Tougher than it looks

I had meant to write a post about this a while ago but it just never happened.  When I found out that Steve Jobs was adopted, I was curious about the details.  Lollipop Goldstein from Stirrup Queens writes about it in her review of his biography and then Harriet from See Theo Run wrote  a thought-provoking post on Adoption Guilt.

I read about some of the details in the Washington Post  (if the link doesn’t work, you can Google it).  According to the article :

“If there was one trauma that persisted throughout much of his life, and which seems somehow connected to his extreme behavior, it was the effect of his adoption.”

” His adoptive parents, whom Jobs seemed to revere, explained that they had picked him out. But through much of his life, Jobs appeared to have been on an ill-defined spiritual quest — including a seven-month trip to India, extreme diets and primal-scream therapy. And the quest at times seemed to relate to his adoption, his friends told Isaacson.

“The primal scream and the mucusless diets, he was trying to cleanse himself and get deeper into his frustration about his birth,” a friend, Greg Calhoun, said.”

The media reports that the fact that Steve Jobs  was adopted as the source of his inner turmoil, and by inference, his birthparents and his adoptive parents are to blame.  There is a lot out there about the pain of adoptees and the pain of birthmothers, but not much about the pain of adoptive parents.

Yet there is this quote from the book:

“In the book, Isaacson writes,

Jobs dismissed this.  “There’s some notion that because I was abandoned, I worked very hard so I could do well and make my parents wish they had me back, or some such nonsense, but that’s ridiculous,” he insisted.  “Knowing I was adopted may have made me feel more independent, but I have never felt abandoned.  I’ve always felt special.  My parents made me feel special” (page 5).”

Before the Precious’ arrival in our lives, I was reading a lot of blogs (and a couple of books) about far-ranging consequences of adoption by post adoptive parents, birthmothers and academics.  Not enjoyable reading I must say and occasionally, it was quite discouraging.  Still, I figured if it didn’t work out, I’d have a quiet nervous breakdown in a tropical locale and then I’d get on with my life.  After all, no one would die, right?  Right?  Well, long story, short, we brought him home I finally exhaled.  And cried.  I had to force myself to stop.  Everyone thought they were tears of joy.

Not quite.  Well,  love, relief , insecurity, and a deep gnawing worry for this child I was entrusted with.  Would he be happy with us?  With me?  Did he miss his birthmother?  Did he know her smell and her voice and miss the absence of it?  Somehow, did he know, just know that I was not HER.  A friend of mine did reiki on him, and told me how to do it so that he would not feel untethered in this world.  That his spirit would cry out to ME and know that I would come when he cried.  I did not want him to feel… well, lost.  I told myself that all mothers worry for their children.

I cried a lot over the next few months.  I was amazed that he was in our lives.  Giddy, really.  For a while, I actually felt FULL.  And sometimes I was just plain sad to think that our joy had come at his birthmother’s loss.  I knew in my bones that had she had any support at all, I would have gone home without him.  I would not have been surprised or even angry.  This was not about whether who would love him more.  Ultimately, she loved him enough to let him go.  Had it not been to me, it would have been someone else.   Yet daimoku brought us all together.  That gave me a measure of peace. Then again, I also felt like I had done something wrong.  How else to explain the guilt and the pain?   I had been in contact with the birthmother, listened to her pour out her feelings, tried to allay all her fears, advocated for her, be there for her as much as I could and now I was gone and I honestly felt like I had TAKEN her child away from her. It took a while for me to get over that.  When you’re an adoptive parent, you’re not supposed to complain about anything.  You finally got what you wanted after all, right?  Shut up already.

Oh, sure it crosses my mind that  one day, this child might reject us.  Or suffer some horrible emotional damage that we would be blamed for. (Of course, biological parents also get that privilege but no one ever brings that up.)   Or we would be left trying to put the pieces of his heart back together if his heart got broken by his biological parents.

