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.

See?

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.

Why?

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.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Joy said...

"Like if I meet her, I'm going to get sucked into a big, black scary hole and disappear"

I didn't feel that way about meeting my mother, but hugging her. I think it has to do with not having a separate self when we are abandoned.

That it felt like we disappeared, when really they did.


I didn't shake when I met my mother, I remember sobbing and sobbing after I hung up the phone with her for the first time.

But not when I was actually with her.

8:48 PM  
Blogger elizabeth said...

I didn't shake or sob, not at first. I was too damn angry.

10:47 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Sounds to me like each reunion is unique depending on the circumstances (both current and past) as well as what the individual adoptee's own coping skills are and how well the mother's are too. Some have tact and sensitivity while some are like yours Nina (mulitiple issues).

I do agree with Joy that no matter what happened, she is your mom and if it were me, I would choose to meet her. Yeah, I would have scripted the meeting in my mind a million times in an effort to reduce the anxiety. I know I'd want a picture of us together. Might be the only one you ever get.

I think anxiety over meeting your mom is normal given the circumstances. It seems to me the longer you wait, the more time you give yourself to "build" up to the event. And as you "build up" you raise your anxiety level. Your brain must be like an eight track player (if you know what those are) playing over and over what it will be like - and you seem to be focusing on the worse case scenario. I know I sometimes do that to lower my expectations which I hope will reduce my anxiety. Sometimes it works and other times I get what I expected or worse. Maybe its better to go in with no expectations other than a brief meeting over coffee...just the two of you at first. I don't know if there is a right or wrong way to meet your mom - maybe better and worse. I know you will do what is best for you Nina.

6:06 AM  
Blogger Being Me said...

It sounds like you're really preparing yourself and that you'll meet her when you're ready. Maybe you're ready now. You know not to expect anything from her.

"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."

That sounds like something I would want to complete. I am lighting a candle for you.

12:06 PM  
Blogger suz said...

maybe by keeping the negative stuff in the forefront you can justify not meeting her, that she isnt healthy, isnt good, etc. thereby allowing you to be safe from any feelings of loss. i dont know. just hypothesizing. its a topic that find interesting since my daughter and i have been in reunion for almost two years and she doesnt want to meet. I dont have the interesting background your first mom does, my daughter doesnt have any of those excuses..so i ponder, like always, what it is at the root of her fear. to date i have assumed she is conscious of it and it is a way to punish me. since she knows i want to meet her, it gives her power and control and way to hurt me back for any hurt she may have felt over her adoption...again, just theorizing...

12:49 PM  
Blogger chez said...

Hi Nina,
Ten years ago, I received my "info" from the local dept regarding my adoption - and it stated that my mother had a child 5 years before I was born - also adopted out.
From that moment I was TERRIFIED. My adoptee dream of finding a mother who would welcome me with open arms - a mother that had not had any other children - and therefore would rejoice in my re-arrival.
It was not going to be.
It took me 10 years to pluck up the courage to start the search once more.
I guess mostly because the "elephant on the dining table" (my adoption and it's many & varied loads of baggage) was never going to "go away" and I had to dig deeper to find out more about me.
I've been reading your blog for about a month now - and feel so much for you right now. Thankyou for sharing your innermost thoughts & fears - you are helping me understand more about mine.
Sending you huggles from DownUnder - for strength and peace.
chez

12:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is in response to "chez"...please don't make assumptions about what went on.

Here is a story posted by "a mother who lost two childreen to adoption"...and it sounds like she would welcome them back.

http://www.motherhelp.info/about_me.htm

7:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, guantanamera121212

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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11:29 AM  

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