with whom our child is likely to be: a grownup person who cannot be expected to treat us nicely because they have no idea how in the hell to relate to us.
Yes, there is the first flush of reunion, but then what? Can the natural mother act like she would normally relate to her other children and expect the reunited child (yes, I know we are talking about grown ups, so go along with me here) to react to her the way a kept child might? From what I can tell, the answer is NO. You might be close one day, and the next Poof! the person is gone, and there is no way to get them back until they want to come back. Is this like a normal relationship with a friend, a cousin, a sibling, a parent? NO. This kind of behavior constantly puts us off guard, and after time, we cannot help but be wary.
Do any of you, adoptees or natural mothers, have friends who treat you that way and that you are willing to put up with? I don't. Comments to the last blog* from adoptees make the point that they do not even know how to react to birth mothers after reunion because there is no backlog of experience, in their heart of hearts the sense of abandonment is primal and paramount, no matter the reasons for the relinquishment. Additionally, and they may have internalized rotten stories about us that they have been all their lives and them, so what can we expect?
That makes a certain kind of sense. But to be the person who has to accept this ambivalence that feels like repeated rejection? To have to live with that kind of uncertainly in a relationship that many of us so desperately long for? There is no way to prepare birth mothers emotionally for what seems like continual rejection, over and over and over again. It's like having a lover you would follow to the end of the earth, but he comes and goes and comes and goes and comes and goes. Drives you nuts, it does, until you start shutting down. We cannot sustain a loving heart in a constant state of confusion and imbalance. We start setting up our own protective walls. To me it only felt as if my daughter was unconsciously trying to show me what abandonment felt like. She succeeded. I say this and--considering that our relationship spanned more than a quarter of a century--I consider it to have been a good one. Oddly enough, we were in a good place when she committed suicide.
Do we have to be hyper-vigilant about what we say to our once lost, now reunited children? Yes. I did think my friend's comment about "boys being easier to raise," while not meant maliciously, could sting. But for her daughter to walk out of her mother's life for more than a decade? To not even let her mother apologize, or accept that apology? With my own daughter I never knew what casual remark would be deconstructed and used against me. But most of her disappearances did not seem to have any specific remark or disagreement I could point to; she was just in retreat mode for however long it suited her.
My daughter's other mother actually said some pretty terrible things to her--which my daughter reported to me--and they would make up within days or weeks. Once I answered the phone and my daughter was crying uncontrollably: Tell me that you love me, she said, Tell me that you love me. So I did.
What had happened to cause such an outburst? Moments earlier, her adoptive mother had just told her that she never loved her. Before the end of the week, her adoptive mother called and apologized. End of story. In my husband's family, everyone agrees that his son, the second child (from a first marriage), is his obvious mother's favorite. Did that make the daughter walk out on a relationship with her mother? Not at all.
Someone commented at the last blog that I had not accepted that I had given up my daughter, and what that meant. Trust me, I accepted it the day I walked out of the hospital and left her there. Trust me, we first mothers accept that we have lost our children. Those of us who desperately long for reunion understand we cannot get back the years, and that we cannot replace Mom. We are so sorry for what happened. What we did not expect is that reunion would lead to being our punished by our children, the same way we felt punished by society, or our church or our parents--and ourselves--over and over again. We long for some kind of peace and normalcy, whatever that is. We did not expect to be on trial for the rest of our lives.
I do not mean to bash adoptees here, as someone in a comment at Monday's blog suggested. Adoptees certainly have reasons that I contend are pre-verbal and not easily recognized for their sometimes bad behavior towards their birth parents. I get it. I am only trying to explain why expecting natural mothers to withstand and eagerly accept behavior that you would not inflict on your friends is unreasonable. In the end, each of us has to protect our own souls. We cannot control what anyone else will do; we can only control what we do.
Reunion is a two-way street. It's not just about either party, mother or child; it is about both of the people involved at birth: mother and child. Adoptees sometimes write angrily that reunion is not about the birth mother! But for the birth mother, it is, just as reunion for the adoptee is about the adoptee. Reunion is clearly about both; each experiences it differently with different emotions. Both people are trying to heal the wound caused by the separation. And the feelings of each ought to be respected by the other, and as far as possible, understood, and accepted, with love. That's a beginning.--lorraine
* Why birth/natural mother-adoptee reunions go awry
See also: Adoptees ask: "Why Was I Given Away?"
Writing a letter to the child you gave up for adoption
After the Birthmother/Adoptee Reunion: Navigating the Turbulent Waters
Adoption and Recovery: Solving the Mystery of Reunion is an excellent book by Australian first mother Evelyn Burns Robinson that discusses the dangerous shoals of reunion from the perspective of the natural mother, but gives many insights that adoptees will find useful and comforting. Highly recommended for anyone before and during reunion.
And finally, I think the link to my husband's blog (Completely Out of My Mind) where he wrote about adoption and blood ties is not the correct link,but just takes you to the current post. If anyone reading this can point me to the right blog of First Mother Forum where the link is so I can fix it, I would appreciate it. His essay is pretty powerful, if I say so myself. Please leave it in a comment. Thanks.