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.