Saturday, November 14, 2015

Blissfully Ignorant #FlipTheScript

NOV. 14, SATURDAY - Lost Daughters' Prompt
For those who are in reunion with birth family members, talk about the rewards and the challenges of building and maintaining relationships with people related by biology but not by life experience. How do these relationships differ from those with your adoptive family members? Have you experienced the “reunion rollercoaster,” the wanting to be close and then pushing away that many describe? Are your relationships with your birth family members what you would like them to be? Knowing what you know now, would you do it all over again? What might you do differently if given a second chance? Has being in reunion made everything “better” in relation to your adoption? Are you pleased with how your adoptive and birth families relate to each other? Why or why not?

I read a post today about an adoptee who is happy to have been a closed adoption. My first reaction was that I could've written that post myself. Back before I was in reunion, I felt the same way. I've even said some of the same things:
I've always known I was adopted 
In my family, being adopted was seen as a good thing 
Being adopted wasn't upsetting for me 
I respect my birthmother for making the decision that was best for me

I've said all of those things. Not having more information, those were the foundational elements of the structure of my life. It was what was best. I have a good life. Why should I care?

Know what bugs me? I miss that ignorance. It's so damn comfortable. You are loved! What else matters? Why SHOULD you care?

I went into reunion the way a clueless co-ed opens a door in a horror movie - "What can go wrong?" I thought. I didn't know what lay behind the door. It's not that it was horrible, that would have been easy to reconcile, "Of course I was relinquished!" I would have thought in that situation. And it's not that I revealed an unimaginable Eden either. That would have made my discontent equally explainable.

No, it's that what lay behind the door were my original families. Plain and simple, with all their gifts and their faults. Perfectly human, and a whole lot like me. The families I had been denied as a child.

Had I gone through life never knowing my families, I would never had known that loss. It would have been easier. Yes, more comfortable. Reunion is uncomfortable. Addressing that there are things you lost, things that were outside of your control, ways that you were controlled - those are unsettling feelings. Ignorance is easier.

So, why shake things up? Why not just accept what you were given and not look back?

I guess, for me, the answer is because that's empty. It's ignorant. Sure, you're happy, but you don't know who you are. I've heard a statistic that genealogy research is the most popular searches on the internet after porn. We crave knowing where we come from nearly as much as we crave sex, so that tells you something. As adoptees, many of us are missing even that first connection to the tree in not knowing where we come from. It matters. I know many people wish it didn't matter, but it does. It doesn't mean you can't make your own families or build your own life, but without the grounding of where you came from, I feel like you're trying to gain traction sliding on sand.

I'd rather be rooted on hard truths of the knowledge of my history as a way to make a more solid future. I know what I've lost AND I know what I've gained. One doesn't cancel the other out in either direction. The deeper the sorrow the higher the joy, or so they say.

But, yes, sometimes I wish I could just go back to being content. Contentment is easier. Questioning is difficult. But then again, I don't know of many people who've said on their deathbed, "I just wish I'd known less!" So, I'm going with that. For better or worse, I'll take the unabridged version of myself.


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Happy to be Alive? - Nov.4 #FliptheScript

Nov. 4, Wednesday

In response to the GOP effort to defund Planned Parenthood, #ShoutYourAdoption was created to posit adoption as a better alternative to abortion. 

Talk about your reaction as an adoptee to the idea of adoption being pushed as an alternative to abortion. Whether you are pro-life, pro-choice, or somewhere in between, your opinion on this issue as an adopted person matters. Consider these questions...

A couple of years ago, Kate and I were having a painful heart-to-heart discussion about how much I lost in relinquishment. My youngest self didn't have her mother, and she needed her. It was one of the first times I really identified with myself as a newborn, what that loss must have felt like. I felt such deep sorrow for that infant... for me... at the loss experienced.

Kate stayed gently firm in her belief that it was the best choice given her situation. Faced with the newly legal choice of abortion, she chose life instead. She expressed how glad she was she made that choice. Wasn't it the better choice? Wasn't I happy that I was alive?

My answer shocked her.

"No," I said. "I wouldn't have cared because I wouldn't have known any different."

Don't get me wrong, there are days that the beauty of the world makes me want to fall to my knees in worship. There are also times when the burden of the sorrows in my life cripple me. The experience of being alive is powerful. I understand why we must respect life. But...

We are conditioned to honor human life over all things. Sometimes it even seems that the opponents of choice honor the unborn life over that of the mother's life. Kate wasn't anti-choice, she respected others who had abortions, but couldn't have one herself because of her values, because of what she felt. I respect her choice.

But I can't say I'm grateful to be alive. I happen to be alive. Just like you. Just like anyone. We popped into this world because of the innumerable instances that led to our conception and birth. And now here we are. All of us trying to figure out the meaning of it all.

