Daughters Birthmother Is Very Ill

Updated on January 06, 2017
T.P. asks from Mc Cordsville, IN
17 answers

My daughter is adopted and her birthmother (BM) and I have a semi-open adoption. We keep in touch with each other though email and text. That was what her birthmother wanted when my daughter was born. Her BM informed me on new years eve that she has stage 4 cancer and there isn't anything the doctors can do for her. She has a daughter 5 years older than my daughter and since she may not make it she told her about my daughter. Her daughter wants to talk to my daughter. My daughter knows that she is adopted but at 10 years old I don't know how much she can handle. I don't want to keep my daughter from her sister because I don't what my daughter to resent me later.

This is a big dilemma for me. When we were going through the adoption process, BM told me that if my daughter ever wanted to meet her she could when she graduated from high school which I have discussed with my daughter. Since that is pretty much impossible she wants the girls to get to know each other. I told her that her daughter has 5 years on my daughter and is more mature so I let her know that I will think about letting then talk. Her family doesn't know about my daughter just her daughter so she hasn't requested to see my daughter which I think is odd. I know there aren't many adoptive parents on this site so I am looking for suggestions, support, just anything you can give. I plan to tell my daughter soon. I wanted to wait until the holidays were over so that in the future she won't associate the holidays with her BM's illness. Thank youl

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So What Happened?

Thank you to those of you who have responded. I adopted my daughter at birth. Part of our adoption agreement was for me to send pictures and updates to the BM which I do. I do know that she is really terminally ill. Her daughter and my daughter have different fathers. She was married to her daughter's father. My daughter's birthfather knows about her and signed papers to terminate his paternity.

Her daughter has a relationship with her father so I think she will probably go to him. BM told me that her daughter always wanted a sister. I think she is trying to fill a void that she knows she will leave. My daughter is a very bright girl and I don't want anything to interfere with her. I am considering talking to a counselor.

Adding more info: The term BM is adoption lingo for Birthmother. I know it sounds strange but its faster than typing birthmother.

Her birthmother was embarrassed about being pregnant. She wasn't a young teen. She is a well educated adult who got pregnant and made the choice to place her baby for adoption. She moved back to her home state when my daughter was 2 which is a great distance from us. With her embarrassment she didn't tell her family she was pregnant. I wanted a connection so that she and my daughter could meet one day and she decided on meeting her when she was 18 and graduated from high school. Her plan was to tell her daughter when she was an adult. Now things have changed. I do feel like I am accommodating her wishes.

While going through the adoption process I offered to have an open adoption but she didn't want that. I don't want to throw my daughter into something she may not be ready for or maybe I'm not ready for. I'm pretty sure that she's not requesting to see my daughter in fear that of her family running into my daughter. From what she has said her family is very religious and I know that played a major part in her decision for placement. I'm probably rambling. I am tired from lack of sleep so excuse my writing skills or lack there of. I will talk with the adoption agency for guidance. Thank you all for your insight.

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answers from New York on

Man, that is really tough . . . As an adoptive parent, I understand some of the struggles you must be going through - we had a completely closed adoption, but I always wonder if the BM contacted us, what would we do?

I think first I would want verification of the illness. I know that sounds rude, but I guess I would need to know how real this all is. Second, I would reach out to my adoption/homestudy agency and see what they thought of the situation. Third, I would get in contact with a child psychologist and see what they recommend. Finally, I would consider doing only supervised "visits" (if that is what you end up choosing to do) with the 15 yr old. She could be a very angry child - losing her mother and then finding out she has an adopted sibling . .

The fact that she is dying and hasn't told her family (but did tell a 15 yr old) does also throw up some red flags - that is why I would get more concrete information on the severity of her illness.

Good luck!

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

You need some professional guidance for this, I believe.

Try talking to the adoption agency you used. See if they have someone, or if they can advise you who to use.

Time is of the essence, so please get started on this. It's going to be hard, any way you look at it. Getting professional help from the start will help you.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

Corection: I thought your daughter was 5
My opinion stays the same. At 10, your daughter is still vulnerable. It sounds like she doesn't know who her birth mother is nor that she has a 1/2 sister.

