Mother's Day 2012

Mother's Day

Many adult adoptees struggle with the how's and the why's of their adoption.

This is her shocking story:

So, it's Mother's Day...again.  

This will be my ninth one.

This will be the one I can enjoy, I tell myself the night before.

Will I?

Maybe. I love my daughter. She's my whole heart. I never knew that I could have the capacity to love a person as much as I love her.

For all this to make sense, I have to go back. I hate going back. Every year around this time I have to go back.

I was the firstborn child for Deborah and Walter*. In the pictures in my first baby album, I can see that I was a decent looking baby. Cute, even. Bald, chubby, squishy legs and arms, just the kind you love to get your hands on and squeeze like toilet paper.

I don't have memories of being a baby, of course. My earliest memory is of my grandmother buying me a teddy bear with a wind-up key on the back and being driven to the airport in Raleigh, NC.

I'd been placed alone, at the age of five, on a airplane with instructions to the flight crew and pilot that I'd be picked up at JFK by a certain Catholic boarding school.

And that is exactly what happened.

I arrived in New York and was handed off by a flight crew member to a very intimidating nun waiting for me and my little brown teddy bear.

So, off I went.

I'm sure anyone reading this is already asking why? Guess what? Me too.

Thirty-five years later, I still don't have the answer. I was placed in a room with three other little girls about my age. It felt like camp, for awhile. We had chores and school time.

I started to notice the difference between myself and the other kids during the holidays. Most of them left for home or visited their extended families. I never left. I never went home.

In fact, I never talked to Deborah and Walter again. Ever. The summer of my twelfth year on this planet, I learned that the money being paid for me to attend this boarding school had run out.

My biological parents were deciding whether or not to bring me back into their life or put me up for adoption in the Catholic home.

Panic swept through me. Part of me wanted to run. Out, away, gone.

I was approached by my favorite nun who told me what was happening. She told me that she was going to try to get me out of the school for the summer. She was good friends with a college professor from a very prestigious university in New Haven. My nun asked the professor if she'd let me come stay with her until the decision was made: would I go home or would I be put up for adoption.

She said, without hesitation, YES. Off I went to New Haven to live with a lady college professor and her partner, a real estate lawyer.

At that time, I had no idea what homosexuality was. But damn did those two women give me the sex talk. I learned everything. More than I needed to know. But they were open and wanted me to be comfortable with them and, to be honest, I didn't care. They were so nice to me. I had my own room. I had pets (cats and dogs). I could eat kinds of different foods. They took me clothes shopping and let me pick out my first pair of jeans (Gloria Vanderbilts).

It was a pretty good summer.

The call came three weeks before the school year was to start: I was going to be placed up for adoption. My nun, Claire, explained that due to my age, it would be hard for me to get adopted right away - people wanted to adopt babies and young children. She told me not to give up hope.

The two women I'd been staying with were helping me pack when they asked how I liked it there with them. I told them I liked it fine. They told me they wanted to have me stay permanently if I felt like I wanted to. I did! Six months later, I was legally adopted by the college professor. 

I had a decent life.

A good one by most standards. I was loved, educated, and I wanted for nothing. But like most children who are adopted will tell you, we long for answers. I never really spoke about it.

My parents were good people and they were very, VERY vocal about what they thought of my biological parents. As I neared college, I followed in their footsteps and went to the same university they did. I even majored in English, like my mother, to make her proud.

But my past haunted me.

After graduation from college I told my parents that I'd be traveling a bit before taking a job. They agreed that was a fine idea. I didn't tell them I was heading straight for North Carolina.

I wanted answers. I wanted to find the people who left me behind. I didn't want them, just a reason.

Quickly, I learned that it's harder than you think to track people down. I needed to stay longer, so I lied to my parents, told them I'd received a job. What I really did was go through police training. I figured then I'd have access to this information and finally locate these people. It was tough, it took a over a year but I completed the training and got a job.

I realized I loved being a police officer. I came forward with the truth to my parents and they were pissed. My mother still says that her greatest sadness is that I didn't use my education to its full potential. 

I found my biological mother. I tried to make contact with her but she wouldn't have any part of it. After multiple attempts, I was contacted by a woman I learned was my sister. My full biological sister!

She was sending a message to me that the past was the past, and I needed to let go and move on because "her" mother had no desire to know me. That was the last I ever heard from them. I let them be. I tried to move on with my life.

I married a nice man.

He had two boys from his first marriage. They were six and three when we married.

Almost seven years later, I found myself pregnant. I never thought I'd be able to get pregnant - we'd given up trying.

My girl was born. What a beauty! I couldn't put her down! I didn't want anyone else to hold her. She was all mine. Motherhood was rough and I felt unprepared. I went back to get some support through therapy. Things evened out and we thrived.

