No More Birth Mom Letters

And so we come to the last installment of Adoption Number 1.

We waited in vain for another letter. Nothing came. I sent updates and photos, but nothing came back. It was disquieting. And as I said, unexpected. After a while, a friend-the one whose adopted baby died- found someone who did some searching… And I received her job details, her cellphone number and home address. First thing I did was to look up her workplace on Facebook. Yes! They had a page! Would she happen to feature in any of their photos?? I looked, scared to be disappointed, but hopeful.

And there she was! Not dead. Still able to smile and laugh! For me, that big smile was so important, I wanted to know she wasn’t wallowing in grief and sorrow only. That she could still find moments of laughter was medicine to my soul.

But of course, I wanted more! Why had she disappeared? What about our child? When she’d have questions, how would I help my child when I’d have no answers for her? Should I? Should I not?

I did. I sent a message. I told her who I was. I told her that I did respect that she’d stopped sending letters but that if she preferred, we could communicate directly instead of having people reading our letters to each other. I told her that I had been looking for her as I thought we had connected and wasn’t sure if I’d imagined it. I told her that if she had ‘moved on’ and wanted to forget she’d ever taken part in an adoption, to let me know and I would never bother her again except to give her my number should it change. I told her I still loved her and was still thankful to be mom to our daughter, and wanted to be able to answer her questions… And that I was terribly sorry to be texting her and causing her unimaginable pain, but that I felt I had no choice.

I sent it with great trepidation. We were working on our second adoption. What if she told the social workers that we were stalking and harassing her?? They’d blacklist us and no other social workers would ever take us! What if I’d opened wounds she’d been attempting to close? How would I live with myself for causing her pain?

I waited.

I waited some more. Each passing moment made me feel guiltier still. More scared too. Was she contacting the social workers? Was she upset that her attempts to live her life without being reminded were being thwarted?

Saw a response come in starting with, “I’m at work, shaking and crying…”

At that moment, I hated myself. What had I done!?? I’d just spoilt her day and made her cry. The adoption was secret. How was she going to explain her emotional state?? What had I just done?

I opened the message.

She was shaking and crying in excitement and shock.

She had not received any of my other letters and photos,

She and birth father had sent a birthday card on our girl’s first birthday, telling her they had not forgotten her and loved her. She wanted to know if it had offended us.

Right there and then, I ‘seriously disliked’ Baddie. Who was she to interfere? Who was she to deprive an adopted child of the precious knowledge that her birth parents had never forgotten not forsaken her!? How DARE she do such a damaging thing!? Why??

Birth mom had been told be Better that when our girl turned two, she’d meet her, then meet again at age 18. That was news to us. We only knew about the age 18 thing when adoptees are allowed to search and meet. She said when she queried how this meeting would happen, Baddie told her she was nuts, that there was no such meeting.

Birth mom (I’ll call her X) was adamant that she had not misunderstood. She had a fight with Baddie, swore at her and cut the call. Now, I’ve never sworn at anyone in my life, but I have a silent hand clap. You mistreat someone I love, you deserve what comes to you.

I believe X. I believed her immediately. But here’s something else. Another Black mom who’s also Adventist used a different group of social workers. During their meeting, (she adopted a few months after us), the birth mom said she was still figuring out how she’d tell her other children about their little sibling. She wanted them to know so that when they met soon, they’d be there.

The “soon” didn’t make sense. 18 years was a VERY long time. One day, months after the adoption, she was at a petrol station filling her car up with fuel. A taxi (van with 14-16 passengers) drove in and also started fueling up. She noticed a passenger staring. Then waving and jumping out.

It was her child’s birth mom! She asked the birth mom how she was. Birth mom said that she’d been depressed when the letters and photos stopped coming. But that she was coping knowing she’d meet the child when she turned two! What!?

My friend had been sending letters every single month. Taking photos of the child at every angle.

And they had not passed these on!

We didn’t know what to do with this damaging information. Why us? The White moms I was friends with were still in touch (via social workers) with their children’s birth moms, so it wasn’t generalized.

But…

At this point, we’d adopted again. Our son’s mother never pitched up to meet. We were told she changed her mind. Given we’d been misled, could we believe this? Given how the prevailing attitude against birth mothers is pure hatred, they won’t be standing up and shouting for their rights! They had the birth moms in a box. No options.

What if all the other birth moms who have disappeared, “not wanted to meet,” would have wanted to if they’d been told they could!? What if they did not know!?

Amongst my (admittedly small) circle of adoptive moms who adopted twice through Baddie and Better, one birth mom had met them, the other hadn’t. Just like our situation. It was interesting. And suspicious.

There was a birth mom in the adoption group I’m in who placed her child for adoption through Amoré Malherbe and her mother. (I’ve forgotten her name! I even contacted them for a possible third adoption before we decided to try conceive one more time! ) This birth mom told her story before birth, got to meet the birth parents and was receiving updates. She was in direct contact with the parents.

