Saturday, July 26, 2008

Our Reunion Is Like A Teenage Romance

Oh, those "like a..." statements are dangerous, aren't they? The minute you start comparing an "adoption reunion" to "like a..." anything, you can get yourself in big trouble. So my mother and I have been trying to not compare our relationship to anything. Mother/daughter rules don't really apply. She IS my mother - that's not lost on me by a long shot - but the parental role is not there. She's a lot like me, but she's not exactly like a twin sister, and she's not exactly just a friend. But today, my mother figured out that our relationship is kind of like a...teenage romance.

What the HELL? - was my first reaction to this. But really, she's not too far off.

Think back to your first puppy love crushes or whatever they were when you were a teenager. Oh, the drama. Oh, the agony. Oh, the inability to think of anything/anyone else at times. And of course, there's the mindreading factor...did s(he) look at me THAT way or did s(he) REALLY mean THIS or THAT...and there's the turning the most innocuous statements into OH GOD, S(HE) DOESN'T LOOOOVE ME ANYMORE.

Well, at least it's like that for us.

Many books talk about being stuck in the life cycle, regression, etc. and at first, I tried to equate the emotional immaturity of our relationship to these factors, but it's not exactly that. This dynamic has existed for over three years now, and the only evolutions that have occured are the realizations of what we are doing. It doesn't seem to change the behaviors, though...or at least, it hasn't yet.

I mean, some of the emails we write to each other sound like notes you would pass to your big crush in high school. Oh, I loooooove you, I miss you, have been thinking about you allllll day...all that's missing are the hearts and flowers drawn all over them and the creative origami-like folds in the paper.

Disgusting, isn't it?

I wonder if this strange, immature dynamic will ever stop. I admit, some of it is kind of fun. The highs are wonderful. The lows suck.

So are we the only ones with this odd dynamic?

Something tells me we aren't...

Letting the Lie Control Me

As usual, after a long talk with my daughter I start thinking. We were talking about the barriers we put up in our relationship and why they are there. More importantly, how they effect how we behave with each other. Naturally, I immediatly thought of this as an adoptee "issue". It's not too hard to understand from an adoptee viewpoint, abandoned once it can happen again and probably will. OK, I can see that. After all what kind of a woman can walk away from her own child. I may get back to my diatribe on that question later in this post or maybe another one. Anyway I was busy this morning doing laundry and drying my hair. I looked in the mirror a saw a woman who was letting the lie control her behavior. This is not an "adoptee issue". It is a problem that occurs when you are outside the norms of society. There are a whole lot of people very eager to tell you how you should think, act, and feel. Everybody says that birth mothers/adoptees should...... Of course ask any three people to finish that statement and you will get four mutually exclusive answers. I started thinking just how much I have let all this influence my behavior.

I am not the type of person that is easily influenced by people's opinion of me. I know I don't like everyone and everyone won't like me. I am fine with that. I try to treat everyone respectfully whether or not I like them and expect the same. So why do I allow the lie and people's acceptance of it to control how I behave with my daughter? This comes out in so many ways. The most incidious is the belief that I don't deserve to have a real relationship with her. I am her mother but I didn't do the hard part, take care of her when she needed a mother. (mothers, ignore all the reasons, this isn't logical its emotional) Consequently, it is hard for me to accept she does love me and will continue to do so. Where do I fit in her life? How can I fit in her life? For the believers in the lie the answer is simple, nowhere except possibly as a source of genetic/medical information. No wonder I keep doing things like getting very close and then at the slightest hint that I have over-stepped my bounds go scurrying back into my corner. It is a safe corner where I can tell myself that I am treating her as an adult and allowing her to make adult decisions. What I am really doing is letting the lie control me. My behavior is at odds with how I feel and what I want. It is at odds with how I relate to other people. Why the hell should I care about what what the lie says? Why should I give a damn about anyone's opinion on our relationship except my daughter's. I send out so many mixed signals that it makes her dizzy. Most of the time I don't even know I am doing it. I need to look in the mirror more often. I want my relationship with my fdaughter to be one that we define free from what other people think it should be. To do that requires an honesty about what we want and what makes us happy. We are adults and have to make accomodations for the other people that are important to us. That doesn't mean that we have to let their opinion dictate how we behave with each other or how we feel about each other. I am sure I will still do an occassional retreat to my corner. Bad habits are hard to break. I hope I have enough sense the next time to pick up the phone and apologize for my bad behavior and tell her why I am feeling scared or hurt.

