What does it FEEL like?

“Self-acceptance comes from meeting life’s challenges vigorously. Don’t numb yourself to your trials and difficulties, nor build mental walls to exclude pain from your life. You will find peace not by trying to escape your problems, but by confronting them courageously. You will find peace not in denial, but in victory.” – J. Donald Walters

I want to know what adoption denial and avoidance feels like.

Is it something one has to work at or does it come naturally? As in, you are so much in denial you dont know you are in denial? Or do you know you are denying something and choose to recite some sort of chant to yourself over and over? Something perhaps like “she is not my child. she is not my child. she is not my child. ” or “i only have one mother. i only have one mother.”

I am fabulously irritated this week at mothers and children that deny each other. Dear friends of mine have been having VERY hard times with their mothers in reunion or their children that fail to respond to them. I am particularly close to one of the adoptees in question and I want to scream at and backhand her mother that is ignoring her.

Of course, I know this feeling too and I can cite any number of textbook reasons for this denial and avoidance (all good and valid, btw) but what does it feel like? Does it take work? Is it like a addict trying to stay sober? Do you take your denial one day at a time?

If you are an adoptee refusing to answer your mothers emails, not accepting presents, etc. does this drain you or is it something that comes easily?

If you are a mother denying contact with your child (something I will NEVER understand), does that bother you? At all? Is it something that you carry around and have to work on? Is there like a kumbaya denial song you sing to yourself?

I dont get it.

And I kinda want to. For I am thinking (perhaps foolishly) that if I understand what it felt like, it might irritate me less.

I might be able to explain it to my friends that are hurting so much.

I might be able to make myself feel better too.

19 Thoughts.

  1. Recently I have stopped trying to connect with my sister. It did not come easily, but that’s because I have spent the past 3 years trying to build up some semblance of a fragmented relationship through the Internet.

    I still visit her webpage but I don’t make the effort to come online and chat with her. I try not to think about her too much when writing out my blog entries – she is an obstacle in my psychological thinking and if I don’t find some way to block her out at times… then I cannot have peace and the focus is never “truly” on my mother – which it should be.

    To my mind she has become more of “she is my mother’s other daughter.” I don’t really like focusing on the “sister” aspect because it doesn’t feel that way.

    I think it depends on the mother/adoptee. If I had never been in contact it would have been very, very easy to deny that aspect of my beginnings, shrug, and get on with my life.

    Maybe denial is easier at some points…

  2. Mei-ling – Random question (that is related to a conversation I had elsewhere). Do you have any adopted siblings or are you an only? I wonder if the “sister” aspect might feel differently if you had an adopted sibling? Perhaps you do. Just asking because your statement reminded me of another thread elsewhere.

    As always hugs to you and thank you for commenting.

  3. What does it feel like? – For me, after spending several years in denial, my answer would be it feels like nothing. There are no emotions. No feelings. I was just numb, blank, whenever it came to my oldest son’s adoption. I didn’t shed tears or smile or laugh when I thought of my son, of losing him. It was like this “void” in my life where I was just a robot, saying what was expected from me but never truly feeling anything.

    I didn’t know I was in denial. I had no clue. It’s only now, looking back, and with the great help of a therapist, that I can see so clearly the signs that I was. For me, it started right after my son’s adoptive mom completely closed his adoption when he was five years old. I figure denial was my body’s way of coping with what felt like losing my son all over again.

    I can understand denial and I recognize it often in the world of adoption. I hear it in the same scripts first mom’s relate about how great adoption is for them and their child. The same scripts I used over and over again. It’s like a mantra, a repeat over and over again of what we are told while still pregnant. Robots programmed to expel the “better life, best thing for my child, two parents to love him, so happy, no regrets.”

    And though I know, on some basic level I do understand those moms and/or adoptees who carry their denial into reunion, it does surprise me to see it, even now, especially from the side of a first mom. My denial began to slip four years before reuniting with my son but it never fully went away until reunion. Until I saw my child, held him, and could no longer deny the pain, loss and grief that had been inside of me all along.

