' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: On Thanksgiving: Accepting reality

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

On Thanksgiving: Accepting reality

For all those from families that are separated, Thanksgiving is the beginning of the long season of remembering who is not present in our lives.

It's not easy, it's a long hard slog to the other side of tranquility sometime in January after the holidays because the lives of first mothers and the adopted are so full of what-ifs. The other life. The other mother. The missing child at the table, in the will, in the family tree. Where there should be a face, there is only a blank. Where there should be an extra person at the table, there is no one. And because families in general do not talk about the missing person, there is no glass raised in remembrance, with the added hope that he or she is having a good dinner with the adoptive family. We might raise a glass to someone who died, or is far away, but the particular etiquette of silence about lost children prevents that. Perhaps that has changed today, with openness in adoption. If that is so, it is a welcome change, a somber but realistic acknowledgment of who is missing.

I didn't mean to write such a gloomy post today, and we should turn our minds to the family and friends that we will be celebrating with and enjoy what we have, not who and what we are missing. Always focusing on the solid gold bracelet in the window rather than enjoying the gold-plated one we have on our wrist leads to a life of jealousy and unfulfilled desire. I can think I wish my daughter had been mine all her life, but I can't make it happen by wishing it so, I can't undo the past, I must accept the reality and find what comfort I can there.

My reality is that the daughter I lost to adoption died of her own hand in 2007. One of her daughters lives a thousand miles away; I'll call her later today or tomorrow and wish her a Happy Thanksgiving. Her other daughter, who was given up for adoption, said she was fine, goodbye, after two years of a warm relationship following my daughter's death and our reunion. We have not been in touch since. I walked that advance-and-retreat road with my daughter too many times to choose to travel it again, and so I let that relationship be. Those are the basic facts of my adoption story today.

But life is not all hard stones and those cold realities. I have a full life with my husband, his extended family of children and their children, and his nieces and nephews. I have my own family, though all will be far away tomorrow. I will phone my brothers, both in Michigan while I am in New York, and wish them well. I'll probably speak to one or more of my nieces. I'll call my alternate-universe daughter, or she'll call me. My husband and I will celebrate the holiday with a passel of good friends tomorrow, friends whose own families are hither and yon, and there will be 16 at the table. My job is two pies: one pumpkin custard, which I will make from my mother's recipe with her praline crust; the other is a pecan, which came from a bakery.

In short, I am enjoying what I have. If any of you are truly alone at this time, find a way to spend the day doing something other than feeling blue and sorry for yourself. Call a friend who is also alone; call today and make a plan to meet tomorrow, have dinner in a restaurant, go to the movies--this might be the day to choose something mindless and funny. I used to be a runner, and I always loved going for a three-mile run on Thanksgiving when I could. The endorphins alone would lift my spirits. If that doesn't work, find a food pantry that will be serving meals and could use help. A first mother friend of mine did that for years. Nothing like helping those who have less to shift your focus from what you do not have. Remind yourself that as long as you are reading this blog, you are better off than a few billion people in the world. Remember that Thanksgiving in a single day, and the holiday season and the damn cheerful music at the mall, will be over in a month.

Of course I will think about my daughter tomorrow and repeatedly throughout the season--how can I not? Even in her death, she is a part of my present. If I go for a walk early in the day and the church around the corner is open I might even slip in and sit in the silence and reflect for a few moments. The story of my daughter will always leave a hole in my heart--there is no way to truly erase the sorrow--but all things considered, life is good. I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. You almost certainly do too.--lorraine
Letters Lead to an Alternative Universe Daughter

Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
My story, beginning to the present.
on October 14, 2016
I loved this book! I'm a birth mom and placed my baby 19 years ago. Even though the author placed her baby 
in the 60's and we grew up with different cultures and backgrounds, there was SO MUCH that I could relate to!
Many of her thoughts and feelings I've felt myself and have had similar feelings. I felt so validated reading her book.
There are very few people that I can talk to about my experience b/c they just don't understand. I love that she is a 
birth mom herself and that she describes her experiences from ALL views--her own, the adoptee and adoptive 
parents point of views! Much of the feelings she describes is very common. One chapter I'm smiling from ear to ear,
next I'm emotional and tearful. It's real life and so honest! I highly recommend her book to any birth mom, adoptee 
and adoptive parents! 😃😃


