Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Different Stages

I have a friend.  I'll call her "D."

She's an old friend from back in my high school days.  Her oldest daughter and my middle son - the first child I raised - were born within weeks of each other.  And her first granddaughter and my first granddaughter where also born within weeks of one another.

Just in that we have a connection.  Two old friends with children and then, over two decades later, grandchildren, VERY close together in age.

But we also have another connection.  One I wish we didn't share.  One that breaks my heart to know she suffers the same pain, the same loss, that I do.

"D" and I share the heartbreaking loss of giving up a child for adoption.

Her loss came years after mine, during a time when we were no longer in contact.

I wasn't one of those First Moms, whispering in her ear, encouraging her to just do it.  Just give up her baby because I was so ridiculously happy with giving up my own child.

I didn't influence her in the way so many new First Moms do.  I didn't become her guidance, her push to follow in my footsteps.

And yet, there is still a part of me that feels responsible for her loss, her child's loss.  A part that wonders if there is anything I could have done, could have said, in those years before we lost contact, that would have saved her and her child from living the same nightmare my son and I live.

If I had been honest with myself during those first years after giving up my son, if I hadn't slipped so willingly into denial, maybe she would have had more of a personal knowledge of what it was really like to lose a child to adoption.

What if I had admitted to her, all those years ago, how desperately I wanted to keep my son once I gave birth to him?  How when, two years later, my middle son was born, I had a panic attack in the hospital.  How, just three weeks later, on Christmas Day, I refused to let others hold him because I couldn't bear to let him leave my arms.

Maybe if she had seen the suffering that I didn't even recognize as being a direct response to giving up my oldest son, she would have been saved from living the rest of her life with this hell.

But how could she know when I didn't even know?

How could she have a clue to what was happening to me in those early years after giving up my son when I was so firmly entrenched in my role as a good, grateful "beemommie."

When I was what so many new First Moms are today . . . numb and naive to the true pain giving my son up for adoption had caused.  Determined and desperate to be who I was "supposed" to be . . . thankful for the chance to give my child, my own flesh and blood, away to a so-called, more deserving couple.

"D's" story and what she and her child went through is heartbreaking.  And though it isn't my place to tell her own personal experience, I can say that I would give anything to go back in time.  To have just one chance, one opportunity, to sit with her and be truly honest with her, even when I couldn't be honest with myself.

As cliché as it sounds, I wish I knew then what I knew now.  I wish I hadn't lived in the denial, in the well-counseled mode of who and what I was supposed to be.

I wish I had known, had just even a clue, to the true danger my denial caused, not just me, but those close to me.

Maybe, just maybe, I could have done something to change what happened to "D" and her child.  Maybe I could have set their destiny on a different path than the pain and grief it has become.

But I was, instead, what the adoption industry wanted me to be, breeds so many First Moms to be . . . a product of the belief that I was unworthy of my child.  That others were more deserving.  And it was my job to go out and spread praise and joy for all pregnant mothers who might somehow match my worthiness by giving their children away as gifts to all the poor, needy couples out there who would never know parenthood without our sacrifice of our own children for their happiness.

It's a dangerous place to be. Not just for those of us who have already given up our children.  But for the others.  Those who trust what we share with them as real without having any idea of the denial so many First Moms live within during the beginning of their adoption journey.  Without having any idea to how so many have been shaped by the attack against their self esteem and the counseling they received to use such insecurities as a way to guarantee they behave as expected.

Tonight, more than usual, I've thought of this, struggled with it.  As I sit here, almost twenty-five years into it, still so young and raw compared to the grief so many others have struggled with, and yet so much further than the new First Moms of today have ventured. I find myself wanting to do whatever I can to protect those still to come from living this life I have known.

Find myself desperately needing to protect others where I couldn't protect "D."  Doing whatever I can so they don't know this grief, this reality that is adoption and never ends, no matter how much you might wish it to be so.

Where I once was the "feel-good" product of the adoption industry, I am no longer. And I refuse to sit back and do nothing, say nothing, while others, under the same influence, the same need for denial, repeat the mistakes I made . . . bring damage to those who deserve better than what we show, what we share, in those beginning years of what is a unending process of having to deal with just how deep and traumatic adoption has affected our lives.

I see it like the stages of grief.  There are certain steps mothers who have lost their children to adoption, go through.  For so many of us, it's very close to the same, over and over again.  Our stories are similar, mirror one another in the same way those who have suffered loss in other ways are a repeat of another's experience . . .

There are always differences in the time frame, the full reaction, some of the results.  But for the majority of it, our journey from such terrible loss to finally accepting such a loss in a healthy manner, is so very similar, we recognize it with ease because it is so familiar to what we have known on our own path.

And in our wisdom, and what we know, we would never accept or encourage those in the first stages of grief to counsel and advise others.

But in adoption, we not only encourage it.  We accept it.  Want it.  Hold it as a good thing.

Those on the first stage of what is a life-long reality of adoption are the ones so many in the world of adoption cling to, grasp as the "truth" they seek to paint the separation of a mother and her child as a good thing.

Still fresh from the crisis they faced when experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.  Under the crushing belief that they were not good enough for their children. Counseled by those they trusted to give away their child as a "gift" to some "more worthy" woman - these mothers are used and exposed in the worst of ways.

