Friday, August 13, 2010
Reunion and Expectations
I call what happens first after the initial pink cloud, "hitting the wall." That's when the realities start to sink in. For the mother, it is knowing that the relationship is never going to be 100% mother and adult child because the adult child has a history with other people she considers her parents.
The mother has to deal with decades of suppressed grief. We were denied the opportunity to mourn our children when we lost them. When all that grief bubbles to the surface, it can take us down like a blow to the gut. Finding peace and acceptance of what is and what was while building a new relationship with the adult child of our body is a difficult task. The fact that we also have tried to make lives for ourselves and often have other loved ones who need our attention can further add to the emotional weight.
For the adult child, there is the realization that there is no "closure" or resolutions of emotional problems with reunion. We can't fix each other. It causes a severe case of anti-climactic shock for many. Add that to the problems of loyalty and sense of obligation they can feel for their adopters and you can easily see why the adoptee is torn, confused and looking for something more. My friend's daughter is in the stage where she wants to be with her mother all the time. She wants to make up for lost time and that is something none of us can do.
That time that is missing is gone forever. The young woman who gave birth to the adult child is no longer young, is often plagued with the various annoying medical problems of the middle-aged and aging and has a journey of her own to take. We get shocked back to that young woman who was so abandoned and desperate and sad beyond belief. That's quite a trip to take when you are getting up in years.
The adoptee has to deal with the reality vs. the feelings. Even though they know, with their adult minds, that most were neither unloved nor abandoned, there is still a small child inside wondering why mommy didn't want them. If they were told lies during their years growing up, it is hard to decide who to blame or if anyone is to blame. They also have to deal with, in some instances, hostile and insecure adopters whose love might, unfortunately, carry conditions.
Often, the adult adoptee finds it easier to deal with found siblings than with the mother who has such a bigger-than-life presence in their psyche. They have their fantasies about the mothers just as we have ours about our children. On both ends, we usually find normal, fallible people with all the baggage of life. Each of us, mother and adult child, have a power to hurt the other without even meaning to do so. Many of us are guilty of trying to read things into what the other says without accepting that they might just simply mean what they are saying. We're as tender as new growth in the Spring. Hyper-sensitivity can become an issue.
The stories of their conceptions and births can often also cause an adoptee extra angst. That especially goes for those whose mothers were raped or were the victims of incest. Knowing that their fathers deserted their mothers in their time of need and that their grandparents were not receptive to keeping them in the family can hurt. Again, this is something they can understand intellectually, but is a hard emotional blow.
Even if the mother welcomes the adult child with open arms and heart, there might be others, usually the father and some extended family, who are uncomfortable with reunion and don't care to participate. That can cause heartache for both mother and adult child. People are still awfully funny about adoption mythology.
Then we get back to the adopters. They can deep-six a reunion faster than anything going. The insecurities, the fact that they could not give the gift of life to the adoptee, the fears that the adoptee will like the natural mom more than them can, many times, make them behave in a hostile, demanding way. I remember my daughter's adopter saying "Thank you for S***. Now this reunion nonsense will cease!" I quietly told her that I was going to leave that up to my daughter. She managed, for a while, to really mess with our reunion. Like it or not, the adopters are all the adoptee knew and they fear losing the only anchor in life they ever felt they had.
We never know what we will find at the end of a search. For some, on both ends, it can be rejection. For some, it is a grave and that is very hard to take. For many mothers, we have found damaged adults who were either physically or emotionally abused or were in a very dysfunctional situation. We were promised two full-time "parents" for our babies and we learn, years later, that there was divorce, infidelity, alcoholism, financial problems, distant, cold adopters..in other words, the exact opposite of everything we were promised by the ones who did the emotional coercing. We often also find that there was no truth to the blithely told tale of adopters waiting at the agency to immediately take our children. Most, if not all, were in foster care for months before they were placed in adoptive homes.
The biggest injustice the mother or the adult adoptee can do themselves is to look to the other to fix or resolve their issues. That resolution comes from looking within and taking time to work through things. A little honest but respectful communication helps. Even our raised children learn that there comes a time when they have to find their own answers.
We can give each other information and reassurance. We can give each other unconditional love. What we can't do is fix each other. Reunion is valuable but it isn't the answer. It isn't the end of the road but the beginning of a new one.
If I were to give any advice it would be to not take yourself too seriously while on this reunion journey. It's dramatic enough without adding to it.