    Though I know it wasn’t healthy and it wasn’t good for me, there is a part of me that is thankful for the denial I carried because I honestly don’t think I carry the strength to have been able to survive all those years having to face everyday the painful loss of my son.

    I just don’t know if I would have made it through, as weak as that might sound.

    But even with that said, it isn’t something I would ever wish on you, Suz. You have already faced so much and denial does come with more pain, which is the last thing you deserve.

  4. “Do you have any adopted siblings or are you an only?”

    I was the only *adopted* child in my family.

  5. Cassi – Thank you for sharing. I can honestly say for me, I was never in unconscious denial or avoidance. From the day I let my daughter go, I have been aware of this pain, this anguish, the longing, this worry. From the months that I lived alone and suffered PTSD dreams of a baby crying, a baby I could not find, to the days I lived eighteen years later when I finally found my baby, now a grown woman, I have been aware.

    As such, I honestly dont know how it feels to be denying or avoiding adoption. Trust me, I have tried. I even married a man who would help me with that avoidance (we are now divorced).

    I dont understand. Sometimes I want to and then other times I am glad I dont.

  6. I lived in a very deep world of denial for almost 30 years . I did not know that I was living there until I was reunited with my son last winter. A few months before reunion, I did start realizing that a lot of my “problems” stemmed from the loss of my baby, or more accurately the fact that I never dealt with the loss of my baby to adoption.

    When I was a pregnant 15 year old, I had no choice but adoption (although choice is not the right word, that would have required there to be “something else” to choose). I would not consider myself as his mom ~ I knew he was going to have a different, “real” mom. I considered myself an egg donor & incubator. I was not allowed to see my baby after he was born, reinforcing the “fact” that I was not his mom. So, as you see, my denial started the moment I knew I was pregnant. After he was born, I had to prove that I WAS a good girl (not a tramp like they thought), listened to the advice I was given, went on with my life, believing when I was told that my baby was better off without me, that I was better off without him as I could go on and have more babies later. Yes, I thought about the baby I gave up always, loved and missed him terribly, worried that he did not get the better life that I gave him up for, that my pain was for nothing. My baby was born near mother’s day, other than a couple of weeks before/after his b.day & mother’s day when I was a mental mess, I was able to go on with my life pretty well, or so I thought.

    Then reunion came along, and ripped my world apart. Immediately I felt such tremendous love for my son, much deeper love for my husband & younger children, everyone in my life. Until that moment I had no idea that I had shut my feelings down. It took a while into reunion for me to finally realize ~ he really IS my son (I had never thought of him as my son, only as the baby I gave up) I really AM his mother (not the egg donor/incubator).

    As Cassie said, I too am somewhat grateful that I was able to live in that lovely world of denial, as I could not have lived day to day with the pain of the loss of my son. In reality though, the deep denial only made reunion messy as I was not only learning about and getting to finally know my son, I was also dealing with a lot of buried garbage that should have been taken out 30 years earlier.

    • Susie – Thank you soo much for sharing your experience. I am finding this thread oddly helpful and insightful.

      Some time ago, an adoptee blogger named Nina, wrote about research that talked about how some mothers had disconnected themselves before the birth. I found it fascinating for I had not done that and in fact, before my parents found out I was working on ways to run away and take care of my daughter myself.

      My point is, from the time my daughter was like 3 months in utero, I was planning on having her with me. My attachment started then. Other mothers, seem to start disconnecting them.

      I find this parallel interesting in relation to denial and avoidance.

      Hugs to you Susie. Thanks again for sharing.

  7. “I want to know what adoption denial and avoidance feels like.”

    I remember what not realizing felt like. I didn’t think much about adoption when I was a child, other than knowing I was adopted. It impacted every aspect of my life, my actions and thoughts, but not in a way I consciously thought about. Thinking back that seems blissful now. Blissful ignorance. But I wouldn’t change the realization of adoption’s impact on me. Trying to understand it has helped me understand myself in ways I might not have otherwise. But oh… the rage, the frustration, the guilt… yeah, some days I’d prefer the bliss.

