' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Easter: The day I miss my lost daughter most

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter: The day I miss my lost daughter most

My garden today
Holidays were always bittersweet without my daughter. Easter is a huge holiday in the Polish Catholic tradition, so big, in fact, that when I was a little girl I remember trying to decide whether I preferred Christmas or Easter as an occasion. Even without the presents from Santa, Easter was equal to Christmas because it brought other gifts: coloring eggs with both my parents on Thursday or Friday the previous week; making bread with my mother early Saturday morning, before anyone else was up; then moving onto the pastry, stuffed with walnuts and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, the heavenly aroma filling the house by noon; preparing a basket of special foods for breakfast on Sunday and taking it to church to be blessed in the mid afternoon on Saturday; making nests from corn flakes and chocolate to be filled with jelly beans.

Sunday meant searching for a hidden basket of goodies somewhere in the house, my father making sure it was never easy to find; followed by Mass in our new Easter outfits with a pink carnation pinned to my shoulder, followed by a breakfast of those blessed foods, and then, finally big extended family dinner with my aunts and uncles and cousins with ham and Polish sausage and borscht and the hard-boiled eggs topped with beets and horseradish ending with my mother's delicious prune layer cake with buttercream frosting. And, of course, lots of chocolate.

Then suddenly, in my early twenties, I was the mother without the daughter to pass on these traditions. I gave
birth to my daughter on a Tuesday, April 5, 1966; I left the hospital on Holy Saturday, April 9; Easter Sunday I was alone in my apartment, and though the day was glorious and sunny in Rochester, New York, the current tradition of "laying in" after birth told me it was too soon for me to go out and walk about. Where would I have gone, anyway? So I stayed indoors, alone, and looked at the clear azure sky with a few high cumulus clouds through the kitchen window of my small apartment. When my mother called to wish me a Happy Easter, I said all was fine.

Lorraine and Jane, summer 1982. Though you 
can't see my foot, we had on matching sandals,
purchased unknowingly a thousand miles apart. 
Then and as later, every memory of my mother and me on Holy Saturday--as we called it--came up in high relief, reminding me of how I had ended what certainly had been a long chain of tradition in my ancestral line. Of course when it was happening I didn't think in such philosophical terms; I just felt lousy. A lapsed Catholic I might be, but I took myself to Mass most Easters in the years following and spent much of the time in church fighting tears.

Where was my daughter? How was she? Was she even alive? What had I done? Would I ever find her? Where was she?

Finding her at 15 was a great balm for my turmoil and sorrow, but that did not mean I could get back the years. She would never grow up with the memories of our Holy Saturdays kneading bread, watching it rise, tasting it with butter shortly after it came out of the oven. We would not share the sweet smell of cinnamon that filled the house by afternoon, or have that memory implanted in our beings. She would not share Easter with her first family. In a very real sense, we lost our children when we gave them up. We can only go forward and make the best of what we can. That means we do not pile our children up with guilt by talking endlessly about our pain to them, that means accepting their lives and their traditions with their new families, and handing with grace the time we can have with them. We must not forget we are the mothers who, for whatever reason, lost the time we might have otherwise had with our children, and the nurturing role we would have played. When we are reunited, we need to remember that we are still the mothers, and our first role is to nurture.
Forsythia was in full bloom when
she was born.

Goodness, I didn't mean for this Easter Sunday post to take such a left turn today.  But there it is.

Readers know I reunited with my daughter when she was 15, and she died a decade ago. If I could rate the sorrow, I would say I miss her on Easter more than any other day of the year. For most of the years I've been married to Tony--since 1981--we've had a large group of friends over for Easter lunch. If I couldn't spend it with my daughter--and I can't remember that we were ever able to share the day, she was always with her other family in Wisconsin--I filled it with friends. That gave me reason to bake my mother's prune cake with butter cream frosting cake, to make the same pastries I did with my mother, to host a "family" gathering of friends. Sometimes the event grew to 40-plus; in the last decade I pared it down to about a dozen for a sitdown meal.

Today I'm in the middle of packing to move, the house is in chaos, we're afraid we are behind schedule, and so there are no guests. I did not get to Mass and lunch may be tuna salad or something takeout, if Espresso downtown is open. Maybe we'll take an hour and get to the beach. I need to wrap this up and get back to packing; I can hear Tony putting together boxes downstairs. He's a bibliophile and we will have about 200 cartons of books to transport; we are planning a yard sale for next Sunday and seem to be behind schedule. Everything is in motion.

