I want to wish that little girl Happy Birthday today. I want her to have a cake with candles, friends and presents. Balloons and laughter. I want her to have a family that loves and celebrates her birth. I want her to have all the things I never had when I was “her”.
Birthdays are supposed to be a happy time, but they represent a day of loss, rather that celebration for most adoptees. It’s usually a day of celebration of birth and it should bring joy, but it doesn’t. No matter how old you get, its a reminder and a connection to the past, to the loss of the birth family.
My birthdays were never really celebrated as a child. The only criteria for a cake was if a relative happened to be coming for some reason and then of course…what would they think, if there wasn’t a cake at least.
When I ran away at 15 yrs i never told anyone when my birthday was. Not a soul. I would disappear in to a drug induced sadness and hide somewhere in a back alley and cry with the pain of loss and aloneness.
In my isolation i would wonder, if she was thinking of me. if she even remembered giving birth to me and wonder why she wasn’t looking for me. Part of me wondered why I always sunk into the depths of despair. Why couldn’t i let it go and just forget “the day”. Nancy Verrier calls it “an anniversary reaction”. Why on earth would one want to celebrate the day they were separated from their birth mother?
Most of us didn’t talk about “the day” or what it meant until we found others who also felt the same way thanks to the internet and books written about adoption. I mean, really, if you don’t feel you exist to start with….what’s a birth-day?
I celebrated my daughter’s birthdays with great joy and special themes and parties and it was wonderful to see her and her friends laughing and celebrating the day she was born. I tried to imagine how that felt. Having no reference, it was impossible.
It wasn’t until a dear friend who knew my thoughts about birthdays decided to have a 40th party for me. With great reluctance and a few shots of reinforcement, i arrived to find a banner strung around the room with all of the celebrations I had never experienced. Birthdays, graduations, baby showers, Xmas‘s. The normal celebrations that people enjoy every year. I was overwhelmed. To see in writing all of the celebrations i missed was the reality I had avoided. On the other hand, to know someone was trying their best to make up for my years of loss made my heart warm. It was only with alcohol’s disinhibiting effects that I could laugh and celebrate with the people who were there. They didn’t know i was crying on the inside.
The pressure society puts on people to celebrate these events is huge. For adoptee’s who try to accommodate the societal expectations. or familial expectations it brings great anxiety and depression. No one would understand the need to hide. I recall many attempts at celebrations as I got older and the more pressure…the more i wanted to run.
We tend to minimize celebrations with “oh, it’s just another day” “I don’t care” and yet the pain lives on in our heart stemming from the primal wound.
When you begin to search, the healing begins. During the process you give birth to yourself and it isn’t so much the end result, as the search itself. When I found my Birth Family I discovered my Birth Mother‘s birthday was only five days before mine. I gave much thought to that wondering how that must have been for her. I can’t imagine.
When I moved across Canada to be close to my new family our birthday’s arrived within a month of my arrival. The expectation by everyone was that I would be thrilled to celebrate this years birthday. If I close my eyes, I can see the looks and feel the anger and confusion when I didn’t want to participate in dinner and cake. All I could do was sob. Sob with grief over the birth not recognized, all the birthdays lost. All the celebrations missed and the years spent without a family.
Years have passed, healing takes time. Slowly, year by year I have been able to acknowledge my birth and all that it meant. I have been able to celebrate in small ways for myself. I no longer avoid the day and lay in fetal position wracked with grief of what never was. It takes time, lifetimes perhaps.
This year, I am honouring all that little girl above went through, I am lighting a candle for her and reassuring her she is loved and wanted on this earth. Each birthday she never experienced I will feel with compassion and love. She does exist. She deserves to be loved and celebrated.
Happy Birthday to all of the Lost Daughters and Sons
Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being…
But by integration of the contraries.