I belong to a small but incredibly amazing and helpful adoptee support group. More than anything else, this group has changed my life. It’s pretty simple — they are my safe place, the place I can go and say “this is how I feel today” and be understood as an adoptee. This is the first time I’ve felt validated in that part of my identity. I don’t have to explain myself when I want to just say something is very complicated. I don’t have to watch friends or loved ones strain themselves trying to listen, understand, and empathize with something well outside their conception of how the world works.
In this group, I can admit that my original legal identity was Baby [Last Name Redacted]. I was a non-entity, the blank slate that the adoption agency promised my adoptive parents.
Since I started searching, I have wondered if my first mother ever named me, privately or openly. I wondered how she identified my as I lived inside her, or just after. I know that no name made it on to the birth certificate, as mine was part of a partial release in my birth state a few years ago (after I was already in reunion). I wonder how she thought of me over the years. I wonder if, before she knew mine, she had a name for me.
And yet, years into this reunion, I haven’t asked. I don’t know if I’m scared to bring up more bad feelings about how I entered the world or if I’m scared she didn’t name me and the knowledge will hurt. I know what happened the day I was born, but I know very little about her pregnancy. I’d like to know, but I don’t need to. I’d like to know if she wanted to tell me. I know it’s not a happy story. I know it’s probably hard to tell. I don’t want to force it. But what if she hasn’t told me because I haven’t asked? What if we’re respecting each other’s space into ridiculousness?
This discussion has been giving me the spins for months, possibly years. I get brave, and I write out my questions, with all the caveats and disclaimers that say “but I don’t want to push, I don’t want to intrude, I don’t feel I have any right to anything at all ever.” I know that’s adoption trauma speaking, and I wish it weren’t. The bravery evaporates before I find an envelope or a stamp, every single time.
I think, in part, I protect myself more than I need to. I can handle bad news, sad stories, and information I don’t like. I handled indirect (but unmistakable) rejection from the other side of my biological family; I survived, and I’m fine, but yes, it hurt. I don’t even think that these questions I have are that deep and probing, I’m just scared to admit I want to know. Or maybe I’m scared of the answers.
I wonder if it’s part of “adoptee normal” to wonder, feel and face fear, and not even completely know what you’re scared of.