Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Furies

I have had a terrible time letting go of the anger that has built up this past week. The non-dialogue related to the primal wound and my personal experience has finally led me to fury. Today there was yet another exchange in which someone told me that I cannot possibly feel what I feel because he or she doesn't feel the same way, and a psychologist backed that person up, telling me I was rude for saying that this person's opinion cannot measure my experience.

Nasty Person: Ms Margalina[sic]: you were seperated [sic] from your biological mother, and you have these problems. That doesn't mean the seperation [sic] caused those problems. I only mentioned myself because I have quite a few of the issues some Primal Wound believing adoptees say they do, and I was not adopted.

Me: Thanks for sharing your opinion, but it is no more than that. Your opinion.

Nasty Ph.D.: Ms. M., I'm not sure why I posted your reply to [Nasty Person], except that I have been posting what you've had to say.
[Nasty Person] did give her reasons for her comment, and it appears to me that it is actually an opinion, derived logically from observation of other people's lives as well as her own-- if "no more", it's also "no less". Real opinions are a different matter from the unexamined prejudices that commonly pass for opinion. 

Me: So [Nasty Person] knows more about me than I do myself? Point taken.

Which led me to think about my old friends, the Furies.

While the power of the Furies is considerable, it is consuming and difficult. The three, Tisiphone ("blood avenger"), Alecto ("unceasing anger"), and Magaera ("the jealous one") can do good work, for sure. I am especially fond of Tisiphone, who avenges crime against family. As an adoptee, I have had my share of crime against family.

The rational side of me, on the other hand, recognizes that the anger I feel is what my enemies want me to feel. If I am furious, they have won. They have no interest in learning about what I feel, or why. Their self-proclaimed job is to reeducate me and point out what they see as my "foolishness."

I have asked myself why this studied deafness to the story of my pain is so anger inducing. Why are they invested in telling me, over and over, that I am wrong about what I feel? Why can't I recognize they are abusive and just walk away?

The answer? It taps straight into the life I have led, for nearly forty-two years, as a second-class citizen  an adoptee. Of being told that everything that happened was all for my own good. That any pain I felt was invented, unless it follows the trajectory that "child development" has staked out for me. That my story is not as important or worthy as those of people who follow the "rules."

When people don't hear me, when they don't at least make an attempt to listen, I become furious. I used to blame myself, but now I blame them. It is time to let go and not to engage, even when I want to help fellow adoptees. There will always be people who cannot accept that people have their own experiences that are not quantifiable. As my father always likes to say, the social sciences are soft. They like to think they're peers of the hard sciences, but humans aren't chemical compounds. You can never control for all the variables where humans are involved, unless you keep them in cages. And even then, you have the rogue variables of genes, even if you remove environment and human contact. Good fucking luck with that, Dr. Moreau. Yes, I mean you.

I told someone recently that I felt vivisection of adoptees was the only means to prove to empiricists that some adoptees feel what we do. Dr. Moreau expressed disbelief: "Why did Ms. Marginalia say that?" This was, in my opinion, disingenuous. It's all about the data, and the data can only be gathered by what is seen. Dissection of a living organism provides data. Personal accounts don't hold water because they are exactly that: personal and tainted. And this person is a psychologist.

But I digress. I was talking to my friend Joy today about this, and I decided that these non-adopted people are befuddled by the depth of our feelings of loss because it's a complete non-issue for them. Anyone who has grown up with their natural family immediately starts out with a sense of groundedness that adoptees don't have. Abusive natural family or not. You look like people around you and can see yourself in others. It's so subtle that it's unremarked. And because it's subtle, it cannot even be seen to exist. Except for those of us who don't have it, have missed it, and want it. If you don't care or don't want it, fine. Hooray, you! But that's not the case for many of us. And to be told, over and over and over, despite telling our stories, that we are wrong and misguided and slaves to "fuzzy" or nonexistent science? Well, fuck you. Again.

So next time I get furious, remind me that these so-called people don't have my best interests at heart. Not at all. They don't want to help, they want to belittle and badger. They aren't worthy of my time or attention, no matter how many degrees they have (or don't).

I remember back to sessions with Dr. Brodzinsky, whose opinions matter to me a hell of a lot more because he has worked with adoptees for his ENTIRE career. Although he doesn't embrace the primal wound, he doesn't tell adoptees that they make shit up, either. When I told him about these dismissive harpies bitches people back in October, he told me to turn as deaf an ear to their entreaties to "understand" as they do to my accounts of what I feel.

I'll save my next call to the Furies for something more worthy.

