Friday, July 16, 2010
Reunion Hangover Continues: Part 2
Some explanation is in order here for those just coming to the blog or this post fresh. My granddaughter is the daughter of the daughter I gave up for adoption in 1966; my daughter gave up a daughter herself, and I've told the story in detail over several posts a few weeks ago. If you need to catch up start here and here. (You'll find the whole story under the June, 2010 posts, just poke around a bit.) Some of you know my life story as I have been involved in adoption reform since the mid-Seventies, first my writing magazine articles about relinquishing, and finally my memoir Birthmark, which came out in 1979.
So what's the issue now? I reconnect with the missing granddaughter, she's a writer and a performer, how cool is that? Shouldn't I be dancing on air? Why the grieving? I had told myself that meeting her would not be the same as meeting my daughter (it wasn't) as I had not personally given her up for adoption. She did not come out of my body. I felt no surge of oxytocin, the bonding and loving hormone, leading up to her birth. (Weirdly, Microsoft does not recognize this hormone and I get the squiggly red line every time I type it, but Microsoft sure as well knows the pain killer you and Rush Limbaugh can buy: Oxycontin. And it likes it capitalized.)
I surely do not know the answer but meeting her made so much of the old relinquishment grief--no matter how I tried to inure myself--no matter what I told myself, bubble up all over again. At the point of saying goodbye I felt both relief (wow that was emotional, and hard) and sorrow (not unlike whenever I said goodbye to my daughter), thinking, she needs to get away fast, she's found what she wanted to find by meeting me but she's out the door as quickly as possible.
She was lovely and gracious the entire week we had together; she was sociable with our friends, who all thought she was terrific and smart (she is). Because she was our guest, and had never been to Manhattan, I played the role of sightseeing hostess and like a grandmother picked up most of her expenses, and anyone has been to New York knows how expensive that is. I'm not complaining, not in the least, just explaining that I think that doing so ultimately felt on her end too much like me being a "mother," rather than a more neutral "friend," and that may be been one of the problems.
You read the adoptee memoirs and you encounter this same pull back that I felt. Some adoptees have emailed me privately and said they understood her reticence--hell, one even wrote she expected it. We first/birth mothers (and in lieu of the mother, grandmother) open our hearts and are ready to assume that role, but find soon enough that our relinquished offspring do not want that--they have a mom and dad and grandparents already, thank you very much.We don't understand the dynamic of their feelings that must bring up the sense of initial abandonment, even if it's not recognized as such, along with the sense that they were raised were they were meant to be (which of course stabs us because it relegates us to the role of baby provider for someone else). And particularly if they are religious, the words "God meant me to be raised by these other people"...means that "God" is a nasty wretch who meant us to live a life of sorrow after relinquishment. From our point of view--that of the birth mother--it's a lose-lose situation.
Her putting up a wall between us was way more emotional, way more difficult for me than I thought it would be. I have no way of knowing how different it would be if my daughter, the daughter I relinquished to be adopted, were still alive. In the process, I became somewhat more sympathetic to first mothers who recoil when contacted by their children they surrendered. Perhaps the feelings are way more fervent and strong than they are able to deal with. I say, somewhat, for I continue to believe, no matter what, that all adoptees if they so choose are entitled to meet, at least once, their natural parents. They are entitled to see someone who looks like them other than their own children. We first parents are obligated; they are entitled. The only reason they don't know our names and faces when they are given up as infants is because they are infants; it is a matter of age and time. They have the right to know their birth mothers' and birth father's names. And if they birth parents are alive, they have a unequivocal right to meet them.
That said, I find that right now I want to fill my life with distractions, with things I enjoy doing, with close friends and family. I know it's not possible now, but I'd love to go away on a sailing ship to someplace I've never been. Water for me is healing and spiritual. I need healing. Adoption, as I've written before, is the pain that goes on giving.--lorraine