Adopted Out

Kara left a comment on my Thanksgiving post, concerned that I hadn’t mentioned Cricket. I had decided to talk about adoption stuff separately, but as she pointed out, that’s a bit sad all on its own—I didn’t quite think of it in terms of “this post will be happier without Cricket in it,” but can see that, guiltily, now that it has been pointed out to me. In fact, Cricket has been much on our minds over the last week. As always.

Several times, I have almost called Joey by Cricket’s name; I feel awfully guilty about this, and ended up confessing to Mr. Book, who said that he’s been going through the same thing. Talking to my mother on the phone, she told me that we’d do Christmas stockings while I’m in California for the funeral, and that we’d even “do one for Cricket!” I hesitated before asking whether she meant Joey—after all, I’d be happy to get stocking stuff to Cricket if that’s really what she meant—and she had meant Joey, and was mortified, kept apologizing. Everything that we missed with Cricket is being played out in front of us right now, and while it hasn’t stopped us from enjoying Joey, it’s very present. Mr. Book has spent some time talking quietly to Joey, apologizing for the fact that his older brother isn’t here.

On Thanksgiving morning, Ruth sent me an email asking after us and telling me that Cricket is looking at pictures of Joey with some interest and repeating back the facts of the situation as he understands them. I wrote back the same day, talking about how things were going for us, thanking her for keeping us updated; it was good to have Cricket in some way present on the holiday. Am I grateful for him? I’m honestly not sure how to answer that one, but I love him, and I miss him. Later that night, I bought his birthday present (a cute dinosaur playset thingy) and his Christmas present: two books, How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You and Toot and Puddle. I believe my parents are sending him a book for his birthday, so while the whole may be a bit boring for a two-year-old, he’ll at least have a clear sense of his birth family’s ideas about what is important.

Mr. Book’s mother’s reaction is one I’ve worried about for some time, considering how upset she was about Cricket—she completely lost her cool when sent a picture of him as a newborn, and told us that she planned to pretend that he had died. Well, on Saturday we got a package from her, full of stuff for Joey: Christmas onesies and a milestones book and a picture she’d drawn herself of the three of us as a squirrel family. [excuse my flash!]

I’m both glad that the Dowager Book has decided to be a gramma to Joey and freshly sad for Cricket; he’s starting to understand more and more things, and I hate to have one of those things be the fact that some of his relatives can’t face the fact of his existence. He’s a sweet toddler boy, for heaven’s sake—he’s done nothing to deserve the weirdness of these grownup people. I don’t mind the fact that the Dowager Book is still pretending that I don’t exist—after all, I did do something to deserve the weirdness. But not the boys.

17 thoughts on “Adopted Out

  1. I have so much hope that the love & concern eventually meet up with the sense of loss for Cricket in ways that he feels okay just holding the love more tightly (& brother). And first parents & family that felt less present but not less caring. It’s confusing, I keep thinking when I imagine Saskia trying to grapple with it all. But it’s probably less confusing if it’s your reality from the start. You know? Like, this is my brother I didn’t grow up with. But still. My brother. It might roll off a younger person’s tongue more easily? I hope. And for you, too. Over time.

  2. I didn’t read Kara’s comment but I feel concerned that you have the need to defend how you blog or the need to share things because you think you ought to (for us or for Cricket symbolically) when that’s not what your blog should be about. It’s not about the needs of the people who live in the computer — it’s about your needs. And it’s ok to segregate what you talk about here or not share it all. I mean, you have no obligation moral or otherwise to use the blog as a confessional. Ok, I might be projecting here because I’ve felt some of that on my own blog but JUST IN CASE I wanted to say it. I always assume that your love for Cricket is part of what you write and what you don’t write and that you miss him and that you struggle with living out your lives and his adoption — I don’t need to have you state it for me to know that’s in your heart and on your mind. You care about your kids — both of them — that’s obvious and that isn’t easy. That’s obvious, too.

    I hope I’m making sense here.

    Mostly I love the squirrels and I love your joy. I am so happy that Joey is here!!!

    • If this comment were on Facebook, I’d “like” it about a million times. Dawn really puts it perfectly – you have no obligation to write for the people who live in the computer (although I must say, I’m sure glad you do).

