Friday, April 8, 2011

What If

I keep seeing, over and over again, the suggestion that those of us who blog about adoption, from whatever side we might be on, are not “representative” of the normal, everyday folks who walk the same journey.

I hear it mostly in regards to Adoptees and First Moms. The suggestion that we are a minority and don’t truly portray the overall feelings of Adoptees and First Moms who don’t blog about their experiences.

We are the weird ones. The ones who don’t truly portray adoption as what it is. We’re those ones to pat on the head and say, “Oh so sorry for your experience, but it isn’t the norm so you really shouldn’t be given much credit for what you have to say.”

It is, to me, just another way to ignore and discredit the truths that are being spoken, over and over again, in adoption blog world. It’s a denial of the painful side that so many don’t want to acknowledge. Because it is much easier to say, “So sorry for your experience but it’s not like the majority” than it is to say, “I want to hear and listen and learn from another side I might not have thought about before.”

I firmly believe it takes a strong, brave person to dare to step into waters they have never waded through before. To open themselves up to hearing something different than what they believe, have been told or witness in their day to day life. It takes courage to ask yourself . . .

“. . . what if . . . ”

--What if, the Adoptees and First Moms who blog about adoption are actually the ones who have fought the boundaries of having to be what is expected from them and are finally honest about their feelings when it comes to the loss of adoption?--

It took me a long time to fight against the bonds that held me in the happy “beemommie” stage. Even when I was starting to slip free from my denial and questioning everything that happened, I never dared to say anything different to anyone about my feelings. Even to my own husband, and my parents, who are as close to me as anyone can get.

I spent years, terrified of sharing what I was actually feeling, because, in my mind, it was wrong. It took a lot of time before I even found the slightest bit of courage to post what I do here on my blog. It took finally breaking free of what was expected from me and becoming my own person before I dared to ever send a single word out into the blog world.

--What if, those who blog, have a life outside of the blog world and come across, more times than some might think, others who are more open, more honest, when they find that kindred soul who allows them to say and feel what they need to, instead of what they are expected to feel.—

Overall, Adoptees and First Moms are told to be thankful for their loss.
How many times have we heard that Adoptees are told they should be grateful they were adopted because it saved them from abortion and gave them better lives?

And, as a First Mom, there were very few times, in the past, that I would say anything about what I was truly feeling because I knew it was going to come with the same response I had heard, over and over and over and over . . . .   again . . . “At least you can be thankful that you gave your son a better life.”

It wasn’t until I began to find other First Moms who were daring to speak out about their true feelings that I was finally able to be honest with others about how I was feeling. It took knowing that there were others out there who understood what I was going through and wouldn’t give me the same mumbo jumbo I heard for years to give me the ability to speak out about my own true feelings.

And I saw the proof of this in another just last summer. I met her only once and only for a couple hours. I was at an old friend’s house when his younger brother showed up with a girl he was dating – a short lived relationship. She was only twenty and had given up her child for adoption only six months earlier.

She didn’t know immediately that I was a First Mom myself and as she talked to me, she said all the right things, repeated the script us First Moms are expected to say to anyone who asks about our experience. But when she was done, I didn’t repeat back the same “scripted” response. Instead I hugged her and told her I was sorry for her loss. That I had lost my own child to adoption and it was, for me, the worst thing I had ever gone through.

And her response . . . she cried. And cried. And cried.

I will never forget that moment. I will never forget how long we stood out there on the back porch while I held her and she let go of the pain that was inside of her.

It didn’t matter what she had been taught to say . . . I couldn’t give him what he deserved so I decided to place him for adoption . . . I knew I wasn’t prepared to parent so I gave a gift to a couple who couldn’t have children of their own . . . I’m happy just to know he will have everything I couldn’t provide . . . etc . . . etc . . . etc.”

In that moment, on that summer evening, she was allowed to just hurt. To cry and feel the pain that was inside of her because somebody else understood. Somebody else acknowledged that losing a child was the worst thing anyone could ever go through. The boundaries were gone and she was free to feel however she needed to feel.

--What if, with open adoption being the norm now, there are many First Moms out there who don’t dare share with anyone their true feelings because they know they could very well risk the adoptive parents closing the adoption.—

Back in March, I wrote about a new First Mom who faced the terrible reality of the adoptive parents closing the adoption because she wasn’t “happy.” They didn’t like that she was grieving and hurting and so thought the solution was to restrict her from having any contact with her child.

