Between Adoptees and Their Birthmothers

POSTED ON Feb 05th 2013 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Abortion, Adoption, Online Debate, US Media

A few days before the Super Bowl, ESPN ran a color story about Colin Kaepernick and his birth mother.  Colin is adopted and apparently his birth mother wants contact with him but he has refused her. Through that article I found the [Birth Mother,] First Mother Forum. In both the article and forum, writers assume that Colin refuses to meet his birth mother out of stubborn loyalty to his adoptive parents, even though they have given their blessing. They think he is shutting her out and that he should call her.

Ignoring the problem in the rear view mirror, that is, busybody reporters seeking drama by hunting down birth families every time an adoptee becomes famous, adoptees and birth families can have many reasons not to seek each other that are, apparently, inconceivable to people raised by their genetic parents.

I too am adopted. I too have no intention of finding my birth parents, particularly my mother, but not because I worry about betraying my parents. They, like the Kaepernicks, have always offered their support and help if I ever chose to search. It is not for lack of curiosity. I really want to know if I have siblings. Nor do I harbor anger at my birth mother for abandonment, the knee jerk assumption most non-adoptees make. Granted, many adoptees do feel this way, and in some circumstances it fits, but for most mainstream adoptions, the abandonment issue comes from others making a big deal out of the adoptee’s lack of genetic relations. We teach adoptees to feel abandoned, but that is a post for another day.

I have never searched for my mother out of intense gratitude and concern for her. She gave me almost a year of her life, endured the strife and stigma of unwed pregnancy in the 70’s, and a gave part of her soul that I can’t imagine the pain of sacrificing. I don’t want to make her revisit it. It is possible that she was just one of those mothers who simply couldn’t be bothered with the burdens of motherhood. If so, I was very lucky both that I was born just before Roe v. Wade so the quick out of aborting me wasn’t readily available and that she gave me to a loving family. In that case, in gratitude, I feel I owe her privacy. But more likely, and highly likely for adoptees born after Roe, she loved me and wanted to give me a better life.

I’ve always suspected that giving up a child would have been difficult, but it wasn’t until I held my firstborn that I understood. In those first minutes, I thought of her and what it must have taken, in that moment, to put me in someone else’s arms. For her, that happened in hours. Colin’s mother, refusing to have him in foster care for the six weeks waiting period, kept him in her arms. Turning him over to another woman to raise…to watch another woman pick him up… How many mothers reading this could endure that?

If you look at the articles about Colin and Russo, his birth mother, most is hearsay. No one but the two of them knows what she said in the letter he opened at 18, the details of the conversations when he asked her about his father, or what he thought when she asked to stop receiving update letters in his childhood. I suggest that maybe, just maybe, at least part of the reason Colin Kaepernick does not contact his birth mother is out of respect. It sounds like this has been a long struggle for her, one complicated by his fame. Maybe he is trying to help her move on, or just trying to give her some peace. Maybe he keeps her at arm’s length because he loves her too.

My brother’s mother checked on him once. He was about four years old and she was getting married. My mom told her about the daisy picking in the soccer field and his general mischievous nature. That’s the only time we heard from her. We’ve never heard from my mother. My brother and I figure the quiet is for a reason. To give us life they placed us before their bodies and their hearts.

It is the kind of sacrifice I can only repay by doing the same for my children. My parents have been wonderful, but this first and most important lesson about love, that it is freely given without regard for self, I learned that from my birth mother.


Related Links

Another viewpoint from another adoptee.

This, I want to avoid this.


  1. Lorraine Dusky said:

    Wow. you make the assumption that your first mother would not want to meet you. How do you know that? You don’t know how she feels but a great many mothers pray and hope and wait for the day they get the phone call that begins…I was born in TK on Tk and I was wondering if that date and place means anything to you….
    Your rationale is an excuse to cloak your fears. All right, your choice, but you are also making all kinds of assumptions that may be false. Good luck.

    PS…heresy is not the same as hearsay.

  2. Leslie Loftis said:

    I make the assumption because she has never found me. I notified the agency a long time ago that I had no objection to anyone in my family finding me. The choice is hers. I cannot cloak fears that I do not have.

    Thanks for the typo notice. I meant hearsay. Fixing now.

  3. Kala Bladen said:

    I enjoy the efforts you have put in this, thanks for all the great articles.

  4. Linda said:

    It’s a fair enough way of thinking, but what if she is doing the same thing for you, keeping away out of politeness?

    I have no experience on this myself, but I’d probably be very wary of contact. Mother/child is such an emotionally charged relationship, really, and do I want to start that up with someone I don’t know in the slightest? Yes I’m a very careful person.

    That said, a family member had a very positive, one-time meeting with his birth mother. She wanted it to be private, ie, no meeting siblings b/c she never told her husband and family about the prior situation. But she was terribly glad to meet him, and see that he was happy, healthy, and productive, and to see the pics of his 3 lovely children.

  5. Leslie Loftis said:

    Mutual politeness, yes, I’ve wondered about that. It is certainly possible. Eventually you have to make a decision, however. Mine was to let her make the first move, to give her the option. But that’s the main point, that adoptees and birth parents have many more considerations than just ‘do I want a meet?’ And ‘will a meet upset my parents?’

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