I suggest that introducing her birth family when the original plan was for her to not have contact changes the dynamics of your daughter's relationship with you and her forever family. The original plan was based on tge best interest for your daughter. You decide if setting up contact would be in the best interest of your child. Don't let the emotional appeal cloud your judgement.

If you are seriously considering this, which sounds like you are, I urge you to talk with a professional counselor who is very familiar with adoption issues before deciding.

adopted my daughter after being her foster mom. She came to live with me at age 6, nearly 7. So she knew her birth family. Contact with them upset her, in part, because contact increased her feelings of insecurety.. Once the adoption was final, at the recommendation of her counselor, I stopped visits from family members. It was a closed adoption.

I suggest that letting your daughter's birth family into her life will create big feelings that your daughter, even at 10, is not prepared to handle. As a teen, her birth sister, is already dealing with big feelings re her mother's death and now just learning she has a little sister. Teens are immature. I suggest that her mother should not have told her about her little sister. A healthier way for her to give her daughter the information would be to confide in a mature adult who could let her daughter know sometime in the future when it is appropriate.

This is an adult situation that should be navigated by adults. I would not let the teen talk with a 10 yo in this situation. As you said, your daughter is not equipped to deal with this negative and complex situation. She needs to feel secure in your home; to know that you are her parent. Contact with birth family will undoubtedly cause her to be confused about where she belongs. She will be more likely to question why she is adopted because she will have new and personal contact with her birth family.

Contact for the teen wI'll also be confusing. She just learned she has a little sister at the same time her mother is allegedly about to die. Consider how this rocks the teen's world. Just by reason of her age, she needs help with this. She needs support and will give your daughter more information than a 10 yo should have to process. MosT adults have difficulty understanding and dealing with emotions when they contact their birth family. Others do not want contact. I believe the decision to have contact should be decided by your daughter when she's an adult. Or by you when the decision us based on your daughter's needs instead of the birth family's needs.

Again, contact puts your daughter in an adult situation.

My daughter's brother was adopted by a family who had also adopted another child in a semi-open adoption. His adopted mom gave his birth mother information and pictures through the adoption agency. The birth mom had no direct contact with the adopted mom. She didn't know where they lived or their phone number. I hope your daughter's birth family has no direct info but it sounds like they do.

I suguest this birth mom is manipulating you by asking for direct contact with your daughter. An adoption means that the birth family gives up their right to be directly involved with your child. You make the decision about when your daughter IS. mature enough to gradually have contact.. GRADUALLY. The possible approaching death of her birth mother is not the time to get a 10 yo involved.

You have appropriately told her she is adopted at an early age. I believe this is all the information she needs now. To tell her more in this highly emotional situation.

I'd known and had some experience with adoptions before I became a foster mom. I adopted through the state who provided training and support in preparation for adoption. I saw first hand how difficult for both me and my daughter to be involved with birth family. Even tho the birth mother has released their child for adoption she often still feels an attachment. Having just learned she has a sister, the teen feels an attachment to your daughter. More so because she is losing her mother at the same time. I would say no to contact.

I'm sympathetic. At the same time, it's my responsibility to protect my daughter.

A later thought. Was the,adoption private through an attorney? If so, you perhaps did not get information regarding an adoptive child's need to be protected. There is an established reason for making adoptions closed or for having only the adults have limited contact. For the sake of your daughter, please get professional advice. Look at contact in an intellectual way without emotion.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I am adopted by one parent. The one piece of advice I can give you is to talk to a family counselor. This is a big deal. I can't tell you what to do, that will have to be your decision, but getting some support for yourself and your daughter would be a huge help in this situation.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

BM wants closure before she passes.
Completely understandable, but not realistic.
Her need does not come before the well being of the children.

I think there are separate issues here that are all being lumped together.

1) BM is dying...should your daughter be made aware and the +\- of such.
Only you know your daughter well enough to decide what she is capable of.

2) Should daughter meet BM? The plan was to meet after high school (I assume when she was 18?), but it has now been accelerated due to her illness. Again looking at the +\- and best interests of your daughter.

3) Your daughter has a half sister. This issue does not have a deadline. Not to mention a very loaded topic since most of BM's family does not know about your daughter. I think you should get what ever info you need, put it on the shelf for now and just leave the door open for future communication.

I don't think there is a right answer in the situation, and children's emotional state/maturity does not shift to meet the needs of a dying adult.

