One Woman's Reflections
Although I had dreamed of having my own family, after I relinquished my baby, at the age of 20, there was such a deep seated terror in me of the devastating loss I associated with pregnancy that I made sure that I never became pregnant again. I even married a man who wanted no children. Life without children of my own made me lose close women friends when they began to have their babies, made me feel outside of things in my husband's close-knit family, because it was seen as my choice not to have children. I was the only woman in that large family who had no children.
I babysat all through junior and senior high school to earn money, but after I relinquished I was unable to bear the sight of a child for a good ten years. I became utterly afraid of them and disliked them intensely without understanding why. I had not been afraid of kids before then; as a matter of fact, I had been a preferred babysitter by both children and parents.
Relinquishment caused me to take the most horrendous grief I have ever had and not speak a word of it. I had to hide it so completely that after a month, I even hid it from myself and it caused untold amounts of damage by being so repressed. Relinquishment caused me to doubt my own mothering instincts and abilities, so, consequently, I took every mothering instinct I had and completely deadened it. About ten years after relinquishment, I had an unexpected encounter with a baby who would not stop crying and its mother was at her wit's end and something inside of me made me reach for the baby, and as I held it, it calmed. I held that baby for at least an hour as it slept in my arms, but I felt so far away from it; nevertheless, the mothering instinct did return somewhat, but only with very young children for at least twenty more years. I am finally able to be around children of all ages without going dead inside, and I don't fear them as much as I used to.
Adoption, because of the outright lies told to me and about me by the people involved, gave me a basic mistrust of just about anything anyone says to me. I have childhood issues also, and those issues were augmented by what was done to me during the birthing process and then the adoption process. I was told I had a month after my son was born to change my mind about relinquishment, when in fact, I found out after my son and I reunited, that I had an entire year. Little things like that. I have a bitterness inside of me that I fear will never leave.
Relinquishment and adoption have left me with such a primal guilt that no amount of knowledge or understanding of what caused me to relinquish can ever assuage completely. I know all the social reasons, I know the irresistible pressure placed upon me by family and society, I know that I really had no choice whatsoever, but to my dying day, and perhaps beyond, I will be haunted by the memory of his warm and sweet body leaving my arms as I handed him over to the waiting social worker. Those few seconds changed the course of my life by literally changing who I was. In that instant, I became a mother who would abandon her own child, and that has irrevocably changed my own sense of myself. And I doubt that I even completely understand how different my life would have been had I been allowed to raise my own child, or how different his life could have been.
When I relinquished my baby, I lost a piece of myself, part of my soul; it drained my fundamental sense of womanhood from me. I have never regained that sense. I was just coming into full womanhood at 20; I was not allowed to complete the journey. Some women turned all of this into making careers for themselves. For me, it stopped me dead in my tracks and now, at 58, I flounder alone in my life, having failed at marriage also. I directly attribute this to the loss of my only child. There just don't seem to be words for what I lost and can never get back, can never substitute for. My son is now 37 years old and hates me. What's ironic about all of this is that I loved him so much that I gave him up so he would have love, not understanding that my love was the only love he really needed. And now I understand that his love for his real mother was all I really needed, and both of us have been denied that fundamental and basic life force. I have tried to reach him, but it is too late.
How does one make patterns in their life when everything
is colored by grief? I've been in intensive therapy for years to find that
out. If you find the answer, will you let me know? Does anyone know what
heals a first mother of this loss? I don't think there is anything.
Lately, I have turned my efforts and energies into writing, into making
tiny serenity gardens for myself, into trying to make beauty in little
unexpected corners of the world, into helping others feel better about
themselves, and these things do help me find some peace in my life, and
some hope. I still have my days when my bitterness boils over, but they
are fewer in number now because I am learning to control it so it doesn't
splash acid onto others. Remember the days when we were young and people
would say to us, "Don't do something to ruin your life?" I finally
understand what ruining a life means.
Thoughts of My Child
If I understand my daughter at all, I
understand that she is extremely angry with me for being adopted as a
toddler. She may say was angry before & she isn't angry now, but
I think that deep down she is - she is because of that primal wound that
was inflicted twice when she was a baby. Once when she went into
foster care before adoption... and then I got her back cause I couldn't
bear it... and then again when she was apprehended a couple of months
later. I think that on some deep level she is terrified to find out
why she was adopted as a toddler, what she did or what she was that caused
her own mother to abandon her. I think her avoidance of a
relationship has a lot to do with instinctively knowing that it will bring
up a lot of emotion. I think her avoidance of a relationship is also
a way to punish me for the choice I made. And perhaps also, if she
is anything like me at all, perhaps also, her avoidance of a relationship
with me is a way to punish herself for not being good enough to be
kept. Or perhaps I just tend to think of the worst case
In any case, that anger could well be directed at
my family. And while I might understand that anger I would be
uncomfortable with it because doling out blame for something that happened
31 years ago doesn't feel right to me. I spent a lot of years
healing from the wounding myself and I don't need to go back there.
I prefer to acknowledge that I have moved beyond it & that, although
my life was marred by the dysfunction of my parents, I can't blame them
anymore for their own upbringing in dysfunctional families. They were who
they were and so I felt unloved and unworthy & that set a chain of
events in motion that did not end with the adoption of my daughter in 1976
but continued until I began to wake up in the 90s and began my healing
journey. I know for a fact that my parents love me now and are proud
of me now - even though they never say it, I learned their language &
I hear it.
Still, in my most turn-myself-upside-down moments
I get angry at my daughter for being angry with me for wanting her to have
a lovely home, to be safe & secure, and to have two loving parents who
wanted the best for her.
But then I was thinking this morning
about the emails that I've seen from first moms who can't seem to stop
touching or hugging their reunited child. And it occured to me that
all my daughter has to do is look at me with those sweet longing eyes I
remember, and I'd break right down wailing on the front steps and
she'd have to carry me inside and hold my hand for the next 30 years or so
before I'd ever let her go again.