In keeping with my normal goal of presenting many sides of the birth parent experience, I also interviewed a mother who placed during the closed adoption era. While her experience may differ from some present day birth mothers, there are still mothers who live the closed adoption experience either by choice or by the closing of adoption’s doors by the adoptive family. Suz, who placed her daughter in 1986, has many great pieces of advice to share with us regarding the topic.
I asked Suz the same questions as I had asked others even though situations were different. I knew her daughter and her daughter’s family were not invited to the wedding but that didn’t mean that she didn’t take time and effort to acknowledge her daughter on that special day.
Invited physically? No. Spiritually she was right there with me. I had a special dedication to her in my wedding program that said “The love we share today is matched only by the love we feel for those that cannot be with us.” It was followed by her name, my deceased grandmothers name and my husbands deceased sisters name.
Having had a similar mention on my bulletin for my deceased grandparents and having seen something similar on many other wedding programs, I found it to be a unique way of “involving” a child from a closed adoption without raising too many eyebrows. I did ask about the eyebrows, of course.
I was questioned about it only by my mother in law. She did not know at the time that my daughter existed. I had urged my husband to tell her before we married. He felt there was no need. I disagreed (and would later be proved correct). When she asked me I replied simply “It is a member of my family that I love very much.” I did not want to get into it with her – then, there.
Suz again provides an easy answer for any particularly nosy wedding guests. The truth remains that if you acknowledge your child in any way on your big day, you may have to field a question or two or even more. Having a pat reply may help you avoid an emotional scene with someone who may not deserve such time on your wedding day.
Not surprisingly, Suz had her daughter on the brain when she got married.
My daughter was 10 when I got married. I thought of her a lot as a flower girl (I did not have one in my wedding). I wondered where she was. If she felt different that day. What she would think if she were there.
Especially for mothers from closed adoptions or mothers whose children’s family declined to attend, the mind can wander on a wedding day. It is easy to imagine a ten year old girl as a flower girl and thus Suz was left thinking about her own ten year old daughter, not present and not knowledgeable about the wedding itself. I encourage mothers who may be going through something similar on their wedding day to have at least one person to talk to kept close by; a close friend, your new spouse, someone you trust. Wondering is entirely normal and to be expected and having someone to bounce those thoughts off of can help you keep them from becoming entirely overwhelming.
Some issues from the closed adoption era and current closed adoptions become a little more evident as I began to ask Suz how her husband accepted her daughter prior to the wedding and involving her name in the program. In fact, the issue really goes beyond closed or open adoptions and really hits at the heart of trying to get on the same page with your significant other regarding adoption and how it affects your life.
Before we were engaged I told my husband about my daughter. He cried. Hugged me. Said he was sorry that had happened and that he wished he could have personally been there for me. [...] After I told him, he seemed to think nothing of it. Let it go. We went on with our lives. I urged him to tell his parents. He disagreed. I am certain he knew what I sensed – they wouldnt approve. They believed he was “marrying down” and I think he feared that would prove it to them. Not surprisingly, after he did tell his mother (11 years later), she became even more awful to me.
As if new brides didn’t have enough to worry about when it comes to dealings with the in-laws, adding adoption issues into the mix seems like a cruel joke. Prior to the actual reunion with a placed child, birth parents from the closed adoption era aren’t one-hundred percent sure that a reunion will take place. Therefore, letting things go, like discussing the adoption issues of grief and loss and how important it is for those in one’s life to recognize those losses can be left by the wayside. Unfortunately, ignoring them can create larger problems, like with Suz’s in-laws and later when reunion occurs. I strongly encourage even mothers who have no contact with their children to inform their husband-to-be that they do have a child who was adopted and that there is always a possibility of reunion. (Always!) The significant other really needs to accept that as part of who you are before you move forward in the relationship.
When I asked Suz how adoption had had an effect on her marriage, she responded by saying that she could write a book. Frankly, I think she should. So many of us, as birth parents, flub our way through these issues. The few books that even deal with grief and loss stop somewhere after the first few years, not acknowledging that future relationships are going to be affected by that loss. Suz is a wealth of knowledge and experience and has a way of putting it so that you really understand or, if you don’t quite, you have a yearning to understand. Her insight on the topic of how adoption affects marriage is vital to anyone, closed or open, considering marriage.
I have so much to say here. I married my husband still fully in love with my daughters father. I had not mourned the loss of her nor him. I pushed them both into a little pocket of my heart and went on with my life. I actually once told my husband he only had 80% of my life as I was reserving the other 20% for my daughters father. I frequently fantasized about him coming back to me. When my husband learned this (about the same time I entered reunion with my daughter) our marriage took a serious serious hit.
No one talks about birth mothers who still love their child’s birth father, even after issues and years have separated them from one another. Birth parents are expected to have lived a one night stand. No book advice exists on what to do with those feelings and how to address them before marrying another man. Yet it is important, as you can see by more of Suz’s experience in her own words.
I married my husband thinking he would make me socially acceptable. He was a well paid professional, educated, a nice guy. Silly me. I had to wait nearly ten years to realize I was always socially acceptable. But the stigma of placement, caused me to look for, and marry, men that would make me acceptable by society. I worked too hard and focused too much on money, wealth, big houses, fancy cars. The material stuff that people THINK makes you a decent person.
I have heard this as well from other birth parents from varying generations. Having been in the depths of despair in what others refer to as a crisis pregnancy, a birth mother may want to do anything to avoid that absolute bone-crushing fear of not being able to provide for a child. Material things look good when you’re trying to avoid that fear. Having been judged as so many other birth mothers have been as someone who is poor and lacking can create an absolute need to “succeed,” even by marriage. Recognizing that this could be a possible issue could help birth parents look for red flags before walking down the aisle. It’s important to always evaluate why you’re marrying someone; make sure it’s for the right reasons.
When I asked Suz to give our readers advice on this topic, she hit on some core issues. She hit further on mourning the loss of your child’s biological father and then launched into some stellar advice:
Be sure you and your spouse understand that losing your child to adoption is a TRAUMA that affects you for your entire life. You don’t get over it. What you feel today you may not feel ten years from now. Explore this with your future spouse. Be open. Honest. Don’t hide yourself or your feelings. They are going to come out sometime…better before the marriage than after.
Before the marriage is such a great point. Starting the foundation of your marriage on secrets is like setting yourself up for a big mud-slide later in life. My advice has always been to be honest and upfront about the existence of your child as early as possible in a relationship and I think that Suz might agree with that one as well. You would be better served to find out that your love interest can’t love you for who you are, child included, prior to walking down the aisle than twenty years later upon reunion after you have built many years of memories together.
Suz then hit on the importance of discussing future children. I can’t agree more and actually wrote about it when talking about what birth parents should be doing before marriage. She then hit on a heavier topic.
How does your finance feel about you being open? About people knowing you have a child? If spouse wants you to be quiet about it, run, run away. Thats not fair to you. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t let them put you in that box. If you are marrying someone and you don’t feel like you can completely reveal yourself to that person, or be accepted, think twice about the wedding. Or at the very least, be sure to plan for hours of marital therapy in the future and a possible divorce.
She’s dead-on right. If your spouse-to-be is demanding that you not talk about your placed child, in public or in private, in your own space or his, it’s a red flag. You need to be loved and accepted for who you are, completely, and that includes your child whether you are currently in reunion or not. Someone who refuses to accept you because you have placed a child is not someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, even in a casual setting, let alone marriage. Do both of you a favor and end the relationship.
I am eternally thankful to Suz for the powerful experience and advice she gave us through this interview. Hearing stories from mothers of all experiences helps us learn more about what can be done in the future.
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