q) I gave up my infant son for adoption many years ago, and have suffered indescribable and ongoing pain as a result.

I often wonder whether adoptive mothers love their children as their own.

After being around adoption, search and activist groups for so long, I find that most adoptive mothers put their own needs and fantasies before the child's deepest needs.

First, their love is quite conditional upon getting a healthy infant. Second, they haven't resolved their infertility or buried the fantasy biological child they couldn't have. Third, they won't acknowledge the importance of heredity. Fourth, they deny the natural mother's feelings.

I think they have a "rescue fantasy" about "saving the child from an unknown fate."

And I wonder how many adoptive mothers could love their children enough to let them go, forever, into the unknown. It is worse than death and is almost always done out of the deepest kind of love.

a)Most birth mothers give up their children out of deep love, but most adoptive mothers love their children just as deeply and with great loyalty.

A child is indeed imprinted with a wealth of characteristics, which shapes his looks and talents and temperament, but it's guidance and education and nutrition -- and loving care -- that decide if he'll put his heritage to good use.

And adoptive parents usually do prefer a healthy baby to an older or retarded child, but surely this is due to trepidation, not choosiness. Older or handicapped children have extra needs, and adoptive parents -- many of whom have tried to have children for years -- seldom have that much confidence in their parenting skills.

As for their fantasy about having a biological child -- no. You're putting your own dreams in someone else's heart. Adoptive parents usually dismiss the yearning of the biological parent because they feel the child is truly their own.

You may not like the family that adopted your son, but surely they're doing the best they can, just as you did when you gave him up. And if they're living a rescue fantasy, you have to wonder if you're not living something of the same when you keep agonizing over the boy.

You did, after all, give him up. You can't let him go, then reel him in. Even if he looks or acts like you, his values, enrichment and memories come from his adoptive parents.

For the flip side of your comments, consider this letter from a California mother:

"In 1962 my husband and I owned and operated a garage in our town, had four children and a good marriage. My sister baby-sat several children, and when they all got sick, she asked me to take the 18-month-old to the doctor. I fell in love with the child. She had bronchial pneumonia and the doctor thought she might die, but he'd only care for her after we got legal permission, since the mother wouldn't go to his office.

"The lawyer asked why we didn't adopt her, and the mother said fine. Six months later, she was ours. We called her our miracle child.

"When she was 3, a couple came to our garage to have their car repaired and asked about our sunny little girl. In time we told them she was adopted and they asked if we would take the baby that her 16-year-old sister was expecting. We picked her up at the hospital when she was 2 days old.

"Today, the younger one is a lovely lady of 20; the older one is married and the mother of two of our 12 wonderful grandchildren.

"To anyone who wants to adopt, and hesitates for fear of not being able to 'love' an adopted child, I say, 'Go for it!' "

There are, of course, many kinds of parents, but it doesn't pay to judge others more harshly than ourselves. When we do, we're really projecting onto them the flaws we think we see in ourselves. Questions may be sent to P.O. Box 15310, Washington, D.C. 20003.