The deepest wounds can be inflicted by the dearest hands*
Like millions of other Internet denizens, I recently joined Facebook so that I could stay in touch with my adult nieces and nephews. That led to round-the-clock contact with colleagues, and then I joined The Shadow of the Wind fan club, the Loggins & Messina fan club…you get the picture.
Facebook has a “We’re Related” feature that allows users to set up family trees, supposedly so that everyone can connect with relatives they didn’t know they had (I got an e-mail earlier this week that said Barack Obama is my fourth cousin.) Mine is small-- my niece, nephews, my estranged sister, my cousin. Facebook users are familiar with the helpful messages such as “[friend] took the “What does your birthday mean?" test, [friend] listed “5 books that you love” and other fun things to keep you connected to the site 24/7.
Last month I received a “You may be related to” message since this person was connected to my relatives. There was no name or photo, just “Facebook User.” I couldn’t read this user’s profile or send a message, but I could see their relatives. My niece was listed as a cousin; my estranged sister was listed as an aunt. My other sister and my nephew were also included, as was the user’s husband. It was my daughter, the same daughter who supposedly told my sister that she doesn’t consider us family. Two cousins and an aunt in her adopted family completed her electronic genealogical chart; I was intrigued that there’s no mama. I know her mother isn’t computer literate, and apparently her adopted brother has an aversion to social web sites because he wasn’t included, though her sister-in-law was, also identified as “Facebook User.” So, like her adoption announcement said, she was a gift from Santa that Christmas; no mama. But everyone has a mother, right?
As this soap opera script unfolded on my computer screen I felt as though I had a knife thrust between my shoulder blades. I’ve known my daughter is on Facebook and has blocked me from the beginning since last fall, when I received a copy of a thread she shared with my niece and sister. While technology is great, it’s not foolproof, and I’m thankful for these rare instances of indirect contact.
Next month will mark four years since I saw or spoke to her. I get it, believe me. She has a mother, and it’s not me. I’ve known that since her birth certificate was altered 32 years ago. Overall I think I’ve done a great job of coping with this, until it’s in my face and impossible to ignore, like finding out that yes, she considers her biological family--but not me--her family after all. I feel like I’m in an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 or Gossip Girl, with the It Girls making life miserable for the unpopular classmate.
I made myself physically ill over this revelation, fever throughout the night, chills the next day, aching from head to toe. That pharmaceutical ad is right—depression hurts. When I returned to work the following day no less than three people inquired about my well being, for which I was thankful. Just one or two colleagues know I’m a birthmother; at this point it would be an awkward conversation so I just keep silent.
But one colleague, a beautiful young woman just a few years older than my daughter, knows and understands. Her mother and sister are in Mexico, and she has honored me with the title Madrina, Spanish for godmother. Later that day I received a bouquet of two dozen salmon-colored roses and a beautiful card with a very touching sentiment from my honorary goddaughter; I’m tearing up now as I re-read it. And with that I stopped grieving and got back to my pretty good life.
Ah yes, there’s an ending to this you-can’t-write-this-stuff saga. My niece visited me last month and I asked her to log onto her Facebook account. I told her I’d simply like to read her cousin’s profile, look at photos and see what I’m missing. Once again I explained how hurtful it is to know that my family continues to have a relationship with my daughter when she has cut me out of her life. My niece was diplomatic, said “You know I wish there was something I could do but I can’t. I don’t talk to her regularly, we’re not bffs (text speak for best friends forever). I’m sorry this hurts you so much,” and she gave me a hug. So I sat down and studied the profile, smiled at a comment she made that spelling and grammar count; it sounded like it came from my mouth instead of hers. All of the news was about her two sons. I looked at their pictures but didn’t feel connected; they don’t know about me, and I suspect they won’t. There were just one or two photos of her; I was very surprised to see one in her Favorites album--a photo of her and my niece taken at her wedding, wrapped in a hug. As I told Lorraine over dinner last week, my heart ached. She’s just so breathtakingly beautiful, exudes confidence that I never possessed. But that beauty was created by her father and me, which gave me a sense of…satisfaction? pride? As always when I looked at her, I was simply in awe. Yes, you can say I was in love. And that was that.
When Lorraine and I were discussing this blog entry via e-mail yesterday, she said something that really made me think: You gotta wonder how many birth mothers and their not-yet-reunited sons and daughters are just a click away from one another on Facebook. Or Myspace. Or the scores of other social networks that enable people to connect and reconnect every day. Great advertising copy: I found my long-lost mom on Facebook!
In a previous post Vanessa commented she wouldn’t wish her pain on her worst enemy. To be sure, fierce, fabulous, fellow first mothers, no one could endure all that comes with the loss of a child to adoption except us. When someone tells you they can’t imagine what it’s like, they’re right. But we’re still here. And we’ll continue to enlighten, educate, hell, even entertain.
And if anyone has a magic spell for dealing with insensitive, clueless siblings, please share.
*The quote opening this post references The Tragedy of King Lear, considered by critics to be Shakespeare’s greatest play, from Tina Packer’s Tales from Shakespeare, a collection of the bard’s beautifully illustrated plays for young readers.
NEWS FLASH: Madonna's application to adopt a second child from Malawi has been rejected, according to court sources. She was denied because she is not a citizen of Malawi. Maybe the ahem, justices in that tiny country read First Mother Forum.
Or maybe not.