Category Archives: adoption trauma

A Synopsis

I wish I had been aborted.

Actually, I wish I had never existed at all.

But I know that my mother could have had an abortion. Not legally, of course (before ’73), but I know she could have, and my father was willing to pay for it. Instead, I became a bargaining chip with, as it turned out, no apparent value. And since he wouldn’t marry her, then he couldn’t have me, either. She gave me away as much to punish him as because of her parents’ ultimatum: Come home without that baby or don’t come home at all.

She could have stayed with her brother and his family, as she had during the last months of her pregnancy. But she didn’t. She gratefully believed the social workers’ tales and “chose” to start “fresh,” and to go on with her life as if I’d never existed.

I was a nine-month abortion that didn’t die. I was thrown, still breathing, into the dumpster of life.

To this day, I truly do not understand why I continued to breathe or why my heart continued to beat. For the first few hours, perhaps even days, yes; I suppose I held out hope that my mother would retrieve me. But, when I finally gave up emotionally, psychologically, and psychically… then, why?

I can’t begin to fathom the profound depression I must have experienced before I finally just dissociated. Did I try to stop my heart from beating? Did I try to stop breathing? If so, I obviously failed.

I imagine I spent most of those first 1000 hours in a dissociative state, certainly fully dissociated by the time I was picked up by the offensive new “family.” Imagine the shock to my psyche at the sudden commotion and then, just hours later, being shut away again in a crib. Alone. In a cold, dark room.

Years later, they laughed and laughed about how cold that room had been.

I don’t remember when they remodeled, making my room into their new master suite extended over the living room below. I don’t know where I was kept during the remodeling. I barely remember my new little adoptive sister’s crib in our new room – the old master bedroom. She got even less attention than I, ostensibly because she had my company. And, from then on, I was to depend on hers.

She and I were more on our own than ever before, largely growing each other up in our wounded way. Yet, we were never close. We had little in common, and our respective blueprints for relationship were missing trust and security, both instantly dissociating at every little stressor; both perpetually hypervigilant, both traumatized in a world which denied our traumas. We were no help to each other. Were were merely unrelated victims living together in the same cage.

Our replacement mother was damaged, too, and insane, as was our so-called brother.

We engaged most often with our replacement father, a man who liked children but detested and feared females. After he lost his father at the age of twelve, his older sister and mother oppressed him – or, rather, his mother oppressed him and his sister was caught in the middle. His attempts to divide and conquer were ineffective as a boy. But now he was “all grown up” with two little girls he could train “properly” to know their place – to be helpless, powerless, meaningless… useless.

The mother as wife? Small town girl, oppressed herself by her insane, dictatorial father. Startlingly large breasts, not too bright, with her father’s inherent insanity. If she had a mind of her own, she kept it to herself – lest she risk divorce from him for the second time.

Their son was raised and treated as the heir apparent.

We, the girls, were spackle, whitewash, wallpaper, window dressing… integral parts of a fa├žade. As we grew, it slowly dawned on them that we were real – that is, we were not going to fade away once our usefulness was outgrown. They wanted us to go away from them and live lives of our own, but our “father” had already succeeded spectacularly in his training program: we had indeed become helpless, powerless, meaningless, and useless.

We each became like the proverbial dog dumped in the desert who keeps finding his way back home. We were too needy – no one else wanted us either – so, as painful as it was to be around them, we kept coming back. Our touchstone was a bog filled with soul-sucking leeches, an environment of shame and humiliation. Even when we were away, they followed us with their shaming. They wrote letters to us declaring their profound disappointment in us, signed by both of them as though the letters were legal documents. This lasted until the man’s death. I was 37 years old. My adoptive sister was 35.

Someone Else’s Life

My new environment was usually observed through a veil of vertical slats, though there was precious little to observe. It was cold, and the immediate surroundings outside that tiny prison were too dark to discern. Illumination came from a long thin beam of changing light and, from it, unfamiliar sounds erupted. I was not accustomed to hearing so many sounds. So many sounds, but I could not see their source.

A paradox emerged.

Despite my desire to be left alone and avoid these new strangers, a terrible loneliness betrayed me. My waking hours in that place were spent in ever-vigilant anticipation – and dread – of some commotion that might eventually include me.

I bleated. And hated myself for it.

Each time it occasioned a response, I was disappointed. Each time it was ignored, I was devastated. The former caused me to either be stripped and touched only where I had made a mess, or to be given the bottle that was not Mama. The lack of response was worse still: it taught me I was nothing. It taught me my feelings and needs – my very self – were unimportant or, at most, subject to the convenience of others.

I had the sense that a dreadful mistake had been made: I had been born into someone else’s life instead of my own!

On the rare occasions when I was delivered of my cold prison, I was subjected to startling noises, too-close faces, and disturbing bodily scents. I was passed from stranger to stranger, all of whom inexplicably disavowed my cataclysmic loss.

Included in this barrage was a kind of being I had never seen in those first 1000 hours. It was very small compared with the others, but equally as threatening and louder than all the rest. They called it “Billy.”

Billy was not ignored. Billy commanded attention. The importance of Billy was not lost on me. It was impressed upon me to such an extent that this became my first spoken word.

After a time, Billy began to cart me about the premises when he had tired of his latest toy. At those times I hoped he might continue on out into the world and return me to Mama. I believe this was his desire, as well. However, that dream was never realized.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

There was no returning me to Mama, this life was clearly not mine, and there was nothing I could do to change it. So I chose again the escape where there is no escape: I gave up.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Yet, again, some force beyond my control intervened.

A Thousand Hours

My newborn mind could not measure time by months or weeks or days. Not even by hours. Without the reassuring comfort of Mama, every second was an agony. And there passed nearly four million of those agonies before my life would change.

To write of those agonies would take me years. For you to read them would take a thousand hours. I will not soliloquize them. I confess this is not for your sake, but for mine.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have told you already that I had given up. But giving up does not put an end to agony, not while you are still alive. It only ends if you die.

Against my will, some inscrutable force compelled me to accept the bottle anew. I began to grow once more, and my bleating regained its strength.

Yet my despair remained. I continued to turn away from the strangers, all hope now lost that one might be Mama.

I had been altered.

I had become a lamb forever lost. What is forever? All I can tell you is that it is not over yet.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

And there was more. I had no way of knowing, then, that I was being prepared. I was being prepared as a sacrifice to the Common Good: Restorative for the loss of another child, and for Mama’s future.

Only an unblemished lamb is acceptable, as only a perfect sacrifice is acceptable to God (or to the Common Good). How could they have known that I was blemished? I had no bruises, no bleeding wounds.

They believed I was unblemished.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

So a time came, after those thousand hours, when I saw the faces of two strangers, faces which would eventually become familiar. Eventually. But not for another thousand hours.

In those faces was a joyous expression, as if they were witnessing a miracle. I knew this expression, because I had seen it on Mama’s face in that meteoric moment. But I could not perceive any new miracle. I was terrified. Terrified! One of the faces had garish, painted lips and a strong, sickly sweet smell. The other was not quite so offensive, but I was panic-stricken as they drew so close that I could not turn away. I wanted to turn away! They wanted me to smile. Could they not see that I had lost Mama? Could they not even manage to express their condolences? What could possibly make them think I had anything to smile about?

I felt so helpless, so powerless, so unprotected! All I had was my bleating, and it drowned out everything else. I bleated until consciousness mercifully left me.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

When I awoke, I was in an unfamiliar place with offensive smells and peculiar sounds. I was terrified all over again, and started my desperate bleating. The face with the garish lips and sickly smell appeared, and my bleating grew louder still. She laughed. She laughed!

What new hell was this?