Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Good Grief!

A caveat: this gets a bit rant-y. I'm trying to rant less, I really am, but sometimes I just need to get it out. And I feel like my ranting is more productive now than it once was. You've been warned :-)

Grieving after placement is unlike any other kind of grief in the world. It's different, and it's difficult to explain.

I've never lost a child in the mortal sense. Roo is healthy and happy. I don't even like to think of what it would feel like if something were to happen to her. I can't imagine it, and I don't want to. I would never say that I know what it feels like to lose a child.

And yet ... I did lose a child. I lost my child. My baby - the one I took home from the hospital, who had my last name, who was my responsibility - no longer exists. It's like that baby was sucked into a vortex, and in her place is the little girl belonging to P and M. I love her, but she is NOT my baby anymore. This Roo never was. My Roo is gone.

So there's a grief there, to be sure. All birth moms grieve and I'm no exception. I reckon I feel a bit more like I've experienced a death than is usual, because I didn't choose adoption right away; I waited. I came home from placement with an empty car seat, home to an empty crib and stacks of freshly laundered Onesies that my Roo - MY Roo - would never wear again. It very much felt as though someone had died, and the grief was overwhelming and all-encompassing. I'm crying as I type this just thinking about it.

I remember coming home after my dad died and looking around and thinking, he's never going to sit at the end of the kitchen table anymore. His Dr Pepper isn't going to be in the refrigerator. His sunglasses aren't going to be on the counter by the sink, and his laptop from work isn't going to be in its case by the front door ... All around me were places he'd once occupied and now they were empty.

It felt the same after I placed Roo - the empty car seat, the empty crib, even the empty diaper pail. They were all signs that I used to have a baby, used to be a mom ... and that I'm not anymore. I couldn't look at or even think of any of them without a sob fizzing in the back of my throat.

And yet, for all my grief, for all my pain, my little Roo is alive and well. How glad I am! She's delicately chubby and smart and happy and delightful and everything one-year-old should be. I know it's wrong to compare my grief to that of a mother who has lost her child. There is no comparison, in all fairness. In comparison, I've got it easy. And yet I grieve.

Other people draw comparisons, too. And their comparisons are usually impatient ones. The implication is that because the child I birthed and love it still alive, I haven't a right to grieve as long as I need to, if at all. The implication is that I get a month, maybe six weeks, and then I need to get on with it. How on earth is this fair?

I know life's not fair, and that anyone who says otherwise is selling something. That's #1 on my list of the Facts of Life (and yes, I do have a numbered list). But, look, there's unfair, and there's unfair. My dad died almost two years ago and my mother has yet to be told she needs to get on with it already. I was told to get on with it two months after I placed Roo. What's up with that?

When my mom grieved the loss of her husband, no one ever said to her, "You're thinking too much of yourself, that's why it hurts. You need to think of other people. Find some way to serve or volunteer and you'll feel better." And it's not surprising that no one said that to her, because really, who SAYS something like that to a grieving widow?

But that's exactly what I was told after placement. People told me that I was too wrapped up in my own problems and that if I wanted to be happy I needed to think of other people for a change and find ways to serve others. And I thought, excuse me? I gave two people I barely know a BABY. I think I'm good on serving others for a while. And yes, I am a bit wrapped up in my grief. But I think I'm allowed! If anyone's entitled to a good pity party here and there, it's a birth mom. My grief at placement was and is no less valid than my mother's grief at my dad's death. I need to feel my feelings and learn to live with them.

People's suggestion that my grief was selfish and that I needed to stop thinking only about myself was shocking to me - still is, actually. I grieve because I love, simple as that. And I WAS serving others. Just because I don't keep a running tally on my sidebar of my service hours this year doesn't mean I'm not doing anything. I prefer to do that sort of thing quietly, thankyouverymuch.

But people would insist; I was depressed because I was selfish and immature, and how could I not see that? Why didn't I get on with things already? What was my problem?

I have overwhelmingly more good days than bad days now, ten months post-placement. Bad days are very rare. But I still have days here and there that are tough, when I miss Roo so much I physically ache from it. I don't think that's anything to apologize for. And yet people pretty much come out and ask me why I haven't moved on with my life yet and what the heck my problem is and why I'm still thinking about the baby I placed because it's been nine months and I should be all better now.

