Sunday, March 22, 2015

Back in Portland - Part 3

So, finally, in my long-winded-way, I get to Part 3. It's hard stuff, and there's ugly truths. I had to talk to Kate about it in person first before I could post it here. I know she wrote her side awhile ago, but I knew some of thing thats were going to come up for me would be hurtful and I wanted to proceed with care. I don't WANT to hurt her. I love her, and she means so much to me. She's a huge part of my life. But, there are things that are true, and are hurtful, and getting those out isn't easy. She listened to what I had to say and my point of view, and it was hard. And I listened to hers, and it was hard. But, we're talking, and we're listening...

The first years of reunion were extremely challenging. I know now that that's part of reunion - your world is turned upside down and has to be made right. It's like a puzzle that's been torn apart and you have to put the pieces back together again - but with all these new pieces that you never had before. Eventually, you put them together as well as can be expected and call it good. I guess every once in a while, something gets bumped and the pieces get out of whack again.

I feel like the reason that our reunion has been smooth for many years is because we were both looking at the pieced-together puzzle and thought we had it sorted out. But I'm starting to suspect that, like with the image above - where one person sees a vase and someone else sees faces - we were both looking at the same thing, but seeing very different things.

For Kate, I am simply her daughter. Once lost, now found, and brought back into her family as though I'd never been gone.

For me, Kate is not my mother. Growing up, it was like she'd never existed, like she was a myth. While I see her as akin to family, it's still not quite the same as family.

On one hand, I LIKE feeling wanted and included in Kate's life. I appreciate being brought into the larger family and feeling like I have a place there.

But, on the other, bringing Kate into my life is more complicated. I have my family and now there is another, someone to find a place for.

We've known all this. We've talked about it. Hell, we did a year of therapy together to air out all those things. We know each other well.

And, for the most part, these differing views didn't have a big effect. But, occasionally, things would come up. Kate would be upset whenever I had travel plans but didn't inform her of them. I didn't understand why that bothered her, or why I should have to keep her posted, but tried to be better about it. If I didn't acknowledge a holiday, I would hear about it. So, I tried to make a point of calling on special occasions. And, then, what sparked this whole kerfuffle...

Kate was visiting Portland a couple weeks before Christmas and was trying to schedule to see us. I was trying to fit it her visit between work, family, MBA, and the kids' schedules. When I finally suggested a time I could make work, Kate responded that while she always put me first, I always put her last, and did I even want her to move back to Portland? 

Kate has an explosive temperament where she will blow-up and then ask for forgiveness. I am more of the festering kind. While normally I would reassure Kate at one of these outbursts, I was at a point of maximum capacity. 

The email had struck something in me. Suddenly, I got a glimpse of what the disconnect was. She saw me as her daughter with all the obligations that come with that role. But, I had my share of family obligation and I didn't need more. 

I snapped an email back, saying not to come by if there was going to be drama. I also made it clear that I did not have the same obligations to her as I did to my family - that she wasn't family, at least not in the way she wanted to be. While I knew saying those things would be hurtful, I also knew they would be true.

Kate has often said that you choose your family. She would explain that for her, she saw her mother-in-law as her mother, as true and deep as her own family, if not moreso.

And, while I understand that, there is a crucial difference. Her mother-in-law didn't give birth to her and then give her to a different family to raise. Kate didn't keep me. She left me.

I know Kate is at the time of life where you get to revel in the children your raised and the family that you created. But I am not the child she raised, and this is not the family she created. It's not that I'm angry, at least not in a red-hot sort of way. There's anger there, of course. She chose to give me away - what's NOT to be angry about that?

But saying that she doesn't get to have me as family in this phase in her life isn't about revenge, it's the natural consequence of relinquishment. It's what happens when you give a child up. She didn't just give up my childhood, but she gave up me being her child, forever. It's not that we can't have a relationship, but, at least for me, it will never be the mother-daughter relationship that she sees us in.

A friend of Kate's who doesn't have children, and never wanted children, once mused that she saw our reunion as ideal - that Kate get to have a relationship with her daughter as adults without having to deal with all the undesirable parts of being a parent.

She saw is what Kate sees - the daughter gone and then returned, reunited. But, that daughter has been raised to believe she is someone else. In a world where someone else is her mother. So, for me, "reunion" feels more like meeting someone from a time long past, but that no longer exists. We come together as two separate people from two separate worlds, getting to know each other from that point only. The mother child bond that was there at birth, was broken. I'm not about to call her to whine about being sick, or needing a loan, or any of the things you do because you're family. It's not that way. I know she wishes it were different.

So we sit now in this mess of these blown up puzzle pieces of our reunion. We're trying to put them back together. My hope is that when we do, we'll both be able to see the full picture. Just like the picture of the vase and the faces, we may revert to seeing the image the way we always have, and have to shift to see it from the other point of view. But, that's the things with those pictures - once you see the difference, you never un-see it. Both exist, both are true, while being completely different. 


