Thursday, December 22, 2011

Does my (birth) mother think of me on Christmas?

My tabletop tree
Christmas, not April, is the cruelest time for many of us. All the gaiety, the awareness that families gather round together sharpen the reminder of who is missing: if you are a birth/first mother who has not been reunited, you are ever so aware of the presents you are not buying, the card not being sent, the phone call not made to the missing child. You wonder if he/she ever thinks of you at this time of the year. Question not. He is. My daughter said that she used to look at the moon on cold and clear winter nights, and think that somewhere I was under that same moon, wondering if I was thinking about her. I'll never know if our thoughts collided in space, but I like to think that they did.


GIVE YOURSELF THE GIFT OF GIVING UP THE SECRET
Christmas music seems designed to pierce through whatever shell we first mothers have surrounded ourselves with and reach down to our  core to remind us: She is gone, she is six or sixteen or thirty-six, who is she today?--oh my god, that girl/teenager/young mother looks like me, could she be her? So many reminders accost us daily: shopping at the mall and seeing people who are the age of your child, or catching a glimpse of a mother and daughter--you note how much they look and act alike, you can not help it--out together for the day, seeing something you wish you could give your daughter, if only you knew where she was. I used to barely be able to get through Christmas Mass without weeping, even when I had that huge lump in my throat. The high notes of The First Noel and Silent Night cut right to the heart of my heart.

Until I told my family about my daughter I know my mother always wondered what was up. Life was so much easier when I didn't have this awful secret to hide. I hope some of you who have kept this secret will unburden yourself in the coming year, and find a way to greater acceptance of yourself. Shame breeds this secret. It is long past the time to let this shame rule our lives.

Lorraine
For those who have been reunited with their lost children, but have gone aground in the reefs past reunion, there is really nothing you can do but try to accept what is with equanimity. If you have done your part, and are rejected, find comfort in knowing that you did what you could, but the other party is not able to accept you. As I said earlier, if you feel like reaching out, do so. Make the call, send the letter, write an email, send a jar of jam. Don't promise more than you are sure you can deliver. Not only will reaching out make the other person relieved that you remembered her, you too will feel good for having done it. Shakespeare said it well:
"The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."
Our path--whether first mother or adoptee--is not easy. Adoption is not a one-time act, but a lifetime reality. For all of us, it is a much more harmful deed that we could ever imagine, both in what it does to us birth mothers, and what it does the children we had hoped we were doing "the right thing" for.

ASK NOT WHY, BUT WHY NOT?
I am not a religious person, but it is so easy to ask, Why Me? Or Why Me, Lord? Why not you? is fate's chortling reply. But I do know we were not meant to have our hell on earth to provide someone else's joy, to complete someone else's family, yet it does seem that that is the good--someone else's gain--that often springs from the sorrow and grief of losing our children. Instead of simply feeling resentful, I now try to accept this. But I still will try to point out my feelings about this whenever possible. Not speaking up when we can keeps records sealed, makes other see adoption only as a feel-good solution for others, and keeps more of us first mothers deep in the closet.
My daughter and me, 1983

I will go to Mass on Christmas morning and ruminate about my daughter, who died four years ago. In my own way, I pray simply by thinking about her and focusing on the good things about her, the joys we were able to share, the good times we had. I loved shopping with her and buying her clothes; we laughed at the same jokes; we both loved the sea. I am proud of the work she did for the epilepsy foundation, and how she was beginning to find her voice as a writer herself, after overcoming tremendous odds.

I will be glad for my husband, my friends both far and near, my dear and serendipitous relationship with the daughter of my first love. I will, I am sure, be once again overcome with emotion when the chorus sings Silent Night. And then, I will share Christmas with family and friends and good food and fellowship. And I will know that no matter how much I miss her at this time of year, Christmas is only a season, Christmas is only a day.

In a few days Christmas will be over, and life will go on. It can't help itself.--lorraine
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An earlier version of this was published in 2009
See also:
Calling loved ones (and those you are not so sure of) for the holidays
A First Mother remembers: My Adopted Daughter's first Christmas gifts
Letters Lead to an Alternative Universe Daughter

34 comments :

  1. Lorraine, have a wonderful day and be blessed.

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  2. I just have to say, be careful when you assure "every" mother that their lost child is thinking of them on Christmas.

    As a child I did not think of my mother on Christmas Day. As a teenager I still didn't think of her specifically on Christmas Day. Once I "found" her through a translated letter, I began wondering about her a LOT, but up to that point... no.

    I know this isn't true for every child lost to adoption, but what I am saying is, uust please be careful not to generalize like that.

    I realize my comment may be triggering; don't feel obligated to post it as it was just something I wanted you to consider.

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  3. Mei-Ling, our children may not think of us, their first mothers, on Christmas or any other holiday. But I am quite sure that most mothers think of their lost children, on their birthday, Mother's Day, holidays like Christmas, and in fact pretty much every day of the year.

