Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Aging Narcissist

Note: If you're a regular reader, warning, this post is less about adoption and more to do with the chronic affliction of having a narcissistic parent. Although. And it's a big although...

What are the chances of being adopted by a child-like narcissistic father and a self-centered mother, both without an empathetic bone between them?

What are the chances of having both those parents developing dementia?

Today, it hit me.

No wonder I was feeling depressed (and not writing much) over the last couple days.

My oldest daughter just turned sixteen. And while celebrating this momentous event, her birthday also served as a reminder that 15 years ago, my adoptive mother fell down the rabbit hole of Alzheimers. She died seven years later. Somewhere in there, my paternal grandmother developed Alzheimers and I was forced to handle that situation because my adoptive father was too child-like to take responsibility. After one (glorious) year respite from my job as manager of my a-mom's care, my father began to act more strangely than usual, developing a nasty, fast progessing dementia called "Lewy Bodies."

And here we go again, except this time it's worse because my father has no other friends or family but me, me, me 24/7.

As he makes his rapid descent into this awful disease, he's getting more needy. He calls at four a.m. to ask for a shipment of candy. He accuses me of not visiting for two years (it's been several months). He shouts into the phone, "Please don't forget me! I'm so lonely!"

Before you go and post a comment about dementia and behavior, I know. He can't help it. It's the disease. Sort of. It's just taken his normal (for him) behavior and ramped it up. He's always demanded constant attention. He's never had any empathy for me or for others. He's the kind of self-absorbed person who was abused as a kid, never got over it and stopped maturing, and looks to other people to provide a steady stream of attention. He the child. Me his supply source. Now he the dementia patient. Me the emotional caretaker. Again.

I am a cesspool of resentment. His neediness is overwhelming.

There is no solution. I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is no wellspring of love and gratitude for my self-absorbed adoptive father. I'm not sure if it's possible to love someone like that. I act - diligently and morally - on his behalf, handling his finances, overseeing his care, calling him every single day without fail. Yet. I feel so guilty sometimes. Aren't we supposed to love our parents? I have no love for him.

And here's where the adoption part comes in. Every once in a while, I wonder...why did my adoptive parents adopt? While my a-mom was a widely confirmed party girl, she was also practical. She married my father, I believe, because she was a divorced Catholic woman with no money or prospects. He, for all his issues, had a steady job. I remember her being very impatient with and dismissive of him. He was exhausting to be around. Did she sense there was something off about him? Did she hope a child might change him? Make him act more like a man than a child? If so, he never grew into the job.

And while my dad has never SAID he expects my gratitude for being adopted, he ACTS that way. Like it's perfectly normal that the daughter he mostly neglected would stick by his side, handle every rocky situation and cater to his needs.

No wonder I'm seething.

All that ugly stuff said, I'm MUCH better at not falling all over myself trying to prove myself, being overly-responsible, calling him back two seconds after he calls me, rushing around in a meaningless flurry of unnecessary activity. Because that's how I used to behave. He TOTALLY controlled me. This man I don't even like. Now, I continue to take care of him (sigh), but I've put up some boundaries, respond according to the situation and, believe it or not, can hang up the phone after a difficult conversation and, mostly, forget about it a half hour later instead of stewing for days.

Every once in a while, I have a bit of a "relapse" (and blog about it). But that's the trouble dealing with an aging narcissist. They only get worst and the whole "unfairness" of it all can be overwhelming.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Birthmother Reunion: The Value of Space

Space is nothing.

And everything.

It's an absence of contact.

A time of quiet reflection.

Time to process. To integrate.

It takes SPACE to do that.

You can't figure it all out when you're in frequent communication with such an important person as the woman who gave birth to you. One needs to take a step back and survey the new landscape.

Being a recovering people pleaser, I felt guilty for taking a breather. After all, I had searched for her. And while she has many issues (don't we all?), some serious, she did welcome me. Unconditionally.

But I needed that space. Really needed it. So I took it. And now I'm very glad I did.

In that time of seperation I adjusted to the reality of her. The way she expresses herself. The problems she has. Her troubled history. And the undeniable good parts, too. Her positive outlook. Her cheerfulness in the face of old age and all the aches and pains it brings.