Now that I am on a roll, I will give my answers about what kind of a woman can give up her baby. I really love this one. When you are unmarried and pregnant the answer is the unselfish kind who cares more for your child than for your own (hormone induced of course) needs. Thirty years later the answer is a self-indulgent bitch who didn't want to bother with taking responisiblity for her own child. Yep, you got it right. In the court of public opinion and the fog masters you really can't win. The real answer for what kind of woman is as diverse as the women who are in a situation where they need to even consider it. The beauty of it is that that the lie (BEST FOR THE CHILD for those of you that missed my analysis of the root of all evil) works for everyone. Is the child inconvienent? No problem you do whats best for the child and get on with your plans. No harm done. Are you scared that you aren't ready to be a mother? No problem, do what is best for the child. No harm done. Are you financially unable to provide a home? No problem, do what is best for the child. No harm done. Are you in a bad relationship/no relationship. Solve the problem by doing whats best for the child. No harm done. In other words, the lie is perfect and fits all occasions. It is the ultimate little black dress. So every woman has her own reason for wearing the little black dress.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Very Good Day Indeed

It seems that I always am writing about the turmoil of reunion and not sharing the wonderful parts. Today I get to write about a wonderful part. The short story is that my daughter is on her way home from a visit to her parents. Her relationship with her a-mom has always been a bit strained and has been more so since she found out that my daughter and I met and have a relationship. My daughter always said that she just needed time to come around so she would answer questions when asked but otherwise didn't bring it up. Last night her a-mom did bring it up. It was all positive. Her a-mom has come to terms with our relationship and understands that it is not and never was about her. She knows I am not a relacement for her but that I do have a place in my daughter's life. They resolved a whole lot of things but that is her story to tell.

The reason I'm so happy about all this is it resolves one big load of guilt I was carrying around and it resolves a lot for my daughter. One of the things I never wrote about when I talked about not searching for her and the hesitation about contact was how I felt about her parents. Initially there was a lot of fog induced'those are your real parents' crap. It hasn't been like that for a long time. What has made me feel guilty is that the more I heard about her parents the more I understood that her parents are a perfectly nice couple who wanted a child. They didn't know any more about adoption than I did and no one told them anything except here is YOUR baby. The more I heard the more I felt that I would really like these people. In a way I chose them (non-identifying information only naturally). Notice I have no trouble refering to them as her parents, thats what they are. They are the ones who sat up with her all night when she was sick, took her on vacations, and put up with her when she was a nasty teenager and the rest of it. They are the people who parented her. I respect them for that and, as I said, would probably like them if I ever met them. I hated feeling like I was comming between them and my daughter. I hated that she couldn't talk to her parents about a part of her life. I didn't like the idea that I caused them pain. I din't like the idea that it caused my daughter pain when she felt like she was less than honest with them. Her parents understand now and are OK. They still love her and she loves them They know that. I love my daughter and she loves me. We know that. No one has taken anything away from anyone else. I don't think that I will ever have any contact with them and that is OK too. If it is ever something they want, that is fine with me but it is not something I need to take away guilt. Their acceptace of the relationship between my daughter and I is healing. I know it is for my daughter too. It is a very good day.

So my daughter, her parents and I are lucky. We are all in one piece in spite of the lies. I was told that I was doing THE BEST THING FOR THE BABY. Her parents were told that the baby they adopted WILL BE JUST LIKE YOUR OWN. (I guess you aren't supposed to notice the 5" shorter and so not blue eyed blond part) My daughter was told that she should be GREATFUL. I don't know how you can fix adoption or if it is even possible. I do know that a good start is at least stop the lies. No the mother who relinquishes is NOT going to just forget and get on with her life once the hormones settle. (I am not kidding about this, I really was told that it was just hormones when I said anything about wanting to keep my baby. Let me tell you, those are powerful hormones since they have lasted 39 years.) Then they tell the child how lucky she is. (That should have been enough to keep her out of Vegas. If her luck is growing up feeling like an alien gambling should be avoided under all circumstances). So the resolution with her parents is wonderful. As a side effect it makes me more pissed off than ever about the LIE.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Why Is It so Hard To Believe

It has been a hard 10 days. I was finally able to get back on and re-read the last two posts. When I read my daughters last post I immediately saw REJECTION. It was like big bold letters, I DON'T NEED YOU, I HAVE EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE I NEED RIGHT HERE. So what do I do, withdraw and convince myself that she doesn't really want me in her life, I make everything harder for her. What have I been thinking. She is a grown woman and deserves to have her own life and I am in the way. OK, so a lot of you reading this have probably been down this path about 100 times. She calledme. We talked. I am a complete idiot sometimes (an incomplete idiot other times). I just read her last 2 posts. So why am I so able to believe the rejection I saw in the second post and not the love I saw in the previous one? Easy answer, I really don't believe I deserve a second chance. Well I have a second chance and she has given me a third, fourth, fifth etc. Maybe I will learn. I will keep trying.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hiding Behind the Mask

Authenticity...what is it?

