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|
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.