Sunday, September 24, 2006

Okay...birthdays are just hard.

by zoe

We’ve had fun celebrating our son’s second birthday with him this year. He has enjoyed several small parties – the highlight of each for him was being the center of attention as we all sang “Happy Birthday” to him, and then, of course, blowing out his candles - which he wanted to do repeatedly at each party. He loves to tell everyone about the excitement that has been going on in his life.

As always (so far on this adoption ‘journey’), I feel so torn. Maybe, as an adoptive mother, his birthdays should always be bittersweet to me because I know it is more than just his is an anniversary of the worst kind…of loss.

I'll just say it: It feels wrong for me to celebrate his birthday with him. Yes, I know that as his adoptive family, we would be the ones to give him a party and gifts and a birthday cake and birthday kisses, and to envelop him in enough prayers and good wishes to last a lifetime. But to really celebrate his birthday, as a mother, is something that feels strange to me at this point. A birthday celebration ‘belongs’ to the mother – the one who gave birth - almost as much as it belongs to the birthday celebrant. It is her celebration, too; her memory of the day when she beamed with joy and pride and fully realized the love she had held in a secret place for nine long months. It is her day to celebrate her accomplishment in bringing her precious child into the world. As her child’s birthday rolls around each year, she recounts her story of waiting and waiting for the big day, her labor and the moment of the birth, what she said when she first laid eyes on him, how she named him with a special name she had been saving just for him, what the weather was like that day, what the doctor said about how handsome the baby was, and how mommy thought he was so perfect and how she couldn’t remember life before him…

And together they share and celebrate this event, this bond … for all of their lives. I mean, they are supposed to. My participation, my initiation of a birthday celebration, feels very different, indeed. If last year I was focused on not bungling the Dol terribly, this year I just felt more like a 'guest' - a guest with poor party etiquette who insists on taking up a place in the spotlight that belongs to someone else - rather than a guest who truly shares the day and the memories. It's not a pouting-whining-I-wish-I-had-given-birth-to-him sadness; it's just me grappling with figuring out and understanding my place in his life, and what my role should be.


We have chosen to observe a simple, yet tangible remembrance of our son’s Korean mother on the birthday they share together – a day which really includes only the two of them. Even this feels like an intrusion, but again, the alternative - no visible remembrance - seems worse. My hope would be that she never fade away in our memories and that he never becomes so selfishly ‘mine’ that I rarely acknowledge that he is truly his Korean mother’s son, too. I worry that - though our son may dream and wonder about the mother who could tell him his birth story and how perfect he was and how she couldn’t remember life before him - he might be afraid to express his own emptiness or sadness; afraid to speak of her or to acknowledge that she and he together make up his birthday.

She is the missing half of the birthday celebrations.


At 1:17 PM , Blogger said...

I read on an adoptee blog how she hated her mother putting an extra candle on her cake for the exiled mother.
Adoption is such a catch22 situation, damned if you do and damned if you don't.

I hated birthdays, I still find them emotional but not like before when I didn't know where she was. You can powerfully send energy through your third eye to the exiled mother, send her love and peace and reassurance. Sounds a bit wacky dooby but it's worth a try.

The fact that you have love for the other mother(s) and that there is room in your heart for them will give the children a higher self esteem and make them feel like they can search later on (again just what I believe)
And congratulations for the birthday too, it is something for you to celebrate because it's the day your child came into the world. Not through you but through another mother, one who knew how much you cared about her would be touched right to the core. I know I would have been.

At 7:38 PM , Blogger Kahlan said...

:( :( :( Birthdays really are hard. Before adopting, I was so selfish. I wanted to be THE mom. I realize now that Pookie had a mother long before I came into the picture. It is still a struggle of how to honor and respect her.

Lots of hugs!

At 10:25 PM , Blogger Third Mom said...

"My hope would be that she never fade away in our memories and that he never becomes so selfishly ‘mine’ that I rarely acknowledge that he is truly his Korean mother’s son, too."

She won't, Zoe, I'm sure of it from what you are writing. And I honestly believe that with more Korean a-parents openly speaking of reunion and open adoption, it will start happening more and more.

Hopefully for us all. Thanks for your sensitive thoughts.


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