Then, she turned five. I looked in her face one day and saw myself. Same little eyes, same curly hair. And I broke down.

How? How could someone send me away? Even if I was atrocious, how? Or, was it to save me from something? I still don't know. 

I have moved on. My daughter is nine. I've made it through. I'm in a weekly therapy group. My daughter is my heart and a delight - I love her more everyday. I would never waste a moment's time with her.

For me, Mother's Day isn't about having children, it's a anniversary, of sorts. I survived having more than my share of mothers. I love mine; I do. However, every year, I celebrate this holiday with a little bit of bittersweetness. 

*Some names have been changed to protect privacy.

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They Wouldn't Let Me Save You

My Precious Little Girl,

When your sister was two years old, we went to the foster care office to sign the final papers for her adoption.

I knew you were coming. Months earlier, I'd heard your mother was pregnant with you.

I didn't want the challenge of a traditional foster child. I accepted your sister knowing they couldn't get her back. Your parents ran out of time and the state needed someone who could adopt her. 

While signing the papers that day, the social worker brought you up again. This time was different.

I couldn't say no: my little girl's full-blooded, baby sister needed help. You were about to be born and the state was going to take you from your mother.

We said we would think about it.

I knew I couldn't let you go to strangers when you were born. The social worker wanted me to take you immediately, but I couldn't.

I had commitments at my job that I couldn't break. I asked for a month.

Since I didn't take you right away, the red tape slowed the process.

You had health issues, due to your mother's prenatal drug use - it was best that I didn't have you during those two months. Your first foster mom was a nurse so she knew more about how to take care of you.

One week after your sister's finalized adoption, I brought you home.

The extra foster income meant that I could quit working and stay home with my little girl and you, a tiny baby.

It was a dream come true! After years of waiting for children, I finally had not one, but two babies who needed me. 

I didn't want to fall in love with you.

I tried to protect myself from loving you because I knew your mother could get you back. At first, she tried really hard; as time passed, she fell back into her old ways.

Her addiction took over, and she was back on drugs.

Meanwhile, you were growing and becoming such a fun baby girl.

I had to admit that I adored you.

I wish I could say the same about your foster father, my husband. He never bonded with you. Even after we'd had you for almost a year, he would still introduce you as "our niece" instead of "our daughter."

I'll never be able to erase the memories of the horrible things he said; did to you.

Your father was in prison. Your mother was addicted to drugs. And you were my baby.

When you cried, I was the only one who could comfort you. When you were sick, I took care of you.

Your mother still had visitation, but she would nap during the visits. Four hours a week as a "nap buddy" does not a mother make!

You were my baby. 

Sadly, you were assigned to a different social worker than your sister. This one never seemed to have your best interests at heart.

Your sister's social worker would have officially made you mine after six months.

Your social worker kept giving your mother chance, after chance, after chance.

Your first birthday was a tough time for me. Your foster father left me for another woman.

You and your sister were the only reasons I could even semi-function. I had to get out of bed to feed and take care of you.

Listening to my little girls play together was my only light for a while.

Then a miracle happened.

Your social worker said your parents weren't getting things done the way they needed to and that I should start planning for your adoption.

She was even okay with the idea of me adopting you on my own. Even though I was just weeks from a divorce, I was going to have my baby girl forever. 

Just days before my divorce was finalized, the social worker came for a visit and dropped a bomb on me. Suddenly, your parents were doing everything right and would get you back! IN TWO WEEKS!

I was devastated. 

Your parents now had your baby brother. All I can figure is that they decided to do better after he was born. Perhaps the social worker decided to let them have him on the promise to do better.

Since you weren't officially mine, they could also take you.

You were sixteen months old and I was the only mother you'd known.

As if taking you from your Mommy wasn't bad enough, they were going to keep you in the same day care.

This meant that you got to be with your sister during the day, but I had to leave you again and again.

I couldn't avoid picking you up when I saw you. You would reach out for me, and I just had to hold you, hug you, and tell you I loved you. Then, I would have to leave with your sister.

I will never forget hearing you scream as I walked away. It broke my heart every single day.

Your parents eventually put you in a different day care, and we lost track of each other.

Over the years, we would see each other on your birthday or your sister's birthday. 

And then I moved out of state.

During the last year, I found out that your father was back in prison and your mother was on probation.

I was sick. Where was my little girl? 

I tried calling the state, but they couldn't legally tell me anything. I later found out that you and your brother were with your grandmother.

She and I are now friends on Facebook, and I can keep track of you and see pictures of how you've grown. 

Your mother got you back last week. Again.

I can't help but wonder how long it will be before she succumbs to her addictions again.

I wonder: do you even have a chance? Will you be a teenage mother, too? Will you use drugs like your parents?

