Tag Archives: family

shaken and stirred

My DD took offense at an impersonal pronoun in my last post. I screwed up. I was tired when I read her comment and should have left it alone. But I was going to be offline for at least five days and didn’t want to ignore her. So I jumped in and said something really stupid and hurtful.  I’ve been re looking at it for the past 5 days.

That would be HER, not IT, thank-you.

At first I didn’t read carefully enough to distinguish between her comment (above) and my own words (below) which were posted along with her comment.

“Or if they really loved their first grandchild they sure had a strange way of showing it, huh? If they loved that baby unconditionally they would have clung to it and kept it safe themselves rather than cast it out to the unknown world of people in better circumstances, better able to provide for this healthy white infant. That’s what some people say.”

It was late and I was shaken by the  capitalized pronouns, (representing a frequent accusation that I’m thoughtless and lack empathy).  I reacted foolishly. In the morning I quickly edited the post without grasping what I was doing before leaving town.

In a rush and feeling awkward and misunderstood, I had changed that paragraph from talking about my parents and an abstract baby, to be more directly about her. I hadn’t intended to be that personal.  Becoming more personally about her, I took it personally too, which can be quite troublesome. I hadn’t wanted to touch into the rawness of my reunion.

That is exactly what I was  looking at when I started the previous post. How to love unconditionally and personally? How do I love what is just the way it is? DD, just the way she is? Can I love my whole family unconditionally? Without getting confused trying to suit other people’s desires or distracted by conflicting requests?

I know from long experience feeling *guilty* is more disabling than motivating. The burning regret that I had misunderstood her and reacted inappropriately again was overshadowed by getting my feelings hurt too, feeling ignored and  insulted when I thought reaching out to her would be easier than it is.  I keep moving to find the sweet spot where I can see what’s going on and interact with compassion rather than guilt.

It takes a lot of attention. I have to stop comparing myself to any measure of reasonableness – stop  justifying choices made out of fear, jealousy or greed. Being afraid of losing her means I’m losing myself. She will always be a part of me. I just have to be open to who she is, whether she *likes* me or not.

When I am secure with myself, I see her with compassion. When I’m out of balance, the shaking wakes me up to how far I’ve drifted. I have to steady myself to look and see who my daughter is, to accept our reunion as raw and awesome and changing. Our differences, our similarities are all valuable. The beauty of who we are stirs me. And I can see her more clearly.

Reaching out and touching no matter what, that’s part of it. There is something about shaking it off and getting up and getting going that is refreshing too.

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In and ex clusion

I wish there was a guide, a handbook, a Miss Manners for reunion. Some thing to refer to when everything is upside down. I wish I had the presence of mind to realize no means yes and what we say about each other reflects what we think about ourselves. Maybe some of my mistakes can clear the way for someone else.

A couple years into reunion, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Two years to live. Those next two years were rocky ones for DD and me with a lot of mixed up memories– trying to look like we were handling things and mistrusting each other. Our families thought we should have one meeting and put it behind us. I suppose Joy was quite frustrated; trying to bring me out of my “fog” about the way adoption worked.  I was preoccupied with Mom’s stoic and optimistic outlook.

Looking back I see the foolishness of expecting Joy to trust me. She had a lifetime of feeling abandoned by me.  I hadn’t proved  trustworthy. She withdrew from her mother/stranger, cut off contact for periods of time, and accused me of neglecting her. Last fall she described it as not having anyone on her side, as though we were opponents.

The first summer Mom was sick, Joy and I had a very unsatisfying visit.  I was bewildered with grief for both my firstborn and my mother.  I had expected Joy to accept the complications of my family with grace and ease, which was ridiculous. Joy had PTSD. Mom had cancer.  I just crashed into it.

After our “visit” I holed up in my folks guestroom until morning, scaring my dad into talking about adoption for the first time.  I listened as he explained his views on family loyalty. His views from the Great Depression as well as being drafted into WWII. He knew @#$# happened to women and children. DD and I had been protected. He had dealt with considerable family upheaval due to emotional/mental depressions.  He didn’t want to lose me again. I appreciated his concern and continued to feel disconnected.