Half of me suspects there is no meaning (I relate to existentialism, believing there is no God, love and kindness is the highest form of being); the other half of me feels that Buddhism probably has it right (we are here for a moment, our spirits should be unattached to the worries of the earth, focus instead on enlightenment, our souls eternal, part of the whole).

Either way, whatever we believe, there is one fact - with life, comes death. Before we are born, we are essentially dead. An essay that stuck with me (but that I can't recall who wrote it) pondered this, saying that they were not in distress to not be alive before they were born, so why fear death? It'll be just like how it was before we were born.

Without the fear of death, there is no need to mourn not having been alive. We will just be as we were. Our souls enact, just not here on earth in this body at this moment.

But I do feel gratitude. I am endlessly grateful that my life was surrounded with love from so many sides. I am so happy that I am able to be in a relationship with all sides of my family. All sides. I am infinitely blissfully humbled by getting to be the mother of the two most wonderful people that I have ever met. There is so much to be grateful for. But being born isn't one of them.

Getting to live with the loss honestly, without masking it with gratitude - yeah, I'm grateful for that.


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Your comments matter!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Truth in Lies - Nov. 3 #FliptheScript

Nov. 3, Tuesday

Talk about how truths, partial truths, and lies on your adoption documents have impacted your life and identity. Example of these include birth certificates, baptismal certificates, adoption agency records, orphanage records, court records, non-identifying information, naturalization/citizenship papers, passports, etc. 

My name is Petra. It is the name my birthmother gave me.
My first mother. 

That name is gone now. Hidden in who I was. 
I never got to be that person.

Petra is the feminine of Peter, which happened to be my adoptive father's name. My adoptive parents named me Cathleen. They didn't know it was my birthmother's name. 

It's like is was designed by fate. 

But what it feels like is two separate lives, one lived out, the other unknown. 

Which is the true person? 

I don't know. 


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Monday, November 2, 2015

My Adoption, Their Story #FliptheScript

#FlipTheScript Prompt: Talk about the “adoptee in the room” moment—that moment when you realize you are the only one in a space who can address a particular aspect of adoption experience, when you have to decide whether or not to speak up knowing that what you have to say may be confusing, unsettling, or triggering to others. Perhaps you have found yourself in this position at a work function, at a family gathering, or while with a group of friends. Or, you may have run into this situation in an online forum or on social media. Did you decide to speak or not, and why? If you did speak, what reactions or feedback did you receive?

I default to not speaking up when adoption comes up in conversation. It is striking how often it does come up. Someone will mention a recent adoption by a co-worker, or mention a child they adopted, or an adopted relative.

I know if I mention being an adoptee that I will be reduced to a tidy box that fits their story, the one society built for them. Or I speak out and they look at me quizzically, as if I have said something wrong. Something that doesn't fit.

I prefer to listen. I hear all the things that aren't said. And, the things that should be said.

I want to share what I know, what I understand about the adoption experience. But it doesn't fit into the office banter or the party chit-chat. It's bigger, it's more important. It would be awkward, confusing, strange.

But, when someone says THEY are an adoptee, then I speak. I say, "I am too." We can banter in the office or chit-chat at the party while still holding the weight of our experience, knowing the importance of it.

Someday, I hope to be able to reach the same depth with non-adoptees, but we're just not there.

Not yet.

I hope to read more on this prompt of adoptees speaking out, speaking up and standing up for what they believe. I want to hear stories of the narrative changing, even a little, to listen to the adoptee voice. Maybe for now, the writing is enough. Maybe next, the voice will come.


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

#FlipTheScript on National Adoption Month 2015

#FliptheScript #NAM2015 Lost Daughter Prompts
In November, I break from our usual format of the adoptee vs. birthmother perspective on shared topics to focus instead on the voice of the adoptee in response to National Adoption Month and the Lost Daughters' #Flipthescript campaign to amplify the adoptee voice in the adoption narrative. 

Talk about what National Adoption Month means to you as an adoptee. What is missing from the traditional narrative promoted during each November? Why is it important that adoptees’ experiences and opinions are heard during NAM? What does it mean to you to Flip The Script on National Adoption Month?

I didn't know November was National Adoption Month until just last year. 

In the past, I used to avoid a lot of things about adoption. Adoption wasn't in the forefront of my identity. There were a lot of aspects to who I was. I didn't want to be outspoken. I didn't want to make a fuss. 

Then I started to write about my adoption experience. Funny how the thoughts lurking under the surface of your psyche don't have a voice until you write them down. It is as if writing your thoughts releases them. And, like the furies, once released, they won't stand being locked away again. 

