27 October 2011

Sometimes My Heart Aches

Sometimes when I am not being a mean old mommy trying to ensure that my kiddos grow up to be responsible members of society, I cross over to what I imagine things must be like for my children being adopted. Openly adopted.

My parents divorced when I was 8 and by 9 I had a new life complete with the addition of another mother, brother and sister.  I lived in a new house, in a new city with a new haircut - my long savage hair was chopped. Gone were the days of running freely out in the country on the land where we lived with my grandparents (my Nanny and PawPaw) and getting dirty from swimming in the mucky pond and exploring the woods. 

Also gone were some cherished items:  my (and my sister's) canopy bed where we used to play a twisted volleyball with our dolls' heads; the side tables that used to house the frogs we caught; my white transistor radio where I first heard Feliz Navidad; our beloved tree house where I inverted my life-sized doll to mop up a cracked goose egg; the hill by the barn that I learned to ride my bike on....and so many things I knew as a child.

My mom was allowed visitation, and I can't recall how often exactly, but I recall spending some weekends with her when we were still living in Florida. When I was 10 we moved to Oklahoma, far away from my mom and my grandparents. My mom did not know where we were and my heart broke for a long time reconciling this information when I was old enough to understand it all. She was 23 when she came to this country and at 33, she was alone with no family. It brings tears to my eyes now to think about how she wondered where we were...we just dropped off the face of the earth. I was in the 4th grade when my parents divorced. At the tail end of 5th grade we moved to Oklahoma. In between, there were 2 other schools in Tampa. Whirlwind might be an understatement. Good thing I was a resilient child back then...

I talked to my mom last night as I often do.  She's retired now and finally has time to sort through the items she's accumulated over time (not that she will, mind you). We don't have that super tight relationship that many mothers and daughters have, but I am grateful that we have any relationship at all. My mom wondered where we were for a year or so after we moved to Oklahoma, the details are not quite clear. I recall trying to send her a red milk cap craft I had made for her stuffed into an envelope and then the next memory I have is being on the phone with her. That was so long ago (30+ years) and we've always kept in touch. I think the shock of everything that happened to her since she came here from the Philippines stunted her emotionally but she has survived.

I never thought that my mom rejected me because she wasn't in my life every day.  She had no choice in the matter. And we got into touch soon after moving so there was hardly a gap in communication, although she didn't see us nearly as often (obviously). We visited her over the years and she traveled here for high school graduations, weddings, etc....we've mostly always kept in touch.

Which brings me back to the original thought behind this post. My heart sometimes aches at the thought of any of my three children feeling rejected or unloved by their biological parents. They get to see them when we can make it happen and they are definitely shown that they are loved. But I'm sure that each of them wonders "why?" sometimes. I am sure my oldest wonders why her birth mom kept her 2 sisters and gave her up. I think that once she's completely cognizant of the timeline and reproduction, she will get it. She had 2 older sisters when she was born (they each had a different birth father), then her oldest sister died when Emi was 1 (Ty was only 4) and her little sister was born when Emi was 2 (and she shares the same birth father as her older sister.

In my sweet daughter's mind she must feel rejection even though she is loved by so many, including her bio mom. The best thing we can do for her is reassure her and guide her through life with her birth mom and family.

And young David, so smart at 4, you can see the wheels turning with him. He's been calling me "mom", "mama" and "mommy" for the past year and a half, but I am sure it's confusing to him when we see his biological mom and dad and they talk about memories they have of him as a baby. For someone who speaks his mind ("That sure is a goofy look"), he doesn't say anything as they are recounting a memory, but his face shows that he is thinking things.

My kids are all loved, very much so and by a good deal of family - biological and created. They know we are a family of 5 and so much more. They hear us talk positively about their biological parents and how much we love them too and I think that's healthy for them and for us.

I mentioned that my mom was 23 when she came to America. Pregnant and newly wed with absolutely no family. I can't imagine the culture shock or how she got through that time period (or the one that came 10 years later). I came along 10 months after my brother and my sister not quite 2 years after me. I guess being blissfully ignorant about things might have helped. 23 was the age that Emi's birth mom was when she gave birth to Emi and also the age that the Little One's birth mom was a few months after they joined our family. What is it about 23?

So, I worry about my kids and the feelings they might harbor regarding their adoption experiences.  But the pieces and people are here for them and will be for the foreseeable future. Mostly we take it day by day.  They may not understand the reasons now but hopefully they will feel the love from all of us and be comforted by that for now...


  1. this is a really moving and personal post. i enjoyed reading it & learning about your experience. i took a class in university called Family Communication, and the professor was an adoptee from operation Baby Drop in Vietnam. So interesting to hear a variety of narratives about adoption. thank you for sharing.

  2. Truly a heartrending post. It's hard to read, but touching, too. Thanks for sharing something so personal. It is clear is how much you love and adore your children. They feel that, I'm sure.

  3. I agree, this is so enlightening on what it's like as a kid to see your parents go through a divorce as well as on adoption. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life.

  4. LiveLoveNYC: Was that back in 1975 when the 2000 babies were airlifted and adopted out after the Vietnam War? Did your professor know any of his family? Most of the adoptees I know have closed adoptions. I am glad we don't (have to go that route).

    Annie: I think they feel the love and that really is the most important thing. We have a really great adoption counselor (30+ years experience) who can help with any issues. That has given me some hope that Emi will have someone to talk to about issues instead of stuffing them away. BTW, did you find Gil?

    Melissa, it was because of the way my mom was handled that we opted for open adoption, so that the birth parents wouldn't wonder. Each of them had other options and they chose what was best for their babies and they shouldn't be penalized for it. It complicates some things and we've forced some family to be more flexible and open too so we're all growing out of these experiences.

    You guys are welcome. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. With it being open your babies are more apt to be open about their questions when they are ready to ask them.

    I think it is a wonderful thing for all involved to have an open adoption.

    From what I have read, you have felt some of the things they are feeling and will understand them and know how to handel the situation when it comes up. They blessed to have been given to your care.



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