  1. Bless you for writing this. The holidays are hard for a lot of us in the triad.
    Thank you for the reminder to be grateful for what we do have and not to dwell on what we wish we had or the maybes or what ifs.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours Lo.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving Lorraine and Jane, to you and your readers :) I want to share with you 2 other holidays that have helped me in terms of missing those who are not with me. The first is, the Day of the Dead, celebrated here in pockets of California the weekend immediately after Halloween. Usually a few blocks of a main street is blocked off for a street fair, which includes altars of remembrance that locals have put together for friends or family who have passed or sometimes for famous people that inspired them, including musicians, teachers, religious people, and saints. But the practice is performed at home by those who observe. A table is decorated with candles and sometimes flowers, and personal items that belonged to the missed person or that remind the living of that person. I found out about this holiday not too long after my grandmother passed and for years after it gave me a way to focus my feelings, and it felt good to give her "her day," set aside from the rest, when i could indulge in enjoying thoughts of her, missing her, and not feel that i had to remind myself how good everything else in my life was (and is.) Nowadays i light a candle and talk with her briefly in the days after Halloween but i don't make a whole day of it anymore.

    The second holiday is that of Saudades, at the end of January, a Brazilian holiday. Saudades is a day to mourn what never was. My husband and I tried to get pregnant in earnest for 9 years, and finally after the final failure one November we hit a deep depression that holiday season. Our dog who was at least 17 (he was a rescue so we don't really know) had stayed with me by my side since before i was married, and i felt he was somehow protecting me while i was trying to get pregnant (I know that is just a feeling and not rational.) We had to put him to sleep the third week of that January after having given up trying for a baby, finally, and it just killed me, i couldn't let go. Over the years i had sleeping dreamed of the kid i would never know, events and happenings that would never happen, including the dog playing with that kid, and i used to talk with him (the dog) about it sometimes when i was crying due to the latest failure but trying to keep positive, and that dog always made me feel better. So I felt like he was a sort of an angel that wouldn't leave me in that rough time and hung on as long as he could, and that he was long overdue to heaven (which I don't really believe but i feel) and i was grateful for the time we spent together even though there was so much we never got to do - my husband, me, the dog, and our kid who never was - and since that time i have allowed myself to "celebrate" Saudades - which takes a similarity to Day of the Dead in which i light candles for people and things that never happened, talk with my husband about those things and even my close friend. I talk with my new dog about his predecessor, and buy him some new toys, and my husband and i usually plan a nice long walk somewhere quiet with that dog.

    It is obviously not the same as having those people, that dog, those events and experiences in my life, but i need to honor their importance nonetheless. I am thankful for what i have in my life, but it does not diminish the importance of what i don't have, and honoring that, too. Telling myself to suck it up all the time and be grateful for what i do have just doesn't work - it just makes me feel more beat up. But allowing myself a certain time and space to focus most of those feelings - even celebrate those feelings, and those feelings in others - my husband and any of my friends who participate with me and bring their own losses forward on those days - gives a certain satisfaction, a kind of pause for draining the pains and sorrows for another cycle, another year, and allows me to recognize i'm part of a larger cycle of these types of things.

    Hope this is helpful to others. Have a good holiday weekend.

    1. Thank you Kaisa for that post. It brought tears to my eyes halfway through. Have a good weekend!

    2. Thank you so much for sharing that Kaisa.

    3. Kaisa, that sounds like a very interesting holiday (Saudades)...I will have to look that up. What day is it in January? I am not Brazilian but would love to adopt that holiday. I have a lot of people and things missing in my life, especially this year (have lost several friends ths year for reasons unknown).
      My (birth)daughter has kind of dropped contact for a partially known reason, I am still going to write to her but I guess I shouldn't expect any more calls or emails. Of course, my son will never contact us (at least as long as his amom is alive, she threatens to disown him if he even thinks about contacting us).
      A friend invited me to Thanksgiving dinner, but kind of "disinvited" my roommate, whom they don't like, and he has no where else to go so if we are awake at the same time (circadian rhythm disorders here) we will probably go to a local restaurant. Which I can't afford, will have to borrow the money to do so.
      I have not had good health in the past few months. Hopefully I will be able to get up, get dressed, and actually go somewhere. Sometimes it doesn't seem worth it to even try to get up anymore. Be thankful for something? I suppose I could be grateful I am not presently in hell (God kicked me out 25 years ago) but other than that...don't have the energy to be very grateful. Sorry. Hope you all have a good holiday season.

