Forever Damned?

"Before I had my child, I thought I knew all the boundaries of myself, that I understood the limits of my heart. It’s extraordinary to have all those limits thrown out, to realize your love is inexhaustible.” – Uma Thurman

Whenever I travel to meet adoption related friends, I often bring pictures of my daughter. My sons are often with me and if they are not, I have pictures of them too. It seems like a typical mother thing to do, no? 

People comment about how much my daughter looks like me, her style, her eyes. Others will remark on my youngest sons deep dimples and still more will comment on the wonderful array of freckles that dot my oldest sons nose and cheeks. I am proud of my children. I am blessed by their existence and a better person because of them. One of my favorite past times is to catch them doing something, anything, when they don’t know I am watching. I love to just admire them from afar.

With my mom friends who are in reunion, it’s a common practice for us to all share our kid’s pictures, to ooh and ahh, over our kids.  We would have done it naturally if we had been permitted to raise them. It doesn’t seem at all strange to me that we do this now that we are in reunion. A friend of mine, not yet in reunion, has only one picture of her child – her ultrasound picture.  She recently shared that and we were all equally thrilled to see it. It means that much to her and to us. We know how she cherishes the only visual she has of her child.

My friend Gina has an amazingly handsome and caring son. My friend Mary has a beautiful and sensitive and intelligent daughter. I love basking in their motherly glow of pride and love. They waited a long time to coo over their children. I am honored to share with them. We deserve it. We always did.

Yet, oddly, (or not), some find this practice of ours disconcerting. They feel we don’t have a “right” to adore them or love them. We threw them away, remember?

When I met a fellow blogger in Chicago, I was excited to share pictures of my daughter with her. I showed her the album I had brought with me.  She commented here or there about the usual things. Daughters’ hair, her style, her facial expressions.  The farther she got into the album the more uncomfortable she seemed to become. 

“If my natural mother had an album like this of me, it would really bother me. I wouldn’t like that.”


I was a bit taken back. I don’t remember if I said something to her. Maybe I did. Actually, I think I did. I think I asked her why that would bother her. Maybe I didn’t.

I do know I was startled. I felt like she was saying I was doing something wrong, or bad. I had to take a few moments to separate her feelings from my own and also to realize that while she may feel that way, I cannot assume my daughter does.

Her reaction coupled with the words of others made me realize how mothers like me are so often damned if we do. Damned if we don’t. We were told we were damned if we considered keeping our children. We were certainly damned when we surrendered them.

If I were to ignore my daughters pictures, never share them, never print them, I might be accused of denying her, avoiding her, not loving her. If I share them, I may be accused of being obsessive, violating boundaries, and well, yeah, loving my daughter. Mothers are damned if we don’t include our children and often damned when we do. How the hell does one navigate such a construct?

8 Thoughts.

  1. I think given this post you should hear this story. I was told by a first mom who is in reunion that our reunited lives begin together that day. This mother told me I was wrong to send my Nmom photos of me growing up, the days of my “firsts”. SHe said as far as she was concerned that time never existed and she would never accept such from her daughter.
    Now I’d never heard anything like that before, nor anything since. Furthermore, my Nmom loves that photo album I made her. Images are for some reason so valuable to all of us.
    You are totally not doing anything wrong, wether people like it or not. IF someone gives you something you can do what you want. I totally expected my mom and her family to print the photos i emailed them and to share them with each other. Once I gave them them the pictures, my image or not it was their photo to do waht they wanted with.
    Even further on this note, I begged for a photo album of family. I was totally sad to actually get it because I’m not in the pictures, but I wanted them and needed to include them nonetheless.
    We are all dammed if we do, damned if we don’t

  2. Oh, dammit.
    When I said that, it wasn’t meant to be a blow to you. I didn’t like the idea of this woman, a stranger, just finding photos of me on the internet and taking them and printing them and putting them in an album. And given that she blew up at me via voice mail and said she wanted to come to my house and kill my parents, can you really blame me? It was all based on my individual experience. I wasn’t trying to say that M would be freaked out.
    It’s even harder because I REALLY don’t know what I want. I want her to ask all these questions about me and want to get to know me but then I want to be private and her finding pictures of me is kind of like spying. I found out once that she went to the public library and found a yearbook photo of me and I was like ‘what the HELL?’. I dunno.
    I wish I could make it make sense to you how it makes sense to me.

  3. still born – gf, i understand what you meant for you but it was powerful for me. recall how much you remind me of my daughter so I had to really work to keep your reality separate from my possible one. i know you did not mean it as a blow to me. i just find it so sad that it even has to be, that we have to worry about such things or that you have ever had to refer to your natural mother as a stranger on the internet. and whewf, for the record, the pictures I have of my daughter she shared with me so thank you for making me feel better about that. no worries. hugs. say hello to my favorite city.

  4. WHAT?
    I’m trying to understand what Still Born meant. I’m trying, really. BUT SHIT. I’d be thrilled & proud if my mom showed my pictures to any friend. Isn’t that what we moms do?
    You are NOT doing anything wrong. Fuck that.

  5. andie – for the record, still born’s situation is somewhat different than mine. she wasnt really attacking me or judging me -it was more a commentary on how paranoid i am as amom and how i fear that us moms can never do anything right by way of our children. something she said about her own situation got all twisted inside me about my own. i could explain still borns situation more but thats not my place. she has a great blog if you havent read her.

  6. I’ve read her blog, and I know her situation is different. I went into protective mode there for a minute when I commented. I don’t want you to feel like you are doing something wrong when I’d give anything for my mom to be like you, even just a little like you.
    Really, I just think you rock, and I don’t want another person’s feelings, however valid for them, to make you feel like you are doing something wrong.

  7. Just saying it’s so true. I agree with you about living your own feelings and truth. I know I’ve pissed some people off with that attitude, but adoption, like any other trauma, plays out differently for different people.

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