How to become a Birthmother: Chapter 1

Some people have read this already, some have not.

It’s the whole damn thing.. how I came to be a birthmother. How I ended up in that place where I was open to adopiton to save me from this situration I got myself in. This is the story of getting myself in it.
Oddly enough, 22 years ago today….just occuring to me now….so this is me… 22 years and about 2 weeks ago…

It started innocently enough, or so I thought.

Looking back, what did I really know? Not that I think it was some big plot on his end and certainly not to the extent of the final outcome, but I did not have a clue that a belated Christmas “Here, I’ll take you out to lunch.” would somehow manage to permeate and effect my life for years to come.

I’d like to think that he had the best of intentions. He really was just trying to be a nice boss and show some appreciation. And of course, I was just so fabulous and interesting that he could not but help to become beguiled and bewitched. But that would imply that I truly was just oh-so fabulous and interesting that I somehow could manage a true beguiling and bewitching. It would be a monstrous feat for while I pretended that I was indeed all that, in reality, I know it was all an act that I sometimes believed myself while wondering why no one else bought into it for too long.

Perhaps it was the complexity of the grandiose acts combined with the sympathy generated by the effects of my long dysfunctional life that intrigued him? I still do not know and I probably never will, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt; it all really started with a lunch.

I was nervous. I couldn’t imagine having to make real conversation with him for over an hour during a lunch. I was use to him blasting into the office, booming voice and heavy stepped, always in a rush, grabbing the messages from the little plastic box on my desk. His was the first name listed on the plastic dividers for his was the first name listed on the solid office door. I was the first desk one saw on the inside of the door. Just the receptionist and only by default. I only had the fucking job as a charitable move made by my aunt. Sondra was his executive legal secretary and her mother the office manager.

I don’t know why a law firm in Manhattan would have trouble finding a receptionist, but they claimed they did, so they put up with my complete lack of experience and weird hair. I worked it around my school schedule and active night life. It probably was a bad case of nepotism that they both would regret, but I would not know that until years later. I can say that I did do a mean job on the copy machine and my natural talents for organization made me somewhat as an asset. I couldn’t type for squat, but I became proficient at ordering lunch and making coffee.

Plus, I was always pleasant and willing to do the grunt work. Maybe it was the fact that I was so inexperienced and eager that enticed the invitation from him. Perhaps he saw the malleability of youth and the evident, though still unnamed by subsequent therapy, desire to please people. Perhaps it was the penchant for the dramatic black clothing, nasty boots and overindulgence of eyeliner that made him feel dirty inside. Or perhaps he just realized that day as he passed by my desk in a flurry of schedules that he forgot to acknowledge me for Christmas and haphazardly invited me to lunch on the morrow. I have no idea what went on through my little brain, but I said yes and so it began.

We went to a cute little French restaurant in Midtown.

It was cold being January, but, I think, we still walked. He walked quickly and I hustled to keep up and get out of the wind. The restaurant had a theme of crayons or colors were somewhere in the name. He, of course knew French, and had explained it to me, but being years later, I can’t recall. I just remember the large red, blue and yellow crayon decals on the windows and a sampling of the Crayola box in a glass container on the table. You could color and doodle while you waited to be served and, at that time, I found it unique.

I didn’t understand the menu, but I got veal something because I liked veal. I still remember the taste. I don’t know if it was just my first experience in a really good French restaurant, or whether my senses were just heighten through the whole experience, but I wish I could have some more today. Creamy and tender in a bowl over rice and the sauce…oh, the sauce. It just melted in my mouth. I know it must have been just a blend of butter, cream and wine, but I was so taken aback by the pure indulgence of this lunch. And he ordered wine.

Now, at this point in my life, I did not drink wine. I did not drink beer. I drank sweet fruity alcoholic mixes that were made to be fun when ordering at the bar and to get girls drunk. My friends and I learned to mix up batches of Fuzzy Navels and Sloe Gin Fizzies because it was cheaper to drink up at someone’s apartment or dorm room and get going on a buzz before you went out for the night. They also had the tendency to turn on you if you drank just one too many and plenty of nights were ended in a nasty NY bar restroom stall, but I still preferred my syrupy sweet concoctions to wine.

