Thursday, November 28, 2013

Surviving Thanksgiving as a first mother

Lorraine
Thanksgiving will always be a day of some family, friends, and food and while we generally look forward to this day, we know there will be some glitches along the way--the kinds of unkind comments that we have been talking about in this last two posts. We hope for many here that having vented them will take the sting out of them--and the ones yet to come, or at least remind yourself that some--not all--of the comments come out of total ignorance, many are not meant to hurt, even if they stab open the wound. Yet other comments were just cruel. In the end, we mothers and adoptees ultimately have to accept our lives as they are, and find a way to live at peace in this world, and with others.

Because society wants our grief to be suppressed, many people do not in the least fathom that our pain feels on occasion unbearable. They think: well, she survived, she's getting on with her life, she has moved on. Of course, that is partly true. Unless we end up on the floor somewhere writhing in pain, we have moved on. We have survived. But there is more to it than that simple thought.


THE FAMILY'S MISSING LINK
Today if someone wants to engage you about adoption today, and you don't feel up to it, do what I have done many many times, say: This is a social event, it's too hard for me to talk about adoption lightly (or calmly), some other time I'll be glad to talk to you. Today let's talk about politics, Project Runway, the sorry state of publishing, the melting ice cap, Robert Pinsky, Afghanistan and Taliban's treatment of women, the Dark Sky movement, a possible ban on leaf blowing in our town, the worrisome future of the Detroit Art Institute, possible Oscar nominees, Hillary for president, the existence of God, your children, our husbands, the night I was raped--anything but adoption. Anything else is a piece of cake.

Holidays are the worst time: our family is gathered around the table--but where is she? The missing daughter, or son, the missing link in your family--is he having a good Thanksgiving? Is he thinking about his other family? Having lived through this many times, I can only say, find a way to mentally acknowledge your missing child (or other family, if you are an adoptee) and silently wish them well across the expanse of the unknown and the reality of miles--or if you can, raise a toast to him or her with the members of your family who you can trust with this part of you. That intimate circle is not going to include the parent, or parents, who encouraged--or demanded--that you relinquish your precious infant. To respond to Cherry in the last post, we understand completely, the hurt and distance you feel towards your father who did not give you the support that you needed to keep your child. I'm thinking of a line from Camus in reference to your father: Life is a sum of all your choices. Your reaction to him today is the result of the choice he made. You can, in some way, forgive him--you need to for your own mental well being. But you do not have to forget.

An Jay, we are so proud to have you be a part of our family here, representing the truly good side of the other part of adoption, the adoptive parents. We applaud your for how your are dealing with the whole question of adoption in your home. You have a son, you had to give back a daughter to her first mother, but you did not walk away, and now you are doing all you can to help so this woman can find a place to live and get the support she needs to get her life under control--so she can keep her daughter. We hope, as you said, that both Rayna and Nina will be sharing Thanksgiving Day with you.

THANK YOU FOR BEING A PART OF MY LIFE
Just fabulous is this book
My daughter and I never had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving together. A thousand miles usually separated us, but some years, long after reunion, we were on the phone so many times that day it almost felt as if she were with us. Honey--I'm talking to you--our family is scattered about Michigan, and I'll call many of them today and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. Tony (my husband) and I are going to be with many of our good friends today, many of them you would remember from when you lived with us. I've got the pies to get in the oven this morning, calls to make. 

My alternate universe daughter's birthday is today too. But at some time during the day, at some quiet moment, but I will be thinking about you, my daughter, and salute you in my heart and raise a glass of wine to your being part of my life, for however long it was.--lorraine

So now, tell us about your Thanksgiving plans, your thoughts about your daughter or son, or natural mother, on this day. 
_______________________
Previous posts referred to above:
As with same-sex marriage, difference of opinion on adoption is way beyond 'disagreement'
People say the rudest things to first mothers

RECOMMENDED READING 
Love The illustrated book above--it is out of print and available for pennies--is something I bought months before I met my daughter's father. It is an incredibly beautiful book--and oddly enough about being an orphan. It warmed my heart when I first read, it still does. I have given it to many people. It's sweet, heartbreaking story is told on pages of vibrant colors and uneven widths, pages with cut-outs and stripins, pages with peepholes--pages of all shapes and colors. The story is about a little girl who parents went away when she was nine, and she had no relatives to care for her. She is taken in by an orphanage. Lonely and unusual, she stares at people with her big eyes. She often does things that aren't very nice, and people aren't very nice to her. They want to send her away. Until, one day....

