Friday, September 17, 2010
Empty Arms and Raised Children
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.
Thank you both for being.