Adoptive Mother's Feelings Of Betrayal
I've been searching for more than 3 years for a support group for my particular issue. I hope I've found the right one. However, in reading the many posts here at, I've noticed that no one seems to have quite the problem I have.

My son, age 25 and in the Army, was adopted when he ws 3 days old. Yes, we are older adoptive parents, but we have loved our son since day one. Three years ago, while he was deployed to Iraq, I received a one line email from him stating, "can you send me the name of the adoption agency...the search". That was the beginning of a very downward spiral for his and my relationship.

We have always been out front and open about his adoption and answered all the age appropriate questions he's ever had. We told him everything truthfully, lovingly and supportively. Never did he ever exhibit the least bit of interest or desire to search for his birth mother until that email. After talking to my husband that day, we sent him the information he asked for, only to find out some days later that he had already....before emailing me asking for the agency....found the agency himself and had made contact with his birth mother through the agency who was holding a letter from her for him in case he ever contacted them. Needless to say, I was hurt and devastated, not because he even wanted to search, but for the way he went about it, totally behind my back. Since then, things have gotten worse. He has two step-sisters who he refers to as his sisters (he was our only child) and to make things truly worse, he took off the Christmas he arrived back from Iraq to go be with his birth family for the holidays. Since then, there are always posts back and forth on his Facebook between him and his birth mother, and she is always acting like his mother, giving advice and encouragement right after I do. In my mind, I see this as her trying to one up me. She even refers to him as her son.

When my son did this hurtful search and reconnection the way he did it, I felt something die inside of me. It took me no time to realize that there is no one out there in the world of adoption who is concerned or cares about the adoptive parents. When all this happened, I contacted the adoption agency and was told, in no uncertain terms, that he is 21 and he can do what he wants. AND they reiterated many times that their only concern in any adoption in order of importance is first the birth mother, second, the child, third the adoptive parents. We told them that we felt like we were nothing more than a walking ATM to them and that no one cares about us when we need caring about as much as the birth mother and child do, and especially when we are being told to just deal with whatever has happened because our child has a right to do what he did.

Over the last 3 years, my own relationship with my son has become very fragile. I know there are adoptive parents who claim they are okay with their child searching and reconnecting and even support this, but I don't feel the same way. Maybe its because of the way my son did this that's really torn us apart, but I need someone to talk to about this before I lose my mind. I still love my son, but I no longer crave his presence or even care if I see him. Looking at him reminds me of what he did and how he now has this other family that is clearly important enough to him to call them his sisters, and maybe he even calls his birth mother Mom....I don't know. I've asked him, but he's a good liar and I don't believe him when he says he only calls her by her name. I have told him that I am hurt and that this has affected our relationship in ways he cannot begin to imagine. He tells me I'm being stupid. I've told him that, had he ever just come to us and presented his wishes to find his birth mother, that we would have been supportive and would have hoped he'd want to share meeting her and her family with us. He just laughed me off and said that if he wanted to go see them, he'd just go....he didn't need us to do that.

So, he has just been returned again from a second Iraq deployment and spent his leave at home with us. But I didn't enjoy one minute of it, knowing that he has so much going on behind our backs with his birth family. I literally couldn't wait till he returned to base. When he did this to us three years ago, I literally had anxiety issues that I've never had before and had to be under a doctor's care for it. Whenever my son is around me now, I am filled with this anxiety again and need to reach out to my medication, just to deal with the affects his actions have taken on my heart. As I said, deep inside I love my son, but I feel so much has died as a result of his actions, culminating in my feelings of rejection and being pushed to the background of his life. My husband feels the same in some ways, but not nearly as deeply as I do. Afterall, it wasn't his birth father he secretly searched for, it was his birth mother, and therefore affected me more deeply.

