The Answer is No and Yes

"There is one pain I often feel, which you will never know. It is caused by the absence of you." – Unknown

“Do all birth mothers feel the way you do? I would feel awful if I found out my children’s mothers feel so badly about giving their child to me?”

Yes, I was asked this question by an adoptive parent.  It is so loaded for me with so many possible answers and explanations I don’t know where to begin.

First, NO. 

Not all mothers feel like I do. How could they? They did not have my experience, they had their own. They are not walking in my shoes (which as of right now are black, high heeled shoe boots from Nine West dirtied with salt and slush), they are walking in their own.

The single common denominator between mothers that I know, mothers that I fraternize with, hang out with, support and share with, is a deep pain and loss of our child.  It is on that playing field we can bond.  We can look into the eyes of another mother and just see the same pain, the same loss. We can be told by a complete stranger that she lost her child and we will immediately reach out to her, pull her close and cry with her.  We have felt that mutual loss.

However what brought us to that loss, how we were treated during it, and afterwards, varies as widely as our looks. As such, our feelings and reactions will vary as well.

That doesn’t mean we don’t love our children or that it was a good thing for our children to have been adopted.

Consider my friend Dee.  When she joined my support list several years ago, she was quite confident that she was fine with losing her daughter to adoption.  She did the “best thing” and the “the right thing”.  I could argue facts with her that the “only thing” is far from “best or right”. I could also tell her that “best thing” to an adoptee who suffers from primal wound is offensive.  Best for whom?  I didn’t argue with my friend at first. I am in no position to challenge her reality. Her truth is her truth just as mine is mine.

To me, she did (and still does) appear to be generally fine with the loss of her daughter. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true, she is “finer” I am. She doesn’t feel the depth of grief and loss and trauma that I do.

Oh, sure, she feels it. She misses her child and now, after a few years of talk with other moms, does indeed feel she did the only thing and not the right thing or the best thing. She realizes how she was used and manipulated by the broker who took her child. She is angry about that. But still, she is healthier than I am.

Why is this? If we both lost our children to the same network of baby brokers, why is Dee somewhat okay and I am a walking wounded?

In Dee’s case, she was certainly slightly more empowered than I was. She was not sent away. She was not threatened with lawsuits or promissory notes. She did not tell her caseworker prior to surrender that she wanted to keep her child.

She believed wholeheartedly from the day her child was born she did the right thing. She was in a bad living situation with the father, with her housing and more.

I didn’t believe that and I wasn’t in her situation. Sure my family had problems but both my family and my daughters fathers family were middle class, hard working, god fearing (ha) people. I had options that should have been explored before I was shut away in the lovely home.

My friend Hattie and I had dinner a few weeks ago. She, like Dee, is one of the moms that tells me she knows, deeply, truly, she did the right thing, the best thing. She has never felt traumatized, never had flashbacks, or felt remorse over giving away her child. (Yet, interestingly, she has spent 18 years waiting for the time to find her. Hmmm?) Like with Dee, inside I cringe and want to challenge Hattie’s reality but I don’t.

Do I want to challenge it because she is indeed wrong or because perhaps, I want someone to feel like I do?  Who would I be to tell anyone their feelings are wrong?  My belief is that feelings are never wrong or right. They just are and they should be respected.

I have friends who are in open adoptions.  Presumably, they don’t feel the way I do. They have not had to wander the face of the earth watching every childs face wondering if that little girl with the green eyes and red hair is their daughter. They KNOW where their child is. They know how their child is. They see their child.  They know who is raising their child and where. They were reportedly more empowered than I was in making their decision. They don’t suffer like I did for 19 years wondering if my daughter was even alive or even adopted.

But I am sure they suffer. I am going to guess that knowing where your child is, seeing your child, adds a new level of pain to adoption. I don’t think for one second that open adoption guarantees the moms don’t feel the pain I felt. I suspect it makes them feel something entirely different but they feel it none the less.  They get to be personallly, face to face, daily disregarded and denied. They get to watch their child call someone else Mommy. They get to stand by and do nothing when maternal instincts they cannot fight tell them to do something. How doe one even quantify that type of pain and agony?