36 comments :

  1. Really moved to tears by this post, Lorraine. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. And I agree with you about Jay too.

    I'm in the UK, so we don't do thanksgiving here.

    But every year on my son's birthday, pre-reunion, I would put aside EVERYTHING and dedicate that day to doing something lovely while I focussed my thoughts on him.

    Quite often, it would be something very simple, like going for a long walk or taking photographs of the natural world. (Oddly, I was often accompanied by animals that appeared for the day and stayed by my side for it, which was always very comforting).

    For decades, I took the day off work and disallowed anything to enter that day that might distract me from my focus, which was about sending him love on his birthday. Those days became very very precious to me.

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  2. As I gather with my family, I am grateful that I was able to forgive, but I know my grief goes unnoticed and it hurts. I also know the pain and loss I feel today, will pale in comparison to Monday, my daughter's 31 st birthday....

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  3. Thanksgiving has been hard these last few years (they always were, but more so now).

    I found my son close to Thanksgiving and our first communications were around this time of year. I remember vividly that Thanksgiving, only 5 years ago, wishing we could perhaps spend a couple hours together, since come to find out, we only lived 15 minutes away from one another.

    Unfortunately we might as well had lived thousands of miles from each other he was so guarded and distant. I realize a lot of that had to do with his loyalty to his adoptive parents/family but that holiday season, I had hoped we could share some first memories together, since we had missed so many. Instead, it ended up being filled with sadness, loneliness and angst, much like the first few years after the adoption when it was all so raw and traumatic.

    I remember distinctly the first Thanksgiving without him some five months after the adoption, sitting alone at some deli close to my apartment (my family thousands of miles away), weeping and alone. I had never felt so alone and heartbroken in my life. My god what had I done. Why had I done this to myself, my family and my child. I still think about that day so long ago and get teary eyed for that young woman.

    I chose to celebrate what I do have these last couple of years; to be grateful for the son I have in my life and who is proud to call me mom. We had a fantastic day at some awesome diner and ate so much food we could barely walk out of the place. My oldest child was in my thoughts, but for both of them I chose to be happy, not sad- as hard as that endeavor is at times.

    Happy Thanksgiving, All and much peace during this holiday season...

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  4. I spoke with my beautiful son today and we had a nice long conversation. Felt so sad after hanging up as he is in another state spending time with his family, and I miss him.

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  5. Thank you Stacy I could not have said it better myself, My oldest daughter refuses to acknowledge me, so for my own peace of mind I have chosen to focus my attention and love on the children I have been bless and thankful to have them in my life, I don't take one minute with them for granted.

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  6. I also want to add a heartfelt cheer for Tiffany too.

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  7. Watching Michael Oher of the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving reminded me that adoption can be a blessing for a child when it is TRULY needed and done without denying the child his biological origins. Mr. Oher's Wikipedia page lists all four of his parents, his natural parents and his adoptive parents, the Tuohys. It appears he uses his natural mother's last name. In case anyone is not familiar with his story, you can read the book or see the movie, "Blindside".

    People Magazine, November 4, 2013, also had a good article on when adoption is really needed. See page 67, a foster kid's plea, "Will You Adopt Me?"

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  8. My son, who hasn't been in touch much for several years(He's just busy,my Dad would say) showed up on my doorstep with his wife and my 4 year old granddaughter. I haven't seen her since she was a newborn. I'll draw you a picture Grandma. This is a heart,No, it's a head she said and drew a heart-shaped head with eyes,nose,and mouth. Here are 2 legs. A heart-shaped head with 2 legs. Why are you crying,Grandma I don't know.

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  9. Robin,

    Michael Ohr's adoption wasn't a blessing. It's a tragedy of how he ended up where he did. If his adoptive parents really cared they would have helped his natural mother raise him instead of stealing him from her.

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  10. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I just want to say Rayna and Nina graced our home with their presence and we had a wonderful time. BUT - Rayna's journey toward self-sufficiency is just beginning. I know that most FMF readers consider family preservation as a cause close to their hearts. Please send lots of positive energy and thoughts by way of Rayna and Nina, so they have a happy, stable life together.