I don't know what I really need. Maybe I'm just hoping that someone on this forum has had similar issues that they have dealt with. I have searched my soul and I am sure I'm not feeling anger as much as I am hurt by what he has so callously done to this family. If there's anyone out there who knows what I'm feeling, I sure would love to have some feedback and support.
Hi Vtwisher
I just read your post and I am so sorry to hear you are going through this. I was adopted when I was 6 months by 2 awesome people my mom and dad. My parents were also always very open and honest about being adopted.
Usually each adopted child has an over load of unsolved questions with answers that only their Biological families can provide. When I was of age to find out any information I went to the adoption agency but I told my Mom and Dad (adoptive) what I was doing. They were VERY supportive of my decision. The adoption agency required me to write a letter to my birthmom and honestly I explained to her that I had many questins but I love her for her decision that she made and my parents are the ones who raised me and got up with at night when sick and stuck by me through everything in life. I met my mom and oh how much we look alike! My Biological Mom is always going to be my mom too! Its so hard to understand if you have not been adopted. You feel so many emotions and have so many questions while growing up. Some days you don't even know who you are. No matter how happy or great your childhood is these feelings and questions are on your mind alot especially when life changing events come up. The birth of your own child especially is one where you want information (medical) especially to give those answers to your children etc. Grant it I told my parents before searching of my plans etc BUT I was also very afraid and concerned about their reaction and hurt through this process. Your son may have been seeking your support when he opened the door asking about the adoption agency etc (I don't know). I know when I searched it was so important for me to get these answers but I was very worried of hurting my adoptive parents. Lucky for me they always told us if we ever wanted to meet our Biological families they would support our decisions etc.
I also see the other side the biological side too. I started doing foster care and I have met some very awesome families. When the painful decision comes where the children cannot be reunified the heartwrenching pain that the biological families feel is unbearing to see them go through. Rather they voluntarily place their children or the courts order TPR they are always going to be Mom and Dad too!
I hope one day you can overlook your sons decision to do this behind your back so to say and be supportive and welcome his extended family into your family too!
If I can answer anything for you PM me. Sending hugs and prayers to your family!
I'm so sorry you're struggling with this. I hope you can find someone that you can talk to (maybe professionally?) So that you can start to rebuild a relationship with your son. I debated replying, because I don't want it to come across like I'm not validating how you feel or defending your son. I also haven't walked in your shoes. I'm an adoptive parent, but our situations are very different-my son is just 11 months old, and as we have an open adoption, so he won't need to find his birth family some day. He has a picture of his firstmom and her daughter (who we call his sister) in his nursery-so very different perspective. But I do know how strange it is that there is another woman who is also his mother. It's one of those parts of adoption that we know that hose outside the adoption world don't experience.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to get an email from Iraq about something so important (when I'd imagine you were already full of emotions about his deployment) or to find out he'd already found his birthmom. Yes, absolutely there could've been a better way, but a lot of us tend to make mistakes with sensitive subjects. And maybe he was 25 and a soldier, but still just an immature kid maybe when talking about serious topics with his parents (I'm 41 and still have times when I need to talk to my dad about something and feel 15!) he handled it wrong. But you can't change that now. You're going to have to find a way to forgive that if you're going to be able to rebuild your relationship with him. Maybe he was afraid to tell you Because he thought it would hurt you (I realize he hurt you anyway), especially if you'd never talked about him searching one day. Maybe he intended to hide it (to protect you) and once he found the agency decided he needed to let you know and shot off he email. Again, not handled the right way, but what is done is done.

I've read enough on here from adults who were adopted to know that their desire to find their birth parents is totally separate/ has nothing to do with how they feel about their adoptive parents. And my experience with my 36 year-old cousin, who found her birthmom and her sister in her 30s, supports that as well. It's possible to have the same love, same closeness with your adoptive parents post reunion...and I hope that you and your son are able to get there.

I cannot imagine the hurt, But he is still your son. Please talk to someone so that you can move past how this all happened and not miss any more quality time wih your son. You all are in the next phase of relationship-the two adults instead of parent child-and I love that phase with my dad! It doesn't mean that I don't make decisions and choices that he doesn't like, but it does mean we have to navigate how we accept each other regardless--Nd seeing his respect for me as an adult-even when I choose outside of what he would want-In additioN to his live for me As his child is priceless! Your son needs you, and you've earned this! Good luck to you.
Many times a life event is what triggers the need to actually resolve questions. Deploying to Iraq to me would be a huge life event knowing there was a chance he would not return. Having your mortality hit you in the face as a young adult would be massively triggering. Having my mortality slap me in the face in my early 40's almost did me in - I cannot imagine how it would have been in my early 20's or how I would have reacted.

