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Lake Tahoe, Nevada,
May 04
Benevolent Dictator
Middle School
Nearly 30 years in the middle school biz...hope to graduate one of these days! Have taught English, choral music, drama, computer applications and just about anything else you can imagine. Oh, and how can I forget publications...I'm responsible for the yearbook and the school newspaper. Also did a stint as the librarian. Wide ranging interests and a long-time Salon addict. Two kids, two grandsons and a dog round out the picture! Originally from Marin (go figure) but 32 years at Tahoe has definitely spoiled me. To quote Nora Ephron, "I feel bad about my neck."


Sierrasong's Links

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 21, 2008 5:31PM

Never too much love

Rate: 35 Flag


A few years ago, my then 21 year old daughter asked me, “Mom, was I a rape baby?  I think I’m old enough to know.  I can handle it.” 

I thought for a moment. 

“No,” I replied, “But I am.” 

Adoption is a common theme in our family; a theme that brings hard questions that seem to have no answers.  Sometimes, however, there are answers that have been years in coming. 

My daughter and son are both adopted, as am I and my two brothers.  We like to joke that adoption runs in the family.  Both of my children were private adoptions – we met and formed relationships with both of my children’s birth mothers -- but never met their birthfathers.  Over the years, I’ve kept in contact with my son’s birthmother from across the country, but lost track of Rachel’s “other” mom, Donna.   As both an adoptee and an adoptive mother, I’ve been in a unique position to understand two of the three sides of the adoption experience.  We’ve done our best to inoculate our children against the occasionally thoughtless person who asks the adoptee, “Don’t you wish you knew who your REAL mother was?” or asks the adoptive parent, “How can you love a child that isn’t really YOURS?”  This last question was asked by a “friend” of mine who had tried for years to get pregnant, never could, but would never consider adoption, because the child wouldn’t be “hers”.  All I could tell her was that no matter how a family was formed – by birth or by adoption – our children are never really “ours” anyway.   

wise little man 

Like me, both of my children have always known that they were adopted.  When they reached 18, we gave them all the records that we had about their adoptions, including any information we had about their birthparents.  My son has chosen, at the moment, not to search, but my daughter did and a couple of years ago, found her birthmother living not far away.  They met and have developed a relationship that is cordial and growing.  It would be very easy, as an adoptive mom, to be jealous of such a relationship, but I have trod the same road; looking for my own heritage and backstory.  In the mid 90s, I had an abdominal tumor and it was imperative that I get any family history I could.  I had known for at least fifteen years who my birthmother was and her connection with my family and their friends, but I was adopted in 1951 – a vastly different time when  being a pregnant teen carried an enormous stigma. In my teens and early 20s, I experienced a fierce desire to know "who I was", but by the time learned who my birthmother was and where she lived,  I opted to let the past be the past and not interrupt her life. 

Pregnant teen mothers, like mine, were usually whisked away to an institution like the Florence Crittenden home and a story was made up to cover her absence.  The whole process was closed in those days and very little information was made available.  The difference in my case, was that my dad was a doctor and, in the course of his practice, he was able to arrange to adopt the child of one of his patients – me. When my parents died, I found paperwork in their files that identified who my birthmother was.  It turned out that my neighbor, who had always said I reminded her of someone she knew, was right.  I was the daughter of her classmate and friend, Jo.    

When I finally was faced with having to contact my birthmother, I did it through my neighbor to lessen the impact on her.  I didn’t know how she would react and, as it turned out, she was not particularly happy to hear from me.  I remember the turmoil I felt as I waiting to get the first phone call from her and the piercing pain when I realized I had invaded her life and upset her carefully erected defenses.  I got the information I needed and it was a number of years before she was able to reach out to me and begin to build a friendship.  For, you see, I was a rape baby and she was terrified that her other children would think less of her and reject her for having a child that had been adopted out.  She has told me many times, “I didn’t see you when you were born and have never thought about you all these years.”  I understand that she was just trying to protect herself and I like to think that the statement isn't completely true.  I can't deny that it was and is an incredibly  painful thing to hear, but I have to consider the times and the situation.  Today, we are friendly but not close.  It’s hard to become close to someone who hasn’t thought about you for 45 years.  One incredible thing I did find out was what it means to have people who look like you.  At a family reunion, held to meet me, I held my breath in nervous anticipation as I knocked on the door before I met my "new family".  I need not have worried.  And, wonder of wonders, they looked like me. 




