Quits & Quitting

Jenna recently shared her experience jumping into and out of adoption land over the years. While my personal experiences were somewhat different, my end results were somewhat the same. I deeply immersed myself and then I pulled away. I am here today yet I am a very different person than I was fifteen years ago, on the cusp of my search for my daughter.   I did not necessarily “quit” adoption rather I quit certain adoption specific behaviors.

Quit Denying My Feelings
Many years ago I formed a yahoo group for individuals separated via the Kurtz network of agencies.  The group started out small and grew over time. Our members were adoptees as well as first mothers.  It was a really great group of people and many are my friends today.  At some point in the groups’ existence, I was told by a number of the members that my feelings and my views were too negative.  They requested I speak more positively about adoption.  I was also told that as the leader of the group it was not appropriate for me to share my feelings.  I could not wrap my brain around such statements. I took them as a sign it was time for me to leave. I turned over the reins to an adoptee and a mom on the list.  In this case, I quit believing my feelings did not matter.  They did and do matter. I took them elsewhere.

Quit Making it About Me
Somewhere in this blog, in a post that is likely eight or more years old, you will find a comment from an adoptee named Joy. In response to the post Joy said something like my adoption reunion was not about me. I am paraphrasing here. Those were not the exact words but how I remembered them.  At the time I thought she did not understand my point.  Of course my feelings about my reunion were ALL about me. It was my blog about my adoption trauma, my daughter, my reunion and my feelings.  How could she say it was not about me?  That comment has stayed with me for years.  Today I believe what she meant is that the state of my reunion, my daughters approach to it, her refusal to meet and be part of my life is not about me. What I mean by that is it that my daughters’ feelings are about her and about how she was raised and taught about adoption.  It is not an outward rejection of me. She does not even know me.

Whereas in years gone by I may have taken my daughters rejection as a rejection of me, I do not feel that anymore.  She is rejecting something but it is not me. She does not know me.  So, much like commenter Joy suggested, I quit making the reunion status about me, or about something being wrong with me. My daughters approach to our reunion is about her.

Quitting the Dream
I was in love with my daughters’ father for over half my life. We had three, no, four, opportunities to have a true relationship. No matter how hard I tried, how good I tried to be, he never wanted me, at least not the way I wanted him to want me. I eventually came to my senses (as recent as 7 years ago) and saw him for what he was and not what I thought he could or should be.  I quit the dream.  Read any post from the Birthfather tag for background here.

Quitting Connections
I fell into the adoption blogging scene over ten years ago.  At that time I was not yet in reunion. I was married to a man that resented my adoption status. I was raw, wounded, confused and looking for understanding and companionship. I needed desperately to shed the skin of adoption shame and secrecy. I found a great deal of support in adoption bloggers.

For reasons I do not fully understand (though I have a theory), I found myself attracted to some of the most vocal (what some would call “angry”) adoption bloggers.  I believe I related to them at the time. They were expressing feelings I could relate to but could not express on my own.  My attraction was likely rooted in some form of projection.  As years passed by and I began to deal with my own issues with my therapist (as my marriage crumbled around me), I found myself less and less drawn to some of these voices. I saw behaviors I did not want to be associated with. I witnessed incredible cruelty passed between adoptees and first parents.  I was personally trolled by several of these voices presumably because my presence/my voice triggered something in them.  I remember one adoptee blogger sarcastically called me “Saint Suz” on a regular basis.  I still do not know what was meant by that but the vitriol surrounding it was obvious. It was not intended as a compliment.

The community I was drawn to was no longer a soft landing for me, rather, it became a bed of nails. Did it change or had I changed?  Not sure. I chose to get up and walk away from most of it.  I did not need it anymore and I feared continued association would do oogly things to me.

Quit Adoption Activism (sort of)
I once spoke at conferences with great joy and willingness. I participated in Ethica’s Meet the Bloggers, presented with adoptive mom Margie at AAC, and was on the board for Origins-USA. You name it, I was in it or wanted to be.

Not so much anymore. There are two reasons for this.

There are lots of really good people out there doing amazing work for adoption reform (Claud, for example). They are working hard and making progress. I really do not feel I have much to contribute. They are saying and doing it better than I can.

