I Won’t Say I know the Truthful Answers, But I’m Willing to Ask the Questions
A few weeks ago I shared a link to another article talking about secondary adoption rejection from the POV of an adoptee. I didn’t think much about the link before I posted it, as I was just sharing from Adoption Voices Magazine. Being a contributor there, I try to spread the word like a good team player. I hadn’t even done more than glance over the post before I shared it. After all, we already had a good lengthy discussion over here on Secondary Adoptee Rejection in Reunions and didn’t think I had much more insight to give to the conversation. However, the commentary and conversation based off my share on Facebook actually did give me a bunch of new things to think about.
Is Secondary Adoption Reunion Rejection “Rare”?
I am actually asking this as a valid question. I am not sure of the answer.
I have had a few people tell me that I should stop saying it because by perpetuating that reunion rejection by a birthmother is rare, then it sets up adoptees for disappointment when they are rejected. I can understand that. The same thing has been said about “all mothers want their children”. The issue in that sentence is “all”. I feel confident saying MOST mothers do NOT wish to be separated from their children, but what that morphs into over time might be something else entirely. Any hopeful expectation especially around something as important as meeting your family or being accepted by your long lost mothers can lead to crushing disappointment. It is certainly NOT my intention at all to EVER contribute any more pain to any adoptee.
Yet, as I tried to explain, the factual research that I have available DOES really indicate that less than 1% of relinquishing mothers opt for no contact when given the choice. On top of that, The recently published research by Elizabeth J. Samuels ” Surrender and Subordination: Birth Mothers and Adoption Law” backs up that same percentage. I have a post on the report scheduled for tomorrow. In the meantime, you can download the paper here. This number is vital to have to counteract the opposition and questions regarding OBC access. When a legislator starts saying “Well, what about the birthmothers who want no contact?” explaining that there are hard numbers that put them at 1% is a great motivating factors.
Of course, we do face the fact that any adoption research is never 100% accurate due to the fact that there is no one agency that oversees or even counts the numbers of adoptions and would enable the entire population of people affect by adoption to be counted. The numbers that are here are based on original birth certificate access and the numbers of mothers who opt out of contact when a state opens their identity records to adoptee access. There is only handful of states and mostly less than a decade of years, but does that make the number inaccurate? I really do not know. I know that the stats from the UK, New Zealand and Australia also show the same levels of “rare” no contact a about 1%, but they are still based on the OBC request verses “no contact” preferences/ vetoes as well.
“(the state)… lies about the number of adoptees rejected – because they don’t take into account the people they never allow into their (CI) program.”
“It is quite frequent. People just so not want to talk about it, because it is devastating.”
“I think they only say it’s rare so they don’t have to admit how they have screwed people over with accessing records”
Anecdotal Evidence to the Quandary
Now if I was to base a number on what I see and hear every day, I would say that adoptee reunion rejection is MUCH more frequent. I openly said that myself in the original conversation:
“It’s funny though..( not funny haha ) as much as I use the 1%, and I have crunched the numbers myself.. I sure DO know ALL too many who ARE rejected! ( and yes, I still want to take a two by four and slap some sense into the mothers who do that to ya’ll)”
Now, is it the fault of the numbers that we have? Is it because they do not take into account all the adoptees that have managed to search anyway despite being denied their OBCs by the state? Obviously, it cannot count in the mothers that have died before a search was completed. Is it that was is collected is purposely skewed as proposed to make people think that adoption is a happily ever after story? Is there a huge difference in relinquishing mothers overall? I mean, there ARE differences in how mothers processed the experience based on so many factors and their mental health at the time of being found has a huge part of a successful or unsuccessful reunion, but is it enough to make that 1% jump up to a full 50%?
Like perhaps the 1% that opts out when a state opens does not represent an average of the population. Is there a whole new untouched level of mother in hiding that does not respond to “contact preferences” at all because they aren’t even aware that a state has opened? Are they so deep in the denial closet that they ignore all things adoption until they get that phone call from their long lost child and THEN they scream NO?? Like, I, do NOT KNOW those mothers. I know moms who have struggled to deal with the relinquishment, who struggle to come out of the closet, who wonder how to tell folks, who still fight the stereotypes, who have had less than successful happy reunions due to many different factors, but never have I met ONE that has said to me “I do not want to be ever contacted by my child!” Though there is an interesting comment I found here on the MOTL that I will be addressing in another post! ( I might just be talking about this stuff all week!)
