safe from a painful bone disease.Reach me at 916-276-4475.Living in Calibut mmoving back east beginning of next yr.Love you Son..Mom

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