I can't guarantee that you wouldn't get involved with drugs or be a teen mom if I'd raised you.

Life offers very few guarantees.

But I know your sister's chances are better - she's being raised in a home with morals; the understanding of what happens to addicts. She won't see her parents using drugs. You most likely will - the statistics aren't in your favor.

I wish I could protect you, my baby girl.

Today on Mother's Day, I hold my two children, knowing there should be one more child in my arms.

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A Day Unlike Any Other

I don't celebrate Mother's Day. I'm a nurse, so I volunteer to work on Mother's Day so my coworkers can have their day. I never want to be a mother, and I had to cut my mother off years ago.

This day is usually full of frustration and bitterness.

How do I explain my mother to anyone in one sitting? She's a mix of mental illness and weak will. She's endlessly self serving. She believes that she is better than anyone she meets. She's a hoarder of things and animals. She is severely ill but refuses help. She continually believes that everything would be okay if she could just get more money. THERE WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH MONEY. She's been bailed out so many times, and whenever she receives money, the first thing she has to do is buy a treat for herself. And another, etc.

My mother signed up to join the Army while she was still in high school and immediately regretted her decision. The only way to get out of military service was to get pregnant. HERE I AM. I had one purpose and it was served before I was ever born. There was literally no other reason for me to be alive, and I was never allowed to forget it.

My mother allowed my sister and I to be abused by her boyfriends and husbands. Whenever we were sick as children, we always ended up in the hospital, while my mother called family and friends and profited from our suffering.

She left us alone with a mentally handicapped babysitter who was technically old enough to watch us. While under her care, I suffered a burn. It wasn't bad at the time, but my mother refused surgery. Then she took me out of the state and dumped me on my grandparents before social services could get involved. I lost part of a breast to the infection that followed, which destroyed any chance I would ever have of breastfeeding. I was 10 years old. After the surgery to save my life, she refused to allow the re-constructive surgery that would have given me some kind of normal appearance.

I won a scholarship to go to Germany for my senior year of high school. I worked so hard to win it. My mother forced me to give her every cent of the money I earned over the year before she would sign the forms allowing me to go, allowing me to get my passport.

The year in Germany changed my life. I saw a real family. I saw how real people keep their homes clean. I saw how the U.S. is seen from a world view.

I came home to a bed filled with animal feces. While I slept on the couch that night, a animal defecated on my head.

A few weeks later, my mother and step-father did something that forever changed my life for the better. They kicked me out of the house because while I offered to pay rent, I wouldn't sign over my paychecks to them anymore.

I moved away, I went to college, I have a life. I have a good life.

My Grandmother's dying wish was that I try to have a relationship with my mother. I tried for several years after her death before admitting that it was impossible.

The cost to have a good life is to never call my mother. I can never write her. At any inkling of communication, she begins her endless harassment for money. Lists of things she needs. Phone calls at all hours. Telling me I ruined her life. The cost is to not know my brother and to have a difficult relationship with my sister.

I have my life. I have what passes for peace. But the word "mother" fills me with anger. One day soon, due to her lifestyle and excesses, she will need medical attention, and I will have to be involved.  As a healthcare professional, I won't be able to turn my back, and I'm dreading it.

I used to believe there was something wrong with me to cause my mother to allow what happened to me. I realized that to her, I was just a consequence of an action, I wasn't anything to love or cherish. I had a purpose, and that purpose was served. The realization allowed me to move forward with my life, and I hope that anyone else with an abusive parent is able to find purpose and move forward. There is so much more to life than being your mother's child.

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Mother's Day: I Freaking Hate Mother's Day

This weekend, The Band, we're hosting a carnival of posts about Mother's Day. Before you run away gagging, hear me out: these are the kinds of Mother's Day posts I wish I'd read years ago. Knowing that I was not alone in my struggles was a pivotal point in my life. Today, we celebrate the tables forever missing one. Today we celebrate the mothers we've lost and the mothers we've found. We're celebrating the mothers we wish we'd had while acknowledging the mothers we did have.

This year, The Band, I'm proud to celebrate a carnival of Mother's Day posts from perspectives that aren't always storybook. Perspectives like mine. Perspectives like Jana's. Perspectives like yours.

Today, no matter where you are in your life, whether you're missing your own mom, happily celebrating with family, stuck at a table forever missing one, wishing desperately that you were a mother, or wishing desperately that you had a mother, know these two things: you are loved and we are none of us alone.

I know, I know. 

It sounds kinda harsh. But I hate it.

I do love honoring the mother-types in my life: my step-mom, my mother-in-law, my step-grandma, the two ladies who stepped in to teach me girlie things while my dad was trying to figure out how to raise a teenage girl, the lady who took me in when step-dad #847 (okay #4) threatened to kill me. I'm all about giving them love and honor and phone calls and cards on Mother's Day. 