Yet, I DO know all too many of their children! And I really do hurt and feel for them.
“When you are rejected – it doesn’t help to hear from someone that WASN’T rejected… that you are in the “extremely rare” 1-5% of adoptees rejected.”
“I am tired of being told “oh, but this situation is rare!” Yeah, but I’m IN IT, so, not so rare for me, then.”
“I’ve always said that statistics are meaningless when you’re one of the statistics.”
I Know a LOT of Adoptees Who Have Been Rejected
A whole lot. Way, way too many. Yes, I would say that about half the adoptees I know struggle with have an nonexistent or unsatisfactory relationship with their found mothers. So I wonder is it the numbers or is it the population?
I will first preface by saying I HATE pulling this line out here for questioning, but perhaps as I ponder, there is kernel of truth? I am sure all have heard the classic dismissal line “Well, you only hear from the unhappy people online . The stable happy ones aren’t sitting at a computer”. Does that apply here? If half the adoptees I know online are either searching, in a new reunion, or excited about a new reunion, and then half the ones I know are rejected, does that mean that ones who search, find and are Ok go off happily in the sunset and are really never heard from again? Not saying this is an all or nothing as I do some adoptees who have been in “good” reunions for decades and still stick around the interwebs to continue sharing information and advice, but is it possible? And again, I am really just asking because I do not know!
Even if I look at my own journey online, I came on “to prepare” and I did that for a few years. Once I met Max in 2007, I was over the moon with joy. I had quite enough information gathered and I really didn’t “need” to have consistent support anymore. Our reunion has been really smooth and I could have just as easily walked away. I even remember Rye asking me after I returned from the face to face if I was “satisfied” and while I replied that all the “research” had been worth it, my time in AdoptionLand was NOT over. As I said to him, “This has a life of its own now. It’s bigger than just me”, as my commitment was then on speaking the truth and to the community. It was not about what *I* needed at all anymore, but is that common?
I can start listing all the folks I have known over the past 12 years who have disappeared from online and that list is huge too! We do have a rather transient community with people flowing in and out over time. Can it be that among adoptees those dealing with bad reunion issues have more to work out and so they stay around longer making it seem like there are way more rejections? I don’t know. Again, just throwing thoughts out there!
Back to the Numbers, Even if They Suck
If there are somewhere around 6 to 8 million adult adoptees in the United States, we can assume that there are say at least 6 million birthmothers and less than 1% is documented as wanting to be left alone for sure. That gives us around 40 thousand that will openly reject their relinquished child. That’s still a lot of people getting screwed over with secondary rejection.
Can we add to these known numbers so the picture gets closer to the anecdotal reality?
Let’s say that a mother does NOT initially reject her child when she is found, then she doesn’t “fit” in to the available stats. She says, yes, we can meet or talk or whatever, but then, again like too many of the stories I hear, she has self imposed boundaries and limitations, something goes wrong in the reunion. I completely understand that what one part might find “acceptable” in a reunion, the other party might really be left wanting way more. Let this go on for too long and what was an initial “yes” can turn into a ” I can’t take this anymore”.
The more I think about it, in many ways, there almost seems to be that adoptees that have had some contact, but the overall experience over time became more than they could, or should, bear. I get tons of emails and messages about the various issues in a somewhat “ongoing” reunion and ones that I have to say are not at all what anyone would consider a “healthy” relationship. I think the initial 1% numbers are again, only dealing with the documented numbers on initial contact of any sort.. phone call, email, trading medical information, but NOT a situation where things don’t work out.
Is it worth it to say there is the INITIAL secondary reunion rejection (with the first rejection being the actual relinquishment) which is where a mother says NO outright to ANY contact and then a POST-CONTACT secondary reunion rejection? Which can involve a myriad of issues common to adoption reunions that eventually lead to the adoptee feeling, and often actually being, rejected. At that point whether the contact is cut off from either party, the feelings are still the same. It hurts. Like hell, I have been told. Probably, as much as the initial loss, if not more.
