What would you want to know about your child's birth mother?

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Photo by tillwe, used under Creative Commons license.
I gave birth to my baby boy almost two years ago. Due to circumstances out of my control in the creation of him, I placed him for adoption, and his new family adopted him a year ago. They've been wonderful — they write to me and tell me how he's doing and always send pictures. It's great.

Here's where I'm stumped: what am I supposed to write back? I feel like my lack of certainty about what they may want to know about is causing my letters to seem flippant. If you've adopted or think you might, what would you want to know about the biological mother of the child? — CG

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  1. I would want to know that the birth mother is happy, that she's doing well, what's going in her life. I would want her to really know how much of a gift her child is and that I will always hold her in reverence and respect. I would want to know about her likes and dislikes, especially about her childhood. I would love to receive pictures of her at different ages through babyhood and childhood.

    5 agree
  2. First off, I think it's just awesome that they send letters and pictures! I know that I would love the little "updates!" As far as what you should write back, I think that's really up to how much you feel comfortable sharing. In my opinion, the only thing I think a biological mother NEEDS to share is family medical history, in the chance that it's requested by the child's doctor. Apart from that, maybe offer the parents a "Q&A" of sorts, through letters. That way, they know they are welcome to ask anything they would like to know and you (as long as you feel comfortable with sharing that particular answer!) will answer what you can.

    1 agrees
  3. As an adoptee, I would have liked to have known as much as possible, from family stories of life growing up, describing other family members, favorite things or quirks or interests that you have, to the mundane daily things that you are up to. I would like to know the range of emotions you feel about not raising me, so that I can explore the same complexities. Those little online surveys that people fill out are fun and I did those with my bio siblings when we reunited. Really, anything to keep him informed of your life along the way, so if he does want to meet you, he knows some things and hasn't had to merely construct a fantasy!

    7 agree
    • I'm also an adoptee (and I met with my birth mother). I agree, share what you're comfortable sharing, especially interests, hobbies, things you went through. My parents gave me a letter from my birth mother when I was 17 or so and I found out she'd been in a car accident when she was pregnant with me but that we'd come out okay. We've shared our interest in crafts, the fact that we both use the word "babble" and some medical things.

      I also want to second the issue, raised by Miss Miaow, of being careful of language. Not just for the adoptive parents, but for the child. Open communication between you and the adoptive parents is a good thing.

      3 agree
  4. Everything she wanted to tell me. You don't have to share anything, but anything you do is a gift. I'm adopting internationally, and won't know anything about my kids birth family.

  5. Thinking about a friend of mine whose son's biological mother has contacted him a few times (not a regular correspondence), I was particularly touched by one comment about how a hobby his son has picked up is one that is shared by his siblings. So continuing on Kaylie's comment above, I think pictures of you or other biological relatives at various ages as well as any siblings that come later might be nice.

    • This is what I was going to say. I would write them or call them or whatever form of contact you have right now and see how they feel about it. I think it's very cool that they are writing to you and the fact that they put so much info in the letters makes me feel that they would like the same in return, but you will never know unless you ask!

  6. I'm an adoptive parent and we have a relationship with our son's birth parents. For us, we like knowing how they're doing, what's going on in their lives, hearing about their own childhoods, hearing about their family's culture (not just heritage, but like how they celebrate holidays or weird traditions that they have, especially if we might be able to incorporate it into our parenting). We like hearing about their hobbies and interests and about their extended families (family trees or photo albums can be especially awesome). We mostly want to build a foundation for a lifelong relationship between his birth parents and him (and us, too), so all of the basic relationship-building, getting to know each other type of stuff. Your relationship with your son's adoptive parents will dictate some of this, but for us, our son's birth parents are part of our family and we have so much love and respect for them, so anything that they feel like sharing with us is very welcome.

    4 agree
  7. I would want to have a letter on why the birth mother/birth parents gave my child up for adoption. I wouldn't read it but it would be nice to give the child when they grow up.
    My cousin was adopted and our aunt knew the birth mother. My cousin knows how many half-siblings she has, their names, and what happened to them.
    Another thing that would be good is a family tree.

    2 agree
  8. It's a really difficult one, because everyone has different expectations. It sounds like they're keen to include you as an important part of their sons life, so you should respond knowing that when he's older he'll be reading them. Share information about your own childhood that he wouldn't otherwise have access to ("his favourite food is cheese? My sisters favourite food was cheese when we were growing up!") Also feel free to put that you love him and that you're glad he has a wonderful family. You can even put how difficult it is to know what to write, but that you really want to write back so they and he have a measure of how you're feeling. You don't have to tell them every detail of your life, but you can go over aspects of who you are as a person so he can know you through the letters. It will help the adoptive parents understand thier son better too, if they know that his birth mother is artistic/organised/healthy etc.