Your child may also have read non-verbal cues from you telling him you wouldn't be comfortable - they could be valid or not, but it would have been what he felt. Tough situtation to be in as an adoptee not wanting to hurt his parents who he loves very much - and I can guarantee you that the wish not to hurt you is in the majority, how could it not be when your parents are loving and kind. Hard to talk about it. Can you remember whether you ever discussed his searching as a child?

For what its worth - quite often the relationship improves after all the secrets are gone if both want that. Mom always told me that forgiveness is key to peace and happiness. I think you need to determine exactly what you feel he has done wrong, and see if it was done deliberately to hurt you.

Kind regards,
My kids are still small, so I don't know how much insight I have as a parent, but your post made me think back to when I was in my early 20s. I am not adopted, fwiw. But when I was in my early 20s I NEVER would have discussed important personal stuff with my mother. Maybe because it was important to me to be forming an independent identity from my parents. Maybe because I feared her disapproval about some of the choices I was making. Whatever the reason, it had nothing to do with how close I was with her. I was, and remain, extremely close with my mother. But I wasn't a kid anymore, and I felt it was important to keep myself a bit distant.

All of this to say, that it seems to me to be very age-appropriate for a 21 year old to be making choices like this without talking to you. While you see it as a family issue -- and I understand that -- to him it's a personal issue about his identity and his past. And 21 year olds aren't always the best at empathy and understanding that one's actions impact others.
While I understand that ideally you would have liked/preferred for your son to be open with you about his search/reunion, I think for many adoptees, it really is a personal journey and being an adult when he made this decision, it was really his choice. Do you think he intentionally meant to hurt you? I'm not getting that from what you wrote. I think he probably had a lot of conflicting feelings and worries and loyalty issues that made it hard to include you. And I agree with Dickons that he could have been picking up on some subconscious or non-verbal cues that as much as you were open with him, you would not be comfortable with the reality of his search/reunion and I'm not convinced that including you would have you feeling much differently, even though I know you are hurt by that. I hope it doesn't sound like I'm blaming you, because I'm not, and I understand you are upset. Reunion brings up all sorts of unresolved issues and feelings in everyone. Perhaps you are displacing your anger onto your son rather than looking inside at some of these more intense emotions. A good therapist can help you work through these feelings.

Looking at him reminds me of what he did and how he now has this other family that is clearly important enough to him to call them his sisters, and maybe he even calls his birth mother Mom....I don't know. I've asked him, but he's a good liar and I don't believe him when he says he only calls her by her name.

I know it's hard, but try not to see this as a competition. You raised your son and nobody can replace you as the mother who raised him. However, your son's birth mother is also his mother. Not his mother in the sense of being his everyday parent, but one of his mothers nonetheless. Signing over your legal rights to your child does not negate your motherhood, no matter what the agencies or society says. And who would honestly want to obliterate another woman's motherhood so they could become a mother?

I come from this from a different angle, too, as a mother (I tend not to qualify my motherhood by using prefixes like "birth" or "first") who was in a semi-open adoption with my son and his parents. I am now in reunion. I don't know to what extent he discusses me with them. It's really none of my business, as that is between my son and his folks. I do hope to meet his parents some day, when I feel ready to do so and so long as he and his parents wish for this as well. I'll be very honest here and say that as a grown man, I really am glad my son didn't have his parents involved in our reunion. I have always felt positively about his parents, but nevertheless, I believe reunion, at least initially, should really be between the adoptee and the family members he or she is reconnecting with. For the same reason, I have not gotten anyone else in MY family involved in our reunion at this point. This type of involvement, even if it's only letting others be privy to the details of the search and reunion, can often complicate matters (for instance, if you don't know if the reunion will be successful, you may hold off on telling anyone so as not to get hopes up, etc. or have people constantly asking questions about it).

