Friday, September 17, 2010

Empty Arms and Raised Children

the pain of saying good bye to my two oldest children. I have noted that the loss of my babies left two hI've posted about oles in my heart. But, while you cannot replace one child with another, I did go on to have and raise two wonderful children that are my heart's balm and salvation.

For a good percentage of mothers of adoption loss, that did not happen. Secondary infertility has been a common burden which many of our sisters bear. In fact, one such mother started a support group for exiled mothers who never had other children after losing their first to adoption. I stumbled across this painting by Virginia Van Boven and thought about how appropriate it is to this condition. I feel the sadness of the childless mother. I am not saying that their loss hurt any worse than the loss we mothers of raised children suffered. But it does seem to cause a difference in how we approach reunion and resolve issues.

It is not that the mother with secondary infertility doesn't know how it feels to have a child. She had one and was coerced into surrendering that child. She has a mother's heart and a mother's need. The causes for her secondary childlessness can be attributed to physical problems, but also can result from the emotional and psychological trauma of her loss. I know one such mother who said she felt that having another child would be, somehow, disloyal to the child she lost to adoption. Another opined that she bought into the idea that she was unfit, as she had been coerced to believe, to mother any child.

The promise that was made to many of us, by the social workers who "counseled" us, was that we would go on to have other children and we would forget our loss. I married in haste, the first time, for respectability and to have those promised babies that would heal my wounds. Don't get me wrong. I love my raised children with all my heart. They have made a better person out of me, just by being and I cherish every moment of their lives. But they couldn't replace the two I lost and expecting that of them would have been hideously unfair to them. In a way, it's just as bad as adopters expecting the adoptees to be the "cure" for their infertility. I love my raised children for who they ARE. They made their own places in my heart and I thank my lucky stars for both of them, every day.

Let's face it. The big bonus of having children to raise after losing to adoption is that we don't have to cede our place in our kept children's lives to someone else. We don't have to live in the shadow of the adopters with our own flesh and blood when we have raised children. The relationship is easier, more natural, less filled with angst (although my two have given me some moments) and there seem to be no conditions placed on the relationships. If we get angry at each other, then we get angry. We also get over it and even can get to the point where we can laugh at the problems and ourselves.

Our raised children can also, often, act as a bridge to our reunited adult children. A sibling is a lot less threatening to them than the two-headed demon/angel mother. In my case, they get along a lot better with the sibs since I am the one with the militant stance concerning adoption, family preservation and the one who will not pay homage to the adopters. We NMoms usually see through the adopter-worship, denial of lies, and refusal to see that it might not have been "meant to be," to see the hurt child who is trying to survive and holding on to the lie of adoption as the only safety they have ever known. We are the ones who tend to bite our tongues until they bleed. And heaven help us if anything we say might shine a light on lies told or poor behavior on the part of the adopters.

My raised children need me in their lives. I am their beginning, their maturing and their life's experience as their mother. I can't re-raise my two surrendered children, but I am not willing to accept the role of "lesser than" either. I guess the act of raising children gives us a perspective that the natural mother with secondary infertility doesn't have. In raising a child, you learn how to let go, from the first faltering steps, to the first time driving a car, to setting out in the world to make their way. We have learned the value of kicking the fledglings out of the nest. Maybe it is just a little easier for us to do that letting go of our adult, surrendered children than it is for those who had no more children.

I can identify with the mother who has not had this experience...this wanting to sacrifice all for the reunited, adult child. That is the "Mother Tiger" response of the mother of a newborn. But that child is not a baby, anymore. The difference seems to be in expectations. We mothers who have raised children to adulthood expect adult behavior from their reunited children, as well. When we don't get it, we are often bewildered and a bit angry. It has taken me many years to understand the adoptee's feelings and a few more to realize that I don't have to take disrespect and abusive chiding from my adult, reunited children. It can be a real Catch-22. For some, it is never resolved. But good communication and honesty do help.

By knowing many of the very dear women who suffered from secondary infertility, I appreciate my raised children all the more. Kerry and Sam, you are my rocks. You are my adult babies, you are my friends and I am so glad you ARE. I hope you know that I have never loved you any less by grieving for my lost babies. You gave me purpose and joy. Part of my heart will always ache from loss. But another part of my heart will always soar with the wings of a happy Mom.

Thank you both for being.


Anonymous said...

Some of us learned after reunion, though,how much losing a child impacted the lives of the children we had later. I became a "fearful mother." If I relaxed to enjoy the children I raised, something owuld happen to them, something I missed...My next child was a daughter. I was overjoyed she was a girl. Her brother born 3 years later bore the results of my loss...I felt if I got close to him, I would lose him, so I put a distance between us that I didn't realize existed until I was reunited with his older brother. I withdrew emotionally as a result of my loss...Adoption damages...even those of us who were fortunate enough tohave other children we raised.

Robin said...

I was overprotective and demanding of my raised children until I realised what I had been doing. It has been awful sitting on my hands and biting my tongue, but my mother's instinct told me it was what I needed to do.

KimKim said...

Did a pregnancy test today (my period is two months late) it was negative. I knew it was but needed to do the test to stop making myself crazy with false hope.

Never had more children, couldn't face it, was not brave enough to go through the agony of labour and felt like it was somehow disloyal to her.

Only after finding her did I feel like it might be ok to have another child and it never happened.

Oh well...

Anonymous said...

I was one of those girls that never got to experience childbirth again. My baby was stolen from me in 1970 and I will never be able to move on. What this "so called" civilized country did to my baby and I is unforgivable. They got away with stealing my precious child and destroyed me so I could never "DO THAT AGAIN" as I was told. I'm sure you all know what "THAT" is!!!

