Birth and Death of Expectations

“A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.”
– Mark Twain

“I dont mean to be rude” my friend said “But why would you ever think your daughter would want to know you? I mean, as other adoptees say, you threw her away.  Abandoned her.  Left her to strangers.”

I wince at my friends choice of words but dont take them too seriously. She is merely repeating back to me the words shared by me with her. Words others use, not words I use. I realize on the surface that is what I did but persons with greater intellect, more compassion and understanding into adoption and baby brokering know that is not what I did consciously.

I had to think about the question for quite some time and never really answered her. The answer, the truth, was far too complex for me to answer over a quick cup of coffee.

Yet it has stayed with me for some time.

Why did I think my daughter would ever want to know me? Why did I think she would want me to find her?

The answer lies largely in two areas: 

  1. what I feel as a mother, her mother and
  2.  what the agency told me. 

Why did I think she would want to know me? As stupid as is sounds, early on I assumed she would care for me as I did her. I assumed she would feel the connection I felt. I assumed she would value that connection. That is not to suggest she doesnt, for I simply cannot know, but rather, and more importantly to state what I believed she would. 

We view the world through our own lenses. The lenses of our own experiences, our own feelings. I erroneously assumed she would see things the way I did.  Naive? Perhaps but still true. A mother love, my type of mother love, is all encompassing. It didnt go away when I gave her away. My body had permanently changed, molecules morphed from the non-mother to the now-mother. Taking my child away did not take away the fact that I became wired to feel her, sense her, worry about her. Because I felt that connection so strongly, I assumed, perhaps erroneously, she would too.

Layer on fantasy, magical thinking and the many other creative ways my mind chose to deal with the trauma of losing her and you have one  big pile of hope and expectations.

And then there is agency. 

The agency reinforced this hope and expectation and once again used my own mother love against me.

I vividly remember Colleen, my casewrecker, waving the Waiver of Confidnentiliaty in front of me. I was sitting on my hospital bed, 3 days post partum and she was next to me all smiley and hopeful (probably pretty pleased with herself that her reminding me of the promissory note my mother signed would be used against me if I decided to keep my daughter). She urged me to sign the Waiver.  She told me it guaranteed my daughter could and WOULD find me. Somehow that conversation transformed from a bold face lie uttered from caseworker mouth to a shiny shred of hope as it fell on my now-mother ears. I believed her. I clung to those words with every cell of my being. My daughter would find me and she would want to know me. It would be okay. She would have a wonderful fabulous life and we would be reunited.  It.Would.Be.Okay.

And then there was the promise made to me by the agency of ongoing contact and full disclosure   The agency promised that my daughters adoptive parents would send me pictures for her entire life. They would send me a letter, an update, I would be in contact with them. The agency called this “semi-open”.  More importantly, the agency told me that my daughters parents would always tell her about me. She would know about me. She would know she was adopted and why I surrendered her and using that magical form she would find me and she would be well, ::cough::, fine.

So take my newly rewired mother brain, add 18 (one for every year before she would use that magical waiver) whopping scoops of hopeful bullshit from the agency, and VOILA!  A recipe for lifelong hope and expectation.

That is what I should have told my friend. That is why I was thought she might want to know me.  My own true mother love coupled with a ridiculous amount of false hope instilled by the agency. Hope instilled not for me to believe or even for it to come true but rather, hope instilled in me to get me to sign my child over to strangers.

As previously stated on this blog, the agency lied to me. While my mother-love was indeed genuine, the agency expressions were empty or laced with lies. There would be no semi-open adoption, no photos, no updates. The criteria I used to sign away my daughter to a life better than she could reportedly have with me was very simply false. This is called coercion by many and bait and switch by others. It is immoral and unethical.  Add to it the factor of the promissory note and threats of lawsuits you have intimidation.

It would take me six months to begin to doubt them, to begin to figure the lies out. By then, by the time I would start to suspect what had happened, the adoption of my child to strangers would be final. I had no recourse. It would take me years to piece it all together.  Interestingly, as the years passed and my knowledge of adoption, baby brokering and Kurtz increased, that particular hopeful side of my head and heart decreased. Those false expectations instilled by the agency worker extinguished. No more shiny sparkly shred of hope. Gone. Deleted from my data banks with no chance of recovery. I had been played the fool, taken advantage of, used as a profit making machine for an agency and an incubator for another couple.  I understood then that the waiver was as good as the toilet paper I used to wipe my ample ass on. I  understood then how vulnerable and naive I was.  I began to understand Stockholm Syndrome .

And yet, then and even today, in light of what I know, I still hope. The pictures never came, the updates never came, and yet my mother love remained.

It always will.

Some things can never be taken from me.

Some things cannot be signed away to strangers.

11 Thoughts.

  1. Suz, as always, fantastic thought-provoking, well written, tears-inducing post…


  2. As an adoptee who went overseas and had the partial chance to “reconnect”, I must admit I did not feel a biological bond.

