Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Coming to Terms

I read a blog post the other day. As Rebecca was triggered by Christine Murphy's book Taking Down the Wall, I'm triggered by Rebecca's post, not only as an adoptee but as a first/natural/birth mother. It was a difficult post to read. My adoptee status is different from most of my sisters at Lost Daughters. I'm a late discovery step-parent adoptee. It's not quite the same as what my dear sisters have had to deal with in their lives. I was raised by the woman who birthed me but at the same time, that same woman was the deciding factor in me losing my own daughter to adoption.

I know some adoptees have a hard time with that phrase - "losing a child to adoption". How do you lose a child that you surrendered? It's a legitimate question from where they stand. I can understand their problem with it. Intellectually, you can know about the coercion that happened to us yet at the same time, aren't parents, mothers in particular, supposed to move mountains to care for their children? I know as a mother, I would move mountains to do what I needed to save or help my children. But - why couldn't I move that particular adoption mountain out of the way of my oldest daughter's life? What was holding me back? My age, my unwed status, my upbringing, my parents, my naivete, my insecurity, my fear, my church - these were the obstacles that were too much for me to overcome at that time in my life.

Rebecca says....

"This anger is not an entirely new concept for me. I've acknowledged it before and identified it as "the baby rage." I've long been aware of its existence and intensity. I've simply never allowed myself to acknowledge its direction: my original mother and father."

I understand Rebecca's anger. I also have "the baby rage" toward my own original father. He certainly didn't "lose" me. He looked at me and walked away willingly and permanently. How could he just walk away from me - an innocent baby? I'm told that he never held me - only looked down at me in the crib. I'm told that his first words about me when he saw me in the hospital were "she's so ugly". He wanted nothing to do with  me. How can a man who fathered a child be that way? How could he? He failed me.

"I am angry because they didn’t fight for me. I am angry that they didn’t rise up and rage against the system that was tearing us apart. I’m angry that they didn’t realize what was truly being lost until it was too late. I am angry that they allowed themselves to be tricked into believing it would all be okay. Because it wasn’t and it never will be. Not entirely."

Just as I had no choice in whether or not I had my original father in my life, my daughter had no choices when she was born. I left her behind in that hospital, unseen and unnamed. Yes, I take the blame for not being there for my daughter. I feel the guilt daily for not being stronger and fighting harder for my daughter. I feel the guilt daily for not screaming at the nurses with their BFA protocol, the ones who took her from me in the delivery room and didn't let me near her. I feel the guilt daily of not standing up to my own mother when she told me that I couldn't bring a baby back to her house. I feel the guilt daily of signing the relinquishment forms that Catholic Social Services pushed in front of me as I sat there sobbing. I feel the guilt daily of not reaching out to others who might have helped me keep my daughter. I feel the guilt daily of what all this means for the relationship between my children as siblings and I feel the guilt of being the cause of the baby rage in my daughter.

"The baby me has no interest in the rationalizations of grown-ups. 
She is raging mad--and she has every right to be so!"

My daughter has every right to be angry with me and not be interested in my rationalizations. As an adult she says she understands and doesn't blame me but I certainly couldn't blame her if she does feel this "baby rage". She may very well feel it but may not want to express it to me. I may never know if this rage has kicked her in the gut and I'll just have to live with that possibility.

Over the years I've learned to come to terms with the guilt and it doesn't sting as badly as it used to. I'm sorry for what I've caused my daughter and I've learned to forgive the 19 year old me for not being able to fight harder, not being able to put my foot down and defy everyone. I've worked hard at being here for my daughter in the last 11 years of reunion and will continue to be here for her. Actually it hasn't felt like work at all. I spent so long looking for her that it feels more like relief. It's such a relief to call her my daughter and tell everyone about her. It's a relief to say I have 3 children instead of 2 and it's a joy to have her and her children in my life.

Did I "lose" my daughter to adoption? Yes I did. It was a forced, closed adoption. I had no choice at that time but my daughter was the one left behind and truly voiceless so I understand if there's a part of her that rages and it's ok if the rage is directed at me. I was afraid to use my voice but she was too young to use hers. What I can do is accept my part in it and I can feel better about being here for her now. It's also ok for me to direct rage at the man who walked out of my life and never looked back. He didn't try to know me. He never tried to find me even though it would have been easy for him to do so. For him there really are no rationalizations and I think that's why I haven't tried to find him. Why would I look for someone who obviously didn't want to be found?

My baby rage is directed toward my father but a different kind of rage is directed toward my mother. That's where a lot of my work is yet to be done. I've worked on forgiving myself yet I have a very hard time forgiving the woman who turned away her daughter and grandchild. Even after 34 years it's a rage that can blindside me. Many, many first mothers deal with this same issue and I've written about it before. It's an ongoing process that I'll continue to work on for the sake of my health and my family.

All we can do as adoptees and as mothers is work on mending ourselves and hopefully in the process we can connect with our families.