Earlier this week, Rebecca Hawkes wrote a piece Free-Falling Into the Baby Rage Zone: Another Adoptee Epiphany for The Lost Daughters about what it is like for her, years into her reunion with her first mother. She writes,
“I understand that my parents were tricked into believing that they had no right to behave as parents. But for me, today, the emphasis is on “they” rather than on “tricked.” They allowed this to happen. Whatever degree of power they had or didn’t have, they still had more agency than I did. I was a baby–their baby, their child–and they allowed me to slip away.
I am angry because they didn’t fight for me. I am angry that they didn’t rise up and rage against the system that was tearing us apart. I’m angry that they didn’t realize what was truly being lost until it was too late. I am angry that they allowed themselves to be tricked into believing it would all be okay. Because it wasn’t and it never will be. Not entirely.
If I am the child, I am the child who was lost.
If they are the parents, they are the parents who failed me.”
Oh, how the truth is a difficult thing to hear sometimes.
After wiping away the ugly Oprah-style tears and catching my breath in between the sobs – sobs that originated deep in root of my abdomen and contracted my ribs and left me gasping for breath – I wrote this to my own mother.
…I understand [the baby-rage], I truly do. I would feel the same if you had abandoned me at a day old (or 9-months). …what I did was a terrible thing, a thing against all nature and natural inclinations.
What kind of woman walks away from her 9-month old daughter, leaving her with strangers? Why didn’t I fight for her? Why didn’t I rise up and rage against the system that tore us apart? Why didn’t I realize what was being lost until it was too late? Why did I allow myself to be tricked into believing it would all be okay…because it wasn’t and it never will be? Most of the other mothers in my situation would have NEVER in their lifetimes or a thousand lifetimes over done what I did. They would have died fighting against it. But not me – I believe the carefully scripted coercive tactics put forth by the adoption industry. I bought into the notion she deserved “more,” not realizing I was all she needed.
If I am her parent, then I am the parent who failed her.
Rebecca’s honestly and truth about this facet of her adoption touched a raw place in my soul. It brought back into my immediate awareness that it doesn’t matter how many times I say, “If I had only had all the facts,” If I had only had the truth,” “If I had only known…” the truth remains I still did what I did.
I signed the termination of parental rights papers.
That is my signature on them. The truth remains my choice may have hurt my daughter – it severed her from her Samoan roots and from a spiritual and intellectual heritage that is rightfully hers.
Acknowledging my part in all of this…this is my bandaged place, a raw and pulsating mess of hurt that sometimes seems as fresh as the day it happened.
I spent a lot of years turning away from this bandaged place. It’s what my culture told me I should do because after all, adoption is “all about love” and my daughter “deserved more” than me, so I should be grateful for this wound. But I tend not to look away from it these days, as hard as it is, which is why I reached out to my mom.
I know I don’t have a right to walk in anyone’s moccasins, even my own daughter, but that does not mean that from a perspective 25 years further down the road of life, I can sit by and not defend my 18 year old, your 18 year old and this woman’s first mom (probably a teen herself) for not having the kind of personal combination of humility and chutzpa that it takes almost everyone at least into their 40s to develop. You’re so right. Hardly any woman in her 40s would do the ignorant, stumbling, bumbling things she did in her teens or even 20s or (for some of us late bloomers) even 30s.
Somewhere there has to be a sliding scale between personal responsibility for choices and social conditioning–especially when that conditioning has been trauma bonded into a child’s soul. At 18 years old we are all children. We’ve got plenty of raging hormones, but we have virtually no raging self-worth. We are sitting ducks to be “tricked.” Come on, what does it mean to be “tricked” anyway? That’s the whole meaning of the word “tricked.” It means to be taken advantage of. It means to be taken for a ride or for a fall. It means to be set up, ripped off. It means not to be told the whole truth and thus manipulated by a half-truth (a euphemism for a lie. A lie by any other name is still a lie.)
Just some preliminary thoughts poured out. Please hear my finally maturing acceptance of mortality as being, truly, “but a small moment.” …. I guess its a good introduction to that final acceptance that invites us to experience even death with Thoreau’s deathbed answer to whether he had made his peace with God: “I was not aware we had ever quarreled.”
It doesn’t do a lot of good to quarrel with God or with the natural course of human development (from young and confused and near-sighted to old and a bit less confused and not quite so short-sighted.)
I once heard someone wise say we have only two things to do in this life: repent and forgive. I think it may be even a more mysterious degree of wisdom to realize we only have one thing to do in this life, because to repent is also to forgive . . . to forgive life, to forgive Life/God, and to forgive ourselves for starting out dumber than we end up. Which we can only do in direct proportion to how thoroughly we can let go of bitterness….
Upon reading this, Papa-Phil wants me to add that its impossible for someone in 2013 to judge someone’s choices made decades ago in such a different cultural context. Just a man-logic comment. Well intended. With compassion and love from both of us.
Your own Mom and Pops.
My mom does that a lot for me, helps me see how this bandaged place is a place where forgiveness, light, and love can enter my life, too. Forgiving myself and making peace with God (because unlike Thoreau, we have quarreled) doesn’t change what I did, but it does help me hold my own ignorant, stumbling, bumbling 20-year old self with a heart of compassion instead of condemnation.
With well intended compassion and love – for all those who teach me to keep my eye on the bandaged place –