    One thing to avoid, and I've spoken to birth mothers that did this completely unwittingly, is to undermine the adoptive family or assert themselves as the 'real' mother, you don't have to vet everything you write, but until they get to know you through your letters, tread carefully. Phrases like 'thanks for taking care of my son' or 'do you have any real children of your own' can be meant completely harmlessly but might come across as 'you are a glorified babysitter for my child' or 'my child is not really yours'. Adoptive parents know that their children have other parents out there, and mainly, they just want to know what you are like as a person, they want thier children to know that you do love them and that they didn't do anything wrong when adoption was chosen for them (from the horses mouth, as it were), and on a practical level they want to know your medical history, and if you have any other children who are siblings for thier one.

    4 agree
  9. (i'd be happy to get a letter saying exactly what your post says, it reinforces that you care about what is best for everyone, i suspect the needs from all directions will change now and then as time goes on and it's probably good to establish that open dynamic of checking in and adjusting accordingly)

    1 agrees
  10. My husband and I are planning on adopting, so this topic is interesting to me. It seems like when kids are first learning that other people are different from them, they focus a lot on "favorites"–favorite color, favorite food, favorite activities. So I would want to know those details to share with him when he's at that age. As a parent I would want to know if there were certain health issues or learning disabilities that run in the family so if those symptoms show up, I could more easily recognize the issue.

    1 agrees
  11. I'm adopted too and my adoption was closed so I did not learn anything about my birthmother till later in life. I think the most important thing that you can share is love. It really just depends on how much you are comfortable sharing. Keep it simple and remember not to underestimate yourself.

    2 agree
  12. I think it's great you are willing to be part of your son's life in this way. I don't know of an emotional level, but practically I would want to know about traits that can be inherited. For example, my kids may likely need braces for the same reason I did, and probably glasses too. I also believe musical talent runs in families.

  13. In our adoption we sent letters and updates and our daughters' first mom doesn't send anything back, at least not yet. When I wonder about her I worry about her physical and emotional well being, and I wish that I knew more about any particular desires she has for her girls and what if anything she is looking for and not getting from us. I want to know how she really is (I don't expect her to be anything in particular) and if there is anything I can do from my role that would make things better for her. If I were writing this comment to her I would open with those.

    But more broadly what I crave is an ongoing and increasingly strong connection with her that can eventually become a connection between her and her children. If I could make anything happen it would be a relationship that made room for my girls' to one day ask her the questions that only she can answer and for her to never wonder what is going on with them either – for her to be able to access any information she needs or wants about them to include visits and phone calls with them directly.

    That's the ideal open adoption I think. Not everyone can do it. I think your willingness to wonder what they want from you is a great sign and like others here have said, if I were in your son's adoptive parents' shoes I'd be thrilled just to know you wondered and to hear you ask.

    3 agree
  14. I was searching for my mother's birth mom for a while and I thought about this often. I wanted to know how she felt about the adoption process. What she hoped and dreamed my mother would become and have. Yeah I was interested in the day to day stuff, what she was like in HS, what she was doing now, favourite things . . etc. I felt like if I found her, I would just bombard her with questions. I really just wanted her perspective on how things went.

  15. My First Son is 17. I placed him for adoption at birth. I would write letters (at this point in your adoption) like you would to a friend that lives too far away to visit. I'd write about books you're reading, hobbies, jobs, friends. Most of the comments weere spot on in my opinion. I would write letters about how you're feeling regarding the adoption but hold onto them for now-especially if they are negative. Keeping the lines of communication open is vital. If you have any questions, you have my email address.

    2 agree
  16. I think a general overview of your own family history could be invaluable. Mention your own parents, grandparents or siblings and what jobs they've held, or schooling or trades. Any hobbies or skills or distinguishing characteristics, physical or otherwise ("Grandpa had red hair and worked in a hardware store, grandma sang in the church choir, my mom loves to garden.) I know I love hearing details like this in my own family. It's amazing how often these things have a genetic component and you can discover that you have everything in common with a relative you've never met. When your son is older, that connection to his birth family could have a lot of meaning for him. Kudos to you for doing this for your son.

