The Fear Factor


Open UpConsider for a moment what goes through your child’s mind when she thinks of her birth parents, especially her birthmother. Typically a mixed bag of deeply-seated emotions. One of those emotions is fear of hurting you.

Yes, you. Your child struggles with this guilt because she loves you. Her allegiance is with you and the rest of her adoptive family, yet she has the need to know as much as she can about her birth parent(s). They are part of each other: family and cultural history, genealogy, biology, ethnicity, and race.  

Another fear is rejection. Your child has already experienced rejection at the most primal level by being relinquished by her birthmother.  She fears rejection again—by you—because she thinks about her birthmother. After all she wasn’t worthy of being loved and kept by her birthmother (my daughter’s sentiments)…

Years back I asked one of my daughters if she was afraid I wouldn’t love her because she thought about her birthmother. The dam broke. Her crying was different than it ever had been. When she was calm we talked and she shared these thoughts: 

“I want you to keep loving me.”

“I don’t want to hurt you.”

 “I am so sad; I hurt.”

 “Sometimes I want to talk and sometimes I don’t. I feel my monster.” (Her term for her uncontrollable anger.)

During that conversation one thing crystallized for me: Her pain is not about me, but I am part of it. It is also my job to own my parenting role and to make sure I do everything I can help her resolve these issues. She is not looking to replace me, but to find come to terms with loss, rejection, control, and her identity.  

Parents: Can/have you given your child the permission and encouraged her to move forward she searches for her the missing pieces of herself?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Aurette Bowes March 5, 2010 at 12:18 am

In my family it’s my adoptive parents who are insecure. They can’t talk about my adoption at all. Indeed, I only found out about it during my mid-thirties. Even now that the secret is out, the silence continues. On the few occasions we have broached the subject, my mother has referred to my birth mother as “that other woman”. I understand that her insecurity comes from deep-rooted pain, and at the age of 77 it is probably impossible for her to break down the impenetrable walls she has spent a lifetime building. But I so wish it could be different. Even though I have told her that my only reason for searching for and contacting my birth mother was to find my biological roots, she is too afraid to believe me. It makes me so sad, because I love her so much.


Sally Bacchetta March 4, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Judy, your “fabulousness” knows no bounds. LOVE THIS! I think it’s vital for adoptive parents to understand that a child’s interest in their birth parents has nothing to do with their adoptive parents. It’s not about you at all. It’s about your children wanting to understand themselves and their beginnings. It’s simply not about you. It’s about them. How can you be threatened by your child’s search for understanding of herself? Judy, you rock!


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