    “Some time ago, an adoptee blogger named Nina, wrote about research that talked about how some mothers had disconnected themselves before the birth. I found it fascinating for I had not done that and in fact, before my parents found out I was working on ways to run away and take care of my daughter myself.”

    I think my mother did this. It was weird but when I received word she no longer wanted to correspond, I suddenly had this odd realization that she spent my gestation disconnecting from me. It’s like I knew before she denied contact that she was going to, like I’d always known that she wanted nothing to do with me. I think the only way my mother could deal with letting me go was to not admit to herself that I was real. I felt utterly bonded to both of my kids while they were in utero, although I suspect I was more attuned to that experience knowing that they would be the first (and perhaps only) biological relatives I would ever meet. I wanted badly to bond with them. I think I was afraid I wouldn’t know how because I had never been nurtured that way.

    I think the kumbaya denial song or whatever it is, is like a drug. It’s the only way mothers can survive the loss of their children. I don’t understand why some adoptees deny. I think it’s because they have had no control over the paths their lives took, so denial becomes a way of asserting themselves, or even perhaps punishing their mothers for “rejecting” them. Some adoptees go through this push-and-pull where they push their mothers away emotionally, return, then do it again, repeatedly. That seems utterly cruel to me.

    Great post, very thought-provoking.

    • Triona – I agree intellectually it is a drug. I believe the mind has to do this to survive the horror. Moms that dont find a way to deal with it often end up in worse situations, suicide being one of them. I dont judge any mom that has had to take this path to survive the loss of her child. If the only option is the awareness I have had for 23 years, I am hard pressed to say I was better off. I seriously crave a day, an hour, a five minute span of time when I am not aching from adoption.

      • I know what you mean, Suz. I too wish I could find a moment’s peace from the pain of adoption. I’m trying really hard not to judge my mother, but it’s difficult because my very existence is the source of her pain. I think she truly believed what the adoption industry said, that mothers could surrender and move on without looking back. Then when I came back years later searching for answers, it threw her entire worldview into disarray. In retrospect I wish I hadn’t told her about my not-so-happy adoptive life. I wasn’t trying to upset her but I’ve never been the kind of person who can lie and say things are hunky-dory when they’re not. She thinks I should “just make up” with my adoptive parents, which is impossible; there was never a relationship so nothing to make up. She seems to think I want a relationship from her, and maybe in some ways I do. But really, I just want the answers that the freakin’ state and my adoptive parents have hidden from me.

        As someone said to me recently in email, adoption is a major mindf–k.

  8. Pingback: You Never "Get Over It" » Blog Archive » My denial

  9. The responses to my comment have really thrown me for a loop. Did I really “disconnect” from my baby? That thought is like a knife in my heart ~ could I have done that to him? I did love him, I only wanted to be his mom. I HATED the ugly home life that I had, I REFUSED to make an innocent child grow up in the hateful, angry house I lived in. I was only 15, a sophomore, so moving out was not even close to an option in 1979. I loved my baby so much that I could not allow myself to acknowledge it, or I knew I would be unable to give him away.

    I feel like I have to clarify how I now feel about my son. The day I found the email telling me that my son was looking for me was the happiest day of my life. I could NEVER walk away from him again, I don’t know what I would do if he ever decided to back off from our “reunion”. Right now all my son is comfortable with is emails & we are friends on facebook, even after almost 10 months. I want SO badly to meet him, see him, hold him, look into his eyes & tell him in person how much I love him. It scares me that he will never want more. I have to remind myself that I already have so much more than I did before, than I ever thought I would have.

    I feel like I have lived 3 lives: Before giving birth to my firstborn son, the “lost” years without him, and now the wonderful life that includes him.

    • Oh, Susie, I did not take that from your comment at all. Nor do I think anyone else did. It is obvious you loved your son and it makes perfect sense why you might have been in denial. As Triona so astutely notes, this is often done by many moms to survive the trauma of surrendering their child.

      My point that I was trying to make is that for me, I understand the intellectual reasons for denial and avoidance. I dont however know how it FEELS. Knowing it and feeling it are completely separate in my mind.