Peace out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I am, in general, a trusting person because the alternative is hard to live with. I would usually rather believe the best in people and be proved wrong than be continually suspicious. That said, there is pain associated with living this way. Not that I have a choice, really. My temperament isn't such that I can readily close myself off. 

Although I have suffered greatly from the way members of my natural family have treated me, and I cannot  trust them completely, there has been progress. I was thinking about a few weeks back when my sister-in-law T said that she wished our relationship could go back to the way it was last spring. I would like that, very much so. Being nervous and hypervigilant is exhausting, but I think there's a way for me to protect myself by being cautious about how much I give and how much I expect back. The key is to expect little and be surprised.

A and I exchanged a volley of texts this past weekend while we were both up at Tahoe. We checked in with each other, and I told him about a snowball fight I had with two of the kids. I mentioned to him that I owe him about 1,000 snowballs. He agreed. We definitely missed out on kid play together. Then yesterday I texted with T about their weekend, what the kids had fun doing, the cabins we each stayed in, and so on. Then about half an hour later, I had a call on my phone from T. I picked up and said "Hi, T," but it was actually A on T's phone. He wanted to call to chat and tell me that he's excited about coming to visit my family this weekend. This was unexpected, as I felt I had to twist his arm to come. He said that he thinks we'll have great fun. 

I've noticed that whenever I cautiously begin to mention things related to our family relationship, he begins to change the subject and get nervous. I don't know if that's because it's too painful, if he doesn't want to think about it at all, or if his guilt about what happened is a roadblock. I need to ask him, but I would rather do it in person. A year ago, he would gladly call me his sister and tell me he loves me. It's a different game right now. Maybe he regrets jumping in head first when he found out about me. I know it was a lot for him to digest.

I also had a wonderful conversation with C yesterday. She wanted to hear about the procedure to insert the filter, how I am feeling, how the kids are, whether we were able to meet with A at Tahoe. She was very kind and solicitous. She asked more about my aparents and asked me to give her best to my father, who had surgery yesterday. We spoke about how my amom is a redhead with not enough hair on her legs to be worth shaving, whereas C and I have great quantities of dark, thick hair. I told her that it was hard on me as a teen-ager not to have someone around to teach me about plucking and waxing. She laughed and said she wished she could have helped. We spoke about my maternal agrandmother and how she had a half-sister herself, placed for adoption before 1900. And how my grandmother never denied this sister. C thought that was wonderful. She also told me that she hopes A will be in a good mood this weekend; she said it was impressive that he is coming because he doesn't like to make plans with many people. Finally, we talked about how we both like our friendship. The only sour note for me was when she said she had to go because it was getting toward the time when her husband comes home. I understand that he doesn't want me back in the picture, but it makes me sad that it has to be this way. I don't want to make C's life difficult, by any means, but I feel angry that her husband continues to pile shame on her after 41 years of marriage. 

I really didn't see any of this coming a few months ago when I woke up each day and wished I were dead. It is how it should be, but that in itself is scary because it is rare that anything in my life is as it should be. I feel my heart opening up to them because they deserve it, and I feel that my love is being returned. I feel immensely joyful. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wounds and investments

I have been involved in several discussions over the past week about whether infant adoptees are capable of knowing that they have lost their mothers after birth. These discussions pop up on a regular basis, usually because the naysayers get their knickers in a twist when we "woundies" [aka people who have found value in Nancy Verrier's book, "The Primal Wound"] say we believe in something that is devoid of scientific evidence (per the naysayers).

What I don't understand is why people are so invested in telling other people that what they feel is wrong. The naysayers allow us our feelings, supposedly, but they tell us we have misattributed those same feelings, as if we are completely unable to understand ourselves. Someone said in one of the arguments that she thinks "woundies" feel sad because we realized over time that we were adopted and lost our natural families, but that we erroneously attribute our sadness to the original loss. I would argue that for me, at least, there is a combination of both: an original loss, and experience over time.

I lost C on the day I was born. She never saw me or held me. There is a great deal of research that shows newborns are able to recognize the voices and smells of their mothers (and working in Labor and Delivery, as I do, we have protocols that take this information as a basis for keeping mothers and babies together, as much as possible). The naysayers believe that while neonates may recognize their mothers, it doesn't mean that the newborn actually prefers the mother. That recognizing smell and sound is instinctual, not emotional. I agree that there is not scientific research that proves an indelible tie between mother and infant, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I am also unwilling to say that the keeping mothers and infants together is important for everyone except adoptees.

