Friday, March 20, 2009

Holding the first mama in one's heart...

It's a see-saw of emotions, this adoption journey. One the one hand, there is the joy of seeing pictures of one's soon-to-be child, hugging one's mother. On the other hand, there is the sadness of knowing a biological mother is most likely in grievous pain. Knowing my joy is at the expense of another woman's pain, is... well, it's hard to fully allow myself the joy part.

Adoption would not exist without loss. And with loss there is grief. On everyone's side, but especially the biological mothers' and childs'.

When I try to explain this to my friends and acquaintances, they then try to "make it better" for me. One response was along the lines of "that's fate, that's how the world works". Another was along the lines of "maybe you will raise her to be the one who goes back to Ethiopia and really changes things." And that's all well and good. And I appreciate my friends trying to make things better. BUT. It doesn't erase the fact that there is a mother somewhere in Addis, who made the decision, for whatever reason she had, to give her daughter up and has to deal with those feelings now.

I wish I could meet this woman and make her some promises. I imagine the not knowing is very difficult.... Obviously, I cannot speak for the birth mothers. I cannot imagine their emotions or maintain more than a seconds worth of empathy... that kind of pain isn't imaginable or sustainable unless you are going through it yourself. Not knowing if your daughter was one of the 'lucky ones" who ended up in a care center rather than a orphanage, who ended up being adopted by a 'rich foreigner' and will have all of life's luxuries including food, clean water and an education. Or worrying that she ended up in one of the over crowded orphanages with substandard care, got an illness, didn't survive... As a first mom, she is handing over her child, presenting her to the Gods, the world, the fates, and saying (in a way) : "I trust, I hope, please take good care of her..." and not knowing if anyone is listening or going to act on that prayer.

If I was a biological mother, I think knowing that someone was caring for her as her own mother, loving her as a mother should, not abusing her, and putting her first in all aspects... that might ease my heart just a little. Not totally, but it would be better than thinking she was in a horrible situation and that I relinquished her to that horrible situation. I would be looking to blame myself for anything bad that happened to her. As an adoptive mom, I am not judgemnental of the first moms at all.... but as a first mom, I know I would be judgemental of myself. We are always harder on ourselves than others, aren't we?

So I wish I could meet her mother, and thank her in whatever inadequate way I could think of. I wish I could assure her that we would be sending pictures frequently, visiting as often as finances allowed, and sending home made cards and remembrances on mother's Day or whatever the Ethiopian equivalent is...

My agency doesn't allow contact with the birth family at all. Some agencies do, once, in a very formal meeting. But mine doesn't. Apparently it is not something that is encouraged by the U.S. or Ethiopian governments. That makes me really sad. Also, for my daughter. I think as she gets older she will want to know about her first mother, and I will not be able to tell her much of anything.

Another blogger has put it in a much more eloquent way. I recommend her piece.


K Leclercq said...

I struggled with this a lot during my son's adoption. I've said countless prayers that she is filled with a sort of peace knowing that he is so very loved. It's hard. It can suck. It's so much larger than any one of us.

J-momma said...

you didn't leave me your email address to invite you to the private blog.

Caroline, a lecturing mother of three who talks too much! said...

Dear Mika,
I'm not at all familiar with writing on "blogs", so I hope this works and that you do get this message!
I've known your parents for a couple of years and your dad gave me your blog!
We have 3 children: a biological daughter who is now 12, and two adopted children:a daughter from Peru, she was 11 months old when we adopted her and is now 10 and a son from Haiti who was 2 and a half when we got his first photo and 3 and a half when we could finally go to get him! He is now 6.
Your qestions about the biological mother are something that I fully understand and had to struggle with myself. We had two very different experiences with the two adoptions. For Carmen we knew nothing: she was left at the hospital the day after her birth and we have no clue about her "past" Whereas for our son, we have almost too much information! We knew a lot about his sisters (he has 3 and one has been abandonned after him and adopted by a single mother in the north of France, since I am French and have family close by, we all met last summer after she had arrived and keep in touch very regularly.)his grandmother, uncles and aunts...and we met his biological mother as we were in Haiti. That hadn't been planned at all, it just happened! She came up to the house where we were staying which is also the office of the head of the orphanage. She came to get some news: had both her children been adopted and left, were they still there...? The meeting although unprepared went really well. As you said, I could reassure her and thank her and tell her that I would take good care of her son and would send pictures and news and that she could always come to the office to see them: she cannot read or write and doesn't have any address! But even though that went well, I don't think that it made it easier to meet her. I respect both my children's past and biological parents and I know that if they ever want to go back and look for their relatives, I would help and support them. We actually went to Peru last spring as Carmen wanted to see her country after the adoption of her brother. We didn't look for her biological mother, she hadn't asked that and we felt she was a little too young for that anyway particularly since ahe hadn't asked for it. But when we met our son's biological mother, we were all there: my husband, my two other daughters and the one child who didn't really tell my son's bioilogical mother goodbye and left rather abruptly was carmen. As we got to the car, we were about to leave, she was in tears and sobbed for a long time. We couldn't get any explanation out of her: the emotion was too intense and I believe she wasn't even sure herself why she was crying. Much later we managed to put some words on those emotions and it was: "she must have been so sad to see her son go and then it was: how was it for my biological mother?"
As you said adoption means loss and parting but it also means love and caring. Carmen had noone to hold her for the first 11 months of her life. She was in a room with 25 other babies and only 2 nurses to look after them. She lacked in so many things. Obviously she has those unanswered questions: why ? who is she? what happened?... But in my son's case, there are some answers: she was poor, she felt it was the best way, she couldn't cope anymore...that doesn't make it easier, two of his siters are still there as far as we know, he cannot really remember them but Cassandra who lives in the north of France does, she is actually the one who tells us and him what she remembers from time to time...because at the same time she doesn't want to be constantly reminded of that past, she wants to move on. The past is part of them but they don't want to be constantly reminded of it: it is partly painful too!
I think the key words are respect and love. Some agencies do not want the adoptive parents to meet the biological ones because they think of the child and as we met our son's mother, the head of the orphanage dashed out of her office as well as a social worker just to make sure that it would be ok for him: that he wouldn't feel torn. She wanted to make sure that the goodbyes wouldn't be too emotional because his life had to move on, the parting /the loss had been done a year and a half before, and he didn't seem to even recognize her!
Anyway this is a lot of talking...just to say that I understand how you feel but you are going to be her mom and you can respect and thank her biological mother, that's fine. You can explain/ excuse the decision she had to make when she left her child, you can tell your child how painful and hard it might have been for her but that she must have felt this was a better solution for her child...but in any case you have to tell/ show your child how much you love her and let her know that no matter what, you will never give her up, you will stand by her and care for her for as long as you live!
I don#t want to sound like I'm lecturing you at all...sorry! But what I see with Carmen now that she is growing up (10 and a half) is this need to be reassured !
I wish you a lot of happiness with your daughter and to give a final comment on somethingelse you wrote: yes, your life is about to change forever but this is a great, you will never be the same but you will soon struggle to remember what the world, what life were like without her.

Adopting1Soon said...

Yes, your comment made it here, lthough it may have taken awhile for you to see it, as I can't moderate comments from work.

Thanks for all your valuable insights and for sharing your adoption story, Caroline! What a geat, and sad in parts, story. I will keep the reassurance thing in mind.