No one remembers their birth, but my adoptive mother told me about our first encounter, at my request, time and time again. Of course my arrival for her, was when she picked me up from the hospital. I was 8 days old. In the “choose the baby” game she knocks on the door where her baby is waiting. That would be me.
“Is this the house where I can choose the baby?” she asks
I play both a lady with brown curly hair, blue eyes – my natural mother – and myself, the baby waiting to be chosen. Sometimes when I answer the door I say,
“No this is the wrong house.” A test to see how persistent she will be, because she will have to go to as many houses as it takes before I will let her in, but today I answer:
“Yes, come in it’s right through here.” If I close my eyes I can see the door, the lady with brown curly hair and three baskets lined up each containing a baby. Choosing necessitates several options, even though I actually know there was only ever me. My adoptive mother peers over the middle basket and I peer with her in my mind’s eye. She says:
“I want that one with big blue eyes and rosebud lips” – (“that was you” she whispers in my ear) “and then I took you home and here we are. I loved you as soon as I saw you.”
But here’s how it really went down.
It was need at first sight for both of us. We needed each other. I needed to be taken care of. My adoptive mother needed a baby to heal her wounds. And we both needed to love because we were on the rebound. And perhaps love each other we did. but we did so needily.
As with all relationships on the rebound, we were heavily invested in our prior relationships. Mine with my natural mother… as a baby I could or did not distinguish her as a separate entity, later I realised I felt like I'd lost a part of myself but at the time I wasn’t aware enough to verbalise or even be aware of part of my environment had disappeared; my adoptive mother grieved for the child she never had or could have.
I tried to be everything she wanted. But she wasn’t what I wanted. My mother tried to be everything her child needed. But I wasn’t her child.
Two people trying to fill the holes in each others lives. She was full of love. Almost bursting in fact. And yet because she wasn’t my mother, maybe I couldn't take it from her without heavy doses of suspicion.
‘What do you want from me?’
‘You can’t be giving me this love unconditionally.’
As it turns out, it wasn’t unconditional… but back then I didn’t know it.
So I rejected who she tried to be. And she rejected who I was. Neither of us matched up to what we wanted.
I tried to be something, someone I was not in case I lost my second mother. It’s something that will never truly leave me. My past preverbal loss of my natural mother coloured my every reaction with new mother (and has coloured every relationship ever since). Neither of us were honest with the other. But neither of us knew how not to be. I wanted desperately to love her. But I couldn't.
Of course, many rebound relationships can grow into a healthy love. But in an adoptive relationship, both parties risk being on the rebound; at least one is wholly unaware of that and unable to heal until it is acknowledged and grieved.
We were played out the drama of a child who’s lost her mother and a mother who lost her longed-for child. Two souls, hurting together, reminding the other of what we'd lost and blaming each other for it.
The Adoptee Journey
I've been collecting research for decades which has been both interesting & disturbing. In order to make sense of it, I've created a newsletter specifically for adoptees.