As adoptees, many of us hide behind the people-pleasing mask. We are the ultimate chameleons. This has its strong points - most of us have friends from all walks of life and we find something in common with all of them. Learning to adapt is one of our strong suits. It's more than a strong suit - it's a survival mechanism.

In therapy this week, all my doctor had to say was, "How are you?" and I had a major meltdown. Mind you, I rarely cry in his office. And I kept apologizing for crying. I apologized for the suicidal thoughts I had been having. He asked me why I was sorry and smiled at me while he passed the kleenex.

I think I had to let all of that stuff go. Get it out. Get real. I had been holding those people near and dear to me at arm's length without even realizing it. I was so busy trying to keep the smiling face on. I was so busy being supportive of others that I forgot to support myself.

So this week, I let it happen. I let others hold me up. I let my husband really love me. And it felt good. Vulnerability feels good. I am realizing that I have to make an effort not to put on the mask, not to pretend everything is fine when it really sucks, and let my friends be there. That it really is OK for me not to have to be the one that fixes everything all the time.

This week, I rediscovered my true friends, including my Sisters in the Trenches, my music, and that big lug of a man who can be such a thorn in my side some days, but is always there to give me a sloppy kiss and a giant bear hug and remind me what love really is.

Maybe I don't need to be the one who does everything, who fixes everything, who is only there because people NEED something from me. I am starting to learn that sometimes they need to love me, that they WANT to be there for me...that it's not a chore.

Bye bye mask....I'm learning to let go of you.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Fog, or the Multi-Faceted Monster that Won't Quit

With my mother posting so much about "the fog" and what it did to her and our relationship from her side, I figured I should chime in from the adoptee angle.

First and foremost, I'm not sure I was ever totally fogged out. I didn't need to hold on to it for survival like my mother did. I think it was more like a revolving door. As a child, the more I heard I should "be grateful" and how my "birth mother", monster that she must be, was a drug addict and/or a prostitute who was lucky she had sense enough to let a proper couple raise her child, the more I would try to think like everyone else did. Surely there was something wrong with me if I missed this monster of a "birth mother". My childhood wasn't perfect, but it was less flawed than many of my peers had to put up with. Yes, surely being relinquished was the best thing for me, I would think....temporarily. Then I would see a woman that looked like me, or something would remind me, or there would be a birthday or a special occasion, and I would be reminded that dammit, I live alone on my own little island here. I don't know if I was too much of a critical thinker and couldn't buy everyone else's rhetoric, or if I was just a rebellious ass (or a combination of both). I just could never fully accept that adoption was the best thing for me. No way.

When I met my mother in Chicago for the first time, it was like the parting of the Red Sea. We had decided to meet in a crowded airport and see if we could find each other. The only picture I had seen of her was 20 years old and she had chosen not to see a picture of me. She wanted to get to know me on the inside before she looked at the outside. I guess I had an unfair advantage in knowing that I was looking for my twin. It was less than half a second before we found each other. When she held me there in the airport, it was surreal. I WAS HOME. HOME. HOME. I never wanted to let go. I felt guilty, I felt wonderful, I felt sick, I was beyond happy, I was terrified. HOME. Is this what home feels like? What if someone takes it away from me?

The next 3 days were both the best and hardest of my entire life. I was constantly reminded of what I had missed, constantly reminded that these few days of heaven were short-lived and I would have to go back to life as I knew it on the opposite side of the country. I wanted to touch her. The desire to hold her was almost overwhelming. More intense, though, was the desire to have HER reach out for ME. I wanted to be wanted. I wanted her to feel what I felt. Based on her actions, I was so sure she didn't. And what was I, some kind of a freak anyway? What kind of 35 year old woman wants to crawl in bed next to her mother and just do nothing but hold her for 3 days?

I have just realized that I am rambling again. This is difficult to talk about.