Joy said “She’s not really dying.” I thought she meant mom’s illness was just an excuse, diverting attention away from her. (She later explained that she didn’t think Mom acted like she was dying.)  Knowing that I wasn’t going to get to spend much more time with Mom hurt. That my daughter resented my focus on Mom hurt.  Joy’s skepticism was still on my mind when Mom died.

She almost made two years after diagnosis.   She planned to visit us in Kansas in the springtime. I called to wish her Happy Birthday three times on April 19th. The tulips were blooming. When she couldn’t come to the cordless phone, I figured out she wasn’t going to make the trip. My brother and I were standing by her bed in the early hours of the 27th as she passed over. The day before her scheduled trip to KS.

Dad’s blood pressure was sky high and he had two herniated discs. There was too much to be responsible for at that point. I drew a picture of amaryllis blooms for the memorial program cover, borrowed a dress to wear and picked a song I’d been listening to throughout her illness, You are a Flower by Greg Brown. I love that song.  My brother, the Golden Boy, and I both did eulogies. I didn’t even call Joy.  She had not been able to make the trip to visit when Mom was alive and I didn’t realize her death was more significant than her life. But mostly I didn’t want to deal with criticism of the mother I was saying goodbye to.

A month or two later, when we did talk about it, Joy was indignant that she hadn’t been informed/included/invited. I mistakenly took it as interest in her grandmother.  I thought feeling left out meant she wanted to know what happened. So I sent her a program and a cassette recording. It wasn’t until this year that I finally grasped that  her indignation was at not being included as part of the family. She wasn’t interested in my mother, her grandmother, as a person. That was me.  She wanted to be recognized and treated as a granddaughter at a family gathering.

She wanted to know why I didn’t do that.  Simple incompetence is my answer; or lack of awareness, as my grandson so eloquently said. Spring of ’95 I was self absorbed and clueless and on my own. The internet has it’s pitfalls but it’s the closest thing I’ve got to a mentor re reunion.

another step

Over at Birth Mother, First Mother Forum they’ve been talking about “coming out of the closet”.  That has been a lot of what blogging has been about for me the past few years, airing my thoughts and feelings.

The first year after Joy was born I talked about losing her all the time.  Everyone  got to hear my story.  I was looking for someone to help me figure out how to go on after the most traumatic event of my lifetime.  I don’t remember much response at all, from the wandering crowd I met.  Almost exactly a year later, a young man looked at me and said “You should never have left your daughter.  She needs you.”  That slammed me back on my heels.

I started being more circumspect about who I told my story to.  It was still the major event of my life and more important than anyone or anything else.  So if you were going to be a friend of mine, you heard it.  As time went by it moved to the background behind years of new events.  When most of my new contacts were moms in my raised kid’s playgroups, sharing my history of giving up my firstborn was no longer an intro.  Only those that got close to me knew about Joy.  But yeah, I always included her birth in my answers to medical personnel.

A couple years ago an old acquaintance of my husband’s came to visit.  DH suggested that I’d have a lot to share with this guy because he is an adoption worker.  He travels all over placing children for adoption.  This was the first time I was really dumbstruck.  I could not speak of my loss to this stranger.  I was hosting the enemy for dinner but I wasn’t going to let him know.  I just watched him.  He effectively ran the conversation that evening and on his agenda of their childhood memories.  So I really don’t know exactly what he does.  Maybe he is working with older children in foster care?  IDK. I don’t think so.

I don’t plan to invite him back to find out.  But he is on the fringe of family events.  If I do run across him in the future, I feel more prepared to find out what he’s doing.

Perhaps that’s the good news in my response to the movie Juno and the Kitchen commercial Nicole blogged about, and most of all being able to read and write here in the blogosphere.    In the ’60s and earlier, adoption was a secret, shameful thing.  In this new presentation it’s an option, like whether to drive a minivan or an SUV, a style preference.  There’s no shame.  It’s just whether you like red socks or blue socks.

Talking to a friend about open records legislation she was puzzled as to who would oppose it and why.  I told her imo adoptive parents feel as though they’ve paid good money for their adopted child and don’t want their title questioned.  She took that in with little surprise.  It wasn’t until later that I realized I had put it in terms of human trafficking.