It will always be easy to look back and say what should have been done different, but most parenting (the hardest parenting decisions) are done with the knowledge of what was best "at the time".

I understand the BM having short term goals of closing up the issues, but the rest of you guys are left with long term goal of navigating all these dynamics and this really needs to be priority.

The BM can always write letters or thoughts in a notebook for your daughter to have at a later date.

She can make videos to be shared when your daughter is older.

You can have them meet casually without knowledge of her being BM or w/o knowledge of her dying.

There is no perfect way to handle this.

I think it's a great idea to contact a counselor.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

this is confusing. in the first paragraph you say the birth mother (sorry, BM just means something different to my brain) has indicated that her daughter wants to meet yours, but in the second you say the daughter doesn't want to.
regardless, i get that this is nail-biter, but i don't think you should involve your daughter in it. maybe the birth mother can write a letter or create a video that your daughter can view down the road.
i think the best bellwether for how to proceed is to think 'how would i handle this if the birth mother were not terminal?'
that is, would you be okay with the girls meeting under less stressful circumstances? if so, then maybe broach the subject. if not, then delay it until the time you already had in mind.
it sounds as if you've been handling the adoption issue honestly and sensibly all along. i'd stick to that plan.
good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Very difficult situation. I think the birth mother is having that sort of deathbed desire to tie up loose ends. I think it's very odd - and problematic - that she has told her 15 year old that your daughter exists, but no one else in the family. That puts the 15 year old in the position of guarding or revealing a family secret. That's a lot of pressure on a teenager.

And the teen is going to lose her mother - does she have a father? Is he in the picture? Does the father know about your daughter? If they were together, she would not have gotten through a 9 month pregnancy without him knowing, but if they are divorced/never married, he might not know. Is your daughter's birth father this same man, someone different or unknown? The reason I ask is, what is going to happen to the 15 year old when her mother dies? Will she go to her father? Grandparents? Other relatives/friends? Someone, somewhere is going to be her guardian, and that person needs to at least know about you and your daughter. If you meet "secretly" with the teen and the person in charge of her knows nothing, that's a huge problem.

My husband is adopted and several friends have adopted children, but all the situations are different in many ways. I guess I would make the following points: the birth mother has no right to decide that the girls should get to know each other. I'm not sure how she feels that will help her teen - maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't. But it's not the BM's choice. It's yours. I agree that any visits should be entirely supervised by you, and also by the person who will raise that other child. She has way too much to handle without some adult help and perhaps a therapist involved. And the BM doesn't want to meet your daughter, is that right? She only wants the girls to meet? So how does she propose this be accomplished? Is she counting on her teen to surprise the other family members with the news of your daughter's existence, either now or after the BM dies? That's not a kid's job.

I agree with Military Mom that you have to verify a few things. Is the mom really sick? You don't know her and you have to do some due diligence here. Also, is her decision/recommendation based on sound thinking, or is she influenced by weakness, fear, chemo, medications, other factors? Has she told the teen your name and info? Does she plan to? Maybe this is NOT the best thing for her teen, you know? I agree with Military Mom that getting the agency and/or a therapist involved (an objective 3rd party) is advisable. You cannot go into this without an understanding of the family dynamics including the BM's & teen's other family members who are, like it or not, involved here. And finally, if you don't like the answers you get, you have the right to say "no" and the girls can look each other up when they are adults.

Good luck and keep us posted.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I believe you are asking whether or not you should allow your daughter to meet her older half sister and not asking whether or not your daughter should meet her birth mother before she passes away.

If I have misunderstood, I apologize. But if I have this correctly, I am very, very confused. Her birth mother is terminally ill. Don't you want your daughter to have the chance to meet her birth mother?

This past summer I had the opportunity to meet a cousin who was placed for adoption at birth (a few years before I was born). Her story of meeting her birth mother (my aunt) is one of the really great adoption stories. They don't always work out as unbelievable, incredibly well as this one did, and that breaks my heart. I wish every birth parent (mother or father) and every adopted child could have a chance to have a relationship later in life. If your daughter is not going to have a chance to even meet her birth mother as an adult, she should have that chance before her birth mother passes away.

I would seriously consider allowing your daughter to meet her older, half sister. While it's true that she could still meet her a few years from now, I have trouble understanding why you would be opposed to them meeting now.

