|Lorraine at Spence-Chapin with her lucky scarf|
About 15 people were there--mostly adoptees, a few natural birth biological mothers, one adoptive parent (Frank Ligtvoet, who writes about his very open adoptions) and two people from Spence, including Stella Gilgur-Cook, who set the program up. After my reading/talk, the floor was open to discussion. What surprised me was the adoptees speaking of how many years they had been out of touch with their adoptive parents, how distant they felt from their adoptive parents. I mean, we are talking years, and at least two people said it was unlikely they would ever ever be in touch with them again.
And these new acquaintances were salt-of-the-earth types, not people who seem to wear their troubles on their sleeve. I know this happens, but it was depressingly sad to hear it because when you, a new mother, gives up your precious bundle amidst tears, you fervently hope and pray that they end up with loving parents who treat them well--just like they were born to them, as adoptive parents like to say all the time--but that is not the feeling I got last Thursday. I couldn't help but wonder what the real numbers on are this. How many grow up and grow away from their adoptive parents? I can't see how any real statistics could ever be collected on this, because, you know, people are supposed to be "as born to" after they are adopted.
When census takers tried to ask the question during the last accounting, I heard there was a lot of complaints because adoptive parents found the question insensitive and it was taken out of the mix. Yet, the fact that they found the question invasive and insensitive indicates that they--the adoptive parents--are still today not willing to see that to society, and the child, that child will never be "as born to." To be honest about what adoption is does not diminish the relationship or the bond. "As if born to" means not born to, period. Denying its reality is a massive blurring of the truth. Somewhere along the line, that reality--not born to--contains a painful truth. Somewhere a mother and child have been separated, and there was pain and sorrow involved. Besides, far too often, someone adopted is filling in as the "second choice" for parents who did not have "children of their own," which we all know that means biological.
Incidentally, that phrase came out out of the mouth of one of the adoptees there, and it was noted with a certain lightness. Everybody knows what it means; no explanation needed. It is not "as if born to."
Stella contacted me today and will be in touch via email to everyone who was there. It appears that their Modern Family Center there would like to form a support group--at least it would be a good place for people to meet. I went to ALMA meetings in the Seventies in Manhattan when Florence Fisher was running them, found them comforting, and stopped only when I moved a hundred miles away.
A few blog readers were there, including New and Old, and it is rather wonderful to connect with people who frequent the blog, because mostly we have no idea who reads or where they are from. (Adoptomuss, who now uses a different name, sometimes Marylee at another blog) came to my reading in Sag Harbor and introduced herself.) Frank Litgvoet, who also attended at S-C, is an adoptive dad who doesn't believe that adoption ought to exist the way it does--he has one of his children's original birth certificates but not the other's. He suggested that a guardianship would be a better way to go. If you are not familiar with his name, he writes about the issues he finds for Huff Po and Daily Kos, and we've been in touch over the last year and a half.
The first mothers didn't speak as much as the adopted did, and I often think that in general, mothers tend to be more silent in mixed groups, and fare better overall with each other. We bear the burden of shared loss in a way that is quite different from adoptee loss. Loss is a sad word. Loss. We lose a part of ourselves when we lose our children. Adoptees have an absence. Absence of mother, father, siblings, blood. We are all trying to fill that void, the void that comes from the enduring, basic link of biology, even if it is not perfect, even if it is not what we hoped for.
What was really sweet about the event was the sense of closeness I felt among the group. Soldiers have this kind of camaraderie. It's as if we are a pack of warriors home from the battle, and we are there together understanding each other and our shared loss, even though the first mothers arrive at it from a different point of view than the adopted.--lorraine
I will be hosting a Q&A regarding Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption from 8-9 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, on the Hole in My Heart page on Facebook. Click here for link. (This worked for me, but then I am already on Facebook. Not sure if it will for everyone. One can register for Facebook and not keep up with an active page.) I had intended to post about a giveaway for H♥le I created today, and though I set the numbers high, it was over in a couple of hours--and at dinner hour too! Sorry about that. And it's pretty expensive for me to do.)
And apologize for this taking so long to get up! After I got back, there was the theater review, and then I had a book review for Military History magazine about a book about the women's civilian air corps during World War II. The book is WASP of the Ferry Command: Women Pilots, Uncommon Deeds. Quite different from adoption, but the story of the brave women indeed who did amazing work ferrying planes around the country, from assembly lines where they were made to bases where they were sent overseas.
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