FTS prompt: adoption and relationships

OR “Why Reunion Matters.”

Lost Daughters has some great prompts for #FliptheScript. So far, I’ve found that I have SO MUCH to say that I’ve not been following them. I have enjoyed reading other adoptee responses, though. The best thing about FTS is reading and resonating. Other adoptees get it. They get things about me that my nearest and dearest don’t, and I haven’t even met most of them.

And I think that’s why this prompt from last week resonated with me:

Talk about how your adoption has influenced your decisions in forming and/or raising a family of your own. Has being an adoptee hindered or helped you in finding a life partner and maintaining that relationship? How has your adoption affected your desire to conceive your own biological children? Have you considered or would you consider adopting a child? If you are a parent, how does your adoptee experience affect the way you raise your children? And on the flip side, if you’re in a committed relationship and/or are parenting, how have these things informed your experience as an adoptee or your view of adoption in general?

Um. Yeah.

I’m 38. Single. Never married. Never had children, never been pregnant. I knew that I did not want children when I was 12. At first, I think I just didn’t ever want to be pregnant. I thought maybe if I had kids, I’d adopt. You know — all those needy babies in the world and all (EYE ROLL for brainwashing). But really, as the years passed, I think I just knew I did not want to parent. I don’t think parenting is something you should do lightly. For whatever other issues they may have had, my adoptive parents did not accidentally get into the parenting business. They were married for 12 years before they became parents (at my current age — YIKES). They chose it. I chose to be child-free.

But adoption has definitely affected my personal life and close relationships. For years, I put my troubles with close friendships down to bullying I’d experienced in late elementary school. I was untrusting, reserved, needing people to prove themselves to me over and over — and then still expecting to be betrayed. If you look hard enough for something, you will find it. And every offense was unforgivable.

Like many teenaged girls, I lost myself completely in my first high school relationship. Nothing about the relationship was particularly healthy, but someone loved me, I thought, and how could that ever be replicated? I was completely unlovable. This was, I think, a combination of adoption issues, being raised a girl, and being a nerd well before it was cool. I learned from that relationship that keeping myself intact was key — and I may have taken that to extremes in subsequent relationships.

I’ve had a string of long-term partnerships that I tried very hard to make work. Most of them were actually good people who had life paths that were incompatible with my own, and with most of them, we dragged things out beyond their natural breaking points. Most of the time, I broke things off before they could, just so I could leave rather than be left. I think that the part of me that was expecting them each to leave was relieved when it was finally over. I could stop being vigilant.

The relationship I was in when I decided to search for my first mother seemed stable. It seemed supportive. It wasn’t. I was with someone unable to deal with strong emotions of any sort, who made me feel more broken and scared and alone than I did when I was actually alone. At the end, I was clinging to him as my world was collapsing around me, and he just moved on without bothering to tell me for a while. Or, in simpler words, he just cheated. And then dumped me.

After the collapse of that relationship, and took the time to find my center. I got to know my first mother. I tried to fix my relationship with my adoptive mother. I tried to claw my way out of the fog. This was unsuccessful. Everyone knows that you just have to make it through fog. You can’t rush it away or hurry it up.

I’m glad I gave myself time. I am, today, in a relationship that incorporates me, my reunion, and my complicated family, and most importantly, me. For the first time, I’m actually able to do this whole partnership thing from an honest place — a place where I can feel the pain and fear that have been with me all my life. It is, to be honest, terrifying most of the time.

I haven’t ever been honest with anyone close to me about adoption, what it means to me, the fears I deal with, the triggers, the complications… it’s a lot to put on anyone. My current partner and I had known each other about a month when my first mother came to visit me for the first time. I did not invite him to meet her — it was only the third time we’d met in person — but I did tell him some of how important this was to me, how big. I also told him that I was seeing a therapist for help navigating my family complications.

The year after that, I reached out to (and was rejected by, a few times) my paternal biological family. Four people know about that search — my therapist, my first mother, a good friend who was there through the first search, and my partner. It’s not that he gets the pain of that rejection. It’s more than he listens and doesn’t tell me how he thinks I should feel. This is more important than anyone realizes.

In the years since, I’ve met much of his family. Since none of mine lives close, he had not met mine until this year, when, in a whirlwind trip, he met my first mother, the majority of her extended family, and my adoptive mother. That was a big step for me.

I truly believe that this relationship, wherever it goes, is different primarily because I am different. In finally starting to search, 13 years after I first considered it, I gave in to my own need for answers. Instead of researching other things as an historian, I researched myself, my own history. It was WAY more complicated than I expected, but I’ve also taken the time to dig in, sit with the complications, and get more comfortable with them. This has allowed me to be honest, to own my story, to be authentic to the core of pain and loss I’ve lived with my entire life. Because I can engage with the world with this hollow hurting core, I can actually engage with the world. I’m not leaving a large part of myself out.

At this time, I am living with my true legacy of loss and pain and complications. I know how I came to be in the world. I know how both of my natural parents feel about this. I know what my adoptive mother lets herself feel about this. I am broken, but whole, and because I finally know these things about myself, I’m not hiding anymore.

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