Should Adoptees Individuate from Birth Moms, Too?

No long ago, my husband bought me a new-fangled device that holds IPhones on the car window.

One time, while stopping at a light, I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of my iPhone.


It wasn’t me…it was my birth mother, Elizabeth Lucini.

Exact replica.

When she and I were reunited by phone more than 20 years ago, the first  photo she sent showed her with shoulder-length blonde hair, mirrored aviator sun glasses, and a deep tan.

I didn’t like her when I saw the photo, as she looked “rough,” like she wasn’t soft and loving. Could I trust her to be a part of my life?

My mom through adoption, Retha, was soft and loving. She taught me to love pets and to never give up. She sat up into the wee hours of the night waiting for her promiscuous daughter to return home. She explained to the local bank why I’d overdrawn my college bank account…again and again. She explained to neighbors why I sneaked into their  houses while they were gone and stole their clothes. She bought me every color of pleated skirt and angora sweater possible and placed them under the Christmas tree.

She believed in me and I broke her heart when I came home and announced what every parent dreads: “I’m pregnant.”

Even then, she held me as my knees buckled to the ground, and my dad fled to the bedroom.

My birth mother was downright mean to me at reunion, announcing that she wished she could have had an abortion. Even though she gave me a gold and diamond pin from Tiffany’s, the warmth was not there. No love. She wasn’t capable of love or parenting.

Getting back to the topic of hair, my birth mother hadn’t started out as a blonde, but with dark, dark black hair that is characteristic of Jewish people from northern Ireland. I believe it’s called Irish black.

For some reason, later in life, she decided to go blonde. Perhaps because she ran with the rich and famous? The people who wore diamonds on their fingers that were the size of boulders? Perhaps because she was a published interior designer, whose rich clients flew her privately to Reno to do her magic on their houses or casinos?

Years have passed since I said goodbye to her.

In spite of the rejection, I loved her beauty. I loved her blonde hair, hazel green eyes, and incredible skin. I remember her eyes misting over when I told her at the airport how much I loved her and how glad I was that she was my birth mom.

Fast forward to today.

I have gone blonde, like my  birth mother.

Sometimes people don’t recognize me, but I love it.


Because it reminds me of where I came from, of the woman who gave me the gift of birth, and the fantasy mother I dreamed about as a child.

Could my decision to go blonde be called individuation, perhaps?

My understanding individuation is when a child leaves the nest, like a teenaged eagle, and learns to become her own person.

I flew from my mom and dad’s nest when I married the love of my life–Bob Eldridge.

But, where does individuation come in with the birth family?

Isn’t that piece of our identity that’s overlooked?

Actually, I flew the nest from my birth mother when I told her we should have no more contact. Her abuse was more than I could handle.

But now that I’m a way down the road, I am individuating in a new way. I’m taking what I loved about Retha and Mike and Elizabeth…and choosing which part of them and their role modeling I want to embrace.

I can throw away the chaff from the wheat from both families and pick up the kernels of wheat that I want to claim as their “legacy.”

And, blonde hair is one of them!







5 responses to “Should Adoptees Individuate from Birth Moms, Too?”

  1. Paige Adams Strickland Avatar

    Interesting perspective, Sherrie. I never got to meet my birth mother. I wonder if I would have felt the desire to copy her style. She did like big hair, so there’s that…LOL

  2. About Sherrie Avatar

    Thank you, Mary. That means a lot coming from you. I love you, sis.

  3. Mary Jo Eldridge Avatar
    Mary Jo Eldridge

    I really like this! I think it is great and very healthy for you to decide what you loved from each of them and which parts you want to embrace. xo

  4. About Sherrie Avatar

    Becky, thank you for your kind words. Glad this resonated with you as a parent.

  5. Becky Wright, Songwriter & Speaker Avatar

    Thank you again, Sherrie, for sharing so poignantly and honest emotion. Your transparency is so liberating AND educational for me as an adoptive parent.

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