That’s who I would recommend everybody in the Cape adopt through. They genuinely care about everybody in the adoption triad. Birth moms included. And she wasn’t the only birth mom who placed through them. It was quite interesting that these women were in the group, were not beaten down and made to disappear, could be found online. (Wilna Malherbe! That’s the name! Mom and daughter social workers! I would trust them in a heartbeat.)

The second birth mom who placed through them wasn’t exactly fun to interact with. (Kept asking me for money) but at least she was given full knowledge. I wonder how she treated the birth parents. I hope she didn’t make monetary demands on them like my friend’s birth mom did- the one whose baby died.

Point is, my friend’s birth mom knew how to contact my friend. My friend had to end up blocking her. But it was HER choice to end the relationship. Plus, the baby had died anyway. There was no need. 💔

I have never been so glad to go against the grain as I did when I searched for X. And guess what. X had definitely not ‘moved on’ When our letters stopped being sent to her, she looked for us. Except she had the disadvantage of only knowing our first names. Thandi is a VERY common name in not only South Africa but even in Zimbabwe. But she looked for us anyway. She couldn’t forget her baby. She needed to know she was ok.

And what did she find when she eventually found me on Facebook?

I’m so thankful for this…. She found that I had begun a public ‘page’ besides my public personal profile, and it became extremely clear to her how happy we were to have adopted. My aim was to enlighten Black people about adoption. To tell them contrary to popular belief, you CAN love a child you didn’t give birth to. I even stated how I loved my adopted babies with an even greater intensity than I did my biological ones BECAUSE my adopted ones have suffered a loss. They knew their mothers’ voices, their smells. They lost that. And they’d grow knowing they’d lost that first person…

I’d explained how placing your child for adoption wasn’t some lightly thought out plan. That it was out of desperation or great need. It was a difficult decision for many. I tried to change the “These women just unlovingly give their children to strangers like they are pieces of trash” narrative.

She learnt via that face look page that I did not despise her. She learnt that our child was loved. That I was proud of being an adoptive mom. Even birth dad would sometimes ask, “What did Sis’ Thandi write today? How’s the baby?”😭💔 And they’d be able to go online and check.

And when we got our adoption order, I was allowed to show our child’s face publicly. I posted videos showing a normal sibling relationship between my children. I posted a lot. Publicly. Purposefully.

Little knowing that I was giving peace to desperate parents who thought I had stopped loving them.

How sick and cruel!

We did want to go public. But our children’s birth moms are not able to. There’s a lot of shame they experience. They hear what society says about them. The know the guilt they feel. And so there was no way they’d expose themselves to being hated by even more people. Even X’s boyfriend (now ex), father of our child, during intense arguments, he’d say to her, “I’m going to tell… I’m going to tell people that you gave away my child like she’s rubbish.”

This was the man who strengthened her during those 60 days when she was still allowed to change her mind about the adoption. She’d waver. He’d remind her that she’d made a choice out of love. She was terrified the child would hate her. Still is. Still is. He told her better that than a suffering child. He’d remind her of her reasons. Yet, during fights, he’d throw it in her face as if she’d committed a crime.

How would she ever face society?

And I understood. A church member, upon hearing we were excited to meet them on adoption day, had exclaimed, “I would NEVER want to meet a woman who can just give away her child. She’s not human.”

That’s what they deal with.

The birth mom who placed her child through Wilna and Amoré Malherbe, she was in a taxi once. As she spoke on the phone with a friend, the friend asked if she’d given birth and how the baby was and how she was dealing with being a mom in her situation . The birth mom told her she’d placed the child for adoption, that she was in contact with the parents, and was receiving videos and photos.

At the end of the call, a passenger seated behind her proceeded to berate and harass her for “throwing” her child “away.” She wrote that thankfully she’s not shy, she gave that woman a piece of her mind.

You think they’d expect society to pity them? So, I write the truth here and suggest who to use.

To test, I emailed and asked Baddie if they’d heard from X. Asked if she was asking for updates. Baddie said no, she’d ‘moved on’ and was at peace and they were keeping my updates on a file for the day she might one day want them.

A week later, I told her we were in touch.

Baddie then showed her true colours. She said I was breaking the law. She said our child was going to be “confused” and damaged! She said X needed “let go” and get over it. That she’d think this was foster care.

What?? I wrote back saying that our two year old knew nothing of the relationship. Secondly, research showed that open adoption was best for adopted children and adults. And that thirdly, even when our girl grew older, I’d never refer to her birth mom as her mom. It’s not like at age four she’d be told she has two moms that she has to choose between. So what would confuse her exactly, I’m not stupid! I wouldn’t harm my child!