Allowing myself "time-off" to get adjusted helped me realize that I was "merging" with my mother. It's an old problem of mine, one I've mostly conquered. It's an adoptee thing. Or maybe a coping strategy for dealing with a narcissistic parent. I'm not sure. But I've never been good at boundaries. You are over there and I'm over here. I used to get caught up in the vortex of other personalities and problems. I got help and got better. So when it began to happen with my mother, it really felt uncomfortable and I began to blame her. She's this and that and I don't feel safe with her. I was unable to accept her for who she is because we were all mixed up...me with her.

Space allowed me to find myself again.

Today we talked. I called to arrange our first face-to-face meeting for next month. Once again, I could hardly get a word in. And while it was frustrating, it didn't bother me nearly as much.

But even frustrating conversations with one's mother can yield gold nuggets. Like we're both ridiculously fastidious about certain things. Not worth going into detail, but I've always wondered. Now I know. What also came across today is that despite a hard luck childhood, my mother is remarkably resilient with a good attitude. I'm an awful lot like her in that respect. I guess that's a good thing. It takes resilience to survive the adoption experience and thrive.

And this time, instead of feeling bad when we hung up, I felt good.

Just before we said good-bye she said: "Of course I want to meet you. Are you kidding? That was so nice of you to show me the courtesy of finding me."

Such an interesting way to put it. At one point, I was feeling down and rather hurt that she never looked for me. From this statement and a few others, I suspect she didn't feel she had the right to search. That she considers me to be a nice, courteous person for taking the trouble.

I kinda like that.

That said, it highlights the more bizarre, surreal aspects of adoption reunion, in which a mother thanks a child for finding her.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Adopted: How Far Have We Come?

Mia recently ran an open letter by artist/writer Julie Rist. (Please check it out and Mia's reaction to the big and varied response at http://miassavinggrace.wordpress.com/ )

Mia received more than sixty comments. Several in tone and content reminded me of the unique status we adoptees have in society. Only WE can have that experience yet the non-adopted often have much to say, sometimes because they are vested in certain perceptions. They may be related to an adoptee, married to one, know one, have one or desperately want a baby and plan to adopt.

Often, I sense a bristling. Clearly, some do not like or feel comfortable with our less than happy viewpoint that run counter to the aggressive marketing of the $1.4 billion a year adoption industry. There are suggestions that we should "bloom where we are planted" and the ever present reminders that biological children have unhappy experiences too or less than perfect parents or the implication that we are "maladjusted" or intent on living in the past and that we should "just get on with life" and quit "worrying about that which we cannot change."


Why can't people just respectfully listen and learn?

The adopted are not some uniform product made for mass consumption. Yet, while our experiences are different, we share so many "issues" that simply cannot be denied. As Robert said on Chosen Babies, "we are siblings of circumstance."

Each is a deeply personal experience. In the case of Julie, she expressed herself and her research through a "letter" to be pinned to a surrendered baby's shirt written from the baby's point of view. It was artistic. It was not meant to actually be stuck on a kid's shirt. Sheesh. But there rose up not just disagreement, but that odd phenomenon of the non-adopted coming forward...bristling...with thinly disguised (or naked) indignation.

It's sort of a "How Dare You Think Like That" and "No, no, no...You Should Think Like this..."

Are we forever to be treated like third world countries...to be viewed as "children" who don't know better by patronizing Powers?

It's kinda like going to an amputee's blog and telling her, "You should be happy you still have one leg."

I am reminded of the words of Jean Paton, written in 1954, in the "The Adopted Break Silence" and I wonder: how far have we come?

"Everyone except the adopted has been talking about adoption. About certain parts of adoption, the parts that can be seen and the parts that can be heard. The rest is silence-or was.

What other human institution has so little comment from those within it? Or what other group is so much said from without and so little from within?"


Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Plethora of Narcissistic Parents

Or is it more of a glut? An excess?

I have no way of really knowing if the world is afflicted with a superabundance of self-absorbed leeches, also known as the narcissistic parent.

But when I check Blogpatrol to see what people are typing into their search engines on their way to finding my obscure site in the massive Blogosphere, hands down, it's "dealing with a narcissistic parent" or some variation.

Sheesh. Ten out of the last ten searches had to do with narcissistic parents.

If you're stuck with one of those and you found me here....I'm sorry for your loss. Because it IS a loss. You lost out on a parent. You lost out on receiving the best gift ever...an empathetic mother or father. And if you're adopted, like me, you lost out on being parented....twice.

