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My Mom Gave Up a Baby Before I Was Born

Dear Megan,

I just found out yesterday that my mom gave up a baby 6 years before I was born. I am 20. Mom was raped and gave the baby up, and everyone in my family had known about this and never told us. I have been in shock the first two days of knowing but I feel sick and I feel like my family will never be the same again.  At first I was excited to find out I had a half sibling out there who wanted contact but now that I know more about her I’m not so sure.  My family was so perfect before this and now I feel like I don’t know my parents or anyone in my family.  I don’t know what to do. – W.R.

Dear W.R.,

You’ve been through an incredible shock, and it takes time to process all of these emotions and questions.  Everyone’s process is different, and there are a few things I hope you will keep in mind as you work through this.  Much of this you probably already know, but hopefully it will be a good reminder.   

Your parents and family are not perfect 

There is no such thing as perfect.  It doesn’t exist.  Your family was never perfect, just perfect for you.  I suspect that you all love, respect, and stand by each other.  Don’t give up on that just because you’ve learned something new about your mom and yourself.  As you continue to grow into adulthood, you will get to know your parents as adults, as human beings.  They are not perfect, and you wouldn’t want them to be!  Just because your mom gave up a baby before you were born doesn’t make her a different person.  She is still your mom.

This is really hard for your mom too 

Telling your loved ones about a child  you placed for adoption is incredibly difficult.  This is especially true if you learned about it from someone else.  I’m sure your mother always intended to tell you but was waiting for the right time.  Finding the right time is really, really hard.

Women who place babies for adoption live with a ton of grief, loss, guilt, and shame.  Most women never get over it; they just learn to cope.  Many are judged throughout their entire lives for making this incredibly difficult decision (whether it was a rape or not and it really doesn’t matter).  Frequently, family and friends don’t want to talk about the baby or the adoption.  Many times they just don’t know what to say, and so they say nothing.  As a result, birth mothers have to bury their experience and pretend it never happened.  The pain this causes can be crippling and unbearable. 

I suspect your mom is afraid you will judge her and be ashamed of her for what she did.  Show her that you love and support her.  I believe she deserves this from you, regardless of how or when you found out about your half-sibling. 

Show your mom unconditional love and support (which I suspect she has shown you), and ask her to tell you her story.  Be a really good listener, and try not to judge.  It could be really helpful to hear from her why your mom gave up a baby before you were born.  Give yourself some time to process this and to adjust, and be supportive and loving.  What an amazing way to grow closer to your mother.  As you go through your life and make your own difficult decisions and, yes, mistakes, you will have the advantage of a close and honest relationship with your mom.  

You decide if you want a relationship with your half-sister

You do not have to invite your half-sister into your life.  None of you do.  She is not your responsibility, and you don’t owe her anything.  I believe she has a right to know that she has half siblings, but now that she knows, you all can choose to move on with or without her. 

I suggest you tell her that you are glad to know you have a half-sibling but that you aren’t ready for contact with her.  Tell her that you will reach out if you want contact in the future and that you don’t want her to contact you until that time.  Then block her on all social media, etc.    Don’t engage in any dialogue with her.  It will only upset you more.  Focus on your mom.

Give your mom the gift of compassion 

While I know this feels like a huge disruption in your life, and that it might even feel like a betrayal, try to remember what matters most.  Your mom loves you and is afraid of how this will impact the family as well, I’m sure.  It would be a huge gift if you could show her compassion and that this information makes you all stronger as a family. 

You will  get through this tough time together and will grow closer as a result.  Life will have many more curve balls.  I hope that you will  face them all together with love and support.  In my opinion, that’s the perfect family. 

Best of luck to you and your family!  I’ll be thinking of you in the coming days as you process this new information, and I hope this was helpful.  All my best, Megan

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Sincerely,

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Megan Cohen, Birth Attorney

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