And her story, sadly, is one I have seen over and over again happen to First Moms. The minute they step over the line and share too much of their feelings, they are cut off from any contact with their child. It doesn’t matter what promises they were made. If they show anything that does not fall in to what is expected from them, they are left without the openness they were promised.

--What if, plain and simply, there are First Moms and Adoptees who don’t want to, or know how to, blog. What if they aren’t writers. What if their lives are just so overwhelming, they don’t even want to think of what it would take to maintain a blog. What if they just aren’t ready to go that public with their experience. –

When I finally decided to bring my two worlds – real life and adoption – together, I placed my blog address on my Facebook page, letting everyone and anyone who knew me find and read my experience and my opinions on adoption.

Since I have done that, I have been contacted by four women who I went to school with (one happens to be my husband’s first serious girlfriend way back when) who, unknown to me, also lost their children to adoption. They don’t blog, they don’t share their experience on Facebook or anywhere else, but they wanted to let me know that they understood and felt the same way. That what I wrote made sense to them because they were there too. They just didn’t write about what happened to them.

And in the different groups I have belonged to (both online and in real life) for First Moms, there are so MANY women who share their stories, their pain, their grief, who don’t have a blog or share their experience in any way in the public forum.

Some don’t do it because they just aren’t strong enough, in this part of their journey, to share their stories in the blog world. Some don’t because they believe setting up and maintaining a blog takes more time and knowledge than they have. And some don’t because, for them, all they need, all they want, is that understanding from another person who has been where they have been to give them the support they need to make it through another day.

--What if many of the experiences seen as normal are still in the “young” stage of their adoption journey. What if they have not yet experienced what the loss of a child feels like after ten, twenty or more years. What if they were more than capable of raising their child but are not yet at the point in their lives where they realize that or begin to question why others told them they were unable to.--

There is a common theme among many First Moms who lost their children to adoption. They started out, in the early years, believing what they were told. Believing they were undeserving of being a mother, unable to raise their child in the way he or she deserved.

They cloaked their loss with the same sentiment many new First Moms today do, by hiding it behind being grateful and happy they gave their child a better life. Offered a gift to some random couple more fit to be parents.

It’s not hard to hear what they have to say about their past experience and compare it to what new First Moms today have to say. Most of it is repeated word for word, whether it’s separated by a year or ten years.

When you lose your child, that intimate part of you that you can never get back, it can, many times, be an act of self-preservation to hold on to the belief that the pain you feel inside is okay because you did the right thing. To believe the grief and loss will get better, like you were told, as time goes on.

There are, most often, two choices you can make after giving up your baby. You either continue to believe you weren’t good enough for your child and the pain and loss is worth it because you gave him or her a better life. Or you take in and accept that heart-wrenching ache that is inside of you and live with it for so many, MANY years to come.

And I firmly believe, no matter if it is in real life, in blog world, or anywhere else, the majority of First Moms out there are traveling one of these two paths. Either they need to accept, “the pain is worth it because my child deserved more than I could offer” train of thought to help them handle and deal with the loss that, if allowed to, can overwhelm them. Or they have stepped past that boundary, allowed themselves to truly grieve the loss of their child and now face years of living with such a painful emotion that so many will never understand.

What changes though, over the years, for the ones who hold on to the belief that their pain and loss is worth it because they were unfit to be a mother, is the realization that the pain doesn’t go away like they promised. That time gives us an insight that makes us realize many of our insecurities and doubts were unfounded. And that age brings wisdom and the need to question what happened to us during the times we felt so young and naïve.

It is then we realize what common sense and our own true feelings have told us all along, losing a child is one of the worst pains a mother can suffer. Trusting strangers to raise our own flesh and blood because they have more money, marriage, a nice home, just isn’t right.

And the worst one, that seems to knock us all back and leave us breathless . . . our children deserved us. They deserved their mothers to step up and do everything they could to give them the better lives WITHOUT giving them away. They deserved everything we gave to any other children that came before or after their births. They deserved to have us be just as much, work just as hard, do what we should have, to keep and care for them just as we have done, or are doing, for the sons and/or daughters we kept.

Such an understanding is one, from my own personal experience, that is hell to accept and acknowledge, much less write about for all to read. And maybe that is where I, and others, are in the minority from all the new First Moms who are out there. Because we can admit that now. We can admit that sacrificing for our child meant giving up our own life, our own freedom to be whatever he or she needed. Not handing them over to strangers to raise. Not walking out of the hospital empty-handed believing our life would go on as usual while changing theirs forever.