But, it's hard for an adoptee to speak out:
you get labelled
the "angry" adoptee ... the irony being that the more explaining you have to do about not being angry, the angrier you get,  
you get brushed off
if you had better parents, you wouldn't feel this way ... but I had good parents! you retort 
you get belittled
you need therapy ... ah, don't we all?
You have to stand up to these assaults. They try to silence your experience because it makes someone uncomfortable, or confused, or defensive. It brings up feeling they can not just sit with and accept. Instead they have to fight them with all their power to try to overcome them because they're just too hard to feel.

You remember reacting that way. You get it. Because to write about your adoption experience means you have to overcome the one voice that is fighting for its life to silence you. Your own.

It's the one that says:
your experience isn't important
until you remember all those stories you're read, stories similar to yours, and different from yours. stories that remind you that every experience is important.
a lot of people have had it a lot worse
until you realize that just because others have had things worse, doesn't mean that what you experienced wasn't real, wasn't true, wasn't hard.
not everyone feel that way
and then you recognize that is exactly why having so many voices in the conversation makes it so rich and valuable.
Last year my sisters decided to #FlipTheScript to say that adoptee voices should be part of the conversation about adoption. The furies flew and the chaos they caused was considerable. They took National Adoption Month and forced their voices into the conversation. 

They were voices that said that the adoptee experience is important. That even adoptees who had it good, also had it hard. That there were hundreds, thousands, millions of adoptees voices and they deserved to be part of the conversation, part of the truth of what adoption is. That their voices matter. That they matter. 



Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Guitar Lesson

A couple weeks ago, I had planned to go over to Kate's to write and her husband, Steve, had offered to give me a guitar lesson first.

I have been on and off with learning guitar for years. I've wanted to learn from the moment when I was 18 that I found out my birthmother was a musician and that her main instrument was guitar. I hoped to unlock an unknown talent in myself and to have something that linked me together with my birthmother.

It's been 25 years since we've met, and I haven't gotten to be "good" at the guitar yet. I can do a little, very little.

Kate's tried to show me some things. At one point many years ago I asked her to give me lessons but despite a few attempts, it didn't quite work. Maybe there was too much weighing on the lesson - the burden of what I'd lost from adoption and what Kate had lost in me wrapped up in music. The loss in the room was much louder than the music.

But, with Steve it's different. He makes it easy, fun, utterly unintimidating. He put the guitar in my hand, said, "do this," and I watched him and then followed along. Kate was there, making dinner, listening along. Being part of it, but a step removed. And I didn't have to think about loss and the heaviness of music for me because I was too busy trying to keep up with the lesson.

Steve has been a support to us since before he and Kate were together. He's always been rooting for us and doing what he can to help us along. From his perspective, there is just love, and he wants to do what he can to break down the blocks.

Then again, he would push a guitar into anyone's hands and tell them, "do this," and have them following along. That's one of the things I love about him.

Sometimes with reunion we may need something from the other person that we can't get due to emotional roadblocks that get in the way. But maybe we can still get what we need if we approach it from a different angle and get help from those supporting us through it. "Do this," they may say, and all we have to do is follow along.


to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Who is the Mother?

A few weeks ago, I watched The Giver, (some spoilers below) the teen fantasy movie with Meryl Streep and William Hurt. In the story, there are birthmothers whose purpose is to do exactly that - their job is to give birth to babies and give them to others to raise.

When I hear the term, "birthmother," that imagery is what is brought to my mind. A women who becomes pregnant, births the baby, and relinquishes it to a different family. Given the baby scoop era, the term probably more poignantly reveals society's point of view than we are apt to realize.

"Birthmother" as the term for the mother who relinquishes a child to adoption is rife with issues. It takes away the complexity of the relationship, reducing it a single moment. The word erases the child's lineage, demeans the humanity of the mother, and denies the connection between the first mother and the child.

So I understand when a mother who has relinquished a child, takes offense at the term.

That said, I am going to use "birthmother" for the rest of this post just as a point of simplicity. You know who I mean when I say, "birthmother." It doesn't make it right, but it makes it clear to the reader. So, as I analyze it, while acknowledging it's problems, I will continue to use if for this post.

In one way, I think it is a signal of a shift in the culture surrounding adoption that at least we do finally have a singular term. For most of my life, it was a bouncy ball of terms, "natural mother," "real mother" (always used by others, never the adoptee), "biological mother," and so on. At least we are discussing adoption and birthmothers enough for society to recognize the relationship (though spelling - birthmother vs. birth-mother - is still in debate).

Kate and I often discuss the term and what to use and the issues with all of them. We've written about it before - Kate feels the noun of "mother" is the truth and I feel the action of "mother" is more true. And, while I believe I am in opposition to other adoptees on this point, I feel strongly that I have only one mother. I am not willing to share that naming with anyone other than the mother who raised me.