 My daughter is luckier.  Her birthmother, as it turns out had been looking for her too.  Over the past few years they have been in contact but Donna has been hesitant to attend any family functions for fear we would somehow not accept her.  She had been barely 15 when she delivered Rachel under very difficult circumstances.  Although I had written to her and tried to call to invite her to our family events since they had reunited, she had never responded.  I respected her wishes and hoped that things would change in the future. 

On Tuesday, my beautiful daughter had a c-section and we welcomed a new life into our family.  Little Adam seems to be an old soul; peaceful and calm from the moment he was born.  He was born in a small regional hospital which is renowned for its personal care and family friendly atmosphere.  Both grandmas were welcomed into the nursery right after he arrived when he was weighed and measured – you certainly can’t do that in a big hospital. He was washed and wrapped and delivered, a tiny bundle, to Rachel as she recuperated in her hospital room.  As she dozed in and out of consciousness, I held the new little one while everyone else went to lunch.  We talked lazily about how it doesn’t matter how you make a family, whether natural or adopted, there’s no such thing as too many people who love you.  “Mom,” she said, “You know how I spent my childhood – like in that picture of me?  Loving my babies.  I’m still doing it.”   


Later that afternoon, after I returned from lunch, I noticed Rachel had a visitor when I walked into the room.  I said hello and we exchanged pleasantries.  I took a closer look. “Donna?” I said.  “Is that you?”  An awkward silence, a rush to hug her, then tears; lots and lots of tears.  Twenty three years after the fact, I finally had the opportunity to thank the wonderful woman who had made it possible for me to raise my daughter.  We had come full circle and the circle was made of love. 


As we clung to each other, each thanking the other, it was obvious once again that you truly cannot have too many people who love you.   


Our daughter agrees.


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Your story brought tears to my eyes. Especially when your birth mother told you she had never thought of you...and your compassionate and loving response to her. You are an amazing person and your daughter is so fortunate you are her mother. Thank you for sharing...
Marsha, you are a lovely wonderful beautiful person. It would be my guess, with an assurance of a high degree of probability, that you touch countless lives. An honor to know you.
Mary and Barry (oooh, cool rhyme) - you are both too kind.

I've had lots of therapy, so it's actually kudos to people like Mary who got me where I am today!

I have, no doubt, been instrumental in the purchase of more than one Mercedes in my therapeutic history.
As a former foster child, and as an extra mother to the children of my husband's first marriage, I agree. We get the family we get and it is our opportunity to make the most of or to miss. Such a lovely and wonderful story and what a wonderful series of choices you have made for your own life. Thanks for sharing the inspiration.
I should have logged off OS an hour ago. I was mad at myself for dallying here. But no more - if I'd done what I was berating myself to do, I wouldn't have read this piece, which was just lovely. One of the best stories I've ever read about family, in fact.

Thank you for this: "All I could tell her was that no matter how a family was formed – by birth or by adoption – our children are never really “ours” anyway. "

I agree, no one can ever be loved too much, by too many.
A wise and wonderful post, Marsha. Made me cry, too - (the good kind of tears, not the oh-my-god-Sarah-Palin kind ;) It reminded me that one of the greatest things about love is the more you do it the more you have. Congratulations to all of you! And I can sign off happily now too; this was the perfect post to end my OS day. Thanks :)
Marsha, Thank you for this lovely piece. Congratulations on the new addition(s) to your family! Julie
One of my best friends will receive her adopted baby sometime in November -- the agency just confirmed this to her about a week and a half ago. Both she and her husband were adopted. So adoption runs in her family too.

I'll agree with Barry, you are a marvelous and wonderful person. And it doesn't matter that you acquired your wisdom through therapy or the school of life or whatever -- the fact is that girl, you got it. You got it good.