I have been an highly anxious person as long as I can remember, and before I could put words to it. This is my lived experience. In the recent debates, someone not adopted came along and told me that he or she has been anxious as long as he/she can remember, but wasn't separated from his/her mother, so what I am saying is hogwash. My response was that he or she feels something similar to what I feel, but there is nothing to say that everyone who is anxious has the same root cause for the anxiety.

Or in another case, a psychologist said that the primal wound theory is detrimental to potential adoptive parents, who might feel inadequate or paralyzed when they realize that their adopted infant/child has felt a profound loss. That reading Nancy Verrier's book, "The Primal Wound," could cause post-adoption depression in adoptive parents, so adult adoptees need to stop talking about these false, unscientific wounds to protect future infant adoptees from depressed parents. WTF?

After so many days and months of this, I don't understand why so many people who are not adopted have such investment in telling adult adoptees that we're WRONG when we talk about what we feel, or how we feel it. It is just so odd. It's like they think we choose to feel sad. There is no choice. For some of us, it just is. I know what I feel and what I have felt my entire life, and to have someone suggest that they know better than I do is highly presumptuous.

I was talking to my friend Thomenon today about this, and how it has some parallels with the way queer people are treated by reactionary factions in the United States. That being gay is a "choice" and that if gay people would reexamine their lives, they would see their faulty thinking. He said that the "choice" issue is bogus: he would never have chosen to be gay, given the obstacles that society puts in the way of queer citizens. He feels that there is a biological component to being gay: he always knew he was gay. And that his life as a gay man has been shaped by his place in society at large and his position in queer culture. His experience as a gay man is thus both biological and cultural in its foundation.

It is a fact that adoptees belong to families other than those we grow up with. Our feelings about being adopted are not a "choice." Seriously, if it were, I would choose to be one of the joyous, cheerful, very happy adoptees who see nothing but goodness from here to the grave. That would be a much easier path, but it's never been who I am. Cultural expectations of adoptees to be grateful and happy, adoring of adoptive families and vilfiying of natural families are also problematic to me. There is a middle road in which I love my adoptive family, love my natural family, and have felt lifelong sadness about the loss of my mother and who I might have been. Sadness that cultural expectations led me to hide and subvert until it turned into crippling self-loathing and self-doubt. NOT an inability to form lasting, meaningful adult relationships, as the naysayers have written.

Now I speak out about how I feel, and I am told that I am "allowed" to be sad, but only within the parameters that others delineate. Boundaries that "science" has set up. I love science. It's great. But not when others use it as a bludgeon to push me back into compliant adoptee mode. "Science doesn't uphold what you say, so your feelings are 'probably' invalid unless you agree with us that you started to feel sad when you were three and realized that you were adopted and what that means."

Sorry, not playing. I am too old.

Vive la resistance!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


So the strange goodness of my day continues. I took Callum to his Cub Scout meeting, and when I left, I noticed that A had called me. "Great," I said to myself. "He's calling to cancel his trip."

I put the kids to bed and called him back, expecting the worst. As many well trained adoptees do.

I was pleasantly surprised. He was calling because T had told him that my family and I are going to Tahoe this weekend. Turns out A is going to be up at Tahoe, as well, and he wanted to see if there was any possibility of our meeting up.

I was thrilled that he thought to tell me and even considered getting together. He and T will be there with another family, his best friend and wife and daughter. Which means he doesn't mind introducing his Yankee sister to his friend! Even if it doesn't pan out for us to meet, he wanted to. Wow. I feel loved, really loved.

He also told a really cute story about being in a "Build-a-Bear" store with W, my nephew, and his friend J (the one who will be up at Tahoe). Apparently W was sitting with his legs spread wide apart, making his bear, and ended up with a hand down his pants. He was having a good time, clearly. A was horrified and said, "Boy! What are you doing?" in his loud Southern drawl. J roared with laughter and said it was like the Clampetts [the Beverly Hillbillies] in "Build-a-Bear." So A's new thing is to call his family the Clampetts. How narrowly I missed being a Clampett--although A is very well educated for a Clampett.

Maybe things are looking up for real. But then I remember to ask: Is this my life? What cruel joke lies ahead?

My love is as fair as any mother's child

I took Callum to see Giselle performed by the San Francisco Ballet on Sunday. Innocent love, betrayal, death, and love beyond the grave: how I adore the impossible passions of the Romantics. If today hadn't happened, I probably would have written a long, dolorous discourse about the pains of love. But the gods smiled on me.

Callum was gorgeous in a suit and looks so grown up. I was proud to have him as my date, and I caught many of the little girls checking him out. I have quite a future ahead of me, I fear.


