Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More On Reunion and Expectations

I got quite a response from my original post on this topic. Most comments were very much in agreement and citing the pitfalls of their own reunions. I got one negative response from an unexpected source. I also have done a lot of thinking about my own journey.

The picture at the left is me in April of 1989. I was 43, newly divorced and in a relationship with the wonderful man who is now my husband and the love of my life. I was all tied up in this new stage of my life and in this man who really seemed to respect me. I was still in the good barfmuggle fog and, although I was making stabs at searching, I was so frustrated by it all that I lost myself in new love, work, friends and trying to be reassuring to my adult, raised children.

Fast-forward to 1993 and it was double-whammy time. The daughter that I had been told by the SC DSS did not exist in their data bank (a lie) found me and we met each other the same day she called. Then in November of that same year, we found my son. I guess I thought that we could just go on with our lives but with the newly-found family members as an integral part. WRONG.

The truth is not easy to know, sometimes. Whether if fits the fantasy memory or not, the fact is that the adopters really wanted me put in and kept in what they saw as "my place." I wound up a dirty secret for my daughter, who saw me and talked to me without the knowledge of the adopters and this continued up to their passing. There were other hard and painful things going on in her life and it was a trying time for us both. My son, the young man I had told a friend would be, when we found him, either a minister or a convict, turned out to be the latter. I don't know where I got that flash of insight but it was true. He is truly a lost soul and remains one to this day. He wants me in his life but seems to go through spells when he wants no one around, period.

That same year, I quit smoking, lost my job, my father-in-law died, we started noticing that my stepson was having some serious problems and I was dealing with my new marriage. It was getting a rocky start due to the baggage we had brought with us from our less-than-successful first marriages. The only things that survived from that mess were my marriage and my non-smoking efforts, I still don't smoke. I found work on a less responsible, prestigious level, kept fighting to hold my new marriage together and dealt with the on-again, off-again reunion roller-coaster. My reunited son was deep into his addictions and violent behavior. My daughter was dealing with child custody and the demands of her adopters.

Over the years, life has gone on despite the fact that I was getting to know my own flesh and  blood and experiencing, again, the loss of my babies. My step-son, deeply depressed, took his own life just before graduation from high school. My marriage evened out and we moved to FL to start over. But it has always seemed that my reunions were static...neither excellent nor bad...just there. I spent a lot of time, and still do, trying to learn and grow and heal. I don't have all the answers but I do know that I am a lot better than I was and that I have learned acceptance of what was and what is.

I also know the difference between the things I can change and the things I can't. Nothing about the past can be undone. I cannot fix, even with all the love in my heart, the problems of another human being..even my own child. Healing comes from within and spreads outward. Looking for it in others is a form of emotional vampirism. No matter what trauma we have experienced through adoption loss, and believe me, there are many traumas just as bad or worse than what we mothers and adult adoptees went through, no one else can make us okay. If that were possible, we would do it and have things just the way we wanted them...and probably be bored to tears.

One of the things I learned about in reunion that still grinds my gizzard (southern, bless my heart) is the burden placed on adopted children, as small children, of responsibility for the emotional welfare of the adopters. I have also seen this behavior of people-pleasing in many other adoptees. That is an unbearable and unfair pressure for any child OR adult. To be fair, I don't think that many adopters realize what they are doing or why. It just seems that the need and the fears outweigh the good of the adoptee.

In a natural parent-child relationship, there is the truism that we seek whatever is both good for our child and what makes that child whole and happy. That seems to stop, with adopters, when what might be good for their adult child and might make them happy is a relationship with the natural mom.THAT is conditional love and I don't like it. This is the whole problem with that "as if born to"  fantasy that the Industry promotes.

So many of us stumble through reunion with our eyes wide shut. Some take whatever the opposite number deals out and walk on eggshells. Others learn, after a while to communicate honestly and set reasonable boundaries. It was many years from Werner Von Braun's first combat rockets to the Saturn V which launched our first astronauts into space. He was a pioneer. We are pioneers and, all claim aside, there are no experts except the ones who are living through it. It has just been in the neighborhood of 30 years since the search and reunion phenomenon began.

Until we begin to be taken seriously and are not seen as nebulous threats to each other (actually to the Industry and its customers), the only way we can learn is through experience and, if we are really smart, through the experiences of others. I am hoping that, by the time we learn how to get the rocket launched, it will be a moot point and there will be no more secrets, lies and mothers, babies and adult children in flux. I would love to see a nation that honors mothers rather than preying on the vulnerable ones and deciding who has a right to be a mother. Our constitution takes a beating on this one.

Until then, I would love to take some of the people I know, in reunion, and give them a Cher slap and say, "snap out of it!" Mama, your child is not your problem and adoptee, your Mama is not yours. Own your problems and you'll come a lot closer to finding solutions.