Wine was what my family drank at my grandmother’s house on Sundays. I grew up on Sunday pasta with bread and wine and deserts picked up after church from the Italian bakery in town. My grandmother would have ginger ale for me and my grandfather would always pour in a bit of wine. If it was red, then the color was more attractive, but I wasn’t crazy about the taste even after having had it my whole life. Of course, at home the wine was Bolla and probably a Chianti. I still don’t like many Chiantis to this day, so maybe I was simply prejudice about wine. If I had grown up with family that liked Merlot or a nice Shiraz, then maybe I would have been more comfortable due to my natural preference for those grapes, but I still wanted to impress him. So I drank the wine.

I am sure this was a really good bottle of French wine. I don’t think I ever saw him order a bottle that was less than a hundred dollars apiece, so I’ll assume that this was too. I don’t know and I never saw that bill. Despite my preferences later for a mellow red, I would love to know what this wine was just so I could have it again and re-examine the experience. Maybe it was just your average white wine and I had really only been previously exposed to bitter crap, but I cannot explain how seduced I was by the flavor of the wine. Maybe it just blew me away that I liked it at all and didn’t have t fake it for him. Maybe I just willed myself to like it, but I really liked that wine. It was sublime wine.

And, you know, the funny thing was, that even before the wine took to my tongue, before I was overwhelmed by the sensation of the food, before I realized how good it felt to sit there as if I could belong in that world, I found myself comfortable with him and we had no difficulty making conversation.

In fact, it was easy. And the more I thought of how easy it felt the easier it became until it was actually fun. He was, of course, fascinating just by his very being. I mean, the wealth of his knowledge and experience and who he was held me captivated. To begin with, he was from California and even my friend Anna was automatically more exciting and much cooler than any of us locals in our group by virtue of being from the other side of the country.

Combine that with, well, with his age. He was a real grown up. He was beyond a grown up. He was a successful grown up. He wasn’t hoping to get his own place; he was importing Italian furniture for it. He wasn’t lusting after some new boots in Trash and Vaudeville; he got custom made loafers whenever he was in London. He didn’t wear clothes off the floor; he picked up his shirts from the Chinese laundry and sent someone out for his dry cleaning. He was living the New York City life that I had spent years dreaming of. He traveled for business and leisure. He ate out often and not at the falafel place on ninety-nine cent Tuesdays. He didn’t take the subway ever; he took taxis as a form of transportation daily and hired a car service to drive him on trips. He had season tickets to the opera. He was bilingual. He was a lawyer. He had money. He had looks. He had killer blue eyes. He was everything that every girl who ever read Cosmo ever hoped to find. And he wasn’t married. Can you see where this might be going? Can you understand that I didn’t have a chance? Who can really blame me?

I really thought that he would be bored or we just would have those horrid awkward silences.

I had no idea what we would find in common, but oddly enough I worried for naught. There was no hesitation in the conversation..it just flowed as smoothly as the wine. What we talked about, now, I cannot remember, but we talked and we talked. It wasn’t boring lawyer talk and it wasn’t the shallow or overtly dramatic conversations that I shared with my friends. We did share an interest in art and I think that was a topic, plus he did have a wealth of knowledge to share. But it wasn’t just about him. He listened to me and not in the way that a relative or former teacher asks about what you are doing and your plans and then they just nod their head, but their eyes become glazed over. I

t wasn’t condescending or patronizing as if he thought I was ‘cute for my naive little ideas or feelings. He genuinely seemed interested in what I had to say. Like I was an equal and an adult despite being over 25 years younger and not at all equal. He didn’t seem disapproving of my youthful high jinks, nor overtly pitting when I discussed my situation on the home front. I made him laugh. He acted intrigued. He seemed to truly enjoy the rapport. And when he said it was fun, I believed him. It seemed natural that it would be fun to do again.

Yes, I now this seems terribly cliché.

I know that any girl worth her weight in salt should have seen right through it, but what can I tell you? Looking back, I can see how completely susceptible I was to him. There was no way I was going to be able to control the situation. The previous events of my life had made me primed for the assault and, in fact, I desperately needed to believe that someone found me worth something of value and interest. I was right there ready for the taking whether or not that was his intention in the beginning.

Maybe, it wouldn’t have all happened if it hadn’t been for that lunch.

