Relationships After Adoption Trauma

"She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom."  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Chapter XVIII "A Flood of Sunshine"

I had two serious male relationships in my life. My daughters father and my husband. There was nearly a 10 year span between one ending and the other starting. During that time, I dated here or there. Nothing serious.  A dinner here or there. No more than two dates. No sleep overs, no lengthy time together, no introductions to my family.

While I could easily chalk this up to slim pickings, I can tell you the truth is that I gave off the “not interested” vibe. I am quite confident anyone who knew me during the time I lost my daughter to when I met my husband would tell you I was distant, cool, detached, hard to get to know, way too introverted. Stuck up, a bitch, avoidant personality disorder affected.

I recall, quite clearly, deciding I was never going to have another relationship after losing my daughter and her father. It just hurt too much. Relationships sucked. They got you pregnant, discarded and abandoned. I was  better off alone.

When and if I did meet someone, even a female friend, I often felt compelled to tell them about my daughter. It was a litmus test of a relationship. I can confidently say that it did scare some people off. I had someone, a male friend, (not a boyfriend, just an acquaintance) literally stop talking to me, calling me, looking at me in the office once he learned of my daughter. I had others, female friends say, “I really don’t want to know about this”. I had others look at me strangely, claim it was no big deal, yet they started excluding me from events.

Was it my Scarlett Letter status or did I come across as some neurotic freakazoid? I may never know.

People, males especially, did not want to associate with a woman who had a child by another man AND gave that child away. No matter the circumstances; she/I was damaged goods.

I had convinced myself of this for ten years. Perhaps it was my parents talking, the agency, or my catholic teachings. I had straddled the fence of madonna-whore at 17 years old and I felt onto the whore dirt. I fell HARD. I was quite convinced that whore was tattooed across my forehead. As such, I behaved much like one of my idols, Hester Prynn, and retreated to the pretend world inhabited only by me and my daughter.

When I met my husband in the mid-90s, he pursued me rather aggressively. Again, I wasn’t interested. He amused me but that old fear of that Whore syndrome reigned supreme. He deserved better. He would find out. He deserved to know. NO MAN WANTS A WOMAN WHO HAS HAD A CHILD BY ANOTHER MAN. I really don’t know where I got this from. But it screamed loudly in my head for many years.

We did eventually start dating and as per my modus operandi, I shared my dirty laundry with the scarlett embroidery somewhat early in our relationship.

Was he horrified?

Did he cast me away?

Did he make a  hasty exit that left tire marks?

He cried.

He said he was sorry that had happened to me and that he wished he had been there with me.

The reaction I had expected from him did not come until many years later. Truthfully, early our relationship, niether one of us had any clue of the depth of my pain. I could not have possibly told him how damaged I truly was. I had no idea myself.

That knowledge came later when I thawed out. Unfrozen. Awake. A true mother of loss that fully comprehended and accepted what she lost and how. 

Our relationshiop has never been the same since.

3 Thoughts.

  1. I knew Josh before the pregnancy. That said, I’ve made maybe two or three real friends since placement. Even then, I keep EVERYONE at a distance.

  2. I am not going to keep reading you without telling you I LOVE THE PICTURE. It says it all. So darn cute.

  3. You are not damaged goods. Although there is a lot of emotional trauma, it does not make you damaged, it is who you are, and that is not bad.
    I relate to so many of the things you write about. Sounds like you tried to talked about adoption more than I did. But I know the look on peoples faces and their reactions when I told them I had a son who was lost to adoption. Peoples reactions just made me feel more isolated. It was like the only person who cared was me, so the adoption became my thing, and only rarely did it leave the boundaries of my mind. Before I was married my wife asked about the adoption twice and in my denial and hurt the first time I forcefully said I don’t want to talk about it and the second time I said it was no big deal (like I am over it).
    Now that I am trying to be open about the adoption, people resent the fact that I had kept my feelings to myself. And why should I not have, all the signs (and my denial) were that no one wanted to hear about it, so I sure a hell wasn’t going to put something as significant and emotional to me as the adoption of my son out there to be critiqued by others. It was my experience, it still is, and it is real. I just wish more people would try to understand.
    My first thoughts on reform are to get all natural parents to acknowledge and talk about the adoption and to provide third party support groups where the feelings can be acknowledged and validated. They are real feelings and they do affect ours lives significantly.
    I wish you the best and hope good things happen in your life.

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