Continuing my story from the post “The Wait: Part 1 – A Child’s Story“
With weeks turning into months without a response from E, or word from Carol, my anxiety was turning into a slow simmering anger. Confused by the strange feelings inside, not knowing what they were, why I was feeling them, and not liking the feelings at all, I had to find someway to deal with these new feelings. I needed to make some kind of sense out of them.
Believing in the pretty story, from the little book, thinking E didn’t love me wasn’t an option. All mothers love their babies, care about their babies, even animals. Thinking she had changed her mind, or wasn’t going to answer wasn’t an option, either. After all, E had agreed to the contact. Thinking along those lines was inconceivable to me, and I never went there on any conscious level. She wouldn’t change her mind. She just couldn’t. She was my mother, and no mother would do such a thing.
Understanding that this might be difficult for her wasn’t, exactly, an option either. She had agreed to contact. At least to my way of thinking, she must have wanted to communicate, so what was the problem? What was taking so long? It was all so confusing, and frustration was becoming the name of the game. With no internet to turn to for help, no access to other birth mothers, who could explain what E might be thinking, I had no way of understanding anything about this. I had no way of knowing my feelings were perfectly normal in such a situation. I did what, perhaps, most people would do to avoid the uncomfortable feelings. Rationalization to the rescue!
She was a single mom. She must be really busy trying to raise two kids. She just hadn’t had time. I was being impatient. I should just give it more time. Yes, that was it, just give it more time. She would write back. Thinking anything else would mean something I didn’t want to think about, acknowledge, or even consider.
With all that time on my hands, I began thinking, more and more, about E, trying to understand what might be the reason behind her lack of response. That slow simmering anger was changing into something else; a new feeling. I didn’t have a word for it at the time. Even if I had, I’m not sure I would have admitted it. I had never thought of the actual act of my relinquishment before; never considered it to mean anything more than, E, as an unwed, mother, just wasn’t allowed to keep me. I had never, consciously, thought of it in a personal way. Maybe doing so was too sad? Maybe it even hurt too much, so I just didn’t? Maybe I did and just didn’t know it? Maybe I just never wanted to think of it at all, so I blocked it out? Maybe it was the pretty story that stopped those types of thoughts? I really don’t know, but I was beginning to put two and two together now. I was beginning to feel it, and I still wouldn’t recognize the word for the feeling: rejected.
With anger unable to protect me from this new feeling, and getting no comfort from the numerous excuses, and reasons, I gave myself for the delayed response to my first letter, I suppose it was only natural that my mind would eventually find its way to contemplating what it must have been like for E to be pregnant, and unmarried. Being just slightly older than she was at the time of my birth, I guess, trying to find some rational way to understand my own feelings, and get some kind of control over them, it was only natural to put myself in her shoes? It could happen to me, so who was I to judge E? What would I do, if I had been in her shoes?
Contemplating that one question seemed to be the only salvation from all my mixed up and uncomfortable feelings, at least temporarily. I gave it considerable thought, going over every option in my mind. Thinking about how my own family would have reacted to such a thing, I could only imagine how hard it must have been for her. Still, would I have given up my own child? What about abortion? Abortion would have been illegal back then, but still a possibility for her. If it were me, would I have an abortion? Would I even consider it? Still, she could have kept me. It wouldn’t be easy, I’m sure. Still, being a single mother wasn’t an impossible task. No matter how much I tried to understand, find a concrete answer, I couldn’t escape the thought, “She could have kept me, if she had really, really wanted.” Couldn’t she?
What would I have done if I in her shoes? They were questions I just couldn’t find answers for. I just didn’t know what I would do, and the more I tried to put myself in her shoes, the more I only confused, and frustrated myself. Being unable to come up with any concrete answer for myself the questions once again changed.
I suppose it was only natural that the next step would be to question myself, and the right to my feelings? Did I have any right to expect anything from E? She had, after all, given me up for adoption. She was my mother, but she hadn’t mothered me. She had agreed to contact, but it had been months with no reply to my letter. I had chosen to always believe in the pretty story from the little book. Mothers, who gave up their children for adoption, did so because they loved them. They had no choice because they were unmarried. Wasn’t that just how it was? Now that I was at an age when I could have been in such a position, it was getting harder to understand, and accept the status quo. As the one given away, well, it was even harder to blindly accept the pretty story I had chosen to believe for so long.
I never once believed, then, or now, that E didn’t, or doesn’t, love me. Believing that did not stop the feelings of being unwanted, or the feelings of rejection, I felt but still didn’t recognize. Being an unwanted pregnancy, or child, whether it is true or not, no matter the complexity of it, when you are the one, who was adopted, and reality begins to set in, it takes a lot of effort to stop that thought from crossing your mind. When you are the one given up, trying to make sense of the loss and grief, how can you not feel those types of feelings? It was all becoming so confusing. I didn’t know what to think, what to feel, or what to do.
Trying to make sense of it all only created more questions, and they wouldn’t stop coming. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I was all out of patience. I finally called Carol to ask if she had heard anything, anything at all, from E. Carol’s tone this time wasn’t quite as excited, and possibly even a little concerned. She had not talked to E, but said she would give her a call. I found only a little comfort in knowing Carol would call E. A little comfort is better than none.
When more weeks, and then months, went by with no word, or response from E, my feelings became harder to escape. The excuses, and rationalizations, I made for myself, no longer mattered. The questions in my mind more intense. I had to protect myself. The back and forth struggle in my mind between, the unrealized, anger at her placing me, the new, unrecognized, feeling of rejection, and my attempts to understand what she must have been going through, were only getting more intense.
I still would not allow the thought of her not responding to cross my mind, and even if I didn’t know rejection was what I was feeling, the feeling itself was something I had to put a stop to. I shoved it down, and shut it off. What choice did I have? God bless anger. Sometimes it is a lifesaver, or at least a sanity saver. If anger is how we protect ourselves from pain, how could I not, finally, work my way back to being just plain old mad.
Plain old mad was the only emotion I could really understand, and at the time it was the safest one too. . I began telling myself that E’s lack of response was just rude. It was inconsiderate. I was angry at E, and, at least, rudeness was a legitimate, not to mention, concrete, thing to be mad about. I couldn’t believe anyone could be so inconsiderate as to take so long to respond to a letter. There was no reason for it. I told myself it had nothing to do with me, or adoption. Yes, it was just plain old rude, and that was all there was to it. Believe me; it was much easier to think that than all the things I had been thinking before.
I can’t honestly say I remember just how many months passed after I sent that first letter, before I finally heard from Carol. I think it was about six, but could have been less. As far as I’m concerned, it seemed like a lifetime between the time I sent my first letter off, and the time I finally received the call from Carol, letting me know she had received a letter from E, and had forwarded it to me. I can’t describe the relief I felt at that moment. All the anger, frustration, fear, and anxiety were simply wiped away, gone just like that. At least I thought it was, for the moment anyway?
I rushed home from work for the next day or two, running to my mailbox, and finally, there it was; my letter from E. The anxiety of the past several months seemed to have just disappeared as I held that letter. It didn’t matter anymore. The only thing that mattered now was the letter; my birth mother’s letter to me.