And for some odd reason, it results in a lot of defensiveness.
There's a "sun-moon" aspect to adoption, or perhaps better put (not to get all Pink Floydy) a dark side of the moon aspect.
You see, the Adoption Triad seems perfect: there's a couple who either cannot have children or have a good home to offer to Oh! a child in need of a home! but the best part: the mother cannot provide that home herself.
Seems like the perfect solution for everyone involved!
Not so much. Well, sort of. Oh, who knows? I sound so wishy-washy because honestly each case is so different. But the important thing to remember is this: it will be complicated and different from raising your own blood children. It will be. It can be beautiful and amazing but it will still be different and complicated. Always.
Now, I'm not going to go into all the statistics of the how's and why's of what I just said. You can read some of the really great books out there---four of my faves are:
The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier
Being Adopted by David Brodzinsky
Questions Adoptees Are Asking by Sherrie Eldridge
Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge
But trust me, it's complicated. Anytime you take a baby away from its mother or the mother chooses to give her baby away, it's complicated. And it leaves wounds, deep ones. Oh, you think I'm just talking about the baby?
I'm talking about birthmothers who question their decision every day for the rest of their life, even when they know things about themselves--- like their inability to hold down a job, their deep seated addictions, or tendency to be attracted to violent men.
I'm talking about infertile couples who don't let themselves grieve their own losses long enough before they jump into parenting someone else's baby. Because you know, it's ok to grieve the loss of that little family of your own you planned and worked so hard to have and couldn't.
And then of course, there's the child. Sigh. The person who ends up feeling manipulated the most. Yes, I said manipulated.
Because even in the best of adoption circumstances (hey, kind of like mine: it's not like I found M and she's a struggling addict, married to some bozo who beats her, and can't hold down a job long enough to pay rent for her shitty apartment) it's complicated and the adoptee feels like they never had a voice or a choice. That's why everybody's hoping (well, should be) in the end, that the choices---considering the circumstances---will be the best for the child. I always liked the line in Verrier's book:
Adoption shouldn't be about finding babies for infertile couples but finding homes for children who need them.
So back to M and I's story because I know all of you who have been reading want to know as some of you say "what happens next" (ha!) like we're all in this book club together now (double ha!)
And so, as you know now, things ultimately turned out well. We're both relatively happy and whole individuals at this point in our lives. However, things weren't always this way, and like I said, adoptions don't happen because everyone's happy about the baby.
Because before we're babies we're even more helpless---we're in someone else's body who is technically called 'pregnant' and that person may or may not be going through a lot.
[Insert everyone reading this screaming their two cents about the abortion debate here.]
At the end of the day, we're all at the mercy of our mothers. It doesn't matter how many creepy old men stand outside of abortion clinics with signs displaying their disapproval---you are at the mercy of your mother when she becomes pregnant with you.
When M found out she was pregnant, little did she know that my birthfather, a very conservative (indeed!) muslim had gotten 2 other gals pregnant at about the same time (where were condoms being sold in Pittsburgh?! hello young people!)
At the time, she also didn't know that he had diplomatic immunity. For M, there would be no legal outlet for her to get child support from him. Being the very conservative religious man that he was, he was just so terribly concerned about well, appearances. She would shame him and his family, he told her. She could ruin his education opportunities. And oh, by the way, I could never be with you, he said. She was a westerner, no.can.do. You only party and sleep with westerners, you don't have babies with them.
So he told her she absolutely had to have an abortion.
M said no.
So he told her he'd pay for the abortion and give her $10,000 on top of it.
M said no.
So he pushed her down the stairs.
(At least, this is what she says.)
(At least, this is what she says.)
Well now, that was certainly one way to solve the problem.
[Pardon me, but I simply have to interject here: you just can't even make this stuff up!]
After M's voice stopped shaking on the phone after telling me that (she was afraid to and I had to basically pull it out of her; I mean, let's tell the whole truth and nothing but while we're just starting, right?) she goes, "I worried and worried that something might be wrong with you after that." I assured her that I graduated top of my college class and that she had nothing to worry about. ;)
She then went home to tell her parents that she was pregnant and things there didn't go so well. Being raised a conservative Irish Catholic, she'd stood her ground and refused the (I'm sure) tantalizing abortion-pay-out, but upon announcing the situation she'd found herself in, her mother kicked her out of the house.
Funny how Catholics can work that way.
(Nobody get abortions! Get your slutty ass outta the house! How dare you use food stamps to pay for your fatherless child!) And the vicious social service cycle of America continues.
She then literally, found herself pregnant, with a bag of clothes on the streets of Pittsburgh. These are her words, not mine.
So she started living with a couple of friends from her party scene, basically. How this could've possibly turned out any better, I'm not sure. But she was taken in, had me at the hospital and nearly hemorrhaged to death in doing so because of a too-late-discovered blood clot disorder. She and I were separated for nearly a week (the Attachment Parent in me is screeching here) because of it; which didn't help that oh-so-important initial bonding, to be sure. And it's not like back then they were pushing breastfeeding and in-room nurseries at the hospitals. They thought it helped the mothers to sleep better if you were separated from each other. Nice job there, guys.
In the end, she took me 'home' (home being her party-scene friends' house) and I'm honestly still getting the full story on what happened next. I think she's embarrassed about that time in her life and she only gives me little details here and there. She's very open, but the story's hard to get out, understandably. It's hard to talk about some of your biggest mistakes 30 years after you've made them without thinking somebody's going to look at you like you've got three heads. Especially when that someone is your birthdaughter.
So I tell her things like, "It sounds like you didn't know then what you know now." I'm not sure if that's ok; hell, I have no idea what's appropriate and inappropriate half the time we're talking. All I know is that I don't want her to sugarcoat things for me, and I don't want to just get into this habit of smoothing all the uncomfortable parts of the story over for either of us in order to be better able to handle the ensuing awkwardness. If that made any sense at all, please press option 1.
I'm in unchartered territory here. In a way I've never been. I used to live so safely! I was a goody-two shoes who lived in a lot of fear. So I practiced my Catholicism to a T and never let up; I never complained, was never disagreeable, and always complied. Then I realized I was going to lead the most pathetic life if I just did what I was told and never lived my life to the fullest. So I joined the military after highschool and became a medic. Then 9/11 happened and I realized how wars happen because of greed. Then I went to college and fell in love with the world again and met the man who understands and loves me the most. Then I decided to have a baby and that baby is a tiny man who deserves to know his heritage.
In a nutshell, that's how I ended up here in this unchartered territory. This land that knows no bounds, where my emotions run freely and I have no idea whether to escape or embrace the rage and the joy and the fear and excitement and confusion and disappointment with each recurring phone call I have with this woman. This woman who birthed me, breathed life into me, brought my face into the light.