The reading theme for April was “Family Members.” It was not as fun as some of my previous themes (e.g., water), but again I read many books that have been patiently waiting on my shelves for more than 10 years. Flesh and Blood, by C. K. Williams; The Last Uncle, by Linda Pastan; and In My Father’s Garden, by Kim Chernin were all little gems.
One of the “newer” books I read (only on the shelf for 7 years), was Brother and Sister by Joanna Trollope. It’s about two adopted children (different birth mothers) who decide, as adults, to find their birth mothers. I was sure I would like this book, both because of the adoption aspect (I’m adopted) and because I’ve read several Trollope books I’ve enjoyed.
So I start this book more or less romping merrily along (or trying to) and then I come to this (p. 46). In telling her brother she wants to find her birth mother, the sister says, “I never wanted to before. Or at least, I never let myself want to. I told myself that I wasn’t going to be that kind of adopted person, lugging a grievance around and wanting people to make allowances for me.”
What? I never knew there was “that kind” of adopted person, lugging around grievances (not to mention expecting allowances).
I know a few, perhaps even several, adopted persons. Most have been co-workers over the years, and we’ve talked pretty in-depth about the whole adopted thing. Most (not all) are not interested in finding their biological parents. I have only ever been moderately interested in tracking down my birth mother, and started doing so when I was in graduate school until I found out it cost $50, which was a lot of money at that time. And so I didn’t pursue it.
But I, and all of my adopted friends (or perhaps I should say my friends who are adopted) have considered ourselves quite lucky. Pretty damn lucky, even. My story: 16-year-old mother. I’m glad she gave me up. I don’t particularly care if she did it because she didn’t want me or she thought it in my best interest; I’m still glad she did it.
Later in Brother and Sister, when “brother” meets his biological mother, he says to her: “It’s hard to get over the fact that you were given away.”
And I have never taken that—being given away—as something to be angry or resentful for. It had never even occurred to me to hate my birth mother.
I think what bothered me the most about this book is that it presented the viewpoint of the brother and sister as universal. At least that’s the sense I came away with. And they both had a lot of resentments towards the women that gave them up.
I, on the other hand, just have a lot of gratefulnesses. I am grateful that my biological mother gave me up. I’m quite grateful that I was adopted into my funeral-home family (super fun place to grow up in). And further, I don’t know a single adopted person who hates the mother that gave up her baby.
If you have given up a child for adoption, if you are in anguish about the child you gave up (does she hate me?), please know: Probably not. I am grateful. Many are grateful. Not all, for sure. But families are like that: Biological or adopted, they’re still pretty much a crapshoot.