My son does occasionally refer to me as "mom" and I've always called him my son because that is what he is. When we first reunited, I asked him if he was OK with that, because if he wasn't, I wouldn't refer to him as my son in front of him, but when referring to him to friends or family, he is my son, period. This is really something you cannot control in another person, how they refer to another loved-one. When his parents and I were communicating over the years, they said something so lovely to me. They said "You can and should consider yourself his Number One Mom." I was blown away by that, by their generosity of spirit. At the same time, I also wanted to make clear to my son's mother that in no way do I feel I can ever replace her in my son's life, but I was very touched by her willingness to see me as a Mother in my own right. I did not expect my son to call me "mom" or think of me as his mom. He most often does not call me "mom" but every once in awhile he will, or he will say things like "I have two moms" and that truly is the reality.

Having said that, I don't know how it would be for his mom to see all this laid out on Facebook. I try not to give my son "motherly advice," but sometimes I think I do. Once he told me "chill out mom" and I knew I was being overly-worried about something. I would not want my son's mom to be upset by this, and I don't know that I'd put all that out on FB or "rub it in her face," but I'm not going to act differently towards my son in terms of how the two of us relate in our personal relationship.

How your son conducts himself with his birth mother or what he is comfortable calling her or his other family members is really his decision to make at this point. I'm sure it's much easier to deal with in theory than it is in actual practice. A few things to keep in mind is that the intensity of early reunion won't always be so intense and the feelings will die down. You will always be family, but you are really risking alienating him by not working through the issues that have come up for you (i.e. jealousy, feeling displaced, etc.). These are all normal feelings, but it's affecting the way you see your son and I'm afraid if not handled correctly, you will either drive your son away or put him in a position where he will feel he has to choose between his two families.

If you have not had any contact with his biological family, I imagine this is all the more intense for you. I had a comfort level with my son's parents and they knew me at least somewhat through pictures and letters sent over the years. I think this made it much easier for everyone to feel comfortable with the fact that my son has more than one family.

I would highly recommend speaking with someone, a counselor, or therapist, and someone preferably versed in adoption issues. A triad support group might also be very beneficial for you to help understand what everyone goes through in reunion. I'm really surprised at your agency's response to you. My agency facilitates support groups for all members of the triad going through search and reunion.

ETA: I re-read your post and wanted to come back to this:

Since then, there are always posts back and forth on his Facebook between him and his birth mother, and she is always acting like his mother, giving advice and encouragement right after I do. In my mind, I see this as her trying to one up me. She even refers to him as her son.

Rather than seeing it as "one-upmanship" is it possible that your son's birth mother is simply on the same page as you and is trying to be inclusive rather than antagonistic? I'm not sure why you are putting a negative spin on that. Perhaps if you could give some examples, that would be helpful. In terms of referring to him as her son, what should she call him? I sent my son a Christmas card this year (to his parents house, nonetheless) that was a "son" card and talked about what a blessing it is to have a son like him. It has nothing whatsoever to do with trying to "one up" his mom or disrespect her in any way. It's not even about her at all. It's about my feelings for my son and what it means to me to be reunited. I would really try to come to terms with this. It can only help you in the long run, as if you son marries, he will have yet ANOTHER family (in-laws), who will also love him and hopefully think of him as a son.
I am not in your shoes but I have that same feeling of betrayal and have been searching for two years for somewhere to get a grip on it. I found this site today.

In my case, my husband had a one night stand that resulted in a pregnancy. He had no relationship with his daughter. He had seen her a couple of times. The mom got married and my husband had signed over his parental rights so her husband could adopt his daughter.

My husband had married. His wife had two daughters when they married and they had one together. They divorced after 5 years.

I had four kids when we married and we have one together. We had done such a great job at blending our families. They all are brothers and sisters, including his two stepdaughters. I was always very proud of how well we did. We never gave any of the kids any preferential treatment because of their biology. Biology was never even brought up in our family. It had gotten to the point that my husband's ex took my kids to her house and my ex included my stepdaughters when he took the kids camping or fishing. Both exes bought birthday presents for our son.

Fast forward to two years ago. All of the kids except the one we have together are grown and some have children of their own. One of the stepdaughter's from his first marriage has kids now and her kids call me Grandma. All of the grandkids are cousins. They don't even know about biology and who has who's DNA. It's never been an issue, EVER.

His daughter that he gave up found him two years ago. She was 30 at the time and married with two kids. Initially, I was very excited. It didn't last long. Through all of these years, whenever I would ask about his daughter or why he wasn't curious about her, my husband would shrug it off. He just said he trusted her mother and if it was ever right, she would find him. I had pushed a little more after our son was born and I had done some searching myself but didn't have any luck. I had let it go and hadn't thought about it in quite awhile.

