Saturday, 4 May 2013

The Child That Got Away

It was my birthday last Saturday. Birthdays are a time of mixed emotions for me. I can't say I really look forward to the occasion! It's more than the fact that I'm getting old. I am getting old! I'm still trying to pinpoint when exactly that happened?!

Aside from the obvious issues related to getting older, I have other, more personal, issues! For many, birthdays are a reason to celebrate. I love my children's birthdays. I couldn't wait to meet them. Their births were painful, yes, but they arrived into a maelstrom of love!

My own birth was not a joyous occasion. My birth mother had decided to give me up for adoption. I get the impression that my birth father didn't want a baby, but left it to my birth mother to decide. They were living together, but weren't married. She was from a different country and had no family support. She had had a difficult relationship with her own mother, and questioned her ability as a mother. I can't help but acknowledge that my birth was painful on so many levels. When I was giving birth to my own children, I didn't know my birth mother yet. But, at the time, I remember wondering how she must have felt, how difficult it would have been going through the agony of labour, only to relinquish the baby. There was also the realisation that for months afterwards there would still be hormones and other reminders to deal with.

When I finally established a relationship with my birth mother, I anticipated that all my questions concerning my birth would be answered. I was wrong. My birth mother is still grappling with the guilt and pain of having given a baby up for adoption. We email each other, but that's it. She doesn't want to meet me, or even speak to me on the phone. After years of pleading, she finally sent me a family history. It answered the practical questions of heredity, but stopped short of giving me any real indication of her emotions, other than that the absence indicated to me just how painful it must have been. With respect to my birth, there was hardly any detail at all. She said she only held me once.

I love to recount to my children the story of their birth! They love to hear the details of what it was like when I was pregnant with them (so and so always had the hiccups, another decided to kick incessantly whenever I tried to sleep). They want to know what foods I craved, what names I had picked out, what they were like as newborns! I was wearing a George Thorogood T-shirt when I gave birth to my eldest, my daughter was born in the back of a four-wheel drive, my third child was born with his hand extended like some superhero emerging, and my last was induced and emerged so confidently I couldn't quite believe he was mine!

I don't like to make a big fuss of my birthday. It's not false modesty, which some presume! I don't have parties, or invite people to dinner. In fact, I usually don't even tell people. If they know, and want to acknowledge my birthday, I'm OK with that, but I won't seek it out! I don't have it on Facebook! I can't imagine that my feelings toward my birthday will ever change, but I won't say "never"! Regardless of the fact that my birth mother and I are still trying to define our relationship, she sent me an email for my birthday ... and I was happy to receive it. I also have a birth brother. My birth parents split up for a while after my birth, but then they got back together and eventually married. They had a son!!! He sent me an email too. At the end of it, he said he loved me!! Again, it's a difficult relationship. We don't really know each other and it's not easy to suddenly become close to someone, just because you're supposed to be. It's a start though.

I've been reading The Art of Happiness, the philosophy of the Dalai Lama. In it he talks of the importance of compassion. I think I am learning to apply that to my life ... starting with my birthday! Letting others celebrate your life is a form of compassion towards yourself! My birth may have caused pain and anguish, but I want my life to be about love and compassion.

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