I recently presented at an adoption event, sharing my personal story of placing my son for adoption in 1985 in an open adoption and how my relationship developed with him and his adoptive parents over the years. As is typical in these events, everyone in the room was crying, including some not-so-tough-anymore looking men. I talked with many of these adoptive parents afterwards. More tears.
Seems to me there’s a lot about this topic that makes us cry. What’s more confusing, is that some of it is a sad cry, but just as much of it is a happy cry! Leaving the hospital empty handed, sad crying. Adoptive parents who have waited 10 years for a baby finally holding their son, happy crying. Birth families surrounding the newborn grandson/nephew/cousin, sad crying. Aunts/Uncles/Grandparents/Cousins welcoming an adoptee into their family, happy crying.
And it continues. Getting the first letter and photo from an adoptive family – happy crying mixed with sad crying. A reunion story – happy and sad. A high school graduation, wedding, etc., all mixed. It’s so hard sometimes to reconcile that for every happy event in an adoptees life, it also marks an event the birthmother relinquished. Even if she gets to attend it, that soft spot from the pain of relinquishment is still there.
I have a friend who is an adoptee, and one of the difficult things she says she deals with in her relationship with her birthmother is that she is very aware of the pain her birthmother still feels. She doesn’t know what she can do to make it go away. All the meetings, hugs, phone calls and letters are not making it disappear. And they won’t. It’s like saying a person should be able to forget limp from an injury and just walk straight.
Relinquishing a child hurts. And it leaves a mark. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, or that a birthmother has regrets. It’s just a part of who she is. I placed my son for adoption 26 years ago and at this adoption event I surprised myself by crying again when I told the story of his birth. Even I can’t believe I’d cry after all these years. I just called him that morning and talked to him! I was at his high school graduation, at his wedding last year, and talk to him every week.
The thing is, to remember that new memories, do not replace old ones. The old ones are still there, still a part of who we are. So go ahead and cry now and then – it’s okay! Just remember they’ll be plenty of happy crying too.