I’ve been trying to turn off all things adoption, but it’s impossible. I’ve noticed that I can go for weeks without thinking about my estranged daughter, and then, wham! She’s living in my head rent-free and I can’t evict her.
My husband and I attended a family event over the weekend. We rarely see his family so naturally everyone was catching up on events. An in-law I’m close to asked if I had heard from my daughter and I replied no, but did I tell her I now have two “imaginary” grandchildren? I hadn’t. And this woman said what she says every time, “That’s not right. She came to you.”
It’s not right, but that’s how it is, as readers of this blog know all too well. The last time I saw or heard from my daughter was her wedding day, Memorial Day weekend three years ago. I didn’t want to go, but my inner circle of advisors said I must. The wedding was in North Carolina (her mother and I are in NJ). I met my daughter’s mother for the first time the evening before the wedding (we had been in reunion for over five years); it was a very awkward, very public introduction. My daughter made sure I kept my distance; I had less than fifteen minutes face time with her, as I expected. I wasn’t invited to the rehearsal dinner, she wouldn’t allow me to do a reading during the ceremony. I wasn’t included in any of the professional photographer’s family photos. I was just another guest. My husband, my sister, niece and I were seated at a table of the groom’s mother’s friends; I was on the other side of the room away from my daughter’s relatives, of which there were very few.
From what my sister has told me, my daughter was outraged that I stole her thunder on the most important day of her life. My status as the fairytale birthmother was the focus of the day, not the bride. My sister tried to tell her niece that I was on my best behavior, people came to us, I didn’t flit about the room bragging if I wasn’t for me, there’d be no wedding, as she insisted I did. People—her uncle, elderly second cousins--came to me; they shook my hand warmly and told me how glad they were that I was there.
I took away two things from that long afternoon and evening. The first was a brief but surreal conversation I had with an adoptive mother, a dear friend of my daughter’s mother, and the following encounter. My niece and I were in the ladies’ room and an attractive young woman turned to me and said, “I just wanted to tell you how great it is that you’re here. I’m an adoptee, and my mother wants nothing to do with me.” Of course, my heart sank. I knew, I KNEW, that I was just hours away from being cut out of my daughter’s life, and yet I had on my shiny happy birthmother face. I told this woman what we all know too well—reality is messy, reunions are complicated. I told her to give her mother time, try to be patient…the same things people have told me. She also mentioned her husband was also an adoptee but after seeing what she went through, had no desire to search for his birthmother. I told her that was fine, that was his right.
Later in the evening I found myself on the terrace with this young woman and her husband. He immediately started to tell me all the reasons he didn’t need to search for his first mother, and I listened and assured him his feelings were valid and allowed. As his speech wound down, I noticed he was in tears. I wonder if he’s changed his mind about searching.
When I arrived safely home two days later, I turned to my husband and said I felt as though I deserved an Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy for my performance, and he agreed.
And so it goes.