I’ve botched answering my daughter’s questions in the past. It is harder than asking and has greater responsibility. I’d like to start at the beginning, but I’m not sure where it is. That could be several posts.
Birthing Joy was the highest point of my teenage life. It seemed like the room filled with delicately pulsing gold and white light. It was transcendent. The lowest point in my life was relinquishing her. No question. Nothing has impacted me like that. I learned that emotional devastation isn’t going to kill me by itself. I’m not going to waste away in a quiet room waiting to die. I get up and take another step. I took a lot of missteps and wrong turns. I tried sex drugs and rockandroll. They didn’t replace anything. I came back to me. Alone.
Searching to make sense of living I made lots of choices. Some choices strengthened me and provided a loving feeling. I didn’t bounce back from losing my firstborn the way it had been predicted. I crawled.
Twelve years later I gave birth to my son. It was not a magical experience like hers had been. This time the magic was that I got to take him home. His father changed his first diaper while I watched with my head in the pillows. Three weeks later, when I left the house for the first time, my baby was strapped to me. The longest I left him for the first year was two hours — in the next room.
I only wanted to be a good enough mother. Everything I did was trying to be that or to prove that I was.
We lived in sunny So Cal. only a few miles from Joy. A third baby, a little sister was born, who worshipped her older brother.
Then we moved 2000 miles away, two weeks before Joy’s son was born.
My idyllic domestic bubble was popped by the move. For the first time I had to leave my youngest, at four years old, in daycare. I went back to teaching school, started getting to know the kids new friends parents, find new sources for the special foods to prevent the ear infections and learn how to live in the snow and ice.
In the middle of my first Midwestern winter, in the evening, my husband brought me the phone. Joy had the info on me for a while before she used it. I think new motherhood was her impetus.
I wish I had a recording of that first phone call. I was shaken physically as well as emotionally. Lying on the bed I grabbed a pen and started writing on the back of some paper. Her name. The town she grew up in. She told me she left home and got married when she was 15! Trying to imagine how that could have occurred in the conservative and upright adoptive family I assumed she had been raised in I asked her how her parents handled an elopement to Mexico. My guess was they would have had it annulled. She said they threw a very nice wedding reception for her and her 16 year old husband . She assured me they were very nice people. There were a couple other life stories that felt like bombs dropped into my ignorant fantasy, which I wrote down without commenting.
She told me she was put into a special program in elementary school because of her gift of creativity. She is very creative.
I was confused, feeling chided for hinting disapproval of her aparents, like a ball of confusion exploded with thoughts and feelings flying.
Later I learned she perceived my lack of questioning her as lack of interest. The irony was I thrilled with every bit of contact we had. I perceived her as uncomfortable with questions. My efforts to be sensitive and grateful for what I got were read as lack of interest.
We were both in the midst of more upheaval than we acknowledged — aside from reunion. I knew she was a new mom. I didn’t know she needed a place to live. I was supposed to be “together”, the mom, the adult — which I was, to an extent. I thought I was a good mother to my two raised children. I was also stressed emotionally and financially while my husband started a PhD program.
Buried emotions from the most painful experience of my life erupted along with the sense that no one would, could or should help me. I wasn’t deserving of assistance when she was born. Unfortunately, I still didn’t believe I deserved assistance. I felt I was cheating the system to have contact with the daughter that I had let go. If I wanted reunion I had better handle it on my own, as an adult, in addition to being a good wife and mother. I was desperately trying to prove I was worthwhile and didn’t dare ask for help.
She told me she wasn’t angry which barely scared me into realizing she might have reason to be angry.
I was unwavering in my commitment to communicating with Joy. I craved the sound of her voice as though she had awakened me, brought me out of a cave of denial. I had a firstborn daughter.
She told me she was a grown woman (teen mother) herself — out of her parents’ home for years. She was independent and didn’t need me. She didn’t want me to be a mother.
I was anxious to be whatever she did want me to be.
Sometimes I still flounder in a dilemma of not living up to expectations. She is always in my mind. Sometimes more in the background than now. But always, whatever I am doing, and wherever I am, I carry her around with me.
I was revisiting the traumas of our reunion recently and my deodorant wasn’t working. Life goes on and people put up with my stink. Everyone that gets near me will appreciate it when I get through this.