My therapist gave me homework, and I usually don’t do my homework. Just like when I was in school, it always seems like I have something better to do. But I have a lot of anxiety about being a parent given all my history, so we’re trying to work through some stuff, so I thought I should do this. She asked me to write a letter to my birth parents, focusing on my feelings and explaining them. I don’t have to send it, and I probably won’t, actually I know I won’t, but here it is. I’m going to read her my letter tonight, and we’ll talk about it – wish me luck. As a bit of a background, I wasn’t adopted until four years old, bounced between my birth mother and foster homes for the first four years, birth father was involved – both were alcoholics and drug addicts. I have been trying to establish a relationship with my birth father for awhile, but I asked to stop talking in December during my first IVF cycle. I don’t talk with my birth mother except for exchanging Christmas cards.
Dear T (birth father) and M (birth mother),
I guess I should have started out by saying thank you. I know you both care about me a lot, and you did what you thought was best by giving me up for adoption. You also could have chosen to not have me at all, so I thank you for my life. Unlike a lot of adoptees, I know for a fact that you truly wanted me. You tried to keep me, and you tried for a long time. Also, you have both been very respectful of my feelings in our interactions as an adult, and I thank you for that. I have so many feelings about you both, and this is my attempt to explain myself.
I’m angry at both of you. I don’t understand why you couldn’t have figured out how to be sober earlier. Both of you got your lives together eventually, why couldn’t you try to be sober and able to take care of a child when you actually had a child? M, I think based on my calculations, that you got sober around the time you were pregnant with your second child, my younger sister. Why was she worth getting sober and I wasn’t? I’m also angry that I never have met my sister – I would have liked having a sister, I always wanted one.
I’m also angry that you didn’t give me up for adoption earlier. I read these studies about so many things developing early in a child’s life, and I think about being homeless and hungry, and going to 18 foster homes prior to adoption, and all the stuff I don’t know. I’m sure there are so many things that happened in those four years, that thankfully I can’t remember, that weren’t good for me, for any child. If you would have realized that you couldn’t take care of me earlier, maybe I would have been better, maybe I wouldn’t have the abandonment issues, and all the other stuff. I know you tried, that you wanted to keep me and raise me, but I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if I didn’t have the first four years that I did.
I feel guilty. Everyone tells me I shouldn’t, but I still do. I feel very guilty about not putting more of an effort into having a relationship with you now. Growing up, I figured I would become an adult, and then I would be strong enough to have relationships with both of you. But then I grew up, and I never became strong enough. I’ve tried, somewhat, but it’s so very hard.
T, you are making such an effort. You call me every month, or at least you did until I asked you to stop (I’m sorry), and you try to find things over which we can relate. You keep talking about music, and sending me videos and CD’s of you playing your instruments, and encouraging me to play the piano again. I keep saying I might, but here’s the truth: I don’t want to. Piano hasn’t been in my life for years, and I have no desire to play it. We are completely different people. You are into your music and other creative things. I am a business woman, I read the WSJ, I like numbers, and I’m not creative. You don’t understand my life at all, and I don’t understand your life. And that has to be ok – we’re not going to find some great thing in common. Maybe when (if) we start talking again, I will have the guts to explain this to you, but then what are we going to talk about in our awkward conversations?
M, I feel so guilty on behalf of my parents. You say, and I believe you, that they were supposed to keep in contact with you, and you were supposed to be able to see me occasionally. This didn’t happen, and I’m sorry. I would ask my parents why this didn’t happen, but there really is no point. It just happened. Perhaps you were too drunk for the first few years after my adoption to follow up, but when you sobered up, you couldn’t find me, and I’m sorry for this. When I was about 22 years old, I found your phone number on the internet, and I called you. I acted like a telemarketer, and I asked you questions. I asked if you had children, and you said yes, you have one child, a daughter that is 12. And then I hung up. I was sad that you said you only had one child – what about me? Of course I realize that you wouldn’t tell some random telemarketer that you had a child that you gave up for adoption, but it still hurt to hear you say you only had one child. I was excited though to find out I had a sister.
M, when you tracked me down and called me a few years later, I was so excited to hear from you. But then I heard the sadness and guilt in your voice, and it was too much for me to handle. I’m so sorry for not responding well to your attempt at initiating a relationship. Right now, all we do is exchange Christmas cards, and I feel so guilty about this. I always had a vision in my head of going to see you (and T, separately of course) with my child, and introducing you to your grandchild. Then we would have a distraction, and something to talk about. I hope I can do this someday.
Trying to have a child, and having such a hard time doing so, has brought up some strange feelings about both of you. T, I know you were confused when I asked to stop talking. It was just so hard, and I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough. Here I am, doing everything in my power to have a child, and you walked away from your child – from me. I don’t understand this. How can I relate to you both, knowing that you didn’t want what I yearn for more than anything? Like I said, for some reason I have always thought that once I was a mother, I would be stronger, and I would be able to see you both. But now I’m afraid that this won’t be true. What if I see my child, and feel the emotions that I know I’ll have, and be able to relate to you even less? What if having a child makes me even angrier at you?
I don’t know how to end this, or how to help our relationships. I only know that I’m hurting, and I really hoped that I would be over this hurt by now. Thirty-two years have passed since I went to my parents, and I’m still struggling with a lot of things, including what my relationship with you should look like. I would really like to have more of a relationship, and I would love for you to know your future grandchild. I can’t promise anything, but I can hope.