    Regarding Michael Oher, I find the comment made by Anonymous at 5:42 p.m. to be glib. Unless you have worked to preserve a family, it is super easy to tell others to simply "help a natural mother." Currently my husband and I are actively engaged in helping a natural mother raise her daughter. Let me tell you - given the mother's experiences of life, it is SO very hard for her to understand even basic concepts like earning money and budgeting, much less providing stability to her 7 year old daughter who has anxiety written all over her dear face. And, unlike Michael Oher's mother, the mother I am helping is staying clean of drugs and alcohol!

    I think the Tuohys did well, all things considered. Michael Oher was not adopted until he was older, well into his teens, and he kept his birth family name - so there was no unnecessary loss of identity. I am not sure Michael Oher would consider hislife a tragedy. Maybe Anon has personal information from Michael telling him/her his life is ruined.

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  11. For heave's sake, anonymous 1:22 PM, do you know anything at all about Michael Oher? He was 17 when the Toehys adopted him. Not much raising left for them to do - but teenagers still need support, encouragement and love and to feel the security of a stable family.
    Read the Wiki page and article Robin suggested.

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  12. @Anon 5:42pm,

    Can you please provide some links that give more information on Mr. Oher's backstory? I'm always open to revising my opinion based on new information. My understanding was that his nparents did try, but were never able to get themselves together to raise him, and that homelessness was his only option. The Tuohys seemed to step in and provide a home for him without completely tearing him from his biological roots.

    I always prefer a child staying with his or her original family whenever possible, and I don't buy the adoption industry's promise of a so-called 'better' life. But a child's safety and well-being is paramount to me.

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  13. We had Thanksgiving with 14 close friends--we all brought a dish, I made two pies. Our hostess asked us to go around the table and say one thing we were thankful for, it could be as little as one word. When it go to me, I said, I was thankful for my husband's understanding--from the moment we met--on the issue that has dominated my life.

    No one questioned what that was.

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  14. from USA Today:

    Meet Michael Oher (pronounced OAR), a 6-5, 309-pound All-America tackle from the University of Mississippi who is the subject of a best-selling book —The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, which is being turned into a movie — but until a few years ago was legally Michael Williams.

    Among 13 siblings from the poorest part of Memphis, he never knew his father, whose murder he learned of months after the fact in high school. His mother, Denise Oher, was addicted to crack cocaine. The kids were scattered about.

    Michael attended 11 schools in nine years.If not in a foster home, he lived with friends. He was homeless.

    A turning point came when Tony Henderson, who allowed Michael to crash on his sofa, brought him along when he took his son Steven to enroll at Briarcrest Christian School on the other side of town. Oher ultimately was admitted as a special-needs case.

    Another pivotal moment occurred during his first Thanksgiving break, when Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy spotted Oher as they drove past a bus stop near the school. It was snowing. Oher, then 16, was dressed in a T-shirt and shorts.

    Sean, then a volunteer assistant basketball coach at the school who had met Oher at the gym, says Leigh Anne grabbed the wheel. Next came a U-turn.

    "She cried the second she met him, and it was over," Sean recalls.

    The Tuohys took in Oher, allowing him a safety net in their home in upscale East Memphis two blocks from the school. For months he came and went as he pleased, and Leigh Anne worried when he didn't spend the night. They hired a tutor to address severe academic deficiencies, paid his tuition and gave him a wardrobe and other essentials. Sean says the generosity was not the result of any epiphany or even as much as a family meeting.

    "We think God sent him to us," Sean says. "Earthly explanations don't make sense."

    There is no question that he needed a "family" and other people stepped in and provided it.

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  15. In his own words, why Michael Oher wrote "I Beat the Odds":
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-oher/post_1673_b_817764.html#s234347

    From the book:
    Sean Tuohy: "We were wondering if you would like to become a part of this family."
    Michael Oher: "I kinda thought I already was."

    No quotation marks. No irony.

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  16. Robin,

    His parents no doubt turned to raise him but maybe if they had some help from the people who adopted him they could have been able to. Maybe if they had just supported his mother they would have avoided homelessness. Maybe if they would have taken the lead that someone like Jay Iyler has taken that Michael never would have lost his family to a bunch of attention hogs.

    There was never any abuse in Michael's case as there isn't with the majority of kids in Foster Care. For all the talk how adoption should be about finding a home for a child there are very few who actually do even the ones in Foster Care. There are many children in Foster Care who are taken from their parents just because they are poor not because the children are abused and neglected.