Definitely talk to the counselor at the adoption agency before deciding. But please do consider allowing your daughter to meet them. I do believe a 10 year old can handle more than you are giving her credit for.

ETA - I didn't intend to give an opinion on whether or not your daughter should meet her sister right now. I just really don't want your daughter (years from now) to have never met her birth mother and be mad at you because you knowingly did not allow them to meet before her death.

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answers from Norfolk on

So the birth mother gave her up for adoption but now she wants to call the shots.
I'm sorry the lady is dying but it's not her call to make.
She gave up the right to that sort of control.
At 10 - your daughter s in school - about 5th grade? - and getting ready for middle school is stress enough without this on top of it.
If her sister is 15 - she's in high school and has plenty of stress on her own end of things.
It's up to you to decide if meeting her step sister now will upset your daughters grades and unsettle her life.
Maybe now would be fine but maybe when she's in college would be a better time.
You know your daughter better than anyone - you decide what's in her best interest and when things should happen.
This older sister is losing her mom - maybe her mom thinks having you in the picture via contact with her sister will somehow make this easier on her?
I don't know what she's thinking but her daughter is going to be in pain no matter what you do.
How will a 10 yr old deal with that pain her sister is going through?
I'm not sure I'd want my kid to have to deal with that.
Talking it over with a counselor would be a good thing to do.

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answers from Amarillo on

I am an adoptive parent. Our adoption is closed. The only person who can open the file is my son. He was told about the age of 10 of his adoption. One day he asked if he had any other parents and we told him he did and that was the end of it. He has never requested any research on either parent. If he had, I would have supported his wishes.

As for this situation, I would have to protect my child from all of the other events going on in the biological family. The mother severed her rights when she placed her child for adoption even if it was an "open" adoption. You still get to call the shots for the child.

If you feel that she is not equipped at this time, then do not tell her. If the mother feels that she needs to know about her half sister, she can write a letter or a journal about the things she wants her to know. Give that journal to your daughter at a later date. The half sister's information can also be included in the journal or letter.

Do consult with counselors and therapists about the situation. Also get real info on the birth mother's medical.

Keep us updated. Good luck to you and your daughter.

the other S.

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answers from Philadelphia on

What a terrible position you are in. I think your daughter always should have been aware of the fact she has an older 1/2 biological sibling. Now if you were unaware of this then you obviously could not tell her what you didn't know. Now that you do know though I think she should probably be told. I'm afraid she will feel betrayed that this info was held from her. (I think that the saying that the coverup is worse than crime applies to many family secrets.)

Another thought...Now is also the only opportunity your daughter will have to meet her birth mom but it does not sound like the birth mom is asking to see her. That is just hurtful in my opinion. You know your daughter best but I think it could be quite a gift to give your daughter to arrange a meeting between the two. I'm not underestimating how hard and difficult this would be and I recognize she would be meeting a sick woman who will die in the near future. It's hard....I am just trying to put myself in your daughter's shoes and think about how she will feel at 20 yo, 30 yo etc. Of course this will upset her world but that doesn't mean it should not happen or is not in her best interest. I just don't know but wanted to offer another perspective.

Best of luck to you and your daughter. This is honestly the most difficult issue I have seen on this site.

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answers from Boston on

I'd contact the adoption counselor on this one.. very tricky..

Keep us posted.. I am sorry I cannot offer advice on this one. I have no experience nor know of anyone who had this situation. It's very difficult and I can understand your dilemma. Best to you.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I think you need to talk to your daughter. Since the birth mother has been a part of her life via emails and stuff it's different than an unknown person that you've had no contact with.

The fact that you know her and are in contact with her your daughter is going to blow up when she finds out that you didn't tell her and ask her if she wanted to meet her and her sister.

Since she knows that she's adopted there isn't any doubt that I'd talk to her and see what she wants and then address that. She might not want to meet her at all. But in a few months it will be too late.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Do you know the sister's name? Maybe it's enough to keep that information, and allow your daughter to decide if she wants to meet her once they are all adults.

I have a friend who just found out about and met a half-sister. So far it's a happy ending. They are really glad to know each other. However, they are all over age 30 and STILL it was highly emotional.

