On the Shelf in the Dark

It’s a long time since I’ve written anything about mothers-of-loss or about the difficulties of reunion. I have found it more productive to concentrate on adoptees and the enormous number of areas which provide seemingly endless topics for exploration and discussion. Making any difference to how mothers view adoptees has been an uphill struggle which I no longer felt I had time or energy for when so much still needs to be achieved for adoptees who don’t have their rights and are regarded as second-class citizens in some countries and are still stigmatised in most. Even some mothers-of-loss seem to regard adoptees as privileged, ungrateful for the sacrifices made for them and our trauma is negated or diminished because of course it is often too hard to acknowledge the reality of our loss and trauma. We are seen to have had ‘good lives’ with many advantages which wipe out loss and trauma, grief and despair. That can be understood, but it does nothing for those who expect to engage in reunion and have it work out to their satisfaction.
Reunion is a volatile area, often one of violent disagreement, entrenched views, seemingly impossible change, frustratingly contradictory goals and misunderstanding. When trauma and loss meet trauma and loss of a different kind, there are explosions, resentments, angry reactions, disbelief and sometimes even hatred apparent in the exchanges. We adoptees are often patronised, disbelieved, infantilised and great expectations are laid on our shoulders. We reel from the assumptions, the misunderstanding, the lack of goodwill, the anger and the expectations. So many go into reunion without preparation, without having worked on their losses, their trauma and their goals. They expect reunion to heal everything, to wipe away the hurt, the lost years and for blood ties to be strong enough to bind together those who were traumatically separated. We see assumptions, expectations laid bare and the weight of it all laid on the adoptees. We often are not sure what we want, need to get to know the woman who gave birth to us and gave us away before we can decide whether we want her in our lives or not. Sometimes we do and we don’t – we want the blood ties, the connection, but we don’t want the dramas, the constant misreading of our intentions, being thought the worst of, being expected to forget the past and treat someone we don’t know as our mother and so on….. Of course there are difficulties with trust, so many of us have been told so many contradicting stories about our beginnings, sometimes our mothers mislead us, lie to us, deceive us and think only of protecting themselves. Most of us will never know the ‘true story’ of our early life. Then there is the myth of being ‘loved and wanted’ which we are told all mothers experienced in relation to us, even though they gave us away, let us be taken away or actively sought to have us adopted because it was ‘loving’ and ‘beautiful’ to create a new family. Many of us were definitely not ‘loved and wanted’ and were still not years later when we found our mothers, who rejected us for a second time. Some us were told in no uncertain terms that we should have been aborted, miscarried or got rid of in other ways expressed in the crudest and most painful of terms. Some of us were strung along for decades because mothers were not courageous enough to be honest about our existence and they want us to play along with their subterfuge and lies. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects is the scripting of our lives – the way in which we are told how to behave, what we think and how we should live. Our actions are defined and interpreted – I know how much this hurts, but try to overcome the feelings of rejection. She is not rejecting you, she is rejecting the emotions that she is feeling, and she is roiling inside. This is an exact mirror of what happens in adoption when adoptees are instructed how to behave, how to live and what to say. This happens to adult adoptees no matter their age or circumstances. So much of this interpretation and so on must surely be the result of guilt, regret, loss, trauma, low self-worth and not having worked to resolve those things in a way that makes the prospective reuniter ready, fit and emotionally able for the difficult, complex, demanding task of reunion which may need a long commitment, dedication and perseverance, strength, courage and a willingness to learn, to admit to being wrong, to take on new challenges and to form a new idea of family. Perhaps also we need to learn that privacy encourages intimacy or closeness. Who wants to know that one of the most profound times of life will be revealed to the world via the social media with photos included? Not much encouragement to proceed!
Some quotes from Facebook –
Four weeks ago I met my daughter. It was unexpected. We had never met. She rejected me in a verbally abusive violent way 7 years ago. I truly thought we would never reunite.
We spoke for 3 1/2 hours and then we met for dinner later that night. It was heartbreaking, beautiful, sacred and scary. She told me she loved me several times. We are so similar. I love her. No plans were made. She hasn’t responded to my two text messages in 4 weeks. I’m back on the shelf in the dark

and another – It’s very humiliating to be treated like that and the “Dad” in my story gets called Dad, they stay in touch regularly, etc. No excuse for that. At some point you have to realize its some sort of vendetta to get revenge.

It will take a very long time, much more goodwill and a profound shift in the mind-set before we do reunion better or even adequately. We have a long way to go and it seems we’ve hardly begun……
And an interesting link about mothering – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3098723/

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