Pondering Milestones in an Adopted Child’s Life and The Affects on a Birthmother’s Loss
A long time ago, when I was still new to AdoptionLand, I tried to create a sort of Birthmother flow chart that detailed the different “kinds” of birth mothers and how our feelings ebb and change. I think I was still trying to make sense of all the varied feelings that birth moms had towards the adoptions of their child as my own feelings were going though the process. I couldn’t believe that not everyone felt like me and had a similar experience.
Understanding the Time Line of a Birth Mother
The birth mother flowchart had two main points of entry; either a BSE forced adoption or a later adoption that was “chosen”. Then The BSE spilt into moms that buried the whole experience or moms that were fighting mad from the get go. The buried moms had a point, usually around reunion, where they split up and could join the fighting mad moms, where on the “choice side” there were different points of exit; from right away to when the “open” adoption was “closed” where they too could leave the Kool Aide crowd and join the righteously angry. All roads lead to Rome and a mom who felt adoption sucked. I still maintain that given enough time and truth, the majority of mothers will not see the loss of their child in a positive light.
I played with this concept for years and have finally given up. No matter what the similarities for the relinquishment journey, forcing us to fit into some preconceived flow chart can’t account for the many variables. However, I am still fascinated a trying to understand the changes; the shifts in birthmother cognizance for over a decade now. Are there patterns? How come some of us “wake up” earlier than others? Why the Birthmother Kool-Aid has stronger power over others?
When Does the Adoption Fog Lift?
For a long time now, I have been noticing that when the adopted child gets to about ages 10 to 15, something changes with moms. Sometimes I say that is when the adoption Kool-Aid wears off; maybe it is a ten year shelf life? Maybe it is the decade of life experiences that give us a better sense of what we are capable of; increasing our own self worth and providing a foundation of understand that we could have successfully parented our children lost to adoption? Maybe it is the act of having other children and seeing the bond that teaches us that we have value and shows us what we lost? I don’t know why I hunt for these illusive answers, but I search for understanding about myself in others birth mothers.
I have listened to many mothers “come out” of the adoption closet or fog. Watched them struggle with understanding, facing the reality of the losses, noting mentally at what ages, what time frame this tends to happen. I have had informal discussion and asked the question outright in groups; what precipitated the shift? What was the time frame? And over the last decade, I have notices that there is almost an organic shift in a birthmothers feelings and understanding about the adoption and relinquishment loss around year 12. Sometimes a few years before, sometimes after closer to 15 or so; but give a mother with a story much like myself- thinking we were doing the “right thing”, everything else going along as “planned” – many “happy” birthmothers go “bad” after a dozen years.
Why Does it Take 10 or 12 years for the Birth Mother Kool-Aid to Wear Off?
Often, the deeper I think about one thing, the more it eludes me, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that a possible understanding came from a conversation had that had nothing to do with adoption. Sometimes the brain gives that light bulb moment in the most unexpected places when it is allowed to roam freely.
Anyway, I was talking about Scarlett and Tristan, in the midst of birthdays and getting older. These are the “babies” – yet she just turned 13, he is a firm 11 1/2 and they are babies no longer.
At or around age 12, childhood is over.
The End of Childhood
It’s one thing to think about the care of a baby and to be separated from a “blank slate”. Another thing to realize that one is missing out of important milestones of a child’s life and not to be there for the first word, the first step, the first day of school. When a child starts having double digit birthdays and puberty is right around the corner, the fact is that a huge portion of the parenting is over. The needed influences, the hands on parenting, the shaping of this small person, is done and often, we just have to hope that we paved a strong foundation as they venture into the teen years and start developing their own sense of self and become more independent.
And for birth mothers, it is obvious that we missed the whole thing. It’s over. Our child is in the final stages of growing up without us. Their whole childhood is gone. They grew up without us. It’s done.
And so, while there is no hard and fast version of the “Birthmother Rules” that we can all fit into – I do believe that the end of childhood does add a certain sense of finality to a birthmother’s life. I think the dawning of our child’s teen years and the end of childhood can trigger a response where we are more apt to look back and see the complete loss of a child’s life in a new way. The losses, rather than simple milestones, become a complete picture and we wonder; what did I do? How did I think it was a good idea to let all this pass me by? We understand it is all gone now and those years, the whole life of our child , is something that we can never get back.
And it is a loss that becomes more profound in it’s entirely and so the questions begin.