The adoptee that I am wonders if the choice of word should lie with the adoptee. The adoptee has had no choice, no control over their relinquishment and adoption. Giving the name to a relationship grants them one minor decision in the vast chaos of their story.

The feminist that I am wonders if the choice should be in the hands of the birthmothers themselves. As it was their choice, their story, should they be the ones to name what the relationship is in their point of view?

Regardless, of who owns the naming, I do believe in the power of words. That's why I write. And I don't want to use words that are inauthentic or that hide truth or mask prejudice. 

So if "mother" is not an option and "birthmother" is fatally flawed, what then? 

Natural Mother implies that the adoptive mother is unnatural, which is also demeaning, if somewhat true.  
First Mother is gaining in popularity but it doesn't work for me. From my perspective, it implies that my relationship with Kate is the same as my relationship with my adoptive mom, but they're just handing off the baton and taking turns.  
The one term I think I like is "Original Mother." I'm not even sure whether it's a term that's being bandied about. But to me that seems closest. Unlike "First Mother," it separates the "Original Mother," and the "Adoptive Mother." It is seated with "origin," which gives reference to the heredity and lineage. It also gives weight to not only the relationship of mother and child but to the burden of the relinquishment. The original mother was the first mother in wholeness, but chose not to mother. It even has some poetic reference to original sin, though I don't have that worked out fully, it just whispers the reference. 

Because I read so much adoption-related media, I can't remember exactly where I read a post recently that pointed out that "adoptive mother" should be as much of a term in the adoption story as "birth mother," but I see that should be just as much a part of this conversation. It IS ironic that the adoptive mother gets to be called simply "mother," when that does not capture the truth of the relationship any more than "mother" does for the birthmother. We need to have both terms because by having two separate words, it becomes apparent what is missing - the one simple word, "mother." The adoptee doesn't have one. They have an adoptive mother and they have a birthmother, but they don't have just a "mother."


to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

An Adoptee Perspective on Rosie O'Donnell and Chelsea

Chelsea, left, with adoptive mom Rosie O'Donnell

Last week, on internet news, I came across the story of Rosie O'Donnell's adopted daughter, Chelsea, going to live with her birthmother. Only it wasn't really a story. It was more a statement:
Rosie O’Donnell’s adopted daughter Chelsea, who went missing earlier this month, turned 18 this week and left home once again, this time to go live with her birth mother.

There is a lot written in between the lines.
"Chelsea...turned 18 this week...  Chelsea's birth mother (picked Chelsea up), the day she turned 18 and is legally an adult... 
At 18, you're an adult. It's the first time you're legally allowed to figure out your family connections to your bithfamilies without the adoptive family's consent.  

"Chelsea, who went missing earlier this month...left home once again..." 
The implication is that Chelsea must not be happy in her adoptive home, she must be searching for something her adoptive family can't give her.
But is that so wrong?


My birth sister Abby, my birthmother Kate and myself at 18

I sought out my birth family when I turned 18. I'm not the only adoptee I know who did the same.

Eighteen is a magical number for adoptees, especially those of us from closed adoptions. It's the age you're allowed to find out your identity. That's what I thought anyway. It turned out, that you're not magically endowed with all the knowledge of who you are and who your parents are and what that all means once you're 18. Instead, at 18, you're given the key to unlock the door. At 18, you have legal authority over your own life. No one gets to tell you what to do anymore. No one gets to tell you what to think. No one can control you.

So if you were an adoptee and turned 18, what would you do?

Of course you would go live with your birthmother. I did. I was 22, and I had just graduated from college and my birthmother invited me to stay with her. How could I resist? You get to see who you could have been. You get to live the life you would have had. You get to understand  more of who you are.

The biggest difference is not that Chelsea is famous whereas I am not. No, what separates us is that my adoptive parents supported me. They supported me emotionally and financially during that time I went to live with my birthmother. It was my safety rope. If I fell, they would catch me.

The internet news says that Rosie cut Chelsea off. It seems such an amazing act of spite. To me, 18 is like Bambi getting his feet under him for the first time, wobbly but determined. You want to find your bearing, but you haven't built up the strength yet. That's why you need the strength of your adoptive parents to support you. Living with your birthparents, understanding who you are and where you come from is not a betrayal. It's an act of trying to stand on your own legs. And it's hard to do that if you don't know what you are, who you come from, where you belong.


to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Integration: Excerpt from Kathleen~Cathleen, Part 6

Here we share Part 6, the final installment in this series on our blogs sharing excerpts from our memoir, Kathleen~Cathleen, that we originally read at the American Adoption Congress Conference in San Francisco in 2014.

