Thursday, August 19, 2010

Reasonable Expectations

Just about everyone except the hermit from the mountaintop cave has heard the famous line from "Forrest Gump," and can even add in the drawl.."Lahf is lahk a box of nevah know what you'ah gonna get." As trite as it seems, it is still a very sage observation. I mean, how many times have you bitten into a luscious-looking bit from a fancy box only to get something totally unexpected and maybe not as palatable as you had hoped?

Adoptees who are campaigning for access to their original birth certificates are, basically, wanting to open that box. Yes, I know it is about civil rights just as justice for the mothers of the EMS is about human rights. But let's get real. That OBC leads to one destination...the natural mother. I can only observe, since I can't get into any one's head any more than they can get into mine. But I wonder about the expectations of the adoptee once they get that document that is, after all, rightfully theirs. How many of them are prepared, as much as anyone can be, to accept what they find?

Most will find a normal woman...everywoman...who has tried to make a life for herself after the most traumatic loss a mother can endure. A few might find a grave and, perhaps, siblings. Some might find a mother who overdosed on the Adoption Kool Aid and won't come out of the closet. Some learn painful truths such as the occurrence of rape and incest. Here and there, you will find a mom in an institution or deep into senile dementia. You sure can't count on the non-identifying information that you receive from the various agencies and state facilitators for accurate background information. The social workers from the closed, secret adoption era (EMS) were good at twisting facts to suit their agenda.

There are a lot of things that fall under the heading of unreasonable expectations. It is unreasonable to expect the mother to forsake all others in her family and give her adult child 100% of herself. She has had to share you, trusting in whatever Higher Power in whom she believes to care for you, for decades. If she has a husband and other, raised children, you will have to share her. Do not expect her to fit herself, willingly, into whatever niche you have in mind for her. It's almost better to have the mom in some nebulous category than to deny her motherhood by fitting her into the "friend" or "auntie" box.

Don't expect someone who will bow to all your needs, especially the need to control. This person who gave birth to you has been through a trauma of her own. She also will have a few years of life experience on you. If she is in her senior years, it might be that she can't tolerate a lot of angst and drama. She can't fix you any more than you can fix her. Mutual respect is the key, here.

Don't expect her to worship at the same adopter altar, either. I think that, in many cases, civility is about the best you can hope for, IF the adopters are on the same page with that. She can respect the feelings that the adoptee has for the only parents they have ever known, but she cannot be expected to respect the actual people, especially if they are hostile and possessive. To expect her to like and respect people who really don't want her anywhere around is one of the most unreasonable expectations you can have. Everyone has a right to be treated with civility and natural mothers are not doormats for adoptees or adopters. And, it is not the adoptee's responsibility to be a caretaker for the emotions of other adults, including their adopters.

It will be reasonable to take everything you have ever been told about your natural mother and place it to one side. Many lies are told to many an adoptee and it can come as a shock to the system when they find a decent, respectable woman with values and accomplishments. It will be reasonable to curtail any attempts at control. She was just as controlled by others as you were. The only difference is that she can remember it. She will have her fantasies too, and if she finds that all was not roses and lollipops for her surrendered child, she will be angry and disappointed and hurt but she will deal with it. She was lied to, just as much as you were.

There is and will always be her motherhood to consider. Even though she didn't change the diapers and clean up the throw-up and shop for the school clothes and give time-outs, the act of gestating and giving birth made her a mother. For nine months, her body and emotions were being prepared for mothering. It is like a stillbirth without the grave or the closure. They took her parental rights and responsibilities. They did not take away the love, hope, worry and all the other things that make up her motherhood. No matter how you see her, in her heart of hearts, she will always be your mother and you will always be her child. Mother Nature did what no adoption decree can do. Deny if you wish, but it will not change facts.

