Goodbyes Have Only Meant Forever

A fellow adoptee friend of mine shared this earlier today and it struck me. I immediately had to go write about it!

Goodbyes have always been difficult for me. As a child, they were nothing short of traumatic—especially when it came to my parents. When I was 7 my mother travelled for the fourth time to India, this time to accompany a friend in bringing home her own adopted baby. I knew how far away India was, and I was sure my mother was going to die while there. I tried my hardest to be brave and not to cry, but my heart ached for my Mama to come home. I needed everyone home in order to feel we were all safe.

I remember believing with all my heart that if I didn’t give a proper goodbye they would either leave and never come back, or they would die without a goodbye.

When my dad would leave for work every morning, if I didn’t get to give him a kiss and tell him goodbye face to face I would have a breakdown. Breakdown as in crying uncontrollably until I could find him and embrace him. Separation was so traumatic. There was one particular day I remember I was so inconsolable that my mom called my dad back to the house because he left before I could say goodbye. I remember another day where I was sick with the stomach flu and Dad had snuck off to work without saying goodbye. I was devastated and as I was hurling into the trash can, I tried yelling out goodbye loud enough for him to hear. He didn’t respond, so I knew he hadn’t heard. My little heart was absolutely broken.

In my young innocent heart, I thought goodbyes were permanent. I’d been told so often that my birth family loved me so much that they had to say goodbye to me. So in my mind, love meant goodbye, and goodbyes meant forever.

Anne’s words hit me because after so long of this anxiety and stress that accompanied goodbyes, the adoptee’s body and mind shut down. It’s easier to walk away than to undergo the stress it triggers. The moment our blood relatives abandoned us, our little bodies experienced a separation so traumatic, it triggered a heightened level of a stress hormone that never quite went away. Fight, flight, or freeze. Now as adults, that’s how many of us function—at the first sight of conflict, we see a goodbye. And goodbyes have only ever meant forever. If you know an adoptee who struggles with this, please hang in there. Please don’t give up on us. We are trying…it doesn’t mean we don’t care.

“Love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”

This photo was taken November 16th, the day my little nephew Noah was born. I remember holding him for the first time and being so careful to protect his neck and his head. He was so tiny and fragile, I didn’t dare do anything that might cause him harm. As I held him that first day, all I could think of was newborn Pranali. I must have been born premature, because at 23 weeks when I was admitted to the orphanage, I was only 4 lbs. In this photo, Noah was about 6 lbs. On my first day of life, I must have been extremely fragile and tiny. All I could think of was how at his age, I’d already been abandoned by the only people who were supposed to love me and protect me. It was a very sobering thought. I was so very thankful that Noah had two loving parents and a room full of people who already loved him more than anything.

This second photo was 3 days after Noah’s birth. As I took this photo, I remember thinking that at 3 days old, I’d already spent the first days of my life completely alone on the streets. I’ve known this my entire life, but having a newborn to hold and care for made this a tangible reality. At 3 days old, Noah was getting all of the snuggles and all the love he could possibly take. He cried if he was put down for too long because he would get either hungry or lonely. At 3 days old, I didn’t know what a mother’s loving touch was. I didn’t have a source of nutrition. I was sick, malnourished, and alone. At 3 days old I’d just been found by the Ahmednagar police and was in the hospital getting the medical care that I needed. The beginnings of our lives had been so very different, and it was a very sobering thought.

Watching my nephew grow has given me so much joy my heart can hardly handle it! But it is bittersweet to compare my own journey through early life with his. I can’t imagine abandoning a human so tiny, fragile, and innocent. If I could tell newborn me anything, it would be that the journey without familial and cultural connection will be long and difficult, but if I can survive the first few days of life alone then I can survive anything life throws at me.

I know that my precious nephew Noah will NEVER run out of people who love him and care for him and protect him. He will never have to wonder what a mother’s touch is and he will never have to be alone. He will never have to experience the pain of severed connection. I’m so very thankful that the love he’s already experienced this far in his early life will truly give him some protection forever.

“Tu me manques.” (“You are missing from me.”)

Today we held a baby shower in honor of my sister Mary, who is expecting a baby boy in December. The morning was spent with family and friends, celebrating a new life that will be joining the family. I am so excited to be an aunt! My sister is going to be an amazing mom and I couldn’t be happier or more proud of who she’s become.

What I didn’t expect was to come home at the end of the day and feel so heavy. I didn’t even know that I was feeling so heavy until it was 1am and I was alone watching tv, going through the pictures I took throughout the baby shower and I broke down. I saw my sister’s glowing face in every photo. I saw her friends who were also pregnant, and talked with them about the joy and excitement of meeting their little ones and watching them grow up together. I witnessed the blessing of community and support for a woman who is about to bring a new life into the world.

At the end of the day, all I could think about was my birth mother.

I will never stop wondering if during her pregnancy she was ever excited about bringing me into the world. Did she have any kind of support system? Or did my birth only bring grief? Today I felt my nephew moving around and kicking for the first time and it was the most incredible feeling. I can’t help but wonder what my mother felt when I was kicking and rolling about inside of her.

At one point during the shower I thought about how strange it is that bodies have the ability to grow another human. How fascinating is that? Isn’t it crazy that a human can grow inside of another human? The thought that I grew inside of someone else is so foreign to me, almost like it couldn’t possibly be true. When I look at other families, it makes sense because of the resemblance to other members of their family. It’s usually pretty easy to point out which parent one resembles so I don’t even think twice about where they came from or the fact that these two people made a baby and they had the baby and raised it together in one family unit. But when I think of me, I feel very isolated. I have two parents, and I have a sister. But my parents aren’t the humans who made me. The ones who made me are not the ones who raised me. I can’t even fathom what it’s like to be raised by the people who birthed me. I don’t know what it’s like to have siblings who resemble me. I’ve been told I’m “overthinking” this concept but I disagree. That comment came from someone who has no idea what it’s like to be in my shoes. I am the only person in the world that I know of, who shares my DNA. If you haven’t walked that journey, then you don’t get to tell me your opinion about it.

