Commentary on Guest Blog Post

The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma – Judith Lewis Herman, M.D.

Yesterday when I posted my sisters guest post, I noticed a few inconsistencies in her words. I did not correct them. They are hers. It is her experience, her view as a bystander to the disembabyment of her older sister. I believe it is important to paint the full picture of collateral damage of adoption – not just the one that suits me. Her truth is her truth even if it is not completely accurate.

Furthermore, she remembers things I don't.  As the initial victim in the scheme to get my child, my mind began protecting itself from the horror as soon as the adoption process began. Things are fuzzy for me. I get pieces and parts of the image but not the entire picture. There are gaps in my memory, people, places and things I don't remember.  I have often thought of sitting each person down and asking them to tell me what happened but I just cannot find the strength. I am terrified, as usual, that doing so would shatter the few pieces of my sane mind that I have been able to retain.

I don't remember the chronic crying she speaks so frequently of yet it would make sense. I believe her. I don't remember telling her I was pregnant yet the way she describes it, well, that was our relationship. I could see that NOW having been the way it would have transpired.

She is correct in that I always wanted to (and did) protect her. She was my baby sister. Don't all big sisters protect the younger ones? I imagine now I tried to shield her from the shame of my pregnancy. I did not want her to be guilty by association. It is probably why I kept it to myself for so long and did nothing but sob myself to sleep each night.  I was bad. Anyone seen with me, caring for me, would for sure be labeled bad as well.

This is the art of my personal trauma. My minds way to protect itself, the splitting. Recall my post about the movie Boys Don't Cry?  I suspect it was at this point in my pregnancy that I started to do what Hillary Swank did in that violent movie scene. I started to split myself  off from what was happening to me and eventually to my child. It was a defense mechanism.  I could be wrong. It feels like the most likely explanation to me for the gaps in my memory. Sometimes I was present. Other times I wasn't. At those times the prospect of losing my child, being sent away was so painful, I had to shut down that part of my mind.

My sister titled her submission, La Perdida.  My sister speaks Spanish. She was a double major in college (Elementary Education and Spanish). It was not surprising to me that Perdida, or The Lost One, in English, would be used by her. However, I wondered, was she referring to me, her sister as the Lost One or my daughter, her first born niece she was never permitted to know.

My sister seems to think by her words that I got pregnant before I graduated high school. I did not. I got pregnant with my daughter on August 17, 1985. I know because it was the fifth time I had sex with my high school sweetheart. I know because it was the only time of the five that it was unprotected sex. I know because I can still see the exact spot under a moonlit tree at Lake Taghkanic, New York that I told my high school love that it was "okay".

That much I remember.

Yet I find it interesting that in my sisters version it is a bit twisted. I am glad she is wrong. For I am certain had I gotten pregnant before graduation I would have killed myself. I was an honor student, President of Student Government, the proverbial good smart girl. I could handle being the demon seed scapegoat at home. I would not have been able to handle being it at school. That public shaming along with the hormones, the love for my child, the guilt, the stares from my parents, etc would have for sure put me over the edge.

That much I know for certain.

As a parent to my two sons, I look back at my sisters words "plans were made that I knew nothing of" and I shudder. I cannot imagine having something so monumental going on in my family today and not sitting my children down and telling them what was happening. Did anyone talk to my sister? Did the family denial and avoidance really go that deep that NO ONE thought to tell a 13  year old girl where her 18 year old sister was being sent and why? 

I cried when I read her post yesterday. I cried for many reasons. One of the reasons was that me, that 18 yo sister, was awakened and wanted to reach out to my 13 yo old baby sister and tell her where I was and tell her I was okay (even though I wasn't). I wanted to soothe her.

I cried because my sister states she chose to be part of the triad. Did she? Does collateral damage choose to be damaged? I am not sure if she was confused or emotional when she wrote that or if she really believes she chose this. She did not choose it anymore than I did. How does a 13 yo girl whose family has kept things from her chose to be part of a secret shame?  How did she choose to not be part of her first born nieces life? I don't think she chose. I think she, like me, was victimized by the agency that took my daughter. I think she, like me, was an innocent bystander to a carefully constructed action to remove a family member from its family, because the church said so, society said so and because the agency could fetch an excellent profit from the baby of intellectually gifted, middle class white unwed mother.  My sister is collateral damage. She is an unintended or incidental victim to the intended outcome.

The only person that was "meant" to be hurt or punished in the adoption process was me, yet, my sister was hurt. 

She did not choose this.

