Saturday, December 10, 2016

She Didn't Remember My Birthday

The day I came home to my family (2-25-66)
Today is my birthday. Traditionally, growing up I loved my birthday.  My mom always made me my favorite meal (lasagna) and chocolate cake with chocolate icing.  It was nothing extravagant like kid birthday parties are today.  It was just the four of us -- mom, dad, my brother Scott and me.  And that was enough.  There were no expectations that we would go to Bounce U, Laser Quest, McDonald's or have ponies parading in the yard.  I kind of miss those simple times.

Having a December birthday, many people feel "ripped off" when they get the famous combo gift at Christmas, but that was not the case for me at all.  Far enough away but still able to take in the Christmas excitement on my birthday.  My 16th birthday was the best because I was able to invite four or five of my closest high school friends over to the house.  There was no drinking -- just cutting up and having fun.

Birthdays as I got older into my young adulthood, usually had me thinking about my other mother somewhere out there.  Lots of unanswered questions, a mix or happiness and frustration of my powerlessness not to be able to have answers, but nothing too heavy.  I still liked my birthday.

So, I think I was a bit surprised to learn later in life as part of the adoption community that so many adoptees struggle with negative feelings on their birthdays.  I don't recall experiencing that as a child. But I understand now completely why there would be mixed feelings.

Karen Caffrey, attorney and therapist, contrasts the excitement of the birth of her grandneice with her own birth as an adoptee:

"Bathing in the reality of such an outpouring of love and welcome towards this infant, I have been struck that my arrival in the world, and that of my fellow adoptees, was almost without exception, very, very different.  Our mothers (and fathers) were either planning on being separated from us, or were being forced or coerced to do so.  Our grandparents were unaware of this impending separation, complicit in it, or were in fact responsible for orchestrating it."  Good God.  This is just the beginning of the story about the circumstances that lead so many adoptees to feeling rejected." (The Adoptee's Healing Journey From Rejected to Beloved, The Adoptee Survival Guide, pp.158-159.)

Wendy Barkett talks about her feelings and fantasies as a child and also as an adult surrounding her birthday:

"The wish was the same every year with a twist in the sequence of words....I made the same wish until my 32nd birthday: I wish to find my birth mother.  Each year on my birthday morning, I woke with hope.  There were years I would have never admitted to such dreamful hopes, but they were always there.  As a young child, I would hope that my birth mother would show up at our front door with a huge bundle of balloons.  I could never see her face in these daydreams, as the balloons were in the way.  However, I would know it was her the instant I opened the door and she always got to stay for my party.   As I became a teen, the hope turned to a phone call or letter from her. Each time the phone rang, my body tensed with hope and then disappointment.  The balloons, the letter and the phone call never came.  I stayed silent about my wish because I knew the golden rule:  Don't tell anyone your birthday wish or it won't come true. (Birth Day, The Adoptee Survival Guide, pp. 6-7).
First meeting  at The Cradle with Mrs. Magee, the social worker
Fast forward 40 years.  The social worker at the agency of my adoption found my mother late summer of 2016. Shortly thereafter, I recall sitting in the basement on the couch listening to my mother's voice for the first time. Her voice and the conversation was not what I expected.  I felt like I was living in slow motion, in some kind of pretend world.  She talked alot.  I listened.

She remembered by black hair.

She looked at me through the glass in the nursery.

She didn't hold me.

She knew it was near Christmas as she always grieved for me at that time of year.

But she didn't remember my birthday.

I was crushed.  All those birthdays as a child, I was convinced she was thinking about me. Convinced.

And I guess she was at least thinking about me during the month of December.  But not on my birthday specifically because my birthday was foggy enough in her mind that she did not remember the day, nor did she call the agency to clarify the day, nor did she call the agency to see if I was placed with a good family, nor did she try to find me when I became an adult.

Of course, there were perfectly reasonable explanations for all of the above.  I'm sure there will be birth mothers who send me messages explaining to me about birth mother trauma, the era that I was born in, that she will always love me, etc. (please, just don't).

However, the rejected baby still lives within me and now (post-reunion) she rears her head on my adult birthdays.  I have spent a decade grieving the reality that my family of origin did not want me.  It's my birthday and I can cry if I want to.

I can also celebrate!

I have an amazing family that loves me right here in this house! My adult son is bringing me sushi at 2:00 p.m.  I have a beautiful daughter and a husband who takes care of me and loves me to no end.

Yet, my own mother didn't remember my birthday.

 I think I can finally forgive her for that.