Mirror Images, Meet the Parents


My “Real” Mom, 1979

You have my face”. These were the first words I blurted out to my biological mother the day we met. It was shocking to finally meet her and thus meet someone who looked like me.It wasn’t I looked a little like her. I stared in stunned silence at my mirror image. Were it not for the fact I colored my hair and didn’t worship the sun, we would have passed for sisters.My mother and I are the same generation being only 16 years apart in age.

Meet the Parent!

You might have guessed I am adopted (Family Ties, Part II/), and I met my biological mother. What may come as a surprise is what else I found; my mother and father married after my birth and had five more children before divorcing. She dropped that bombshell at our first meeting. I felt like my head was going to explode or my heart would stop. I wasn’t  sure what to do with the information; it certainly wasn’t what I expected to hear. The only emotion I had for weeks, even months was, how surreal.

For months our relationship was comparable to the beginning of a new romance. Wanting to know about the other one, who they are and what they like. It was strange and oft times rocky, as romances are want to be. Neither of us was mature enough to understand our motives or emotions so our relationship floundered horribly. Both of us ended up wounded and disappointed in the other; unable to find the balance needed to sustain a healthy relationship we wounded each other and eventually drifted apart.

Our failures, looking back were mutual though unspoken. For my mother her need to re-parent me was dominant. I was in my early twenties, grown and angry parenting was the last thing I wanted from anyone. I had parents, they had failed me miserably, why would I want another parent, especially someone I didn’t know and who had fundamentally failed me once already. I was if nothing else terribly judgmental.

My mother carried a great deal of guilt for giving me up and she wanted forgiveness. Intellectually I understood the circumstances. I spoke the words more than once; even tried to make her understand I did not blame her. Nevertheless, looking back there was a thread of anger through our relationship  partly driven by her guilt and partly driven by my terrible hurt, they married and had more children!

Nature – v – Nurture

When I consider this question in light of my tangled roots I think we are an amalgamation

wikipedia image

of many things combined to create the whole person. My mother was told by a Channeler when she found me she would meet the daughter most like her. Boy was he wrong! I was most like her only in appearance, in all other aspects I was very dissimilar. I suspect this was a horrible disappointment. In one of our more acrimonious discussions I told her she had given up the right to parent me, I had parents and their values, mores and ethics had formed me Thank God. Yes, I said that, it was cruel and looking back it was also unnecessary.

Truthfully? I always saw bits of my mother in me, more than the mirror image. There were times when my mother would say or do something and I would think, that is where that comes from that is why I do that. Those times would stun me into silence.

There were days I wanted desperately to be like my mother so she would love me, so she would like me so she would embrace me and even nurture me. I found in the end I was to stubbornly formed already by what had gone before and could not shift my core to become who she needed. In seeking her I sought the mother I had not had, I know this now. In unconsciously rejecting her conditions I began to embrace who I would become but lost the opportunity to know her and for her to know me.

I haven’t seen or spoken to my biological mother in over ten years. I wouldn’t even know where to begin healing the rift.

My friend and fellow blogger recently wrote Nurture Strength which provides great insight into the Nature -v – Nurture argument. I hope you will read it.

More to come on the oddities of Nature –v- Nurture, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters oh my !


  1. So powerful and honest. This bit especially: “I was to stubbornly formed already by what had gone before and could not shift my core to become who she needed.”
    Such a complicated relationship summed up so well, it lingers, as I imagine does the pain.

    • Complicated, yes. My first mother and I have begun to put our relationship back together since the writing of Mirror Image, mostly because my youngest brother read it and said we needed to repair.

      It is a better, more mature relationship now.

  2. Would you do me a solid and change your ping from here to the new addy? http://mommasmoneymatters.com/nurture-strength
    Thanks, chica!

  3. Raven of Leyla says:

    In my family of 11 children there are several with different fathers and mothers, one adopted by my father…talk about a strange thing. Some of them have taken years to get to know us…the 3-5 oldest children. Some have told me I was never home, not remembered at all. My Mom left us all when I was 11 and brought some back years later…LOL Sometimes my Mom doesn’t recall what school I went to or that I was around at the time. I think the dynamics of any family even the adopted can be strained to say the least.
    I had no idea you are adopted, it must be difficult to have that relationship be this way. It feels like you still want more through it and why not!
    All I can say is follow your heart 😉

    • I try, believe me. But sometimes it is more difficult than others. I laugh sometimes at the three legged stool my mothers created –

      My DNA and many of my overt mannerisms
      My Heart (StepMother)
      My Strength (adoptedmother)

      They don’t know I would guess they ties that bind them together.

      Since I wrote this one of my natural siblings wrote me a private note to say, it is time to set aside old hurts. He is right.

  4. While the internet has made it much easier for people to become more educated about the complications of life caused by adoption, as a society we still have such a long way to go.
    I always advise people that they have to educate themselves when preparing for a reunion of any sort. The emotions are just so intense and the mire that one must wade through is so strong. Guilt, shame, joy, jealously, acceptance, fear, rejection, expectations..it’s all there and like rapid fire emotional juggling.
    Still, every person, adopted or not, has a human right to know their own truth, to find their own chapter one, and know the people from which they came from. Even if it not the happy ending one envisions, it is better to now than to fear. The truth is the only real thing we have.
    And of course, in the US, the laws and the profit driven adoption industry still do not make it easier. Anyone affected by adoption is invited to join the Adoptee Rights Demonstration in Chicago this August. Maybe one day every Adoptee in this country can have the choice to find their own truth.

    • While I will always agree with the principle adoptees should know more than I originally knew, outcomes aren’t always wonderful in finding biological parents. I think you have defined several of the emotions and one of the key problems (profit) quite well.

