Day One Reunion, Day Two Reality

I've been getting a lot of questions recently like these: "So how does it feel to have The Boy away at college?" "What's the biggest difference you notice now that he's away?" "Have your family's dynamics changed?"

There are so many levels I can answer these on - the personal, the emotional, the mundane, for a start. And yes, adoption.

The personal - I just plain miss him. It's hard, REALLY hard, to accept that his wings are unfurled, and once in flight, he may end up far away from us. It's life, it's a good thing, it's the way it should be - but it's really hard for me to accept.

The emotional - I think we're all just plain drained.

The mundane - Less laundry! We don't run out of juice every other day! Car insurance is cheaper! The Girl gets to drive to school! There's one less picky eater in the house!

Adoption - yes, adoption is a part of it, too.

I have wondered these past couple of weeks what The Boy's mother would think about him. Would she think he's as incredible as we do? Would she think we had raised him well? It's important to me to know we have done a good job raising The Boy - for him, for us, but also for his first parents. And so they've been in my mind a lot these past couple of weeks.

The Boy, on the other hand, is in another place right now. His thoughts are on classes, his new job, decorating his room, and finding the good hang-outs. All the stuff any student is thinking about. College is where many adoptees really start defining themselves as young adults. And I know from watching him the last couple of years of high school that his Korean and Asian identities will be a big part of this process for him. But I wonder how much adoption will play into it all.

The Boy has always been pretty disinterested in adoption. He doesn't like talking about it much, and up to now has shown no interest in searching or reuniting with his first family. As he once told me when I tried to engage him in discussion of an adoption topic, "Mom, I'm just not interested in adoption, OK? I do not want to look for my Korean family."

My approach with both my kids has been and always will be to let them lead the way, and to offer insights when I think it's important. In this case, the best I could offer was that he might feel differently one day, and that Third Dad and I would help and support him if he wanted us to.

I wonder, though, if he'll ever come to that point. Reconciling my lifelong hope for him and his sister to find and get to know their first families with the fact that it may never happen is hard to accept. I see it as my failure to protect them from the pain of the unknown that might hit them later in life.

But accept it I must, and maybe this is a good time for me to think about a couple of questions Michelle asked in a comment way back that got lost in my summer shuffle:
What do a-parents understand about adoptees and reunion? What is their perception of how reuniting with mothers, fathers and family feels and what happens after? Can an adopted person integrate into a family, ethnicity and culture after years of separation?
Without a doubt, my view of reunion has been influenced by literature and movies that take you to the first meeting, but not far beyond. Maybe in their wisdom, The Boy and The Girl (who told me last summer that although she wants to search one day, she's just not ready now) see beyond the initial emotion and rush of joy. They, like many adoptees, may focus more on what happens next, on the survival of the new relationships. That may bring fear enough to outweigh the initial happiness, and to discourage even trying to find.

To be honest, I've only gone to the future on hope and prayer, and have never gotten beyond reunion Day One, with its gut-wrenching emotion. I've always maintained that commitment would surmount the challenges, as it can in an open adoption. But open adoptions allow the benefit of time, time to work through emotion and for the relationship to evolve. Reunion, I think, may be more like an arranged marriage, where two people who may know nothing about each other meet for the first time on their wedding day. That wedding may precede a relationship that takes years to develop, and which may or may not reach the point of mutual love. Add the grief of loss, years of longing, and the residue of stigma, and how much harder must it be to create a lasting bond!

I also have to say that there has been a lot of "I" in my dreams, too - how I would support my children, how I would welcome their first families, how I would nurture the relationships into the future. I need to shift my focus to what The Boy and The Girl desire or fear from reunion. And I need to understand what life would be like for them on Day Two, by listening to those who are there today (like Tina, who wrote a beautiful post about this last month). It might be wonderful - it might be painful. My role now must be to offer truthful, realistic advice when asked, but to remember that only they can decide whether or not to take the leap to find out.

In my selfish dreams, I've been as much a part of Day One as The Boy and The Girl and their first parents. When they were little, perhaps it was understandable that adoptive parents in closed adoptions might try for more openness. But it's time now to pull away from my dreams of Day One, and to remember that Day Two is for them. They own it, entirely. No matter the hope in my heart, my firm conviction that knowing is better than not knowing: it's time for me to hand over the keys and let them drive the train.

I think they know by now who's in the caboose, ready to help if needed. And if not? I'm glad to have shared the ride with them this far.


suz said…
As a mother who lost her child to adoption, I can assure you that P's mother would adore him whether you raised him well or not, whether he was a good kid or not. Its just what us moms do. Love our kids unconditionally no matter what condition they are in.

Hugs to you and P for this milestone.
Wow, Margie. What a fabulous blog to drop into today. Especially because you just happened to surf into mine yesterday. Divine synchronicity, no? I am not adopted, nor are my children, yet good writing and strong perspective always interest me. I just subscribed.

I noticed in Suz's comment above that she said, "lost" her child to adoption, rather than "gave" her child. Is this common for birth mothers to say after years have passed?
Margie said…
Oh, Suz, I am glad you said that - and I really believe it's true. But what I think I need to acknowledge now is that love is the first step, and that making that love in reality is hard. I've wanted and wished and hoped for the opportunity to allow that love to develop, but now I have to let the kids and their mothers, should they all find each other, find their way through it all.

Carolyn, I really appreciate your comment! I felt exactly the same way when I found yours - you are one incredible writer! I'll be back to read more, for sure.

There is so much about adoption that the mainstream may not know. And one of those things is that women, for no more than the social stigma of single parenthood or shame or poverty, have been forced through the ages to surrender their children against their will. And even when women relinquish their children willingly, they feel the loss. The notion that a woman can "get over it" or "move on" is rarer than society may believe.

Being here online has brought me into contact with many incredible women, like Suz, who have faced that. They've taught me so, so much.
HollyMarie said…
Before we were matched with Ellie, I remember our SW saying that there was an increase in the number of firstmoms who wished to maintain an open (as open as international adoption can be) relationship (letters/pictures/possibility of future meetinsg) with their child, and would we be open to that. We said that yes, we definitely would. So I was really hoping that it would work out that way, but as of yet Ellie's firstmom has not taken that step. For now, while Ellie is so young, it's all I can do to send pictures and write letters to her firstmom and pass them along through our agency to the agency in Korea. We have been told that they are kept there for the firstmom should she ever want them. I suppose as Ellie gets older and begins to voice her voice, I'll have to respect her wishes above all. But for now, I'm praying that her firstmom makes a connection, despite stigma and/or shame.

Blessings as you pass this milestone; it's one I can hardly imagine right now and yet I know time flies...
MotherPie said…
Such big steps and you've articulated so much so well in this post. Interesting comment of Carolyn BB above, about "losing" a child to adoption rather than "giving"... I wonder what others might think of this. Something interesting to explore deeper.
kimkim said…
Another great post from you.
Michelle said…
As an adoptee, I would prefer all mothers say: "Lost my daughter or son to adoption" That's the reality, isn't it? It's horrendous how "she gave up" or "gave away my baby" became an accepted term in adoption.

Can you imagine what it feels like to hear that your mother and father chose to give you away?

I too use the same language: I lost my mother, father, family, relatives, culture, ethnicity and identity to the system of adoption.

My grandmothers and grandfathers lost their granddaughter to adoption, my aunts and uncles lost their niece to adoption, and my siblings lost their sister to adoption.

It's pretty obvious, isn't it? If my parents had died in a tragic car accident - I would have lost my parents to a tragic car accident. Same goes for adoption.

Had this not been a gigantic loss in my life, I would not have spent the last 30 years searching for and reuniting with my family.

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