Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Birth Daughter Found Me, But I Don’t Want to Meet Her”

Twenty-three years ago when I was 16, I ended up pregnant and was forced by my mother and step-father to give my baby up for adoption. The birth father and I didn’t even have any say as to who would be adopting our baby — all decisions were forced upon us, and, needless to say, that time of my life was deeply emotional for me. I was depressed through my whole pregnancy, and the pregnancy was high-risk with the stress of knowing the baby that was growing inside of me was never going to be mine once I gave birth to her. I never got to hold her — my mother wouldn’t allow it; I never even got to say good-bye to her. It was a very traumatic experience for me.

The adoption was supposed to be open, but my mother ruined that for me. She wrote the adoptive parents too often, and they wrote me and the father asking us to cut off all communication with them. Now the baby I gave up is an adult and, after looking for her father and me on social media, she has found us. Her father and I are married with two kids, and she has been messaging my husband. I have been stand-offish as I really don’t think I want to meet her. The thought of meeting is causing me great anxiety. She has told my husband that her adoptive parents didn’t want her to look for us. My husband is really excited to meet her, but I am very reluctant. She has said that she is not angry with us for giving her up, but I had to bottle my emotions about the adoption to move on and I don’t think I want to re-live that part of my life. What should I do? — Birth Mother Found

I can understand, and I sympathize, with the mixed emotions you must be feeling right now. To have so little control over such an enormous part of your life — your first pregnancy, your first baby, your labor, the adoption, and the way the communication was handled with the adoptive parents — must have been traumatizing. I can understand why you’d be reluctant to re-live those experiences.

But the thing is, you have control now that you didn’t have before and you can choose to make new memories to replace the unpleasant ones you don’t want to re-live. At the very least, your husband and your sons deserve to meet their daughter/sister, and I hope you won’t take after your parents and rob them of the love and joy they could share with her.

As for making peace with her yourself, I wonder if writing a letter might be helpful for you. I suspect that even though your birth daughter says she’s not angry with you, you might fear that she is. Or that she doesn’t understand why you gave her up or the pain doing so caused you. If you’ve ever wondered what you would say to her if you could, this is your chance. Put it in a letter. Give it to your husband to give to her when they meet. Let her know that you love her and that, to survive the pain of giving her up 23 years ago, you had to bottle emotions, emotions you are afraid of confronting now.

The introduction of your birth daughter to your family now after all these years is a big deal, whether you meet her face-to-face or not. These bottled emotions, the lingering anger you might feel at your mother and stepfather, any guilt you might have, any resentment you fear your husband and sons have toward you for feeling how you feel — it’s all a lot. Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with your family. There’s no right way to feel. You are all entitled to your emotions — the excitement and the trepidation, included. If you haven’t yet, you might want to see a therapist, either individually or as a family, to help you navigate these emotions — the new ones, and the ones that have been bottled up for 23 years.

In the end, I hope you will see this new development in your life as a gift. If you choose, you can have a relationship with your birth daughter. She obviously wants that, and if you decide you want it too, it’s yours to build. And at 23 and 39/40, respectively, you two potentially have decades to build it.

I have two children, and I know from experience — as you do too, I’m sure — that the heart expands in love with each child you’re lucky enough to have in your life. I hope you will allow yourself to have that love in your life and to build new memories with the daughter who has been searching for you. The choice is yours, and, unlike before, you are in full control.

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

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

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

12 comments… add one
  • avatar

    anonymousse April 3, 2018, 9:49 am

    LW, I hope you do go see a counselor or therapist and work through all of this trauma you’ve shelved.
    You may be trying to spare yourself pain, but the pain is there, underneath. Perhaps you’ve buried it so deep, that you think it’s gone.
    What are you more likely to regret? Never meeting your daughter, or meeting her, regardless of the intense emotions you will all feel?

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    • avatar

      MMR April 3, 2018, 10:07 am

      Yes!!!!!!! This letter screams “I need to talk to someone.”

      Individual therapy definitely, and possibly with your husband, to help him try to understand what’s happening with you.

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    • Cleopatra Jones

      Cleopatra Jones April 3, 2018, 10:59 am

      Not only that but she has to learn how to handle the ‘guilt’ that was handed to her by her parents. My heart weeps for the LW! She did not get a say in the adoption or anything after that. I could.NOT. imagine being denied the right to hold the child that I grew in my body.
      .
      Also, she has to reconcile the anger that she has toward her own parents. It’s there bubbling right beneath the surface, and I’m not sure how LW has been handling it. I had a former co-worker who had a similar experience(her parents were devoutly religious), and she literally drank herself into an early grave because she was trying to manage the pain and rage of being forced to give her child up for adoption.

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  • avatar

    Juliet April 3, 2018, 10:22 am

    LW, I cannot imagine all that you are feeling. I agree with Wendy’s emphasis on “it’s different now, you are the one to choose this time around.” This feels like a very good time to practice self-care in the form of putting your own needs first, and to do it in an aware fashion that removes as much guilt over your choices as possible. (Taking care of yourself is NOT the same thing as being selfish.) These definitely feel like the biggest of the big emotions, and emotions that aren’t easily shared with others who have not walked on or near your path of life experiences. Good luck to you as you make your way through this new part of your life.