I believe that normal is relative. I'm not going to jump all over you because your normal is different than mine. Unless, that is, you are a scientist who tells me that babies don't care if they are taken from their mothers, or that adopted babies are appropriate test subjects because they're malleable little creatures.

That said, what's normal for me over the past 41 years has been feeling pain. When the accounting is done, I am emotionally in the red. There is that pesky problem of not feeling human, or only feeling human as of late, and then not human in other ways. Of being unlovable, or only lovable for my brain. I am disposable. In my mind, everyone I know is running (or planning to run) to the door to get away from me. I know rationally that when people run away, it's their crap, not mine (usually), but the fallout is the same. I have to deal with their absence, and it's not fun.

And yet today I had a surprising, grounding experience that made me feel normal again. For the first time in a long time. I can't say more than that, only that I feel hopeful, at least for now, about really being human.

I am trying to feel normal about my brother's upcoming visit. He arrives a week from Saturday and leaves pretty early on Sunday. I know he's petrified. After all, we adoptees are scary beasts. He still carries around a bunch of guilt for his abandoning me in May and worries my family and I haven't forgiven him. I have forgiven him, but of course he can't move on until he forgives himself. And I can't do anything about that.

Our day together was neatly planned a month ago, although you know it never ends up quite so. First, he and I will go with my friend N to brunch at my favorite Provencal restaurant in Berkeley. We'll spend the afternoon at Crissy Field or Fort Funston in the city with Mark, the kids, and Finn, and we will end the day with a tete-a-tete dinner at a wonderful tapas bar in Berkeley, just the two of us.

We've never actually had sober alone time. What will that be like? I want to ask him all about Afghanistan, but I fear he won't want to talk about it. I know he's planning to apply for fellowships for specialist training in pathology: GI diseases or something like that. I know we can nerd out together and talk about science and BBC television shows, but I hope he'll also be willing to talk about some difficult things. I realize that I know him too poorly to trust him with a whole lot of my hearts of darkness (not to mention he's smashed me to pieces before), but I want to be able to confide in him and build something beyond the superficial relationship we have now. We will see. I have to remember there isn't a rush. We cannot make up for the time we have lost; we can only move ahead. And I can only control myself and what I do.

It is so fucked up to have met my brother in middle age. To love him and be afraid of him. My job is to find some version of normal in this whole tangled mess? Wish me luck!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Being Human

I have been watching a BBC television programme called "Being Human." It chronicles the "lives" of a werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost who wish to be human and exist without the baggage of their supernatural natures.

In the episode I watched today, George, the werewolf, was mourning the ordinariness he will never have: a home, a partner, children. He says, "This isn't the life I get now. It's something that happens to other people." He wants a mundane existence so badly he can taste it, but every time he tries to build one, he hurts other people by denying who he is. You can't take the werewolf out of the boy.

I can empathize greatly with these unmoored characters. Being adopted has made me feel, in many ways, less than human. I *am* human, of course, and I function as a human. And yet I cannot take things for granted that non-adopted people can. My skin is thin, I walk alone, and I feel most comfortable in the company of my fellow adoptees. There are days I wish I were a vampire who could take out some people who try to "fix" me or trivialize what I live, every day.

I am sick of being told that I experienced nothing amiss, that any family is as good as any other, that biological kids suffer, too. Of course they do. But they know who they are and can choose to be other than that. Adoptees had no choice. Our entire existence is based on erasure, of being changelings.

No, I don't make my own pain; it came with the package. Sorry, "scientists," you can fuck off. For those people who say that adoption is an event, not a life: you're fortunate. I wish I could take the adoptee out of me, but without it, who *would* I be? I will never know.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I was in the hospital yesterday to have a filter placed in my inferior vena cava, or the vein that carries blood back to the right atrium of the heart. The hope is that the filter will be an insurance policy to prevent any more clots traveling to my heart, lungs, or brain.

The filter is a rather creepy looking thing, a cage with small spikes to keep it anchored in the wall of the vein. Frankly, it looks like a torture device for small animals.

I was expecting to have it placed through my femoral vein, in my leg, but as I was being wheeled into the interventional radiology suite, the tech told me it was going in through my jugular due to "physiological anomalies." Nice.

At that very moment, I knew I would need a LOT of Versed. The thought of having a hole in my neck with things poking down into my body was hugely anxiety inducing. It made me feel extremely vulnerable; one wrong move and I'd bleed out.