    This is not triggering for me. I didn't expect that my son would wonder until he was older. It's about coping with what is.

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  4. My son said he used to sit on the coast of France looking out across the Atlantic and wonder about me.

    Never ceased to be wowed by the pictures of you and your daughter Lorraine.

    All the best for the holidays.

    Marianne
    aka Unsigned Masterpiece

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  5. Mei Ling,

    I beg to differ with your comments

    This is your opinion and this is mine. My son who I have been reunited with since 93, has told me that he always wanted to know me. He also wanted to know his father. We mothers never forget our babies and our babies don' t forget either.
    That is why people search to know their beginnings. Their is a innate human need to know. Adoptees's usually think more of mother when they become pregnant or marry.

    Ps my son wasn't raised by the two "parent" adoptive family. Soon after he was adopted he became a one parent "family" exactly what I was when I gave birth. Due to societies interference I was forced and coerced into putting him up for adoption.

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  6. Mei-ling, you are undoubtedly right that some adopted people never give their birth mother a thought on the holidays when most of us are thinking about our children we gave up. Thanks for sharing that reality check.

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  7. Unsigned Masterpiece: Yes, some of the pictures I know are amazing because of the body language. I have that one blown up on my wall where I can look at it right now.

    I will be glad this year when the holidays are over.

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  8. Mei Ling, agreeing: Nothing is true for every adoptee except that they were all adopted. Your caution is a good one. What either adoptees or mothers think about and when is individual, not universal, and saying that does not invalidate the experience of those whose mothers or children did or do think of them.

    My son thinks of me now, which is what I care about. I got a lovely email from him, sympathizing with some health problems, talking about their decorations, thanking me for their gift and letting me know one to me is on the way. This fills me with joy. My son is not lost any more. The past is gone, what matters is now. I can't speak for anyone else but this is my true feeling. What really matters is that he is happy and safe and well wherever he is.

    A joyful and blessed Holiday to all.

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  9. I wish you and everyone who is reading this a very happy 2012 .So far in the East here where I am the winter hasn't been bad-nothing like last year(so far). I wish my son would talk to me and yell, get angry, or tell me what happened after 10 years of a very good reunion. But having talked and listened to other first mothers, I am a little stunned but not really surprised. My brothers say they can't believe that he would be like this. But I know this is par for the course when adoption interferes and turns the simplest mother-child relationship into the most complicated. Last Christmas he visited here with his wife and newborn baby then got snowed in and won't be coming this year(I hear this via the grapevine) The only thing I can think of is I didn't pay enough attention to them last Christmas Someone else in the family had had a series of very unfortunate events happen and was in crisis, so I was walking on eggshells that day and afraid to upset the equilibrium Maybe it seemed like I was ignoring them The other thing that comes to mind is my son's daughter was about the same age when I last saw her that he was when I last saw him(I hope he hasn't been planning this.)Maybe I'm just being paranoid. Time will tell. I can hear my Dad saying "Leave him alone. He's just busy" I don't know

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  10. The more blogs I read and the more comments I read the more I see how ugly adoption really is. It's like peeling back the layers on a rotten, stinky onion.

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  11. Happy Holidays to all at FMF

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  12. Thank you eveybody--Jenn, Mei-Ling, Robin, Denise, Maryanne, and Marianne and Anonymous and everybody else who is checking in.

    Holidays are hard.

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  13. Lorriane,
    You are a lifeline to me. I read your blog several times every day. You are not alone this holiday. The community of mothers who lost out on their children is with you. Thanks for bringing us all together. And thanks to the adoptees that help us understand their experience so we can be more compassionate to our children.
    Merry Christmas,
    Barb

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  14. Dear Barbara Thavis:

    XXXX to you and everyone. We had to cancel our usual holiday plans (which involve a trip to NJ) because I am feeling under the weather, literally, with a blocked sinus, and so we were without family. I ran into a friend in the supermarket yesterday afternoon and she invited us to a dinner tonight with their kids and other friends of ours and I'm baking my mother's pumpkin pie with whipped cream, of course.

    Life does go on, despite how we feel. And we return to our equilibrium, wherever that was.

    Merry Christmas!

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  15. Lorraine,
    Thank you for your, as usual, wise and thoughtful post, yet filled with hard truths too. My heart goes out to you at Christmas.

    Robin - yes I often think of peeling off the layers of an onion, but never thought of a rotten stinky one. Good metaphor.

    On another note, we really shouldn't forget first fathers. I am (mostly) blessed with the father of my daughter being my first sweetheart. He is very close with our daughter and attends (or used to) an adoption support group. I heard from him today after a long silence, but no word yet from my daughter.

    Merry Christmas and peace to all those in reunion, in a silent period, not in reunion and extra strength for those like Lorraine whose children are no longer alive.

    Angela W.

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  16. Merry Christmas to you Lo, and to all of us who have been torched by adoption.

    I'm not a religious person, but every time I go to a cathedral I light a candle for those whom I have lost.