Their experiences are so raw, so far from a true reality.  Yet they are sought and encouraged by those hoping more will follow along the same path. 

Wanted so that others will never know the true, life-long affect adoption brings with it.  But instead will believe giving up their baby will make them feel as good, as justified, as saved, as those mothers who are so new, so naive, in the true journey they face.

Adoption doesn't end.  It just doesn't. 

And I'm so tired, so worn out, from witnessing one frightened, desperate mother after another following the same path I followed, "D" followed, so many First Moms have followed.

I don't want to risk just even one more mother crying in pain and wishing she didn't have to live the reality of adoption.  Praying, with everything inside of her, that she could just have a normal life.  Be free from the grief that never seems to end.

What happened to "D" and her child will always weigh heavy on my shoulders. 

But from that I have also found more determination to fight so that more mothers are spared the painful reality that comes with living a lifetime of adoption and all the stages that it brings.

To fight so that maybe, just maybe, voices like mine will be heard and will help spare mothers and their children from being separated in such a painful, heart-wrenching way.


  1. Great post, Cassi.
    I've wished so many times to turn the clock back for my daughter and granddaughter. I am so sorry for your loss to adoption.

  2. We have to keep sharing the truth. Telling of the pain that will not ever subside.

    I wish I would have had a first mom to come beside me during those uncertain months while I was pregnant.

    Maybe if enough of us keep yelling our stories out loud, maybe, just maybe, one unsuspecting young woman will hear us and be spared joining our very sad club.

  3. You can't beat yourself up over not having helped "D" Cassi. I used to beat myself up, get so mad at the denial I lived in for so long. Until I learned about how the brain works in/after trauma. Our brain doesn't let the entirety of the trauma/loss sink in as a way of survival. We are only able to deal with it in pieces, in our own time. If I had to/was able to live with the reality of how deep the loss of my son was, I would not be alive today. I fully believe I would have drowned myself in alcohol and/or drugs, or taken my own life. 15 year old Susie could never have handled the reality that almost did me in as a 46 year old woman with a life full of support. It has only been in the last couple of months that I have found a sense of acceptance over the loss of my son to adoption ~ almost 4 years after being reunited and thrown out of the denial.

  4. I agree with Susie. You should not beat yourself up because you were not able to help your friend more. Denial comes automatically and unbidden. You should feel very good about yourself for all that you are doing NOW!

  5. Yeah, adoption agencies are a real piece of work aren't they? Making mothers feel like they aren't good enough for their own child and making adoptees feel like they aren't good enough to know their own mother's name. Un fucking believable. Can ya feel the love?

  6. I"m having a heck of a time trying to leave a comment.. I don't think any of them have gone through, so am trying one more time. Feel free to delete the others if they did go through....

    None of us can change the past. I keep asking people if they've found a time machine, because I'd go back to my earlier self in a heartbeat and grab my own baby until I was out of the hospital, and give it back to me, destroying my current self. I'd TOTALLY do it. But, I can't.

    What I can do, and we can all do, and what I believe we are attempting to do, is change the here and now and prevent the destruction of present and future moms from the tragedy of adoption. One way I invite all of you to participate, is by signing on to the http://facebook.com/OpenAdoptionLegalProject, or going to my blog, and seeing what we're up to. We want to hold agencies and lawyers accountable for their crimes. If you don't want to participate, you can still help by spreading the word.

  7. Cassi...I am an adoptee, and when I read posts like yours all I can think of is how much suffering there is among first parents and the adult children that were once the babies they relinquished. So.much. suffering. I am 46 and only this year am I beginning to get in touch with it. I read letters my mother wrote just this year. She wrote them in 1966 right after I was born. I got my original record. So many lies from people involved. No lies from my original parents but from so many other people. My mother has suffered, I know she has, and now I know that I have, too. I just don't know how to connect the dots to connect with her again.

    Then what did I do? I adopted a beautiful girl from China and just continued the cycle...brainwashed. I grieve for her parents, too.

    And no one who isn't a first parent or adoptee can begin to fathom it...both groups are selfish and just need to "move on". We ALL know it is not that simple.

    I just wish adoptees and first parents could help each other more. I am sure it happens. I don't plan to live the rest of my life being totally devastated all the time...that is not a life. I have worked so hard to keep my head above water all my life, to fit in and please in a family of strangers. I had to pick them over my OWN MOTHER when they challenged my relationship with her. I betrayed my own mother. I am just so sorry for the hurt all of us feel.

    It's like a cancer that has treatment but little hope for a real cure. We just have to live with it forever. I know you mothers are tired, too. I hope we can just find a way to love each other in some measure .

  8. I'm a birthmom who was in denial for a while, but with therapy I have come to see the light and understand my (and my sons') profound loss. www.letterstomylostsuns.wordpress.com

  9. Cassi: What happened happened, and your could should not take responsibility for D. You are doing good work now by writing this blog and somewhere someone is reading your words of wisdom and deciding that she will keep her child. We who are out and open are doing the best we can, day by day. Babies babies are so prized in today's culture, and the adoption industry works very hard to convince some women in desperate straits that they are not "worthy" to raise their own children that all we can do is keep in writing and speaking out.

    rest in peace, my sister, and have a good holiday with your loving family.