Friday, July 2, 2010
O Lord, how long must birth mothers be punished?
"Unwed mothers should be punished and they should be punished by taking their children away." - Dr. Marion Hilliard of Women's College Hospital, Daily Telegraph, (Toronto, November 1956)
We have been getting some extraordinary comments from a Canadian who calls her self Cat, jammed packed information of late, including the quote above (see previous blogs). Apparently the history of the Women's College Hospital, according to Cat, is doing its best to wipe clean its slate from the dark ages of unwedness that most first/birth mothers found themselves during not only the conservative Fifties but also the supposedly Swinging Sixties. If there was a slight a shift in attitude ten years later, I sure as hell did not feel it when I got pregnant in 1965 in Rochester, New York. And neither did Jane, who was living in Alaska when she became pregnant. Jane fled Alaska and spent her "confinement" in San Francisco, a city where she knew no one. Both of our children were born in 1966, the year of the Fire Horse in Chinese astrology. Not a good thing, apparently. But that's another story.
While being a single mom today carries no shame--well, maybe in high school it still does, the pregnant girl is Glee is less than thrilled, is she not?--sometimes I wonder how it's possible to make our children understand what it was like back then, how we hid our pregnancies, how our parents totally freaked out--and some of them threw us out--how terrible a thing it was that we had sex and "got caught." I remember lying to the doctor when I hoped to get a script for The Pill. I was 22, incredibly nervous in admitting that I was Having Sex Outside of Marriage. (HSOM!) Today, it's unusual for someone not to be having sex by the time they are 22.
I know that so many reunions flounder for lots of reasons, but it seems that at least some of them do so because our children can not really forgive their birth mothers--even though they may be unconscious of their deep-rooted feelings of abandonment, anger and animosity towards us. And they can not imagine the cultural attitudes back then that propelled us towards adoption as the solution for our "problem." That's why is it important to keep the records of the past.
While my own daughter, Jane, she said she understood why she was relinquished for adoption, that she accepted it was different back then, it did not prevent here for closing me out whenever she felt like it. We would have long periods of cheerful ease in our relationship, then suddenly, BAM! out of nowhere she would shut down and walk away--for months, for nearly a year. Yet her adoptive mother could say the ugliest things to her but Jane always went back for more, forgave her quickly. Yet with me, over a small irritation that I expressed--she changed her phone number, would not answer my emails. It's a story that I'm all too familiar with.
I am thinking of this a great deal right now because Linda, who has blogged here but not of late, will be attending a family wedding this weekend, and her surrendered daughter is likely to attend. But they are barely speaking to one another. Or not at all. Mind you, the daughter found Linda and all was well for a short time, but....
photo by ken robbins
So Linda has been on my mind, even as I get ready to meet my "adopted" granddaughter, relinquished granddaughter, Lisa, tomorrow night, 10 p.m. at the Islip airport. I wish there were some way to fix things for Linda, that her daughter would be glad to see her and relate to her as a daughter and a friend, not someone to be ignored or barely acknowledged. I wish the rest of her family--especially her sister--could understand that this is not a mere simple issue that she can "get over," the way one gets over a love affair; I wish that sister could truly understand that the daughter's rejection of Linda--her birth mother, her mother, her real mother who will always be her real mother--cuts to her very core, and that nothing that has happened between them deserves this kind of rejection. I wish her family could grasp how cruel and unusual it is for them to carry on with Linda's daughter--display photographs of Linda's two grandchildren, visit her at her home, become "friends"--while Linda's daughter ostracizes her. But that sister doesn't get it.
We call her Judasina.
I can't fix this. I can't rewire the daughter's brain, or the wounds she carries because she was given up for adoption, just as I could not do anything to make my daughter come back to me until she was ready. She had to come back on her own schedule. What does this all mean? I don't know. I'm just rambling here today, worried about Linda at that wedding. Tomorrow will be another day; the pain will recede somewhat, but inside we carry it with us, hoping for a brighter tomorrow. Life is a river that keeps on flowing.--lorraine
The book above is a collection of essays by adoptees, birth mothers and adoptive mothers, including one of my essays. I see that you can buy a copy for basically the cost of shipping. If you are interested in any of the books shown here, please link on to it from this First Mother Forum, as that is how we are trying to keep the blog going. I've tried to take regular ads, but ads for adoption agencies pop up immediately. So the Amazon ads pay less but I can control the content. And some of the buys on the ad that changes are pretty good. Last time I checked, I was owed $1.61.