    Anytime there is an adoption a tragedy has to take place for that to happen. It's not a "blessing" for a child as Robin puts it.

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  17. @Anon,
    I guess you and I have a different philosophy. I don't think that all adoptions are bad and unnecessary. My first priority is the child and that he or she has a family and stability.

    What Jay Iyer is doing for Rayna and Nina is wonderful, but she is also raising an adopted son. A boy who obviously could not be reunited with his birth family.

    I think it is always a tragedy when a person loses his or her biological family. But for those who have a family that will not or cannot take care of them, adoption can be a blessing. I like that when people say to Leigh Anne Tuohy that she has 2 children and Michael, she corrects them and tells them that she has 3 children. Adopted children have the right to be considered family members.

    In the final analysis, whether Michael's adoption is a blessing or a curse, or whether he considers himself lucky or stolen, is of course up to him to decide.

    And in the People magazine article I referenced, it is the 15 year old boy himself who is asking for adoptive parents. All of the details of his story are not given, but, sadly, I don't believe that all natural families can be put back together.

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  18. My mother declined my invitation to share Thanksgiving with us, but my 2 natural cousins came!! Sadly my cousin lost his wife just 2 weeks ago. He is raising a son, age 4, and a daughter 7. I was happy to provide them with an opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with family. They visited their mother's grave before they came here for dinner. I felt a huge hole in my soul fill up when they accepted my invitation. I felt the happiness of sharing my holiday with MY extended family. My cup runneth over with joy.

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  19. My impression about Michael Oher's first parents was that their problems went far beyond poverty - but I could be misinformed. Even when it is mostly about poverty, as it is in Rayna's case, there invariably are associated issues that make the journey very hard. We are committed to working through the issues with Rayna (and getting her lots of additional support - trust me, it is very naive to think one can simply "help" preserve a family all on one's own), but there are many: getting out of the cycle of domestic violence, getting self-esteem, appreciating that stability is a good thing, learning how to budget her resources....to name a few.

    I never have got the impression that Robin is a cheerleader for adoption. Most of us commenting on this forum understand the tragedy that leads to adoption. But I agree with Robin's point about safety for a child being paramount. Some of you here know that I have a son we adopted from the foster system. I will not divulge the details of his story - they are his to discover and then tell if he wishes - but I can tell you the problems throughout his biological family, on both sides, are very serious and rampant. My son's half-siblings suffered great harm from it. Attempted rehabilitation simply did not work - not even close, unfortunately. There also was a thorough investigation of all biological family members for possible placement before a decision was made to place him with an unrelated family (us). The sad truth is sometimes children are greatly endangered by their biological families (I am talking things like murder, terrible physical abuse, severe neglect, etc.)

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  20. P.S. I also wanted to add that I am moved by this post and by all the thoughts expressed in the comments. I am almost feel as if I am living the sadness of your stories when I read your words....and am sending many virtual hugs your way.

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  21. adoptomuss, that is the happiest piece of news you have shared with us! I am so thrilled for you. Many happy hugs for the day.

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  22. Anon 11:45. the Tuohys couldn't have supported Michael's parents because they didn't even know Michael until he was sixteen, when he'd already been effectively family-less for years.
    He was also ASKED if he wanted to join their family, which he did. His choice.

    Of course adoption is founded on loss, but an adoption that fulfills a child's genuine need for the security of a loving, understanding, supportive family IS, without any shade of doubt in my mind at least, a good thing. Children who age out in foster care too often face huge, frequently insurmountable, obstacles when they leave the system to find a place in society.

    Personally I don't think "blessing" is too strong a word to describe Michael's adoption.
    But as Robin says, the final say is up to him.

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  23. So does "God" send young adoptees to the adoptive parents who molest and abuse them in other ways to? God smchod baby!
    Christian adoptive parents are idiots, I don't what Oher's did for him, the idea of a good caring, protective god is bullshit and a half.

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  24. You all are wrong that Michael didn't have a family when he obviously did. A person always has a family. All Foster Children have families in a lot of cases they need a Jay Iyer not a Leigh Anne Tuohy. They need someone to help them not steal them away from their parents.