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  17. Merry Christmas!

    Remember Mary mother of Jesus was unwed.

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  18. At least Mary didn't have to give Him up. Odd to think of it that way.

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  19. Well, just think how different so many of our lives would have been if we all got the fathers of our children (whom we gave up) to marry us.

    The adoption rate would have plummeted and we'd all be happier today.

    Pity.

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  20. Lorraine, I thought you might be interested in the series I have written for The Salt Lake Tribune on putative father registries and Utah adoption law. Here is a link to story number 2: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home2/52433534-183/utah-law-court-adoption.html.csp

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  21. Lorraine wrote:"Well, just think how different so many of our lives would have been if we all got the fathers of our children (whom we gave up) to marry us"

    My first mother could have gotten a medal for trying. And I do think it would have been better for me even if they had divorced when I was little. At least I would still have gotten to be a member of both of the families I was intended by nature to be a part of.

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  22. Lorraine wrote:" Well, just think how different so many of our lives would have been if we all got the fathers of our children (whom we gave up) to marry us."

    Where WAS that shotgun when we needed it?:-)

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  23. Right! You had a better chance, Maryanne, because he was your BF. MIne, ah mine, had to disentangle from his marriage; I begged, DO IT NOW. He said: It will be easier later. After.

    He did leave his wife and family--yes, that part is true--and ask me to take up where we left off...but it was too late. For my daughter. For us.

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  24. In some cases, it took more than just getting the guy to agree to marriage. In my state, males had to be 21 years of age unless the parents signed for them which my guy's parents refused to do.

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  25. Not so good a chance, Lo. When I told my boyfriend I was pregnant,he said he had been seeing a new girlfriend on the sly, no longer loved me, and would not marry me. I was utterly crushed. I had no idea. He offered to pay my hospital expenses but I don't think he ever did. Also came around during my pregnancy with the new girlfriend, whom I hated, but couldn't show it. I still hate the name "Eileen" (sorry to any innocent bystanders by that name out there:-) He later married her, they got divorced, no kids. Then he married an even worse woman, one kid, messy divorce. As far as I know he stayed single after that.

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  26. Oh dear, is it really necessary to raise a quibble over who had the "better chance" of bagging their man?
    Whatever the reasons, we and our children all ended up in the same sorry boat.

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  27. Quibbling?

    We're just letting down our hair with other mothers.

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  28. Well, I was without internet access for a few days(libraries closed), so I'm catching up with FMF today. I cooked dinner for 15 on Christmas Eve (my siblings and some of their kids). Everyone knew I was feeling down because I hadn't heard from my son since last summer, and my sister's husband is adopted so we had some weird discussions and shared some jokes that went over most everyone else's heads ;eg-adoptee's comment "don't forget your presents Did anyone leave anything behind that they really wanted to keep?";firstmother's reply to question'Where is that other bottle of wine?Answer 'I brought it up(stairs)' Well,I'm just getting back to normal And lo and behold, on Christmas day my son finally called He said he had been stressed out from some surgery that he had Or maybe he was tired of getting weird voicemails from me every week and just wanted to shut me up for awhile Whatever. Today I'm happy

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  29. All I know is that I always thought of and missed my son on holidays. His birthday was particularly hard.
    We have had an on and off stormy relationship over the years - just as he has had with most people including his adoptive family because he is deeply troubled and abuses drugs. Now they're mostly prescription drugs; but he still abuses them and is hard to follow sometimes in conversations.

    Nevertheless, he's my son; albeit dysfunctional. I still always missed him and have a very hard time during periods I would love to be with family and yet I have no one either.

    He didn't call me on Christmas but called last night to apologize that he was too depressed to call the day before. My heart aches when I speak to him because time seems to be running out for him to turn his life around. I hate adoption - yes I'm glad I found him but it would be dishonest to just act as if that's enough for me now. Not sure if this makes sense... but it is what it is and I will be so glad when the holidays are passed.

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  30. Christmas! With my daughter not speaking to me I hate the whole damn month of December. If I could erase it from my life, I would.
    This is the great "gift" of adoption. Many of us are fucked forever.

    Now if I could get over this cold.

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  31. The holidays are so hard for those separated by adoption. For me it's a descent into an abyss because I was born in January. I can't help but think of my mother, separated from her family at the holidays while 8 months pregnant with me. So depressing for so many people. May you find happiness this holiday season with those you love.

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  32. Three Christmases now. Never once has she spoken to me on Christmas. We exchange gifts by mail so there is contact. But it hurts to be so inconsequential.

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  33. Abagail wrote:"This is the great "gift" of adoption. Many of us are fucked forever."

    Something came to mind after reading this. You know the social engineering project called closed adoption meant that we were never even supposed to know who each was let alone reunite. I guess reunion never even factored into the thinking of those who were pushing so hard to separate mothers and their children. Although I doubt very much was figured into their thinking except how much money they could make.

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