Though the poem, “Fable” by Louise Glück is not meant to be about adoption, it resonated with me nonetheless. But not in the way you might think-not pitting adoptive mother against birth mother. In the poem we read about the suffering of a daughter in a strained relationship with her sister. Loss and grief are deep and primal in this poem. Like the loss and grief in adoption.
BY LOUISE GLÜCK Two women with the same claim came to the feet of the wise king. Two women, but only one baby. The king knew someone was lying. What he said was Let the child be cut in half; that way no one will go empty-handed. He drew his sword. Then, of the two women, one renounced her share: this was the sign, the lesson. Suppose you saw your mother torn between two daughters: what could you do to save her but be willing to destroy yourself—she would know who was the rightful child, the one who couldn’t bear to divide the mother.
What is a milestone birthday if you have a relinquished child you’re reunited with? I think it’s the year where the scales tip in favor of the birthdays spent together as opposed to those spent apart. I think it’s every birthday you celebrate post-reunion.
This month my son celebrates his 43rd birthday. The scales have now most definitely tipped in the direction of knowing him for more years than not knowing him. We’ve already celebrated since he and his family are here for a visit.
20 birthdays uncelebrated
My son and I met just a few days before his 21st birthday. Two decades of birthdays went uncelebrated. They were cause for mourning, not celebration. Where is he? Is he healthy? Is he happy? Is he alive?
A double celebration
We made it a double celebration since my younger daughter just had her birthday 10 days ago and my birthday dinner for her was derailed my a short hospital stay for my mom.
M does not remember a time before her brother was part of her life since she was only two when they met. When I told her and her sister that they had a big brother, they both looked at me as if I’d just presented them with a pony. The age gap seemed huge between them then. Now that they’re both adults, it seems so much less.
Adoption search and chance can be good partners. Sometimes it takes a little luck to find the person you’re looking for. Sometimes it takes a lot of luck. Or in some cases, people aren’t really searching at all, but chance plays a role in revealing a sibling or a birthparent.
The world is full of adoptees and birthmothers, some reunited and many still unknown to one another. There are siblings out there, too. So many siblings. Some of whom dream of having a brother or a sister and don’t know that they already have one. And maybe that person they’re wishing for has the same brown eyes or the same dimple. Or a similar set of freckles, or loves the same kind of chocolate ,or drives the same car. I’ve seen statistics that say there are somewhere between two million and six million birthmothers alive today in the U.S. Probably no one knows how many are reunited with their children. If you consider the siblings that have been separated by adoption, there are millions of people out there looking for each other.
I dreamed of finding my son by chance almost from the moment I let him go. And although, coincidence has salted a pretty healthy dash of “you must be kidding” to our story, I don’t think we would have ever found one another if I hadn’t searched for him. Searching for my son, due to the sealed records in the state of Iowa, was a frustrating and useless venture. But Chance was there all the same waiting in the form of a person who’d happened to hear of a person, who knew of a person who could help. I have no idea who that person was. If it was a man or a woman, an adoptee or a birthparent, maybe even an adoptive Parent. but if I had to give the person a name, I’d call him/her Mr. or Ms. Chance.
I got an email from my friend Elizabeth the other day. She’d found a blog from a woman whose brother was given up for adoption when he was a baby. This “birth sister’s” writing went right to my core and, before I knew it, the feeling came back.
It’s mostly centered in my gut, this feeling. And it radiates out from there. It’s like evil butterflies. Like life or death fear. And the death wouldn’t be painless or clean or peaceful.
I felt this way sitting on a picnic table in the park the day I met my very first birthmother (other than myself.) She told me she wanted to search for her lost daughter and asked me if I wanted t search for my son.
Like an earthquake
The butterflies radiate out from the center and the beating of their wings cause a quaking, and it takes energy to keep from full-out shaking.-I mean St. Vitus dance arms and legs akimbo, flailing. The effort it take to not let that happen makes feel like I could sleep for a week. That is, if I could just relax and make the feeling go away. ButI know it won’t. Drinking is the thing that helps. The thing that tamps down the earthquake.
I felt like this every time I told my story to friends and family. And then, even years later, when I started to write about it, the feeling was there. Not that long ago, I told someone it had been only recently that I could re-visit the experience of having given up my son without experiencing that shaking.