My story continues from the post “I wish I had known then” Enjoy, Shadow
With my letter to E written and in the mail, I could get back to my life as usual. I tried that is, to get back to my life as usual; work, going out with friends, and the like. It didn’t seem to be as easy as it had once been. Maybe I hadn’t given much thought to my biology in the past, but it seemed to be all I could think about now.
Carol was able to tell me that E was divorced, and she had two children, a girl and a boy. I was so excited. I had always dreamed about having a sister; someone I could share all my dreams with, go shopping with, and other things sisters do. She would be my best friend, and someone I could always count on to be there. I had a sister! A little brother wasn’t such a bad thing either. Even though I didn’t know anything about them, I felt somehow a part of them, connected to them, a love for them. I hadn’t even known they existed. I really can’t explain why I felt so strongly about them. I just did. No. That isn’t really true. I can explain it.
Yes. They were part of me, my sister and brother, just as if we had grown up together. They belonged to me. They were all mine, and no one could take that away from me. The feeling was instantaneous, and the connection primal. I couldn’t wait to hear back from E., so I could find out more about them.
As far as anyone else knew, life was going on as normal for me. I still hadn’t told anyone in my family, and only a few friends knew. I went through my daily routine as usual. It was when I was at home, or alone, I couldn’t escape my thoughts. So many questions began popping into my head. It seemed odd that, for so long, there hadn’t really been any questions in my mind, but now, they wouldn’t stop coming, and coming, and coming! What was E like? What would my siblings be like? Were they anything like me?
As several weeks went by with no word from Carol that E had replied to my letter, I began getting a little impatient. What was taking her so long? With each week that passed, my anxiety began to grow.
I wasn’t aware of any underlying issues about being adopted that might be driving the anxiety I was feeling. At the time, adoptee issues, or feelings about being adopted, still were a foreign concept to me. Who would have told me any different? It wasn’t a subject people liked to discuss, or even knew much about. All I knew was that weeks were going by, and E hadn’t answered my letter. I hadn’t even realized just how excited I had been about all of this. If you had asked me how I was doing, I would have said, “Fine.”
Fine as I thought I might have been, the questions in my mind, however, were beginning to change. The more anxious I became, the more I focused on E, and her relationship to me. My thoughts were changing from wondering what she was like to something much deeper; something I hadn’t consciously acknowledged before, and why would I? There had never been a reason to do so. Logically, I knew E had given birth to me, which made her my mother, but consciously thinking of it in terms as a connection to me hadn’t been a necessity before. It wasn’t like as a child, adoption was never mentioned, or I didn’t understand what it was. My parents talked about it with me, told me about the day they picked me up, and brought me home. They had brought up the subject of my other parents from time to time. I knew E was my mother. I just hadn’t really given it much consideration; what exactly that meant. Why would I?
I don’t recall the exact moment, at around age 3 or 4, that they actually sat down and told me I was adopted, and read the little book to me, which was supposed to help explain adoption. It seemed I had just always known, and it was no big deal. I remember from time to time, as I grew up, taking the little book, and reading it to myself. Even now, as a middle-aged adult, as my Mom was reading it to me, so I could include it here, it gave me the warm fuzzies once again. Hearing my Mommy’s voice read to me the words, as I visualized in my mind and brought back from memory, the bright colors, cute little animals and happy faces of all the people in the book, I felt like a child again, happy, safe, and loved. It was a mere flashback to a childhood feeling, and my only belief of what adoption was, or meant, for the first half of my life. Why would any adoptee ever want to look past the innocence of a book written for 5 year-olds to see the reality of what adoption really is, really means to us?
“The Family That Grew”, by Florence Rondell and Ruth Michaels
What’s the smallest thing that you ever saw; a pebble, raindrop, a grain of sand? Once you were even smaller than any of these things. That was before you were born. Everything living has to start growing.
A rooster and a hen start every little chick, a gander and a goose start every little gosling, and a man and a lady start every little baby, and that’s how you started too.
Like everything starting to grow, you were much too tiny to do a single thing for yourself. So the lady kept you warm, and protected you inside of her body, until you were big enough to eat, and breathe, and cry, and smile. Then you were big enough to be born, and you were.
Everybody wants to take care of the babies they grow. Cats want to take care of their kittens. Dogs want to take care of their puppies. Ducks want to take care of their ducklings. When you were born, the lady and the man who started you also wanted to take care of you.
Sometimes, though, something happens that people cannot take care of the babies they start, and that happened to the lady, and the man, who started you. So they thought, and thought, about what they could do to be sure you had a father and a mother to love you and take care of you.
They went to a special person, whose job it is to know about children. And the things they need to be happy. They ask her to find the right father and mother for you to grow up with, because they wanted you to grow up in a family, and she found your Mommy and Daddy, who had always wanted a child to cuddle and love.
As you might expect, the story goes on and we all live happily ever after. It is how a children’s story should be. What a beautiful concept of adoption? If only it were like that, a fairy-tale, of all of us in the triad living happily ever after. It is just not that simple, though, is it?
