Thought Fragments

"What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.” – Buddha

I  am struggling  lately to form cohesive, fluent sentences. There continues to be a great deal of adoption related work, emotions and localized agony in my life yet I am unable to pull all the threads together. As such, I am going to jot a few random paragraphs down.

Well, You Are Not
A few days ago I had the opportunity to meet with an old/new friend who was recently in reunion. I hadn't seen this person in many years and frankly was not even aware, at the time I knew her, that she was adopted. Since she had recently shared her adoptee status with me, and subsequently learned of my own status in the not so lovely adoption triad, we wanted to get together. I knew going into the meeting I did not have it in me to get too deep. I was hoping my friend felt the same.

The conversation was relatively light. She filled me in on how she was found, how her reunion is going, what her adoptive mother thinks about it all, how she is feeling, etc. She smiled with pride as she handed over pictures of her mother to me and asked me if I thought she looked like her, etc. It was very nice to see her so happy and comfortable talking about her mother.

Then she asked me about my daughter. I stammered. I really did not want to go there. I shared a bit, a little bit. Friend asked me what I called myself and what I called adoptive mother when I talked to my daughter. I told friend that I refer to myself as her mother when speaking with others (that fact is irrefutable). I refer to her adoptive mother by her first name (in conversations with my daughter) yet I realize my daughter calls her mother. She is the only mother she knows and acknowledges. I explained that I use adoptive mothers name in conversation as it puts us on equal ground. If I were to say "your mother" to my daughter (even though she is the only mother she knows and recognizes) I feel I would be giving into the social construct that demands I am not her mother (which is plain old stupid and wrong).  Saying to her "your mother" is also saying "I am not your mother". Calling adoptive mother by first name puts us on equal ground, or footings. I am not elevating her above me  nor putting me above her. We are two women who love our shared daughter.  I told friend I have no idea what daughter refers to me as, if she does at all, in conversations. I told friend that years ago I told daughter to call me "Suz" as I knew she would not be comfortable saying I was her mother. Moreover, daughter has chastised me several times for calling myself her mother to anyone at all.

At this point, friend said "Well of course, because you are not her mother."

I inhaled deeply at this point and within a matter of moments decided I did not want to fight that battle with an adoptee recently in reunion. I did not have the emotional fortitude. I let it slide.

I am my daughters mother. To suggest anything else is assinine. Her "mother" became a mother because of me. One can argue she has a mother and a parent. One can argue first mother, mother, adoptive mother, birth mother, whatever.

I am my daughters mother.

End of story.

It Still Reigns
Last night I watched the movie Reign Over Me for a second time. My boyfriend hadn't seen it.  Interestingly, my reaction this time was not nearly are bad as it was when I wrote this post. However, I still maintain that the emotions felt, expressed, experienced by Adam Sandler's character in that movie are the most accurate portrayal of first mother loss, grief and PTSD I have seen to date. I can relate to nearly every painful emotion and coping strategy employed by Sandler in that movie. The denial, the avoidance, the dissociation, the seeing of your child on the street in the face of every child, the anger, the rage, the inability to look at pictures, the triggering of emotions by merely mentioning their names or the word "family", the need to put on headphones to escape reality.  Its painful but very real. Again, I urge those that have not watched that movie and when you see all the sadness expressed by Sandlers character, know that it what I, and many other mothers, live with every day of our lives.  Furthermore, keep in mind that social workers KNEW this would happen to us when they took our children yet they took them anyway and gave us NO counseling.

When the movie ended, my boyfriend started to ask questions of me, my PTSD, how things went with my daughter. I shrugged him off. Again, I really did not want to get into it. He has read this post. He knows most of the story and is incredibly understanding and thoughtful. Again, I just did not want to go there. I wanted to be able to sleep well last night (and I did). Rehashing painful episodes would have surely kept me up all night.

Loving and Hating the Internet
It is very odd to know where your daughter is working, living and what she looks like yet to not be able to speak with her or congratulate her or send her a house warming gift for a new apartment.  I find myself in a love/hate relationship with the Internet. It seems silly that I can have all this information, see pictures of her, but not be allowed to talk to her or meet with her. To follow her on twitter (thankfully she did not block me or protect her updates), to see her flickr, to know how she is doing yet to find that out via the Internet seems bizarre and frighteningly sterile and cold. I suppose I should be thankful. I have much more than many mothers and their lost children have but I find it difficult being a voyeuer to my daughters life.