  5. I’ve never called anyone ma or mum ,but i have known a woman i called ‘Madam’…who did the job of my mother till she passed away when I was five years old .My Great Grandmother….She was just known as ‘Madam’ partly due to her ternacity and stubborn proudness ..

    Later on in years I was 16 and half when I accidently found a letter while minding my siblings from my da’s second marriage.it was from my mother ..i later on travelled to England to find her in London…On meeting her we spoke for 2 hours it was like i’d known her all my life….I continued to visit her once a week and met my new stepsisters…..However i didn’t get to meet my real sister (Maureen) until 4 months later in Bognor Regis…..she didn’t want to know me ..

    Unfotunately my visits became like questionable greeting cards….Through various connections my mother knew my past but failed to intervene…constantly

    The past to my Mother was a long lost dream held by a strand of thread being my father…..He’d sever it if he hand an inkling and a knife to hand .

    • Ah Kay – I suspect so many mothers left their daughters behind when the fathers were cause of hurt. This is I think something that part of our generation more than those that followed. I thinking making peace with our relationships, especially the one with our mother(s) helps us make peace with ourselves. It is that peace I now pursue, sorting through all the feelings I have and why I have them.

      • My father played his part in the mental scars i feel almost as much as my step-mother….I have tried playing the game of reconciliation with my real mother 24 years ago….and no longer want to play….The people i thought most of in my life are all gone now…..the remaining are little to me…Do i ever feel lonely ???…..only around my so called ‘family’…..I have no maternal instinct towards my mother…Then at 52 i was contacted through ‘Friends Reunited’ by my step-sister and amazingly recieved the first photo ever of my mother by email from my stepsister as my own children and grandchildren had never seen her…I had more time for the photo than she had for me in life……..Unfortunately life is what it is and not quite what it could be…

        I hope you find the peace you are looking for Linda…xx

        • Kay – everyone plays their part in toxic / difficult relationships. There is always time though to mend. I hope you also find some peace and maybe some friendship with your sisters.

  6. Wow you are really strong!

    • People say that to me and I never know how to respond, thank you or dammit. Thank you I suspect is the better of the two. I never think of it as being strong, just living up to my potential in retrospect.

      Thanks for reading I hope you will continue to do so, maybe you will see the cracks in the armor along the way.

  7. This was really hard for me to read…and it took me a time or three to get through it. One of my Chickens is adopted and my greatest fear is his deciding that I wasn’t good enough to be his mom. Chicken’s story is powerful, and one that he can only tell, if he decides to, far off in the future. I see a lot of me in him, but I know that there are more traces of his biological creators. That being said, those characteristics that I can’t claim identity to are daily reminders of how thankful I am for his creators to present him to me. I confuse him for a biological kid on a daily basis, so those reminders of biology are my reminders to be thankful and appreciative for him and all his nuances.

    • I will at some point tell the story of why I searched as part of this series. I don’t think you have to worry though! Both my adopted brother and I met our natural families, it was never about our parents not being good enough. I know many other adopted children who have done the same and with few exceptions, it is never about replacing the parents who raised us. That is the one thing you should always hold on to, if nothing else. Adopted children always have a firm grasp on the meaning of “parent” versus biology. It may not change our curiosity about where we came from, but it is never about replacement.

      The original story about my adopted family I think is linked to this one, it might help to understand some of what drove me. By the way my experiences were I believe an anomaly.

      • Your response is actually somewhat of a stress relief…for one of those tiny lingering stresses that hides in the back of my brain. Not knowing the ‘adopted’ experience from personal experience makes everything a bit scarier. I can’t wait to read more and will look for the linked stories. thank you SO MUCH for writing this!

  8. I’m sorry things didn’t work out differently, but you seem like a smart, strong woman. Whatever your DNA and upbringing…..you seemed to come out with your head up.

    • The youngest of my natural brothers thinks it is time to set aside the past, he might be right we shall see. I am everything that everyone poured into me, both good and bad, fortunate and unfortunate. Thus far I have only laid the foundations, it wasn’t though all bad all the time.

  9. In all honesty, I do not believe any of us can know if the time would change things the way it does us all. You did well to liken it to a romance, for truly it was seeking love, albeit a different form. The dances have similar moves.

  10. Sometimes we find love simply isn’t enough. Human? Indeed yes. I had spent a lifetime setting myself up for disappointment though and wasn’t prepared for just how vast it might be. I was far to emotionally damaged still to embark on that particular journey and too immature to know it.

    Would it be different now? Who knows, certainly I don’t. I know I am a different person today than I was in my twenties. Would it change my reactions, who knows. Am I more or less lovable today? More or less loving? More or less judgmental? In truth I am not sure I know the answers to any of those questions when it comes to family.

    Love? There are ties that bind us and ties that strangle us. I sometimes wish I could sit down with her and tell her I was an ass back then. I am not sure the siblings I am still in contact would let me near her. I am not sure I am brave enough to ask and be rejected.

  11. I think the romance of the search sets us up for disappointment when we finally “meet the parent”. We desperately want to believe this parent is a perfect person caught in a desperate time warp of misfortune which prevented us being together. Finding out they are merely humans, struggling as we are to navigate the rapids, leads to questioning why we bothered expending the energy and emotional capital.

    Very touching vignette, Val. I cannot help but feel the love tangled in the words.
    Red, sister by other mother.


  1. […] I was 24 I had the opportunity to meet my first (biological) parents. It truly was unlooked for, not something I had planned but a gift. […]

  2. […] again. I wanted to repair old wounds and re-create a relationship with my first mother; we had a rocky start the first time. With this in mind, well I just picked up the phone and called asking if I could come to Vashon […]

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