Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Excerpts of various conversations transferred into prose

Within the next couple of weeks, I’m going to tell Hope about calling the agency, because I’ll need her help to decide whether or not we should tell Paul. Then Paul, Hope, Brooke, and I will decide whether to tell Dad. If the adoptee wants to get in touch with me/us, things will get complicated. Despite my father’s desire not to have the adoptee involved in our family, I know this was the right thing to do. She has a right to that information if I'm able to give it to her. The normal, adult, conscientious part of me says that I'm just putting that information out there and can choose at any point now to end my involvement with the agency and the adoptee. I can't think of any harm in what's been done, but that doesn't mean I'm being laisse-faire about this. I'm not making decisions that I'll want to erase.

I hadn't realized that I hadn't told my best friend about Mom's pregnancy, and the topic came up sort of randomly over the weekend. She said that her mom had a kid around the same time, but her mom was in her mid-20's. Her mom never talked about it with them, and my friend heard in 1999 from her dad who thought the kids should know about their half-sibling. Her mom wanted to keep it from the kids. Apparently, our moms talked about it together, which I guess is something to be grateful for. They had a chance to share that experience with someone who is very, very safe.

Mom ended a lot of silence about the depression and abuse in her family, and she wasn't willing to let "the lesbian thing" be silenced either. There's a lot of harm in silence, but speaking up at the right times and in the right ways is important. I don't know how one'd figure out the right times/ways, though.

The thing about silence is that it implies shame, and it's the shame that gets carried down most intensely. Heather is left feeling her mother's shame because her mom won't talk about it. I had the chance to talk about it and tell Mom how proud I am of her that she didn't marry the kid's father, that she didn't marry her old boyfriend who she cared about who was willing to come home from the military to marry her. I'm proud that she knew not to raise the kid in that house, and I told her that.

In some ways, I feel as though I’m being crass or impersonal by calling this woman to whom my mother gave birth “the adoptee.” Biologically, she is my half-sister. Biologically, we share a mother. But she has her own family. She was raised by her own parents and may have grown up with brothers and sisters. Yes, there’s something valuable in being connected to your biological roots, but her real family of origin is the family in which she was raised. They’re the family that influenced her. I think that a lot of my opinion on this issue comes from two things: my cousins and my future family.

My aunt, the one who died in 2000, and uncle adopted two children whom they adore(d). That was their family. The younger of the two has had no interest in finding her biological family. The older expressed some desire to when his first child was in utero, but from what I’ve been told, that was primarily an issue of medical history. As far as I know, he never received any information about his biological family. They were both adequately satisfied with their lives with the family they had, and the didn’t seek that out. They are siblings by law and by family.

Brooke and I will never be able to produce a child who is a genetic mix of ourselves. Any child we raise will have to be adopted by at least one of us, and that’s okay. We can raise a family based on being a family, not based on biology (and maybe not based on law, but that’s for another day). We will be the parents of those children. It won’t be based on who birthed, who contributed to the genes, whose laws say it’s okay for us to parent. It will be based on what we provide for the children in our home.

And since I didn’t know about this woman until four years ago, there’s really no place in my heart for her. I know her age and her gender. I’ll admit that I’m curious to know if she looks like me. There’s a part of me that wants just the basic facts about her, what she does for money, what she does for fun, pets, partners, children, etc. But I don’t miss her. I don’t yearn to know her. It’s about curiosity, not emotions.

The real struggle for me will be deciding what to do if she’s interested in getting to know Mom’s family. Even though she’s been without her birth mother for her whole life, learning that Mom is dead may create some new urge to know about her. Or it may just be enough to know that we’re out here.

I’ve wondered what Mom would think about my choice to call the agency, and there’s something about this deep peace that tells me she thinks it is the right thing to do. After I got off the phone with the kind Ms. N, I choked on tears and felt a sudden release. My eyes burned for a moment, but they never came. I really did the right thing, and my mom is still proud of me.


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