Welcome back to Blogville. Thank you for being with me and keeping me company. Today my tea cup sits empty for there is no tea leaf that can warm me as I deal with my thoughts. The thoughts in this blog may not apply to everyone but I know that many will relate.
*Trigger alert.* So many raw emotions while writing this blog, the most emotions I think I have ever shared out loud. My birthday month is hard, always has been, and probably always will be. Technically, the day of my physical birth is in September but it has never been a day of celebration for me. Often in September I feel like I can relate to the expression ‘one person’s trash is another person’s treasure’. (Yes I know it’s “one man’s trash” . . .but we live in 2023.)
I am always devastated when I hear about miscarriages. They represent the end of, or at least a delay of, the dream of parenthood, or maybe they are sometimes a relief from the idea of unexpected parenthood. My adoptive parents suffered several miscarriages, each one eating away at their parenthood dream. So, I often wondered why I survived instead of their much sought after babies? Why did my birth mother’s unwanted pregnancy (trash) proceed to term when so many wanted pregnancies (treasures) did not?
I often think about how my birth mother found the strength to tell her parents that she was pregnant, with no plans for marrying my birth father. My birth father, in fact, was already gone from the community, leaving his seed behind. I was already there but he couldn’t hear or see me, not that he ever looked back. She was left with all the adult decisions while she was barely an adult herself.
I picture a young woman and her parents seated at a formica kitchen table sharing tea and tears, whispering plan options so that the other children, her siblings, wouldn’t hear. My birth mother would have to go away they decided, so that even though there may be whispers, there would be no actual proof of the family’s shame. This meant me, shaming their family. Leaving was the only solution. I picture my immigrant birth grandfather’s face, angry or sad, the face of a hard worker whose daughter would now need to leave their new Canadian community under a veil of shame.
I often wonder about her time at the home for unwed mothers. How did she get there? Did her parents take her or did they put her on a train where a stranger would be waiting at the other end of her journey to hide her away? How did the religious sisters treat her? Did she miss her parents? Her siblings? Did she grieve a future that she had planned for herself, a future that would now be delayed at least, if not destroyed? How did she feel about the man who likely whispered promises but then left her behind? Did she try to find him and tell him about me? If he made any, did she grieve his empty promises?
I have no real, concrete information about my birth, so my imagination fills in the blanks instead. I picture a young woman in labour, with sweat on her brow, crying out with the pains of labour. I picture a privacy sheet hung between her and her bottom half from which I would eventually appear, ready or not, the sheet put there so that she would not have to see me. I picture a nurse covering me up and whisking me off, leaving my birth mother with nothing but the echos of my first cries and the scissor-like cutting sound of my separation from her, dividing the cord that had bound us for nine months.
My fantasy shows a tearful young woman begging for just one more minute with her baby before she had to take a train back to her family. My file information is in complete conflict with my fantasy however, describing instead her checking herself out as soon as possible, just seven days after my birth, without ever seeing or holding me. Instead of making any pleas to keep me, she voluntarily left me in the hands of a broken child welfare system, and never looked back.
I remained there, for almost an entire month, at the home for unwed mothers, abandoned and alone in the care of overworked nursing sisters. The original plan of a worker coming to collect my birth mother and me was vacated in my birth mother’s haste to return to her family, and in her desire leave me behind. Finally, the frustrated head nurse wrote to my agency demanding that I be collected at their earliest convenience as they were in need of my bassinet for other ‘unwanted babies’. When I read that in my file, I felt inconvenient, and abandoned.
An overworked staff member was eventually sent to retrieve me and travel back with me to my home community where I was placed into an emergency foster home. From there I was moved to another foster home which turned out to be filled with system failures that left sores and rashes on my tiny body. Rescued from there I felt my first taste of love. My third foster family saved my abandoned self and showed me the rewards of being loved.
Sadly for her, my birth mother was sought out regarding the need for her signature on a form. A Judge needed confirmation of her plan for me to be adopted before releasing me for legal adoption. My fantasy saw this as her second chance and I imagined her being grateful for the error and therefore, facilitating her change of heart. However, my file indicates only her surprise and irritation at having to complete forms a second time. By reading the reality of her reaction, I felt relinquished all over again.
It is so very hard to describe the impact on me, on my self-image, to have been unwanted, not welcomed to join my birth families, maternal or paternal, even as a tiny baby. What was so wrong with me? Maybe you see how my ‘birthday’ brings that all back to me, that I was once one person’s trash. Since childhood I have disliked the anniversary of my birth, grieving what I never knew. Friends and family wishing me a ‘happy birthday’ never made it true, though I appreciate how hard they tried. Throughout my childhood and youth that September date served only to remind me that I was unwanted at my birth. Now, at my age and state of being, that calendar date simply reminds me that I am physically another year older, however my sense of not having been wanted remains with me on that September date.
I once asked my mother if we could celebrate the day they got me instead of the day I was born and I remember her replying, “oh you just want two birthday parties!” No mom, just one, I wanted to celebrate the day I was placed with the family who loved and wanted me, the day I was no longer one person’s trash, because I had become one family’s treasure. That day was worth celebrating! This is my first September without the mother who wanted me, whose treasure I was, so I grieve even more this year. Part of me still grieves for what I never knew and now, a bigger part of me grieves what I had instead.
So instead of September, actually a grief time for me, celebrate with me in June, for that is the month my happily-ever-after story began, and in it I became my parents’ treasure. If you know an adoptee, ask them when they celebrate, or would like to celebrate, having started their life. For some it will be the day they were born, for many it will be the day they joined their adoptive family, and for others, it will be the day their adoption was finalized and they knew they would never have to leave another family again. If they look at you funny when you ask, simply tell them you read about the idea in some adoptee’s blog and thought you would ask them.
Thank you for reading, I know it was a tough one to read because it was a tough one to write. It is important for you to know that, unlike me, many adoptees love celebrating their birthday. As well, I feel that current and future openness in adoption will help adoptees deal better with feelings around celebrating birthdays. I just want other adoptees to know that if they don’t want to celebrate their birthday, they are not alone. I want adoptive families to listen if their child objects to celebrating their calendar birthday. Maybe instead, together you can find a day (or even two days) to celebrate your child’s physical birth and/or your child joining your family! Everyone’s story is unique and deserves to be uniquely celebrated!
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