It's not fun parenting your parent. And if you haven't cut them out of your life by the time you hit middle age, when that parent is old and needs help, you're so sick and tired of this role (and them) that you can hardly find strength enough to do it one more day. Other people smile cheerfully and talk about how much they love their aging mom or dad and want to help them. But it's hard to love a narcissistic because they've never loved you. Not really. They've needed you. Which is different.

From what I've heard and read, narcissism can be mild, moderate or severe. It can take the form of wanting admiration. In the case of my adoptive father, he can only talk about himself. This is not an exaggeration. If I manage to say five words in a row it's a miracle. I'm not saying this as a play for sympathy or to make myself sound like a victim. It's merely descriptive. If he asks me how I am, he does not wait for a response. Once, I told him I was having to go in for scary medical tests and he said, "Uh, uh...did I tell you what my doctor said to me yesterday about my cough?"

Having a parent who's a narcissist makes you feel invisible.

Having one in your life is to live in a permanent state of toxicity.

The only way to effectively deal with a parent like this is to emotionally detach. (Book recommendation: Children of the Self-Absorbed by Nina Brown)

Even when you finally emotionally detach, there will be times when you regress. When you can't help but feel angry and disappointed that you got stuck propping up the psyche of somebody who should have been looking after your welfare...helping you to mature. And if you're adopted, you may feel especially bitter and angry because, certainly, it wasn't in the best interest of the child to be burdened with a child-like parent.

Some adoptive parents have "returned" (or tried to return) their children saying full disclosure was not made and they were not prepared to take on such a troubled kid.

Do adoptees have that same recourse?


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Post Reunion Milestone

If you're a regular reader, then you know how much I've whined about the unexpected downside of reunion (technically, we haven't met yet-just talked) as I've had to "integrate" the clay footed version of my birthmother and her foibles. (I am not "foible-less," but my hypocricy stands as evidence of the fantasies we adoptees do spin in the absence of solid information).

Anway..and it's a big titted anyway...today I got up at six a.m. to touch-up my roots, shave my legs and wax my face (my husband wanted to know why bother with that end), plus hot shower and slathering of fresh, citrus moisturizer...all in preparation for the much-dreaded Well-Woman Exam.

It's hard to explain to a husband why you need that extra boost of confidence to get you through the indignities of being poked and prodded by a man still wearing his Dockers. (Okay, I could have chosen a female doc but this guy's not just good, but a scream).

I was especially nervous because the last two years I've had tit lumps the size and shape of shrunken heads that required dianogistic ultrasounds and caused weeks of extreme anxiety. Besides, I'm a recovering hypochondriac (adoption related-definitely) and even though he kept telling me they were probably benign, I was sure it was cancer.

So we started off the Well-Woman exam with these two positives:

--I lost 15 pounds in one year and;

--I was able to fill in my medical history...no female cancers, some high blood pressure on the maternal side, the usual stuff.

The doctor congratuled me...said that WAS a big deal to get such complete information from at least one bio related parent...and - WHEW! - no lumps!

So today is a GOOD day and despite all the nasty, negative things I've had to say recently.

I'm celebrating the fact that I took control of my adoption and my life, that I searched, found and found out and even though my birthmother does have osteoporosis and some other ailments, they are REAL ailments...not ones imagined by me and, of course, can not so easily be elevated into serious, life threatening inherited diseases. Knowing is much better than not knowing.

And if I had to thank my birthmother for something, today I would thank her for passing on some pretty excellent health genes. She is, after all, 83, and has never had cancer, diabetes or even a touch of dementia (which both my a-parents did and do).

Of course, I still must have The Mammogram but I believe I can do so this year with much less anxiety.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I Hate Being Adopted

Sometimes, I get sick and tired of being adopted.

I don't like all the issues it forces me to deal with...or beware.

I don't like being tethered to an aging narcisstic adoptive dad, with whom I have no choice but to continue to play the role of parent, listener and caretaker. I will play this role until he dies. I will do so because it's the right, moral, ethical thing to do. He has no one else in his life. Sad, but true, and not an exaggeration. He is totally alone in the world. Mercifully, he has never asked for my gratitude. That was my adoptive mother. He did, however, allow my mother to cut me off both financially and emotionally when I decided to attend college.

He is, however, a constant reminder that I am adopted. That we are linked. An odd couple. He an abused child who needed a parent and me, a relinquished child who needed a dad but instead got a damaged little boy.

I regret not coming to terms with all this adoption stuff earlier in my life. I admire and encourage adoptees who follow their instincts and awaken from the slumber of ignorance and denial.