I did get the Versed, mercifully, but the RN was cautious (she said she wouldn't be stingy, but I beg to differ). I am used to getting 2mg of it with 100mcg of Fentanyl (synthetic morphine) for conscious sedation. Apparently my blood pressure was low enough that they didn't want to risk it dropping, so I only got 75mcg of Fentanyl and 1mg of Versed. I was wide awake but not freaked out during the procedure, and I didn't feel pain. I didn't however, want to remember it--I do--or have an enormous amount of pain afterwards. I did. They gave me 650mg of Tylenol in recovery and wished me well. Yeah, Tylenol is really going to cover it. I was quite a testy patient and got the hell out of the recovery room as quickly as I could. One of the RNs asked me if I have a low tolerance for pain or a high tolerance. I think in general I have a high tolerance, but now having had chronic pain for so long, perhaps my tolerance is low. I don't care. I hate feeling like my head is ripping off my body. She should try it sometime, and take some Tylenol.

Today I am still in pain. That pain is compounded by a lot of things emotional. I was thinking about vulnerability, and how so many people love to attack others in the metaphorical jugular, just for sport. And then say, "Well, you deserved it," or "Aren't you a victim," or "My pain is worse than yours and you don't know shit." You'd think that by the age of 41 I would be able to brush off these idiocies. I would like to be able to brush it off. But I am not quite there.

I don't like it when others use me to feel better about themselves, or perhaps more exactly, I don't like it when other people tell me that they feel so much better about themselves because they see me as such a piece of shit. I am reminded of many times over the past few years when I've been speaking to friends about problems in my marriage, and they come back the next day and say, "Wow! When I told my husband about what's going on with you at home, we had the hottest sex we've ever had!" I don't need to know this, really I don't. Hooray for you! But please don't tell me this.

I sit here feeling wounded on many levels from the literal to the spiritual. And adoption has nothing to do with it? Again, if I had known my father's medical history, I could have prevented the clots. If C hadn't taken 11 years to talk to me, maybe I wouldn't have taken so long to think of myself as human. If I had loved myself, I wouldn't be rotting here alone on my island of solitude.

Yeah, bad day. Get the fuck away from my jugular.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Mistakes. We all make them. We punish ourselves, others punish us. Guilt is a tremendously powerful force.

Being adopted makes me hypervigilant and hypersensitive. I feel guilty about things I have no power over because I feel that it's my job to make people happy. I become anxious when things aren't right. Highly anxious. It is unsettling both emotionally and physically.

I am working to change how I react and better assess what I am responsible for and what I am not. I cannot take on everyone's problems, nor should I. Sometimes people don't communicate with me not because I am a horrible person, but because they have their own shit going on.

We all have our trauma. This isn't to say that we're all stuck in trauma, but trauma changes you. You carry the scars with you. People will lash out, withdraw, and do any number of things when their scars are noticed or touched. I have had friends turn cold when I've "come out" about my adoption, probably because they have plans to adopt and don't want to hear about any negatives, or when I've talked about problems in my marriage and they look at their own marriages and are afraid of the very things I confide.

Sometimes I feel like I take baby steps forward in trusting where I am going, and then a gust of ill will blows me five steps back. Who can I trust? Even when I do everything I can to find my footing, I fall down. Do people understand that their anger is like poison? When they turn it on me, it infects me and I want to return it, with interest?

We all have our stories. I can respect that our stories are sometimes interconnected, and sometimes in conflict. It would be great if we didn't judge one another's stories. I try not to judge others, but I do sometimes. And I know I am judged. As my friend Joy said to me today, "Contempt, sadly, is very satisfying."

On days like today I despair of the constellation and our allies ever working together for adoptee rights. Adoptees are a largely silent minority. We are marginalized when we speak out to say things other than "I am grateful for my adoptive family and that I wasn't aborted or thrown in a dumpster." We need the help of friends, our adoptive parents and our natural families; fighting amongst ourselves gets us nowhere.

While we should be circumspect about what we say and how we say it, we could also have more compassion for others and think when we are triggered before slamming someone else with a two-by-four. Part of activism is teaching. We may not want to repeat our hard-won lessons, over and over. Yes, teaching can be tedious, but that's how the word is spread.

When I first joined the online adoption community two and a half years ago, I didn't know that first/original/natural mothers didn't like the term "birth mother." I didn't know that it wasn't the "triad," but the constellation. I didn't know that there was an annual protest to advocate for adoptees to get their records unsealed. I have learned a lot but there is more to learn.

I will try to be as understanding and supportive of those following me as most people have been to me. I met so many amazing people at the protest last summer. I am glad to be a part of something larger than myself, and it was fabulous to be in a safe environment with people who get it. Yes, it was one hell of a ride to be around so many damaged people, but it was like being home.

