I think the saying is true: Life does go on. At various times in my life I’ve been grateful or resentful that is the case. It’s like: You have this big thing that happens to you and to anyone else it’s just a normal day. You look at people going about their daily business and you want to scream at them: He is dead! Do you understand? My baby is dead!
And then you realise inside many of them there is a silent scream, just as there is in you. Because loss is part of the human condition. Every one of those people has their own silent thoughts, and maybe one of them has struggled more than others, and maybe that one who has struggled the most isn’t you. It probably isn’t you. I remind myself that when I’m screaming. Silently.
And to most people and in most cases, I’m okay. I can forget about loss for most of my day. Of course it’s there in the background but it’s the same background grief that is a part of my being.
Until this happened, this infertility, this thing that I never put a name to – this no, we don’t have any children – I don’t think I fully appreciated the Other Loss of my first family and culture, of kinship and of people who look like me. What this journey so far has taught me is that it’s not as separate as I might have thought.
When I started this blog, it was purely to talk about my infertility and IVF treatment. That’s where I saw my loss as being greatest, and my feelings as being in greatest need of release. But it became something else… I somehow had all these thoughts swirling about that I’d never given words to – the thoughts on being adopted.
I don’t campaign for or against adoption. I write about my feelings as a 30-something transracial adoptee, which aren’t as simple as for or against. (I hate that word; like amputee – some adoptees might say it’s apt.) I thought before it added context to my infertility story. Lately I think it maybe adds the context for my life.
If you read adoptee literature you read that adoptees often feel the need to be the appeasers, to want to make people happy. In one way I’m like that: I always want to reassure people I’m perfectly okay with being adopted. I turned out okay. But on the other hand, I’m very much one of those “marmite” people. In real life, people seem to have a more extreme reaction to me than they do to others. I used to tell myself that was okay – the people who love me, love me intensely. My friends are awesome. But really I’d just rather people liked me.
Why am I saying this? I don’t really know. I guess all this pondering on loss and the idea we might never have a bio child has made me feel much more aware of my genetic discreteness. As in, I am a genetic island. No bio parents [that I’ve ever met since 10 days old or at all] and no bio kids. It’s quite a weird feeling, but it’s one I’ve had all my life.
Over the past few months, I’ve felt much more aware of my lost cultural heritage. As a child and adolescent and younger adult, I really didn’t care. I actually got sort of pitying about older adoptees who would tell me they suddenly got this urge to find out their roots. They’d say “I felt the same way you did at your age.” Maybe it’s just a thing: The same way that adults of a certain age want to have kids. Maybe adult adoptees feel more and more the loss of their first life.
I’ve always been very laissez faire about being adopted. (My own adoption, not anyone else’s.) I felt relieved that I’m not one of those who feel a lot of grief about it. Of course I always knew I had some feelings locked up about it, but I could deal with them. (As children, my adopted sibling and I would enjoy watching movies about adoption. And as an adult, I’ve read countless books on adoption. I think you gravitate towards those feelings… I think of it as a cathartic poking of a nest, or something.)
Lately, some thoughts I’ve been having:
- I wish that I had learned something of my birth language. I don’t even know what it is, for sure. How dumb is that? And I can’t blame my parents for this because they used to ask us a lot. They were very aware of not making us different than their bio kids. (Of course, we were… No amount of wishing would make it not so.) But I kind of wish they’d forced it on us. (They never forced anything on us like that, which is why I quit piano aged 5, whereas sibling #2 is now amazing at it.) Adoptive parent lesson: Don’t trust a 5 year old to make life changing decisions.
- As a child, I found the idea of open adoption really scary. I was just fine with never being in contact with my birth family. I didn’t want them to come and snatch me back. Whereas as an adult I kind of think, why wouldn’t you want to have a large extended family of people who love you? It’s not like love has to be limited. Too much love is an okay problem to have. And being transracially adopted, it really would have helped me to have some reference point of people who look like me. (Sibling #2 does, to the extent that we are from the same race. We don’t look the same at all, though, in the same way as you don’t look the same as a random person from your race. And we both have the same problem: lack of native race role models.) In my parents’ defence, they did at least live in our birth country for several years – but this was when we were too young to remember it.
- I feel like my birth culture is too far away from where I am now for me ever to go back as anything more than a tourist. Which is probably why I’ve never been back. Again, my parents offered to take me back. They took my sibling but I said no. This was a few years ago. I don’t know why I didn’t go. Maybe that I don’t want to see it through their eyes. I always told myself that I would only go myself if/when I have a baby. It’s like I don’t feel I can legitimately go back until I can close the circle. (Not sure what that means; blethering.)