There is no such thing as too much love, too many people who love you, or too many parents. You are blessed and have brought blessings to others, and that's what life is about. And you know what? Now you've brought some of those blessings over here to OS with this post. Thank you.
Beautiful story, beautiful pictures.
Marsha, that's a very heartwarming story and so great to hear how Donna has become a part of the family circle there, which is not always the case as you point out. I agree with the others that you are an amazing person and those around you are so lucky to have you.
Like I said earlier, you are all waaaay too kind. But, a humble thank you to you all for your very kind words.
Oh that was beautiful! Gave me chills. Thank you for posting it!
A lovely, moving story, thank you for sharing it. I've gotten the chance to meet a cousin who has joined our family recently. She was adopted out when my aunt was an unwed teenager. It was a big surprise to a lot of us, but when we met her, she was like a puzzle piece we'd been missing all along. Family and love are both precious and necessary and never to be taken for granted!
This should be required reading for everyone, adoptees, adopters, biological adopting-out parents, and everybody else.

A family is a family, no matter how you make it. Your touching story makes that clear in a way impossible to deny.

Thank you.
Marsha, I don’t know what else to say that has not been said. Wonderful, wonderful story. And congratulations on your new grand baby!
This is such a beautiful story and another reminder that we are all part of the same human family.
A friend of mine from high school told me the story of her adoption. She was told as a child that her mother's cousin was her "real" mother, but that she gave her as to her mother because she could take special care of her when the cousin could not.

Once she was a teenager, she started having questions. She was obviously racially mixed and her adoptive parents were white. She sat down with her mother and asked her which cousin was her birth mother, obviously confused.

Her mother patiently explained that everyone is a cousin. (It sticks with me that she said at least 20th cousins, but that may be wrong.) She didn't know exactly who her birth mother was, but she knew she was family.

Spectacular post about an amazing family.
Adopting a 13 month toddler is probably the best thing I have ever done. We haven't seen the birth mother in 7 years, but we keep an open invitation, and letters and cards are exchanged for every birthday and major holiday. I am so glad open adoptions are now the norm, and I know they must make it much easier on the child.

Congratulations on the new addition to your family, and thanks for a wonderful post.
Thank you for the beautiful post. We have two children - one was adopted, one was not.

People frequently ask me if I love them the same way. I realize it's meant as an innocent question, although it's a bit intrusive.

So this is how I respond: Absolutely not. Do you love your two children exactly the same?
I'm one of those who's adopted; and then, @ age 17, gave a child up for adoption.

My BM, like yours, apparently suffered from the 50's: She left her home, said she was going off to the Big City, and came back months later, no one the wiser she'd had a child. Also like you, I've had no luck getting this woman to communicate with me. One might say, increasingly bad luck. When I first found her - my age, 24; hers, approx. 44 - she was communicative, gave me some family tree information, some verbals about my BF, all via phone or mail. Then she started to back away, saying she could never tell her children, or she wanted to, but couldn't. I said, Don't do that now; let's just get to know one another - but she couldn't bear it. I, too, Irish pride and all, backed away. Years later, I went through various machinations, some minor, some major. Suffice it to say her grown children know about me now, went home to talk to her about it, and, upon hearing that I want to get to know her and them, she stated that it sounded to her as though "Connie has a family of her own; she should focus on them." And the subject was closed. Closed closed. Her oldest, my half-sister, was very, very sorry (we'd spent months corresponding via the internet) but she, and her sibs, could not communicate with me any more.

It's an old kernel, a wicked burr, an aching joint when the weather's about to change, but I was and am prepared to tolerate it. It is what it is, as I often say to my children now, and there's nothing you can do about it.

My problem relates to the child I gave up for adoption that summer long ago. The now grown man. He's beautiful and talented and ambitious and happy. He found me a few years back and we have made up for lost time. We relate on so many levels, are alike in so many ways, and it's wonderful and hole-filling and satisfying and, yes, another person to worry about, but Oh, radiant morning, salute the son!

Ach! He, filled with the confidence of the Young, and yes, filled with his Manly Belief in Self, says we are going up there and find her. And if she turns us away (which he doesn't Truly believe; did I mention the Boy has such Confidence?), why, then we'll just go out there and find all the relatives (she comes from a Large family), and talk to them and interview them and get the facts about which counties and which surnames we should look up in old Mother Ireland, and study people and study photos and just Find All This Stuff Out.

I can invest myself in this. I'm very good at research, and could set multiple things up in advance.

But I Know there's going to be no Kodak moment at Her door. And, being's the family's from farm stock, as is mine, there's no guarantee we're going to have doors open to us down the way. I mean, we'll pull your tractor out of the ditch; we'll give you canned goods and potatos and corn to get through a long winter after a disastrous season, but we won't necessarily invite you in to study the family bible. Some things just aren't other people's business.

