Birthday Survival as an adoptee

I’ve survived another birthday. Yay?

Yes, yay. Not an enthusiastic one, but a solid one. At one point in my adolescence, as I approached the age my first mother had been when I was born, I would have told you I’d never make it to 30. I’m still not good at imagining the future, but I do now feel that it’s possible, even if I have no clue what it will look like.

This year, I’m the age my adoptive mother was when I was born. I’ve been the age my mother was when I came along twice, now. I am finding this one just as confusing (I am so not old enough to be in charge of children!), but less befuddling. I know that there are adoption issues now, and FINALLY, knowing this is making something easier!

Knowing about adoptees and birthdays has made mine so much easier. I know it’s coming — the weight, the grumpiness, the snappiness, the need to howl at the moon and hide from the world at the same time. Also, a massive unrelenting need for cake, but that part actually seems normal.

I’ve stopped trying to make this post make sense. It’s hard to capture what “birthday” means to me. As a child, I was told over and over that birthdays are happy celebrations and we are happy on birthdays. Because birthdays mean presents and cake and celebration, and celebration is always happy. It always felt forced and brittle to me, but the expectations were crystal clear, and I was good at following directions. Mostly. Externally, I was Miss Birthdays Are Fun, Yay! Internally: grumpy, cranky, out of sorts, confused. And ignoring all that because it was the “wrong” way to feel.

Years of adulthood birthdays and trying to figure out what friends and significant others expected of me on my birthday left me even more confused. Deciding that searching was right for me, reunion with my first mother, and reading other adoptee blogs and writings gave me some clarity, and the years of therapy since make me actually feel good about this. I don’t love my birthday: AND IT’S OKAY.

When I was born, it wasn’t rainbows and sunshine and unicorns. It was all the pain and trauma of labor, but alone, without hopeful expectations, and without a joyful greeting of the world. And it’s okay to not be thrilled about that. However good my life has been, however great my developing relationship with my first mother is, our first meeting was difficult, at best, and at worst, traumatic for us both. We can build a relationship now, but we can never mend that day.

So on my birthday, I went for a few walks. I spent quiet time with the person I love, who knows me and this trauma as well as anyone can, and who made me a wonderful disaster of a cake. I took a nap. I watched Star Trek. And I woke up the next day with a weight off my shoulders, having survived another birthday, intact, and honestly feeling stronger and clearer than I ever have before in my life.

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