- I’ve always felt the loss of my first father more than is ever acknowledged in literature. Everything focuses on the mother, but for some reason I feel more connected to her. My parents met her. They never met my father. I wonder if he ever knew? I’ve thought of him ever time I’ve seen an older [my ethnicity] man. Every time. (I probably get the ethnicity wrong 80% of the time.) I somehow feel something different about him that I can’t put into words. All I know is that every time I see a man of a certain age from that race, I think that could be him. (I know it’s not him. I mean that there are very few reference points for men of my ethnicity in the UK. Even fewer than for women, who are exoticised/ fetishised to a degree.)
- I kind of think it would be cool if people of our age, from our home culture but living in the adoptive country, could “adopt” adoptees. What I mean is: As an adult I’ve always felt envious of people who have their own cultural traditions. In the uk this is mainly black people. I’m not white but I’m not black, and it often feels in the western world that there’s this racial dichotomy and if you don’t fit in either then you don’t fit. It’s probably no coincidence that my BFF is mixed race (US: biracial). As an adoptee (me), and as someone brought up by her white parent in the UK when she looks black (my BFF), we have a lot of similar feelings and experiences. But in the UK, black people have an identity and she has black friends, whereas I have hardly any of my race and none from where I come from. And no easy way to find some. It almost feels like I would be like a white person culturally appropriating. “Ooh, I love your food.” (I don’t even like the food.)
- This is going to sound waaaay like projection and anthropomorphism, but I feel even more of a kinship with my dog. I can’t help feeling that there’s something horrible about taking him away from his mother as a tiny puppy (fitted in the palm of my hand) and bringing him up in a human environment. I love him more than anything and I feel like I have given him a nice life, and he’s the absolute apple of our eyes, but when he sees another dog he’s like “OMG! OMG!” and I feel like maybe for all the love and toys we’ve given him, ultimately he’s a dog and he’d probably have liked to have grown up with his dog family. But also I think: If we hadn’t adopted him, someone else would have… (Yes, that probably does sound like projection. It’s an interesting thought though.)
Anyway, I don’t know what I’m saying really. I think the time off Facebook has probably given me more time to think! I’m definitely coming out of the grief zone. I mean, I don’t want you to think that I sit around wrapped up in my grief. It’s not that bad at all. I feel like my blog is my place to explore those feelings, so if I seem overly introspective, it’s more to save my everyday from being weighed down by tears. (I picture myself in a house where the walls are crying… It’s not like that, I promise. I’m not living in some sort of gothic Victoriana.)
It really wasn’t too bad, this weekend. On Saturday, we went to see an apartment. (We had promised to stop doing it after the last one fell through, which lasted all of a week when this one in our desired area came on the market.) I really liked it! The main problem is that it’s more of a 1 bedroom than a 2 bedroom. And of course for longevity a 2 bedroom would be better. That doesn’t take into account how insane London is though. It’s nuts. I’m not kidding when I tell you that you’re looking at £500k for a normal small apartment. Realistically we could afford half a mill but who wants to go into that much debt? Anyway, we have found where we want to live – it’s just a case of finding a good place we can afford!
We went on a little boat trip and then we went to selfridges (as we had a rare dog free time, as we had been to see that flat) and we bought some food from the food hall, because austerity (ha!).
Of course, this weekend was Valentine’s Day weekend. There have been many posts for and against, so I thought I’d chuck my hat in the ring. I’m for.
Mainly because I am suspicious of anyone who doesn’t want to celebrate love. I love love! Of course, it kind of sucks a bit when you don’t have a valentine, but in valentines’ past I have been out for “unvalentines” with friends, and it’s super fun. I remember a night out with the girls many years ago where we went out for cocktails and dim sum (way before it was cool) and then went and danced stupidly in a terrible club. Other years I’ve been out with friends, or I’ve been in a relationship. And believe me, being in a relationship where you are lonely is the worst thing of all.
The argument for not celebrating Valentine’s Day is one I’ve heard a lot. I’m totally fine with other people not wanting to celebrate it. I don’t think everyone has to be exactly like me. (Imagine how dreadful the world would be… It would be extremely messy, for starters.) That thing where people say “I don’t need a day to celebrate love because we celebrate it every day.” Yeah, I get it. But why not, if you can? I like to think we celebrate it every day. I will never take T’s love for granted. (In fact, I annoyingly ask him a lot whether he still loves me.) I like romance and I like everyday love. Actually I think everyday love is better than romance. It feels nicer, like worn in shoes you can actually walk in.
So here’s our Valentine’s weekend in pictures… The few I remembered to take!
The ferry. It was very cold and breezy. T insisted he wanted to go and investigate where the north circular (road) turns into the south circular. We went and watched the ferry and then walked under the river for what seemed like miles. It’s a fun experience! Though a bit chilly!
For a good start to the day, I recommend a full English breakfast. I’m sure you guys in the US and Canada aren’t into this, and I love American breakfasts too, but nothing quite compares to a full English. Dog sat on his own chair and had about half of mine (plus his own special dog sausages which they keep and provide for dogs, which are basically left over sausages from the previous day and perfectly edible). If Dog and T are happy, I’m happy.