Expect to have your misperceptions and assumptions challenged by what you find. Yes, a few find a rejecting and less than upstanding citizen. Most find open arms and a woman with a hole in her heart left by the infant you. She will have just as much adjusting and processing to do as you do so keep the communication honest, but not harsh. Don't find and then back away without an explanation. If you need time, tell her.

These ideas about expectations extend to the exiled mother, as well. Too often, a mother is shocked and dismayed to be the object of resentment and even hatred. That flies in the face of all the things she was told. She was told you would thank her for her sacrifice. Most want neither the anger nor the thanks...just a chance to know the person their baby became. For the mother to expect to become the only Mama and numero uno in the adoptee's life is unrealistic, except in some very rare cases. The adoptee is already torn so the mother needs to be aware.

For many, mother and adoptees, there are very damaged people at the end of a search. Adoption, itself, is damaging on both ends. I was once a part of an online support group for exiled mothers and the majority of us had adult children with addictions and emotional illnesses. Some adoptees also have found mothers with emotional difficulties and who struggle with substance abuse. These are the casualties of the Industry's actions. Same coin, different sides.

It is reasonable to expect that this will be a deeply emotional meeting with a hard road ahead in forming a relationship. Some work and some don't. In the event that it doesn't work out, it isn't necessary to carry a burden of blame or chew on it forever. The damage was done long ago, by a voracious industry and smug social engineers with their "perfect solution." There is still life to be lived and happiness for those who work at it.

 One of my favorite adoptee friends, a lady with an unreal sense of humor and an ability to learn and grow, said that the hardest part of finding healing is realizing and accepting the role of the adopters in their pain. No matter how good the intentions or how much love was given, the act of adopting a child and the unreasonable expectations placed on that child can cause a lot of damage. Being honest with yourself is hard, but what in life isn't? We are not the most persecuted or traumatized group of people on this earth. There is always someone who had it rougher than you. Pain contests and terminal uniqueness lead to addiction, depression and a life wasted.

It's all about playing the hand we were dealt and examining our expectations. Let's keep them reasonable.


Sandy Young said...

Terminal that term! I have seen some of it in my son. The thing that I have finally come to accept is that no amount of MY wishing him well will make it so, unless HE wishes himself well. Tough pill to swallow.

Lori said...

Beautiful! I see so much truth - so much validation in this... thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad I came across your blog, Robin. You have a way of writing about this "shared adoption journey" that provides validation, at least for me.

I don't know you, but I am so happy to find a fellow traveler on this journey, I can't tell you. I know you don't consider yourself an expert, but your experience,observations and the ability to put those things into cohesive sentences and pargraphs for the rest of us to share, is invaluable. Thank you.

Robin said...

Liz, we are the only experts there are. Experience has made us the only authority on this subject. Mother or adult child, we all have the only real info there is.

Anonymous said...

Would "adoption is worse than death" be a fitting slogan?

KimKim said...

I so need to read this right now, I wish that this could be read by the whole world. You have to get this published. You really write extremely well and as far as I'm concerned you have my permission to speak on my behalf. Thank you.

jenny81271 said...

Thanks for writing something that really made sense today....maybe it will help me when I really need it. Always, Jenny

maybe said...

Right on the money, as usual!

Anonymous said...

I'm an adoptee and just wanted to mention that, even though I know the names that would be on my OBC, that having this document would still fill a gap in my life. It is hard to explain but somehow having that original record of birth would be treasured by many adoptees since it is part of our lives that has been kept from us. As you said for many it will be a starting point for identifying, finding, and reunion with all the possibilities you talked of. But for many of us that already know the names of our original mothers it will bring about a peace in finally seeing the original document that recorded our birth and that was kept a secret and hidden from us for so long.

Robin said...

Understood, Anon. It would also be a boon for us mothers to have access to the records that changed our lives when Our human rights were ignored and trampled. I am still trying to get copies of medical records and surrender documents...things that should be mine. And I have reunited so that is not the point.

The point of this post was mainly about the kinds of things we expect from each other when we reunite.