Oh honey, if you can hear me now, I am so sorry you were adopted. You might be here today if you had not been. --lorraine
_______________________
Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
HOLE IN MY HEART is the compelling story of a mother separated from her child by adoption in the Sixties and the state-imposed secrecy that keeps them apart. Defying convention, Lorraine Dusky reunites with her daughter in the early Eighties when such reunions were rare, and in the process becomes a staunch advocate for reform of America's antiquated adoption system. The author gives an inside look on the emotional turmoil following reunion for both mother and daughter. Dusky, with her award-winning journalism background, deftly weaves in crucial psychological research that places her personal heartbreak in a larger context, and illuminates the hard truths that are at the center of every adoption—loss, guilt, abandonment and an incomplete sense of identity. Her daughter, the adoptee with two families, also speaks of the complications and uncertainties that infuse her life. A birth mother's story you will not forget.

12 comments :

  1. Easter's roots are so much about fertility. My Roman Catholic Easter roots are of course,about resurrection. And Passover, also part of my roots, is about saving the first born from pharoah's wrath. And with all of that, many of us mothers were automatically robbed of or expected to give up our children. My flesh and blood descendants live a twenty minute drive from me and always have. But because of how I was treated as a very young mother, I lost contact with myself and my child. I am no longer hopeful about reunion. It has been over five years of reaching out directly and once through legal channels. I will console myself with telling my story and, in writing and in public, addressing the ways our religious and social systems have devalued women and following that, women's connections to their own children, marital status notwithstanding. My heart goes out to you Lorraine and to all of us know that our children's lives were not better for having been removed from ours.

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    1. I am always so sorry to read stories like yours, and today it seems more sad than ever. My heart goes out to you, DM.

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  2. Lorraine.. You LOVED your daughter, you were reunited, what a joy for you both, please HOLD TIGHT those indescribable moments afforded you both, SHEER JOY.. PLEASE hold onto this, you were UMBILICALY LINKED and your beloved daughter received an abundant measure of your love, in those so few passing moments in time, you shared. She would be so proud of all you have accomplished, on behalf of educating the world, to this fact, adoption as we know it sears life to the very marrow, and needs to be abolished ADOPTION SEPARATION and LOSS truly is a bottomless abyss of sorrow, a living bereavement the world needs to address. Take heart on this day of resurrection. Psalm 147 v 3 He HAS come to HEAL your BROKEN HEART and to bind up all your WOUNDS.

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    1. You expressed so beautifully the significance of Easter traditions and how it related profoundly to the loss of our respective children. Although I had five children within the bounds of marriage, I never forgot my precious first born. We have been reunited for thirty years. He has a tender relationship with his siblings, but he obviously feels reluctant to embrace me totally as his natural mother. I have always respected the role of his real adoptive parents but his adoptive mother went ballistic upon hearing of our reunion which affected our reunion dramatically. I will not go on but thank you for expressing deeply the plight of first mothers.

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  3. Easter is always an emotional time for me generally. I learned to cook by baking first, since I loved sweets. So, holidays presented an opportunity to bake everything in Easter tradition. Even now I feel that I held the tradition of food and family together for an infinitesimal moment. My Mom loved Catholic Mass. Much of the sadness in giving away Joanna to strangers is knowing that had I had the courage to share my pregnancy with my Mother, she would have been horrified at the mere thought of giving up my little girl. My Mom had been in training as a nurse midwife in Europe before her family immigrated to the states. Your post breaks my heart again.

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  4. What a sad Easter. I am very sorry. May Jane rest in peace. You will never stop missing her, and spring will always be a reminder. The only Polish thing I have kept up is some of the food.I now have too much leftover ham. May you find some comfort in your grief. The move and loss of your home must make it extra hard this year.

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    1. Thank you, Maryanne. I do feel Jane is at last resting in peace. And you are right, I will never stop missing her. But death has a finality about it that brings to and end the ambiguous state of unknowing that we mothers endure is at least over, and and acceptance of the loss of a loved one. I hope you had a good holiday. We ended up eating at 8 p.m. in a Chinese restaurant! I will never forget this Easter!

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  5. At Eastertime Catholics and other Christians celebrate Christ's victory over death. Because He was resurrected, we all will be some day. We also remember his Atonement, where he bore all of our sorrows. God's gift of His Son to the world was for your daughter Jane.

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    1. god certainly played a bad joke on lorraine.

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  6. The last lines of your post moved me to tears Lorraine x

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  7. The last line of your post was very touching because so many of us lost our babies to not as promised "better" futures. Had my first son stayed with me both of us and my grandchildren would have fared much better for that I am sure.

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