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


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Back in Portland - Part 2

I've been told by some readers they think there's more to it. That they can tell that there's something lurking beneath the surface of the writing. That is gets deeper, darker ... and that I'm not quite getting there.

I agree.

I had the same reaction when I first read Kate's perspective in a couple chapters of the book. "Come on!" I said, "I know you had to think worse of me than that!" (after all, I was a self-absorbed 22-year old - I know what I was like - and it wasn't pretty).

So how to get there?

This is an attempt.

Kate and I are in a rough patch right now. We're kinda letting it all hang out on the page.

There's a danger to writing while things aren't resolved. When you're still working through stuff, the writing can come out abstract or, worse, ugly and petty. But, part of the experiment of "writing in the raw" is to get at the deep, dark stuff that's hard to access when things are all honky-dory.

Actually I can't speak for Kate - I haven't read her side of the posts yet. I'm trying to keep mine clean and uninfluenced at this point, so I won't read hers until I'm finished saying whatever it is I have to say.

It leaves you, the reader, if a more awkward spot. One we've put you in before, where you know more than either of us. But, that's kind of the point - for the reader to get the honest experience from both the birthmother and adoptee side.

So, I have a request. Tell me what you think. It doesn't have to be long. It doesn't have to be nice. But I want to know if I'm getting across what I'm trying to. And only you can tell me that. So ... thanks.

Here's Part 2...


Something about Kate moving away for a few years, and then coming back, has unsettled me. I can’t explain it. Reminiscent of when I was first in reunion, I feel invaded, threatened, that somehow my boundaries have been crossed. 

My mom had an adoption story she would tell me when I was a child. Her grandmother had adopted a child. An infant, her baby. But then months later the birthmother came back and took her child away. Laws were different then, nothing could be done.

I’ve never forgotten that story.

I know where I belong in my adoptive family. My footing is firm. There’s no question that I’m their daughter, that they’re my parents.

Ironically, with Kate, who is my blood, I don’t know where I fit. Or, rather, it is clear from her where I fit in her life. But, for me, I don’t know how I fit.

From the moment we found each other when I was 18, Kate claimed me as hers. That first day she invited me to call her “mom.” Weeks later, meeting a couple of her sisters and their family, she proudly introduced me as her daughter.

But, I wasn’t. It was true that I was her daughter, technically, but it was equally true that I wasn’t. I was someone else’s daughter. She was a stranger.

The years have gone by and she is no longer a stranger, but we still struggle with who we are to each other. I have accepted her calling me daughter. I silently qualify it as I hear it,
“I am her daughter but she is not my mother. She was, once, for a moment, but she relinquished that role to someone else, and relinquished me to them. I am their daughter. I may be her daughter as well, but she is not my mother.”

We actually debated this very topic last year at this time. It was our celebratory dinner after presenting together for the first time at the American Adoption Congress Conference.

“I am your mother. It’s a biological fact,” Kate said.

“But, you didn’t mother me,” I said back.

We sat there unmoved by the other’s argument, Kate sticking to her noun, me to my verb. Both were true, and the truth we held was the one that was most important to us.

Years ago, when I first dated the man who would become my husband, I had to regularly and painfully push back his affection. I didn’t want a serious relationship, and he did.

Early on, when his sister was visiting town, he wanted me to come with him to his mom’s house for dinner. I shifted in my seat uncomfortably, saying I would rather not. When he asked why I didn’t want to go, I explained that it would make it look like I was his girlfriend. Although we had been together for a few months and were seeing each other exclusively, I didn’t accept the title of girlfriend. I wasn’t comfortable with it. It implied more than I had decided to give.

I eventually agreed to go to dinner on the terms that he would not introduce me as his girlfriend.

Many months after that, I was decidedly smitten but still refused to commit. We went to a party at his work and he was greeted by a pretty co-worker. He introduced me as “his friend.”

“You’re friend?” I mocked him. He shrugged his shoulders with a smile. Not his girlfriend.

I realized then that I wanted to be his girlfriend. Not out of jealousy or insecurity but because I wanted to be claimed. I wanted to be his, and he, mine. Before then, I felt the term was being forced on me because of external circumstances – because we were intimate, because we were exclusive, because we were in love. To me, that didn’t make me his girlfriend. What made me his girlfriend was my claiming that I was.

Relationship terms can’t be put on from the outside. It had to come from within.

I don’t know what it means for my relationship with Kate right now. I still don’t know what to call us.

But, I know the feeling. It’s the same one when my boyfriend tried to get too close, too fast. 25 years certainly isn’t fast, but I still have my boundaries of what feels too close. 


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


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions? Tell me! 

Please comment.