When I was in my twenties, I loved the movie 9 ½ Weeks. I loved the storyline (until it started getting too weird for my young self: once Mickey Rourke got…mean…I just focused on the smoke). I loved the cinematography. I loved watching Kim Basinger’s character Elizabeth fall in love with the tactile world as she fell in love with Rourke’s character, John. So much happened in nine and a half weeks. Two people met, fell in love (or whatever it was they were feeling that looked like love), pushed boundaries, and broke up. Elizabeth almost lost her mind because, even then, Mickey Rourke was too much for a woman. Even when he was playing someone else.
I’m guessing that when Elizabeth turned 70 (if story lines went on after the curtain falls), she still thought about that time. Maybe, depending on how her life had turned out, she thought about it every day. That relationship, and his actions, probably affected all her subsequent relationships. She’d explain to future suitors she’d need to take it slow, that falling in love quickly had proven a way to heartbreak, something she’d vowed to avoid in the future.
MGM figured the time span of nine and a half weeks was worth investing 17 million dollars in, and Adrian Lyne showed significant character development as Elizabeth flowered, sort of rotted, and couldn’t stop touching things and staring at dead animal carcasses for sale in Chinatown. (When you are in love, even dead chickens are worthy of note, apparently. Love turns us into cameras.)
So. A lot can happen in nine and a half weeks, is what I am saying.
Why then did my adoption agency and my parents think the ten weeks that passed between my birth and my arrival into their arms was not worthy of note? What if something EPIC happened? What if I fell in love? What if someone fell in love with me? What if I had gone ten weeks without human contact? That kind of story would be front page news if the word “adoption” weren’t attached to it. Baby abandoned and then claimed ten weeks later. More details at 11:00.
Don’t be ridiculous, you say. You were taken cared of for those ten weeks. You were in good hands. You were loved.
But. Please. Let’s be real. How do you know? I mean, for sure?
If you and your husband or wife lived through the nine plus months of pregnancy and then delivered your baby and the doctor said, Hey, listen, you look tired. We’re doing this thing here where we separate the baby from its parents for ten weeks because the baby won’t remember anyway, and you’ll be nice and rested for the terrible twos, etc, etc.
Would you think, Huh. That might be kind of cool? After all, the pregnancy was exhausting for you both. The baby will be fine. It’s so small. And it’s not like it will be able to talk about what happened. It doesn’t even have language.
Sure. We’ll be back in ten weeks. Thanks. Come on, Honey. Let’s go to the movies.
I want to know where I was for the first ten weeks of my life. I want every child who is adopted to come with a scrapbook containing photographs and notes detailing his or her time in the gap between parents. I want to know what I ate, who held me, what I did—was I a crier? a noise machine? How cute was I? I want to know what my caretakers thought about me, what they sang to me, what language they spoke, if there were other kids in the house, if I was even in a house. (Was I in the hospital the whole time? In the library? Where do babies in the gap go?) And why did we never, not once, discuss this over dinner? There were three adopted kids at the table: one had been in the gap for ten weeks, one eight, and one (this one’s more complicated) for six months after being with the birth mother (name? height?) for two years.
As a family we could have at least talked about it. Why? Because when someone doesn’t care where you were, it translates into you are not valuable. If birth parents go to the trouble of being deeply interested in where the kids they adopt were hanging out before the parents got them, the kids get to have a history of their own. They get to see they came from Earth and not Mars.
It could have been fun. We could have laughed because I truly believed I was a princess, and if I’d said this out loud, I would have seen that maybe it wasn’t true, and when I was an adult maybe I wouldn’t have thought I wasn’t pretty enough because my mother had been a queen, and queens are beautiful and yet I was so…normal. I was not good enough. I should have been more like a princess.
Maybe I would have cried when talking about my origins made it clear I hadn’t come from royalty, but tears dry. Any psychiatrist will tell you that to do well in life, you need to know yourself. Otherwise you may as well be driving a manual car you thought was an automatic. Not a smooth ride.
I love you, Mom and Dad.
I wish you had talked to me more about my story of origin, not yours, not the one that started, The day we got you. It’s a sweet story, but it caused me trouble down the road.