More importantly, if contact with adoptive parents leads biological parents to thinking adoption is temporary, it means THEY did a bad job explaining adoption to them!

I showed X the email. She was incensed. “Does she think I’m stupid!? When I signed away my rights as a parent, does she think I didn’t know what I was doing? When I told the baby you were her mommy, what did she think I was thinking?”

Darn right!

But oh, how my heart bled at the “signing away my rights as a parent.” I’d never thought of the process from that angle. It’s so harsh. Necessary. But harsh.

Our girl is seven. She’s got special needs. Not major. ADHD and a few other issues. We both -moms-acknowledge that they were caused by her prenatal history and parental background. Our girl is seven and knows she was in Aunty X’s tummy who gave her to me to be her mommy. She’s listened to birthday voice notes. (She’s forgotten it. This seventh birthday, I’m the only one who was hoping X would do or say something.)

She knows Aunty X has a daughter but hasn’t clicked that that means she has another sister, because in her head, a woman whose tummy she was in, is not a mother. She knows but she doesn’t know.

Yet. When she asks certain questions, I’ll be able to get get answers.

When our girl turned two, my husband and I even went and looked for her. After all, she placed her child ‘knowing’ that she would see her in two years. We wanted to honour it even though we knew she’d been lied to. Probably to make it ‘easier’ to place the child. To make the separation less daunting, we assume.😡

Except the house number didn’t match the street name and the street name didn’t exist. We drove around the township for an hour, hoping to find the right number elsewhere. After an hour, we decided it had been pointless. As we turned back and got ready to go home, we turned right down a particular street. (We’d left our older children at home. We wanted this to be a meeting between a toddler and her other mother. No other eyes there that might make X nervous.) As we drove past a corner house on our left, I noticed a woman hanging washing. As our eyes met, and we drove past, I thought, “Wait! Wait! That looks like X! She’s lost weight… But it looks like X. Am I imagining it!? What are the chances X would be out here?” I’d been sending her texts while we drove around, asking for her address ostensibly to have a delivery sent to her but she had not responded. We were truly just searching the whole of the township. I told my husband that I might be wrong, but I needed him to make a u-turn one last time so I could see the lady hanging washing.

We turned back. She too had spotted me. At first she thought, “Hmm. A car here? Such a car!? That lady looked like O’s mom. But what would she be doing here??”

We found her still puzzled outside. We have photos. Of herself and I . And of her with our daughter. It was worth it! So worth it! She felt so inferior 😭and so scared people would know it was her daughter as she apparently looks like the father so she rushed us into the house. A home she is so ashamed of. And there on her bedroom wall was the letter I’d written to her before I even met her. A letter promising that I would love and raise our child forever. Promising that the dreams she had for her would be fulfilled. Promising that our child would be told that her birth mom loved her and didn’t place her because she hated her, but because she didn’t know what else to do. I promised her that she would always be treasured and valued. And thanked for trusting us with such such a treasure.

It was still on the wall two years later!😭

X sadly disappeared for ages after Covid started in 2020. Last year for the first time ever, she didn’t wish our girl a happy birthday. A previous year, even the daughter had sung happy birthday. This time, nothing. She ignored my messages before the birthday and after. I kept thinking of my young friend who committed suicide. A young lady who had told me that the knowledge that her birth mom wanted nothing to do with her-didn’t want to meet, didn’t want to even give her a photo of herself- made her wish she’d never been born.

I didn’t want that for my girl. I kept sending innocuous messages. “Hey sweet lady, where are you?” She loved that I was public about adoption, but what if I’d posted something that hurt her and she didn’t want to tell me? Had I offended her? Scared her off? Was it my fault my child had lost her birth mom? Did it matter? Would our child actually WANT to meet her anyway? What if she grew up and wanted nothing to do with her, then her silence wouldn’t matter!

But I missed X. We’d shared everything with each other for YEARS!

Finally this year, last week actually when I tried again after not trying for a few months, she said she’d disappeared because she couldn’t take the overwhelming guilt any more. She hated herself for not being mom to our girl. She hated herself for the special needs she felt responsible for. And she knows (😭) that our girl will never forgive her for placing her.

I told her that actually, our girl had asked why the lady whose tummy she was in had given her to me, same with her brother and the lady whose tummy he’d come from. I explained all the things the ladies wanted for them that they could not provide, and her conclusion was, “They loved us. They really wanted us to be happy.”

But X’s response was that when our girl is older and able to fully understand, she’d hate her. She was trying to move on and though the pain wasn’t going… That’s just what she decided to do.

Except I didn’t want that for my child.

And after she again ignored my messages thereafter, I put as my profile photo, the photo I had of X and I when we met when our girl turned two.

And she came back. And for the first time in over a year, she asked how our girl was. We spoke like we used to and I told her I missed her.

We’ll get there. As long as there’s life, there’s hope.

The End..for now.

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