Okay, it's one of those days. An I Hate Being Adopted Day, probably triggered by a depressing conversation I had with my a-dad last night. Some days are like that.

I hate dreading talking with my own father and now I hate dreading talking with my own birthmother because, unfortunately, she's self-absorbed, too and makes me feel invisible and diminished.

I do look forward to speaking with my niece and half-sister. I do feel connected in a way I've never felt connected before. They are warm and welcoming and both freely admit their sadness and regret that I was given away. While this doesn't make up for my birthmom's insistence that my adoption was all her idea and a good one, it does make me feel a tad better. My half-sister does say she always wondered what happened to me and thought of me every single day. That's something. Some days, I cling to that thought.

And then I think, how pathetic. After all, I have an amazing husband of 18 years and two beautiful, sensitive and intelligent daughters. That's more than some people have. Why isn't that enough? Because, on some days, I hate being adopted. It's so....WEIRD. It's a bizarre way to enter the world. Would I feel this way if I'd had better luck in the Ultimate Crapshoot of Adoption Placement and scored higher quality parents? I can almost imagine the label: "Premium, Grade A Parents...Now With Empathy!"

While I still would have issues, maybe they wouldn't be so many and so severe. Maybe I wouldn't be so resentful. Maybe I wouldn't hate being adopted so much. Ah, the Closed Era was an evil time in adoption's mixed history.

Okay. So this was a downer. Definitely. But this is supposed to be honest and that's how I honestly feel right now. Some days are like that. Tomorrow, though, should be better. It always is.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Neighbors Weigh-In on my Adoption

Well, it shouldn't come as a complete surprise that my adoption was a topic of interest amongst neighbors.

I learned it about it yesterday, quite by accident. An old friend of my adoptive mother tracked me down. To my surprise, she's only 65. I hadn't realized she was 15 years younger than my mom.

Laurie is smart, funny and sensible. Eventually, I decided to ask if my mother ever discussed my adoption with her. Not much, she admitted. But she did say that the neighbors spent quite a bit of time debating the pros and cons of my parents telling me I was adopted. Apparently, some felt that it was cruel to tell me and that it would serve no purpose. A Cuban woman I remember as being very emotional was the most upset, even going so far as to scold my mother. Others felt I should be told, but not until I was much, much older.

"And what did you think?" I asked Laurie.

"Oh, that you should be told. Definitely. I always think telling the truth is best."

She paused.

"And?" I prompted.

"I mean, you had to know, right?" Laurie continued. "Otherwise, you wouldn't know all that they had done for you - rescued you - and that you should be grateful to them."

I quickly changed the subject.

Oddly, I wasn't even tempted to slam down the phone or give her a lecture. We continued our conversation as if I hadn't heard those odious words.

It was more interesting than anything else. She obviously saw me as one of society's rejects. That my parents had sacrificed themselves to rescue an abandoned child. That this act required gratitude. That telling me wasn't for my sake, but for their sake, so they could claim my gratitude.

In a way, it was almost a relief to actually hear someone say it. Believe me, I've heard it before, many times, but never quite so baldly. And while Laurie is just one person and certainly doesn't represent society as a whole, I think she represents a fair number of people who view adoptees that way.


Friday, January 12, 2007

The Empathetic Adoptee: Oh, the Burden

I'm a recovering people pleaser. So, it appears, are many awakened adoptees. Some are at the stage of discovering that they spent most of their lives trying to please others and are trying to figure out why and how to stop.

It's an exhausting business, this people pleasing. All that smiling, all that listening, all that saying the right thing, rushing around try to fix the unfixable, leaping before we look, offering up our time and energy for the sake of other's goals, all in mindless pursuit of that ever elusive intangible that is Approval. Which is doubly ridiculous because, if we stopped to think about it for even a second, we often don't even like the person we're trying to please.

Paula O. wrote eloquently on people pleasing in a recent post about playing the grateful transracial (Korean) adoptee and it reminded me how far I've come conquering my own PP tendencies in the last seven months of intensive therapy (thank you, insurance!).

This takes being very mindful of WHAT I WANT and HOW I FEEL. It is so simple, really. But so FOREIGN. You basically have to reprogram yourself, like a computer.