Last week in “Therapy,” we wrote about what it was like to expose our deepest feelings and thoughts to each other, giving us new perspective on the core of our reunion experience and fueling our desire to continue. 

Below is my excerpt from the chapter titled "Integration" (then read Kate's "Integration" excerpt at mothertone).


One day Tracy had found me in the copy room alone, and told me that she found out about a support-group for adoptees in reunion, that she was going to go and would I like to go too. I hesitated, explaining that I had been through it all already: Kate and I had been through therapy, I had resolved everything. Thanks anyway! but I didn’t need any more. The truth was that the thought of doing any more “work” around reunion gave me stomach cramps. Tracy offered that I could be the voice of experience for the group, and that she would like it if I went. I said I’d think about it.

I was blown away that there were enough adoptees “in reunion” in Portland to have a support group for it. My curiosity got the better of me so, I agreed to go, making the disclaimer that I would be more a spectator than a participant.

There was a charge just sitting in the same room with everyone the first night. There were a couple other women besides me and Tracy and one guy. When I’d met Tracy, I was amazed to know someone else in reunion, now I was in a room full of them.

The therapist was a birth-mother herself. I had wondered if that would be awkward – she was on the other side, afterall -- but within the first five minutes of the session I was sold. Sharon said more about the experience of reunion in her introduction to the group, than anyone had ever said to me in my lifetime.

She explained what we were going through so succinctly, so dead-on, that I was astounded at her insight. Then I noticed the others nodding as well and I commented on how great it was to have people know what you’re feeling. The guy in the group explained that it was like talking in short-hand. Having been in individual counseling with the therapist already, he had experienced it before – once you’re among people who all are in the same experience, you don’t have to explain yourself in the same was as you would to someone on “the outside.” Things that seemed cruel or vulnerable to the outside world of people who weren’t adoptees could be talked about openly and freely here.

In Kate’s new house, we would sit down in the tiny kitchen to conversations over tea like we had in the old apartment. Even though the ritual was the same, the content and the depth of conversation was different. It felt like level ground. She didn’t have the responsibility of being my mother and I didn’t have the obligation of being her daughter, we were more equals.

Now, I was able to call Kate out if she did or said something that bothered me, which was something I wasn’t able to do before. And, when I confronted her with it, Kate would listen and respond instead of overreacting and blowing the situation out of proportion.

Whereas before I would push back if Kate tried to do nice things for me, now I would allow it, and enjoy it, knowing that it was an indulgence for her as much as it was for me, and not a power-play or a way of exerting ownership over me.

Life with Kate had settled to a sort of normalcy. We would see each other frequently – get together for dinner, chat about what was going on in our lives.

Being in each other’s lives was beginning to feel more natural; we were starting to become comfortable in the roles we had in each other’s lives. I still couldn’t quite define in a simple word what Kate’s relationship was to me. She was like an older friend, someone I could confide in about what was going on in my life and get direction or advice based on her experience. But because she understood me, that we understood each other, in a way that was deeper than friendship, that arose from our kinship, I knew our relationship was something more.

Another thing that was different is that she loved me in a way that was more than friendship – she loved me like a daughter. She thought that I was just the most fabulous thing on the planet and that of course I would succeed, and of course I was wonderful and of course I could have anything I dreamed of. I let her gush and I let myself enjoy it, and even, sometimes, believe it.

All Rights Reserved ©2015


to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Therapy: Excerpt from Kathleen~Cathleen, Part 5

Here we share Part 5 of our blog series of excerpts from our memoir, Kathleen~Cathleen.

Last week in “Going Dark - Dusk,” we realize we've reached an insurmountable divide in our relationship. In an effort to find a way back towards each other, Kate pushes for us to go to Therapy together.

Below is my excerpt from the chapter titled "Therapy" (then read Kate's "Therapy" excerpt at mothertone).


Although I’d been reluctant, I agreed to go along with weekly therapy with Kate. It wasn’t that I was hoping to patch things up with Kate, I just wanted to have someone on my side, and I hoped the therapist would be it. I’d come to realize that I hadn’t had anyone to talk to about what I was going through, who could empathize. Hell, I didn’t even know what was going on with me.

My relationship with my birthmother wasn’t something that I talked about with my parents or my friends. Even though everyone knew I was living out in Portland with Kate, I would try to play down her role in my life. Having a relationship with Kate, even just living in the same city as her, felt like a betrayal. A betrayal to my parents first and foremost but also even of my friends back home - that I was chosing this life over the one I’d had. I didn’t want people to think that. I didn’t want to hurt my parents or be judged by my friends. I was eager to have someone to help sort out our situation and, hopefully, understand it better than I could.