It all seems so insane.

Lightly Bleeding
I have been preoccupied lately with trying to figure out how I live my life without  my daughter but remain prepared that someday she might be in it. No doubt my life goes on yet, to date, it goes on with an incredible amount of daily anxiety and angst over lack of or possible future presence of her in my life. I work hard daily, sometimes hourly, not to think of her, of us, of the situation. If I do, I fall into a river of tears. (As I write this my eyes well up).

 My current thought process is that to move forward without her I have to put her someplace in my heart. That place is high on a shelf, dark, rarely seen. I feel as if to have a happier life, I need to have less expectations – or none at all – of her being in it.

What if I do that? Do I become numb to her existence? What if she pops up 5 years from now and the wounds are ripped open all over again? What if my children and I get in a pattern of her not being here and not being interested in us and then suddenly she is?

How do you stay  lightly bleeding? I don't want my wounds to scab over so well that when (if) she contacts me that I fall right back into the abyss. I don't want my family disrupted or angry at her for suddenly appearing on the scene after she ignored us for years. I think alot about an adoptee blog I read. She did just that and boldly writes about it. Found her mother, ignored her mother, then years later thought she should/could/would just pop up and be welcomed with no thought given to how her actions had affected others and how those effects would impact her desire to be part of her mothers life after many years. (Is that making sense? That feels like a huge run on sentence?)

I want to find some way to say "its okay, its good, I am fine" and I want to really mean it. I want to remain open to meeting her in the future but I don't want my life blown apart again if/when that happens?

Is that realistic or should I put down the emotional crack pipe I am smoking?

12 Thoughts.

  1. So many reactions.
    First, to your friend who can’t see you as your daughter’s mother: a deep sigh, frustration at the endless semantic debate and differences of interpretation of the simple word “mother.” You are your daughter’s mother. Her relationship with you at the moment may not mirror that reality, but it’s a fact.
    Re the internet: I’m hating it now for different reasons, so although I can’t empathize with your pain, I definitely can sympathize.
    As for that emotional crack pipe – I don’t know, I just don’t know. I hope, though, that you will reach that place you describe.
    Oh, heck, here’s that (((((((hug))))))) anyway 🙂

  2. As an adoptee who has felt pushed and pulled and wrenched beyond imagination, I wonder why people feel the need to use the word “mother” as an exclusive term? Can’t a person have more than one mother? I believe that I do, I have two mothers who have been in my life in different ways.
    My birthmother has only acknowledged me as a daughter on a handful of occasions, and I don’t think she’s ever said it with her own voice; she just didn’t deny it when other people said it. She would never in a million years call herself my mother. She always forcefully calls my adoptive mother ‘YOUR MOTHER.’ And she always only refers to herself by her first name. And yet for a while she would send me these goofy birthday cards that made reference to “you have such great genes!” Ha, ha, ha.
    I think this is so hard for so many people to negotiate. Sigh.

  3. Susan – Of course they can. We see it every day with divorce and step mothers, etc. My feeling is that until society recognizes the first mother as a mother and educates the adoptive mother that she is not the bees knees of mothers, it wont change.
    Cliche, I know, but if a mother can love more than one child, why cant a child love more than one mother? The secrecy, the shaming of the first mom, the need to strip her of her title of mother, brand her with a scarlet letter and then elevate the adoptive mother to some sacred altar and caress her infertile ego by saying she is the ONLY mother is toxic for all concerned – most importantly our children. The message some children receive is that the first mother is not to be recognized and the adoptive mother is to be worshipped for her heroic saving of the child or coddled due to her wounded fragile ego.
    It actually makes me embarassed to be female when I see how some mothers (first and adoptive) behave.

  4. Suz, so many thoughts! I love the quote up top.
    The M word is so powerful. I refer to Joy’s amom as her mother. In early reunion I occasionally referred to her amom by her first name but gradually found it more respectful to refer to her “folks” or her mom or dad. I don’t want to create any unnecessary difficulty or awkwardness.
    We never talked about what to call me. I figured I’d leave it up to her. She knew my name and I initially was afraid to claim the title mother. She introduces me as her mother, but rarely calls me anything directly. I tell her I’m her momma, and she knows it’s me.

