December 9, 2008
Love = Loss?
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Nancy Verrier is an awesome woman. As an adoptive Mother as well as a psychologist, she wrote a book which FINALLY validates the experience of millions of Americans "touched" by adoption. "The Primal Wound" describes the pre-verbal, primal LOSS that every adopted child experiences, no matter how young they are placed into their new adoptive home.
I was adopted at just a few days old, and never thought adoption affected me. Until I grew up. Partially. I say "partially" because I truly feel as if my "real" self wasn't given permission to feel or grow beginning the day my birth certificate was amended to represent a new person. The old person died, or stagnated. And a new "false" self was born. I believe that is what "sealed" records do to adoptees. Because I experienced it.
I was so terrified of loss that my old "real" self went into hiding in order to survive in this new life that was created for me. The hidden grief, confusion, loss, and emotions were "stunted" ~ until I became an adult who was "curious" about my origins and searched. It awoke my "true" self, only to find a broken, fearful, vulnerable child with what Nancy Verrier so aptly coined as a "primal wound".
The reason I share these thoughts is because once I started to really "feel" those buried emotions, it truly felt like death. And then a re-birth. Each level of grief was a confusing, emotional rollercoaster, because adoptees are not given societal (or personal) "permission" to grieve their "lost" selves, families, mothers, heritage, culture, place. We are conditioned from "Gotcha Day" to celebrate a profound loss ~ how screwed up is that?
When I had my son almost 4 years ago he was born extremely pre-mature and small. I also suffered severe physical, long-term complications from the traumatic birth. This alone was enough. But ADD on top of that my adoption issues of motherhood, abandonment, loss and trust ~ and it is a true miracle that I am able to sit here and finally begin to blog about these events. The whole traumatic experience ~ my 1.4 pound son, him being hospitalized for many months, my inability to hold him and comfort him, and having to watch him suffer ~ caused my adoptee heart to "freeze" again. Each trauma or loss (even threatened loss) is like a re-awakening of that original, profound loss, resulting in the feeling of death or nothingness to an adoptee. My heart can only take so much. I had to emotionally numb myself to get through those first couple of years and also allow myself to begin to grieve for my son's prematurity and experience.
Before my son was born I saw my aMom through many years of health problems, including a fight against the same type of cancer that took my nMother's life (before we were reunited), a bone marrow transplant, chemo, radiation, two broken hips (you get the picture). I forgot to mention that when my son was 2 yrs old (just 2 yrs ago, right before Christmas), Mom ended up in ICU for a week due to a severe concussion from a fall. Before all this I also had to put my aGrandmother (Nanny) in a nursing home in her old age, when I was not able to care for her and my aMom both at the same time. This was hard on me emotionally and physically. Especially right after my reunion and finding my nMother was dead. Holy Cow. Just re-writing all this makes me cringe. I truly believe that the grace of God is what brought me through.
Anyway, I write all this to say...I feel like I am finally coming out of yet another "fog" of dealing with the trauma of my son's birth. After 4 surgeries in his 4 years of life, he is now healthy and developing more on track. That is a huge relief in itself. Especially after a couple of years of almost no sleep due to his sensory issues and the way it affected his sleep patterns. This is the first year I feel like I can breathe again, and feel. Thank you, God.
My aMom is still alive and kicking at the age of 78 (in a couple of months). She uses a walker to ambulate and is on a myriad of prescription pain medication for chronic pain & arthritis. Her doctor wants her to have back fusion surgery, but so far she can still (barely) get up and down from chairs, and she refuses to go through yet another surgery (especially one that is so debilitating). I think she also (sadly) realizes that I am no longer available to jump up and spend all my emotional & physical energies on taking care of her.
What is very hard on me emotionally is watching my Mom make unhealthy decisions which affect her health. During one part of this journey I went through an anger stage because I felt like I was the one who was responsible for taking care of her, when she wouldn't take care of herself. She overworked herself taking care of her controlling Mother and I didn't want to be a repeat of this. But for way more than a decade, I was. The past four years I have been physically & emotionally unable to help her alot. I feel somewhat guilty for this, because I know she could use it. But I also know that I am incapable. My body is in pain much of the time, and just trying to allow myself time to recover and heal has been a challenge in itself. My son goes to a special pre-school now which allows me the time to take a stretching class. I've learned by experiences that when you are "going through" a hard time, your body and mind is being fueled by adrenaline. But it is AFTER the battle that the weakness and vulnerability really hit. Having my son awakened in me a fierce ability to love like never before. And with that came extreme vulnerability.