I am glad that adoptees have a safe place for expressing themselves, even though many of us have different feelings and issues and backgrounds. Some of us are more comfortable speaking out than others; I have practiced speaking out in that safe zone, and now speak out elsewhere, sometimes. I make mistakes. We all make mistakes.

Let's try to forgive so that we can work together. Because I need something to live for and work for. And this isn't it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


My 30 days of truth are at an end. My final assignment is to write a letter to myself, describing all the things I love about me.

Dear Kara,

You are smart and strong. You do right by your friends and family, at least most of the time. I admire your enthusiasm and passion for life. You are willing to dig deep and explore, and to travel far and wide, both across the globe and within your own soul. 

You take pride in your work and don't get complacent. You are fiercely loyal and protective of those you love (and even sometimes of your enemies). You can readily admit when you've made mistakes.

You would rather take on the burdens of others than burden others yourself, especially when it comes to emotional pain. You (usually) believe the best of others until they prove you wrong. 

You value yourself as an individual, and recognize that you are only one voice within a larger community. You take your responsibility to the greater community very seriously. 

Life is a process, and you know there's always more to learn. You are humble because you are aware of how little you really know.

Keep up the good work.

I love you.

Baby Girl Newman, who held all of that potential within her tiny self

Monday, February 07, 2011


If I had to change something about myself, I would...

Have better hair. I am just sick of the frizzy waves.

Cook more. I am a lazy princess.

Be nicer to people. Nah, I pretty much let them walk all over me as it is.

Be neater. (Mark suggested that one, but I told him it was highly unlikely.)

Be a better mom. I wouldn't want to spoil them, though. The wicked witch thing works so well.

This is a tough one. Even with the past month's deep introspection, I am unsure what to choose.

My beloved friend N told me today that I could stop giving people second and third chances to be better people. They are who they are, and by cutting them slack, I give them even more chances to be evil to me. Yes, I think I will go with that one.

Stop giving people so much latitude.

Time to abolish "nice."

Sunday, February 06, 2011


If I found out today I were pregnant (which would be a freaking miracle--but that's another topic), I would end the pregnancy. I say this for several reasons, even though I don't find the prospect of an abortion particularly appetizing.

My health is such that it would be highly unlikely that I could carry the pregnancy to term, and would be dangerous to me if I did so. I could throw a clot that would block blood flow to the placenta, or that might go to my heart, lungs, or brain. I am unwilling to play Russian roulette with my body and possibly die, leaving my other children without a mother. [For me, this is very separate from suicide.]

I am 41. I don't want to have a baby when I am 42. I am tired all the time, and I get to sleep through the night. I don't want to take care of helpless infants again, however much I enjoy the way they feel in my arms. That's what I do at work: take care of newborns, and then give them back to their parents. It's perfect.

I feel very, very good about my family being complete. I have never seriously entertained the idea of a third child. It would not be a happy or welcome surprise. I would not want to "gift" said child to another family because I cannot, in good conscience, create an adoptee who is blood-related to me. Even with an open adoption, I could not tell this third child, in truth, "I love you as much as your brothers." Some women can do this. I am not one of them. I am one of those adoptees who would rather have been aborted than placed. Again, this is harsh. I am not saying that my life is worthless. What I do feel, however, is that the pain I have felt every day has been such that I wouldn't choose it for myself. C got to choose, and I am living with her choice. I am not giving her a medal for having me.

I would be very concerned about Down Syndrome or other anomalies. I would have an easier time terminating at 7 weeks than at 12 or 16 or 20 weeks, although I would do so later, as well. I know I would be a terrible parent to a child with special needs. This may sound harsh, but I know how I feel and what the reality would be. A special needs child with me for a mother would not be happy. Yes, people can adjust and rise to the occasion--but I cannot do that particular job. As I said in an earlier post, I would have aborted either of the two sons I have if they had tested positive for Down Syndrome. This may make me a monster, but I can live with that. I couldn't live with knowing I could not love that child with all my heart and devote myself to taking care of him or her. It reminds me in some ways of a first mom I know who says she couldn't raise her first child because she didn't love him from conception and the moment she knew she was pregnant. The pregnancy--and child--were unthinkable burdens, so she placed. It's about capacity and willingness to love, and some of us have more to give than others. It depends on person and circumstance, I suppose.

I am glad I live in a society where I have choices. I am not proud to say that I'd have an abortion, and I do everything possible to prevent such a thing from being necessary.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope

What's the best thing going for me right now?

I have to pick just one? Thank goodness for poetic license.

First, friends.