So, I'm nervous. He says, Go. I say, Wait.

We're currently in negotiation. I'll be back there in November, and we'll see if he pushes me over or not.

I dunno. Sometimes not feeling is preferable.
"An old soul" I haven't heard that expression in a long time and it sure fits Adam's picture. Granny had the same blue blanket with the rocking horses. It survived three great-grandchildren.

Four and a half years ago I almost adopted Erik, age five and a half. He asked me one day, out of the blue, "I don't have a father and I need one, would you...?" I'd love to, but we'd better ask your Mom. The pediatrician told her "Biology has nothing to do with it, George IS Erik's father." I was present at E's birth, the doctor had known us both since. At least forty guys knew of my situation but only two, other than the pediatrician, understood that love is not bound by anything merely physical.
His Mom, I don't know... it's been four years since I've seen Erik and not a week goes by that I don't...I just keep dreaming that in a Reader's Digest/Chicken Soup sort of way that someday...
Maybe adopted kids are the luckiest because there is no doubt that they are truly, truly wanted.
What a lovely compliment, Padraig; it means a lot to me.

And welcome to OS!
Wow...I never thought I'd strike such a chord.

Instead of naming you all individually for your kind, lovely comments, let me just say, thank you. Thank you, all.
And such a lovely baby. I am moved.
Thanks you for writing this. Both my Dad and I were adopted. But the stunning part was to read your daughter's question because I found out in my 30s that I was a product of a rape. It is a hard thing to assimilate and somehow I never made the next step to realizing how common it must be.
I stopped looking for my birth Mom when I was assured by the ALMA volunteers helping me that I had to tell my Adoptive Mom. She would have been deeply wounded. Now at 62 opening that door doesn't seem worth the problems and grief it might cause my biological family. I have good friends and a wonderful 40 year old son.

Thanks again - Jude
Dear Jude...interesting that you didn't want to tell your adoptive mom. I, too, waited until after my parents' death - to me, they were my "real" parents and although I had many difficulties growing up (see my other posts for details), I didn't want to hurt them in any way. My mother, in particular, adamantaly refused to even discuss the adoption thing. In retrospect, (and from my own experience as an adoptive parent) I know she was trying to forget that we were adopted and convince herself we were "hers". It made her feel more whole and authentic.

Just one of the many things I learned in the aforementioned therapy!

Thanks for your comment.
Oooops, not enough coffee yet. I meant JADE not Jude. Apologies.
Marsha, I'm way late to this party, but felt I wanted to thank you anyway, for affirming something I have known in my bones my whole life, too: you can never have too many people who love you.

Early in my time here at OS I wrote about being an adoptee in A Tale of Two Mothers - Part 1 and Part 2. Forgive the blog whoring, but I thought you'd find the story particularly interesting.

Congrats to you and Rachel and a hearty welcome to Adam!
Thanks for sharing.

I'm a birth sibling and at the age of 23 met the brother I never knew I had. He is still a part of my life, although we don't see each other often. My brother looks like me and has several mannerisms that remind me of my mom.
Tonight I was feeling very emotional-like always. I am about to embark on a journey that has me on an emotional rollercoaster. I am about to contact my birthmother. I was born in the late '60's; and my birthmother was the daughter of a Lutheran minister. I am half black and half white. My birthmother is white. The problem is I too am the result of a rape. I cant even imagine the stigma that this held back then. I am truely grateful to be here.

My adoption was a closed adoption done through Lutheran Service Society; however due to a series of fortunate events and coicidences, I found out my my mothers identity and the circumstances surrounding my birth. I even found out that my adopted great aunt and uncle were best friends with my birthmothers parents ( another coincidence.) They absolutely did not want to get involved. So, I believe she has no idea that I know who she is.

Not until the birth of my daughter did I even seriously contemplate contacting her. However, the pull now is just too strong. I am feeling very vunerable and raw and yet I feel this is a mission that must be carried out. I need her to know that I am here and that I know who she is. Do I have the right? I dont want to hurt her, but my mere existence is a result of pain. I dont want to wait-what if she passes and I am left with nothing but regrets, but I dont want to be selfish either. Any of this sounding familiar?