In the old days, for example, my sister-in-law would have called me, crying over her troubled marriage. I would have spent endless hours on the phone with her, even going so far as finding a good divorce lawyer, perhaps sending money and offering my home as a place of refuge. Never mind that she doesn't even really like me (She resents me because I "stole" her brother, she's admitted.) But I so desperately want a sister that I scramble around, trying to win over someone who's not capable of a reciprocal relationship.

Today, whenever an in-law drama flares up, I may listen sympathetically - briefly - but I do not attempt a rescue. I no longer get emeshed. That's her problem. Not mine. In fact, I don't much like her and she's not worth my time and energy because she's a needy user.

It takes being very calm and quiet before we can stop long enough to ask the essential questions, "How do I feel about this? What do I want? What do I want to do? What's right for ME?

That's what I do now. I get a phone call, an email, read a blog post, listen to a friend or a pitch and ask those basic questions. What am I feeling? What is my reaction?

And I realize how much I was "out of touch" with myself. I had no idea how I felt because I only really cared about what others wanted or needed or thought. I was more in tune with them. So in tune they were running me.

But why? How did I get this way? And it appears I'm in good company. Many adoptees seem to be afflicted with the burden of people pleasing.

And then, completely by chance, my daughter knocked my battered copy of Betty Jean Lifton's "Journey of the Adopted Self" off a table and it fell open to the last chapter, "Becoming Whole." It had been ages since I read it so I sat down to reread it and there it was, this explanation:

"Adoptees heal by becoming healers.

We could say that adoptees have always been healers. As babies, they healed the birth mother by going off to be raised by another clan. They healed the adoptive parents by sacrificing their own history and heritage so that the adoptive family line could be continued. By becoming replacement children for the child who never was or the child who died, they healed the adoptive parents infertility.

Because as children they have to have empathy for their adoptive parents' needs, adoptees develop an enhanced sensitivity for the feelings of others."

Ah, the loud ring of truth.

Thank you, Betty. I think you nailed it.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Adoptee Sensitivity

Normally, I really appreciate every comment that is left on my blog, even the ones that disagree with a point I've made. In fact, sometimes it's those that accompany me on long walks. They give me a new angle to consider. Comments are sometimes funny, insightful and almost always supportive.

So why did I have have such a visceral reaction to an anonymous comment made on my previous post entitled, "Adoptive Parent Psychology?" (For the record, Joy didn't much like the comment, either. )

Normally, I don't like getting in pissing matches. Normally, I wouldn't have left such a snappish "back comment." In fact, my reply was so offensive that she said she didn't feel welcome and wouldn't read my blog again. Which I can understand.

So I want to dissect this a bit:

Here's the part of the comment that I did NOT have a problem with. It raises a perfectly fair question:

Or is it perhaps that only those adoptees who were adopted by narcisstic or otherwise troubled parents have a need to blog, post on forums etc? I am not an adoptee but I have become very interested in the phenomenon over the last few years as a number of people very close to me ARE adotees. My guess is that troubled parents often leads to troubled kids.

Here's the part that set me off:

And parents who are reasonably comfortable with themselves and their lives lead to well-adjusted children. Adopted or otherwise. And I think most well-adjusted people don't feel a need to blog about their parents etc.....Just my 2 cents.....

1) Even the best informed, empathetic adoptive parents will raise children who will have issues particular to being given away by one's own mother; adoptive parents can't completely take away that pain;

2) The opposite of well-adjusted is MALADJUSTED and since I DO have a need to blog about about my parents, therefore this qualifies me as "maladjusted."

Call me sensitive. That doesn't go down very well. In fact, I think I've adjusted and coped extremely well all considering. Most of my struggles are internal. I'm a writer. It's the way I process life and try to make sense of the incomprehensible.

EVERYONE, including adoptive parents, social workers (especially Leroy), adoption professionals, people close to adoptees, people who disagree with me and, of course, adoptees (even the happy ones!) are very welcome and encouraged to leave comments. Keep 'em coming! I think about them and learn so much!

However, I am VERY sensitive to any implication that I am ungrateful or maladjusted. Those are perhaps my two biggest vocabulary triggers, sure to send me into orbit. The few times I've dared discuss the downside of adoption in public, I was called both. In questioning the way adoption is practiced in this country, I've been scolded, corrected and called names. Those of us adoptees who've had to endure such indignities will, understandably, be a tad touchy.