For the first time in my life, I am surrounded by friends who really love me, and I love them back. I don't worry about being someone other than myself. They know the good and the bad, and they accept both.

I don't have to in the closet with all my adoption issues because most of my friends are adopted, and if they're not, they understand and support me to the best of their ability.

Second, hope.

I have emerged from the painful tunnel of no escape, at least for now. Even though my health is still not great, I don't have an overwhelming desire to give up on life. I have a place, and I see it. When I reach out, my reaching is reciprocated. This could change tomorrow, but I don't want to be pessimistic today, just realistic.

Third, reunion.

Who knew, a year ago, that C would come around? I had no hope at all. It is hard to stare at a brick wall and have any faith that it will come down. I might be a fool, but I am nothing if not tenacious. It has been life changing to have my brother, sister-in-law, and C actively in my life because THEY want to be in it.

Friday, February 04, 2011

To be, or not to be

Have I ever thought of giving up on life? Yes. Several times. No, more than several. Sometimes on a daily basis.

How is this possible? It's a combination of chemicals in my brain, self-hatred, loss of hope, and tunnel vision.

I have felt less than human for most of my life. I am an adoptee. Yes, I know that I am human, but I didn't feel like I belonged to the human race. I was a changeling. I could speak the language and understand how to move about my surroundings, but something was never quite right. It's like living in a foreign country--and for some adoptees, it is a very REAL foreign country--but most people don't want to admit out loud that you don't belong. No matter. You KNOW it. And if you verbalize this feeling of not belonging, you will be squashed and ostracized by the "bitter/angry/ungrateful" police.

No matter how hard I tried, and no matter how much my parents loved me, I thought my life a huge mistake. It didn't help that I always felt like an outsider, and I was treated like one in the community in which I grew up. I had different goals and ideals. I didn't want to be average. I was taller than most kids until high school--and even now, I am not a short, petite woman. I stood out, literally and figuratively.

It didn't help that I couldn't love myself. It is incredibly hard, however, for most people to love themselves, and even harder, in my opinion, for many adoptees. We felt we were abandoned, whether we were actively abandoned or not, by our original families. And if an innocent baby is beyond the love of the people who made her, how could anyone else love her? Ever? I know this seems far-fetched to many of you who are not adopted, but imagine being set adrift and having to try to understand who you are without any point of reference. It is excruciating and exhausting.

I started cutting in high school. I wanted to self-mutilate because I preferred physical pain to emotional pain. I thought about cutting my wrists, deeply, so that I would bleed out. Not existing seemed a decent option to a life of never-ending pain. But I was afraid.

I thought again about suicide in my 20's. I was unhappy in graduate school, and none of my intimate relationships ever seemed to work out. I can see much of that now as poor choices made on my part, but at the time, I thought that academia was right, and I loved those men. Why could no one love me back with the same faith and intensity, why could my adviser cut me down at every turn? When I was 27, one particular breakup--and graduate school--left me wanting to die. It wasn't so much missing the guy as feeling that my situation was entirely hopeless. No one would ever love me, I would never get a job, I would always be the whipping girl. What was the point? I was the first person that people would sacrifice. I was worthless.

It is really hard to communicate how it feels to be suicidal. Death simply makes sense when you're in the pit of despair. Telling someone not to kill themselves is a good thing to do, if it is done with real kindness. If it's just that you think suicide is morally wrong, and the person who feels suicidal knows that you aren't invested in him or her, it's probably more irritating than anything else to be lectured. It's like condescending head-patting when others want to smooth things over and take control, rather than accept and acknowledge the suicidal person's very real feelings of pain.

I remember my psychiatric nursing rotation vividly. We watched a difficult documentary film called The Bridge, about people who committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge over the period of one year. We discussed the film with our professors, and learned what is useful and not useful in supporting someone who is suidical. We learned about what it takes to 5150 someone. I liked this especially because I learned what it was safe, or not safe, to say to people who have the power to commit me. I don't want others to take control over what I do. I've had enough of that in my life. I cried when I  worked with the many suicidal children in the in-patient unit, many of whom were adopted, and from Russia and Guatemala. Coincidence?

To be quite honest, I was actively suicidal from May of last year to early January of this year. I was functional most of the time. Very few people knew how awful I felt. I had my adoptee friends in my corner; they kept me afloat. I saw a series of different therapists, none of whom helped me. I tried Zoloft and then Wellbutrin. People berated me for even thinking about suicide because I would be abandoning my children. And you know what? I. Didn't. Care. So much of my life had been spent taking care of other people's feelings. I knew my kids would be devastated, but I wasn't going to stay alive for any reason other than wanting to stay alive for MYSELF. Living for others is a very, very hollow experience. I don't recommend it.