Now please believe that I am no fool. Life has thrown me enough curves to know that there will probably be no fairytale ending. I truely believe that love is worth the risk. No matter what, I will always love her. For better or for worse - She is my mother.

Anyway Thanks again for sharing, your story comforted me. God Bless You and your family.

thank you for sharing your beautiful story.
I think, if we all sit very quietly -- we will find in ourselves, the rape, the violence, the insanity, the sorrow, the joy, the tears, the laughing loving eyes and the fact that despite what we say, we are all 'adopted' -- that our bodies are sometimes on loan and sometimes not, that everything SierraSong has said is true -- we all run away because sometimes running away will save our lives, and that sometimes we join in because we can.

I was lucky that my shrink told me to find a 'soul-coach' (or was that 'couch') when her meds didn't work -- so the most she got out of me was part of a good horse, or a horse very much in need of more sense than she had.

But honestly --if we are quiet, I think we will find that we are ALL adopted -- and that perhaps a better word than 'adopted' is 'accepted'. And that, again, if we are all very quiet, we will find that our 'parent's' are all the same -- either they love us and accept us, or they don't.

SierraSong had parents who accepted them -- I taught students in South Sacramento who had biologicals who never did, would, or could accept them.

So -- if we are quiet, very quiet, we will find that SierraSong has started the very beginning of the great 'monomyth' that IS the beginning of our lives --

They say as we age, we all beging to look alike anyway -- so the only real difference is: how well were you loved and that includes 'taught' -- because teaching IS one of the Ultimate forms of Loves.

So -- let's all be very still, very quiet, and listen to our hearts beat and our breaths say all the seeming disparate truths which are but one when we get behind all the words we use to hide it.

My mother was raped - by my father, and in many ways I was raped by my father - and teachers and friends -- and loved by teachers and parents and friends -- and have a family which is still growing -- bonds breaking here, growing stronger there -- and seeing Donna and Sierra and Rachael and Adam makes me wonder -- how long till the first bond breaks -- and will it regrow stronger -- or will it be a limb which falls dead along the way? we have each fallen dead many times, and we have each felt the birth many times.

and like that one woman said: do you love them the same? hell no! she loves them DIFFERENTLY -- it's not quantity, it's not quality, it's a DIFFERENT way, just as they all love each other differently -- and who knows what path that will take them down? some paths will end. Just like that. In death and sorry and sorrow. Others will transcend death itself.

I have a friend who told her son: no, you CAN'T crash here tonight: tough love. He died. It was the night before the opening was there for his rehab and he wanted to tell his mother how much he loved her. He left her a note and part of a 38 caliber in the bedstead of an hourly rental motel. I believe he was adopted. At the moment of death.

So, let's be very quiet so we all know we are each and every one, the same in more ways than we'd like to be or recall that we are. It's all about True Love -- and the mother who said 'No, I'm sorry you can't stay here tonight." -- it was said with the most tender love we can imagine. How many tender good nights have we said and just not been aware?
Oh, my...tears here, too. I'm adopted as well, and I have a relationship with my biological mother who I met a little over 8 years ago. What a wonderful story and a beautiful family. I couldn't agree more with the sentiments you've expressed so lovingly.
Hi Sierra:
I don't know how I missed this story, but glad I came back to read it!
I will share with you that a "friend" of mine back in Illinois had to give up a baby when she was very young. Although she would not admit it to anyone, when her daughter finally contacted her, she was able to admit that she thought about her every day.
If your birth mother did not think about you, it was due to trauma. I will choose to believe that her hostility was yet another defense to the truth that she thought about you often.
You are a wonderful person! L, L
Thanks so much for your sweet comment, Lisa. I've always (privately) thought she MUST have thought about me and I have come to the same conclusion you did: trauma can push thoughts down so far that you're hardly aware of them.
Wow. Thanks for sharing your story, your insights, your compassion.
Thank you, Lisa. Nice to meet you!
Wow, powerful, honest and beautiful...
Thank You,
You have a wonderful talent for narrative, this was such a wonderfully engrossing read. Thank you for sharing your family history, and beautiful baby boy!!! Congrats!
I was searching for grandma in Salon's people search, and I came across you and this lovely post. I immediately added you as a friend.
Happy Mother's Day to my dear daughter.