Monday, January 08, 2007

The Psychology of Adoptive Parents

Are adoptive parents, especially those from the Closed Era, more likely to be self-centered or suffer from some degree of narcissism? (Not you Third Mom. You're way too empathetic. And if you're an adoptive parent who truly tries to understand what your child is experiencing, then not you, either)

It's a fair question.

MUCH has been written about the psychology of us adoptees. Our identity issues, our lifelong search for self, the adaptations we must make to cope with being separated from our mothers, followed by being raised by a family of genetic strangers.

If WE, generally speaking, share certain commonalities, then so must adoptive parents.

It seems to me, from reading adoptee blogs and forum postings, that while some lucked out with wonderful, loving adoptive parents, a fair number of us also got saddled with self-absorbed ninnies who forced us into a life of enslavement to their relentless needs, making us responsible for their emotional and/or physical well-being. It seems many of us adoptees ended up "parentified." Which seems an unfair burden on someone already loaded down with the heavy baggage of being given away by one's own mother.

The self-absorbed lack empathy and are the least able to help a child cope with adoption's challenges. Their interests must be served first and continuously.

Adoption is often praised as a brilliant solution to a societal problem. Children with mothers unwilling or unable to raise them are transferred to people who are infertile or, for other reasons, want to add to their existing families.

Which sounds like a great plan until you start paying attention to what many adult adoptees have to say about their adoptive parents: that the myriad issues created by infertility and resulting desperation to raise a child that led them to adopt in the first place, created its own narcissistic wound big enough for us adoptees to get trapped in.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

So Maybe I'm Terrified

So I've been going on and on about my birthmother, trying to get a grip on who she really is and letting go of whatever fantasy version I had conjured up.

I even made a list of her "faults" which include addiction to alcohol and allowing three children in her care to be sexually abused by her husband. Oh. I forgot to include this one: In her seventies, she shacked-up with a drug addict who'd bring back women to their apartment and, in one incident, he drugged my mother and nearly killed her. My mother still wouldn't boot him out and the family had to intervene.


I can't help myself. The "fault list" keeps getting longer.

Why am I doing this? Is it because I'm filled with dread at the prospect of meeting my birthmother? Because that's the way I feel. Terrified at the prospect. My hands get all clammy and I get this boxed-in, claustrophobic, panicky feeling. Like if I meet her, I'm going to get sucked into a big, black scary hole and disappear.

Do I make these lists because I'm scared to meet her and I'm looking for an excuse not to?

And then a really smart adoptee whom I admire posted something on the Chosen Babies forum and just reading it filled me with horror. It had to do with the impact of reunion on adoptees. Here's the quote:

"I ran across something interesting in one of my many notebooks of articles from Jean Paton in 1997. She is the author of Orphan Voyage published in 1968. She is an adoptee and visionary search > activist and presented rationales for search and resulted in a proliferation of search registries after 1975. In a short article she wrote in 1997 she talks about two things that she has long put together in relationship to reunion; "The difficulty of forming relationships, and thus failing to mature to the degree that others do and the way we sob and shake, almost without exception, at the point of reunion. To me this confirms the effects on us of our wounds, that those influences have been laid down in our central nervous systems, and that reunion has the power to send an instant message to that system that all is clear. And that system responds by releasing the wrongly closed interneurons, all throughout the system, and the result is sobbing and shaking. There is no other way for our bodies to release this energy. It boils over until it is somehow reintegreated in the system. And we rejoice in our release. And after the rejoicing comes astonishment that we have lived such a partial experience."

Because if THAT'S what's going to happen, oh my God. I don't like that one bit. Maybe I don't want to lose control. Maybe I'm really, really afraid.


Then Joy posted something about not being able to process all the emotions she experienced as an abandoned infant. What perfect timing. What if...what if...the clue to that awful sense of dread at the prospect of meeting my birthmother is rooted in the mysterious details of my relinquishment?

My mother says she only allowed herself to see me once because she did not want to get attached. I went back to my non-identifying adoption packet prepared by the public agency. It says she suffered great guilt over the relinquishment, but it also says she was interested in adoption "from the start."

What if...what if...the infant/baby me can somehow "remember" being pushed away or somehow being rejected above and beyond the obvious, ultimate rejection of being given away by your own mother? What if she said to a nurse, "No, no, no, take her away I won't see her again" and she handed me back maybe a bit too roughly. Or something like that? Could she have done something that was forever burned in my psyche? Is that why I feel unsafe when I think of meeting her?

Of course, there's no way to ever know this. I think my mother's memory is understandably hazy after so many years and no doubt, trauma causes its own amnesia.