Sandy Young said...

Beautiful loveletter to your children, Robin. I loved reading it. It made my heart happy what you wrote about your raised children.

The secondary infertility has always seemed a further and possibly even deeper tragedy to me than the initial loss. To be so scarred, either physically or emotionally to have have the joy and frustration of raising a child breaks my heart.

I have always thought that having children softened me, smoothed my rough edges sort of, like sandpaper does to raw wood. Maybe I was raw wood due to the intial loss of my firstborn. As you say, they didn't replace him in my heart, but I found that there was room enough in there for more. The hole he left remained, son-sized, but the room seems infinite.

I suppose I had them for ME, as you say, like adopters get children for THEM, but there is a big difference. WE never had to break another woman to get what we wanted.

Robin said...

"WE never had to break another woman to get what we wanted."

I think that, if I had become infertile after losing S & J, I would not have adopted. I think I abhored the concept long before I actually knew I did.

Anonymous said...

Kitta here:

I think it is important to understand the reasons for not having other children, after surrender.
If a mother is using contraception or gets pregnant and chooses abortion ...well, that is not 'secondary infertility."

Infertility is defined as the "inability to conceive or to maintain a pregnancy."

I chose to use birth control for decades after I lost my son because i feared the gov't would take any child I had.

Finally, when I was nearly 40, I got up the courage to try to get pregnant.And..... I did get pregnant, but had a miscarriage at 8 weeks. This was diagnosed as age-related.

yes, 40 is old!!!!Too old to be having babies, usually.

So, I also wonder how many adoptive applicants are told that they have "unexplained infertility" when in fact, they are just too old.

Robin said...

Kitta, I understand your drift and that is what I was trying to get at when I referred to psychological and emotional causes. Even if it is not true infertility, the results are the more children, and that is something I place squarely on the Industry's shoulders.

Chris said...

I was most fortunate to go on and have 3 more children. And I too, have always felt a sincere sense of loss and compassion for those mothers I now know who, for whatever reasons, did not have any more children after the loss of their firstborn to adoption. Would seem to me this would yet be another terrible damaging effect of surrender (for the act of adoption) upon the mother. I hold these mothers in my heart.

I have often wondered now...about the effects on reunion..for mothers with subsequent children and those mothers who had no other children? Do reunions go better when the mother had no other children? Do reunions go worse (or simply stagnate) when mothers do have other children?
I can say for myself, since I raised other children to of the most difficult times I have had in with the "rules" of reunion between reunited mothers and her now adult child. So many times the 'rules' sound like 'enabling' to me, that of enabling other adults. Does anyone else remember all the 'rules' for reunion that a natural mother must follow? Who came up with those 'rules'? Was it an adult adoptee/s (professional person/s) or a mother/s who had no other children? Because even though I did follow those 'rules' for several years...those rules truly went against every fiber of my mother body and mind who did raise other children to adulthood. I now wonder if I had followed my own Mother heart and mind thought processes from day one in reunion..and not the 'rules' as dictated by others..would my now 11 yr old reunion have tanked?
I think a lot of mothers received some really shoddy advice/rules when we first reunite, well at least is how I believe for myself today. Today I know..if I had it do all over again...I would follow my own gut instincts as a mother, as a very adult woman who also was already a grandmother when she reunited.

To all mothers out there, who lost their firstborns to adoption and truly wanted other children and were unable to conceive again...please know that I hold you in my heart.

Robin said...

Chris, I agree. I think the rules are for the adopters, anyway...not the reunitees. And my heart hurts for those with empty arms as well. I don't think there is an answer to how to keep a reunion alive. I just had my 17-year reunion go down the tubes...just because I told my truth. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

I cried when I read that a total stranger holds my pain in their heart.

I can answer some of those questions about how we feel when we have lived a lifetime with out birthing another child.

I agree that there are numerous reasons women find themselves in that situation, mine was the cruel manner in which my first born was delivered. I also think that after so many years, my heart grew numb to really even caring if I had another child. So I imagine the psych part of it was there too.

I found my daughter when she was 14 years old, back in 1984. I will admit, I had to let her aparents know I was back in the picture. I was not mean or cruel but I wanted pictures of my baby. They actually admitted to me that they knew my baby was taken from me by force, physical force!

They refused me pictures and told me there was no need for me to see her. They said she had no interest and their lawyer sent me a nasty letter. To make a long story short, when my daughter turned 18 I received a letter telling me she wanted nothing to do with me. My precious baby is now 40 years old and after hundreds of letters I have sent her she still refuses to mutter one word to me, not even a short letter.

So, having no more children just feels like one more cross to bear in life. But to be honest, losing my precious baby girl has destroyed my spirit and damaged my soul much more than not having any more children.

May G-d bless you all...

Robin said...

(((((Anon))))) I am so sorry that you have not been afforded the respect and caring due to you as this woman's natural mother. You deserve at least that. My thoughts are with you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to anonymous.
I discovered at 32 following the death of my father that my mother had given up a son some time before she remarried.
I bore the brunt of her repressed anger and continue to struggle with feeling good about myself (I am now 45).
For all intensive purposes I appear to function well but on the inside it is a different story.
There is very little written about this subject - I trawled for hours before I found this site.
I now have an alienated daughter and I have no idea what has caused this to happen.
I have previously been to counselling a number of time and am going to counselling again in the hope that I can undo the programming and become what my children need me to be.
The pain I feel can't be anywhere as bad as my mother, but I wonder how many there are out there like me who has no understanding of the effect this has caused.