I’m still unpacking the language and the standards and the inconsistencies of my experience of surrendering my own child to adoption.  My inner wolves are still fighting.

Revisiting

Ezzy and I were talking about Joy a lot the past few days as I was visiting both of them.  One thing I’ve learned about both Ezzy and her father is not to press, not to ask too much that could be construed as a demand.  They are great trainers that way, training me to sit in my own experience, speak from my own experience.  I’m learning to rely on my perceptions and express what’s going on with me.  They’ll contribute more when I demand less and just make an opening for them.

I shared that I didn’t really know what Ezzy thought when she learned I had given my first baby away.  I had worried that she would be afraid that I was unreliable as a mother.  She was 5 when I first told her.  At 24, she remembered being interested in having more family and that having a sister with a baby was a two fer!  I missed that at the time, because I was so freaked out about my fears and worries that I wasn’t paying real attention to real people.

A sweet highlight of our recent visit was having dinner at the restaurant Ezzy works at and introducing Joy as her sister.  Such a simple casual thing.  The food and the people were good.

Happy Christmas

Christmas proved to be a time of quiet blessings.

Early December I experienced anxiety and wishing and wondering about integrating Joy and Tomtom in the family/Christmas activities.    Temptation to fit in with my ideal scenes and shoulds tensed my shoulders.   I prayed, sent out feelers, fretted —  and then sat back and waited to see what would happen.

It was not surprising when the word came that it didn’t feel right for Joy to add me to the holyday mix.  In the last couple months I have tremendously disappointed my daughter — again.  I’ve tried to “protect” others from the rough emotional drama that she and I indulge in.  The luxury of maintaining my front cost a lot.

I took a week off to focus on living in Grace as part of celebrating Christmas, to choose freedom, to be in a state of forgiveness, to give up judgments on my choices and behaviors, my past.

Choosing grace and peace for myself enables me to stand back and observe  Joy making choices for herself, not against me.  Owning my foibles and missteps in our relationship allows me to see her sensitivity and frustration more clearly.  My strongest wish is that she be happy.  If she is happier with less contact that is what I want for her.

Transcending the habit of thinking I should be a better mother, or I should make her happy gives me a little more room to breathe, to allow me to be my perfectly imperfect self.

And so this is Christmas

Wake Up

“BIRTH MOTHERS: did your family resent you for your decision?

my family and my boyfriends family wants us to keep the baby but we both want to give it up for adoption.. how can i deal with the pressure from our famalies?”

I saw this on yahoo answers a couple days ago and didn’t respond. It’s still on my mind.  My family pressure was in the other direction and I went with it.  I relinquished my firstborn child to adoption.  That family pressure during pregnancy is the tip of the iceberg.  It’s the known part, from your past.  Look at what’s coming in the future, your future family member, the one about to be born.

When you “give it (your baby) up for adoption” you are giving away something that isn’t yours. You’re giving away that child’s birthright, their heritage, their connection to their genetic lineage.

I’ve read about online reunions of people identifying themselves as family based on DNA tests. People that haven’t ever met are finding commonality based on their DNA that is calling them to join an online reunion.

When we give our children to strangers, we are shutting them out of their own genetic family, our genetic family.

Finding oneself pregnant in an ‘unstable’ relationship, is a clear message to start taking more responsibility. The ‘pro-life’/aka adoption agenda says you can ‘place’ your baby in a better home and take your time growing up or sidestep responsibility. Even if that were true, there is a family member (your child) likely to resent the rationalization that you gave “this baby a shot at life”, while shutting them out of your life.

being a birth mother does not mean you dont love your child either.”

Yes, not only do you love your child, you will grieve for your loss much more than you realize beforehand. And you will learn there is likely a day of reckoning ahead of you even if you choose a closed adoption. A day you may secretly or openly yearn for. Our society is becoming more transparent. We are moving closer to open records, which all adoptees deserve.

Wouldn’t you want to know where you came from? Imagine yourself wondering about your roots, your biological origin on this planet.  Wouldn’t you want to know? And when a young adopted adult comes looking for their original parents, yes he or she is often resentful. They may try to hide it or deny it, but resentment gets muddled in with the trauma of losing one’s mother and growing up not knowing why. There is a lot of pain when a child loses it’s mother no matter the child’s age. That pain and loss gets protected with anger and resentment. The child you love has a lot of debris to clear before they can recognize your love, because of the strange way you demonstrate it – walking away from your baby.

