I’m sure there are scholars who have written about this, and I should track down their wisdom. Disclaimer–this is only my reflection and may not resemble other adopted children’s experiences.
I’ve recently been discovering things about my birth parents. I was able to speak to my birth mother on the phone for a few minutes. I found her high school senior picture online. I’ve met my birth father’s daughter, Carol, and she has welcomed me to the family, introduced me to other family members, and shared pictures and stories of my birth father.
It has been all gift. I’m grateful for all of it.
I can’t get the word “rejection” out of my mind.
Sometimes it is “abandonment“, but more often “rejection”.
It’s weird. Those words are not the defining words to my life. In adoption, I was chosen and valued by a wonderful family. My birth mother made difficult choices I can only imagine to give me life and a chance at a new life.
I don’t feel rejected in my personal or professional relationships either.
It is not my word.
In all of this birth parent discovery, I have heard those words bubbling up in my thoughts, whispered in the silence.
These words want me to attend to them.
When my new sister–my birth father’s daughter–and her family all shared stories about my birth father, I got a good sense of who he was. He was a family man. He would do anything for his family. He loved his family.
And I believe them. Looking at the family together, they are people who have been loved and shaped into a family that has weathered many storms and come through them stronger and together–a family.
And I still heard a voice in my head saying, “he wasn’t a family man for me“.
If rejection is even the correct word to use to describe me and my birth father, I’m grateful for his rejection. I’m thankful to have been adopted. I completely believe I am exactly who God dreamed for me to be, and being adopted is a HUGE piece of how that plays out.
If rejection is the correct word to use, I totally get it. What was he supposed to do in 1968? How was it going to work for a 55 year old man to bring home infant Marci to his wife of 26 years and say, “look what I found!” I totally get it.
My feelings toward my birth mother are somewhat different. I’ve always experienced her decision to place me for adoption as an act of love, a recognition that in the difficult situation in which she found herself, this was the best she could do for me. I feel like she released me to live the life I was meant to live. I have never felt rejected because of the adoption.
Her rejection of me happened later.
Twenty-ish years ago, I contacted her through an intermediary. She agreed to exchange a letter, but she would not meet me. That was rejection.
When I received my birth certificate in the mail this summer, I never expected an Oprah-style reunion with her. I remembered her response the last time around. The fact that she actually returned my phone call at all was great, much more than I expected.
And still I offered to come to where she lives to meet her.
She said no.
It is what it is. And, quite frankly, I’d rather not meet someone who does not want to meet me. This kind of rejection is okay and manageable. Having a door slammed in my face would be worse.
And as I said before, rejection is not my defining word. And the welcome and acceptance I have received from my birth father’s family has been huge. A great gift, and completely unconnected to the feelings of rejection I’ve been tending to.
I suspect these feelings of rejection and abandonment have been in the background my whole life. But now that I have names and faces to go with my birth parents, the diffuse feelings of rejection have come into sharper focus.
This is just another piece of the puzzle. Putting it to words and looking at it in the light of day are all a part of helping me find its place in my life. I don’t think it is a big piece, but as I’ve processed the rest of this story with you, it seems right to let you see this piece of the puzzle too.
Thank you, by the way, for following along on this journey. It’s been humbling to know how many people I have out there caring for me and walking with me through this.
13 thoughts on “Rejection”
Bless you. Grateful to be along for the journey. Holding you in prayer for the tender feelings. Awed by your curiosity and your willingness to sit with the feelings, and to share.
I am grateful for your ability to translate your journey into shared words. It helps me see a little of what Myke might have had running around head about his adopted and birth parents. Thank you for sharing your thoughts through your gift of writing.
This is so powerful, Marci, and you are wise to tend to this word as it crops up in your life. Wishing you all courage as you continue this amazing journey.
Finding a birth family can open a Pandora’s Box of emotions: joy, pain, fear, rejection. Rejection is so harsh, the sound of the word is harsh, the emotions and feelings are harsh and I can’t think of one good thing about rejection.
I don’t know how painful it was for your birth mother to give you to another family to raise but I imagine it was difficult. She must have wrestled with this decision. Now you’re wrestling with your own feelings and having difficulty with her decision to not meet with you face to face.
We can’t understand her circumstances at the time of your birth but she and I are probably the same age and I do know that life was very different 40+ years ago. To be a single mother was almost unheard of and there were no means of support. I can only sense the pain in your mother’s heart for this decision, it’s painful to lose a child. She gave you life, she brought you into this world to live life and what a life you’ve had! Rejoice, for she has been lost but now is found.
Bless you for talking about this….you’ll help many others.
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Thanks. Yes, as I said (maybe in an earlier post), I don’t wish she had made a different decision. I’m grateful to have been adopted and be a part of the family I’m in. And I can only imagine how difficult it was in 1968. I don’t begrudge her anything or deny her challenges. The rejection piece, however, remains, despite all of that. It is not a rational feeling, perhaps. But it is very real.
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Thanks for your honesty. I’ve been struggling under different circumstances with the whole question of “both / and,” as in, I feel both released / freed, and rejected about the same situation … this seems to me to be the quintessential condition of maturity, that we accept these contradictions are real and don’t try to force our feelings to be entirely consistent. The world is messy. Big hugs to you.
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Thanks. That is helpful. There are so many contradictions in all of this.
Hi dear Marci. A friend of mine recently wrote me about a book she’s been reading in the midst of her own adoption journey called Primal Wound. The premise, she said, is that a “primal wound” happens when a baby is separated from its birth mother. Studies show that babies recognize their mothers at birth (she visualized them picking their mamas out of a prison lineup – ha). No matter how positive the adoption is, then, it always begins with loss. The very essence of adoption begins with some sense of loss and abandonment. And while we think of babies as having no memory of it and while we can intellectualize it with them as they are older, they are ultimately aware of this abandonment…she said the book describes this awareness as spiritual-based experiences, at a soul level, if that makes sense. (My mom was adopted, which is why she thought I’d be especially interested.)
Sounds like you’re feeling this, like you could’ve written the book. I’m sorry, and goodness, what a heart-wrenching journey…for better and for worse. I’m honored to be let in to this little bit of it, and, of course, to know you.
Yes. That is it. Exactly,
Complicated, of course, by also being a birth mother.
Love you, friend.
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I can fully understand your feeling of rejection. There were times I felt this after I searched for my son and after he was located. He was not “on the same page” as I was. Thus, I moved very slowly but did not give up. The uncertainty was painful.
Most often, the birthfather and his family have known no pain in relation to the conception, birth and relinquishment. For the mom, it’s an entirely different story.
I belonged to a support group of triad members while I searched. A male adoptee in the group had the same circumstances as you and your first mother. She did write him many beautiful letters, which made him very happy and certainly elevated his self-esteem.
Your first mom may fear that she will lose one or all of the family she lives with. She wonders: Will they leave her?
I don’t know that any books have been written about the impact of reunion on the first mother’s family. Do siblings sometimes feel threatened by a new family member who is now an adult? It depends.
I agree that the pain of the birth father and birth mother are different, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that birth fathers know no pain. My baby’s daddy was present throughout the process and he went through his own situation.
I’ve come to learn that my birth mother went through the entire pregnancy, birth, and recovery alone, without confiding in anyone for help. The defense mechanisms she needed to get through that time must have been immense. I offer that as observation, not judgment. I can’t imagine having to do that alone.
My birth siblings have all had different responses. One immediately welcomed me. One is slowly building a relationship with me. One is not in communication at all so far. I don’t want to speak to their feelings or experience in all of this, but generally, I will say I have been very grateful for the welcome I’ve received from extended birth family.
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