Saturday, September 5, 2009

Love, Abandonment Style

A must-read, an absolutely beautifully written post about love and the effects of abandonment, from an adult Korean adoptee, at the Land of the Not-So-Calm:

Sometimes, at 3 am, I can’t help but wonder how I can know what love is, what love means, what it means to love and be loved… because the first act of “love” that I ever knew was to be placed at the side of a road, outside tall black iron gates and brick walls, never (?) to see my family again.

How can I trust that people will say what they mean, that they will do what they say, that their definition of love is the same as mine? I wonder if we are calling different
things by the same name, if “love” suddenly means “dirt” and “lily” suddenly means “ocean” and oh yes, ocean, that’s what will separate us, because I never want to see you again… because I love you, don’t you get it?

How can I look people in the eye when I am used to seeing their backs? And yet, what choice do I have?

Read it and try not to weep.


holly said...

She puts into words what I never seem to be able to. I kept nodding as I read through her post, I so understand & live this.
Yet, when trying to explain this to people in my life, the reaction is often one of disinterest, or that I'm being overly dramatic. Then you decide to stop sharing all together, and make the choice to favor that arm that pushes people away. Sometimes it's just easier to stay on your island than to feel the pain of not wanting to be heard (another abandonment).

I hope I can do better by my adopted daughter, and allow her to express these things, as you do with your girls, Malinda.

travelmom and more said...

This was a very powerful post. Dealing with abandonment will probably be my daughter's hardest obstacle to overcome. My father abandoned me and it took years of therapy and a fair amount of self-destruction to get over it. Reading "angry-adoptees" I often feel the ring of abandonment, but admitting you are abandoned requires you to criticize whoever abandoned you and that in itself is self-criticism because it is part of you. It is sometimes easier to battle with the parents in front of you than the unknown parents. This is exacerbated when the parents in front of you are critical of your biological parents, which are an extension of you, because it confirms your fears that you are at fault because you came from "bad" people. Thinking about who abandoned you makes you wonder if your genetics make you capable of abandonment too. The self-doubt and inability to feel that you are worthy or capable of love can be overwhelming.

Anonymous said...

Confess to not being a fan of this blog and others like it (not yours, Malinda--the other one). Does that mean I ignore or try to silence my daughter? No. I know she has abandonment issues too. But I admit it 100%: if in later years she were to go at it with her folks, I'd be screaming inside for everyone to just get along. I do not believe in revisiting the decisions people made in life and punishing them for making B choice versus A or C, especially when we weren't there. Is the writer saying that because there was abandonment there was no love? I am not arguing the sickly sweet alternative, that families--mothers--give kids away out of love. We know this is a myth. But does it mean that because you were abandoned you were not loved? When I think of my daughter's life and her parents' lives. . .I wonder. What the hell should I think instead?

As for the pain caused by abandonment, my wish would be for every first parent and child to come to some place where they can embrace each once other again and move on. Of course, that can't happen face to face with most international adoptees. Those kids who do get to reunite will be able to ask these questions. But for all of them, while the grief can't subside entirely, it is a beast that can be tamed.

Tempted to say more on the subject of pain generally but I won't.

Anonymous said...

I REALLY wish that people, especially adoptive parents, would not tell their children that their first mothers/families abandoned them because of love. I know there is just no easy way to cope with abandonment, but saying it was done out of love seems like the wrong approach. Why not tell our kids as much of the truth as we know (usually): their first families abandoned because they couldn't take care of a child at the time he/she was born. I realize this will not solve the hurt, but hopefully it won't encourage people to somehow have abandonment and love tied together in their minds. Just a though from an AP.

Mei-Ling said...

"But does it mean that because you were abandoned you were not loved?"

It's hard to reason with the other side of logic if you're not an adoptee.

If you are in fact an adoptee, then please let me know as I was not aware that you were.

The bottom line is: those who say they love you [the most?] but still abandon you... that says volumes to our inner child.

Sometimes I'd be walking right beside my mother and due to the language barrier, felt as though I had been "abandoned" in some sort of spiritual, emotional sense.

So it's not so simple, even with reunion in IA.

Anonymous said...

Mei-Ling, I am not adopted, and I fully confess my limitations here. My prior post is simply an expression of those limitations. But btw, I never said it was simple.

Mei-Ling said...

Osolomama: I understand what you're saying - that just because you had to be abandoned doesn't necessarily mean you weren't wanted or loved.

The problem is: someone who is said to love you most is not supposed to abandon you.

For any reason.

That's why the logic just doesn't really work.

Anonymous said...

In talking with my children about abanonment, I explain that there isn't a good way (that I know of), in China, to make and adoption plan for a child. If birth parents feel that they cannot take care of their children, expecially if they are in violation of the 1-child policy, they have to abandon them. I don't use the word abandon though. I just say that most birthparents take their children to place where they can be found pretty easily, but they had to do it secretly. I never say they did it out of love. Giving birth (rather than having an abortion) might have been done out of love, though.

I fully agree that being abandoned is very painful. I haven't experienced that as a child, but as an adult in romantic relationships, I found it excruciating. I know it's not the same thing, but it is the best I can do to imagine how that feels. And, no, I don't trust love either. Different situation, but perhaps somewhat similar result.

I'm sure this comment will draw some criticism, but I can't help thinking of the eulogy that Edward Kennedy Jr. gave about his father ( Edward was talking about losing his leg to cancer, and how his father helped him climb up an icy hill which was difficult because he was just getting used to his new prosthesis. He said "My father taught me that even our most profound losses are survivable and that it is what we do with that loss, our ability to transform it into a positive event, that is one of my father's greatest lessons."

I don't think he was saying that the pain ever goes away. And I know that for our children, the pain of that first loss is not going to ever go away either. But I think that pain is an unaviodable part of life. And I hope our children will be able to survive it, transform it, and make the best of the lives they have, even if their beginnings were far from ideal.

Sue (aka anonymous)

travelmom and more said...

One thing about abandonment or any emotional reaction for that matter is that on an intellectual level you can process and rationalize what happened. But we also process things on an emotional level and even though intellectually we understanding why there is the OCP or why our parents got re-married or why we got dumped, emotionally the ration doesn't make sense on a core level. Many people with deep emotional scars go on to live happy productive lives, and I don't think the original poster is necessarily in deep emotional trauma, she is just trying to explain how that inner-child processes the pain in a different way than the rational adult sees the pain. A person who was abandoned will wonder on a core level "why me," "why didn't they love me," "Wasn't I good enough to be loved" No matter how much you intellectualize and explain the situation there will be doubt. I agree that our job as parents is to try and help our children make their life stories their own and not be victimized by it, but recognizing that the pain they feel is real and that from time to time, throughout their life it may manifest itself in different ways. We need to allow them time to feel their pain and process their story, then help them get up and go on and thrive.

lava said...

The thing is Osolomama, whatever kind of relationship your daughter has with her natural parents, is none of your business.

You don't "silence" your daughter, you just judge adoptees feelings and know how they should behave.

Honestly if that is not the magic of adoption, I don't know what is. Heartwarming oxymorons, can't get enough of them!

First mothers have the right to pain, adoptees, nope.

You are also wrong about the adoptee not being there. We were, hence the initial problem.

Mei-Ling said...

"No matter how much you intellectualize and explain the situation there will be doubt."

I went back and asked my mother about my adoption circumstance - if it was actually true.

Regardless, some part of me still wonders.