I hope you have a nice cup of tea ready as you join me in Blogville to hear a little more about my story.
As you read the words and thoughts that I will be sharing with you please know that I am a child of adoption in the era of the late 50s, early 60s. The era of closed adoptions. It was a ‘shameful' thing for women to fall pregnant (quite on their own apparently, or after seducing some poor unsuspecting lad from a good family). It was still a time where the young mother’s parents could decide the fate of their daughter and their grandchild. These young women were often sent off to ‘visit relatives’ which often meant being sent to a home for unwed mothers. For some insight into what that was like, I found Ann Fessler’s book, The Girls Who Went Away, takes an honest look at those experiences (caution; a very emotional read that may contain triggers). Another historical practice was for the grandparents to fake a pregnancy, or move to a new community after the child was born, and then raise the child as a sibling to the birth mother. Also notable in the late 50s, early 60s, was birth fathers’ lack of rights in the decisions made regarding their unborn child. I will talk with you one day about my experience with my own birth father and what this lack of rights meant to him. Their decisions, whatever they were, were life changing.
As a child, I had always accepted what was told to me, what my parents knew, and the information they shared with me about my birth family and the circumstances that led to me being available for adoption. People who know me as an adult are reading that and saying? “You what?” The simple answer is that as a vulnerable adopted child, I had to trust my parents, like my parents had to trust that the information provided by the workers was accurate. Those workers, in turn, trusted what was written in the file notes when they shared it with my parents . . . well, you get the idea.
Now, about motherhood and my two mothers’ gifts. I had an ongoing curiosity about my birth family, as you can imagine, but never as much as when our first daughter was born. I remember looking at my husband when I was in labour and asking him if he had thought about the fact that our baby may not look like me, or like anyone in his family. Afterall, I was adopted and did not know what anyone in my birth family looked like (except for my own image in the mirror) so he would be the only parent to notice any familial traits in our child. He was not worried about it; he was just excited to meet our son or daughter. When our daughter was born there were some complications and I was not allowed to see her for several hours. Imagine, the very first biological relation I had every known and they kept me from seeing her for myself. That experience caused me to wonder if my birth mother saw me after I was born and if not, was she feeling denied like I was feeling right then? When the nurses finally put my daughter, my first flesh and blood relative, in my arms, I cried. I cried for my birth mother, and for me, as I had no idea if we had ever shared a moment like this.
Leaving my dad behind to fend for himself, my mom had driven 7 hours to be with me, and my new baby when we came home from the hospital. As I was trying to navigate motherhood I would ask her many questions, and she often said in frustration, “I don’t know, I never had a newborn to take care of.” Or “I don’t know how to look after a baby younger than 9 months old.” That was my age when I was placed with my parents, my brother had been 2 ½ years old when he was placed with them.
As well, I was breastfeeding, something she did not have experience with. But she turned to what she knew, how to nurture and provide. She went up to the store, bought material, and sewed diapers and blankets for the baby, to go with the beautiful knitted outfits she had already created. She cooked for my husband and I, and she cleaned and did the mountain of laundry created by one tiny being. She did all this so I did not have to. She helped care for my healing caesarean incision with great care and concern. My mom parented me while I was learning how to parent my daughter. I was learning how to love from my mom. My birth mother had given me the gift of life, and my mom had given me the gift of a life and family. These were my two mothers’ life gifts.
While my mom was caring for me and my family, I could not help think about my birth mother. Were the birth complications I and my baby had experienced something genetic, maybe even something she had experienced? What medical history was there that might impact on my baby’s health and/or development? Suddenly I had a need to know my medical history. To know more than what my parents had access to and what they were able to share with me. When my daughter was about two weeks old, and I was 22 years old, I called the Children’s Aid Society to request my social and medical history information. Just wait until you hear how that went.