When a Signature Changes Your Life: Relinquishment

My mistake allows my son to be discriminated against as an adopted person in the state of Massachusetts

I’m in the midst of it all: Adoption Trauma week or better known the Season of Max.

So here it is; it’s November. The week from hell. Trying to remain “normal”, but feeling so very tightly strung up as if I could break or snap at any moment. Tired, impatient, restless, annoyed, teary, over excited, sad.

Friday: Finish another long week, and promptly get into a stupid agreement with Rye over stupid paint colors. The whole evening was…stupid. I cry ridiculously hard; sobbing. It’s the argument, but it’s not. It’s not just an overreaction, it’s November. I can’t fight it.

Saturday and Sunday: I lay low. I try to relax, be kind to myself. I don’t watch football with the guys; I indulge in Law and Order repeats, I play Stronghold with Tristan. But it is lurking on the back of my mind.

The days tick by, November 11, November 12, November 13….

By Sunday, I know what I am doing pretty much every part of the day, 24 years ago. Max was due the 12th. I went into labor the morning of the 13th. I remember waking up, being in the bathroom, getting dressed, going shopping, eating dinner, and making brownies, watching Dallas on TV that night. It was a Saturday. November 13th, 1987 was a Saturday.

I awake at 2 am on November 14th, 2011. Twenty-four years earlier, I am arriving at the hospital. I am getting undressed. I throw up the turtle brownies and ice cream I ate while watching Dallas. In 2011, I watch another Law and Order. I go back to sleep.

In 2011, I wake before 7 am. I watch the clock change to 7:35 and he is born. I know at 8;00, I am talking to my mother. I know what he wore that day, what we did, my newborn baby and me. But its 24 years later, so I get dressed and go to work. Later on, I text him Happy Birthday and we have a nice chat. Have I said that he has moved out of the parents house and shares, what sounds to be a dump, with a bunch of friends? Supposedly, Garin will also be doing the same here at the end of the month; it must be something in the air. I have two grown sons that are taller than me.

I work through our two days at the hospital. On Wednesday, the 16th, I leave the hospital. I remember the smell of the shirt I wore, the feel on my skin. I might as well still be wearing the same shirt. My brain is not working; I’m jumbled. I’m still right back there, even if I don’t want to be. It’s a physical thing that I feel. There was a point where, right at the time when they released me, and I knew it. It was the moment when you have to hand over your baby and walk away. I could have just completely become the pile of sobbing mush on the kitchen floor, but this time it would have been the lobby of my office. Can’t cry, back to work.

Today, is Thursday and I know that 24 years ago today, I managed to pull on black stretch pants and a big sweater. I had to wear my Istote Slippers because my feet were still swollen. We went off to the Burlington Mall, the very same mall that I would sit with Max in 19 years later when we reunited. I had THE presents to buy for my new baby. I know I was sore still from birth and hobbling around. Why do I always get my period exactly at this time? Is it a coincidence still if it happens 24 years straight?

And tonight, right now. I know I am in my room in Newton, Massachusetts. Sitting on the floor with my purchases beside me. Planning on what to inscribe in Where the Wild Things Are and preparing for the tomorrow. I won’t be able to sleep. Not then, not tonight.

Tomorrow is Relinquishment Day

I’ll be at work. I’ll be in a dark lawyers office. The sun might be shining, but 24 years ago it rained. I’m in NY. I’m in Boston. I am 43. I am 19. I’m optimizing website copy. I’m signing away the rights to my motherhood.

Dear Lord Forgive Me, I Know Not What I Was Doing!

They said if I did this thing this selfless, smart, wise, giving act, if I was strong and signed , then it would be right. It would be good. It would be better. It would be best. I believe it and I wanted them, the agency, the social workers, the adoptive parents that I never knew, that I never would met to this day, to be proud of me. And I gave them what they wanted..my baby with one signature. I scribbled and I let him slip away.

Nothing would ever be the same again.
One signature changed my whole life forever.

On Saturday, I return home to NY. My mother and her sometimes boyfriend Tom came up to get me. That’s my Gotcha Day, but at least it signifies the end. After that, the days and nights lose their clarity, molding into some sort of forced recovery. The waves of birthmother grief are just constant companions and I try to do what I am supposed to; I try to “move on”.

Twenty four years later thought, and I am still here. I remember being online the night he turned 14, when I still had no idea where my son might be, or what his smile felt like. Long gone on the MSN Adoption Message board, I remember writing;

“Only four more years. Only four more years, Fours years is nothing. Four years is high school. Four years is all you need to get a college degree. Four years goes by fast. Only four more years”

I didn’t move on very well I guess. I got online and searched out adoption. I’m still here and not going anywhere anytime soon. No, I don’t think I moved on as adoption is still a major force in my life. It’s just impossible I think. They tell us we can move on. They tell us we will. And when we don’t, when the Novembers, or the Mays, or your personal week from hell takes over, we feel like failures. But, that’s where we have to know that they are wrong. One signature CAN change your whole life, but it won’t unmake you a mother.

On Monday, I became a mother. The paper that I signed on Friday did not alter that at all.

One signature can change everything and nothing all at the same time.

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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.

13 Comments on "When a Signature Changes Your Life: Relinquishment"

  1. Your writing brings us right there with you on that fateful journey. It makes me think of my mother and what she was feeling. It changes everything, yet doesn’t change anything. So true. Hugs.

  2. Oh, Claud…There’s nothing I can say to make it any better. Nothing. <3

  3. (((((hugs)))))

  4. Ah Claud,

    My heart aches for you and with you. Reading this gave me goose bumps. It’s crazy, isn’t it, that we ever believed we could just “move on” after losing our children?

  5. Oh Claud… I felt as though I was right back there with you. Your writing is so powerful.

    This almost makes me glad that I don’t remember much from the days of my son’s birth…

    Much love to you.

  6. So true that the paper changed everything and changed NOTHING.

  7. Oh Claud. You are so wonderful and I am so happy to know you. Thank you for being such a great writer and human being.

  8. I feel for you. Hearing your story helps me understand my dear mother better. I was born November 13, 1962. My Momma blocked out a lot of what happened. I love her dearly.

  9. (((claudia))) hang in there and know you have many out here who feel the same pain. none of us knew how that signature/act was going to freeze part of our being – to cement us in that moment forever. Thank you for writing and sharing!♥

  10. What a powerful post, Claud! I am the same kind of unglued in May, even 40+ years later. (((HUGS)))

  11. “One signature CAN change your whole life, but it won’t unmake you a mother.”

    Chills. Tears. And, of course, a slight intake of breath because my month is May. I thought I was the only one who experienced a terrible a month. A month of flashbacks, of full details.

    This post is so incredible it hurts. My thoughts are with you.

  12. Hi my love – just Phoebe here…keep strong xx
    Often think of you and everyone when we shared all our thoughts and feelings back in the old MSN days…

  13. I have nothing to offer you except an ear to listen (or eyes to read). I am so sorry for your loss.

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