Total Pageviews

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Grace is Born, and My Mom is There

(a guest post by Jenn, Susan's daughter)

As my mom's health has become more grave these past two weeks, she has received many letters from friends and family letting her know how much she means to them. What most people say they admire most about my mom is her joy for life, exemplified by her laugh. Her laugh, like her life, is authentic, spirited, and one of a kind. Indeed, just a few weeks ago my mom said to me, "Though I would never have wished this upon myself in a million years, we have had so many laughs." For me, those laughs started on a Saturday in Harvey Cedars, Long Beach Island, three days after her diagnosis this past July. We were lying together on the hammock on the lower deck, tears on both our cheeks as we listened to the sound of the waves and swayed in the gentle breeze. My dad, who is a doer (a wonderful trait that has helped him accomplish many things in his life), was dealing with his grief by extreme activity. He had just bid us goodbye a few moments before with, "I think I'm going to go wash some dishes," and that's where we assumed he was as we rocked gently side by side. Suddenly, we were interrupted by the roar of a jet engine.  Only it wasn't a jet engine. We both lifted our heads at the same time, turned to one another, and said, slowly, "Is that ... ?" Yes, it was my dad, power-washing the side of the house. Washing dishes just wasn't enough. We burst out laughing.

My parents with Grace this past August in LBI, right after the diagnosis
A few days ago, lying in her bed together, my mom and I were laughing once again as we remembered the day nearly ten years ago that Grace, my oldest daughter and her first grandchild, was born. I had never planned for my mom to be with me when she was born, but she was. I didn't think I would need her, but after a few hours of labor and some particularly painful contractions, I cried to my husband, almost on instinct, "I want my mom." To his credit, he called her immediately.  "I'll never forget his voice that day," my mom shared, "I think Jenn would like your company, he said, and I was out that door so fast and driving like a madwoman ..." It did seem like she was there only a moment after my request, and oh, how comforting it was to see her, to have her hold my hand.

Grace wasn't a straightforward pregnancy, and in fact at one point (very early) during the first trimester I had to go to the emergency room with complications. They took me to a small dark room for the ultrasound, and what I remember is that it was the same room that I had sat in with my grandmother (my mother's adoptive mother) only months before, after she had suffered a stroke. As I lay in that room that October day I remembered holding my grandmother's hand the April before and listening to the whoosh whoosh whoosh of blood passing through her veins, the sound of her life surrounding us in that tiny room. Though she had passed away soon after, the room made me think of holding my grandmother's hand, and it gave me comfort. Everything would be ok, I thought. The moment felt prescient.

Only when the doctor met me back in the examination room, she told me I had had a miscarriage. "It's very common," she said, explaining what I should expect, answering our questions, and sending us on our way. Strangely, though, she was wrong. It was in the midst of this worry, though, as I was contemplating becoming a mother for the first time, but not sure if that was really going to happen, that my mom called me one afternoon with huge news: she had just spoken with her original mother. My mom's original mother is the woman that the "opposition" to adoptee rights always holds up as an example. She had kept my mom a secret from everyone in her life, including her daughters, and because of this she had not wanted contact. But when my mom was able to find her address on her own and send her a letter, explaining who she was and how her life had turned out, she was not harmed at all, and indeed she did call my mom. "She told me she had always loved me in her heart," my mom told me, "But that she couldn't handle a relationship." My mom respected that wish and never contacted her again.

But that doesn't mean she forgot, or that this very important first chapter of her life--the woman who carried her for nine months and brought her into this world-- can somehow be ignored. And it does NOT mean that those adoption agencies and lawyers who apparently counsel women that they will be able to bring a child into this world and forget all about him or her are not acting on faulty, dangerous psychology based on denial of nature itself.  Those opposing adoptee rights bills saying they are concerned about the rights of the birth mother are at best lying to themselves and at worst lying to others when deep down they do know the truth.

No, the first chapter of one's life, the one shared between original mother and child, is an important one and it belongs to that mother and that child, not the government. Indeed, for me, my first experience of carrying a child, of hearing those first heartbeats, of feeling those first kicks, slight at first and then stronger, and stronger, is forever connected, because of the timing of it all, to my mom's experience as an adopted child.

Grace Elizabeth, named for my grandmother, came into this world with my mom at my side. My mom saw her even before I did. "Oh, she's beautiful Jenn," she told me, "Just beautiful."

The woman who brings you to this world, the eyes that see you first, the pain, the joy, the heartbreak, the story -- it matters, it's a part of you, and it's certainly no one's right to try to block you from that. So while others may write about how they cherish my mom's joy, and her laugh, and while I may cherish those things too (and oh, I do, I cherish them), what I also really, truly love about my mom is that she has fought all her life for the truth. And that, like Grace, is just beautiful.



14 comments:

  1. Give my best wishes to your mother friom the other side of the Atlantic!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jenn, you write so movingly of the deep love that fills your family. Please give my warmest regards and best wishes to your mother. Tell her that she has raised an impossibly beautiful daughter - you (which I am sure she already knows). Tell her we are reading, remembering and sharing the story of her life which she has so generously shared with the world in this blog. Thank-you for continuing to share her/your story with us. With prayers for all of you, Karen Caffrey

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Karen. Yes, I agree that anyone who shares her true, honest story with regards to adoption is generous and brave.

      Delete
  3. Amazing post! It sounds like you have a wonderful mother and she has a terrific daughter too. Love and hugs to your whole family!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Eileen. Yes, she is beyond wonderful!

      Delete
  4. Thank you for writing, Jenn. I can see where you get your warmth. Your mom reminds me of my adoptive mother in many ways. Please say hello to your mom for me, even though we've never met. I was silently cheering her own when she met her sisters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Elle. I will do that. Glad you had such a good experience with your adoptive mother--I know my mom did, too. And her sisters are wonderful. I love them, as does she!

      Delete
  5. Thinking of you, Susan, every day now, hoping against resignation, wishing I could have met you in person and given you a big hug. You have been a huge inspiration to me over the past few years, as I now see you have been to your family. Neither death nor the opposition will ever silence your voice. As long as injustice and discrimination in adoption exists, your family and followers will be there to protest in your name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment on behalf of my mom. I know she read it and was touched.

      Delete
  6. Please give your mom a big hug for me. I went with her on her cause a few times. I told the story from the other end and how people do not forget no matter which side of the drama they are on. My story had a happy ending. I was lucky. Your mom has been a wonderful warrier and she has stuck to her guns. I too miss that laugh that fills any room she is in with merriment and happiness. Perhaps I am not supposed to mention that laugh but it is too endearing as is she. Love and hugs, Pam

    ReplyDelete
  7. I will give my mom a big hug (easy assignment). Thank you for telling your story--I am grateful to everyone who has spoken out, and I am reading, reading, reading to learn all I can. And you are right: I could ask for nothing better than a warrior mother who also fills a room with merriment and joy! .

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love you, Jenn. This is just beautiful. See you SOON!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes, see you soon! Thanks for reading

    ReplyDelete