    Robin, what it comes down to for you is that you think Foster Adoption is what people should do instead of DIA which is just as wrong as those who adopt from DIA. No one should adopt period. They should be reuniting families not breaking them a part no matter what. Adoptive parents are no different in terns of breaking up families be it from Foster Care or Domestic Infant Adoption. So please stop saying those looking to adopt should do so from Foster Care only. Instead of being a part of the solution you are part of the problem.

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  25. Bigoted, aren't you, anon 2:29 PM?

    Seems like you are quite ignorant of the fact that the word "blessing" is commonly used to describe something that promotes or or contributes to a person's happiness or well-being. I believe that's how Robin meant it.

    Incidentally, I don't believe in the "God meant it to happen" malarky either. In fact I'm not even religious. But I'm not so mean-spirited as to begrudge Michael a loving family just because they happen to be Christian. So long as they are not intolerant prejudiced idiots like yourself, I don't care that their ideas aren't the same as mine.

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  26. I remember reading the original story of Michael Oher and as I recall he was living on his own with no one watching or taking care. He was slipping through the cracks. His father was dead or about to me; his mother was not around; he didn't really have a place to live. As I understand it, the Touhy's did not "steal" him from anyone. He needed a home and they provided it. I think it's time to give this subject a rest unless someone has information that is not readily available through the usual sources.

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  27. @Anon 5:32 pm, I wasn't commenting on what Robin said, I was responding to what Oher's adoptive mother said about "god" sending us to him (Michael). And bigoted? Lmao. There are so many abused adoptees out there and DEAD ones. So again, where is and was your lovey dovey "god" for them? You need to come into reality lady, quickly. There is no nice god and no god's plan, there are only unintelligent christians who worship someone they never saw or heard talk and believe what other people they never met wrote about him in the biggest contradictive book in the world. Since christians lie so much in this time, (which means to me the whole NT is a crock to)on amended BC's and about santer claus, I choose not to be part of a religion that I think is total BS. My right.
    p.s. spare me the free will BS if you reply. There is no free will for the victims of shitty adoptive parents. Free will is just a concept made up by greedy ministers and priests so people won't blame "god", lose faith like they should and keep the donation plates continually empty.
    Yes religion, just like adoption is all about the bucks. Cha ching baby!

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  28. @Anon 4:23pm
    I will happily be "part of the problem" (as you call it) if it means that an abandoned child who is on his own gets a loving home and family. Even if in some cases that family is not biologically related to him.

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  29. "I'd happily be part of the problem (as you call it) if it means that an abandoned child who is on his own gets a loving home and family. Even if in some cases that family is not biologically related to him."

    Word, Robin.

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  30. Anonymous 12.59

    I respect your right to your own point of view, but I think you are disrespecting others to theirs, and at times your tone is deeply unpleasant.
    I say this as someone who is not a fan of empty politeness.

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  31. Can I be thick here? I don't understand what it means to copy a sentence, and then add, "Word, Robin." Referring to the person who wrote the original thought. I actually had no idea what that meant but thought it was agreeing with Robin's sentiment. Then the next person comes along and says, that person who wrote "Word, Robin" is being disrespectful. So then I think, I must be wrong in my assumption?

    Someone--anyone--please explain.
    Signed:
    Unhip to cyber shorthand

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  32. Sorry, just thought the tone in some of the later posts was unpleasant. Maybve 'Word, Robin' isn't - I assumed it was. Apologies if wrong.

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  33. Lorraine: "Word" is an affirmative comment. Saying "word" is like saying "Amen!" It basically means "this is so true."

    BTW...did you see Philomena? I just saw it this past weekend and I was wondering what some of the first mothers on this blog thought of it.

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  34. Thanks, Steve, for updating us on cyberspeak.

    I'm looking forward to seeing Philomena this Wednesday with another first mother. I'm sure Lorraine or I will be writing about the film.

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  35. Steve: And I'm going tomorrow. I will write about it on Wednesday.

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  36. Anon 5:20 AM, Steve is correct that "Word" signifies agreement. What I meant was that I wholeheartedly agree with Robin. Sorry to have confused you.

    I agree that some of the earlier comments are unpleasant. A couple of them are downright ugly, and not just in tone alone - especially the ones that condemn Christian adopters in general, simply for the fact of their being Christian. IMO people who think like that could take a lesson from Philomena Lee.

    Lorraine and Jane, I look forward to reading what you have to say about the film.

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