I am struggling with my upcoming birthday. It’s not for the usual reasons of increasing age and facing one’s mortality. It goes much, much deeper than that. My actual day of birth set a course for my life that would see me never fitting in and perpetually on the outside looking in. I don’t mean to come off as overly dramatic and those of you who know me in real life know that my feet are generally firmly planted on terra firma.
My birth day, the first day of my life, I was rejected because powerful forces in my mother’s life dictated that I was to be given away. I then languished at the Grace Hospital in Calgary until the end of October when I was finally adopted. My birth mother was not from Calgary. She was from the lower mainland of BC as was my father. When my maternal grandmother found out that my mother was pregnant she made an appointment with an illegal abortion provider for my mother. My birth mother went, but decided she could not do what her mother was asking of her. Instead, she was sent away as ‘respectable church-going people’ didn’t have babies out of wedlock in 1965.
My birth mother was 21 when I was born. She had suffered some bizarre things in pregnancy like nasal hemorrhaging. She told me she was scared and she wished that her mother was there with her. After my birth, she stayed in Calgary for a couple of days and then went home. When we met, she related to me that she had been depressed all through her 20s. She married but it only lasted 6 weeks and she never had another relationship. She hated her mother and resenting helping her as she aged. But this story is not really about her.
The family I was adopted by seemed to be the complete opposite of me. They were tall, I am not. I am fat, they were not (except for my mother). They were blonde, I was not. I looked nothing like them. Fundamentally, we dealt with the world in very different ways. They would get angry and begin to yell and I retreated into my head to come up with intellectual coping mechanisms. This meant that as soon as they went emotional, I cried. I couldn’t cope with the constant onslaught of unregulated emotional outbursts. So, I walked on egg shells, being very careful not to set anyone off. Of course, I failed miserably at this endeavour. I am sure this is the root of my anxiety.
As soon as I was old enough to understand how newspapers worked, I would search in vain on my birthday to see if she remembered and had sent a message through the personal ads. I would conjure up no end of fantasy in which, she would reach out to me, tell me it had all been a mistake and she would take me away.
It has now been 5 years since I found my biological family. I am now surrounded by them. My mother is in Vancouver, father in Richmond, a ½ brother in Surrey, another in Fort St. John, and more extended family in Port Coquitlam.
I have made contact with my mother. It didn’t go well. She doesn’t want a relationship. She even disconnected her phone. I am assuming she did this so that I didn’t call her once a year. My father is in a care home. His wife doesn’t respond to emails anymore, so I can take that hint. One of my ½ brothers reached out to me but then dropped off the face of earth as far as communication with me goes. The other one, I have no idea about. I know he has 2 kids (thank you Facebook). I often think about reaching out but I am so weary of rejection.
I really believe that my mother’s rejection of me at birth set off some immutable facts in my life. Spending the first 4 months of my life in a hospital meant that I didn’t really attach to anyone until much later in childhood. I am not sure that I ever really did attach properly. Even the story of my adoption, as told by my parents is not one of cuddly love. Apparently, both of my parents thought I was the ugliest baby there but each thought the other wanted to adopt me. So, they adopted me. I am told though that as soon as my maternal grandfather saw me, he thought I was the most beautiful baby he’d ever seen. Sadly, he died when I was 2.
It’s really not difficult to understand why I have never felt like I fit in or that people like me. My whole origin story is one of rejection and negative thoughts about my physical appearance. Sometimes, I am not really sure who adoption serves. I recognized that it is a necessary think in our society as long as people have children for whom they cannot care. I am reminded of something I heard in a First Nations workshop last year. In those cultures, children can be raised by other members in the family for many reasons. They never lose touch with their biological parents, culture and tradition. Perhaps there is something to learn there.