Unanswered (revised)

On Mother’s Day we called Sam’s birth mom, first mom, Tea.

He heard her voice for the first time, on the voice mail.

She hasn’t called back yet.

In my mind I have written any number of stories around it; It was too much for her. She was angry. She was hurt. She was unprepared for hearing his voice for the first time.

None of these may be true.

He asked me yesterday if we could call her back.

No, I replied, let’s her give a chance to call us back when it is a good time for her to talk.

Minutes later he scratched a deep line into the kitchen table with the back of his fork.


After posting this last night, I received a very thoughtful response off line from a professional in the field. They read the post, know our family in a much larger capacity than this blog alone. Their words paraphrased; “This must be one of the hardest parts of an open adoption relationship-managing expectations and needs concerning the birth mother. Especially when you don’t know her wants and needs. How can you protect Sam from potentially experiencing this rejection all over again. How do you talk to him about WHY he is reaching out and wants to talk to her, and provide expectations for him?” Then she went on to pose questions that allowed be to be reflective about some of his very testing behavior since then.

This is so hard to manage!  Is a “set up” now better than, a “set up” later? Can you compare the two? How do I know when this is too much for him, or too much for her? What part of my grief and longing in the last two days has been related to all of this? this conversation is wildly helpful to me. This is why we have this community.

What would you add to this conversation? How have you managed this piece as a parent, an adoptee, or a birth mom?


  1. Hopefully, the right time will present itself, and she will give Sam a ring. Putting this whole experience into perspective, Sam did a very brave thing. He felt the need to reach out, and I think, that maybe when she has had a little time to digest his maturity, his innate curiosity, his huge heart, she will be able to put aside any fears that she might have of connecting with him.

    Best of luck!

  2. Well first, kudos to you for knowing your son well enough not to flip out about him scratching his fork into the table. I am no therapist but that act is sending him the message that you love and understand him – I know when I was a child dealing with the anxst of my Dad’s inconsistent presence in my life following my parents divorce, I often felt like my mother would just react to me rather than trying to understand me. As for his birth mom, if this is a repeat thing, maybe you need to revisit the terms of the open adoption. It’s only going to get more and more difficult for him to understand her inconsistency in his life and I think he should be spared… at least while he is still small. I would invite her to engage in a dialogue about whether she would rather the communication be limited to email pictures or updates from you to her – that way she still remains a part of his life but he is spared the disappointment. I am drawing from my own sense of abandoment when I was Sam’s age and it hurts me to think that he is feeling it despite all the amazing love he has from his amazing mom and family.

  3. Tiara,

    You are amazing. Of course on all my focus on Sam, and the process, and her possible feelings..I never considered something as clear as “can we talk about what you would like/are available for” with her. Our only discussion about “it” being the relationship was at the hospital when he was one day old.

    I so appreciate your personal connection, and willingness to share it here.

  4. I’ve heard that this happens. Openness seems like the best way, but what if the birthmom wants more space? Where does that leave everyone? I guess the reality is that the openness relationship can be unpredictable and fragile.

    I wonder if mention to Sam that while your birthmom may not be able to reply right now for her own reasons, you will always be there for him. You are his everyday, always can be counted on mom. Don’t think this will take the pain away but in the case that he feels insecure. he’ll know he won’t ever be going elsewhere.

    Just a thought. We could well go through this.

  5. Oh – me again.

    Also what your friend above said about Sam’s courage. When you out yourself out there like that, there’s always a risk of disappointment.

    I might add that that was pretty brave of you too!

  6. I am a birthmomma and we have not reached this stage in our relationship where Ladybug would call me on her own. She is just over 9 months old now. My birthmomma perspective tells me that perhaps Sam’s birthmom is overwhelmed and didn’t know how to handle a conversation. Perhaps it hurt too much. Perhaps she was afraid that she would say the wrong thing and upset Sam, or you. Perhaps she wanted to know so much about Sam and his world that she feared she would never know enough and figured that it would be easier to just keep that door shut.

    However, speaking from my experiences as a mother (my older two children are 11 and 9) to children whose “father” is unavailable and a daughter whose own father was also absent… I say be honest. If you tell Sam that it might make her sad to talk to him because she loves him so very much, but couldn’t be his momma, he will understand that. I have been very careful to never build expectations for my children about how their father may or may not behave. As a teenager, I figured out for myself that my father was excellent at making promises, and then even more excellent at not ever following through with them.

    I do think that talking to Sam’s birthmom about what her expectations are and what she needs would be a good place to start, if you haven’t already. Open adoption is such a work-in-progress that even after everything has been discussed and decided, it all changes. Encourage her to be honest with you as well, and to share the hard stuff. I think in the end it makes everything easier.

    • Thank you for your words–you have put a very important letter in motion. I am not happy with the wording yet–getting closer. Your experience is always appreciated here. You have given me new ways into this piece.
      I have always been dead on honest with #1 about all of this. I think the piece I missed here was cautioning him ahead of time about the possibility that she might not choose to respond. But, we have talked about why she might not have returned our call. And we have talked about how great it felt to leave her our message of love, even if she was not able to call us back right now.

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