Many of you already know the bones of this story but for newer readers background seems imperative: Adoption in 1966; reunion when my daughter, Jane, was fifteen; learning she had epilepsy; a sometimes rocky relationship: and then she repeats history by giving up a daughter for adoption almost exactly 20 years to the day later she was born.
You think one adoption is bad enough, you find that she is being raised in a middle-class family in hip, liberal Madison, Wisconsin...and then you learn she is giving up a child of her own. It was the worst news I could imagine. We had not been speaking but when her birthday came around, but I thought, What the hell, I'm going to call her anyway, I can't let her think I'm not thinking of her on this day. It was April 5, 1986. Her father answered the phone, sounded a little strange and said she was not there but he would tell her I called.
When Jane called a few hours later she told me she had been at the hospital feeding her daughter....
I remember the first time I heard that adoptees are likely to repeat history. I had been testifying for a group of adoptees in New Jersey in Vineland, so that they could get to know the truth of their origins,and during a break in the trial I ran into one of the plaintiffs in the ladies room. She was weeping profusely and I asked why--she said when she heard me stay how I always wanted to know my child, she lost it because...she had given up a child herself.
I could hardly believe it--that someone who was adopted would somehow fall into the same awful situation I had, but she had. I felt as if she had needed somehow to repeat history, to understand what it had been like for me, but that day when Jane told me that she had a daughter, all I could think was: what have I done? Started a whole chain of lives that will be marked by adoption?
Later I'd read about the phenomenon elsewhere, read Jean Strauss's book, Beneath a Tall Tree, about her mother and her mother's mother all being adopted, if I remember correctly. Because any kind of records about adoption on a national scale are hard to track--adoptive parents don't even want to tell the census takers if their children are adopted--numbers about how many adoptees also have children given up for adoption are going to be impossible to compile.
But this story is far from over, and I'll be telling it over the next several days. Right now it's Sunday, the husband wants to take a ride and go antiquing. I haven't been writing as much as I'd like because I am doing other work, and this morning one of the windows that needs replacing and is held up by a stick fell on my hand! Need ibuprofen. Need painkillers for my life sometimes. But today, sun's out, life is fine.--lorraine