Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Bio Daughter Found Me Through DNA Testing And Wants to Meet, But I’m Not Ready”

In February, the daughter I gave up for adoption almost fifty years ago, when I was only fifteen, found me through DNA testing. I’ve always thought that my boyfriend at the time was her biological father. I’ve only just come to find out that her conception was the result of a sexual assault. All this time I thought one thing and it turned out to be something else. She withheld her father’s identity from me until after I poured my heart out about my situation and boyfriend at that time. It was very difficult and somewhat traumatic for me. She has been emailing and texting my two children, and they seem to be getting along fine.

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.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

13 comments… add one
  • avatar

    csp May 30, 2019, 8:50 am

    LW – this is so overwhelming. I would add two things here:
    since she is in contact with your other children, I think you should speak to her. I think you will find that once she has her answers, that the contact with wane. I am an adoptive mom and we went through classes about birth family relationships. They told us that they ebb and flow but many times cease over time. I wouldn’t worry that she will be at every Christmas. But I think this is a chance to work through all of this with your children and process this history. They may need you as well through all of this.

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  • avatar

    CattyGoLightly May 30, 2019, 9:22 am

    My mom was adopted and we’re meeting her birth mother and 3 full brothers in August, and it’s also been a little stressful for her mom. She may not ever share that she had my mom worth her other grandchildren. I think it must be be hard to have one story you’ve lived with for 60 years (in my bio grandmother’s case) and then think about upending a lie you told and retold for decades. In the other hand,my mom would like to know where she’s from. I have basically no family,and I would at least like to meet them. My brother is passed, my one cousin and i aren’t close,so for us there is a lot of curiosity. Your daughter is probably not trying to hurt you, but really does just want to satiate her curiosity that she’s had for so many years. Does she know that her father sexually assaulted you? If she does know you could ask tell her you don’t want to deal with him. If she doesn’t know, then she has no idea she’s causing you pain. Either way, Be gentle with yourself right now,and be gentle with her, but keep any boundaries you need for your mental health. If you aren’t ready just communicate that, But she’s not trying to hurt you. You don’t know what her life has been for 50 years, or what she’s gone through,or what this might mean to her, just as how she doesn’t know that about you.

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  • avatar

    K May 30, 2019, 9:35 am

    Wait a second. Can we talk about the fact that there’s good to be a family reunion with the biological father who sexually assaulted you? Does your bio daughter know that she was the product of a sexual assault? And she’s just going to go have a happy go-lucky family reunion with him? And your children are also going to be there? unless dude has been held accountable for his behavior in some way shape or form I would have real issues sending my kids off to go hang out with this person.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy May 30, 2019, 9:49 am

      I may have misunderstood that part of the letter, but my understanding is that the bio daughter has met her bio dad, and that the “family reunion” — which is the LW’s wording; I don’t get the feeling the bio daughter is calling it that — is with the LW’s kids and their families and the bio daughter: “My kids are going to meet up with their families and hers.” There’s no mention of the bio dad being there, but the point stands that he sexually assaulted the LW and the bio daughter and others should be made aware of that if they plan to be in his company/ want to form a bond with him, etc.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse May 30, 2019, 10:15 am

    A therapist could really help you work through this. It could be really good to talk about this with a third party who isn’t involved. And I know you don’t have to or owe it to anyone to tell them about the sexual assault, but it might help everyone kind of step back and give you a little breathing room. Even telling one or both of your kids and let hem inform your new daughter.

    You’re assuming bad intent with her friending your ex husband, but he could have friended her. She could have just accepted because she wants one more POV of her “new” family. Some people just accept every single request.

