adoptee, adoption, affects, birthmom, birthmother, closed adoption, grief, healing, multi generational, speaking out, survival, trauma
I knew, this summer when my son turned 19 it was going to be a turning point. To me, it meant that after ten long years of not being able to see him, that it was now an option. He was now in the eyes of the law, a full-grown adult, and could make his own choices. As far as I was concerned, this “openness agreement” I had with his adoptive parents was null and void. I was free, from the shackles of my open, then closed adoption.
I told myself alot of things to keep me from losing my mind. After ten years of seeing your child, and forming a relationship, how do you just “not” anymore? One of the things I did to keep myself going, was to keep reassuring myself that he would be 19 one day, and that I would be able to see him again. I had woven a fantasy, over many years where he turned 19, and called me up and would say something to the effect of, “I’ve missed you! Lets go spend the day together!” and off we would go, getting ourselves coffee, going for a long walk, talking in the sunshine. It was beautiful. I just had to wait until he was 19. I remember the years going by. Only 9 more years, hang in there. It seemed so long away, I didn’t know how I was going to wait. 8 yrs, 7…6..and then I found him on Facebook and was overjoyed! I saw his profile, and was in awe. There he was, my son, staring back at me. I wanted to friend him, but I was so terrified, what if he didn’t want to be friends and ignored me? What if he thought it was my choice to close the adoption? Who knows what stories his adoptive mom told him? Would he want to hear my side? Was he old enough to hear my side of it? He did end up accepting me as a friend, and we have communicated over Facebook since that time.
It hasn’t been easy though. On so many levels it hasn’t been easy. Communication is sporadic, and for the most part, it involves me sending him notes every few months letting him know I’m thinking of him, and him for the most part ignoring me. Every once in a while I will get something back, but it’s usually the answer “I don’t know” to a question I asked, or “I’m good” to me asking how he’s doing. I tell myself I shouldn’t complain. That I should be *shudder* grateful to even be able to have talked with him while he was a minor anyway. I should be *honored* that he chose me, his mother, to be his friend on Facebook. It shouldn’t be this hard to make a connection with my only son.
Adoption has made the most natural relationship in the world, mother and child, into a fight or flight relationship, always with the undercurrents of mistrust, anxiety and fear on both sides. I am mistrustful, because what if I do open up about what happened when his adoptive mother closed the adoption? Would he go back and tell her everything I said? What happens if she twists it? It won’t be the first time she’s tried to turn him against me. He is mistrustful, because I left, not once, but twice. I walked away. He doesn’t know it wasn’t my choice, both times. There is so much he doesn’t know of our story, and yet, just based on that alone, how could you put any sort of trust in someone who keeps walking away from you, but tells you she is always there for you? That’s got to be confusing. I have anxiety about losing him again, and again and again, because he will never be here to stay. I always feel the anxiety that maybe just maybe this will be the last time I talk to him, and so I try to cram so much into such a small amount of time. He has anxiety around me trying to take him away from his adoptive parents. That surfaced when he was five. You get one guess who put that there in his head. Even then his adoptive mother was trying to make me look evil, and him like a prized pony to be won. I just wanted a relationship with my son. The fear, ohh the fear. Yup that’s there, in spades. I think since finding him on Facebook, he has kept the fact that we are in contact, from his adoptive parents. I’m sure it’s not hard to guess why. It wasn’t until last year I noticed his adoptive father was on his Facebook. His adoptive father was always the easy-going one. He was always nice to me. He was always the “smoother over” guy, who would make everything right when his wife would get out of line. If he found out about it (most of the emotional abuse I suffered at her hands, he never knew about, because I didn’t want to make waves and possibly lose my visits) he would always be the first to say sorry. His adoptive mom is on Facebook as well, under a different name, and is NOT a friend of his on facebook…that, to me, speaks volumes. One, that he either doesn’t want her to know we talk and have found each other, or that they are not close because he’s alot like me (which he is) or Two, that she is aware that I’m there, and under her assumed name she is hiding from me…because lets face it, she’s got alot to atone for. She’s done some pretty heinous things to undermine the relationship I had with my son, due to her own inability to deal with her infertility, her own lack of self worth, and her insecurity, all of which she instead chose to project on to me for the ten years I was a part of an open adoption.
In the weeks leading up to my sons 19th birthday, I began to get anxious, and hopeful. This was it. THE day I had been waiting for for ten years. The day we would connect and he would tell me he missed me and that we would get together, and have coffee, and go for a walk in the sun….
When that day came and went, I experienced a sense of grief and loss at a magnitude I had never experienced before. The fantasy I had told myself for ten years was just that, a fantasy. I knew that If I didn’t find some birthmothers to talk to, that I would die inside. To me, there is a difference between “feeling” suicidal and “being” suicidal. I was feeling suicidal, which means to me that I was feeling like I could go on no longer, and yet, I would never take that final leap. I reached out to Claudia over at http://www.adoptionbirthmothers.com/ and was directed to a birthmothers support group online. The ladies in there, and the many people I have found since then have saved my life. They got me through that really rough patch of coming out of my fantasy land. The lies I told myself to keep me going were the same ones that nearly did me in. Careful what you wish for.