      I never felt that denial and avoidance with my daughter. I acknowledged her, the trauma, the horror from day one.

      Hugs to you. I am so glad you are here and sharing your thoughts.

      • Hi Susie–I didn’t mean for my comments to throw you for a loop either. I don’t think you disconnected from your son, your reaction to finding him says it all. In my case I don’t blame my mother at all for surrendering me. The part I am upset about is that she is refusing to acknowledge me, here and now. Like Suz, I understand intellectually why women deny and avoid, but I don’t know how it *feels*. I don’t understand why my mother wants to pretend I don’t exist. I guess it must have been so traumatic that it’s the only way she can live with the past. I would think it would be more healing to acknowledge and move on, but I’m not her. I just wish my access to my records weren’t dependent on her, then maybe I could find some peace of my own.

    • Susie,

      Many of us moms were encouraged from the minute we walked into an adoption agency to disconnect from the child we were carrying. We were encouraged to see them as someone else’s child. To not view them as our own but as another woman’s while we still carried them INSIDE our bodies. Nurtured them with OUR blood. Protected them with OUR womb.

      I think that kind of disconnect is not only common for many, but, to this day, is still encouraged by the adoption agencies. It isn’t that we didn’t love our child with all our hearts and wish, beyond anything, that we could raise and care for them. It was, I believe, instead that we were lied to, by omission, by how very important that mother, child bond is during pregnancy and encouraged, even then, to slip into a denial of what was about to happen once we gave birth.

      For me, the realization of the bond, that swell of love for my child, and the horror that I was going to lose my son, hit the moment he was placed in my arms after he was born. And, I know, you didn’t even get that chance. They didn’t let you hold your son so you and he were denied even more of that natural, fierce bonding that nobody ever wants to talk about in the world of adoption and so I think it makes perfect sense that your denial kept it’s hold for all those years and why it was when you did get to hold your child again, it all shattered because of just how deeply you loved him.

      I think too, that those emotions when you come out of denial can be so frightening that there are a lot of moms who fight hard to keep the denial instead because of the pain those emotions can, and do, cause. And to keep that denial you have to remain separated from your child because seeing them, holding them, brings back the love, the loss, the shame one might have felt . . . all the myriad of emotions that many keep buried for decades and are unable, or unwilling to face at time of reunion.

      I don’t think it’s “unlove” or not caring that causes so many first mom’s to run from relationships with their children. In fact, I think it is the complete opposite, for so many. It’s a deep love that surges when we see our children again and terrifies us with the emotions that come with that.


      • I stumbled across this blog in an attempt to understand why my first mom, after about a year of communicating (letters only, wouldn’t talk on the phone, no f2f) she basically disappeared. There were no letters saying goodbye, or it was too hard for her…just no response.

        Cassi, reading your last two paragraphs….I don’t know if this is my mom’s situation but it is the first time I have read something that made the little light go ON in my head instead of trying to black it out, a tiny glimmer of understanding. Maybe this is her reason.

        Rejection born of the fear of loving, and the fear of pain, is slightly easier to understand and come to terms with than rejection without apparent reason.

        Thank you Cassie.

        Suz, very intersting blog. I look forward to reading more of it…once I get this comment submitted!

  10. Thank you all for your wonderful insights, although I wish that none of us knew this reality that is life as a birthmother/adoptee.

    Cassi, you are so right, the emotions coming out of denial are VERY strong, I completely understand how some birthmothers are unable to come out of their denial.

    Suz, I also “seriously crave a day, an hour, a five minute span of time when I am not aching from adoption” ~ I find myself sometimes wishing I could go back into that dark world of denial for just a while.

    Triona, it’s amazing that you are able to see past your pain from adoption, you seem to understand so well what your birthmother is going through. I think you are right that it would be better for your mom to acknowledge her denial, find a way past it. I pray that the day will come that she is able to do that and build a relationship with you, or at least give you some of the answers you deserve.


    • Thanks for your kind words, Susie. I hope she does too, and I hope you and your son are able to find healing in your reunion together. I wish we could all find some healing somewhere.

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