When I read the thoughts of other adoptees contemplating reunion, the feeling of dread isn't mentioned. Nervous anticipation and major jitters, yes, but not this sort of dig-in-your-heels-reluctance.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

To Meet or Not to Meet Birthmother?

And that, dear readers, is the BIG question.

Not that she's asking to meet to me, by the way. I think she sort of assumes that we'll meet when I'm next in town.

We're in limbo, right now.

Me taking a break to mull over the following information, presented in sequence, learned over the last seven months:

--That her decision to relinquish me was her own. She was 37 and not a coerced, vulnerable teenager;

--The letter I mailed after finding her (too fast!) was a dream come true. For her. In it, I said as a woman I sympathized with her terrible dilemma and respected the choice she made and that despite some difficulties, I was leading a good life. In a way, I shot myself in the foot. She's now seems more satisfied than ever with her decision and pats herself on the back, repeating how she chose adoption over the objections of her mother and sisters and how she refused to see me more than once because she "couldn't let herself get attached." This and other stories are said in an off-hand, cavalier manner. She's not malicious. In fact, she's awfully sweet but jarringly insensitive. But these explanations are devastating. Which leads me to.... ;

--I don't feel SAFE when I'm talking with her. She seems to have no filters. I have to admit that at the end of every conversation, I feel TERRIBLE. I feel INVISIBLE and DIMINISHED and DISCOUNTED. She's an awful lot like my adoptive dad, except she's not narcisstic, just talks a lot;

--And then, another bombshell. She's an alcoholic;

--And then (I hope) the final whammy: She allowed her ex-husband to sexually abuse not just one but THREE children in her care. This ex-husband ended up leaving her for a woman with younger kids, but when she talks about her marriage (which is frequently) she makes no mention of the abuse, just that she "rescued" these kids from bad home situations.

Okay, most of this info. is a recap of what's appeared in other posts, but I'm trying to gauge the full impact of it all.

What was I expecting from reunion?

I got one thing: a grounded feeling. No matter how bad, at least I KNOW.

But how much is enough? When to say, okay, that's about as far as I want to take it. Maybe it's not SAFE for me to meet a person like this? From all that I've heard, my birthmother is considered a fun, talkative gal, but she's also considered a rather "heartless" person who doesn't show emotion. If talking to her on the phone makes me feel bad, then maybe meeting her would be harmful to my psyche. Maybe I should take my time and trust my instincts this time. My instincts are badly underdeveloped. I used to ignore them. Mostly because I was so busy people-pleasing. Now that I have THAT under better control, I'm surprised to hear "warning, warning, danger up ahead" and that's what I'm hearing, folks.

So what to do about it?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Welcome 2007!

I'm beginning to think we adoptees (especially those of us from the Shameful Closed Era) are pretty incredible.

Separated from our birthmother for whatever reason, sometimes placed in interim foster care, then, through that strange combination of forces both pseudo-scientific and whimsical, we find ourselves being raised by strangers who often differ in looks and temperament. It's a wonder we're not all raving lunatics. Okay, some of us may be, but most of us carry on, loaded down with extra baggage and manage to lead productive lives. (Yeah, yeah, yeah. You over there, the idiot with the big fat opinion who thinks we adoptees should just shut up and be grateful, you try being adopted and see how you like it.)

I mean, really. We're amazing!

We adoptees only get better when we take control our lives. Our information. Our heritage. The whole enchilada. Even knowing all the awful, ugly stuff about my birthfamily (and some nice stuff, too) is empowering. Disappointing, but grounding.

For those of us who had the bad luck of landing LOUSY adoptive parents (self-centered, narcissistic, histrionic/depressive, etc.), it's also equally important to come to terms with them and say, hey, I'm disappointed. I'm mad. After all, these people were CHOSEN for me and while it's arguable that even troubled couples deserve a kid, when you're that kid, it sucks.

Reflecting and identifying pattens in one's family is difficult, yet freeing. If you can articulate that you have a narcissistic father with endless needs and a mother who only knew conditional love and could be as punitive as hell, what good does that do? A lot. Instead of running around like a chicken trying to please when there is no pleasing, instead of living an emotionally exhausting chaotic life, life can lived in the moment, in a way that is calmer and much, much more beautiful.

So here's to 2007...the first year in which I will live fully aware of my unique status as an adoptee. And it's already better than 2006!