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Friday, July 22, 2011

Ask an Adoptee: "Do you realize that you were not 'given away'?"


Question:

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.


Julie's Response:

As a reunited adoptee, I internalize the statements above in a few different ways. My immeidate, gut reaction is to roll my eyes because I am once again finding myself being told what my mother thinks from someone who is not my mother. And much like when adoptive parents say "she loved you so much that...," statements such as the ones made above are not informed with knowledge of my particular circumstances. Hence the eye rolling. This person has no idea if my mother gave me away or not, had choices or not, or was coerced or not.

For the record, it is my feeling that my mother did have choices. This is my personal opinion regarding my own mother based on my interactions with her over the past 13 years. And in no way do my personal feelings about my own mother represent how I view the mothers of all adoptees. Other women may not have had choices. My mother simply was not one of them.

That said, do I think that my mother chose to give me away? No, I do not. I think that she was not strong enough to stand up to her parents. So as far as I'm concerned, my maternal grandparents were the ones who actually gave me away and decided that I was not wanted by my own family.

Here's the thing though. My mother now has all the choices in the world. No one is coercing her into anything. Yet for the past 13 years of our reunion, she has made it clear that I am not welcome in her life. She has had 13 years to take control and face the past. And she has chosen not to do so. Therefore, at this stage in our reunion game, I am holding her responsible for her decisions and how they make me feel. Her continued distance and silence makes me feel unwanted, unloved and, yes, "given away."

This is why my eyes tend to roll when I'm lectured to about my mother's thoughts, intentions and experiences by someone who is not her. Because in my world, the only person who can speak for my mother is my mother--and she has made herself very clear to me.

But then I have to step back and really consider what this mother-of-loss is truly saying with the words expressed above. She is speaking of herself. She is speaking of her lost child. She is speaking of her own experience. She sees her own child in us and does not like to see that so many of us are hurting. She wants to help relieve our pain. Because she is a mother. And that's what mothers are supposed to do.

Unfortunately, however, she simply cannot assume that all mothers are like her or feel the same way she does.

~ Julie

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.