While cleaning out some boxes last night, I found my husband’s baby book. His mother’s neat handwriting tells of his birthdays-1st through 7th, the teeth he lost, or got knocked out, and of all the milestones achieved in his first 7 years. I thought my daughter might enjoy it, so I took the book to the living room to share her father’s first years with her.
“He walked at 9 and a half months”, I told her. “I guess he had places to go.”
“There is a diploma from the Romper Room School,” I said. I explained the once popular preschool television show . “He was a guest on the Cleveland version of the show. His Diploma is signed and dated September 6, 1971,” I said.
“Here’s a “Certificate of Award” for honorable mention in the Thirty-Fifth Children’s National Photograph Contest dated July of 1969,” I said.
When I turned to the page of the family tree, I read the names of his dad, his parents, and grandparents. Below, his mother, her parents and grandparents were listed. I realized the book wasn’t truthful. My husbands mother is adopted. Her adoptive parents and grandparents are listed as if they are her birth family. Her birth parents and grandparents are left out. In fact, we don’t even know their names. This omission wouldn’t have crossed my mind a few years ago. Now, it jumps out and stings as I’m sure no mention is made of us in our granddaughter’s baby book.
Sometimes I wonder how much my mother-in-laws adoption experience influenced our own. Two posts written last week and titled Shaking The Adoption Fog Out of Adoptees (A Conversation With Laura Dennis) and Shaking the Adoption Fog Out of Non-Adoptees (A Conversation with Deanna Doss Shrodes) forced me to think back to the time when I was in the “adoption fog”. Prior to these posts, I’d considered this to be only an adoptee experience. These posts taught me anyone can be afflicted. Our decisions made prior to our daughter relinquishing were made based on beliefs we held while in our own adoption fog.
I’ve known my husband since 1986. I cannot remember knowing anything about adoption before I met him. After we married, I accepted my mother-in-laws views and opinions about adoption because she was an adoptee. Her sympathies always lay with the adoptive parents. Her experiences taught me birth families were insignificant. I wonder what she thinks now? Is she surprised by our response to losing our granddaughter? Does she still believe her natural family didn’t care and thought we wouldn’t care about our daughter and granddaughter? Has this experience made her re-evaluate her own?
My daughter once asked if I believed her grandma thought of her as a bad person because she was now a birth mother like her grandmother’s natural mother, and she didn’t think her grandmother liked her natural mother. At the time the question made no sense to me. “No,” I said. “Your grandmother wouldn’t think that.”
Now, I believe my mother-in-law did view our daughter differently. This is why she did not find anything wrong with yelling at our daughter, hours after a c-section, about how she was ashamed of her for letting her baby’s dad visit, or why she called her other son and daughter-in-law “mommy and daddy” in front of our daughter before anything was legal. In her mind we were the birth family already, and we weren’t important. She didn’t comprehend the truth about adoption. Her “adoption fog” beliefs are the truth to her other children, too, which explains their difficulty understanding what we are going through and why none of them understand by cutting us out of our granddaughter’s life their son and brother’s behavior is wrong and unethical.
Our story proves just how damaging adoption can be. Adoption’s legacy reached down through the generations of an adoptee’s family and brought even more heartache and pain. My husband’s family’s behavior infuriates me at times. At other times, I understand they are victims of the screwed up beliefs about adoption in this country.
I continued looking through the baby book and a picture fell out of my husband and his parents taken in 1968. It’s the same one I included in this post. I’ve seen it before, but I started crying while looking at it this time. I’m crying now while writing this. I’m crying for the family torn apart, and the lives forever damaged, by adoption.