The character Maddie is an adolescent when her parents divorce and she learns her life is not what it seems--and both her mother and the man she married when she was pregnant with Deacon's baby conspired to keep her true parentage a secret--forever. From her. Problem Number Two.
FEELINGS OF BETRAYAL
All hell breaks loose. A fist fight ensues. Later Teddy tells his new wife that Deacon is her "biological father." Yes I was wondering what choice of word the script writers were going for and pleased they used this rather than "birth." Then he goes on a frustrated rant about how he was there when she needed help with her middle of the night feeding, orthodonture, homework, attendance at the school play. Well, I don't remember exactly what he said here, but you understand--i.e., he's been the parent, Deacon has been nowhere! Who is this guy who thinks he can replace me?!
As I was watching, the push-pull conflict of the adopted came to mind. After years of raising a child, along comes natural mom or dad and the child (of any age) is excited and happy to connect with one's biological mother, and the adoptive mother or father is understandably upset, hurt, and angry--and feels pushed aside. When the adoptee wants to spend time with the "new" parent, who may be seen as devoid of flaws, the adoptive parents are hurt to the core, and can't keep suppress their feelings.
|Jane and I in 1982, spring in Manhattan|
Me? I kept my mouth shut about her adoptive mother, and besides, I didn't really have anything negative to say. Jane had serious epilepsy, and her parents did all they could for her. But the tension between her adoptive mother and me never went away, and at times caused Jane to pull away from me without--without letting me know she was. She just did. I was left standing on a street corner, my metaphorical hat in hand, wondering what in the hell just happened and what I possibly might have done to deserve her walking out on me. She never did this to Mom.
I've gotten emails and messages from adoptees who tell me they did exactly what Jane did because their adoptive parents made it difficult for them to be in contact with both parents. Unless the relationship with the adoptive parents has been unusually awful and distant, it's the natural/first/birth parents who get the emotional shaft. I'm not going to call this bad or good. It is. The adoptee has a lifetime of a relationship with her or her adoptive parents, suffused at some level with deep-seated gratitude that is built into the situation--and it seems for most the important thing is not to disrupt this relationship, one the adoptee has depended on for years. This new mother or father? The lyrics of a song that was popular when I was Maddie's age just popped into my head: "Got along without you before I met you, Gonna get along without you now, Gonna find somebody who is twice as cute, Cause you didn't want me anyhow...."
There you have it. Jane, in one of her most clear and honest moments, said: "I feel like a magnet. The close I get to one of you, the more I have to pull away from the other." This is one of the great conflicts of reunion. We first mothers want our children to have good relationships with their adoptive parents, but we, on some level, want to be needed, loved, recognized and treated like a mother, and that's nearly impossible for the adoptee who has a great relationship with his/her other mother. Often the best relationships I hear about from first mothers are those when the relationship with the adoptive mother was not so good. We want them to have been happy and we want them to need us when we are reunited. It's a situation that is always tricky navigating. The dialogue on Nashville pretty much sums up the adoptee dilemma:
Maddie, after the fight, says to her mother: "If they loved me, they wouldn't act this way...."When I'm with Deacon, Dad gets so upset, and when I'm with Dad--well, Deacon hates him. I hate it. Maybe I shouldn't see either of them." Rayna, played by Connie Britten, says as the ever wise mother, that people are not perfect, and "they sometimes end up hurting the people around them." What each mother, or father, should do is try to understand and accept the reunion dilemma, and accept and understand the other parent's feelings; as for the adoptee, though it might be difficult, the best thing to do would be to be honest with both parents. It's not a perfect world, but never lose faith in the truth.--lorraine
After the Birthmother/Adoptee Reunion: Navigating the Turbulent Waters
What's in a Name? A Great Deal to an Adoptee
Most Birth/First Mothers Want Contact but still the secrecy lingers on
Why Be Normal When You Could Be Jeanette Winterson?
The Declassified Adoptee Essays of an Adoption Activist Blogger Amanda Transue-Woolston clearly deconstructs the various potholes of an adoptee in search of roots and how to navigate them. Highly recommended by FMF. Both adoptees and first parents can learn from her wisdom. A gift for yourself this holiday season? Or for someone who needs to read something about adoption? Presented the right way, giving this book could be the beginning of a discussion that needs to be had.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? A brilliant memoir by Jeanette Winterson. Raucous, difficult, funny. Our review above.