Friday, July 22, 2011

Ask an Adoptee: Messages and Meanings

"I would like to know if those of you that have been reunited with your mother, realize that you were not 'given away'. I keep seeing that in most of your blogs and it must have been a terrible thing to have inside one's head, especially a child's head.

Most of the the mothers of loss that I know, including myself, did not EVER give you away. Most of us were coerced and had absolutely NO choice in the matter. Most of us had our babies ‘taken away’, never did we ‘give them away’. I would love to say to the children in you all, NO your mother did not give away. Be interested in hearing your comments."

At first I hesitated to respond to you, because I often find that communicating with fmoms on the subject of what it means to have been left behind in the hospital is too fraught with emotion. It's really difficult to listen to each other. As Von said in her answer to this question, all sides of the hellagon (thanks to Joy for coining that term, my new preferred way of referring to the "constellation") have trauma, but they are different traumas. We may say that we feel "abandoned," but we are then told "I NEVER abandoned you!" by mothers who aren't OUR mothers. There may be a difference between being abandoned and feeling abandoned, but our feelings can get lost in the shuffle of collective fmotherly anger, shame, and guilt. 

I have been thrown down on the mat by some fmoms for using the word "choice" in relation to relinquishment. They had no choices themselves. I get that. My bad. 

But you know, some fmoms did choose to give up their kids. Mine is one of those. She was slow to come to the reunion table. She took 11 years to talk to me, and among her first words were the charming, "I wish I had aborted you." She wasn't the wounded woman whom you describe in your paragraphs above. Although you say "most," not all mothers "did not EVER give you away." I feel that your use of "most" pathologizes those of us who didn't get the presumably "normative" experience of the distraught mother who had her baby pried from her arms against her will.  

I think that the best discussions about adoption occur when we recognize that while we may share some experiences and feelings, adoptees' relationships with our families are all very, very different. There are as many stories as there are adoptees and mothers. It's extremely important to be respectful of individual differences in how adoptees think of their relationships with their mothers.

The words "gave you away" don't bother me nearly as much as they seem to bother others. To me, that phrase is just part of society's script (yes, a very flawed script) for explaining what happened to us, and after 42 years, I am numb to it. What hurts, by contrast, is not feeling accepted my natural family for who I am. But that's another story.

I grieve for the loss of my mother, the loss of the family to which I was born, and the loss of my connection to personal history that I feel could have grounded me and helped me better weather some of the more difficult parts of my life. 

Intellectually, I thank you for wanting to love us all. Emotionally, saying that "most" mothers love their children, did not give them away, and instead had them taken away, doesn't help me. It's not my truth.

I think all of us in the hellagon do best by listening, recognizing where our own pain stops and another's begins, and paying attention to the infinite variety of experiences out there.