Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Never Let Go

What do these events have in common?

1. Grandpa (my dad) ended up in the hospital on Thursday – he failed spectacularly at his scheduled cardiac stress test, leading to a jolly trip by ambulance to the hospital, an angiogram finding two arterial blockages in the heart, a successful angioplasty, and a three-night stay at Chez Plaza Hospital. Zoe was naturally very upset, worried that Grandpa might die. At one point she said, “The heart is really serious – it’s not like brain surgery!” (Apparently I was quite successful in playing down my brain surgery, and Zoe puts it on the same level as having a hangnail removed!)

2. Zoe tells me Monday that she had a bad dream the night before. She dreamed that I was driving and sideswiped a car and the police came and took me to jail.

3. Zoe tells me I’m not her real mother, as I blogged about before.

4. I dyed my hair, after 5 years of gracefully going gray. I used to color my hair regularly – I started going gray when I was 18! I had reddish hair when I adopted Zoe, and now I’ve gone back to that color (I can’t say my natural color since I have no idea what it is anymore!). Anyway, Zoe says the new hair color makes me “stranger mom.” [“Stranger mom” = “not-real mom”?] She also said, after I reminded her that my hair is the same color as when we met, that it makes me look eight years younger!

5. After our “you’re not my real mom” dinner, Zoe said, “Can I ask you a question about adoption?” Of course, I said. She started crying and asked, “Will I ever understand why my first family gave me away?”

Wow! That fear of abandonment is always there, and all it takes is an event like Grandpa being in the hospital to move it from background noise to the forefront, from chronic to acute. The dream, the real/not-real/stranger mom talk, the perennial why question, say the same thing: "Never leave me. Never let go. Even when I push you away (you're not my real mom), never let go." I can't promise not to die, but I can promise to never let go.


Wendy said...

Okay, you have to get a pic on here of the hair!

I know what you mean, M has the same type of reaction when something skims the loss realm. It has been difficult because she is very afraid we will die (although she says we will be in the sand for two weeks and then be re-born as ourselves and then grow-up, marry, come to China to adopt her again, and just start the whole process over as we have done hundreds of other times, but that is another story and a compilation of reincarnation and the beach?)

The only way she is handling people who age is her number chart--yes, I said that. She says all people live to be 100 and we have a long way so she is not concerned, but wonders why Grandpa acts way older than his age. We have had two deaths recently and it has only complicated things. We have always been honest with her and tried to walk the fine line of not worrying about death at her age--she thought she would die at one point--and be truthful that at any age our time can come. We are not religious--although she knows about various peoples beliefs and buys none of them--so death is not a place for us that we have certainty, as some people believe in a heaven or reunion with others. I know that would be the easy answer at her age, but not one we believe or are willing to convey.

I am interested in others opinions (minus the religious aspect) on how they convey loss after death and how we can comfort a child who already deals with loss related issues. I wonder about her theory--ya never know. For now it is working for her, even with the losses of those who were young and too early in passing, but when it hits closer to home (like grandparents) I am worried. I guess it plays into my worst fear that my daughter will have to face yet another devasting loss.

Mei-Ling said...

[She started crying and asked, “Will I ever understand why my first family gave me away?”]

Wasn't it the OCP?

Even so, I can't imagine a child trying to grasp that concept.

Cildren don't care about politics or why those things caused relinquishment. They just want their mothers.

Wendy said...

Mei-Ling, it is not necessarily the OCP, especially the area where Malinda and my daughter are from. There are uncertainties and even with the other possibilities and most likely in our case, it is difficult to understand for kids (I know you know that).
My daughter specifically is very interested in finding her birth family; however, she has specific things you expects to do when she meets them, how long she wants to spend with them, etc.--it is as if those items will solve her unanswered questions, but she really wants to visit her foster mother and brother. She catagorizes her losses (I know this will change as life goes on and hopefully, as answers reveal themselves) as a coping mechanism, but there is so much more than the OCP at work for young girls--some of the reasons have changed and just added to the complication of explanation.

malinda said...

Oh, yes, Zoe "knows" about the one (two in her area) child policy and social preference for boys, and she "knows" that's probably why her birth parents could not parent her. But what her head knows and what her heart knows are two separate things. Even after careful explanations about the OCP, which I think she understands on an intellectual level a bit better than most 8-year-olds would, she is still asking the why question, because it isn't about logic or knowledge, it's about feelings.

Mei_Ling said...

Wendy: Does your daughter have any information on who her parents are, or any sort of a trail to follow at all?

I mainly hear about the OCP making it impossible for a female child to have been raised in a rural area when males have been the dominant preference for so many years.

Wendy said...

We do not have that info yet, but we are in contact by phone and mail with the police officer that came to get her after a phone call was made indicating her finding location. He has found over 20 babies (most of which are sn and both sexes), he has given us some of the reasons for the area including: poverty, single mothers, and sn. He said that things have changed over the years and there still is a slight preference for boys, but not like it used to be. He also has indicated that there are significantly less children abandoned due to increased wealth; however, due to rural poverty and/or high medical costs that children with sn are abandoned. Also, many women leave for work and then return home after becoming pregnant and that can lead to abandonment. The one child policy is haphazardly enforced and there is no search for birth families at or after abandonment. When it is enforced it is typically by party members within villages and not in the city--it is becoming the belief and seems to be the belief of the younger generations that it is best to have one child and that is what they do and keep the child whether or not it is a boy.

Also, we are in contact with two men in their 20's from the same area and they both have siblings (girls and boys). Enforcement is not as strict as people believe and in the villages it is often enforced only when the timeframe alloted for having a child was violated. There are many less abandonments, even to the point that two foster mothers we know no longer foster because there are not enough babies to do so. The issue today is with sn babies. Times are changing in China.

Anonymous said...

Malinda, I hope your dad is doing well. I guess it is good in a way, that they caught the problem during the test and were able to treat it successfully.

Maggie says she used to have recurring dreams about me disappearing. Then her best friend's mom died. One thing that she has learned from that, though, is that even though her friend is very sad at times, she is okay. Life goes on. We talked about how the sadness will probably never totally go away, but it will probably get less over time. And I think maybe that is what we can hope for our kids... not that they get over their feelings about abandonment, but that the feelings lessen over time, remaining a part of their being, but not the dominant part.

We are very eclectic when it comes to our religious beliefs... I say I don't know what happens when someone dies, but some people think the dead go to heaven (or hell) and some think that people are reincarnated (born again). The latter idea seems to appeal to both of them and they think it would be kind of cool to come back as some kind of animal.

My kids have both asked about why they were abandoned, but neither seems to dwell on it, so far. I say that their birthparents couldn't take care of them, and if asked why, will say "I don't know" and then speculate about possible reasons. I am very matter of fact about it and sometimes I wonder if my lack of emotion on the subject translates into their lack of grief, which I am not sure is a good thing or not. Or maybe it just hasn't hit them yet.

Sue (who can never seem to manage to log on to post as anything other than anonymous)