Time Capsule

So after getting such sweet and supportive comments on my post last Wednesday, I screwed up my courage to go back and read those emails I have so much guilt about sending to Ruth. And you know what? They’re really not that bad. This is probably the worst:

12/29/08 As for postpartum stuff–so far, at least, it’s not nearly as bad as I had expected it to be. But then, not a lot since the birth has been what I expected; for example, I did immediately fall in love with the baby and think of him as my son, which for some reason I hadn’t thought would happen to me. And I do get sad, and I do grieve—but even at the worst of it, sitting in the hotel shower and sobbing “I lost my son” over and over, I never doubted that it was the right thing to do; that he was better off and that everyone, really, was better off with the choice of adoption. And the first email I got from you after the placement was like suddenly taking a deep breath when I hadn’t realized I was holding it in—hearing that he was okay, and happy, and loved [which I knew already, but still] was just so helpful to me. Yesterday I thought about him more than I have in awhile, and my breasts started leaking again, which I really thought was behind me—that mind-body connection is a weird and powerful thing. It can be hard to explain to people; I miss him so much, but I don’t regret my decision or want to take him away from his parents. But I miss him.

I do cringe, reading it now, thinking of Ruth reading it while holding her newborn son—but it’s not nearly as bad as I had decided they must be. It’s both a relief and a very weird feeling; at that time, I just wanted to lie down and die. At the same time, I’m really surprised and a bit confused that I didn’t tell them any of the gruesome details. It’s no wonder that I started hearing voices. Part of the reason that I tried to pack away all my grief and maternal feelings is that I worry that they are either completely repressed or uncontrollable; I guess these emails are evidence that that isn’t necessarily so.

My therapist ordered me to let myself really cry it out over Cricket, something I haven’t actually done yet, but it feels like terrible advice to me. I explained to Mr. Book that my so-far compromise has been to let those feelings in for less than a minute, several times a day—I feel a rush of grief, my eyes fill with tears, and then I slam the door. He asked how this procedure makes me feel: “Terrible,” I could not but realize. I just so resist the idea that I need to let these feelings out all the way, even in a protected space. I don’t think this is an issue of “drinking the adoption kool-aid”; it’s not so long ago that I was getting in touch with my anger. So why does the idea of really feeling my loss and grieving that so repel me?

My husband’s father died a few years ago; it was lung cancer, and pretty fast/ghastly. My husband left school for a semester to care for him, and he was the one who was there for the dying man in the end. And it took him probably two and a half years to mostly “get over it” (that’s a lousy phrase, but I can’t think of a better one), and even now he feels guilty and sad whenever he thinks about his dad. And he thinks about his dad a few times a week.  I have never lost anyone but Cricket, so this is my model for what happens when you grieve, and I don’t want it. I think that without realizing it, I had come to find the idea of grief-stricken emails to Ruth reassuring; maybe I did grieve loudly, and I’m not repressing anything—I’m just past it. So to read my careful (if not quite careful enough) missives to her from last year suggests that I’ve still got some wailing and gnashing of teeth coming to me.

In fact, when I think back to the first weeks post-placement, the thing I remember feeling most is bewildered—I simply could not understand what was happening to me. I had spent a goodish chunk of the pregnancy thinking of Cricket as not mine, as myself as a surrogate (yes, I now know that these are not great signs/strategies, but having no counseling and no clue at the time…), and then I met that baby and he seemed so obviously mine. And then he was gone. And of course my agency had no interest in me once I had signed the papers, so I was mostly alone with these feelings, and I drowned some. But at least I have confirmation now that it was quiet, polite drowning that didn’t bother anyone.

I was going to end this with the preceding sentence, but then realized that it sounds very like something that happened when my grandfather died. I was only seven, so I wasn’t really processing what was happening, but I did know that he was gone forever. The reception was at my grandmother’s house, which had a pool in the backyard: mostly kidney-shaped, but with one sharp corner. While walking around the pool in my grey dress, I stepping into the corner and sank. I still remember that experience with a weird vividness; I couldn’t swim, and just stood for a minute on the bottom of the pool in my party dress, looking up. I remember seeing through the surface of the water, the shifting, blurry sky. And then one of my uncles saw me and dove into the pool in his suit to fetch me out. So maybe drowning quietly has always been a priority.

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3 thoughts on “Time Capsule

  1. I don’t know if you read her blog, but AmFam’s post about searching for first family in China was in the back of my mind the whole time I read this. She’s talking about how adopted children are free to assume the worst if they don’t know their own histories, and so I’d say it’s good that Cricket and Ruth and Nora all know about and have to acknowledge some of the things that are bad/sad/hurtful about your experience. Maybe that means they don’t know the whole story of your grieving, but I don’t know if they ever could understand that. I just think it might be a good thing for them to have these emails to hold onto, recognizing that they’re not expressions of your pain but sort of keys that allude to the pain you’re hiding behind the words. Does that sound hopelessly pretentious?

    And I have a very similar story to your drowning experience, only it was a happy family vacation and I feel in a hole and remember just thinking “Oh, I suppose this is it” and not crying out at all while slipping in before my uncle grabbed my wrist and dragged me out. I often feel I’m more like a lot of the first moms who blog than most of the adoptive moms and I don’t know entirely why that is, not merely the internalized vestigial childhood-Catholic worldview I have. I’m just very grateful to you for your writing, because it helps me better make sense of myself.

  2. Speaking as an adoptive mother who has no contact with her child’s first mom, I don’t think you should feel bad about sharing your experiences with Ruth. I think about J’s first mom every day, wonder what she is going through and if she is okay and where she is in the world and just wish that I knew. Even if it were bad news, that she regretted her decision or wasn’t doing that great – I’d rather know than not. It just seems more honest. ♥

  3. I’ve been really resistant to the idea of being more open with Ruth about my process, but you ladies have got me thinking more seriously about trying to talk more with her about this stuff. It’s funny, we did a fair bit of talk about adoption before the match, but then it stopped–and I think that’s probably my fault. I’m going to have to start working on an email….

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