Maybe, if there was no real attraction, then we would have just stumbled through the ordeal and gone on our merry ways. Maybe it was all the wine and I was totally set up. Maybe, I should have known better; that once was excusable for a belated Christmas appreciation, but anymore was treading dangerous waters. Maybe it was all suppose to happen. I just don’t know. It was a really fine lunch, so when he said that we should do it again, I agreed.

And so it began with just one, little, excusable lunch.

I don’t think I told anyone about that lunch or at least not to the full depth of the experience. Of course it had little magnitude at that point, so maybe I did. Did it come up later that week during drinking decision time with my girls and I mentioned the wondrous wine? Or did I boast of the fine dining experiences? Though I do wonder about that since my love of veal was looked down upon by my vegetarian friends. Might I have made sure to mention the interest, even if then seemingly innocent, to my male acquaintances to stir up some jealously or prove some innate attractiveness that they choose to oversee? I know that I savored the memories in my mind during the hour long train ride home to suburban Long Island that night.

I know I had no reason to mention it to my mother when she picked me up at the train station that night. We were at a very difficult point in our relationship where she still heart fully disapproved of any enjoyment that I might get out of life, but was too beat down by the ongoing divorce with my father, juggling unpaid bills, and making life somewhat normal for my then 6 year old brother to really show much interest in my day to day life.

That I got up every morning and went to work seemed to qualify my existence to her. She didn’t seem too concerned by the fact that I was no longer attending college nor did she bother complaining anymore if I stayed in the city overnight. In fact, now, I really wonder what the hell she was thinking during that year. I was going to a therapist during this time, mostly to spend the hour discussing my mother and our interrelationship so maybe she just thought that Jerry had the job of overseeing me and she was off the hook. I really think she just did not have it in her anymore.

That year was defiantly the lowest point in her life so far and my needs, ever second, fell to a dead last. Maybe she just assumed I was 18 and adult and I would do what I wanted, after all I had spent the last three years fighting her on that front. It felt then, like I had won the war and I did flaunt my independence from her, but I can still feel the hurt from the obvious lack of concern. I wanted her to care and I also wanted her not to care. No, I wanted her to care and approve. My mother wasn’t much on approval. It took me a few more years to figure out the right equation to make her satisfied with me. Actually it took me 21 years, and plenty of therapy to demand from her what I should have been born into: unconditional love and approval. And I don’t know if I ever really got that though I did spend too many years searching for it and that undeniably caused most of the troubles.

Anyway, I didn’t see a lot of this then even though I spent an hour a week talking to a shrink. Poor Jerry. I was a horrible patient. He was a friend of the family. Married to my mother’s sister’s college roommate and best friend. I think he took me on as a favor probably at the insistence of my Aunt Linda who always seemed to think that a good therapist can solve anything. I wouldn’t be able to remember on my own what the initial cause of my sessions. Did I start going to him when I was still living in the city or was it after the whole apartment fiasco? I don’t think it was due to the incident with my father when I threw the knife because that was much earlier in the year; that was March or April. Was it the self destructive acts of hating very same school that I had fought so hard to go to?

The reason for the initiation would be lost in time except for the existence of my little date book. I had a habit of filling the days with quick notes of what I did that day for good blocks of time. Talking to friends, crashing at F.I.T., what bar, what guy, etc. The ‘going to doctors’ starts showing up every Wednesday right before Thanksgiving of that year. So I am clear that it was the loss of the Manhattan apartment and the trauma of that ordeal that actually signified the low level of my existence and forced the adults to ‘do something’ with me. At least, there was that attempt at help. I do know my mom couldn’t afford to pay for him and it was agreed that he would be compensated for his time, later. I don’t think the man ever got paid a dime.

Maybe since I was such an absolute failure of a case, he did not feel that he had the right, but it really wasn’t his fault. He was a nice man and he did help with many things, I just never told him everything. I don’t think I like to tell anyone person everything. I think I like to have my secrets. Michael still gets mad at me sometimes and says that I’m secretive. It’s just the way I am, I guess. I was sent there to talk about my childhood and my parents. And so, I talked about my childhood and my parents. Of my current life, I pretended that all was well because I desperately need to believe that it was.

Even when it was clear that it wasn’t.

***

Continued in “How to Become a Birthmother: Chapter 2ish”

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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine, Adopt-a-tude.com, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

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