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  • avatar

    Danielle May 30, 2019, 10:23 am

    My read on this is less charitable. Bio daughter “complained about having to deal with [LW’s] stupid problems”?? Are you kidding?? LW does not owe her anything. And why is bio daughter friending LW’s ex husband on Facebook? I’m feeling very uncomfortable for LW right now

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    • avatar

      csp May 30, 2019, 10:35 am

      I am guessing they got connected through the other children. We don’t know who got connected first but I am guessing that the daughter first connected to the kids. Obviously to find out you have a biological sister is big and I am sure they told their father about it. So he connected. I don’t think this is weird.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy May 30, 2019, 10:35 am

      We don’t know really that bio daughter “complained about having to deal with [LW’s] stupid problems.” That was LW’s perception, and LW is understandably, feeling sensitive and vulnerable right now. I highly doubt the bio daughter called them “stupid problems,” and what one person considers a complaint, may someone else feeling impatient – and, let’s know forget, also probably pretty sensitive (she’s corresponding for the first time with the woman who gave her up for adoption fifty years ago) – and saying “Hey, I reached out over a month ago hoping we could set-up a time to talk and I still haven’t heard back from you…” We’re hearing one very filtered side of the story.

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      • avatar

        Miss MJ May 30, 2019, 10:53 am

        If this is what’s happened, then perhaps the daughter may need to read between the lines here and focus on connecting with the family members who are as equally enthusiastic as she is about this reunion. She’s not entitled to a response from the LW, much less on a timetable of her own setting. (Not that I think you’re suggesting that she is!)

        While I understand that the daughter may be impatient and curious about the LW, and I certainly don’t think she is being malicious in reaching out to the LW’s ex and other children or anything, the truth is that despite the glowing testimonials about “finding lost family” through ancestry records and DNA is that sometimes people don’t want to be found. What the daughter imagined to be a joyful reunion between long lost mother and child may well feel to the LW like an unwelcome upending of the LW’s entire life, particularly since (thanks to the DNA stuff, I guess) the daughter just dropped the bombshell that she’s the product of the LW’s sexual assault, and not a consensual relationship, like the LW long believed. That’s a lot to process.

        What seems clear to me from this letter is that the LW is not comfortable meeting the daughter or being part of this right now, and she is well within her right to tell the daughter that she needs some time. And the daughter needs to respect that, and also respect that the LW may never be ready to have the kind of relationship she imagined they would have.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark May 30, 2019, 11:08 am

    Eh, to me the longer she puts off this meeting — the more she will stress and stew about it. Rip the bandaid off. Really, LW. You may be very much pleasantly surprised. Instead — You seem to be going to pretty great lengths to ascribe dark and nefarious motives to somebody who is clearly and understandably trying to connect with their past.

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    • CurlyQue

      CurlyQue May 30, 2019, 12:16 pm

      Agreed. I also think going when your other children will be present may help create a buffer as well as have you surrounded by your support system.

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  • avatar

    redhead May 30, 2019, 1:27 pm

    A good old fashioned mailed in the post office letter to your bio daughter might be helpful, if you want to have some communication, but not necessarily meet right away. My husband was adopted and found his bio mother in his 30s. She was hesitant to be in touch with him, but he let her know he wasn’t looking for anything from her and that he’d had a happy childhood, etc. She eventually got to the point where she wanted to meet and they have a friendly relationship now, although they aren’t particularly close.

    Everyone’s expectations and attitudes around adoption are so different, and learning more about what your bio daughter wants from a relationship and letting her know what you can give right now might be good small steps. It’s ok having complicated feelings around this, and it’s ok if they stay that way. I think both my husband and his bio mom (who gave him up 50 years ago as well, when she was a young teen), don’t totally have their feelings sorted out, even though they’ve known each other as adults for 20 years now. They have both learned to live with a little unease, while still being kind and empathetic to each other.

    My best wishes to you during this tender time.

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  • avatar

    brise May 30, 2019, 4:42 pm

    Nobody can push the LW to connect with her bio daughter who was conceived in a sexual assault. This is traumatic and I understand her reaction : she feels hauted by terrible ghosts of the past. If you hint at or explain this sexual assault to your bio daughter, your children, your husband, you ask for their respect and understanding, and it will put the situation in a clearer perspective. You do have a lot to face right now. Accept that your folks are keen to meet her, this is their right and probably a good thing, but request their respect for you to deal with this new challenge at your own pace. I think your agressivity towards your bio daughter’s insistence is also rooted in your guilt. But again, you don’t have to synchronise with others’ rythm: choose your own pace, the one that let you feel safe.
    I would start with the husband’s problem. What is going on here? It seems that everything is out of control in your life: start discussing and making some choices that make you get a grip in your life, and let go of what you can’t control.

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