The question slammed into the front of my mind as we all sat and chatted. When there was a break in the conversation, a lull of sorts, I asked the two adoptees sitting in front of me,
“What would you do in my situation?” I paused for a second, reframing the question,
“What would you want me to do if I was your birthmother?”
* * * * * * * * * *
The meeting took place in the corner of the hosts quiet wrap around deck, out in the country, far enough away from the noise of the city. The summer breeze rustled through our hair, and gave a reprieve from the stale humidity that we’d been facing in this area over the last week. There we were, two adoptees, three birthmothers, gathered together to talk about the one thing that connected us: adoption.
Each of us shared our stories, tears escaping our eyes, frustration lining our faces as we spoke of the obstacles we’d each come upon: adoptive parents who weren’t supportive of the search, parents who didn’t ask enough questions, lies we were told in the hospital, birth parents who refused contact, hope or the lack of, open adoption, and the greatest barrier of all: time we’d never get back.
All similar, all different.
As I shared my story, I remembered the last time I’d done it like this.
In the air-conditioned room of the local LDSFS agency, surrounded by prospective adoptive parents, all of whom were hanging on my every word, like I was the gatekeeper to finding a baby. That was the last time I’d worked with LDSFS, months before the fantasy world I’d created about my adoption came crashing down.
I wasn’t met with eager questions like I was in that room. The eyes on me now were filled with compassion, and an ugly understanding of all the words I was speaking. They didn’t want anything from me, and they didn’t look at me like I was a mythical creature. I was just another version of themselves, or of the woman they knew in their own stories.
Carefully, I shared my own story. When I was done, gently, one of the adoptees, commented that when I had shared how I was dealing with the current state of my adoption, she had felt as though it was punch in the gut. As she expressed that she felt like my rejection of any letters or pictures from my son’s adoptive parents would calculate in the mind of my son as a rejection from me, I felt a similar gut punch.
He’ll feel I’m rejecting him because I rejected them. Punch. He’ll fear more rejection. Punch. My rejection of the adoptive parents could be twisted into me not wanting to really know him. Punch.
Feeling a little defensive, I dug into my own wound, and made it a little more gaping so I could explain my actions, maybe helping them to see it wasn’t that simple.
It’s not as easy as allowing them to send pictures. Not after they told me that my voice and opinions in how to handle this adoption didn’t matter. Not after they screamed through emails that this was all in my son’s hands, but contradicted that position by telling me that they would do things on their terms, because they are his parents. Not after they threatened me with the thing I fear most: that he’ll never want to know me.
“It’s about control, power, and insecurity, at this point…I think,” I explained. “There is no air of regret for any of their actions, and they simply refuse to admit that they could have possibly hurt me. An apology from them to me seems to be like I’m asking them to cut off their limbs.”
I’ve felt justified by my actions for a variety of reasons. I’m hurt, obviously. They are hurt, too. We’re all hurt. But as I finished this sentence, I felt some air remove itself from my lungs. I sounded petty, and insolent. I felt silly.
Instead of focusing on him, we’re focusing on the bullshit between the three of us. We’re all licking our wounds, and compiling lists of the way we’ve been hurt. We’re both, myself included, not even really listening to each other anymore. We are both stamping our feet, throwing a petulant tantrum, demanding that we get our way, instead of realizing just how selfish we’re all being.
I did myself a favor; I heard my own selfishness. I am too angry about the things they refuse to acknowledge they’ve done, that I’ve lost sight of what this adoption is supposed to be about; Him. My son. Our son. I am, even if I don’t mean to, even if I say it’s to protect myself, rejecting him indirectly. They are without meaning to (I assume) alienating his biological family from his life.
The toxicity between his parents and I have nothing to do with him. We’re the grown ups. We should be better than this, bigger than it all.
The conversation veered into other territory, and I silently sighed, relieved, grateful that I could just listen now.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Their message was exactly the same, even if it was delivered differently. Something is better than nothing. Nothing meant rejection, even if it didn’t really mean rejection. Something, even the smallest something, would have meant the world to them as children, even as adults.
He and I, together, we both have nothing right now, but something, I was told, would mean the world to him.
And that alone, would mean everything to me.