It’s my birthday. Sixty five years ago my mother expelled me into the world. I had just spent nine months getting to know her intimately, and my brain was wired in preparation to meet her. But it was not to be. I arrived in the world and was whisked away from everything I knew. There would never be those familiar smells and sounds and tastes that would have provided a secure foundation for relationships in future. I would forever feel lost and abandoned. My primary relationship with my mother was severed, torn asunder at birth.
People say ‘Happy Birthday’. And I know they mean well. And I want to be happy. But I want them to recognise this is the day my body screams out at the loss of my mother. How do they expect me to celebrate this enormous loss and grief? I think of my mother, and what it would have been like for her to have to give up the child she had grown inside her on my birthday. Certainly I was exhausted and hormonally and emotionally re-arranged after giving birth to each of my children. But I had a healthy baby to take home each time; the bond was not broken. My mother went home alone, to people who did not know, or expected her to forget and not talk about what had just happened.
I receive cards. I’m grateful to think surviving members of my adoptive mother’s family still treat me as family. They want to believe I was just like ‘one of the family’. But they know I was not. Many families have a black sheep, and I was theirs.
I have lunch with my friends. They bring me presents. Birthdays are the days you celebrate coming into the world. I can’t be miserable. Each woman in the group has a child who died. I never had that. One woman lost her mother to death at an early age, and lost contact with her siblings for many years. We all carry much sorrow. But today the sun shines and the food is good and we care about each other. I’m happy in their company.
They know I am adopted. It was so long ago, they think it is a past event. They don’t know that everyday something is said, or happens to remind me that I don’t really know who I am. I had breast cancer; the doctor asked if there was any history of breast cancer in my family. I say I don’t know my family. The doctor has not been given a script to run for that answer. If I said yes, I would get testing for a particular gene. If not, it is not deemed necessary. If I don’t know my family she could treat me either way, but no knowledge is treated as no history of the disease. I walk out of her rooms distressed that I have no family history. The breast cancer is just a nuisance I’ll let her deal with.
I come home from the lunch to my own private grief. I will remain a hermit for a few days as I gather the courage to face the world again. No one wants to talk about the loss of your identity through separation from your mother prior to adoption into a make believe world. My birthday is the day I was born. My birth certificate was falsified by government agencies on the day of my adoption. I have twin identities, neither of which really identifies me.
I will face the world this week. I have a supportive group of mature adoptees. We share our understandings of how our lives have been affected by the loss of our mothers. We talk about the high incidence of substance abuse, depression and suicide amongst adoptees, and our own self-defeating behaviours. We work to bring into awareness of the general public, the lifelong effects on mother and child of separation at birth. Human babies, like puppies and kittens need to spend time with their mothers after birth if they are to remain mentally healthy. Research tells us this, yet the money-making baby market ignores the research, and its supporters want to silence us. Together we give each other courage to tell our own stories.