I was very moved and also had my thoughts quite provoked by Julia's (Hippogriffs) long post of last week. She has edited it to take out the part that I am going to talk about, so it's not worth going over there to take a look.
At the time she was feeling very dark. She was worried about another miscarriage and proceeded to talk why she and her husband have not investigated adoption. She talked about her husband's issues around his adoption, which was far from ideal.
I will not get too into what she said, because clearly she doesn't want everyone to read about it at this point. Everything looks much brighter this week for her and here's hoping that things will remain that way.
But what touched me about that post is that we all have secret dark thoughts that we bury inside of ourselves and protectively guard from the outside world. There are things that happened in all of our childhoods that become our Achilles Heels in adult life. Those sensitive spots in our personal history affect all kinds of decisions and become completely integrated into our grown-up personality. Consequently, there are decisions that we make and viewpoints that we have, that make sense to us but don't make sense to other people.
There is the adult woman who's father abandoned the family as a child, and she is now so fearful of being left that she sets substandard goals for the men in her life. She marries a man not because she knows he is the best partner for her but because she is convinced he will never, ever leave her. There is the man that was so smothered by his mother when he was young that he constantly pushes away the women in his life, which in the end is only detrimental to himself. Even the most emotionally healthy among us has something that has happened in our life that causes us to have odd opinions or behave irrationally later in life.
After all, we only have our own lives to live. We can't compare what it would feel like to have lived someone elses life. We are very myopic, and we think if something happened a certain way when we were six years old, it will always happen the same way.
One of my secrets, which I have touched on here, but never confessed outright, is that my brother, whom I am completely unrelated to biologically, does not feel like a brother. When we were young we played together a lot. We functioned as siblings, but I cannot say that we were ever particularly close. He was always an irritant to me. As an adult he has only become more frustrating. When my mom was off her rocker and my brother and I would go visit her, it was great that he was there with me. At least he was sane. When my mother started rambling about how the house was bugged with microphones, at least my brother and I could share that secret look that was half laughter and half fear. We were not alone. So I am thankful for that. But as an adult, my brother is a burden. He is a born again Christian that is not very bright or thoughtful. He is stubborn and overly literal. He drives me up the fucking wall. And I resent that I feel responsible for him. He is not unkind, he's just different. And I know a lot of the reason that he's different is genetics.
For a very long time I didn't want to adopt a child. I didn't want to replay my own life. I didn't want my son to have a sibling who he could never relate to, a sibling that he would never talk to in his adult life, if he could help it. I figured that with a biological sibling I could avoid that pitfall.
Over a few years my perspective changed. I started to open my eyes up to a different possibility.
•I lost a baby with Down's Syndrome. If that baby had lived it never could have had a peer relationship with her brother. I'm not saying my son couldn't have benefited from having a sister with Down's, I'm just saying that it was not the relationship I was trying to engineer by having a second biological child.
•One of my best friends has two nephews, one Korean and one biological. There are 18 months apart and the best of friends.
•My husband said to me "Your brother is not just different from you, he is different from everyone."
I started to realize, when I truly listened, that there are plenty of biological siblings that can't stand each other. There are plent of siblings that are indifferent to one another. They love their sister "but only in small doses." I know of families where both siblings are adopted and they are extremely close or not close at all, and everything in the middle. I have an adopted friend that has two biological siblings and three adopted siblings and nobody would ever know which was which and they are all incredibly close. Within every family there is a large and nuanced spectrum of closeness and connectedness between each member of the family. Mothers may be close to sons, or vice versa, the oldest brother may be closest to the youngest brother - shutting out the middle sister. There are a million permutations, and you just can't predesign how someone is going to fit into your family.
I realized reading Julia's post that her husband worries about bonding with an adopted child because of his painful experience, and I worry about sibling relationships because of mine. I never did bond with my mother either, but I never took that personally because she was so mentally ill, I knew it was never about me. And I was so absolutely bonded with my father that I knew I could always love a child that came to me. I just wanted to have the best possible chance of a good family chemistry.
And I still worry about chemistry. If we were to adopt, would it be a huge mistake? Would it be divisive? Would it be lonely for the adopted chid? Would my son resent it? I don't know. Maybe. But I also know that a biological child carries the same risks. The negative possibilities are endless if you let your mind go there, autism, ADD, birth defects, or just a plain old super high maintenance child. It's always a huge gamble.
But here is another dark secret that I haven't talked about much here. As much as I believe in adoption, and as much as I find it entirely offensive when people dismiss it as something they could " never do" or say things like "blood is thicker than water," I also understand the power of a blood tie.
When I met my mother and my sister, I was blown away, really knocked down flat, by how much I looked like them, how much I talked like them, how much I was just like them. For a few weeks I wondered whether there was such thing as "nurture." We all three seem to have a similar rhythm in our brains. It was uncanny. And to this day, there is part of me that understands both of them innately.
But time passed, and I started to have some revelations. My bio sister can drive me nuts. She's over sensitive and lacks a sense of humor about herself. I understand her, but that doesn't make me like her all the time. My bio mother is cool and interesting but also emotionally repressed. My bio father, when I met him, was incredibly self absorbed and I really did not connect with him at all. No mind meld there. I haven't talked to my bio mom in four or five years. If I were to talk to her, I'm sure we would have a perfectly nice conversation. We don't have animosity, we just don't have history. I saw my sister for the first time in five years last December and haven't talked to her since. I really should send her an email one of these days. When I met my mother, I was a little angry, because my sister got a mom, and I just got this crazy woman who wore strange things strapped to her head to keep the voices out. There is a big fat loss there for me. And adoption is always partially about that loss. But in the end I can say with every bit of honesty I can muster that now I never wish that my life was different. I never wish that I grew up with that sister and that mother and father in Venice, CA.
I have absolute empathy of for where Julia's husband comes from. I am battling my protective reactions all the time. My childhood experience set up parameters and concepts for me that I keep trying to question. The more time passes, I realize they don't really help me that much as a grown-up person.