My husband became a stranger to me when she came into our lives. EVERYTHING became about biology. They would make plans for outings or dinners or pictures that included my husband, my stepdaughter and her husband, our son together, and her family. They didn't include my children or our other two stepdaughters. There were SO many things that went on that blew my mind that my husband either participated in or sat on the sidelines and let happen.

The emotions that went with all of that were devastating. To me, it was a deep level of betrayal. He betrayed our children, our family, and me. It's hard to find anyone who understands how deep that betrayal is. I have been going to counseling. There are times that I think I just want to leave. It would be so much easier than dealing with the feelings that I'm dealing with.

I think that's why you feel the distance with your son. It's easier than these horrible feelings of betrayal. On an intellectual level, I know that my husband loves me and that your son loves you. I know neither of them took the actions they did with any intention of hurting us. I know they let their emotions run away with them without any comprehension of the fall out from them.

One thing that I have accepted is the feelings of betrayal. Whether intentional or not, I had fundamental values that I thought we shared and when that was violated, it was no different to me than if he slept with another woman.

This is probably where you and I part ways. This is my husband and that is your son. Our choices on how to address this aren't the same. I do recommend the counseling, though. The counselor I see did her thesis on adopted children reuniting with biological parents. She has given me a lot of perspectives to help somewhat understand from my husband's and his daughter's point-of-view. She has validated me, too, and helped with ways to move forward.

A side note: She calls my husband Dad. It drives me crazy and it seems so disrespectful to the man that has been her dad. She refers to him as her adopted dad. That's just WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. I don't think that a man that has been her father for so many years should have any qualifiers before his name. He should just be Dad. My husband should be Biological dad. My husband is so proud that she calls him Dad and he feels ENTITLED to that. He's also WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

I would really love to hear back from you. As much as we are coming from different perspectives, I think the emotions are very similar.
I am so sorry that you are hurting.

I have also hesitated about posting because my experience is not the same as yours. I am the adoptive mother of a 5 year old boy. We have a completely open adoption. That doesn't mean my son has another parent, it just means that he knows his birth mom. He has been to her house and he sees her a few times year.

I have had to integrate the idea of the "other mother" into my life from the very beginning. I had to learn to accept at the beginning that I am the mom who is a parent, who is shaping his life, his values, making decisions about everything including his education, where he livves and what he eats. but I am not the mother who shares his genes and who carried him. That woman will have a relationship with him throughout his life as well. I don't yet know that that relationship will be, and I don't know who he will identify with most when he is an adult. It is my hope that he will see us as 2 whole people, 2 real mothers, who make up the whole of what it means to be a mother for him.

I can't imagine what it would be like to have to come to a new mindset after raising your child to adulthood. I don't know if it is possible or not. Reading this might seem like s stab in the a person like me is not really a real mom. but I do feel every bit like my son's real mom. I had to make room in my heart for his birth family in order for me to have peace and to try and help my son navigate through his adoption experience. I hope that perhaps this is helpful in some way. To see that letting something new in does not mean losing anything that you already have.

I hope you can find peace in your heart about this and that you and your son can move forward in your relationship.
Like most people, I've hesitated to respond, because I'm not sure if my input will be helpful. My son is only 8 months, and his bparents have chosen not to have much contact right now (I send updates, but that's all), so I haven't been through what you're going through. I am not an adoptee, so my perspective is a little different, but I think I may understand a little of what your son has gone through.

I was raised by my mom and her family with almost no contact with my father's family growing up. My mom was always open about and to that side of my family, and actually tried to keep us connected with grandparents to some extent, but it wasn't the same as with her family. I have no interest in contacting my father (I know him well enough that I am very careful not to let information get to him). However, especially since starting my adoption journey, I have had a lot of interest in getting to know some of his family. I don't remember many of them well, but I know names and have found some of them on facebook, even if I haven't connected. I haven't talked about this with my mom. I have no idea how to, and I worry about how she would react. I've always been so much a part of my mom's family, I don't know that she would understand why I wanted this, and I worry that she would feel exactly the betrayal that you've talked about. However, it isn't about her. It's about me and who I am, which includes where I came from, and wanting a connection with that. Everybody has the right to a connection with all their families, and I agree that it could be very damaging to the relationship to not accept that, however difficult it is. I'm in my 30's and I'm a counselor, and I still haven't a clue how to talk to my mom about this one particular subject. I can only imagine how hard it must be for your son to navigate as a man in his 20s going through some other major life stressors like deployment.