      Dowager Book seems similar to my own mother. Sigh.

  3. I’ve been thinking of Cricket so much since Joey was born and just imagining how much you must be thinking of him as well. I know he is always on your mind whether you write about him or not.

  4. Wow, I love the squirrels! I’m so sorry that your MIL cannot process the existence of Cricket but in her own way she is trying. I know it doesn’t take the pain away of her refusing to acknowledge him, and I’m sorry that some of your first days with Joey are tinged with having to deal with others’ opinions. I’m so happy for you guys and his Godparents sound wonderful.

  5. In my defense, I asked Susie about the absence of Cricket and why she had left him out. I didn’t berate her or set any expectations. I was simply wondering if it was because of how painful it must be, and the complicated nature of family, which was made evident in Grandmother Book’s considering Cricket “dead to the family.”

    I don’t judge Susie, neither did I expect her to respond to my questions or feel guilt.

    I do resent there being a mob-type judgment levied against me. I am the only adult adoptee here, I think, and once again, adult adoptee views are thrown out as nasty and bitter and unfeeling of everyone else. Please consider this, read what I wrote on her previous entry, and see it as my trying to understand how one family comes to terms with a terrible loss. Cricket is a person with feelings, too. Why is this so hard for you to understand?

    I dare say that Susie herself didn’t take what I said as being coated in venom or ill will; if she had, I think she would have told me herself. I think the hardest word I used was “sad.”

    I hate it when discussions that might be helpful for all of us devolve into “She’s nasty!” or it’s “Us against them!” Seriously. We are all adults and can think rationally. I would hope.

    • Kara – I read your comments on the previous entry and thought they were really interesting, and made me wonder what my own daughter, now 9, is feeling now and may feel in the future. For me, just because I don’t talk about her all the time or blog about my adoption situation, it doesn’t mean that she’s not always in my thoughts… I was “here, here!”-ing in Dawn’s comment particularly this part: I always assume that your love for Cricket is part of what you write and what you don’t write and that you miss him and that you struggle with living out your lives and his adoption — I don’t need to have you state it for me to know that’s in your heart and on your mind.

      (To create an awkward metaphor) I think that just as each of us moves to our neighborhood of Adoptionland in his or her own way, we get a chance to visit these other neighborhoods through blogs and comments. I dare say that your comments haven’t been taken with “venom or ill will,” and no attack is taking place. (Of course, if that was in response to a since-deleted comment I’m wayyyy off and I apologize.) No one has name-called or assumed. I’d hope we don’t start now.

    • Kara, there is no us vs them here and as I said I didn’t read your comment so it could not be ABOUT your comment and I should have made that clear. I was trying to speak to SusieBook’s feeling defensive. I am sorry that I have now made YOU feel defensive (truly) and I apologize for it. Like I said, too, part of this is because lately I have felt defensive on my own blog and so I projected my feelings about that onto SusieBook. And also the way that sometimes my own commenters see my blog as the sum of my experience when, of course, it’s just what I’ve chosen to share that way.

      BTW, I’ve written a great deal about my adoptive daughter’s feelings about her own little brother’s arrival and her vulnerability around that is one reason I have pulled way way way back from personal blogging.

      • I am also sensitive when I feel I am being attacked, and especially in this case without your having read a word of what I said. I didn’t mean to make Susie feel defensive, nor did she state that she felt that way. She said that I raised some issues and had done some thinking. Sounds benign to me.

        I never said that Susie doesn’t love Cricket. It’s clear she does. But in a list of things to be thankful of, I cannot imagine mentioning my son Callum and leaving Tobey out, or vice versa. Their feelings would be hurt. This hurt is compounded among adopted kids who are negotiating a difficult route between having their afamily who loves them and takes care of them (and often polices word use and discussions about the first family) and wondering about their identities within their nfamilies. To be left out might be an oversight, which it doesn’t sound like it was, but for a child, who will learn that his paternal ngrandmother doesn’t count him as family, is heavy, heavy stuff to deal with.

        Yes, there are millions of different stories in Adoptoland and so many different people, interests, and sensibilities. But this doesn’t mean we can’t ask questions about what we see and try to find ways to improve the situations for people coming behind us.

