Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas, Both a Blessing and a Curse

Oh Christmas Tree!
I love Christmas.  It's one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the sights, the sounds, the smells, pretty much everything.  My house has been decorated since before Thanksgiving (oh the horror!) and I've been cheerfully waltzing around enjoying every minute of the season that will come to a screeching halt December 26th and then we're just in "Winter" (someone please remind me why I don't live in a warmer climate?).

Once Christmas is over however, I tend to get the blues.  I came home with my parents at the beginning of January.  It's a painful reminder that I didn't spend my first Christmas with my parents.  I have "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments from the year after I was born.  As a kid, I never quite understood why they were the wrong year, but as I got older I sort of put two and two together.  It was a harsh reality.

My adoption paperwork was signed December 31st.  The last day of the year was the day I lost my original identity and was made available for adoption.  My parents had been chosen and they would receive a call January 2nd (because the 1st was a holiday).  They had five days to prepare for my arrival.  It's a story my adoptive family likes to tell, because for them it's only a feel-good story.  They all banded together and got my mother everything she needed in five days.  She had a fully stocked nursery for me to come home to, diapers, and all the other baby related stuff a new mother might need.  My mom didn't even have to lift a finger.  Her wide support network got it all together.  From the sheets to the clothing to the teddy bear I still have.  It was all done quickly and efficiently.  My adoptive family members love that story because for them, it shows how excited everyone was to meet me and how they couldn't wait for me to get there.  And it shows how close-knit my family is because they were all there for my mom when she needed the help.

Those things are all great.  My family was very close-knit back then, and I'm glad my mom had the support.  I can't imagine what that time must have been like for her, excited for a new baby, but uncertain because what if something went wrong?  Having all these things to do in order to prepare for something in five days that most people have nine months for...  I've never been there, but I can imagine.

My mantle includes a gift from my natural family

On the other hand, I can't help but think about the other side of things.  What if my natural mother had support like that?  What if everyone she knew banded together and got her all the baby things she might need?  A crib, some diapers, a few onesies.  And what about me during those five days?  I was destined to go to a family but I had no idea.  I was still with a foster family, the only family I'd known up to that point and I was about to be taken away.  There was a countdown going down that I was not aware of.  There were two young boys in that family.  I wonder what it was like for them to spend Christmas with a baby only to be told a mere week later that their "little sister" would be moving on?  Were they sad?  Happy to get a screaming baby out of their house?  I'll never know because I don't know anything more about the family I lived with for the first two months of my life.

Often, we like to focus on the positives.  I know I do.  I enjoy the feel-good stories, the ones that warm up your insides better than a cup of hot chocolate.  For most people, that's what adoption is, a feel good story that's only positive.  I am constantly reminding people who say things like "Oh, what a lovely story!" that there's another side to the story where the adoptee has lost their identity, their heritage, and their original family.  And the people who lost them.  That's not to say that the good things didn't happen.  At least, for me they did.  I did end up with a great family.  I got loving parents who I wouldn't trade for the world.  But I lost a lot as well.  I lost my identity, my family, and a lot of other things that I can't ever get back.  It's something that I have to deal with on pretty much a daily basis.  I'll never celebrate Christmas without thinking about my natural family, nor will January 7th ever be just a normal day for me.  I can hang out with my natural family members now and we can celebrate the holidays (on a different day of course), but there will always be the shadow of the Christmases we missed.

I like trashy TV.  Don't judge me.  I watch Switched at Birth.  They did a Christmas special this year, where the girls wished they'd never been switched.  As I'm sure you can guess, at the end of the episode they both realized that being switched helped make them who they are and that they loved their "adoptive" families and didn't want them not in their lives.  It's not a simple answer when someone says "Do you wish you'd never been adopted?" because like them, I recognize that I love my adoptive family and I can't imagine life without them.  But like them, I also love my natural family and I'm sad we've missed so many years together.  Those feelings like to duke it out at some point during this time of year.  I can't go back and change anything, and to be honest, I'm not sure if I would.  All I can do it work on making Christmas a happy time for myself and try to focus on the future.  A future that contains two families that I love.  It's not simple.  It's messy and complicated, much like making Christmas cookies at my house (oh the flour!).  But then again, I doubt I'd want my life any other way at this point!