I know it's hard, but try giving both yourself and your son a break in this. He probably didn't mean to hurt you, but you were hurt anyway. He has likely been hurt, too, even though that was not your intent. You are both going to make mistakes in this process, and that's okay. You're doing exactly the right thing by talking about it and getting support.
I am sorry you are feeling this way, it must be miserable for you and your family.

What do you want your relationship with your son to be like now?

Or in the future, especially during your sons life events that may come up like graduation, marriage, kids, purchase of a new home, celebrations of accomplishments?

Is there anything, anything at all, that he could do now to help you feel better?
I don't have experience with this, I'm just sorry that you're so hurt. I did want to say that I have had two friends return from military service, and for one it was a very positive, affirming experience. The other came back and immediately had marital and job problems. I would guess that being in Iraq is a huge stressor, and perhaps he's dealing with many things that have nothing to do with you or the woman who gave birth to him. I wish all of you peace and healing.
I understand this better then I'd like to. I adopted a sibling group from foster care. I kept in contact with siblings who had contact with birthmom. I remeber the Easter the twins turned 17 and announced on Easter morning that instead of going to grandmas with us, they were going to their birth mother's for Easter. I was devasted.

I've tried hard over the last few years to respect that they have 2 families. Except they don't. All 3 of these boys are in the army. One of them died in December. The birthfamily attempted to claim the body(they couldn't). I made every attempt to include the birthfamily in the funeral arrangements. They showed up but contributed nothing. I made sure the photo display the funeral home did included pictures off both families. My friends paid all the expenses.

However, the birthfamily had a friend on the funeral honor guard who agreed to ignore army protocol. When the flag was removed from his coffin, it was handed not to me, but to his birth mother. (The army did retrieve the flag and the soldier was disiciplined for his actions)

I feel like I spent my lifetime babysitting other people's children. I wanted to be a mother and I loved my children with everything I have within me. But I wasn't the mother they wanted and never will be.

I do resent his other family-right or wrong, I do. The other mother will be grandma to my grandchildren. I'd like to say it's a sharing thing, there's enough love blah blah-and before my son's funeral, I tried to convince myself that was the reality-that there were no sides.

There are sides and it is painful and it leaves lots of egg shells to walk on as an adoptive parent as you never know quite where you stand. And no one gets it.
Sending ((HUGS)) your way!! You gotten such great input here. I will say that to this day my Aparent do not know I searched and found. Sometimes Adoptees feel like they are not being loyal to their aparents if they search. That was not my case, there were other factors why I did not tell them. Just know that no matter what you raised your son and nothing can ever change that or the love you have for him.
I am worried my adoptive mother will react the same way you did. I am 47 years old and have felt a disconnect with my adoptive parents for years. I am nothing like them, so I wanted to find out my heritage and meet my bioparents before they die. I had a wonder life and great opportunities, but something has been missing all these years. My younger brother's Biological mom found him and my mother did have a nervous break down, so that is why I have been apprehensive to let my parents know that I have adoption issues. I have seen a professional, but my parents are unaware.
My point is....How to we let our adoptive parents know that we have the need to know about ourselves and it has nothing to do with how we were raised or for lack of love for out parents?
There's a big difference between being okay with our kids searching, lending them support etc. and our own feelings about it all.

Just like a lot of adoptees say their search has nothing to do with their love for their aparents, often our feelings in regards to the bfamilies or how the search is done etc. has nothing to do with our love for our kids.

Sometimes aparents really get a crappy end of the deal during/after reunion and need support for it. It's not talke about that much because after all, there's a mindset amongst many that we are just supposed to shut up and support our kids during reunion, no matter what.

Doesn't mean there aren't feelings about it though. kwim?

Reunion is tricky for many reasons and I wish everyone had far more support and information/mediation when going into it.
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