        I greatly dislike name calling and rudeness, but I felt things were devolving that way. If you wanted to mention my name, I feel you could have read what I wrote first and take issue with it instead of insinuating that I was rude.

        I genuinely like Susie and wouldn’t hang around here if I didn’t.

  6. “I always assume that your love for Cricket is part of what you write and what you don’t write and that you miss him and that you struggle with living out your lives and his adoption — I don’t need to have you state it for me to know that’s in your heart and on your mind”

    Yeah, well Dawn is not adopted now is she? She knows very little about the adoptee experience. She doesn’t understand what it is like to read from the point of view of someone whose family needs to pretend they don’t exist.

    Things that are implicitly understood by the non-adopted, often aren’t by the are adopted. One of the biggest lessons for adoptees is love is not unconditional or even to be expected.

    Kara’s post may be helpful information if Ms.Book wants to include Cricket and care for his well-being. Often mothers who relinquish find this too challenging and so continue to compartmentalize and marginalize the adopted away child. It is easier to think of the family that they have vs. the ones they gave away.

    I do often puzzle though at why the adoptee experience is of so little interest to most parents of either persausion. I am so glad that my mothering has nothing to do with adoption .

  7. Well, I’m an adoptee too. And I must say I think SOME of these comments are a little out of line. My b-relatives have lived very happy lives for the past few decades pretending I don’t exist. (they’ve met me in person many many times and STILL are able to pretend that I’m nonexistent). So, before anyone tells me that I don’t “get it”…I do!

    Adoptees definitely have some struggles that are unique to “our part” of the triad. As do all groups. But why would anyone bring them up on here? We are here, presumably, to read about Susie’s story and give her support and insight.

    “One of the biggest lessons for adoptees is love is not unconditional or even to be expected.”

    Do people really believe that? It sounds like such an absurd thing to believe. Is that ther adoptee part of me shining through?

    • Just my two cents, but I very much have lied the lesson of being schooled in the danger of unconditional love: “Yes, talk about being adopted, but not too much and using these words we give you.” I have been slow to find and build unconditional love. Now at the age of 41, I enjoy it with only a handful of people friends.

      Yes, we are here to read about Susie’s story and to give her insight and support. That’s what I felt I was doing. Is there a consensus here that only positive remarks are welcome? Questions are to be discouraged? All right, in the future I will hold back and only say, “Well done! Good for you.” Or “I am sorry. That must be difficult for you.” Perhaps I should not come at all, given that my ideas aren’t particularly welcome.

    • Amanda quoted me and responded:

      “ ‘One of the biggest lessons for adoptees is love is not unconditional or even to be expected. ‘

      Do people really believe that? It sounds like such an absurd thing to believe. Is that ther adoptee part of me shining through? ”

      I am not trying to fight with you Amanda, honestly, but it seems like you were proving my point in half your comment and calling it absurd in the second half.

      I am not going to say that you don’t understand, as your comment makes me think you understand what I was getting at all too well. I can’t refute your assertion that your b-relatives have lived very happy lives pretending you don’t exist, but reading this as someone that is not in your personal experience, I can’t help but wonder if this is an oversimplification of their feelings. I can’t help but wonder if it is because you have an expectation of their indifference.

      I could be wrong, they may have explicitly told you they have been happy for decades pretending you don’t exist. There is a part of me that is curious if the case is rather they don’t have the understanding of how to communicate to you that you are important to them. Again, that is just a guess.

      I certainly had that experience in reunion with my own mother. From her description, she couldn’t fathom that I didn’t understand her mad baby-lust for me; she has even claimed that she tried to hide it from me so I wouldn’t be frightened. That she was trying to let me lead and make decisions that had been denied me as an infant.

      I read it as indifference. There was no ‘of course your mother loves you’ feeling within me. When she said she loved me, it sounded discordant to my ears. It took me well over 12 years into reunion to accept that she must love me. Otherwise she wouldn’t have stuck around as long as she did. It is not like I made it easy. When I accepted it, it was a profound shock to me, I remember where I was exactly the moment I accepted it as a possibility. Still I often slip back into the denial of her love. It is easy to. She doesn’t love me like she loves her other kids. I am forever second tier. I don’t know if there is a way around that for some people, given the nature of adoption, but that doesn’t take the harm of knowing that away.