Her final statements of who was my savior, my protector, sent me over the crying edge. Good question, Sister. Then? I don't know. Many could argue my parents should have been, or maybe my daughters father, perhaps the social worker that was paid by the agency (ha!), society, the church, and more.

Does it matter now?  We cannot go back. It is done at least for me. However, we can do our best to protect the other young unwed moms in our midst (and my sister and I have as recently as a week ago).

I can assure you my darling Sister, I am now fully protected. I can finally protect myself and surely I am protected by your love, and always was.


7 Thoughts.

  1. Here I am, on my lunch break. Just settled down with my Lean Pocket, and as I often do during my break, am perusing the internet, starting with your sites. Well, the cheese almost choked me as I struggled to hold back tears.
    In reading your post, I find myself embarrassed that I had certains facts wrong. I am sorry for that. One fact that I most certainly did not have wrong was the crying. The image is burned in my mind’s eye and the sound is one of the strongest auditory memories that I have. One does not forget that.
    Let me clarify a few things. When I wrote that I chose to be part of the Triad, whereas you didn’t, those really were the wrong words. I chose to educate myself about the Triad, whereas I think that given then choice so many years ago, you most certainly would not have.
    La Perdida was in reference to you both. I lost you when you went to Chicago. I lost my first niece so very many years ago. Although, how does one lose something they never knew? I leave that question to the philosophers in the group. Somehow, I just felt that it was fitting for you both.
    Now that I read back what I had written yesterday, it is strange. It seems frenetic, jumping all over the place. Perhaps you have once again hit the nail on the head in saying that was the 13 year old me writing, not the 30-something year old.
    Let me add just one more thing. The other side of being part of the Collateral Damage was never knowing what was the ‘right’ thing to say. There was always a lingering fear that I will say the wrong thing and will inadvertently hurt you. I would find myself so carefully choosing my words…afraid that Gazoo would appear at any time and announce “Well, dumb said the wrong thing AGAIN”. I feel slightly more educated and know now that I speak from my heart. If I am ignorant on something, I know that you will take it for that…ignorance. Not cruel, not having overdosed on some Pro-closed adoption rhetoric..just didn’t know any better.
    Your loving baby sister,

  2. Sister – Just want to echo part of your comment. Auditory memoories of crying.
    I call it Soul Crying. Years ago when I helped my friend J find her mom M, I heard M’s soul cry. When I first made contact with M via the phone (on behalf of J), M moaned through tears to me “is it my daughter?”
    I will never ever forget the sound of M’s cry. It was so deep, so gutteral, it came from the depths of her soul, from the depths of pain and loss that no human should ever have to feel.
    One does not forget a soul cry.
    I can still hear M’s cry.

  3. Conversemomma – Curious, why do you need her side of the story? I believe you are an adoptive mom, so I am curious what you are after.
    Do you need to validate mine? To prove whose feelings are more worthy? I dont ask that in a snarky way but I am curious. I dont think it matters. She has her story. I have mine. They both matter.
    I find myself intrigued by those that need to prove something, choose sides in adoption stories. Not suggesting that is what you are after but your comment on my daughters “side of the story” is curious to me. There aren’t “sides” IMO. There are mothers and children, humans, deeply affected by the loss of each other. This is not a war that one wins. It is a trauma one can only hope to recover from in his or her own way.
    She might have a blog. I dont know. I dont look. If she wanted me to know and to read, I would trust her to tell me. Regardless, I hope she does – at the very least – have someone, anyone, any outlet to manage her feelings, whatever they are, without judgement.
    We all deserve that.

  4. Suz,
    These past two posts are helpful inspiring me to find out more. I love hearing your sister’s (forgive me) “side”. Being a bit older than you, both my parents are gone and I missed talking to them about my firstborn. In the past couple years I’ve told my side of the story to my brother. After holding it back for 30 some years I felt self conscious pouring out my true experience. He assured me he is really interested in learning more about my daughter and me after decades of silence I felt like I was chewing his ear off with all my words. Reading your sister’s view, showed me I want to ASK my brother what it was like for him.

  5. Conversemom, I really am curious as to why you would insinuate that Suz is lying, that there is “another side to the story” that she is not telling. What story could her daughter speak, as her daughter was nothing more than a fetus and then a newborn infant when this disembabyment of her mother occurred? Then again, to believe stories of coercion would cast doubt on the “holiness” of adoption, the right of women to take babies from the bodies of other women and feel justified in doing it. And adoptive mothers (like you?) therefore choose not to believe us.

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