As beautiful as it is, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to watch my sister walk through her pregnancy with the medical resources so readily available and support from friends and family at hand. She is very fortunate to be able to go through this journey with these blessings. In 1993, my birth mother most likely had no one. I will never know the woman who birthed me, the first human I ever had any true connection with, and that is the most devastating fact to come to terms with.

Today was a beautiful day, but it was also a bittersweet time for me. It is times like this when I wonder if she thinks of me as often as I do her. The English translation of the French phrase meaning, “I miss you” is quite literally, “You are missing from me.” I feel this deeply about my birth mother as she misses milestones she should’ve been a part of, but today I felt it even more so. I may not know who or where she is, but I hope she’s been fortunate enough to find the support and the help that she needed when she was pregnant with me.

Someone get me a Xanax

I’ve been trying to string together words that make sense into a post for several months now. It’s been a busy few months, but every so often I will sit down and pull my thoughts together until I feel I have a coherent idea. My train of thought has a different agenda, however, and after several different tangents and deleting and overthinking and rewriting and self doubt I will finally just save the damn post as a draft, forget about it, and then come back to it days later and realize how awfully disorganized and stupid it is and delete the whole thing.

This is how my adoptee brain works.

Some days I wish I could just take a break from my brain and sit inside someone else’s head. A non-adoptee.

Not another adoptee’s brain, because we all seem to think the same way. The more adoptees I connect with, the more I realize we are all the same. Something in our brains were rewired the moment we were left by our blood and abandoned to our own devices. Some as infants, some as children, some even as teenagers.

That damn fight, flight, or freeze reaction that was permanently wired into my brain the moment I was abandoned as a newborn.

That damn overactive stress response that my subconscious alerts to every stressor and every change no matter how minute.

These I know too well. The stress and fear of change and failure that have accompanied me every moment of every day since Day 1. They in turn summon my good ole friend, Anxiety.

Just for a day I would like to know what it is to be relaxed. To be normal. To see what a normal functioning mind looks like.

I need to understand what it is like to be able to fly by the seat of your pants. To be able to change plans last minute and not panic about every small detail that could possibly go wrong.

What is it like to get ready to go out and be rushed and not have an elevated heart rate? To not snap at someone who rushes you or mentions the time because you’re so anxious about it you’re raging inside?

I would love to understand what it’s like to go to a family reunion and not feel like a stranger among them. I’ve known them my entire life—yet it still feels like something is missing. What is it like to be among family and feel whole?

What is it like to not be N E R V O U S all the damn time? Sometimes I don’t even know what I feel nervous about.

Also, can we talk about the stress of meeting new people? Someone please explain to me what it is like to not absolutely DREAD meeting new people. And when I say dread, I mean I would rather take a razor blade to my tongue and chug some whiskey than meet new people. Since Day 1, I have been hard wired to remain self-reliant. If there is anything I’ve learned from my experiences, it is that people lie and people change and people leave, even the ones we call family. I don’t say this for your pity or concern, I say it because it’s just true. I don’t need people, and the ones I choose to remain in my life are the ones who I know, I KNOW they won’t be leaving. The honest and the genuine. So when I meet new people, I begin the process of figuring out which kind of people they are—the changing kind or the staying kind. It’s an exhausting process and one that I would rather avoid.

You’re probably stressed by now just reading this. Exhausting huh? Chances are, if you know an adoptee they struggle with these issues as well. Some hide it, others embrace it. Some still live in what we call a “fog” and have absolutely no idea these feelings of grief and anxiety and depression even exist. Maybe they are aware and struggle but don’t know why. I have struggled with these issues all my life and I never realized until recently how it all ties back to my abandonment/adoption.

Don’t get me wrong—adoption can be great. CAN be. But it always always begins with trauma for the adoptee. Somewhere along the line, someone decided to abandon/give away/leave and even if it isn’t meant to, it hurts. Being given up or abandoned will fuck someone up for life. Over the past year I have been meeting more and more adoptees who share these same experiences and subconscious responses that abandonment has hard wired into our brains. It has been refreshing to know that what I experience is normal for adoptees because they experience it too. I’m growing ever more thankful for these connections that validate my existence. Despite our different beginnings and backgrounds and different upbringings, we function the same way because of the burden we all carry. It can get to be exhausting.

So just for a day, I would like to experience what it is to be a normal, non-dysfunctional, non-adopted human. Sometimes this anxious brain just needs a break.

To my Indian mom on Mother’s Day…

Dear mom,

Happy Mother’s Day, wherever you are. I may not be with you, but you are with me. I see you everyday. I see you in my tiny hands. I see you in my small wrists and my funny looking feet. I see you in my knobby knees and my monkey toes. I see you in my unbearably frizzy Indian hair, in my smile, and maybe even my laugh. Wherever I go, I know you’re a part of me. I’m truly thankful for that. Thank you for giving me life. I think of you always mom. ♥
-pranali

Most ignorant conversation I’ve had this week…

“Where are you from?”

Omaha.

“No, I mean where are you from?”

Well I was born in India.

“Yeah I can tell.”

(…then why did you ask?)

“How long have you been in America?”

I grew up here. 

“I can tell!”

😒

“So you probably don’t like spicy food then.”

….Needless to say, I ended this conversation prematurely. I don’t have enough patience for this breed of idiot.