Monday, April 11, 2011


I spoke with C again today, to wish her fun on her trip to Paris. We had another one of those enjoyable, easy conversations, and she asked me about my religious upbringing, about the kids, and...

"What day is your birthday?"


I understand that she put incredible amounts of energy into forgetting what happened. I understand that for her, my birth was not a happy event. She did not agonize about placing me. She didn't have a choice, but her coping mechanism was to block it all off and bury it. Deep. She was excellent at that, although she would admit that it came a very high price.

So when I read about natural moms remembering, crying, celebrating with cake on their placed children's birthdays, marking all those lost years, it stings. There was no remembering in my case. She still didn't remember, and had to ask me! I am not angry or upset; I am a little sad, certainly, but I have to take the uncomfortable with the good. What happened before won't change, but what comes ahead is within my control (at least in part).

A while ago, I asked C about my birth story, whether she saw and held me, etc. She said that she couldn't remember. Any of it. At first that didn't make sense, but I told some of the senior nurses at work about this, and they said that C probably received conscious sedation while in labor.

The pieces fell into place. She was anesthetized and given a drug to prevent her from forming memories, something from the benzodiazepine family.

The RNs at work told me that in the 50s and 60s and even the early 70s, some women would get this "twilight sleep" cocktail and be strapped to gurneys (imagine being in terrible pain, out of your mind, and unable to fully understand what was happening and where you were--AWFUL). The mothers would follow the RNs' and MDs' directions for pushing, and then would wake up from the sedation with a clean, wrapped infant in their arms. The experience of birth was not in their control. It doesn't sound pleasant at all. I am glad that the L&D unit where I work bears no resemblance to such a place of fear and forgetting.

When C woke up late in the morning on April 27, 1969, her ordeal of secrecy was over (or just beginning, in reality), she was clean and resting, and I was GONE. It was as though I had never existed, and she had her "clean slate," as far as my grandparents were concerned. Since she wasn't supposed to remember me, why would she remember my birthday each year, or at all?

I get it. But my birthday--and my connection to C--has always loomed large in my mind. It was the last day that I was with her, and until now, the only time. Each birthday, I would ask myself, and friends, and family, "Do you think she is thinking about me today?" Apparently not. For C, it was the day that she was told to forget, and the dutiful daughter she is, she says she managed very well.

She will remember my birthday now, I have little doubt. She is slowly investing in our relationship. Reunion complicates things, to be sure. I had always been able to approach my birthday with relative positivity, but last year, having my nfamily forget (or ignore it entirely) was brutal. It was as though half of me was quite literally in the dark. I am hoping this year will be different, but I also remember that it's best to have low expectations and be surprised.

A friend of mine is going to take me to the Legion of Honor in San Francisco that day, to celebrate both his birthday (the 29th) and mine. I won't be alone and in bed, crying and worried that my nfamily would throw me to the winds. They might. But I am stronger now, and I have a will to live that I didn't have a year ago.

Memories are odd things, how deeply an event will touch one person and leave the other cold.


Susie said...

I hope that your mom is able to acknowledge and celebrate your birthday this year. I can't begin to imagine how painful it was to hear your mom ask that question. I do, however, understand how it was blocked from her memory.

I also have no memory of my son's birth story. I have only a few memories, nothing solid, nothing more than a few seconds here and there of that day. My son was born in 1979 ~ I don't know if I was given something or if it was the trauma of losing my son that day. I can't say that I would have remembered my son's birth date either if not for the kindness of one nurse who broke the rules and slipped me a small piece of paper with my son's footprints and the details of his birth ~ date, time, weight, and height.

Von said...

I hope you have a good day.While I understand what happened or possibly happened, it is so sad for you.I'm so sorry for the loss of the thoughts that comforted you.

Susie said...

In re-reading my comment, I realize that it seems dismissive of your hurt. I'm so sorry, I in no way meant to do that. I guess I was just wanting you to know that it's not only your mom who doesn't have the memories...

ms. marginalia said...

Susie, I wasn't hurt by your comment at all! No worries. I do understand that it is easier for some to bury things deeply. I just didn't expect my mother to have done this. Sigh. What matters is that we are together now. Or so I tell myself.

Thank you for all your support.

Erimentha said...

Geez sweetie, she might not remember the day courtesy of PTSD but would it kill her to be a bit more sensitive and maybe find out another way, like ask your brother, instead of making you feel like shit?

ms. marginalia said...

I know, Eri. But in her mind, we're still acquaintances who met in the grocery store. Why would she know my birthday, or I be hurt if she doesn't know it? Argh.

I definitely feel like I am taking care of her because she is less far along the path and she needs to set the boundaries. I can live with that, but there is still inescapable emotional fallout for me. Ah, the crumbs.

Trish said...

I am feeling really raw since my daughter got not a text, e-mail or call from her mother today for her birthday. I am so sorry. While I am certain it must have been traumatic for her, as a 43 year old woman I think she needs to step up for this 3 year old - who today seems really more in tune with the world around her and others' feelings than her bmom.

Not that it feels any better for you, but your mother was/is in a much differnt situation than my daughter's mother. The pain is the same, and your pain is a window to what is to come. So hurtful and heartbreaking.

ms. marginalia said...

Trish, I am angry and very, very sad, all at once, about your DD's losses. I am furious that her fmom, who is just a year older than I am, is dealing so poorly with her role in all this. I cannot understand, for one second, how a mom in an open adoption could say that she doesn't feel like a mother to the daughter she bore. She may not be parenting, but she's still very much a MOTHER. My heart aches for your DD. She will carry the burden of her fmom's selfishness and inability to woman up. The truth is ugly sometimes, and it sucks when children have to deal with messes like this.

As I said elsewhere, it's one thing for me to process C not having an emotional connection to me. I am almost 42 years old! I know it's her own problem, not mine (although it still hurts). Your DD doesn't have the perspective of age and solid self-image. It would have devastated me as a child to have an indifferent mother, especially one in an open adoption, but who couldn't even remember my birthday when I had only been born three years previously! People can be so self-involved that it's horrendous.

Hugs to you and your daughter.

Suzanne Innes said...

I am an adopttee too and have just found your blog. I love your honesty! I really relate to people asking you when your birthday is! I was abandoned on a doorstep and have an "assigned birth date". So I don't know the real date at all.

I do find it a little strange about the meds during childbirth and her not remembering. When I had my first child, I had those meds too and I remember the birth!
I think that it may have been more with your birth mom. Burying pain can repress a lot of memories. By pain, I mean all of the shame that was surrounding being pregnant at that time. Not an excuse for her at all. It's just how it was for many women.

I do hope that she remembers your birthday this year!