    I knew who she was. I knew who I was “supposed” to be – her daughter. Yet the years had obviously created an insurmountable barrier. I did not love her at first sight or feel more drawn to her than I would a stranger. I used to think that perhaps it would just take time and I would eventually feel like a “real” daughter to her.

    I was wrong.

    Unlike what your daughter seems to think/feel, I also knew that she wasn’t supposed to BE a stranger.

    I think that is what kept me going.

  3. Mei-Ling – Can you clarify? I am not sure I understand. Do you mean you felt nothing and expected to feel nothing and then DID or that you felt nothing, met her and still felt nothing?

    I think I know what you mean (cuz I read your blog) but for my readers I was hoping you could clarify.

  4. Well, I was overtired from the plane flight and overwhelmed by the language barrier.
    What I can recall from the first few moments was fear, actually – I was worried that she would judge the “Canadianized” person I had become rather than basing me off of my appearance. In short, I was worried that she’d just “see” me as Chinese because of my appearance and not like me because my background was Canadian-raised and that would raise her expectation to an impossible standard.

    I didn’t expect to feel anything in terms of love, at least not at first. That’s not to say it would be impossible, but I didn’t think that a biological bond would be magic. I knew she was my mother, I knew she wasn’t going to shout at me or “command” me to do anything, but she was still a stranger to me.

    Over time I felt affection for her and an aching sadness that could never be removed, even from having the ability to spend one-on-one moments with her – because I couldn’t properly connect due to language. If we had had a common language, I’m sure we would have “progressed” more. But we didn’t, so I felt emotionally “locked out” from her a lot of the time. That – and I didn’t know what SHE felt regarding me, either. It was impossible to ask.

    I do know that she didn’t want me to return to Canada, but acknowledged that I had to return. By the end of the trip, I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to leave. Of course, during that last night before heading to the airport… things changed emotionally. It was like a trigger had been switched on.

    I think that when I saw them waving goodbye, it hit me: this was separation. This is what relinquishment/adoption had done to me. And I was living it again, only this time it was a conscious memory.

    I don’t think I ever felt love, if “love” can be defined. But again, “love” from Chinese families is expressed in different ways. Add adoption & reunion to that mix, and it gets messy.

    At most I felt a sad sort of affection for her. But with all the lost years and the complexities of a language barrier, it’s difficult to say.

    I do know this, though: I definitely want to go back as soon as I can.

  5. “I don’t think I ever felt love” – this is regarding my reunion with my mother, of course

    It should say “I don’t think I ever felt love from *from her* – at least not in the way I had been raised to perceive love.

  6. Mei-Ling – Thanks. That helps. That is what I thought you meant! As always, you make me cry. Hugs to you and all who love you.

  7. I had the exact opposite experience. When I signed the papers in the judge’s chambers, he asked me over and over if I was clear that my son would no longer be my son, that the records would be sealed, that I should never try to contact him or interfere in his life, etc. etc. etc. As a result, I had no expectations. Until I read about the International Soundex registry and others who had reunited. Then, and since our reunion, my expectations ran wild and got the best of me.

  8. Ahhh the promise of open and semi-open. I, too, was promised semi and once a year I contact the Post Adoption Registry hoping they just “forgot” to send on my letter and pictures. Twelve years of nothing but I still cling to the hope. Much like I cling to the hope that he will, someday, want to know his mother and sisters. I will never give up that hope, I think if I do it will take the last of my will to live. Only 1148 days to go, only 1148 days until I can start my own search. I wonder if my mother counted down the years, months, days and hours until she could look for me…

    When I was found and we finally met the connection was immediate. She walked through the doors of a local pub with her cousin and there was no taking a second look. To be honest there was no looking involved. I was at the bar yapping to the bartender and suddenly I knew she was there, I didn’t have to look, I could feel her. When I did turn around there was no looking back and forth to figure out who she was, she was my Mom and I knew her just as I must have known her at birth. It was powerful and it was primal.

    Now my dilemma is trying to remove my own reunion from my hopes for reunion with my son. My brain tells me I can’t expect his reaction to match my own but my heart longs for it.

    I have just found the strength to read other first mom blogs, and hopefully to start writing my own in earnest. I thank you for your words, they are truly empowering.


  9. Denise – I want to comment more on your comment but dont have the time. Essentially, I want to delve deeper into how mothers are treated so strongly effects their search and reunion. I was left with hope and had hope and probably shouldnt have. You were left with none and perhaps had none and perhaps should have? Odd how those things work. More importantly, what can we learn from them? I know that I have mother friends who are far better off than I am becuase they did have options (housing, a job, etc.) and still chose to surrender. And they are doing pretty good. Their minds seem clearer than mine. I had no options and I am a self titled mess. I like to believe that if I had been given options, told of all the information, I would be better off today, psychologyically.

    Not sure that makes sense. Must post about it.

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