    4. Kaisa,
      Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing that information on the Saudades holiday. I had never heard of it but would like to make it part of my end of the holiday season ritual. What a wonderful idea to devote a specific time, date and place to mourn the loss of not growing up in my blood families, and most especially the loss of not being raised by my natural mother. Participating in this Brazilian holiday will validate the significance of my loss, even though that loss is pooh-poohed by many individuals and denied by the adoption industry itself.

      Can you give us the exact date for it in 2017?

      Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

    5. Thanks Lorraine, Danni, Robin :) ... Saudades or Day of Saudade is always January 30th in Brazil. I have not directly observed what happens there, but i have spoken with a few Portugis from Portugal and from Brazil and Brazilian-Americans about it enough to feel satisfied that it applies to my case and it seems it would to any losses that never happened. Another way to define a saudade is that it is something that is impossible, because it couldn't or didn't happen, or cannot happen again. You can mourn the loss of something that you had, or didn't. But from what i know of the Portugis/Brazilian tradition it more often applies to something that never really was.

      You can mourn the loss of your youth, or of your country if you are an ex-pat, of living in a certain place that you no longer live or which has changed greatly, but these are little bittersweet saudades, and generally saudades explore the depth of deeper, the deepest, and generally very personal losses really.

      I don't worry about the exact date i usually schedule it the 3rd or 4th weekend in January and sometimes it is a day and sometimes 2 or 2.5 depending. I think you could reschedule it to your liking - if the concept works for you then just use it.

      Robin and Danni, if you end up observing it i would be interested to know what you do and what rituals or traditions you decide to use in order to process your grief, and to share what you wanna share if and when appropriate. The sharing is a big deal, for me, to hear what others think and feel and live, to know that we're all humans, with human hearts that give us both so much joy and pain, even as unique as each of us are.

      You can read about Saudade in Wikipedia, although i see that the definition there has changed over the years and i disagree with some of what is said (it feels nothing like nostalgia to me, and i don't equate it with Sehnsucht.) I chose these three lines from Wiki to describe what a saudade is for me:

      Although it relates to feelings of melancholy and fond memories of things/people/days gone by, it can be a rush of sadness coupled with a paradoxical joy derived from acceptance of fate and the hope of recovering or substituting what is lost by something that will either fill in the void or provide consolation.

      On its relation to Fado musical tradition:
      Fado is a musical cultural expression and recognition of this unassailable determinism which compels the resigned yearning of saudade, a bitter-sweet, existential yearning and hopefulness towards something over which one has no control.

      The state of mind has subsequently become a "Portuguese way of life": a constant feeling of absence, the sadness of something that's missing, wishful longing for completeness or wholeness and the yearning for the return of that now gone, a desire for presence as opposed to absence—as it is said in Portuguese, a strong desire to matar as saudades (lit. to kill the saudades).

    6. Kaisa, thanks for both these posts. I never could relate to Day of the Dead because I am creeped out by all the skeleton stuff, but as you describe it it seems a lovely remembrance of those gone. I like the idea of candles and flowers and pictures of family and friends still in our hearts.

      I can relate to your strong connection to your dog and feeling of protection emotionally. I have always felt that way about my cats. I only have one old one left, and she is very important to me as I continue to deal with anxiety and depression.

      Also the Saudades Day is very interesting, never heard of it but I can understand mourning what never was from my experience of not raising my oldest child, not being married by his father which I believed would happen, so many things I never even tried in my life because of lack of self-esteem. I very much envy those who say they have no regrets.

      As to the Thanksgiving holiday, I heard from all my sons and several friends which is good, but only the one who lives with us was here so we went out to eat.

      Again, thanks for a thoughtful and poignant post. And Lo, your post was also helpful to fccus on what we are thankful for while not forgetting what we have lost.

