The First Mom's Club  

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Just like adoptees feel a bond with one another stemming from their similarities, I feel a kinship with mothers of relinquishment. I have many things rolling around in my head and my heart when it comes to feelings of first mothers. I realize we are not all the same and each of our experiences and set of circumstances at the time vary as much as the stories of adoption itself.

I want to put something out there that might help other mothers new to reunion, but first the disclaimer.

I am by no means a professional concerning anything but my own heart and my own reunion. In those two areas I am the only expert. No one knows what I have been through, they do not know how I felt then, not do they know how I feel now. I do not claim to be able to nor do I intend to fix anyone elses pain or reunion. All I can do is share what happened to me, in an attempt to explain some of what you might be feeling.

With that out of the way, I want to give a brief background. I am from the baby scoop era. My daughter was born in 1972. I willingly and jointly decided with my daughters father to put our child up for adoption. I didn't see any sappy commercials or hear any 30 second spots on the radio about how wonderful it would be. I did however know a couple who inspired me. They were the only couple I knew at the time who had adopted, I studied them carefully long before my daughter was ever born. It seemed to work for them.

I remember all too well the embarrassment and shame I was supposed to feel. It worked for a while, then they went over board with it and I rebelled. I refused to go in a home for unwed mothers. I refused to stay hidden in the house like a dirty little secret. I ate well, got lots of sunshine and laughed as often as possible. Sometimes the laughter would turn into tears due to the hormones but it was short lived. I was amazed that anyone could actually do that and found it profoundly wierd. That would usually get me laughing again.

After a hard delivery which I will spare you the details of, and the being treated like I was something on the bottom of the nurses shoes, I was allowed to see my daughter but not touch. I had a private room to keep me away from all the nursing moms. Probably a good idea.

Now comes the signing of the official papers that took all rights to this child away from me and legally turned them over to the infamous June and Ward Clever. This I know because all adoptive parents were like June and Ward Clever. I saw it in the only family I knew that had adopted. (They were very June and Wardish .) I like to refer to this part as Paper and Ink. There are two kinds of paper and ink. The first kind is in reference to the relinquishing parents as I just explained, and the other kind is that which the adoptive parents have to produce in order to finalize their end of adoption. Most people refer to it as money. Paper and ink are the one common bond that first and adoptive parents have.

For the first few years, I couldn't have been more proud of myself. I did the right thing. I made someone else very happy. Which was true. Then the horror stories started to pour in. Tales of adoptees being molested and even killed by their adoptors. Guilt like I had never known consumed me. I felt sick to think I had possibly turned my daughter over to the very type people I was trying to protect her from. This was to consume me for the next twenty years.

Shortly after my daughters 18th birthday, I had grand illusions of us meeting. She was of age now and would be finding me any day. That took ten more years. It never occurred to me that at the age of 18 she could start looking. I thought naively that the adoption agency would just hand over my information and within weeks we would be back together again.

Fast forward to the day I got my call and the old emotions began to flood back. It's true, I finally got my phone call. The one where someone was looking for their lost relative and it was me. I had gotten several calls over the years, most looking for a man with my first initial and same last name. This is how I was listed in the phone book.

Amazing how at a moment like this when sounding half way intelligent could be a plus for me, all I could manage to say was no way, no way, is this really my call, the one I have been waiting for forever, no way, noooo wwwaaayyy. Yeah, I sounded like an idiot, but one with enthusiasm.

Now the fun stuff begins. We talked for 4 hours. I can barely remember what about, didn't matter. This was my daughter. I hung up the phone and was in a haze. I stayed that way for days. I couldn't have been more excited or more numb all at the same time. My concentration was shot. I couldn't focus on anything, and then it started. The tears. I couldn't control the tears. I would cry at the drop of a hat. I couldn't stop. I would cry for hours sometimes, but it was a different kind of tears. They were tears of joy and tears of relief. My daughter had found me and managed to have a good life. She was safe all those years. She had gotten the family I had wished for her. One that was very June and Ward Cleverish.

