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.
Reblogged this on lara and commented:
this is how I feel too on my birthday
Ditto. I also white knuckle it through my day of coming into the world.
Thank you so much for the insight into your feelings. I really appreciate it, and I am sorry that this day is a struggle rather than a joy for you.
You explained it so well. (((Hugs)))
Your description is so searingly accurate…thank you for writing this powerful, poignant, and painful piece. I relate to it so much…
I am with you. My birthday is this month and I am as bereft as you. And those who do not know the pain, do not understand at all our reluctance to celebrate this day of loss.
I blow out a candle and sit with you in darkness and silence to honour the inexpressible. Di
Dear Levi: I am not adopted, but it might have been better if I was. I was born to a bi-polar mother who was homicidal and suicidal the whole time I grew up. An attempt on the life of my brother and many suicide attempts which were completed when I was 26. I have the same duality about my birthday … but I retain memories of the physical presence of a woman who could not mother in a healthy way. So, I can deeply identify with your feelings….I really didn’t have a mother, either, in the sense that you grieve not having a kind, loving, nurturing mother.
But I was given 3 gifts at birth, as if the Great Spirit knew the rest of it was gong to be really rough. I was born with Conscious Contact…knowing from my earliest imaginings that there IS a divine Other, by whatever name. I also knew at the same time that I am an artist. And I was given a pretty good body that has sustained and supported my spirit in all I have undertaken in my 75 years. I know from all my teaching that when a burden is given, there is also a counterweight….a gift. I know what mine is….do you know yours?
Dear Rosemary: I am sorry you think someone else’s life might have been better for you to have lived than your own. We only know our own experiences. I’m happy to read that you were given gifts to live with your mother’s mental illness because that must have been challenging for a small child; some adoptees are unlucky enough to get at least two ‘mothers’ like that or worse. You were given another gift you don’t mention – a lifetime of knowing your ancestral connections – the roots which make us the people we are, and the mirrors that reflect us to ourselves. My ancestral spirits have been calling me home all my life, as surely as a homing pigeon knows its calling. I am also lucky to be connected to these spirits – they have kept me alive when the medical profession couldn’t. Most of my life I believed it was my job to make everyone else happy and well, and I was lucky enough to be able to do so even to my detriment; now I have discovered these were attributes common to a lot of adoptees. We are given to people who can’t imagine their lives without someone else’s child to make their family/health complete, and for many of us we carry that burden. But at least I learnt fast how to make others happy because I felt my very existence depended on it.
I wonder what makes you think you would have been better off if you were adopted? Some adoptees have fantasies about their real mother being a princess or some beautiful rich person. Perhaps you have a fantasy that life is better with a family that wants a child to replace their own dead child, or miscarried foetuses …. because they want a child…. and you could be that child. It does not mean they know how to be good parents; but it does mean they are suffering their own loss and grief. It means they and you live with ghosts.
Congratulations on making good with the gifts you were given. Life is a blessing.
thank you Sofie for such eloquent and searing insight.