Since I joined the virtual world nine years ago I’ve referred to some of the citizens as walking wounded, i.e., most people are in chat rooms, blogging, etc. because they’re striving, seeking, finding. Honestly, all is well in my world and I’m considered a happy, upbeat person, except when it comes to my life as a firstmother. Last week while I marked my daughter’s birthday I was thinking about this passage from The Giver, a futuristic young adult book by Lois Lawry that I read in the aftermath of 9/11:
Lily sighed. I hope to get assigned to be a Birthmother.”
“Lily!” Her mother spoke very sharply. “Don’t say that. There’s very little honor in that Assignment. The birthmothers never even get to see the new children.”
Very little honor indeed. And a simple phone call to my sister this morning was a grim reminder that in the world of adoption, we birthmothers are merely, to borrow a phrase from Lorraine’s July blog entry, “reproductive agents.”
I phoned my sister, Judasina (the name Lorraine and I call her, you’ll see why in a moment), to ask her if she wanted to join me for a Sunday drive to a craft show, and we caught up on the past week’s events. She knew from her daughter, my beloved niece, that I had sent myself a bouquet on my daughter’s birthday. She knows that’s always a difficult day for me and she leaves me alone until she’s given the all clear sign. I told her I had discovered my daughter’s address but that I wouldn’t use it because I didn’t want to upset or anger my daughter any more than I have, but that it was a comfort to me to have the information.
And then my sister confessed what I knew all along, she’s been in touch with my daughter over the past several months. This soap opera began over three years ago, up to and during my daughter’s wedding. My sister basically usurped my role…she met my daughter’s adoptive mother before I had the chance, despite knowing what a huge moment that was for me. She’s visited my daughter, who lives several states away, and bounced my grandson on her knee, yet I’ve never seen a photo of either of my grandsons, let alone told about their births (like everything else over the past three and one-half years, I discovered that information on the Internet) While my daughter has cut off all contact with me, she sends my sister photos of her two young boys (whom I jokingly refer to as my sister’s grandchildren), they e-mail occasionally, and apparently they tried to have a clandestine get together this past summer while my daughter had a month-long stay at the family home at the Jersey shore. My sister’s back stabbing and secrecy over the past several years has earned her the moniker Judasina. Suffice to say her ongoing relationship with my daughter (she’s not the firstmother so it’s OK to connect) has caused me a lot of heartache and long estrangements from my sister, and my sister ceased being my confidante long ago.
So, while I calmly let my sister share all the details of my daughter’s life, she saved the best for last: my daughter was recently diagnosed with cervical cancer. There’s absolutely no history of cancer on either side of her birthfamily, so I suspect it may be stress-induced. When I heard the words “cervical cancer,” all I said was, “that’s a shame,” as though my sister was talking about a work colleague, or an acquaintance.
I went to my craft show, did some errands, and by mid-afternoon I was just dumbfounded. If my daughter is so angry, so hurt, so overwhelmed that she can’t share serious health news with me, then I’m screwed. She really, really doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. I know and understand adoptees' struggle, but this—not being able to tell me she has a serious, life threatening illness, is just more than I can bear. One of the comments in my previous post told me to keep fighting, but I have no fight left in me.
I was going to send my grandson a first birthday gift this week, but decided against it. Jane commented in the previous post, perhaps we’re being spiteful. NO! This is self-preservation; I need to protect what’s left of my heart.
When my daughter’s first son was born, I--crazed, stalker birthmother than I am--phoned hospitals in my daughter’s city, and I found her on the second attempt. My sister, unable to keep the news to herself, told me she was having a Caesarian and the scheduled date. I just wanted to know that mother and child were well, and was it a boy or girl. Before I had a chance to react, the receptionist connected me to her room. My daughter answered the phone, and all I could say after not hearing her voice for nine months was..."Congratulations. And what did we have?”
It took her several moments to recognize my voice, and all she said was “Thanks for calling,” and hung up. I immediately sent an-email to Lorraine that I felt as though my heart was cryogenically frozen and it shattered into thousands of shards. Thankfully, I don’t feel anywhere near that at the moment, actually, I don’t feel much at all, and that hurts even more. I’m not angry, I’m not sad, I’m not wistful. I’m just numb.