In January, after fourteen years, my husband suddenly packed his things and left. When my “new” daughter reached out to me the following month, I asked her to give me some space because I had a lot of things to deal with. She originally agreed but then complained about having to deal with my stupid problems when she expected me to welcome her with open arms. She has met with her birth father and will be meeting his family. She wants me to travel quite a distance to have a little family reunion in the next couple of months. My kids are going to meet up with their families and hers. Originally, I thought that I would join, but now I found out that she has friended my husband on Facebook, and I am not getting a good feeling about this. Is it wrong for me to not meet with her? I feel like she has been sneaky about things. I can’t help but think that she wants something from me that I’m just not able to give right now. Please advise—and any input from others would be appreciated. — Bio Mom
I think your bio daughter *does* want something from you that you are unable to give right now, and you are absolutely within your moral, ethical, and, of course, legal right to take your time giving her anything more than the ultimate gift you already gave her fifty years ago. You’ve been through a lot lately and are, understandably, still processing a number of shocks: your husband leaving you; your bio daughter discovering your identity and getting in touch; and your finding out that her bio father is the man who sexually assaulted you and not the boyfriend you were in a relationship with. You may find it very helpful to talk to a therapist, if you aren’t already doing so, as you continue moving through the various stages of accepting these realities.
In the meantime, while you don’t owe your daughter any more than you feel comfortable giving — and it’s perfectly ok if that isn’t anything right now — I caution you against placing blame on her for the position you’re now in. True, some actions she has taken have had an effect on you, but nothing she’s done has been ill-intended or malicious. You can argue that they’ve been manipulative or “sneaky,” but as an outsider, I don’t read them that way. Her actions seem almost entirely borne out of genuine — maybe even desperate — curiosity and a desire to connect to or at least know the people with whom she shares genetic roots, interests she can hardly be blamed for having. Nor can she be blamed for her conception or the way she was conceived — realities that, while I am sure were and continue to be emotionally and physically grueling for you, have obviously had an enormous impact on her as well.
You are two people whose lives are the result of decisions and actions made both in and out of your control, and it makes sense that as your paths come close to crossing – for the first time since you gave her up for adoption fifty years ago — you each are grabbing hold of whatever semblance of control you can find. For her, it is in piecing together the narrative of who she is by gathering information from anyone who might have some to share. For you, it is in withholding yourself — the biggest missing thread of the very narrative she is trying to weave together. At the moment, your agendas are in direct opposition, but neither of you is wrong for wanting what you want — for her, the fullest story available of who she is, and for you, your privacy while you grieve the end of your marriage and re-remember and process new developments of what, I imagine, was a traumatic life event.
Be compassionate with her as you would want her to be with you, even if being compassionate means forgiving her for attempting to invade the privacy you aren’t ready to share yet. Let her know that while she may have never left your heart and mind, hearing from her after fifty years has opened old wounds and that tending to them – as well as to the fresh wounds of your husband leaving you – is your priority right now, which means that, until you feel more emotionally stable, you aren’t in a position to give her the reunion she craves or to open your heart to her in the way she deserves.
No one who hasn’t been through it can fully understand what it feels like to carry and give up a baby for adoption, nor can anyone fully appreciate what it feels like to be the person once given up. You both carry an emotional burden, and in hoping to release some of the weight of her own, your daughter threatens to rock the equilibrium you’ve carefully fostered in the fifty years you’ve been carrying yours. The mistake you’re making isn’t in denying your daughter access to you, but rather in resenting her for her efforts. Again, I would recommend therapy to help you through these enormous feelings if you aren’t already seeing someone. In time, you may feel more ready to meet your daughter; if not, that’s ok, too. And it’s also ok if your kids meet her and form a relationship with her. None of this is to spite you. It is all in an effort to foster connections and create a better understanding of who they all are.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.