Anyway, the fallout for me from this experience - having her retreat back into the fog after we met and send those chatty, one-line emails, refuse to tell me she loved me, and refuse to really show any emotion at all - was to fall back into fear of trust and certainty of rejection. Those walls had started to break down after we spoke for the first time and spent 12 hours running up our phone bills. They started to build up in Chicago again because she wouldn't get close to me. And they got sky-high by the time my birthday rolled around that year. She finally started to break down a bit, but I couldn't trust her. I kept thinking, she relinquished you, she refused contact when you found her, and you expect/deserve WHAT exactly??

So over the past three years, I have been doing this crazy dance. I waltz back and forth from wanting her to be so fucking close to me I can't breathe to wanting to kick her out of my life or turn my back on her emotionally so she can see how it feels. I hate that I do this.

What I really want is for her to want to be close to me.
What I really want is not to have to chase her.
What I really want is for her to let go of the fog lies, to quit telling herself she doesn't deserve it, to have her just take the plunge and let me love her.

But she can't. I can't expect her to. She hurts too much, and I've contributed to that hurt over the years. Sometimes I kick her away because I want to prove to myself and people around me that I can survive without her. Heck, I don't need anyone that doesn't need me, right?

But I think we need each other.
I know I need her.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Reunion in the Fog

I was talking to my daughter yesterday and she was asking me about why I did and said certain things early in our reunion. It accurred to me that I have written about why I had trouble with the whole idea of meeting her and then about what it feels like now. I never have really said much how it was at first. I think it is time I give it a try. As an aside, I am sitting in my den writing this with the assistance of my very new 6 month old kitten Elspth Le Chat (aka Ellie). She is not my beautiful Freija who I miss badly but she is a fine little hellion of a kitten. We have found out the hard way that it is not a good idea to live in an old house in the country without a cat in residence.

Enough of avoidance of the subject. My daughter and I have been in reunion for three years. We met for the first time in Chicago, a neutral city, so we didn't have the spouses, assoted relatives and friends nearby and could just get to know each other. It was wonderful in many ways. We found out we liked the same things, thought the same things were funny, could finish each others sentences and pick out just the right clothes for each other (we both showed up wearing jeans and black tee shirts). It was terrifying for me in many ways. I have never felt so close to a person in my life. I wanted to just hold on to her and bring her home with me. Everything I believed about adoption screamed WRONG! I was some kind of a freak. She couldn't have the same feelings I did. She didn't remember me. I was NOT her mother. Her mother was the woman who adopted her and gave her everything I couldn't. Why should she care for me. She would try to get close and I would pull back. My feelings for her were so strong and 'inappropriate'. She was a grown woman with a family of her own. There was no place for me. She already had a mother she didn't need me to mother her. All this and more. One of the strongest feelings was that I didn't deserve her. In some ways I didn't want her to need me. If she needed me then something was wrong in the perfect world with the loving parents and the swimming pool that was the best thing for her. The problem was that I loved her and believed I had no right to. Her mother deserved that love not me. When I went home after our 3 days together I was numb. I didn't know what to think or how to react. I pulled back and sent her chatty little e-mails. I was so sure that if I bent an inch that I would smother her and she would run away as fast as she could from the crazy woman who thought she could just waltz into her life and be mommy. In short, I put up barriers based on what I thought she should want and on the lie.

It is hard to explain what it is like being in reunion and clinging to the fog (the lie). I had gotten through 35 years believing that I did the best thing for her. That belief is what got me through all the hard times of wondering where she was, how she was and just feeling empty without her. Wherever she was it was a much better place than I could have provided. I clung to that belief like a life line. It has caused more harm to our reunion than anything else but I just couldn't see it. I can understand how some women can never get by it. I just kept setting up rules about how I should act with her. Sometimes I would slip and let my feelings show. Naturally I would then jump back to the nice safe place in the fog and go for the caring adult relationship. My feelings terrified me. I couldn't face the idea of her not being part of my life but I had to protect her from from the crazy woman who wanted to just run away with her. I had to be an adult. I had to let her be an adult. I started reading and the first truth I came to accept was that adoptees have a lot in common including feeling rejected (well duh) and never being quite good enough. OK, I could help her with that. I could reassure her that I did what was best for her because I loved her and let her know she was more than good enough for me (actually I think she is amazing). There is an interesting set of boundries, give what you think your daughter needs/wants but never ask for anything. It makes perfect sense with the lie. Just what everyone needs, their own personal martyr. After all this, the short answer about what reunion is like is terrifying. It is not because I cared too little it is because I thought I cared too much and would smother her.

I am still working on this. Even after recognizing the lie for what it is. it is still hard for me to ask for anything because I don't want to be demanding. I still back off and give her 'room' even when she doesn't want it because I am afraid by holding her too close I will loose her. I'm working on it.