See All of Me

"I dont want to be the filler if the void is solely yours
I dont want to be your glass of single malt whiskey
Hidden in the bottom drawer
I dont want to be the bandage if the wound is not mine
Lend me some fresh air
I dont want to be adored for what I merely represent to you" – Alannis Morrisette

I find it incredibly interesting – on an intellectual level – that so many make this association that my daughter is the cure to my pain.

She is not.

I have told her that.

The most obvious reason that she could never be the cure is that she is not the cause. How could she possibly fix something she did not break? My daughter is not an object. She is not an antibiotic. She is not a salve for my wounded heart.

I tend to think this belief, or assumption, is rooted in the fact that many of our children were adopted as infants to "fix" an infertile woman or childless family and make their dreams come true. The adoption was about the adoptive parents needs first and the child’s second. They were objectified and viewed as a band-aid for an adoptive families challenges (even if not overtly stated).

Upon reunion, many adoptees are faced with yet another emotionally scarred woman and again, they may get the message that their role is to fix yet another broken woman. Furthermore, they cannot be themselves but feel pushed into being the child they could have/should have/would have been had they not been taken for adoption. They spend their lifetime with the presence of the ghost child their adoptive parents could not have. They try their best to fit in and act like the adoptive family who have no genetic relation to them. Then upon reunion, it happens all over again. Another wounded woman trying to fit them into the ghost role of the child they should have been.

When do our children get to be who they are and not who they coulda/woulda/shoulda/mighta been?

When we do stop using our children to fix our own damaged selves?

How does anyone make the connection that my desire to know and love and be part of my child’s life somehow equates to her fixing me? Why can’t people separate out the two? Is it because, as I suggest, we have used our children as objects?

Yes, I am damaged by my experience. This experience involves being sent one thousand miles away to a maternity "home", being shamed by my family and friends, being told I would go to hell now that I had violated the laws of the Catholic church, losing my college acceptance, losing my first love, my child, being dehumanized, abandoned, and much more. It is not rooted solely in the loss of my child. Most importantly she did not cause any of that. She was a helpless infant. How could she be held responsible?

In addition to being a woman damaged by the adoption industry and the constructs of American society, I am also mother who misses and wants to know her daughter.

It is that mother, that woman, I wish people would see.

Yet, it seems the preferred vision is to see the damaged, broken, emotionally bleeding mother. I wonder if doing so allows people to justify the tactics. Seeing me as some broken, neurotic, basket case worthy of a white jacket and locked ward, you can say "See, you never would have been a good mother after all. She was better off without you".

I am a damaged woman.

I am a mother.

Won’t you please see ALL of me and not just the parts that make you comfortable?

Story of the ‘Unwed’ Mother: "Who Am I?"
by Robin Westbrook

Look at me, Look closely at my face and truly see me.

I am the face of the housewife, the store clerk, the doctor, the teacher, the doting grandmother, the "childless" business executive, the judge, the florist, the drycleaner on the corner, the crossing guard…all these and more.

Behind my face, lies the truth you deny. Behind the wall I have built for self-protection, is the pain you refuse to see. My face does not reveal the open wound in my heart, but it is there.

I am the forgotten face, the face that fades into the crowd, that re-invents itself in order to fit in with all the rest of you.

I am the face that many wish would remain forever anonymous, the face that many long to see yet the face that others fear.

I am the face of denial and repression. Behind my silent, sealed lips, there are cries of grief and screams of rage. Behind my dry eyes, is a lifetime of unshed tears.

I am the face of long-ago shame and yesterday’s scandal. I am the face of an imprisoned soul, punished for breaking obsolete and unloving rules.

I am the face of one-half of a whole. I am a missing piece longing for completion. I am the face of a traumatic and unnatural separation and a primal wound.

I am the face of grief without a grave, questions without answers and secrets unknown. I am the face of an unfinished story, a life in limbo and a victim of the needs and desires of others.

I am the face of remorse and betrayal and a singular brand of loneliness. I am the face of unique tragedy.

I am the face that, now, emerges from obscurity and calls out to be seen. You can call me the birthmother, the first mother, the natural mother or whatever term meets your comfort level, but it won’t change the fact at hand.

That fact is that I am a MOTHER without her child.

6 Thoughts.

  1. I can only speak for myself but for many many years I assumed that reunions fixed everything. I don’t know how I came to that conclusion….maybe what I’ve seen through the media? Before adopting my children I remember being on a message board with a lady who had lost her son to adoption. They had been in reunion for several years. She took the time to explain it to me very succinctly. It hit me in the head. She explained that what she truly wanted in her heart was for them to hand her baby boy back to her and that could never happen. No one could fix it and certainly not her son. I know there are also horrible sources of pain for mothers in this situation (as you’ve described).
    I don’t think many people realize what is plainly obvious to you. Maybe it does have to do with comfort level in many instances, maybe what we’ve been fed by the media, maybe many aparents don’t stop to read other people’s writing and learn the truth.

  2. Your post really touched me. You are so right. I can’t tell you how many people think I should be all okay now that my son and I are in reunion. Meeting him 40 years after I surrendered him did not erase the years. In fact, although I am thrilled to know his is alive and well and has a good life, all the pain is now out in the open for me to deal with every day. I am his Mother but he is someone else’s child!!! He can’t fix me, I can’t be fixed, I just deal day to day with what is.

  3. This post made my head whirl in a million different direction. Finally I landed on two things:
    1) There is no fix for what happened to us or our children. It’s done. Ah, the beauty of adoption! Reunion doesn’t fix. Our kids can’t fix us, nor we them. All the doctors or shrinks in the universe can’t fix. It is an unnatural occurrence that cannot be undone. All we can do it make some sort of peace with it and move on from here.
    2) No one outside of our experience sees us wholly. Either they don’t get it and think “what the hell is her problem? she has her kid back!” or they see our wound and focus too much on that. Their vision of us is as divided as we felt after losing our babies. Again, what a piece of work adoption is.
    I admire your strength, to keep fighting to be yourself, on all levels.

  4. Lately I’ve been trying to find another human experience in which the affected individuals are objectified as much as adoptees, their mothers, and their fathers – and I mean their first mothers and fathers here. I haven’t found one yet; so far adoption is unique in this.
    It worries me a lot, not just for the thousands of adoptees and parents who are unable to get the mainstream to understand them, but selfishly for my kids. Will they really get to be themselves? If not, am I to blame? I hope not.
    Serious food for thought here, Suz, thanks.

  5. Sadly we are a closed group, only those of us in it truly understand that reunion does not take away the pain, and in someways intensifies it. Grief and guilt are our constant companions and even when we have a “perfect” reunion and our reunited child tells us all the things we have longed to have heard forever, it stings and is raw and is wrong. And it always will be all of those things.

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