Or is it that birthmothers are so skewed that we are taught that we “should” be there for adoptees and so they don’t say no outright, thus preserving that 1% number, but then the relationship is sabotaged in some way? Maybe only the truly confident birthmother can say NO directly and the rest are all wishy-washy plagued by guilt and low self worth that they just cannot emotionally handle all that their grown adoptees need and end up hurting them all over again because they are so broken and dead inside? Are some mothers unconsciously protecting the rejecting mothers truth for some reason?
What I Do Not Understand about Reunion Statistics
I don’t think that it is a case where the numbers are being covered up and propagated to screw anyone over, though I wouldn’t put much past the adoption industry. I certainly know I am not trying to defend them or force them to be correct. If they are not, then they are not. I wish we had better facts and research that really showed a full picture. And, as I said, I certainly do NOT desire to add more pain to anyone’s journey. And I am not, by any means, defending a mother who does reject her child in any way. I wish I could understand those mothers more, but I just don’t.
I really DO want to punch most of these rejecting mothers in the face. Not because I think it will do any good. Not because I want them to be in more pain. Not because I am a violent person, but simply because I know and often LOVE the very “children” that they refuse to see their own love for. These mothers have hurt and continue to hurt my friends. I’m loyal to the point of wanting to punch people in the face, but I am full of crap and never would. I might consider a good tongue lashing, should I get the chance.
I am still perplexed by the conflicts between the numbers we have from available research and the numbers more visible seen form within the community. To appease my own curiosity, I made a handy dandy little survey with some questions regarding secondary adoption reunion rejection. It can be filled out by adoptees, first parents or siblings/ other family members, etc. Of course, it won’t be a true random sample. It won’t be scientific of anything special like that. But I will leave it open as long as it seems that people care to share it and fill it in. And at one point, when there is enough samples, I will share the data.
In any case, no matter what the outcome of research in general or any one person’s journey down the reunion road, if you do find yourself rejected at all from a family member that you had hopes for a relationship with, the fact is whether it is “rare” or common will not ease your pain and heartache. I wish I could make it better for you, but alas, I cannot. All I can say is that I am very sorry that it is not working out as you had hoped. I am so sorry that you are not getting what you need. I do believe that you deserve better, but I understand that saying it doesn’t make the feelings go away. All I have is good wishes, but I know that is not enough and I understand.
Here’s Other Posts About Adoption Reunion Issues:
please free free to add you own or other links you found helpful:Adoption Reunions: Secondary Rejections & Why Things Go Wrong
1) Find appropriate outlets for your "adoption crazy." Adoption reunions can bring out the nutty in the best of us. Adoptees and first parents may both enter the reunion process with wounds and scars created by their separation from each other.
Hearing the Rejected Adoptee's Pain I hate this conversation. In my opinion, I have it all too often. I hate it when one of my adoptee friends have come out of their adoption fog, gone through an adoption search, found their personal Holy Grail- their very own long lost mother- only to have her send that adoptee away, denied.
Ask yourself, honestly and truthfully, are you thinking ” I will be happy when my birthmother/ adopted child/Bio sibling accepts me?”
Can you be happy even if that never happens?
What do playing Angry Birds and struggling with adoption reunion have in common?
Truthfully? I have no idea. What works for one reunion might not work for another. The measure of what makes an adoption reunion successful really does depend on the parties involved and how they measure that success. Are they both satisfied with the measure of contact?
When the media has asked me about reunion outcomes I always tell them that just like all other interpersonal relationships, they run the gamut from great to awful and everything in between and many - as we all know - can go back and forth and back again.
If you find yourself rejected during an adoption reunion, the facts and numbers of whether it is "rare" or common will not ease your pain and heartache.
What does an adoption reunion look like when it works? What works in an Adoption Reunion and makes it successful? How come a good reunion relationship is so hard?
A birthmother in adoption reunions can make some wrong moves that make an adoptee feel rejected. Avoid these common reunion pitfalls that can emotionally hurt an adoptee in reunion.
In an adoption reunions,an adoptee can make some wrong moves that make their birthmothers feel like crap. Avoid these common reunion pitfalls that can emotionally hurt an a birthmother in reunion.