Friday, December 15, 2006

The Pain Competition

I'm a little bit miffed by a some recent posts on a few online support sites. Here's my rant;

I have noticed, within the adoption support community online, a definite trend towards a sad and unecessary competition. There is the adopted person who says that, because they were innocent babies with no choice, their pain is worse than that of the mother. There are mothers who suffered from secondary infertility who seem to believe they can claim a deeper wound than that of those mothers who went on to have other children. There are the frozen moms who are sure that their world will collapse if they have to deal with the truth in the person of their adult child and, within each group of moms, moms who didn't have more children, frozen moms and adopted people, there is jockeying for "most damaged" position...PTSD, bi-polar, name it...someone has had "more terrible damage done to me than to thou." Somehow, everyone in this equation seems to have forgotten that heartbreak and trauma are just that...heartbreak and trauma. We all have drunk from that well.

There are those so deeply into their own wounds that they enter reunion seeming to believe they are OWED something by their opposite number. When they don't get it, then mommy is a lying bitch or son or daughter are spoiled, hateful brats and everyone tries to push everyone else to one side to claim what they think is their rightful place at the top of the wailing wall. While no one should accept verbal, emotional or any other kind of abuse at the hands of their reunited adult child or mother, there seems a great dearth of understanding on the part of some people. These people, whom we call "familiar strangers," have lived a life apart from us. They are who they are. Life happens!

There is no law that says the person you find at the end of your search should solve all your problems, make you feel wanted and loved, be comfortable accepting your love, or be the epitome of your fondest imaginings. We are all human beings..individual and varied. Someone said, about us moms, that we are "everywoman." It's true, so if an adult child is looking for the careless, promiscuous slut or the ethereal, tragic heroine, they are, more than likely, going to be disappointed. Nine times out of ten, they are going to find an ordinary woman who either managed to cope well...or didn't.

The same applies to our adult children. There are those who turned out well and those who didn't and those who want to blame mom for everything from their drinking to their anger to their ingrown toenails. There are those who want a pound of flesh, those who just want answers and, for the most part, those who are genuinely just looking for a lost loved one..just people. Expecting an adult version of Little Orphan Annie/Pollyanna/Tom Sawyer is unrealistic to the max. Unrealistic expectations on either end are unfair to the other person and, in the long run, ourselves.

In other words...these are PEOPLE...fallible and seeking the same thing everyone in the world seeks; happiness, peace and love. Some go about it right...others screw up. But the fact remains that all have been hurt, badly. So, when we don't find that pot of emotional gold at the end of the adoption reunion rainbow, we are left with what we had in the beginning...ourselves. That's where we have to turn to find what we really need, what we can't find in the form of that mother or adult child. Healing ourselves is our job and ours alone. No matter what we want to think, no one else owns any piece of us. Wholeness is there and it just needs recognition and accepting.

So, instead of debating who might be the most wounded/damaged/traumatized among us, we need to keep sharing and caring. We can't make Jane's Mom accept a reunion, but we can hear Jane's pain and let her know we care. We can't make Mary's son treat her with respect as his mother, but we can offer our shoulders on which she can cry. And, most importantly, we cannot hold our pain as being more sacred, more intense or more anything than anyone else's, I don't care what you've endured. Pain is pain, and terminal uniqueness is a dangerous path to walk.

Reunion between an adult adopted person and the mother is one of the most emotionally charged situations that can occur in a lifetime. I know...I've done it twice (as have some no competetion here..I am one of a crowd). If we all seem a little bit crazy when it happens, or when we are trying to make it happen, I would file that under "to be expected." But please, please ditch the grandiosity. Your pain may not have the exact same flavor, but it has the same heft. In our quest for justice and resolution, I doubt that self-exalted martyrs would make good warriors.


iris eyes said...

robin, I think you are correct here..competetive suffering is unproductive and it is impossible to prove who is in the greatest pain.

Mostly, though it just gets in the way.

mary e said...

Robin - well said!

In Reunion said...