All that said, I've never been in your shoes, and I think that meeting with a therapist with experience in adoptive families is a great idea - first you alone before you make any decisions. And then, only if you are sure you want to go through with the meeting, go with your daughter to the therapist.

ETA: I too question the decision-making of a women who would tell a 15 year old a secret like this. It is far too much for her to handle. I feel badly for her as well.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I think at 10 years old she is old enough to understand what's happening. You should talk to her. Give her the chance to meet her sister. Even if she chooses not to, it'll make her feel good to know that her sister wants to meet her and might make her more receptive to it when she's older and more mature. If she does want to meet her now, just talk to her about what to expect and what might happen next.

This is definitely a very tricky situation and I'm really sorry you're going through it. I think you should consider talking to a counselor and/or having your daughter talk to someone. Aside from meeting the sister, knowing that her birth other is dying may cause some very strong emotions in her. She may be scared or confused or feel guilty in some way.

Does her birth mother want to meet her before she dies? Do you want to give your daughter the chance to meet her now, even though she's younger than you planned? While she can make the choice to meet her sister later, this is her only opportunity to meet the birth mom.

I respectfully disagree with some of the comments below. I think she did the right thing by telling her 15 year old about your daughter. If no one else knows, this is the one and only chance she has to give her the opportunity to meet (or at least know about) her sister. I realize she could have told a different family member, who could later tell her daughter, but that puts a huge burden on someone else and there's no guarantee it would ever happen. By having a semi-open adoption, she obviously wanted to leave open the possibility for relationships with your daughter down the road. By telling her daughter now, she keeps that possibility open.

I'll say again - I really think you need to speak to a professional, whether it's someone through the adoption agency or a therapist. They can help guide you and help your daughter understand her emotions.

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answers from San Francisco on

I don't have an adopted child, but I work with disturbed kids. I believe in calmly and factually telling kids the truth, and so far it has always worked for me. Since your daughter is losing her birth mother, in my opinion now might be a good time to let her know she has a sister. You can also tell your daughter that you don't know her half-sister, so you don't know what contact she might or might not want to have with her.

Your daughter is going to have numerous interactions with "more mature" individuals in her life, and she is going to have to learn how to navigate them. One day she will be a freshman in high school, for example.

Only you know your daughter. If you know her to be so sensitive that this could throw her for a loop, then don't tell her. Save the information until you think she can handle it, and at that point you can say that you didn't tell her earlier because you didn't think she could handle it. But if you decide to tell her about her half-sister, warn your daughter not to expect too much, and allow whatever unfolds to unfold. And try not to judge the girl's actions as "odd" until you know her whole situation.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Yours is a very complicated set of circumstances. I believe BM SHOULD have left in her will, a means that her daughter would have been told about your daughter (her half-sister) in the future, when she is adult, as was the original plan. Since BM is dying now, obviously her emotions took over and she felt the need to tell her now, because she would not around who could give her that information later. Maybe she didn't trust anyone and wanted to make certain it happened. Maybe she wanted to see for herself this revelation being a joy to her daughter. Maybe she felt that life can be short with no guarantees, so she had second thoughts about waiting until her daughter was an adult to reveal that she has a half-sister.

In any case, you can't change what's been done. The 15 year old knows and wants to meet your daughter. Her mom's dying, she's a teen, and she is going to be an emotional wreck. If you say no for now that it isn't in your daughter's best interests, I'd be worried there's a fairly decent chance this teen would then forge ahead, find your daughter and make contact on her own.

Do you mean to say the BM has not expressed any interest in meeting your DD herself, only that the 2 girls meet? I think you need to go back to BM and find that out (ask her directly) because when the truth comes out about the sister, you are going to have be honest with your DD about BM's situation and her feelings. Plus you will need that information for your daughter to work through with a therapist. It sounds like BM did not think of how things would feel from your DD's point of view

I think you should begin making preparations with a good family/adoption therapist for your DD to be told as soon as possible. It would be much more ideal if she was older, but you will not want her to resent not getting a chance to meet her BM if she does want to see her. And I wouldn't risk the news of her half sister getting to her through the sister herself, the BM, or other family member of BM's. It would be worse for her to be shocked that way, than it would be for you sitting down with her and explaining what you learned in a loving, supporting way.

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