I cannot even describe what it's like to be hanging from the cliff by one fingernail. It's so horrible that nothing, absolutely nothing, matters, except ending it all. There were times I was suicidal when my parents were visiting, but I knew I couldn't do it when they were around. I didn't want them involved with the immediate aftermath. I didn't want to leave a note. I just didn't want to go on, to breathe, to do ANYTHING. Every act of living was too much.

What saved me in the end? My first mother and her compassion.

She knew I was suicidal. We talked about it. She was very kind and honest, and by opening herself up--at last--and allowing me to be part of her life, I finally felt that my whole existence hadn't been one huge, damned mistake. I finally belonged to two families, both of whom love me. I was not an alien any longer. C owned what she had done, and by taking back all of that guilt and silence, she freed me from a huge part of my burden.

I know that C's family tree is deeply gutted by depression and suicide. That was good to learn, as well. It wasn't that I was aberrant or strange; severe depression is in my genes. That's not to say I can't conquer the dark feelings and blankness. I can. I am still on Wellbutrin. I am finished with therapy because I am not opening myself up to be misunderstood, yet again. I know my limits. I will try not to give up. But it's a battle.

I don't know what the future holds. I may end up on the brink again. Right now it seems like that was a different life, but I am too wise to try to convince myself it will never happen again.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Why am I still alive today?

I am alive because of a drunken encounter one July evening in 1968. I am alive because C was too afraid of her mother to abort me. I am alive because I didn't know what else to be. I am alive because of all the love my friends and family have given me.

I am alive today because even when I gave up on myself, it wasn't my time to go. That, and the Wellbutrin.

On a tangential but related topic, two nights ago I read a review of an exhibition at the British Museum concerning the Egyptian Book of the Dead. While the Egyptians didn't call it "The Book of the Dead," Egyptologists use that term for collected papyri that tell the deceased how to navigate through the afterlife. The texts recount spells and provide guidance for surviving ceremonies and encountering different beasts and gods. The Book of the Dead provides a fascinating view into ancient Egyptian conceptions of life, as well as death.

One particular passage, related to judgment, describes the weighing of the deceased's heart. It must weigh exactly as much as the feather of Maat, symbolizing right or truth. If the deceased fails the test, the heart (and the deceased) will be devoured by a beast that is part crocodile, part hippopotamus, and part lion. No more afterlife!

Talk about regret.

Weighing of the Heart, from the Papyrus of Hu-nefer

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


I rarely make mixes for people because I believe taste in music is extremely individual and territorial. I can appreciate when people make mixes for me, but I am too shy to push my own preferences onto others. I don't like putting myself on the line.

That said, I decided that if I were to create a playlist for someone, it would be for my first mom. I am quite sure that she wouldn't appreciate my choices (she's very into Country music), but it's no more than a musical tribute to my feelings for her. It is short because it's too painful to think about at length.

1. Mary Gauthier, "Mama Here, Mama Gone"
2. Mary Gauthier, "Blood Is Blood"
3. The Magnetic Fields, "I Don't Want to Get Over You"
4. The Pogues, "If I Should Fall From Grace With God"
5. Kirsty MacColl, "They Don't Know"

When I was born, you left me. I have cried, over and over, listening to Mary Gauthier sing about the baby's arms reaching for her mother over and over, and then finally giving up. There was no one to come hold me in the beginning, at least no one with a plan to keep me in her life. Something in me died as a result. Blood is what ties me to you. Not only in terms of its metaphorical associations with family, but because we have spherocytosis. You cannot erase our DNA.

I never wanted to get over you, even though people told me I should, and that it was my duty to forget you. That I should honor your wish--supposed wish--never to see or talk to me again. That I was interfering in your life where I didn't belong. I took antidepressants and sleepwalked through days and years until I had the strength to say "Bollocks!"

I have felt so separated from you, so alone, so desperately sad that I felt God and the world had abandoned me, along with you. I know it sounds melodramatic, but it is very real to me. It was incredibly difficult to live with the huge hole you left in me. As I told you once before, you were always the third parent in the room, the one I was trying to please and make proud. I just wanted you to acknowledge me and accept me as yours.

As for people not knowing: they don't! I am tired of arguing with people who call me bitter or say that I am betraying you or my aparents by doing one thing or another. No one ever understands that loving one parent doesn't cancel the other out. And you know what? I don't care if they know or don't know anymore. We have each other again, and that's huge. A year ago, I would never have dared dream of this.