As the reunion progressed, I was faced with questions that I wanted to answer but in order to do that for her I had to take the bullet so to speak. Answering her questions was far more important to me than the pain I had to relive. In the beginning it was hard. I didn't want to talk about my life and the circumstances that determined her fate of adoption. I didn't want her to know the shame and the guilt I felt by being pregnant with her.

I did it anyway. She deserved to know who she was, where she came from, why we made that decision. It was like therapy all over again with the bucket between my knees trying to talk about my childhood.

Things were awkward at first. Being uncomfortable with your own child is bad enough but not knowing if that feeling was ever going to change was the worst. Maybe we would never get past the down side of everything. Maybe we would relive the past with all it's depression and feelings of guilt every time we looked at each other. I felt like the jury was out on my status with her for a long time. I would go out of my way to not say upsetting things to her. I would walk on egg shells all the time being around her or talking to her on the phone. I was afraid I would screw up and she would go away again. I was afraid to let down my guard and love her.

Every phone call got easier and less tense. We started emailing each other things we liked and disliked. Lists of things like favorite music, color, foods, (hers is cheese). We had covered the bases of who she was and were now starting concentrating on getting to know one another.

I admit something so natural as bonding with your child should not have to be so much work, but when you have been separated from each other for so long and you were told to go home and forget about it (which doesn't work by the way) and never try to contact them, it makes you feel like your doing something wrong. YOU'RE NOT.

All the junk about not contacting her was so prominent in my mind that I never would have looked for her. I thought about it, but backed away every time. It was up to her to find me.
She had to be the one, so I couldn't be blamed for breaking a promise or going against something I might have signed all those years ago.

I was worried about her parents, how angry they were going to be. I thought about the agency and was expected a call from them telling me I was in breach of my contract or something. I thought about every ones feelings but my daughters. How stupid is that? THERE ARE NO ADOPTION POLICE.

If your child is of legal age and wants a relationship with you and you want one with them make the effort, go the distance, put up with hard stuff, the crying jags, the inability to focus. Don't let anyone tell you that you are doing something wrong. Your relationship with your child has no bearing on their relationship with the parents who raised them. It is either good or bad and no matter what it is, it had nothing to do with you, they are separate entities.

No one can tell you how your reunion is going to go. It might be wonderful like mine or it might be something that you just can't make happen. No matter what it is, it is better to have tried and failed than to not have tried at all.

My daughter was a little disappointed when we met face to face. I was a little befuddles myself. We do not resemble one another in the facial features. That belongs to her fathers family and another story, but it was so healing for both of us to be able to lay eyes on one another finally after 28 years of wondering. She found her hands, her body type, her temperament, sense of humor, and much much more.

I never thought she would wonder about things like heritage, medical information, siblings. I also never thought giving her away was going to reek havoc on my life like it did for so many years.

Reunion can be healing, forgiving, and just plain spiritually uplifting if you give it a chance, but understand that there might be hard parts in the beginning that lessen with time. I can't put into words how freeing it is for me to be forgiven for what I did. I have a wonderful relationship with my daughter, we were drawn to one another from the very beginning, but it still took the guts to talk about the hard stuff to make our relationship what it is today. It wasn't her who had to forgive me, she'd already done that, it was me.

One final thought.

If your family was anything like mine your pregnancy has left a fudge mark on your life card. You know the one, the family life card that has all the stupid shit you ever did on it. All the really seriously bad stuff and the sorta bad stuff. Well I was told by more than one family member that I would never see my daughter again. One reason was the infamous paper and ink. I signed the papers and no longer have the right to see her. The other reason was because she wasn't going to want to see me after what I did.

I now see my shameful, disgracing the family, teenage pregnancy as a huge, in your face, fudge mark remover. And it feels goooooooood.

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