I personally believe that many agencies use the lure of open adoption as yet another coercive, sugar coating tactic to get children (particularly since it is rarely enforceable). I don’t believe it is as good as many like to think it is. But again, I say that with an outsiders view only.  To me, open adoption, is still in many cases an unnecessary separation of mother and child only with the ability to see the pain versus having blinders on it like I did. Pain out in the open or pain behind closed doors is still pain. You cannot make pain and loss look pretty.

Open adoption, closed, locked away in a maternity home, coerced, or doing the right thing, abandoning your child in an orphanage due to poverty, still results in the broken bond between mother and child. 

It still causes life long pain and fractured identities. 

Pain.

Pain that in many cases did not have to be. Pain that could have been avoided if proper support and guidance had been provided to an expectant mother. Pain that the adoption industry continues to perpetuate to be in the best interest of the child.

To the adoptive mom who asked me if all mothers feel like I do? I say again no, they don’t. But don’t think for a second that they don’t feel at all. Don’t believe for one minute that they are happy they gave away their children. 

They miss their children. Their lives are forever changed by the birth and subsequent loss of those children. Their children are wounded (no matter how wonderful and loving you are).

You as an adoptive parent have the ability to minimize that pain for the mother and the child you adopted.  You have the ability to insure that adoptions are ethical and truly necessary and not because you want a baby and you have money. You have the ability to recongize primal wound, to help your child find their roots, to connect with their heritage and much more. You have the ability to stop the industry from producing more walking wounded mothers like me.

Use your ability.

Please. 

As much as misery may love company, I really would rather be alone in this grief than see more mothers pushed off the adoption assembly line to join my ranks.

9 Thoughts.

  1. My darling Suz, my angel in disguise, once again you speak so eloquently about what so many of us feel. I wish I were half as articulate as you are. No not every mother feels like you and I. Nor will the ones who de feel this way all admit it. I hate this, I really, really do. So much pain, so much anger, and for what?

  2. Worddd. Good post Suz. love love loved it.
    That email was really odd… again wasn’t quite sure what her game was… if she had one. Good response.

  3. Suz: You are always so right on and I appreciate your writing. Clearly painful.
    Unfortunatly, we cant take it all back and say I wished it had never happened. It did and each one of us have our own reasons for that decision. And it always feels like yesterday! Is it what is meant to be? If it happened again today would the decision be different? I dont read about the fear and pain at the time the mom is pregnant.
    Is it selfish to want to know if the child had a good home, is he happy, did he inherit my illness, could he be looking for me. More importantly, why do some search, others do not. but what is frightening is what I read of their reasons to search and the anger at the same time scares me. Imagine being still scared,and feeling guilty. It seems we are but a few left and the adoption industry sounds fashionable! No matter how much you write it is sanctified as the ultimate choice for young unmarried teens.

  4. You as an adoptive parent have the ability to minimize that pain for the mother and the child you adopted.
    Very important and true words.
    Hugs to you, Suz; love ya, gf.

  5. “To the adoptive mom who asked me if all mothers feel like I do? I say again no, they don’t. But don’t think for a second that they don’t feel at all. Don’t believe for one minute that they are happy they gave away their children.”
    Yes. Yes. This is it. The whole post had me just nodding, nodding, sniffling, tearing up. This one line? Brought down the waterfall.
    Beautiful, Suz.

  6. OK, let’s see if I can get comments to work since I’m not home.
    Spot on, as always. It never ceases to amaze me how many commenters to any post on any blog feel the need to disagree loudly with a position, no matter what it is.
    We’re all individuals. Why can’t we accept that a similar life experience will elicit different responses depending on each individual’s reaction to it? Makes so much sense to me, so little to some.
    Well, well spoken, as always, Suz!!

  7. Wow, I was able to leave that comment, so let me add – love the new look, which may not be so new but that’s how behind I am!!

  8. I think you covered the differences well. I wish I had more to add. I will say this to the original asker’s question: even mothers with perfectly good and workable OA’s can feel pain, grief and loss.
    I can’t write more. I’m stuck.

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