Adoption is not a singular event in one's life. At least not mine. It weaves throughout every relationship.
I had no intention of posting the excerpt from my memoir last week until I felt the need to regain my power after an event that left me reeling. I attended an all-graduating year's high school reunion where I interacted with the man I had a child with for the first time in at least 34 years. I was aware that I might see him as he was class of '86 and I '88, but I had no intention of talking to him until our son asked me to.
I have made it a point since my son and I have been in adoption reunion, not to color his perception of the character of who his biological father was as a teenager or is now. A lesson I learned in my reunion with my birth mother. Her disdain for him she shared with reckless abandon and gave me pause in seeking him out. When my son and I found each other in 2018, I provided his birth father's name and ways to reach out to him through his social media. From my understanding, in his interaction with him, his birth father continued to deny that he was his father or that he somehow didn't know.
I was not looking forward to speaking to the person who had negatively impacted how I looked at relationships and myself. Still, I felt responsible for trying to facilitate a meeting between him and our son because our son asked me to.
This interaction tested years of therapy, and in a matter of moments, I realized how easy it is to regress when triggered. The 52-year-old woman was transported back to the 16-year-old version as I stood before the first boy I loved and would do anything for. Although the current conversation was taking place in a club-like setting, I could feel the coolness of the season on my skin and hear the rustling of dying leaves as they fell from trees the way they did when I was 16 on his porch. His words had not softened, his denial still strong, and innuendos of my virtue or lack of smacked me square in the face. If there is any victory, it is that this time I walked away.
I wanted to cry, scream or order another drink, but I was driving that night. I walked around humming Jesus Be A Fence in the parking lot as I phoned my best friend to relay the story. I was disappointed that I had failed my son in the one thing he hoped I could do. But there is a saying I repeat to myself frequently at this time in my life;
I can only control myself.
I was emotionally drained when I left the event. A feeling that I am still trying to recover from. I have managed to shrink and doubt myself and every decision I made. The inner critic uses an outside voice to remind me of comments others said to me years ago that I eventually internalized and replay. "What makes you think I want you to have my baby?" "I couldn't give my child up." "It's easy for you to walk away because that is what you did to your firstborn." Those comments that challenged my worth, strength, and perseverance were said by people I loved at some point. In a week, I discounted the healing that had taken place and was once again shrouded in the shame of being 16, pregnant, and an adoptee placing my child for adoption.
My son and I had been in a nice communication groove for a couple of months before this, and since that night, he has pulled back. I get it. I get the emotional toll adoption takes on everyone. So although I have missed our facetime calls,
I am not going anywhere. When he is ready, so am I.
This week serves as a reminder that my voice matters as an adoptee and birth mother, and I will not be reduced back to living in shame. So here I am, a bit bruised and remembering that healing is a continuous process and to be gentle with myself. In the words of the illustrious Elton John, I'm Still Standing!