In the words of the late, great Bob Marley, "Let's get together and feel all right."


Lori said...

Robin, this one is a keeper - I am going to link to it, I hope that's ok.

Robin said...

Sure, Lori. No problem.

maryanne said...

This is a very good post. I have observed some of the same things in my reunion and in those of others. It is a precarious balance. I also have a reunion that is not the best and not the worst, for different reasons and my son seems fine in the rest of his life, but I know many mothers who have found deeply troubled adoptees and that is its own heartbreak. No, we cannot heal each other, but have to heal ourselves and look to the future, not the past.

Chris said...

The only person who can fix me...is me. Reunion cannot fix anybody. Each one of us comes into reunion with our own baggage...which means we do 'own' it, whether nmother or adult adoptee. Some of us make it, some of us don't and others are somewhere in the middle. All we can do is try our best..and if that isn't good enough..welllllllll

Unknown said...

I agree that reunion doesn't fix anyone, but I think that it helps. I found that until I was in reunion there were many things I hadn't even realized were problems, and the reunion crashed down the doors and allowed me to
SEE them as problems, so they COULD be fixed. I am probably moe whole and healthy NOW than at any time in my adult life. I can thank reunion and the women I met for that, not any therapists who tout the party line of "adoption is a GOOD thing." When I hear that from a therapist, I wonder who they are trying to convince....

Good post, Robin. Well said. Thanks.

jenny81271 said...

Right now I would give anything to have a reunion, good or bad. Maybe I will change my mind...maybe not. I've always said that I can handle whatever happens. I guess I have been searching far too long, with no actual results, except a picture, and a letter, and a lot of questions. I hurt because I know that "Jenny" hurts or she would want to know me. That her "parents" are afraid of me says volumes. I don't think of them as monsters, I just hate adoption and what it has done to my psyche, and my daughter. Thanks for writing this one Robin, gives me pause to reflect and think, maybe grow, on this eve of school starting tomorrow. Always....

Unknown said...

Robin this post could not have better timing for me. You said the things that need to be said perfectly. It is so easy to cast blame or feel guilty about the outcome of our adopted children. Really each of us are responsible for ourselves and we do need to own it all around. Things cannot be taken back or changed but I am a firm believer in unconditional love and that is so important. Even though it may be no ones fault life can be cruel and it does effect the outcome of so many that are just not strong enough to move ahead.
Love reading what you write thank you!

KimKim said...

Your writing gives me validation and comfort, thank you for being here.

Anonymous said...

Great post Robin.

maybe said...

Sandy wrote, "I found that until I was in reunion there were many things I hadn't even realized were problems, and the reunion crashed down the doors and allowed me to SEE them as problems, so they COULD be fixed."

This has been my experience, as well. Reunion allowed me to heal myself in so many ways and it is an ongoing process. My son can't fix me and I would never place that burden on him. But just knowing him and getting through the early part of reunion has done so much to free me and allow me to work on myself. It also allows me to help my son and support him (but not "fix" him) which I regard as a very important repsonsibility on my part.

It's quite a ride, but one with enormous benefits.

L said...

I personally have found that nothing in my reunion has been static and for that I am extremely grateful.
I was really angry after our very short honeymoon phase and I had a lot to process. These feelings left us both confused. This wasnt the reunion either of us imagined.
I realize in hindsight I went through the stages of grief. It took almost three years to clear through all the crap I did not even know I had. My firstmother has been many things but mostly, she has been patient.
Even when I cut things off with her for a brief period, she refused to disappear but kept herself in my life in kind and gentle ways.
Looking back now, I am amazed by her patience.
I am not completely through all of my feelings (are we ever?) but things are better.
I do know that I am finally at an acceptance stage. I accept that the past is in the past. I accept that my first mom is a different person from what I expected and vice-versa. I accept that despite everything, there is a love between us that is worth salvaging.
The most important thing I have learned from reunion is that nothing is permanent and that everyone should have the right to process their feelings appropriately.
I have been fortunate also in that my adoptive mom was and is extremely supportive of my reunion. If she has felt threatened by my new relationships, she has kept those feelings to herself.
Lastly, I have to say that while neither of my mothers are jumping to meet each other, it is mostly ME that keeps them apart.
For the time being, I am not comfortable or happy with the thought of them being in the same room together (though they have spoken on the phone). I guess I am still not ready for those two worlds to collide. I hope someday those feelings will change as well. We will get there in time hopefully.
I no longer push. I no longer worry. I see this all as a process and for now that is enough.

Robin said...

Beth, I had to come back and comment on your post. I think the woman who adopted my daughter might have been coming around. I also think it was my daughter that kept a meeting from happening. I felt a deep sadness, when she passed, that I had not had a chance to talk to her and know her which would have helped me know my daughter better. And, as you said, a meeting might have been a "collision." I understand the feelings but encourage you to trust a bit more.