I surprised myself that, in therapy, I was able to find the courage to tell Kate things I hadn’t been able to before. Having Kate and I both looking ahead at the therapist, talking to the therapist, instead of directly to each, freed me. It allowed me to say the truth without actually facing her. Finally, I was able to say that I hadn’t yet decided whether I even wanted a relationship with her.

Feelings I‘d never known were bubbling up and tumbling out of my mouth. I had realized that I was irritated with Kate, but I couldn’t point out why. Here, the therapist was telling me that even though I might understand logically “why” Kate did what she did, that didn’t have to correspond to how I was feeling. Her leaving me when I was a baby hurt. Emotions didn’t understand logic, feelings had their own mind. I was still hurt, and angry and that it was okay for me to feel that way. After a lifetime of being told to be grateful that I had been given up, at last I had permission to be angry about it. I relished it.

Our therapist had told us that the next session would be devoted to Kate telling the story of giving me up for adoption.

While she had told me the story before, about how she wanted to do ‘what was best for me’ and give me a good life, this time, she was telling the same story, but from a completely different perspective, the perspective of who she really was and what she really felt under the mask of bravery. Not the beneficent hero, but a scared, overwhelmed young girl in an awful situation.

As Kate described being in the home for unwed mothers, she was composed, rational. She described the large house in suburban New Jersey. She talked about the group of young girls, all pregnant going to the corner store together. But, as the story came closer to the time of my birth, her affect shifted. She was visibly uncomfortable, her face taking on a blank expression. . She talked about seeing me for the first time. She talked about giving me a bottle. She cried throughout the telling of the story, as I did along with her.

It was the first time that I didn’t have to be the brave adoptee, happy to have had such luck in being given a better life. Now I was able to connect to who I was at birth - the poor, innocent infant deprived of her mother. I could imagine how alone, confused and afraid I must have been. I was allowed to grieve for what the baby, what I, had gone through.

I realized that for all of Kate’s good reasons for giving me up, that, for me, there was no excuse for her leaving me. Rationally, I knew Kate had made the mature decision. She was able to get back to her life, and I could be raised by people who wanted me. But that’s what had always nagged at me quietly in the back of my head: She didn’t want me, why didn’t she want me, what was wrong with me?

Even if my life was better because she gave me up for adoption, I still wanted her to regret having done it. I wanted her to have wanted me, even if it wasn’t wise or “for the best”. I didn’t want to think I was so easily discarded.

And, for the first time, I felt I had permission to acknowledge all the things that I’d missed by having not been raised by my first mother. If I’d been raised by Kate, I would have grown up with music being as natural to me as walking. I would have had art and creativity. I would have had people that looked like me, thought like me, reacted like me. Growing up, no one ever mentioned the things you would miss by being adopted, only what you would gain.

And hearing her deeper story was powerful. It was the first time I truly felt like I was Kate’s daughter. She wasn’t my mom – it wasn’t the same thing. But I was irrevocably her daughter.

All Rights Reserved ©2015


to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Going Dark - Dusk: Excerpt from Kathleen~Cathleen, Part 4

Below is Part 4 of our blog series sharing excerpts from our memoir, Kathleen~Cathleen.

Last week in “Going Dark - Deepening,” we shared an excerpt that described the challenges as we navigated our inexperienced reunited relationship and grappled with the distance that grew between us.

The alienation in our struggle comes to a peak in "Going Dark - Dusk," and forces us to face what we fear most.

Below is my excerpt from the Going Dark chapter of the memoir, titled "Dusk" (then read Kate's "Dusk" excerpt at mothertone).


By October, I was done. We had had our “Summer of Reunion.” As the sunshine gave way to the gloom of Portland’s autumn, I, too wished I could so easily transition, out of my relationship with Kate, and onto the next phase of my life, without her. While in the warm months I would gladly dash off to meet Kate for a spontaneous lunch in one of the lush green parks of Portland, now I found myself plotting how to get out of the the grey rain, and into my apartment, without her noticing me.

We were still living in the same building, but now in separate apartments. A couple months earlier, Kate had said that she felt my stay had run its course. It stung. I felt like I was being rejected by her once again.

And, I wasn’t ready to leave. I had unintentionally fallen in love - both with Portland, and with a handsome young Irish musician. Not ready to leave Portland, but not knowing where to go or what to do, I accepted the apartment upstairs as soon as it came open, moving in with the musician, now my boyfriend of two months, as a way to afford the rent.

Since I was still in Portland, Kate seemed to think that I was here for her. But that was over. This was my new life. Yet, Kate’s ceiling was my floor. I felt stuck like a fly in a spider’s web, having flown directly into it by my own choice, without knowing I wouldn’t be able to get back out.

