Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One Birthmother's Voice: She's Just Not That Into You

An extraordinary young woman named Jessica wrote the piece below and graciously agreed to let me post it here. Thanks, Jessica.

She's Just Not That Into You: my unrequited love story
My daughter, the person I love more than anything in the world, does not love me as much as I love her. In fact, for the first couple of years of her life, she didn't know my face from a stranger's. I planned it that way, but it was still very hard to get used to.

Someday, having a relationship with me will be important to my first born. It will answer key identity questions, even as simple as "Who do I look like?" I do not pretend that this role is as significant to a child as the role of mother. In fact, I am more involved in the life of children I babysit occasionally. This is a painful reality for birth mothers, and it can take a long time to accept. After all, I chose the family who she calls her own. I did not wish for her to love someone else instead, but I understood it to be the sacrifice I was making for her over all well being. I think I assumed that having an open adoption, and at least getting to see my daughter and be a part in her life, would be enough to make me feel better when things got hard. I did not anticipate how it would feel to love her so much and not have that love returned.

Post-placement, I was so grateful to be included in my daughter's life. At visits, it was never hard to watch her with her adoptive parents. It was, after all, the life I chose for her. Watching them as a family reassured me that I had made the right decision. I expected them to be the biggest part of her life, and for her to be the biggest part of their lives. Initially, my daughter was on my mind 24/7 and it was really nice to have that in common with them. Because I saw her parent's role as directly replacing my own, it was fairly easy to adjust to the bond she had with them. It was much harder once I realized how many other people impacted my daughter's life more than I did.

When my daughter was three months old, I was invited to her baptism. It was not my first visit, but it was the first time I met all of the people in my daughter's life outside of her parents and grandparents. Small talk with her family and friends turned out to be very hard. I had updates, pictures and visits, but compared to the amount of time I spent thinking of her, I barely knew her. I anticipated being less familiar with my child than the parents I had chosen for her, but at least they loved her every bit as much as I did. In this situation, I was surrounded by extended family members and friends, who felt far less emotional attachment to my daughter, but who got to see her more often, and knew more about her life than I did. To my daughter's extended friends and famly, she was cute and they were certainly excited for their friends, but to me, she was everything. I tried not to stare at her as she was passed around the room, and tried very hard to participate in polite conversation with the other guests, but it was hard to take my mind off my beautiful daughter. I wanted to soak up every minute I had with her, but I worried that if people knew how much I loved her, they would be uncomfortable having me around. It was only natural for me to love her so much, but it didn't feel natural. I felt like a crazy person. I carefully watched what I did and said, fearing that someone would catch on that I still loved her like my daugheter, even though she no longer needed or loved me.

By the time we are adults, we understand our role in all different kinds of relationships with varying levels of intimacy. We have also learned appropriate and inappropriate behavior for each role we play. In most cases, if someone is in love with someone who considers them a stranger, we believe that to be an unhealthy relatiohsip. We might say that is not a relationship, but rather, an obsession. However, in the relationship between a birth mother and an adopted child, this is the natural relationship. We are not equipped with the social instructions that come with the role of "birth mother" so for women right after placement, this is a hard road to pave. It is a role that differs greatly from any other relationship in our life, and it requires tackling emotional obstacles that are very different from other forms of grief. It is not about the loss of the person we love most, but the loss of the relationship with the person we love most, just as our love for that person peaks.

This unbalanced relationship is the reason placing a child for adoption is so hard. Of course I wanted all of this for my daughter: family, friends, and a normal life. I am glad that she doesn't need me, because it means that my plan worked. She is a happy, healthy, beautiful young lady Her life is much bigger than I could have ever imagined, and sometimes I feel very far away.

As she has gotten older, our relationship hasn't changed that much, but I feel much better. Accepting my role in her life was hard, but having lots of visits the first year definitely helped me feel out and practice my role in her life. Now, I can appreciate the love I have for my daughter as the gift that it is, independent of reciprocated feelings.

Sally Bacchetta
The Adoptive Parent
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Anonymous said...

Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing.

Amy said...

Yes, thank you for sharing.

Kristin said...

This is so thoughtful and touching. Thanks, Jessica, for sharing this part of your story.