I kept having to explain things to people.  Lots of people.  One day I was just walking my dog in the park and the next I had a baby in a stroller.  People want to know.  I kept getting introduced as someone who had adopted and therefore a story was owed.  Or someone felt like they had to tell me that they had been adopted.  So far I haven’t met anyone who has been pissed off about it, luckily.  I’ve heard plenty of things like, “Oh, our people would never do that.”  or they were disappointed my kid wasn’t rescued from a desolate African nation.  I’ve even been thanked for adopting a black child especially.

I remembered years ago how my mother would warn me that if anything were to ever “happen” to me, that I should come home.  That she would raise the baby with me.  As a 16 year old, I thought she was such a dork for even saying something like that.  I mean, really, I  was hardly popular with the boys.  Yet, she had let me know that she would not turn her back on me.  When I was 19 and finally had a boyfriend, I  planned my deflowering and went dutifully to the doctor’s office for the birth control pill.  I was not going to be a statistic.  I could never disappoint my parents in that way.   Fast forward decades later, and that’s what I was counting on in order for me to have a baby.  After all, if you can’t have your own, you can “just adopt”.

I’m asked often why we don’t have another child.  I smile and say that the Precious is “my miracle child” or “my one and only”.  Yet even if I was 15 years younger, I don’t know that I’d have the heart to go through another adoption process again.  But not because it’s too expensive or that raising kids is hard.  It’s because the effects of infertility, failed IVFs and even this journey to the Precious cost me more than I ever dreamed.  The last thing I need is to go through another intensive home study/profile building/finger printing, multiple lawyer cheque cashing deal again.

I hope to instill in my child that he is loved and wanted and adored.  By all who loved him from the day he was born.  I can’t shield him from all the feelings that belong to him.  I can’t protect him from “what ifs”.  All I know is that I can let him know that we’ll always be his parents, he can always come home.  It’s up to him to decide where that is.

For the record, he’s worth it all. I will keep the promises made, I will be the bridge when he’s ready to cross it, and I will love him even if he turns from me.  Frankly if I survive toddlerhood, I can survive anything.  Perhaps my journey was more than “just” about having a child.

8 thoughts on “Tougher than it looks

  1. This is a great post. I’ve been reading a lot of posts about guilt and “the aftermath” lately. You guys have done a great job provoking thought into the steps and unknowing aftermath of feelings that arise through adoption.

  2. I can tell you from my perspective as a mom with children via birth and adoption. There will be a day where his head will spin, he will spit green soup and start talking in a strange language. None of these things will happen because he is adopted. It will be because he is a teenager.

    The next time someone feels they need to comment on how many kids you should have, or how they become your kids, ask them if they would like to start a fund for you. Just try to do it with a straight face.

  3. Wonderful post! I actually feel much more optimistic reading it oddly. Very cool about your mom by the way. Very cool. The funny thing is when I read about about other people’s struggles and worries, I think ridiculous, that child is totally fine and there is nothing to worry about. That’s how I see you guys. When I look at miyself, I’m a mess of insecurity, anxiety and doubt. So silly. Such a great post.

  4. Great post – although I particularly liked your closing point of
    ‘if I survive toddlerhood, I can survive anything.’

    I’m absolutely with yiou on this… toddlerhood, such hard work!

  5. What a great post!! I think it is great to share these feelings with those people who may be about to embark on the journey we are already on. So we know we are not alone!

    Happy ICLW

  6. Lovely post, thanks for sharing. I can imagine that there is a huge range of emotions when “You finally got what you wanted after all” I have to admit to feeling a bit of envy – I would love to adopt but it will be impossible for me.

    Good luck with your amazing journey.
    ICLW #110

  7. oh Death Star,
    I will come back to this post again and again. The one thing that keeps me from adopting again is that I can’t bring myself to go through the emotional turmoil of watching a birthmother separate from the baby she just gave birth to. I had to tell myself over and over again for weeks afterward that it was her decision and she knew right up until a whole week later that she could change her mind and she didn’t. Sofie couldn’t get comfortable for a few days at our home and I was certain it was because she missed her birthmother and instinctively knew that a cataclysmic event had just taken place. The grief and guilt were overwhelming. “Just adopt” indeed. Just adopt.

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