Since then, I have been in contact with the ladies in my group everyday. They have become my best friends. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to not have to explain how this or that is feeling today, because they already know. They have been there. The level of support I receive from them everyday, over trivial everyday stuff, and for big heavy adoption trauma stuff, has been over and above what I have ever experienced in any friendship I have ever had. These women have become my family, my sisters. I give back as much as I can, and I write this blog also as a way to reach out, to help, to comfort, and to make other women like me, or families affected by adoption to know they are not alone.
“Coming out” of the birthmother closet, and openly speaking my truth about what adoption has done to my family has had its consequences. My mother and sister, early in this opening, have mentally, and emotionally abused me online. They are of the thought that Adoption is such a wonderful thing, and that I made a choice, and should be “grateful” that my son has had such a good life, that I was able to see him for the ten years, and I should consider myself lucky because his adoptive parents didn’t have to let me see him. But they have totally and completely missed the point. I am happy my son has had a good life, but he could have had a good life with me. I was coerced into believing that I was unworthy to parent, https://adoptionbirthmom.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/newly-minted-birthmoms/when nothing could have been farther from the truth, and if I had been able to get support from my family during that time I would have had the ability to find resources to help me parent, but I didn’t really know what was out there. When I went to the ministry of children and families to see about getting financial help until I got on my feet, I was turned away and told the best thing I could do was give my baby up for adoption.
This is the most painful piece of the story for me. My dad. The one man I always trusted. This piece ties in with my post “newly minted birthmom” This is what I couldn’t say. I’m in tears already. It’s so hard to even type it, my god… On day 3 after my son’s birth, I was at home waiting for my dad to take me back to the hospital so I could go feed him and spend some time with him. I didn’t know how to bring it up, so I blurted it out. “Dad, I can’t do this, I want to bring my son home” He started in about hormones, and I said “NO!! this is my flesh and blood, this is your grandson, I want to bring my son home” He faltered for a second and then said ” Think of what this is going to do to X and Y, they have waited so long for a baby, YOU would break their hearts” “What about MY heart dad? He’s my son not theirs!” This went back and forth for I don’t know how long, this is where it gets blurry, this defining moment in my life. I remember collapsing on the floor at his feet screaming and wailing like a wounded animal. Somewhere deep inside myself I was still present and I didn’t recognize the sounds I was making. I remember so clearly the words that killed the girl I would never be again, and destroyed the trust I had forever in my dad. After telling me that He would support any decision I made, and that if I didn’t want to go through with the adoption, and wanted to keep my son that I could live with him until I got on my feet, he said “If you bring that baby home, you don’t have a place to live” and he left me at the base of the stairs, in a sobbing heap. I had no fight left. I never tried again to convince him to let me keep him.
Since the adoption, I know my dad harbors alot of guilt for his part in my pain. He has been around for the last 20 ish years to see me go from various mental health “professionals” who diagnosed me with Major depressive disorder, with anxiety, to my wild roller coaster ride of anti depressant medications which I was told I would never be able to get off of, and “trials” and “studies” I was in once my ability to pay for the medication the dr’s said I needed ceased. The dr’s then took my vulnerable, scared self (sound familiar?) and made me into their lab rat of sorts, exploiting me in the name of science… I paid dearly for that too. That’s a whole other post though. When I started to open up about adoption, I don’t know if I was my sister getting to him first, which is possible, or because I wrote him and told him that I was no longer talking to my mother or sister and why, he backed off again. My dad isn’t a confrontational type of guy, and well, he lived my pain with me for the first six years post adoption. He knows full well, how pulling the rug out from under me when I most needed his support did to me. I know he’s sorry beyond words. I know, he has shut down because he doesn’t want to get caught in the crossfire. I don’t blame him. My dad has suffered in silence, watching me suffer in silence.
My dad and step mom, have told me for years that I should write. That I should be published. That I’m a good writer and have a story to tell. They have bugged me for years to publish something. I told him in that email that I have published something. I told him I’m writing a blog. I told him it was about adoption, and that it was being read all over the world. Mine and his dream for me was coming true. I still look for validation from my dad, because I feel like I let him down by getting pregnant in the first place. I still hope to get the “I’m proud of you” email, but it’s never come. He has gone silent. Adoption has yet again, put a wedge between me and my family.
The stress of this has had dire consequences for my health, which is why I haven’t written in a long time. I have developed an auto immune disease in my mouth directly related to stress. It is a chronic condition, so now that I have it, it will never go away. It has potential to also spread to my skin, if it worsens. My thyroid has acted up, and has started to swell. I am in the process of finding out if I have hashimotos disease, which is a hypothyroid condition that affects “middle age” women. If not, my thyroid acting up is also due to extreme stress. Right now, and for the last week or so, it feels like I am being strangled. My thyroid is pushing on my windpipe making it hard at times to breathe and to swallow. I cough alot to try to unconsciously make room in my throat.
