|Lorraine as a three or four year old|
So much easier.
But we stayed in touch, via email--her name is the same as my daughter's--and a year later, I did tell her about my daughter, my memoir about giving her up, my work today. My faraway friend had searched me on the Internet but hadn't paid much
attention to this aspect of my life until I brought it up. Her response was that in giving up the baby, I did a "heroic" act. More heroic, she wrote, than raising her in a situation that would not have let me give her the parenting she needed; more heroic than aborting the fetus.
I haven't answered because heroic is never how I have felt about giving birth (I did try to get an abortion but it was too illegal, and then too late), nor giving her up. I felt defeated, demoralized, dirty. I felt like a terrible person who did a grievous wrong. I felt like damaged goods. I felt like I did not deserve to be happy again. Of course, in time, I did pick myself up, dust myself off, et cetera, and move on. I made a life for myself. A good life. I am married to a good man, and while we have financial troubles, I've had good work to do, and we have a good life with many friends and family.
|My daughter, before her first seizure|
Because she had seizures, her parents assumed that I was some dull-witted person who might be institutionalized. There had no basis for this, but they also had no way to counteract that thought until I was reunited with her when she was 15. By the time she was in the early grades, she ended up in some classes for the learning disabled--at the same time she was writing poetry. Who can say how different it might have been had Patrick, her newspaper columnist father, and I had raised her? Or if I had raised her alone, but with full knowledge that her father was a writer with a quick wit and a graceful prose style, and I was a writer too. I would have believed, I think, that she didn't need those classes because she wasn't slow; it was the drugs, the hockey helmet she had to wear to school when she was having seizures so frequently, it was the low self-esteem she had because she was not only epileptic, she was adopted. Someone had rejected her.
Life would not have been easy, I'll grant you that. My parents would have freaked with the shame--it was 1966--but they would not have cast us out or forced me to give her up; I was too old for that, 22. And she would almost certainly have had myriad seizures, because my educated guess is that they were caused by the fact that I was on The Pill for most of the first months I carried her in my womb. So.
Heroic would have been keeping her.
She and I would not have been separated. I would not be a "birth" or "first" mother. Adoption reform would not have been a secondary career. My daughter would not have been adopted. Many of you know that she died of her own hand in 2007.
All of this melancholia today was brought home by thinking about how to respond to the adjective heroic which is not how I will ever, ever feel about giving up my daughter, and watching the video below that had me bawling at about 1.30 minutes. A beautiful young teen "talks" about what her adoption experience has meant to her, how it shaped her life, how peers taunted her because she was "adopted." Families may be enriched by adopting, but adoption--to the mother who relinquishes, to child who is relinquished--is always painful. Every adoption that can be prevented, should be. --lorraine