But I still hate it.

I believe it began when mom disappeared for two years when I was in grade school and junior high.  Trying to call the last known phone number to wish her Happy Mother's Day only to find out it was disconnected kinda puts a bad taste in a kid's mouth. Eventually we found each other and I went to live with her. It was kind of okay. But when you realize your mom is trying to start fights between you and your volatile step-dad on purpose, it hurts the relationship. 

When I was 18, it was decided for health reasons that I shouldn't have kids; I had a hysterectomy when I was 21

Even after all these years, there's still the thought that Mother's Day is never going to be for me. That's a hard pill to swallow at any age, but at 21? Wow. I'm okay with not having kids, but it's really hard to sit in church on Mother's Day and hear all about the virtues of the mom. 

Nine years ago, Mom died. She managed to do it just a couple weeks before Mother's Day so I get the anniversary of her death combined with Mother's Day. 

Yay.

I am married; I have two step-kids and four grandkids. Believe me when I tell you, I get it - I'm a "step", not the real thing. My dad and step-mom, my brother, my in-laws - all of them wish me a "Happy Mother's Day".  That's about it. 

I try not to be ungrateful for what I do get. My daughter-in-law sent me a "Happy Mother's Day" text last year that had me over-the-moon excited. However, when Father's Day rolls around and the husband gets a card from the kids, a card from the grandkids, phone calls and whatever, it effing hurts

I haven't figured it out yet - what to do to get me through Mother's Day.  Most of the time I treat it like any Sunday except I'm almost guaranteed to miss church. 

I put a smile on my face when I call my step-mom because she is the best woman in the world; I want her to know her value as my mother - I know it's not all about me. I send my sisters-in-law texts because they do a fabulous job of raising my nieces and nephews. 

Then I try not to let it get to me on Father's Day when the well-wishes come pouring in. 

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Mother's Day: Mothers Who Can't

This weekend, The Band, we're hosting a carnival of posts about Mother's Day. Before you run away gagging, hear me out: these are the kinds of Mother's Day posts I wish I'd read years ago. Knowing that I was not alone in my struggles was a pivotal point in my life.

Today, we celebrate the tables forever missing one. Today we celebrate the mothers we've lost and the mothers we've found. We're celebrating the mothers we wish we'd had while acknowledging the mothers we did have.

This year, The Band, I'm proud to celebrate a carnival of Mother's Day posts from perspectives that aren't always storybook. Perspectives like mine. Perspectives like Jana's. Perspectives like yours.

Today, no matter where you are in your life, whether you're missing your own mom, happily celebrating with family, stuck at a table forever missing one, wishing desperately that you were a mother, or wishing desperately that you had a mother, know these two things: you are loved and we are none of us alone.

-AB

Mother's Day is supposed to be about love from your family, maybe a brunch, poorly-made children's school crafts, all in the name of showing Mom how much you love her.

Despite the day's lovely intentions, there are women who spend the day feeling pain instead of joy.

They are the mothers who never were - moms who gave up their children for adoption, moms who lost a baby in or out of the womb, women who are infertile. They have a tangible reason for hurting on Mother's Day.

They are the mothers who are.

Mothers who have the child(ren) they dreamed of. Mothers whose mothering experience hasn't gone as hoped or expected. Mothers with postpartum mood disorders, mothers with critically ill or special needs children, mothers who no longer have relationships with their children.

Their reasons for hurting are less tangible, but just as powerful.

They are the mothers who can't.

Mothers too ill to take care of their children, mothers who are addicts, mothers who lack the mental capacity to provide for their children, mothers who have discovered that they just aren't cut out for motherhood.

I fall into the third category.

I am a mother who can't. I'm a mom who longed for children; wanted them more than anything else. I'm a mom of two wonderful, beautiful children. I am a mom who despises her role as mother.

I hate daily mothering tasks and resent small people constantly hanging on me and talking to me and demanding from me. I get no joy out of playing with my kids or watching them grow. They climb into my lap to snuggle, and I feel nothing. I feel used up and taken advantage all of the time.

I do what I can to keep my dislike of motherhood from affecting my kids. I still play with them, care for them, read to them, do messy craft projects with them, sing with them, snuggle with them, kiss their boo-boos, and tell them I love them. They don't deserve to grow up thinking or knowing that their mommy hates what she does.

But it hurts. Knowing how I feel about my children and my role in their lives hurts all the time. Mother's Day is just another reminder of my glaring inadequacies and my maternal shortcomings. It's a day of pain and sadness that I mask with forced joy over a toddler-made card and a hanging plant.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers who are with The Band, especially those who are, never were, or can't. I'm one of you, and you each have a special place in my heart.

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