Tuesday, November 20, 2007

When Things Get Scary

I found out something that scared me deeply yesterday. My birthmother has been diagnosed with cancer.

Apparently, it is very treatable and the doctor expects her to be fine after a minor procedure to remove the cancer.

But I didn't know that right away. It came up, accidentally, in an e-mail, and I spent a few hours worrying about it. She feels awful about that. She didn't even want to tell me until it was taken care of so that I wouldn't worry. And I completely understand.

What surprised me is how much it upset me. I'm generally fine about death. There has only been one person close to me who has died that really, really upset me. Not because I'm a heartless bastard, I think. I just have a very matter-of-fact attitude about death. The one that bothered me was a suicide and should not have happened.

But yesterday, I was horrified that I might lose her so soon after finding her. It really shook me up a little.

It reminded me, once more, of how much a little kid I feel in all of this. All my adult reactions are out the window when she's around. At this point, I just want her to be around, to be there to make it all okay. It's not rational, I know. And I did calm down, even before I was completely reassured, but my initial reaction was that of a child. It was a basic fear of losing her again.

I keep hoping this will mellow. People assure me that it does. So far, it hasn't. But I suppose it's all still pretty new.

For now, I'm just glad she's going to be okay.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rewriting History

If you had talked to me a year ago about my adoptive parents, I would have been nicer than if you had talked to me twenty years ago. I've come along way in my thinking about them. I always loved them. But I was really upset with them for much of my adolescence.

In that, I don't think I'm special. Many kids go through that. My phase, though, lasted well into my twenties. I had a lot of issues with them.

But once I moved away, that began to subside. I began to get some perspective. And most importantly, though I never said anything to them directly, I forgave them for being human. I hadn't forgotten their flaws. I just recognized that we all have them.

So a year ago (say) I would have said mostly positive things about my parents. But I wouldn't have said they were perfect. I had real complaints about my childhood. And while I don't care to rehash those now, here, I think I would have been honest about my own feelings about my childhood.

Since finding my birth mother, though, that has all changed. It's almost as if, to protect my birth mother, and to prove my loyalty to my adoptive parents, I feel the need to rewrite history. I have to paint a rosier picture than the one I would have painted before finding her. I have to eliminate all the bad from the story of my life. I would feel horrible saying anything negative about my adoptive parents. And I wouldn't want her to feel bad for any of it.

So I purify my own biography. I don't know if I'm being dishonest or if I'm beginning to recognize more of the good than I had before. But I suspect it's the former. And that's bad all around. Yet I don't know how to overcome the impulse to purify.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Report on Open Records

I posted this on Over A Candle, but I should have posted it here, as well. So here's a bit of a cross post. A news story about a report advocating for open records for adoptees and a link to the report...

Unseal adoptees' birth records, report urges:

NEW YORK - It's among the most divisive questions in the realm of adoption: Should adult adoptees have access to their birth records, and thus be able to learn the identity of their birth parents?

In a comprehensive report being released Monday, a leading adoption institute says the answer is 'Yes' and urges the rest of America to follow the path of the eight states that allow such access to all adults who were adopted.

'States' experiences in providing this information make clear that there are minimal, if any, negative repercussions,' said the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. 'Outcomes appear to have been overwhelmingly positive for adult adopted persons and birthparents alike.'

I'm not terribly impressed by consequentialist arguments. I happen to believe that it's a matter of rights and equal protections under the law. But, for people who may be of a more consequentialist persuasion, this is an interesting finding.

Here's the link to the full report: "For the Records: Restoring a Right to Adult Adoptees" from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute

Monday, November 12, 2007

Being a Child

One of the things that has struck me being in reunion is how much I feel like a child again.

What I mean is that my feelings seem to be the feelings of a child.

I'm grown up. I have grown up concerns. I have grown up emotions.

Or I did. At one point. Now I have the feelings of a child.

I want my mom.

Seriously, that's what it feels like. I want my mom. I want her to put her arms around me, and make it okay. These are feelings I've had for years that I've suppressed since I was what... ten?

I'm excited to the point of grinning stupidly when I get an e-mail from her. And when a few days go by without an e-mail, I worry. I want to go visit her, even though that's out of the question at the moment.

All these feelings from childhood that have been locked away for years, come out now.

It's hard to be a mature adult when your emotional state is that of a small boy.

Monday, November 5, 2007


One thing that my reunion has done is bring up a lot of emotions that I never really dealt with much before.

I am feeling a lot of sadness and a lot of anger right now. Not at my birth mother. And not at my adoptive parents. All of them did the best they could for me. I have few complaints. (I have some, mind you. What child who was raised by other human beings doesn't have some complaint? We're imperfect creatures, after all.)

But I still feel anger. I'm mad at the situation. I'm mad at the social workers, the nuns, society, and even my birthmom's mother, who didn't giver her a choice. I'm angry about what I've lost, even though I was taken care of. I'm angry at the time that's been lost, and the questions that have long festered.

I also recognize that, while being angry is understandable, I can't let it take me over. I need to do something I've never been able to do before. I have to give myself permission to feel it, without letting it totally consume me. If I bury it, I'm just doing what I've done my whole life. And if I don't rein it in some, then I become embittered. I don't want that, either.

All of this just raises my long-standing ambivalence toward adoption. I don't think I've ever been completely against adoption. (Maybe because that raises too many questions about my own situation that I can't face up to?) But I also have thought it was highly problematic. And I still don't know what to say about it all. I just know that, even if it does sometimes seem like a necessity, that it should never be celebrated. It comes from pain and loss. And that has to be acknoweldged. And I've been really bad at acknowledging it in the past. Now it feels like it's overwhelming.

So for now I just keep on keeping on... I don't know what else to do.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

National Adoption Month

Today is the beginning of National Adoption Month. The day to celebrate adoption everywhere!

Unless, of course, you are adopted. Then it's a bit more complicated than that.

Adoption, for me, sets up a great deal of cognitive dissonance. I love my adoptive parents. They did a good job raising me. (At least, they didn't do any worse by me than they did for their biological children.)

And yet I can't help but wonder what my life would have been if I had been raised by my birth mother.

Does that make me disloyal? I can't have it both ways. I can't have been raised by both sets of parents. But that's what it feels like I want. I don't know how to make sense of this sometimes.

I am who I am because of my past. All of my past. The good the bad. The adoption. My adoptive parents' divorce. The problems with my peers. The fun I had. All of that leads up to the person I am today. If I change any of it, I cease to exist. So I can't really want it to be different. And yet I do sometimes. I suppose that's true about a lot of things, not just the adoption. But adoption brings all of this into sharp relief for me.

It's all very confusing. I'd feel a whole lot better about National Adoption Month if people were more honest about the complexity of adoption and how it affects the adoptees. Until that happens, I just can't feel good about a month that celebrates all of this.