One of the never-ending conversations adoptive parents have is when the child’s mother of birth cancels, or just doesn’t show for an arranged get-together, despite having promised to be there. I can’t say with any certainty, but I do wonder if it’s more the overwhelming feelings that keeps them from keeping the commitment.
I say that because adoption is complicated, it seeks to create what shouldn’t ever need to be created. It separates the most fundamental of all, the mother/child bond and position within a larger family unit. Coming to reunion well into middle-age when I should be able to handle most things, I get over overwhelmed with unknown, unnameable feelings about getting together with my family of birth. I suspect there are others like me on both sides that have this happen, and, I can see why a mother would not be able to get together with the family that adopted her child when it’s planned in advance.
Below is my attempt at explaining what happens and the feeling evoked in me.
I’ve held off on accepting invitations more often than I’m comfortable admitting when it comes to getting together with my family of birth, I’ve also canceled ones I’ve accepted. Sometimes it’s my health that gets in the way, sometimes it’s the waves of big emotions that come out of nowhere, that slowly grow more frequent as the date gets that much closer to where I just shut down.
I’m much more comfortable keeping in touch than getting together unless it’s spontaneous, then I’m good. But plans allow time for all my uncertainties to bubble up to the surface. I’ve tried my form of meditation, staying busy, doing self-talk to breakdown the ridiculousness of the feelings. None of it works very well for long, the moment I stop trying to override my fears and feelings, they envelop me again.
Digging deep to find the words that explain the feelings that come over me in waves isn’t easy, nor will they be complete here either, as I don’t think there are words to explain what happens, what lies underneath. They don’t have to do with jealousy, but they do have a component that’s somewhat similar; knowing you’re going to be with your family members that grew up within the family, that they have shared memories that date back to childhood, they know each other in a way you only do when it’s a life-long relationship. It’s the pain and feelings of loss knowing you should have been part of that collective, but weren’t, and yet, you’re part of them, and not, all at the same time. When you’re with them all those longings are there to be part of the family, along with the knowledge that you really aren’t, and never will be in the way you should have been. Those emotions are big for me, overwhelmingly big, combined with all the other normal insecurities when you desperately want to be accepted for who you are, things like whether they’ll think you’re good enough, all that fear swirls inside you in the days leading up to whatever event you’ve been invited to. You don’t even have to consciously think those thoughts, the underlying feelings and fears just bubble inside by themselves.
Adoption severed the bond, the connection you should have always had, but didn’t, it leaves you with this unexplainable feelings of a likeness with your family by birth in many ways, but unlike in other ways. It’s the same, but in reverse that you can feel within your family by adoption. Leaving you at the end of the day feeling you were never fully in either one.
Perhaps the saying you can never go home again applies to some of us in adoption more than we’d like it too.
So, words of wisdom to anyone trying to make plans to get together with your child’s family of birth and experiencing no shows – don’t make plans, try being spontaneous instead.