Imagine that when you were born, you slid out of your mother and someone immediately punched you a hard clean one to the gut. Too shocked and hurt to cry, you feel your new outside world go black for a moment and when you wake up, everything you once knew was gone. The disappearance of the mother, I imagine, is like that for the infant. A clearing blow. Why? Well, when you think of the ridiculous trauma of the whole birth canal routine—whoever thought that putting a watermelon through a straw was productive had to have had stock in the forceps market—you'd have to conclude the infant comes out literally dying for her mother.
Remember in E.T. how his little face was full of yearning when he pointed his knobbed finger to the sky outside the bedroom window and said “E.T. home phone”? The little boy and girl had just finished telling him that the closet was his home, but E.T. had waddled to the window to remind them he had come from someplace else, not the closet. E.T. couldn’t help it. The compass of our hearts knows our home planet, and when we aren’t there, the calibration of our self in the world is off kilter.
Adoptees, generally, don’t set out to be difficult, but we are a little bit like E.T. on Earth. Something in us knows we came from somewhere else, and it’s unsettling. Where, exactly, in our bodies is it unsettling? The gut and the head. Next time you find out someone is adopted, if they are over 35 and have come out of the fog of thinking they weren’t affected by adoption, ask them if they have any abdominal issues or any problems with depression or focus. Ask them if they struggle with addiction. Because I’m in a gambling mood, I’ll bet you that almost every adoptee will have something on that list. You want a real wager? A real percentage? Okay: what the heck. Uh, 80. I’ll bet you 80% of adoptees you ask will have at least one of the symptoms I mentioned above.
And what’s my point and why am I throwing numbers around like I even know what I’m talking about?
Because ever since I wrote my book about being adopted, I have been hearing from adoptees. I have been exposed to secret pages on Facebook that I didn’t know existed, private pages with tens of thousands of adoptees, and they all seem to be suffering.
I am writing this because someone today, when he learned I was adopted, said I was lucky I’d been chosen by good people. He said this, mind you, without knowing a single fact about my parents. And it was the last lucky straw. I just can’t hear it any more. I did have wonderful parents, it is true, and I was lucky to have them. Yes, I’ll say it. But don’t you say it for me, and don’t you ask me to say it. Don’t tell me how to feel when we talk about adoption. Don’t tell me I should be grateful I wasn’t aborted. Feeling you don’t belong in the world can be so painful that you might not want to assume life is a wonderful gift to those who feel unwanted or misplaced.
I am grateful for how everything in my life turned out. Truly, I am. Mostly I am grateful because if things hadn’t gone exactly as they did, I wouldn’t have given birth to my daughter, and I wouldn’t have stood on the sidelines today with tears running down my face as I took her picture because I was so overwhelmed by the her-ness of her.
And yet. And yet I carry a pain in my gut and my heart and my head. I am a wound that walks around and looks normal because I carry a purse and generally have a positive attitude. I follow the rules and I do all the life stuff, but the fact of the matter is that when I was born I suffered a clearing blow to the gut that will never repair. The mother in whose body I was formed will always have disappeared, and I will always be living in reaction to that black moment.
Let me have it. Let me have that sadness. It’s what I got. It’s mine. Please don’t try to take it away. For even in the deepest sadness, if you are allowed to hold it and love it, there is home.