As I came home from work one evening, eager to relax into the arms of my boyfriend, I crept into the house like a teenager coming in after curfew. I opened the heavy wooden front door, grimacing at its creak, and shut it silently behind me, turning the handle as it closed so that there would be no “click”. But, the staircase was just outside of Kate’s living room, so, when the step squeaked, Kate popped out like a jack-in-the-box triggered by the stair.

“Hey, there’s a concert at the Clinton Street tonight, I thought you might want to go.” Kate said cheerfully, acting as though nothing had changed between us. I didn’t know why this person that I had found so enthralling, now repulsed me. Nothing about her had changed, but how I felt was completely different.

I didn’t want to go to the show, it was the last thing I wanted to do. Music had been one of the most magical aspects of my reunion with Kate. Seeing her play songs she had written, surrounded by a vibrant musical world, had felt like stepping into a world that had previously been invisible to me. But now the music just glared a spotlight on how different we were. She was a musician, I wasn’t. My adoptive parents weren’t musical so I didn’t grow up around music. And although I had taken piano lessons, it was like being taught a language different from your parents native tongue. I hadn’t known that it was part of my heritage, so I had no clues as to how to pursue it for myself when I was younger and could have made it part of my life, too. Now I had a different life, the one she chose for me.

I told Kate that I didn’t want to go to the concert, but said I would drive her there. A month earlier, Kate had given me her car, an old red datsun hatchback. It was such a generous gift, exactly what I needed for my new life in Portland, but it also infuriated me. It was a gift I couldn’t say no to and it made me feel like she had a claim on me, and yet her generosity endeared me.

It was already dark when we left, and still pouring rain. I didn’t bother making small talk and was glad that Kate was unusually quiet as well. As we pulled up at the theater, Kate turned to me and asked what was going on. She said I was being distant, that she never saw me anymore, that I was closed off.

I was going to say she was imagining things, that everything was fine, but I couldn’t, it would be a lie. I was still sitting there waiting for a response to rise up in me when Kate got out of the car. I just couldn’t find the energy to tell her to, please, just leave me alone.

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to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Going Dark - Deepening: Excerpt from Kathleen~Cathleen, Part 3

This is Part 3 of our blog series sharing excerpts from our memoir, Kathleen~Cathleen. Last week we shared an excerpt from when we were first transitioning from Honeymoon into a harder time in "Going Dark - Sundown." Here we go darker, and realize there's more to reunion than meeting and going our separate ways.

Below is my excerpt from the Going Dark chapter of the memoir, titled "Deepening" (then read Kate's "Deepening" excerpt at mothertone).


Things with Kate were starting to get tense. It had been over a month since I arrived in Portland and I wasn’t finding work. I could tell that it was starting to wear on our relationship. I had come to Portland with only the $300 that I had gotten from my graduation party and that was nearly gone. I noticed that Kate would stomp out on her way to work in the morning, making it clear she wasn’t happy that I was still asleep. But I reasoned I was no more guilty for sleeping in when it was both of us at the tavern til all hours.

So the day that I went out and finally found a job bussing tables, I practically skipped back to Kate's apartment, filled with relief and eager to share my downright glee. 

It was 9 o’clock by the time I reached the front door. The apartment was dark and the doors that separated the front room from the rest of the house were shut. I figured Kate had gone to bed early, catching up on her sleep after the night before. As I quietly put down my bag, I found a white card envelope on my pillow with “Cathy” written on the front in Kate’s handwriting. It reminded me of our years corresponding by letters when I was in college. I was touched that she would leave me a note when, here, we saw each other every day. I hoped that - like the new job-  it was a sign that things were getting better.

I opened the envelope to a card with a goldfinch on the cover. As I turned to the inside of the card, I found that this was no love note. I read in the card that Kate had just received the phone bill and it had over a hundred dollars in calls back to the east coast. She went on to say that she didn’t have the money for this, pointing out that she had given me money on more than one occasion, and that I needed to pay her back at once.

I sat staring at the words, my head swimming with it’s implications. Yes, I had been calling back home... to my boyfriend, my parents, my friends. I had been lonely, and the calls back east grounded me. I had always asked permission to use the phone, explaining that I would pay her back as soon as I got a job, and she would wave me off, saying it was no problem.

Over the past month , she had loaned me money here and there, and I gratefully took it, not realizing it was a hardship on her. It was the kind of thing parents, or even a fond aunt or uncle, do. I hadn’t thought much about it. My parents had always paid for everything. When I accepted the invitation to come to Portland, I had no concrete plans on how I would pay for things, I just trusted that everything would work out. But here my trust was being broken. I knew that things weren’t working out between us at all.

I was horrified that I was a burden. I wouldn’t have taken her money or made the phone calls if I’d known it would be a problem. Why hadn’t she just told me?