Choosing the path of adoption is simply postponing and prolonging your difficulties. If you simply feel you’re too immature to take responsibility for your creation, your pregnancy, your child, you are fooling yourself to think you gain anything by taking a pass now. It’s procrastinating, delaying and compounding your mistakes instead of facing them and taking care of them as they come to meet you.

My adopted cousin story

When I relinquished my baby to adoption, my adopted cousin was my chief reference point.He was coddled and adored by his parents and my grandparents.As far as I could tell he was my grandparents’ favorite.they seemed to feel sorry for him because something was wrong, something was off – something was lost.So he got extra care and attention.

We were 2000 miles apart.

My brother and I treated our cousin with consideration and kindness at all times and a tad of disinterest. he seemed to ignore us which gave us freedom to ignore him.I never saw him with any other kids.As he grew up I heard stories of his failed marriage, lack of ambition and a foreclosure.

In 2004 my brother and I visited again our aunt and uncle. Those old folks were still doing their damndest to love and care for him.They tolerated behaviors that contradicted their beliefs and teaching with a familiar acceptance that surprised me

I try to reach out to this seemingly lonely cousin after my aunt died.I send funny friendly emails occasionally and ask about his dad.I indulge in worrying about him and my uncle.They live together since my aunt died. He caes for his afather, insuring he takes his meds and eats. He does his laundry and shopping for the past three years without a break.He asked me to take over for a couple weeks so he could go away.Loyalty and concern for my father’s brother urged me to go check up on him while my cousin was away.

Our first day together, Uncle D, pulls out his home movies.There is cousin R walking around a tree.There he is on a swing.Now he’s looking at the trash can.This went on for two hours as he grew from 2 years old to 3 years old. They really doted on him. Looking at cousin R when he was a toddler gave a fresh perspective on adoption.This poor kid had been taken from his mother at less than a week old.Suddenly the oddity in his manner and expression made sense.No wonder he was dragging that stuffed animal around at 7 years old.Yes something was wrong, something was off.He’d lost his mother and nobody ever said ‘boo’ about it.They just welcomed him with open arms into a completely strange environment, because “the young woman was in no position to provide for the baby.”

Uncle D provides his version of the adoption repeatedly.My guess is that he’s still baffled by the whole thing.He suspects the adoption was orchestrated by his mother in collusion with his aunt who was the attending physician at the baby’s birth.All he knows is Aunt J called his wife up and asked if she’d like to drive down and pick up a baby in a week?All his wife’s friends already had babies of their own and she wanted one too.Ok, let’s go.It’s a three hour drive crossing the state line.They drove down and back in a single day.Only took one day off from work.The story broke down a little when he tried to tell me he didn’t even have to take off from work because he’d been forced into early retirement.

No, Uncle D.Cousin was born in 1957.You didn’t retire until 1974.

Anyway it was a one day trip.He doesn’t remember any legal documents.But Aunt J(long dead) knew all about that.

He made a couple references to women he knew that had “gotten themselves pregnant before they were married”.One was “even a nurse and should have known better”.When he told me another story of a young woman that “managed to get herself pregnant”, I responded.

“It’s pretty easy to do.I did it myself.”

I was facing him, less than two feet away.He didn’t hear me. (?) He was so caught up in telling his story.I didn’t get any more unmarried pregnancy stories though.

His father told him not to get involved with a woman until you can provide for one.He provided.He even got her a baby.I don’t believe he ever went on a second date prior to meeting my aunt.He talks of selecting a wife like going shopping.He met her at church.His father met his wife at church.His brother met his wife at church.That’s where you go to get a wife.

If your wife doesn’t get pregnant and wants a baby, your ‘sawbones aunt’ can get you one.He lived a life of privilege.

Now he’s dependent on his ason.He’s vulnerable.He and his ason simply don’t talk about their differences.

Cousin R is “in love” with a woman he met on nicebridedotcom.

A change is going to come.Oh yes it will.