For those of you who are familiar with energy healing, or those who are interested in learning more, I also have alot of experience in that particular area. When I was 21 I started to study Reiki. If you want to learn more about it, please go here: http://www.reiki.org/faq/whatisreiki.html
For most of my life I have studied various healing techniques from around the world but Reiki is my favorite. I use it everyday on my throat and find it helps. I have also found that for years when I would work on my throat area, that I would swallow alot. I found that interesting because if you know of the chakra system in your body, the throat chakra coincides with many of the ailments I am experiencing now. http://www.chakras.info/throat-chakra/throat-chakra-blockage/ For years, being silent about my feelings about my adoption experience have led to a blockage there. It started to open up when I started talking about it. I felt sad upon finding out there was so many women (300+ in my group alone) that have experienced what I have experienced, but at the same time, I was so relieved I was not alone, and that my feelings were validated and real, I wasn’t “crazy!” but I have found this at a price. I have lost my immediate family. My blood relatives (aside from two cousins who “get it”) and I still have not reunited with my son. I have had to write under a pen name to be able to write honestly, and know that my family will not come out of the woodwork and attack me again.
Thank you for listening, and coming on this journey with me. In closing, I would like to say after getting through the holidays which are always hard, and this year made harder by being so sick, something amazing did happen. On Christmas, I got a note from my son.
“Love you, Merry Christmas” and that, that right there, makes EVERYTHING I’m going through this year worth it.
Emm Pea said:
Oh Phaydra, this makes my heart hurt. I wish I could give you a big hug. Hang in there and keep writing!
Discovering Mary said:
Thank you for sharing how much you miss your son and yearn to have him in your life. You are so in touch with your pain and loss, and I appreciate the courage it takes to express this so openly and honestly. My natural mother, unfortunately, is not able to do this. She was not so excited when I re-entered her life twenty years ago – she doesn’t seem to want to (or doesn’t know how to) deal with her past. I have friends who are birthmothers and they have helped me to understand what she went through in 1964, but second rejection is a stab to the heart for the adopted child, no matter what. The thing is, I still love her and always will. She’s my mother.
I have come to the conclusion that when you give birth to a child, he or she will always be your child, even if the paperwork and society says otherwise. Your son is and always will be YOUR son – you are infinitely connected to him, as he is to you. It made me smile when you said he sent you a note that said “love you”. That’s huge for any teen-aged boy!
I miss my mother tonight. Every night, actually. Reunion was 4 years ago I saw her last 9 months ago. i barely knew her. She’s alive, not far away. It doesn’t matter.
After 14 years in I can say I totally relate to this post. I should feel “grateful” that my daughter’s parents have not put these thoughts into her head and she is open to the possibility of a relationship but nothing is guaranteed. ❤ Excellent post.
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I Don't Even Know Who I Am Anymore said:
Yes, the seemingly insignificant things that mean the whole world to us. I had our Christmas “visit” this week, during which the continued theme of “keep me away from my son” went on. His adoptive mom physically keeps herself berween us the whole time. And he’s ready for school soon but still doesn’t know English. I can’t help but think that’s their way of minimizing my ability to connect with him. How hard it is to connect with a little one whom is physically interfered with every time he tries to play with you, and can’t even speak your language, the language of the country he lives in. But you know what, we still do connect. I catch his eye from a distance and make him laugh with some funny expressions and she immediately, literally immediately, steps in front of me to block his view of me, pretending to be fiddling with his jacket (honestly, how many people do you need to put on a jacket, his dad was already taking care of it just fine). But she can’t take that monentary giggle away from me, when our eyes locked and he looked me right in the eyes with so much joy. And at the very end of our visit, I caught his eye, opened my arms for a hug and he just ran, it happened so quick she couldn’t stop it. He ran into my arms and gave me the biggest hug. Oh my goodness, I can still feel his little arms. That was the best Christmas gift I could ever, ever, ever have. As was mentioned in the post, that makes everything worth it. I can’t help but have this little glimmer of hope that he somehow knows me, in spite of the fact we’ve only seen each other a handful of times in our lives, he can’t speak English, and obviously doesn’t recognize me at the beginning of our rare visits, AND we aren’t given any opportunity to interact without his adoptive mom stepping in… well I know hugs aren’t given out easy from little ones his age, he must “know me” in some deep down place inside. It’s amazing how one hug can soothe a year of pain, my being treated as disposable, and missing him like crazy.
I wish it didn’t have to be this way. I have no intention of ever taking him away, trying to make him love me more than her, trying to “one up her”, or doing anything to interfere with their lives. I couldn’t even if I wanted to… they have the law on their side. And to be honest, I would never even want to interfere with them. I just want to love my son. Why is that a crime? The agency’s phrase, love doesn’t divide, it multiplies. This excuse for an open adoption is supposed to be the case of more love in a child’s life. Why can’t I be allowed to love him. She gets the rest of every day with him, she’s there to tuck him in at night, to pick him up when he falls, to feed him, to say good morning, why can’t I be free to just play with him for a few hours without her physically getting between us? But at least I have my hug this year. What a sweet and precious hug to carry me through it all. No one can take that.
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