And maybe that is where it is. Maybe that is why those of us who blog about adoption aren’t seen as the “norm.” Because admitting we failed our children. Facing the truth that we should have been there when we weren’t, is a hard step to take and an even harder fact to live with.

And who really wants to say that, admit to that when they risk being the “bad” mother all over again?

In that, I guess we are the minority and don’t fit the norm. But that doesn’t, and never will, change my belief that if someone just takes the time to ask “what if” and dares to look deeper , they might not be so quick to disregard a bloggers experiences as, not so important, because it doesn’t fit what they think they know.

Because, for many of us, our stories are shared in the experiences of others. We speak where others can’t, for whatever reason. But our voices are still just as strong and just as important. We don’t walk this journey alone or in the minority. We walk it with many who have come before us and will come after us. We walk it, and share it, together, with everyone who has ever experienced the loss of adoption and the continuing affects it has, and will continue to have, in our lives.

***Just to make it known, the experiences of First Moms that I mention are in regards to those who lost their children to adoption after the BSE/EMS era that forever marks our countries history. Those moms have a completely different story that I can't pretend to ever know or fully understand.***


  1. Yes, I'm one of those mothers, the angry ones, one of the ones that didn't kill themselves. So, yes, I'm in the in-between of states of loss of motherhood.

    I think that is the response I'm going to give next time I hear that statement re: me being the exception.

    I know when I lost my daughter, I didn't speak about it for years. Till my daughter was 6. I wish it were sooner, because I found out that the statute of limitations ends after five years... (coincidently?) about the same time adoptions close.

  2. Excellent post as usual, Cassi!

    But you know what? I think we ARE the norm. More and more of us are speaking out about how we have survived DESPITE what adoption has done to us.

  3. *nod nod* Denial or full-on embracing of pain, yay what a choice *smirk* I've actually lost friends over my "angry" adoption blogging, because they couldn't face that what I was saying was TRUE and that maybe the mothers of their adopted children were lying to their faces that they were fine with adoption (probably lying to protect their open adoption). I used to think I just *deserved* this pain, because I failed to stand up to my family and keep my son, I failed him, and myself, and this pain is the price I pay. I'm not sure that I don't still believe it, ugh :(

  4. I agree 100%. I too know of other first mothers who feel the way I do and who don't blog and would never comment on forums.
    Somehow the adoption myths must be shattered forever.

  5. FABULOUS post Cassi... as always!! Thankyou so much for this blog! I had chills running down my spine as I read this because I have asked myself the exact same question and thought the same things.

    "They don’t blog, they don’t share their experience on Facebook or anywhere else, but they wanted to let me know that they understood and felt the same way. That what I wrote made sense to them because they were there too. They just didn’t write about what happened to them."

    How true is this?! I know you were saying this in regards to your friends but there are so many other mothers out there who are in the same boat. I know because I get emails from mothers who don't leave comments but would rather tell me in private about their stories. It isn't easy opening your life to strangers across the world so they can see your vulnerable side which has been kept secret for oh so long. To blog about one's most painful part in one's life is not the easy road.

    People dismiss the blogs of adoptees and mothers because what we say makes them uncomfortable and angry that we are not conforming to the strict expectation and 'code' they laid out for us... hence they need to say we are in the minority. The fact THEY are in the wrong could not possibly be explored because that would mean not getting what they want... either $$$ in the case of agencies or a child in the case of adopters.

    If people stopped to listen and learn, I doubt adoption would have a real future and many more would be calling for a new law to replace it and protect the countless number of children and mothers being led to the adoption guillotine.

  6. "But you know what? I think we ARE the norm. More and more of us are speaking out about how we have survived DESPITE what adoption has done to us."

    AMEN Linda xxx

  7. Excellent post!

    This is a big part of why I started blogging. This is a great kick-in-the-butt for me to get writing again. I need to continue (as Linda said) to speak out about how I have survived DESPITE what adoption has done to me.

  8. Great Post Cassie,

    I think there are many, MANY first moms and Adoptees who likely read your blog and obtain some comfort in being understood/not feeling alone.

    I read your blog and other blogs by First Moms and Adoptees and I think-- these are only the ones brave enough to publicly blog about their experiences.

  9. Sometimes I feel like posting pics, of my entire life, each stage of my childrens lives, so then maybe others can see how "Normal" my life is. I'm not some freak of nature, or exception to any rule. I'm fairly common, and I think my experiences are fairly common. Maybe not pretty, or ideal, but common.