Beyond my thoughts on adoption activism, my personal position is that we need to put focus on vulnerable moms. If we beef up services, change the views, support mothers to be mothers, the adoption machine will have less families to prey upon.  I have met some amazing young/former teen mothers who are doing incredible work in this area (check out Gloria Malone or Natasha Vianna for example).  I have volunteered with Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy and been moved to tears at the work they do.  I raised funds for organizations like Teen Parent Connection in Illinois and The Care Center in Massachusetts.  It is with this demographic I now wish to focus my efforts.  (Quite candidly, my dream is to found an organization that supports this demographic. I have something in the works. Perhaps one day I will bring it to fruition and share it. )

Does all of this quitting mean I do not think of adoption or my daughter every day? Absolutely not.  I wake with her in my mind and I go to bed with her in my mind. I check on her randomly and sometimes I share bits of information about her with others. In the coming weeks, my sons and I will likely tackle a family therapy session about her and her absence from our life.  I may not be her parent, a person that matters in her life, but she will always be my daughter and will always matter in mine.

I have not quit her.

Never have. Never will.

 

 

 

Natural, Birth, & First

First Mother Forum had a touching post about natural fathers and their effect, absence, inclusion, exclusion and other topics surrounding their involvement in the surrender of their children to adoption. The stories shared were very touching. Several made my heart ache as I could relate strongly to them. As I have alluded to here over the years, I was deeply in love with my daughters’ father for more than half my life. Before my pregnancy, during, after surrender, later in life, through my first marriage to another man, a part of my heart was saved just for her father. I actually made a pact with him the night he left my bed before his wedding to another woman that he would come back to me, that we would be together in our futures.  It is all silly romantic notions now, a tad bit embarrassing to look back on, but oh, how he consumed my soul. There was something electric between us physically and emotionally. Our story is long and complicated and I have been hesitant to date to share much publicly. I am still hesitant.  However, I will share that my relationship with him was another example of giving up the dream.

Much like I did with my daughter, I created an image of him that I desperately wanted to be true. I put a mask on him and when I looked at him I saw him as the mask not who he really was.  I kept hoping and dreaming someday the vision I had of him would come true and he would be the man I thought he was and should be versus accepting who he was and was not. It sincerely still hurts. I still think about that dream guy I fabricated in my mind. The guy that would stand up for me, for our daughter, for us, affectionately named Wolf and Tiger Eyes by my younger sister. He would buy and restore a 69 convertible Mustang for me and we would drive across country for months on end with no destination in mind. We would stop in grassy meadows and he would work on the car and I would write.  Being an incredible photographer and illustrator, he would capture our trip visually.   Oh, gosh, the dreams I had for over twenty-five years. Flights of fancy of a deeply passionate young girl who wanted nothing than to wear ripped up jeans, tee shirts a little too tight across her bust (he liked them that way), cool Native American jewelry, hold her baby in one arm and the hand of the man she loved in the other.

As my daughter did, natural father told me clearly, over and over again, that he did not love me the way I wanted him to.  Despite writing me deep love letters (oh, how he could write, I still have all his notes and cards and letters), dedicating songs to me, buying me gifts and leaving them in special places to be found by accident, when push came to shove he told me directly and indirectly it was never going to happen. As I did with my daughter, I kept going back for more, despite the obvious pain and disappointment, I kept trying.  I even held hope for reuniting with him during my search for our daughter. I so clearly remember breaking down in the cab of his truck, after she was found, crying out “I brought her back. I found her. I gave her away but I brought her back.” A twisted sentiment in many ways, we both signed her away to strangers yet I felt fully responsible for the act and hoped in some way that finding her would make him want me again. Here was another chance for him to be the man I wanted him to be.  Sad really… and oh, so, codependent.

Codependent, I believed it was I, not him, to blame for the state of our relationship. In my dream world, he was perfect. The state of our relationship was my fault. If I tried harder, softer, less frequently, more frequently, this way, that way, anyway, he would change his mind.  The more he pushed me away, the harder I tried.  I was sure I could change his mind.  He never did.  The last time he contacted me, about five years ago, I refused to meet with him or talk with him.  I could not face him telling me, again, that he was going to go away and he wanted me to do the same. I had met my future husband and I could not allow natural father to drag me into places – good or bad – I was not sure I could claw my way out of – again.  I had to move forward with a man who did love me.