      The thing about compartmentalization is the more you do it, the easier it is and harder to break out of that pattern. While I agree that adoptees have struggles unique to our experience, I reject that it is “our part” of the “triad”. The “triad” suggests an equal balance that does not exist. Adoption is built on imbalances of power rather than equality.

      Why people might bring up those feelings and inequities here is Ms. Book is the mother of an adoptee. As a mother, I am interested in differing points of view that may help me be a better mother to my own child. I have listened intently to men’s stories about their mothers and have at times gone out of my way to solicit the male perspective on discipline/support/infinte other issues that I can’t glean from my own experience as a daughter who became a mother. Ms. Book does not live in a vacuum, neither does young master Cricket, and neither do I.

      Real friendship/support is a heck of a lot more than parrotting, “You Go Girl!” I really value the people in my own life who will cock their head at me at times and say, “ummm, but don’t you think…”

      As for why I read Ms. Book’s blog. I don’t always, sometimes I stay away. I find her to be a really insightful/introspective person and I like reading those types of people. I am very sorry for what happened to her and her family. I am sorry that her trajectory will always be more painful and complicated than it had to be. I hope it won’t be as difficult as mine and my mothers has been. Maybe it won’t, because she has had voices like Kara’s giving her a different point of view instead of encouraging her to not look at what it may be like for Cricket. I know the fall-out from adoption is never easy.

      I hope she and her family avoid my family’s pitfalls.

      That being said, I hope she enjoys her brand-new Joey thoroughly and revels in her motherhood and finds a lot of happiness with family. The greatest happiness in my life has come from raising my boy and wish the same for her.

  8. I get it, Susie. I completely get it.

    This is no where near the same level of emotion you have. But since adopting our two children, I cannot stop thinking about my brother’s newborn son who was placed in a closed adoption when I was 14 years old. In truth, I never stopped thinking about him and I cannot imagine ever pretending he does not exist, even though I never saw him. My brother has listed his information on several adoption reunion websites and my entire family hopes and prays that he will one day find us. We would love to welcome him back into our family, but if he didn’t wish that, we would just be content with knowing he is well and happy.

    We may never know him, but he is the primary reason I am so committed to maintaining a relationship with our children’s birth family. I could never cut them out of my children’s lives. And I fear that one day they may cut their ties with us. They are far more hesitant and all contact thus far has been initiated by us, even though we have repeatedly told them that they are welcome to contact us whenever they wish.

  9. You know, I feel left out of my ndads family. It’s really my fault because I refuse to visit them. But I refuse to visit because they’ve said a number of things that really hurt me. I want to be less senstivive but I’m not and I wish I could hang out with them but all I feel is hurt when I do. And then I watch them on facebook talking to each other and joking and pictures of all the fun stuff they do.

    Usually when reading stuff that first parents write I don’t think much about their nkids being ommitted. I wouldn’t have thought it. I talk to my nmom all the time, but I wouldn’t expect to see her list me as her child when she fills out forms and stuff like that, or necessarily tell everyone she knows that she has a child that she placed for adoption.

    But since it’s been brought up, Kara IS bringing up feelings that a lot of us have as adoptees (and I DON’T think she did it to cause trouble, just to have a greater understanding of each other).

    Like, I understand Dawn, why you wanted to swoop in and protect Susiebook because you’re a protector and you’re caring and it is truly PAINFUL to feel like you have to walk on eggshells around adoptees because some adoptee somewhere will be hurt by anything you say.

    Which is true because adoption hurts.

    It’s surprising even to see myself write those words because I never would have said that at 10 or at 15. But it hurts. It hurts to see your nmom just going about life without you, even if you are spending time together and getting close. On the one hand you don’t want to be miserable, but on the other hand, the fact of her going on at all IS the fact of you being left behind.

    I’ve seen your writing all over susiebook, finally got to reading something from your blog! : )


    Of relation to your other post, I’m sorry that it’s so painful. I wish I could go back in time and give you everything you needed to parent. (And since going back in time requires magic powers, I would also have to power to give you anything you needed to parent. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Working on making that a reality, all except for the time changing part.)

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