Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Visit

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.


suz said...

oh, god, robin, this made me bawl. i have also taken that similar journey back to the prison that i was kept in. mine was known as gehring hall and was in chicago. people also questioned me but i had to do it. i had to go back. it was like closing a gate to hell. no longer would that place haunt me. i took back what i lost from there - my daughter - or least the knowledge of her and where she was and a picture of her.

i completely relate to this post. so much so it hurts.

much love.


Anonymous said...

Thanks ((((suz))))..it was a worthwhile side trip..you gotta do what you gotta do.


Anonymous said...

Your story--your life--is amazing. But why are adoptors still in charge, intruders even in the relationships between therapists and clients? There is something very wrong and unethical going on when a human mother in the US cannot get honest and compassionate counseling for her sorrow, but infertiles are rabidly catered to.

The word "adjusted" is totally correct to describe what is supposed to be done to the thoughts and feelings of mothers who complain about their babies being taken. Mothers are supposed to "adjust" their thinking to meet the needs of adopters and their industry. Gray-haired, late middle aged mothers are denied help for their suffering and subjected to this "adjustment" cruelty by counselors half or less their age. This is ludicrous and I suspect it also violates civil rights laws.

And why is the truth about what happened to your generation of mothers, and still continues to happen all too often even today, so rarely acknowledged?

I did see Loggerheads and it is very good, but I don't expect to ever see it as a re-run on broadcast TV--too many hero adopter stories to be told, ya know, too much money to be made and too many nests to be feathered.

Anonymous said...

Robin, you are a wonderful writer and thank you for taking us with you on your journey to try to heal the wounds of this social experiment. I'm a conflicted bitter adoptee, who is trying to reunite, however my mother is not interested at this point. Through the words of mothers who relinquished I can now begin to understand the trauma, and that each individual must deal with this differently. Hopefully, our stories will one day become mainstream media.
best, bijou

Laurie (formerly known as Momseekingpeace) said...

Ahhh Robin what a post. I am glad that you went back to that place, there is something healing about seeing where it all took place and grieving for the girl that was.

For me when I had my second son, 19 years after the first, even though I lived in a town 45 minutes away, I went back to the same hospital that I had my first born to give birth to my second. I felt compelled, i just had to. I thought somewhere in my head I have to go back and leave with a baby this time. It was like gaining control of my experience. I realize now it was a bit unfair to my second to have to take that role on, but that's what adoption does, affect generations to come. When I had my third I had no desire to go back, I had him at home and was at peace with it, I also didnt have the panic attacks I had after my second, that overwhelming feeling that would come over me that soemthing bad was going to happen to "This baby too"

I am glad you went back and that you got to hang out with other mothers.

Anonymous said...

I am very moved by your blog. I am not a birthmother, but I spent four years doing research for my novel (it's called "b-mother"). As I am out and about giving readings of it now, I am continually shocked at how people never ever consider the birth/first mothers. The point of my book is that healing takes a very very long time--and that some wounds will not go away, only be integrated.I am finding that most people have never ever thought about birthmothers--society has kept peopel hidden, even in 2007.

Robin said...

Hi Maureen, and so glad that you have found an interest in our stories and trauma and kudos on injecting the subject matter into your work.

But, you see, I am not a "birth"mother, either. I am just a mother. The "B" word is not a title that we chose for ourselves and many of us have a big problem being categorized as one. Many mothers of adoption loss, who have reached a higher plateau of understanding what actually happened to us, reject the term "birthmother" completely.

That word puts us into the category of non-motherhood and is all about being for the sake of adopters. There is a good article by Diane Turski, "Why 'Birthmother' Means Breeder," That can enlighten you further. (http://www.exiledmothers.com/adoption_facts/why_birthmother_means_breeder.html)

Keep up the good work.


Robin said...

For some reason, blogger comment is being recalcitrant. It won't publish the entire URL. So, just go to http://www.exiledmothers.com/index.html

and click on Diane's article on the left-hand side. Happy reading!