This past weekend, I had the wonderful experience of meeting up with three of my sister Mothers of adoption loss at Hilton Head Island in SC. It is a beautiful place and full of history. We had a terrific time, watched "Loggerheads," cried, ate seafood and chocolate and talked....a lot, mostly about our adoption trauma and our reunions.
Just down the road from Hilton Head is Savannah, Ga., home of Paula Deen's "The Lady and Sons," beautiful, historic old homes, the setting for "Midnight In The Garden Of Good and Evil," former home of song master Johnny Mercer....and the setting for my second loss to the adoption machine of a newborn child, my son, that I would be forced to endure within a 14-month span. I gathered my courage, much like the mother in "Loggerheads," took out the directions that I had been holding for a few years, since I found out the building still existed, and went to visit one of the sites of my incarcerations. (*Interesting note..in "Loggerheads," the mother went to visit the home in Charlotte, NC where she gave birth...that is where my daughter was born and I would be willing to swear that it is the same building that was shown in the movie...that front door is "very distinctive." Whoa!)
The road that led to the former Florence Crittendon Home/Savannah is now paved...it was dirt when I was there as are a lot of coastal community roads in the deep southeast. But there was no mistaking the long, low building, now a bit spiffed up, with the inlet out back and the shrimp boats docked on the other side of that inlet. What used to be a place to hide our "sins," is now a rehab/short-term nursing facility. The area over to the side of the east wing where we "girls" used to go to sit in the grass and enjoy some sun was given over to paved paths and benches and wheelchairs were moving up and down the paths.
I only meant to walk around the outside, but found myself going up to the door and going inside. There was a receptionist and I just blurted out to her why I was here. She had worked there for nine years and she told me that I was not the first mother to re-visit the place. Some cried, she said. I didn't until I got back into my car. The large, 6-bed room where I stayed is now one of the physical therapy rooms. Where my narrow bed stood, there is now a raised exercise mat. The little bathroom off to one side is still there, 43 years later, but quite a bit modernized and there is a whirlpool where the large closet once was. Where there was once cold tile, there is now carpeting or parquet flooring except in the PT areas. But I felt the hair on the back of my neck rise as I looked at that exercise mat. That was where I had sobbed my little bit of "allowed" grief before I just shut down, emotionally.
The visit was brief, I thanked the very kind woman who had helped me, and left for home. I left something behind me, though, and that was the last shreds of any trust in or respect for ANY of those who would have had me believe that it was OK for me to act as a walking, disposable incubator for someone else. These people from then and from now who predate on the vulnerable, are nothing but shriveled, dead souls as far as I am concerned. I cried as much for the fury as for the sadness.
Once the tears stopped, I thought about my poor, damaged son...conceived in violence but gestated with love. I thought about the man he might have become had he not been used as a prosthetic "cure" for an infertile couple...if I had raised him within his true family. I thought about my daughter, as well, wondering what direction her life might have taken had she never been separated from me. Both of them have struggled and we, all three, have lost so much.
I found what I was looking for, though, in both the weekend with my sisters and my visit to the place of my second great sadness. I know what we all have lost and we moms have not just lost our babies. We lost the adult children we would have had because the ones with whom we reunite have been altered from their natural course and influenced by other forces. No wonder the adult adoptee is so conflicted. If I had spent my life being "adjusted" to fit in with a clan that was not my natural fit, I would be confused and pissed as well. We, also, were forever altered by our loss and our mistreatment by those we should have been able to trust.
Some might ask why I would "torture myself" by visiting the Savannah Florence Crittendon site. Others would want to know why I couldn't just leave it in the past. The truth is that, as mothers grouped together for healing, we learned that very few counselors really know anything much about loss to adoption, other than the usual platitudes that we were force-fed from the first. No one but other mothers really understands the wrenching, soul-deep pain and anger that this business of adoption engenders in us all. So we find our ways to come to terms with things. It's a life-long process and that's OK. We are allowed happiness along the way of this process.
I'm glad I went. I smiled with love at the shades of all the girls I could remember...Susan, Cathy, Frannie, Deidre, Alice...cried for my beautiful, lost baby boy and the sad, defeated girl that said good-bye to him, and I drove home to Florida where husband and happiness awaited. I'm sending my children some "Thinking About You" cards, today. No matter how it turned out, my two oldest children, you are loved just as you are. Mama just had to go lance an old wound.