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  • avatar

    ANON April 3, 2018, 10:50 am

    I am going anon on this. I gave a child up many years ago. I have so many of the same emotions you are having…still have. I am not sure what advice to give you because I don’t even know what to tell myself. I fear every day that she may contact me. Our adoption is open-ish, it is up to myself, her parents and what is best for her. She wrote me a few times a while back and now she is a teenager and doing her thing. Her mother sends my pics regularly and always a kind card to go with it. I am lucky for that but frankly it takes me weeks to open the package when I receive it. My biggest fear is when she wants to meet me. We have all agreed it will be when it is best for her but I struggle daily with when it is best for me and when I have the ability to handle it. I fear it will destroy me.

    I am now finally trying to have a child, I waited so long as I never felt it was fair to her to have another, and now I finally feel like I can do it with her not being hurt, and now am dealing with difficulty in that.

    Just know, what you feel is normal. It has to be right because here I am thinking the same.

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    • avatar

      csp April 3, 2018, 3:19 pm

      This is such a wonderful response. Thanks for sharing. I am on the other side as an adoptive mom. We have a very open adoption and are trying to navigate it. I am constantly worried that there will be a hole in my son’s heart because he isn’t biologically mine. Hopefully this LW will get comfort from you.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros April 3, 2018, 11:34 am

    I definitely think a therapist is a good idea. It’s easy to look at the prospect of reliving a painful part of our past and assume it’s best to keep it buried, but that’s not always true. Keeping something unresolved buried deep down sometimes is more painful than actually resolving it. I hope that you’ll work through this with someone before making a final decision. There are some things you can’t unsay, so since you’re already harboring a lot of complicated emotions about what happened, I assume that you want to be sure before you decide to meet or not meet her.

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  • avatar

    carolann April 3, 2018, 12:15 pm

    I am literally in tears reading this. I hope we get an update. I would love to hear what happens!

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark April 3, 2018, 1:46 pm

    First, you’re parents denied you time with your daughter… This (understandably) devastated you. So now — years later — you wanna take control and do it to yourself?! Fuck it. I give up! People… make ZERO sense.

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  • avatar

    Sally April 3, 2018, 4:19 pm

    All the above advice is great. The one other thing I’d add is to let your husband know specifically how you’re feeling, if you haven’t already done so recently, and let him support and comfort you a bit. If I’m reading right, you two are still together in a successful relationship all these years later. You’ve been together for most of your lives! That’s amazing, and it could possibly have created a situation where you feel as though, since he was there experiencing this along with you when it happened, he must know all about how you’re feeling now. Not only do feelings change in way less time than has passed, but you’ve also grown up together. It sounds like you’re a little afraid that delving back into this situation could somehow threaten the stability you have today. Let your husband try to show you that isn’t the case – I bet he would want to! I wish nothing but the best for you and your family.

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  • avatar

    Deborah April 3, 2018, 5:11 pm

    ~hi, just want to share~I’m adopted,~very private sealed adoption thru an agency in the late 60’s. Grew up with a great family~however I would love to meet my bioparents. Almost as closure, it’s like reading a book but not having the initial chapters~ I know for a bio parent the pain had to have been excruciating,. Healing will begin when you see this child who you gave life to, who is living well & has a life of her own. From my view I wouldn’t necessarily want an intense relationship with my bioparents but just to know where I was from? And, have closure in a way, but also a new beginning. We’re only here so long, and what a gift you gave her. She may just want to say thank you♥️
    I would definitely get with a therapist, but don’t deny yourself seeing & knowing your child. Your heart paid dearly for years, meet her & let the healing of love begin~
    My best to you & your girl!💕

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  • avatar

    Another Jen April 3, 2018, 8:04 pm

    LW– Your letter really connected with me and I think Wendy’s advice is right on, especially regarding the letter. My mother didn’t know her biological father and wasn’t even sure of his name. Her mother (my grandmother) cut him completely out of her life before my mom was born and wouldn’t give her any information. About 15 years ago, my mom finally succeeded in tracking him down and reached out to him. In return, he contacted her through a lawyer and said he was willing to provide her with medical family history if she needed it, but that he didn’t want her to contact him directly again.

    She was devastated. I don’t know what was driving him in terms of not wanting to reconnect…but I can imagine it was a really difficult decision. He died less than a year later, and my mom still hasn’t really come to terms with it…she was deeply hurt and deeply angry at her mother and at him. She still is.

    I think my mom would have taken a lot of comfort if her father had written a letter explaining that it was too painful to meet her, or that he couldn’t face the emotions it brought up. I mean, it could be that he didn’t give a shit and just didn’t want to be bothered–that’s what my mom assumes. But, if he had any feelings of ambivalence or regrets about not knowing her, it would have been kind of him to tell her…in a letter if he couldn’t bring himself to see her.

    I’m not telling you this to make you feel bad if you can’t face seeing the daughter you had to give up. I think you should be very careful about pushing yourself to handle something you aren’t ready for. But, if you could find the courage to write a letter and let her know that it’s difficult and painful and that you’re glad to know she’s ok even if you can’t see her in person, I think it would be a real gift. I can’t speak to what it would mean to your daughter, but I know my mom would want to know if her father felt that way.

    Take care of yourself. AJ

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