I put the card down and started getting ready for bed, trying to push down my feelings of shame. But, as I turned out the lights, I felt anger building up in me. Why was I being punished for breaking rules I didn’t know existed? Here I was with the verdict in hand, for a crime I didn’t know I had committed. Why had I trusted her, why did I think this would work? It was obvious she didn’t want me there - after all, she had never wanted me - and this was the proof. I tried to put the card aside and go to sleep, telling myself I would sort it all out in the morning, but I couldn't reconcile the feelings of shame mixed with fury.

The next morning, I heard Kate close the back door on her way to work. I got out of bed and used Kate's phone once again. I called my parents to ask for money. I didn't tell them why I needed it, what it was for. I tried to keep my voice steady. 

I was disappointed that I had to fall back on them, that my maiden voyage to independence had sunk, but I felt immensely grateful that they would take care of me without question. I was free to make mistakes with them, knowing they would love me no matter what.

Later that morning Kate called, asking innocently if I had gotten her note. Steeling my voice, I said that I had, that I had gotten a job the day before, and that I had also asked my parents for a loan, so she didn’t have to worry. She apologized then, explaining that she’d had a bad day and had just gotten the phone bill. I said it was fine and hung up.

When my parent’s check arrived a few days later, I immediately brought it to Kate, signing it over. She took it without apology.

Now I didn’t owe her anything.

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to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone
Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Going Dark - Sundown: Excerpt from Kathleen~Cathleen, Part 2

Below is Part 2 of our blog series sharing excerpts from our memoir, Kathleen~Cathleen. Last week we shared an excerpt from "Honeymoon," which gives a glimpse into the joy of coming together. However, all honeymoons come to an end. In "Going Dark - Sundown," we take the first steps into the darkness and confusion that are an inevitable part of reunion.  

Below is my excerpt from the Going Dark chapter of the memoir, titled "Sundown" (then read Kate's "Sundown" excerpt at mothertone).


I had just started telling Kate a story about getting caught sneaking out of the beach house when Kate suddenly broke into tears. She jumped up from the table and walked from the table into the kitchen, shaking with sobs. She came back towards me, struggling for words, but would then turn away again, too upset to get the words out. I was baffled. What had I said? I replayed our conversation in my head and found nothing in it that should have upset her. We were talking about my family, the Jersey shore, nothing special.

“I’m sorry,” she said, choking the words out through the tears, putting her hand on the stove for support. “Even if your child were raised by angels, it’s still hard to let them go.”

I was stunned. It was the first time I had seen Kate express any regret. Up until then, she’d always discussed giving me up as being the best decision -- not only for her, but for me. She had been so young and she’d wanted to give me a better life. It made sense.

I had accepted her explanation. After all, it was a familiar chorus from people while I was growing up: “It was for the best,” they’d say - whether coming from friends, or relatives, or strangers. I was raised by two loving parents in a stable household without divorce. My dad was a chemist, my mom a housewife, and I had an older brother, also adopted. We were the ideal nuclear family. We would go on family vacations, I was a girl-scout. We never moved, I never had to change schools, I had the same friends all my life.

If I had been raised by Kate, my life would have been unstable. After all, she had been so young, certainly not prepared to raise a child. She would have been a poor, single mom, or with a man that wasn’t my father, or living with her parents bringing shame to the family. I should be glad I didn’t have that life.

Yet I started to realize that I wasn’t glad that she didn’t keep me. Hearing Kate’s confession and seeing her tears, I felt loved. Rationally, I knew that Kate had made the mature decision in giving me up for adoption. She was able to get back to her life and I was raised by people who wanted me. But that’s what had always nagged at me quietly in the back of my head: She didn’t want me, why didn’t she want me, what was wrong with me?

Even if my life was better because she gave me up for adoption, I still wanted her to regret having done it. I wanted her to have wanted me, even if it wasn’t wise or “for the best”.

All the things that I’d missed by having not been raised by Kate started floating up in my mind. If I’d been raised by Kate, I would have grown up with music being as natural to me as walking. I would have had art and creativity. I would have had someone understand me better than anyone else, just by being part of them, having the same genes. I would have had people that looked like me, thought like me, reacted like me.

Growing up, no one ever mentioned the things you would miss, only what you gained. It was as if that, by not mentioning the obvious loss, the child wouldn’t know what they were missing. After all, it’s just a baby. What do they know? I was starting to suspect that a baby knew a lot more than it has words for. By the time the ability to form words finally develops, they’ve already been told what to believe.

I went over to Kate and gave her a hug. I hoped the hug held the words that I wasn’t willing to say outloud. I would have liked to say, “Good. You should regret it.”

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to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!