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that, in my mid-twenties, my understanding of sex, how babies were made, and become adoptees, was that of a 5 year-old. What I am going to tell you is that as an adoptee, when you grow up hearing such a beautiful story, it is much easier to buy into the beauty of it.
It is much easier, and more pleasant to think of it in the terms of the story than it is to see how that story dismisses your biology as a generic lady and man, with no name, no personality, and no human characteristics.
It’s easy to associate this generic lady, and man to the cute pictures of the animals with their natural inclination to care for their babies, and the implied love they have for their young. It is more pleasant to think of our biology in terms of animals than it is to think of them as human, a father, who would provide and protect you, and a mother, who carried you for 9 months inside her, protecting you, and taking care of you, as the book even stated.
It is easier to accept the lady, and man, that started you, as more animalistic, than it is to think of them in the same terms as the “Mother”, and “Father”, “Mommy”, and “Daddy” that “wanted” a child to “love” and cuddle”. What does referring to the adoptive parents as “the right father and mother for you to grow up with”, a family, along with “your Mommy and Daddy, who had always wanted a child to cuddle and love”, imply about the lady and man?
As an adoptee, dismissing your first Mother and Father as just a generic lady and man, is so very much easier than the reality of it. Why face the reality of it until you have to, and as children, teenagers, and young adults, perhaps most of us adopted as infants just simply don’t have to think about it, much less face it. We don’t that is, until something happens that gives us no choice.
I understood that E was a real person, logically, I had for years. It was different now. She wasn’t just a lady. She had a name. She was not some animal, with animal instincts. She was a human being, who could think, speak, and feel. Waiting for her to respond to me forced me to acknowledge her as such. I wasn’t some chick, duckling, kitten, or puppy, that needed a new home, I, too, was a human being with thoughts, and feelings. There was no escaping the reality of it now. She was my mother, and had given me up for adoption.
It is a difficult thing to accept and acknowledge, this human, emotional, aspect of just what adoption entails. As an adoptee acknowledging the black and white core of just what it means to be adopted, is something perhaps all of us would prefer not to ever have to think about. Many adoptees never do. It is not a pleasant thought, and at the time, I wasn’t really able to understand what I was truly feeling. Reality was slowly coming to my conscious mind, and I needed to fight it, stop it, and protect myself from it. E had, carried me for 9 months, given birth to me, and then gave me away.
I use the term “gave away“ here, instead of those terms more preferred by birth parents and adoptive parents, because as the one who was surrendered, relinquished, or had a plan made so they could be adopted, the words used for the action taken doesn’t really matter when it comes right down to it. When you go past the coping defenses, to the raw primitive emotions inside, thinking of our birth parents in the only context we know to think of a “Mother”, and “Father”, even though we have the capacity to understand all the reasons why, Somewhere deep inside, sometimes, way too deep for conscious recognition, the thing is, it just plain old hurts.
As adoptees, and as birth parents, how can it not hurt us, unless, we take out the human emotions related to what a mother and father are? There is only one way to stop the thoughts in all of us of the would haves, should haves, could haves, and what ifs, that are inevitable for any human, and that is to never think of it at all; the reason why we find ourselves adoptees. It hurts and there is nothing anyone can do to make it not hurt, when that hurt comes to the surface.
For the first time, I was consciously beginning to acknowledge the connection of E as a mother, my Mother. Whatever her reasons for placing me, no matter how much I was loved by my adoptive family, no matter how over the years I rationalize it all, understand it all, sympathize with my parents, and empathize with them all, nothing can take away the core pain I feel about being an adoptee. It is something I have learned to accept, live with, and I am really fine as I can be with it. It is something all of us in the triad have to accept, and learn to live with, and when we don’t, it can create even more problems for all of us.
It is the one fact about adoption that gets dismissed with excuses, and rationalizations, more than any other. It is the one thing that the majority of people will never be able to accept, and, quite frankly, I don’t blame them. Why would anyone want to face reality when the story book version of adoption, and what it means to all those involved, is so pretty, and, oh so much easier to deal with?
Adoption’s gain is biology’s loss. I’ve never had anyone argue the fact that anytime a baby is removed from its mother, for any reason, it is a sad thing, no matter the reasons, even when it is what is best for the baby. It is a sad thing that all humans and most animals can feel, empathize with; this separation of a baby from its Mother. For humans, with the parent child bond we expect as human beings, it is doubly hard to comprehend, especially when you add the emotions as humans we are expected to have. This sad fact is something most everyone is capable of acknowledging, but is, also, the one fact in adoption that many want to take for granted, brush to the side, ignore, diminish, or even erase all together. All the love and happiness in the world cannot change this single fact about adoption, no matter how much we wish, and pretend. Without this single fact, there would be no adoption.
As an adoptee, when the day comes, and the acknowledgement of the sadness felt when mothers and babies are separated comes to your conscious mind, and you realize that you are one of those babies, it can knock you to the ground. I was just a young adult, the full reality of what adoption was, and meant to me, was just beginning. It would be another 16 years before the reality of it knocked me to the ground. I think it happens to all adoptees at some time in their life, to some extent. We do what we have to do, each of us being different. We find a way to survive.
Part 2 of The Wait for E’s reply to be continued in the future.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a special “Side Note” to today’s post.