Whenever I attempt to tell My Story I can feel the hands of a giant threatening to strangle me if I continue talking. I turn down interviews and offers to speak because I can’t tell My Story. I don’t like people looking at me and I certainly don’t want people looking at me when I cry. Perhaps it’s shame.
So, maybe I’ll write. My friend Anne tells me writing is cathartic, another step towards healing. I resist. I have this notion that it’s irrelevant. How does My Story have anything to do with activism? It doesn’t. What it might do, however, is resonate with someone who has a similar lived experience. Knowing we aren’t alone is something.
I never said goodbye to my mother and I don’t know where I was for the first months of my life. I arrived in my new family at just under 9 weeks old weighing the same as a newborn. I had holes in my skin from my unchanged diapers. They thought I was a “contented baby.” I never cried. Hungry and silent. I suppose a baby learns pretty quickly if their cries go unanswered they might as well stop. (writing this makes me shake) I think about my own babies, how I wouldn’t put them down. This is why.
I was loved. No one told my parents that love wouldn’t be enough, that no amount of love would erase the precarious start of my life or any of the aftershocks that came later. At night the terrors were relentless. Hidden away under my bed waiting for sleep so they could “steal me away”. They don’t come as often and they no longer hold the same power they once did, now that I know why.
From a young age I heard the voice, whispering, repeating the same sentence, “This will happen to you.” I would respond defiantly, “Never!” But, I was reckless. It was just a matter of time. I gave birth to my daughter at the exact same age my mother was when she gave birth to me, within days of each other. I didn’t know this at the time. Maybe it was prophetic. Maybe it was recreating mother-loss, who knows? Our cellular memory keeps track.
I kept her with me for 4 days, until her new parents stepped in. I thought they were saving her, that she would have a “better life,” just like the life I was told my parents were giving me. I believed this even when I missed her so much I thought I might die. I believed my suffering was a sacrifice made so she would have everything. Things. I believed this for 25 years. We didn’t know.
Her parents, like my parents, are kind-hearted people. Now that I know what I know, I suppose it was luck. I see precious members of my tribe who weren’t dealt a good hand, adopted by monsters who passed a home study and called themselves Christians. God doesn’t work that way, only favoring those who pray the right way or to the right God. So, my daughter and I, we were just lucky.
Or were we?
If we were truly lucky then no adoption would’ve taken place at all, right? (I feel disloyal writing that.) If I hadn’t been adopted I wouldn’t have had this family, and I love them. The tug and pull. The place in between. Now that I know what I know, the truth is, if we hadn’t been adopted we wouldn’t have known any different.
I was an adoption pawn. I lost my first family and my firstborn at the hands of an industry who masquerades as a noble solution to an untimely predicament. Adoption loss is unrecognized by a society who believes babies are blank slates, that mothers and families are interchangeable, and that love is enough.
Now that I know what I know, I’m angry; a righteous rage that emerges when I see vulnerable women being manipulated and coerced out of their children, or when I see anyone glorifying adoption at all. These children come at a cost, a cost much greater than the price tags on their heads.
Photo credit: Anne Heffron