  5. Reminiscent of “hell in the hallway.” Do we go on with our lives? Prepare to live without them? Prepare for their return? Which doors do we close and which ones do we leave cracked open?
    This post gave me many “yikes!” moments. But your friend’s comments about your claim to motherhood and other’s reactions are not as important as how you choose to deal with being in limbo.
    Tough stuff, but I know you will find a way to get through and yet keep your heart open to the possibilities.

  6. As Justice wrote, I also referred to my son’s amom as his mother or by her first name, but eventually talking became actual conversations and I would ask about his mom or dad. I thought it was more respectful, and I was comfortable with it. I naively expected the same respect – to be acknowledged as his mother by his mom and dad, but alas I was only introduced as his birthmother – gosh, I don’t even have a first name!
    It is probably a moot point now as my son has let me know that after 3 years of reunion “this” really can’t continue. (Insert here whatever smilies or frownies are appropriate – ’cause you sure got me on this one.)

  7. As Justice and Carol have stated I refer to my son’s mom as “your mom.” She has done a couple of digs to me and each time I think I will start referring to her by her first name in conversation but then I refrain.
    I think it is because in the beginning he told me that he would never do anything to hurt her. I decided it was better to win the war so I became deferential. Especially after she pushed him into asking if she wanted him to choose between us.
    I am glad I took the course I did but each of us needs to find what works in our situations. We are fortunate to have his OBC and MY name is on there as “mother.” So there!

  8. The movie “Reign over me” put me into a PTSD state as well. In my quest for freedom from this consuming condition I have found a new treatment technique, called Thought Field Therapy (TFT)this new approach to PTSD has been used to treat Columbine, Kosova, New Orleans, Rwanda survivors, with amazing results. Suzanne Connelly is my practitioner. If traditional therapy is not helping check out this new approach.

  9. I refer to my son’s amother by her first name and occasionally as his mother… does pain me to say those words to him, but I feel it is a matter of respect towards him (not her-that’s a different story). The fact is that he has two mothers. He was adopted, and the replacement mother is the person he attached to, even though in my eyes she was a terrible mother. I feel as though I have to acknowledge that truth of his life. He, to me, calls her by her first name. He didn’t do this at first and stopped calling her “mom” in front of me when I finally told him how it much it hurts, no matter how I can rationalize it in my mind. He calls me “mom”……it took him a little over a year to be able to do that. He has always insisted that I am his mother, that he is here because of me.
    (((((((Suz))))))))) Please take care of yourself. I can’t even imagine struggling through this purgatory.

  10. It’s late and I’m dead tired from having a long day, but I just wanted to comment on the first part of your entry. I am not sure if this comment will hurt you, it might possibly do that; if it does I am really sorry but there is something your entry reminded me of:
    “I am my daughter’s mother. End of story.”
    True, that. You ARE her mother, whether or not she will admit that. You didn’t PARENT her, but you are her mother.
    On an adoptee blog, adoptee Laurel wrote out a brief exchange between herself and her biological aunt whom she had reunited with for a few years.
    Laurel: You love me, don’t you?
    Aunt: Of course I do. You know I do. You’re my niece. But, you’re not my niece in the same way that my other nieces have been, because I have been a part of their lives throughout their childhood.
    I keep going over that conversation… something about it just strikes a chord in me.

  11. Mei-Ling – You absolutely did not hurt my feeling. First, I know you to be very respectful to mothers as you try to see all sides. Second, what you say makes sense but I wish you had expanded on it a bit. I may post separately on it.
    One of my thoughts is that we should not assume that everyone – adopted or not – loves us the same. I have relatives and aunts in NY that I rarely see. My cousins see them frequently. I dont doubt for a second my aunts love my cousins they see regularly/know better more than they love me. It is not a refletion of me or my value, but merely a statement of fact and circumstances.
    I fear that too often those of us that have been torched by adoption (mothers or our children) get stuck with certain wedges, certain stumbling blocks, expecting certain things that just cannot be anymore versus doing what we can to make what we have be the best it can be.
    That might not make sense. Hence, I need to make a more lengthy post.

  12. have you heard of the author and teacher eckhart tolle? hes the guy oprah just loves and teaches the concept of separating ourselves from our mind and thoughts and living in the now. he says we all keep playing our story in our head over and over and of course have related thoughts that are debilitating. but when you hold the thoughts up to the light we find that they arent the whole truth. i thought the guy was weird at first but now i think he has a technique a mother like me could use.

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