  17. tell them :
    your story
    your favorite class and the classes you hated
    your favorite foods
    your taste in music
    the things that made you happy when you were little
    the things that make you sick how you act when you are sick
    anything that you know about your mom…
    anything you think makes you who you are
    your child will want to know these things…
    I know my little brother and sister would love to know these things about their birthparents and their birthgrandparents

    2 agree
  18. My fiance was adopted, and we have letters from her until he was in his late toddlerhood. I don't know why the letters stopped, but I can tell you things she shared. (Also – he has not met her, but has decided he wants to find her name and extend a wedding invite – thus leaving the ball in her court. He hasn't done much to do so yet, though).
    Pictures. We have her high school pictures and her wedding photo. He definitely has her chin.
    We know what high school she went to and that she was disappointed that because she had him, she graduated a year late (but she didn't give off a tone that she blamed him – just said she missed too much time during that year).
    We know that she was excited because her high school set her up with a local internship for business – which we found extremely interesting, because he went through business school and became an accountant. That's a little tidbit he didn't read until after he entered the program, and he had to laugh at it.
    We know she was excited when his birth father wanted to know how he was doing.
    The things that formed a similarity between the two of them were the things that he (and I) enjoyed the most. So anything you think your bio kid might have in common with you – favorites, hobbies, career choice, odd habits, etc.

    2 agree
  19. as an adopted child, now 27, i'd like to know the real story behind my adoption. i have very few details. i only know my birth mother was young, like 15/16 when she had me. i want to know if the adoption was a choice she made herself, or if it was forced upon her, how her family treated her, how the guy who got her pregnant treated her. i want to know how she felt about it all. i'd really like to know how she's doing now, if she's happy, and if she has any more kids (potential half-siblings!).

    i also want to know what nationality her family is, because i've always wondered about it. addtionally i would really like a family health history, so i know if there are health issues i need to be aware of for myself, and for when i decide to have kids.

    i REALLY REALLY REALLY want to know the details of my birth. was it induced? a c-section? how many interventions? easy labor, hard labor, how long? etc. i think it's important to know how i came into this world!

    and finally, i'd want to say, even if it wasn't her choice, but especially if it was, THANK YOU, for putting me up for adoption, because even though she couldn't raise me, i ended up with the most wonderful and amazing people for parents and i feel so thankful and blessed to have them in my life.

    4 agree
  20. I agree with so much everyone has so eloquently stated so far. We have two adopted children and both of their birth mothers selected us as the adoptive parents about half way thru the pregnancies. We were there for the births, too.

    We were fortunate to have a good deal of contact with our daughter's birth mother before our daughter was born. She is now 6 years old and the similarities between she and her birthmom are uncanny. We are still in contact with her and send photos, etc.

    We didn't have quite as much contact with our son's birthmom due to geographical distance but we kept in contact throughout the remainder of the pregnancy and were there for the birth, of course. Sadly, we have lost contact with her.

    I am so grateful every day to these two women who selected us to provide a better life for their babies than what they could have provided. I am grateful that I got to know these two women, got to know a little bit about their pasts, about their attitudes, and about their thoughts and feelings.

    1 agrees
  21. I have a copy of a letter my great-grandmother wrote to my great-aunt (neither of whom I ever met) from when great-g'ma placed g-aunt for adopion. It was sometime in the 1920s and great-g'ma wrote how much she loved her and how she trusted that g-aunt was being loved and cared for by her "new" family. A different situation than yours as there wasn't back-and-forth (as far as I know), but I wanted to share as I (quite far removed from their particular relationship) appreciate the letter as I feel it helps me to understand another piece about my family. I think your wondering about what your son and his adoptive family would like to know is lovely.

  22. I would say to offer as much family medical history as you can get together. That was something I was missing from my birth father's side when I had my second child and was bombarded with questions during the 'you're over the hill and pregnant' genetics doctor visit.

    I was adopted by my mother's second husband after she left my father when I was 1. He disappeared from my life and until recently I had no idea who was on that side of the family. I know my situation is not the same type of adoption as mentioned above, but I feel that bit of information is definitely something the children will appreciate when they are adults.

  23. Dear CG,

    All the advice here seems to hit the nail on the head. As an aside I'd just like to say how wonderful you are for giving the gift of parenthood. You have done something truly amazing.

    – AJ

  24. Have you been honest with the adoptive parents? Why not just say, "you know, this is a new experience for me, and I'm not sure how much or how little you want to know of my life, so one day you can share it with the baby that I gave you. Please let me know what you do want to know. Do you have any unanswered questions? Does my birth child have any behaviors or traits that make you wonder where they came from, if they were inherited…?". Be open and honest about the fact you don't know what to say… It may help to open the lines of communication.

    1 agrees
  25. As a birth mother in a very open adoption, I can tell you what we share. Our daughter is almost 10 now and she's mostly interested in my life, especially as a child. I've sent them baby pictures, little blurbs about what it was like to be me at her age, etc…

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