I also appreciate my aMom so much more. I have SO much admiration & love for her as a woman who has never given up. She loves me and would do anything in the world for me. And it's only been since grieving my adoption issues that I have been able to embrace that emotionally.
Finally coming out of the "fog" of journeying through shock, anger, saddness regarding my whole adoptive status. Being relinquished by a young, unmarried mother who literally was given no other choice, and being "bought" by my parents who thought I would be a blank slate and the replacement for the child they couldn't conceive. Finding all this out as an adoptee is staggering alone ~ when we find our story, our search, our identity, and our reunion. Needless to say I've been in "reunion" for over 17 years and I'm still on this journey and forever will be.
I so wish my aMom would move into assisted living. She will stubbornly not ask for help from others (except me, from which she expects it). She still has to go down steps into her garage in order to do her laundry, which is very hard on her back. YET she volunteers for an agency that works with older people, and one of their services is "in home" support, doing laundry for their clients. She WILL NOT let the office-staff know that she herself desperately needs assistance in this area. These people care about her a lot. I know that they would help her if they knew she was in need. When she was in the hospital two years ago I got a flood of calls from caring people who were worried about her, and sadly, I felt like a a horrible daughter because they acted as if she was without help from her "family" (me alone). I tried to explain to them that she needed more help than I could give her. But she recovered (miraculously) and went right back to taking care of others to mask her own needs.
Tonight I tried to call my Mom and her phone was busy for about 3 hours. This isn't completely unusual, as she loves to talk on the phone to her friends that her life now revolves around, since I had to distance myself in taking care of my son and self. I finally decided to call the operator to check to see if there was "conversation on the line". It brought back memories of the past years I was terrified of losing my Mom and feeling like I was completely responsible for her well-being. What a trip. Anyway, the operator came back on the line saying she could not hear any conversation. My emotions have thawed out sufficiently enough in the past few months to actually be able to FEEL again. And I immediately felt FEAR. I was so scared that my Mom was laying in her house unable to get the help she needed. Just last week I begged her for the umpteenth time to get one of those "emergency assistance" contraptions that she could wear around her neck and push a button for help. As she was sitting in my living room "dozing" in the chair while my son watched Barney, I asked her (again) to talk to her doctor about a sleep study. When I have spent the night with her over the years I can hardly sleep because of listening to her literally gasp for breath all night long. She has severe sleep apnea. But refuses to get help for it. Such an easy treatment.
I don't want to lose her. Even though she infuriates and annoys me to no end. I love her so much. At the age of 77 she still has a strong sense of humor and a "never give up" attitude that I am so thankful to have "inherited" from her, and my Nanny. It was like growing up with the "Golden Girls" or something. And I'm one of them too. Probably way before my time.
My dear Husband (who I am so thankful for) drove quickly to her house (yet again) to check on her. The whole time I am having flash-backs of the near-disastrous things she has been through and praying for just "one more chance" to "get it right" (loving). Please God.
I began this post that night, when I couldn't sleep from the familiar dread of loss, orphanhood. It has "sat" in the "non-published" column for about a week now ~ because I couldn't finish it ~ too raw. I used to just sit down here and spew out a real post in real time with real feelings as they came. It was amazingly therapeutic. Especially when the adoption shit was hitting the fan, so to speak. lol I thank God for the fact this post took a week to finish because real life got in the way. It means that I was actually LIVING real life, without being overwhelmed with such deep-seated grief and pain that it was impossible to really function, and finding myself having to WRITE & cry to get it out of me. The beginning months/years of this blog was a God-given tool for healing, I believe. As well as meeting and embracing other adoptees & first mothers in their healing journeys (both on the internet and in face-to-face life).
I can happily report that my Mom was/is fine. The phone was simply off the hook. I don't think I'm off the hook, nor is she (lol), but that was the excuse of the night!
Once again, my heart could start beating again as I let out yet another prayer of thanks. Just finishing this post right now, however, is reminding me of how vulnerable I feel. I don't want to continually worry about her. About loss.
Adoptees equate love with loss. It is painful to love. What a sad commentary on the "gift" we've been given.