But enough about me and the silly girl I was. Go read the post and the touching comments over at First Mother forum.

Polish Triggers

Social anxiety takes over as I approach the Queen Ann style home used by the Polish American Foundation of New Britain. While I am excited to improve my Polish language speaking skills, I am nervous about meeting the strangers.   I know once I get in the building and into the classroom the feelings will begin to dissipate.

Parking is a bit confusing and I make two drive-bys before finding the parking lot behind their building. I am a few minutes early so I decide to check my email, Instagram and other items as well as attempt to calm my anxious stomach and racing heart. I would prefer to walk in with someone else rather than stumble around wondering where to go and what door to go into.

I retrieve my iPhone from the bowels of my overly large Michael Korrs bag. At the very moment I tap the Instagram app icon there is a loud knocking on my driver’s side window. Startled, I fling my phone into the air and it lands on the passenger seat with a low thud.

“Come to class! Come to class” beckons the strange women outside my window.

“Oh, hi, I arrived a bit early so I thought I would wait.”

“Nie. Nie. Witamy!”

Childhood memories recall the meaning of nie so I exit my car and follow her in the side door. The interior of the building impresses me. The varnished oak wainscoting and lincrusta-clad walls cause me to spin my head to and fro in appreciation. I walk closer to a wall with the hope of touching it when the women who welcomed me in the parking lot bellows once again.

“Come. Come. What is your name?”

“Bednarz. Suz.”

“Ah, Bednosh” she says using the Polish pronunciation.

“Yes, that is me.”

“And you? Who are you?”

I turn and look around the room unaware there was anyone else present. A young woman, likely early 20’s is standing directly behind me. Where did she come from?

“Lauren”

“Last name?”

Lauren stammers for a second and then offers up her last name. I am startled. Lauren’s last name and first name is the identical name carried by my daughter’s half-sister on her natural father’s side. Lauren carries the very Polish sounding surname that my daughter would have had.

Recovering from the jolt, I study Lauren. I know the age of birth dads’ daughter. This young woman is definitely older. It is not her. Related? I am not going to ask as doing so may require me to state how I know him.

“Okay, pani, class is up the stairs, end of hall on your left.”

Lauren follows behind me as I ascend the grand staircase of the 1800 era home.

Walking into the room I see three older gentlemen and three younger women already seated. I smile at them all and find a seat at the farthest edge of the long table. Lauren sits directly to my right. She casts her eyes down and begins to take notes on her pad.

“Okay, before we get started lets go around the table and introduce ourselves. Who are you, what is your connection to Poland, why do you want to learn to speak it, and anything else you want to share.”

Suz (another one!)

Tatiana (who clearly looks very Polish)

Kathy.

Amy. Daughter to Kathy.

Julie (same name as my Grandmother!)

“I am a Julie and I am an adoptive mother. I adopted my daughter from Poland many years ago. She is older now. Asking questions about her native tongue. I thought it would be nice if I learned it. She no longer lives at home. She does not speak it but is interested so I thought it would be nice if I tried.”

Lauren (of bdad last name) says something.

It is my turn. I am still reeling a bit about the adoptive mom just now learning about her adopted child’s (now an adult) culture. My head is spinning with the last name incident, now this.

“Uh…I am Suz and I…..”

—–

Class is nearing the end. Discussion ensues regarding the twenty of us in the room, nearly all raised by Polish speaking parents who chose not to teach us their native tongue. Mr. Older Gentlemen end of table chimes in about how not only have we lost the native tongue but the “young generations” (is that me?) have also lost the practice of Catholicism.

I gulp.

So this is how it is going to be. Learning my deceased father’s language means I also have to immerse myself once again in deeply held religious beliefs that told me I was a bad girl for getting pregnant out of wedlock but a good girl for abandoning my first born child to a stranger adoption.

I sit there and bite my tongue. I have nothing to offer this conversation. Correction. I do but I will not. I have seven more weeks with this group and I do not want to show them so early that I can swear in Polish.

That much my father did teach me.