    7. Kiasa, when I read the last post over again, of course I thought of the marriage I did not make...that led directly to my meeting the father of my daughter and not able to raise her and thus...giving her up. If you haven't read it, I tell the whose story in the link above to my alternate universe daughter, who is a light in my life. Not only do we weirdly share adoption, she is a reminder that her father indeed was the man I thought he was. I met him on Thanksgiving Day and when I looked up what day of the month it fell on in 1960, when I was a college freshman--I discovered it was also Nov. 24, as it was yesterday. So Yes, I do mourn something that never happened, something that began on Thanksgiving Day. Meeting Jennifer and all that was revealed after that, I long ago gave myself permission to grieve this marriage that did not happen, and I do.

    8. Thanks cherry - actually saw your comment very early and was happy to see you, haven't seen you posting in a long time. Thanks maryanne and Lorraine for the comments. Yes maryanne, pets sure can become family and sometimes spiritual companions.

      Lorraine, i thought most reading your blog might be able to relate to concept of the family that never was... Yes, i have read about your alternate universe daughter, and her father. Strange but happy occurrences.. I guess that just goes to show that none of us are really in complete control of our lives and that while wishing something doesnt necessarily make it true or happen, it has importance nonetheless. i'm glad that you have an alternate universe daughter, and i'm glad that you allow yourself to grieve too. i guess you have been observing saudades all along. peace

    9. Thank you Kaisa for your lovely words - I was very touched!

      I've needed some time and space for reflection and to absorb the new awareness that's followed the rich conversations in places like this blog. I was getting overwhelmed but taking some time out really helped.

      I do love the richness of our profound, multifaceted conversations here.

  3. I didn't find your post gloomy, I found it very moving and rich. Thank you for all your thoughtful words.

  4. This Thanksgiving will be like all the others. My relinquished daughter will spend the holiday with the people that raised her. I might get a phone call. I don't expect anything different for Christmas. She doesn't realize how badly it hurts me when she calls, and I know she chose to not be with me. It's like I'm continually being punished for "choosing " to surrender her for adoption. I shouldn't complain, we've been in reunion for 3.5 years now. Other than holidays, it's......fine.

  5. This was a wonderful post and I really needed to read it. My Thanksgiving this year will be very hard because of news our family just received about my niece having a serious illness. Last night, November 22, I wanted to post at length somewhere online and didn't and am glad I didn't, but my first thought at the very bad news I received was that I have not been able to be there for my child or for my child's children EVER because of how I was exiled from my own motherhood. Also, I thought how natural it must be for mothers to call their children to convey family news while I was forced to just sit on my sofa helpless and powerless knowing there was nothing I could do. I did send my child a Thanksgiving card, but I am not certain my address is current and I have no phone number. I did not choose this; I was underage. Still, I gestated my child and loved my child until psychiatric intervention pushed my awareness out into the stratosphere so to speak. Tomorrow, when our truncated little family gets together, I will raise my coffee cup to family who are not present at the table. My child will be in my heart as I speak these words. Peace to all of us.

  6. It's so hard to grieve. Especially when you made the choice to give your child up but was lied to. I miss my child everyday.

  7. Were it not for other first mothers, their writings and forums like these, I would not have known how to begin my journey of healing from the lifetime sentence of loss to adoption nor would I have dared. Thank you and "Happy Thanksliving."

  8. I needed this post, and also appreciate Kaisa enlightening us about Saudade. Both affirm my feelings perfectly this Thanksgiving, as I grapple with a fleeting phone call from Nina's mother, wanting to re-initiate contact after 3 years, then abruptly changing her mind just a day later. I also got to see Nina briefly a few months prior to this - 3 years is a long time which, coupled with the negative things her mother no doubt has told her about me in these intervening years, has mostly killed the intimacy she once felt towards me. It is hard to love her so much, to know that she is unstable and homeless, yet not be able to help her. I have had to internalize this and move on this Thanksgiving, focus on the people who do want to be around me and, most importantly, be there for Lenny, my adopted son, who needs more and more reassurance of my unconditional love, support and understanding as he gets older. I will use the concept of Saudade to mourn and honor Nina.



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