I will never be all better, because I will never stop loving my little Roo. Certainly the time will come when the pain will be a fraction of what it is now, I will be better, but not ALL better. And I'm okay with that. I can be blissfully happy with that. In my mind, all better means I don't care any more, and I don't ever want to not care.

You want to know my problem, bearers of unsolicited advice? I miss my baby. I miss my baby who isn't my baby any more. I miss her and I reckon I always will. If I want to cry about it, I'm allowed to cry. Holding my feelings back won't accomplish much. Crying helps. Crying helps me to quote-unquote move on.

The question then becomes, what are you supposed to say to a birth mom when she's depressed after placement? Well, here's the answer: Tell her that you love her, and let her grieve. She'll "move on" when she's good and ready, and not a moment sooner.


Savannah said...

The most beautiful line (at least in my opinion) is "I grieve because I love." Don't listen to those people because clearly they don't know what they are talking about. Grief is real. Grief is hard. Grief is painful. If I had a life lessons list, that would be on my list.

Angee said...

Thank you for sharing that! It's always hard to find out exactly what our daughter's birth mother is feeling but I'm positive she has a lot of these feelings. I just want to be supportive of her so I am so glad I can read this and get your perspective! Grieving should last as long as you need it to and as long as it's healthy. I think you are doing VERY well in regards to grieving. There will never be a time when you completely forget your little Roo and that's ok. You are a wonderful example to me so thank you for sharing your story!

jgirl said...

There is no time limit on grief and there shouldn't be either. You are right, you essentially lost a child and the death of a parent (even when you are an adult) is extremely difficult as well. As I've read your story, I can see clearly that you've grown leaps and bounds and the direction you are headed is the right one for sure. Anyone who doesn't understand this, isn't deserving of your time, PERIOD. (((hugs))))

Unknown said...

I placed my daughter for adoption 10yrs ago,and let me tell you,you NEVER get on with it.I think about her everyday,my adoption isn't as open as yours,so I have not seen my daughter since I placed her.It does get easier,I know I did what was best for her,and she taught me to not be so selfish,in placing her my life was no longer about me it was about her.It takes a strong woman to do what we have done....

Amanda said...

You are amazing. Thank you for sharing this post. I'm currently in the middle of a class-session for LDS Family Services. Tonight we had our birthparent panel come and share their stories and answer questions. I feel so blessed to both have a birthmother of my own, and to have 2 birthmothers to share my sons with. You are a hero in my book, so tell everybody else to kiss off!
Love you!

Lara Zierke said...

People are dumb.

I know it's nowhere the same - but people tell me I should be over infertility because I have a child now.

I want to punch them.

I'm in a fiesty mood. And I want to punch anyone who tells you (or any other birth mother) that they are selfish and need to move on. And after I punch them, I want to pull their hair.

Heather said...

I still feel grief 22 years later. I have peace with my decision, but I still have grief over the loss of my daughter.

I now have a 2 year old daughter and sometimes it hits me as I watch her how much I missed with my first daugher.

You never totally "get over it". It is part of what makes you the woman you are now. I agree with Lara....punch them. LOL

Janae said...

You are certainly allowed as much time as you need to grieve. I had a miscarriage at 7 weeks, and I was told that I shouldn't grieve because it was so early. But I did because that was my baby, even though we had little time together. I cried for several months after it, and I cried when the baby's due date came around, when my sisters and sister-in-law get pregnant and give birth, and I still cry for that lost baby almost every month that rolls around and I'm still not getting pregnant again.

You are so brave and I agree with the others - punch them. People handle things in different ways, and you can't truly understand someone's situation if you are not in their exact shoes.

AubreyMo said...

I'm so sorry that you've had to hear comments like that. It was bad enough that you didn't get the excitement that you should have received when you had Roo. I say you have every right and reason to grieve and you shouldn't have to explain that to anybody. Love you. You are one of the best people I know.

S said...

I agree with you, even though I have never had the loss of a child, on some level. But it is hard to have other people judge and say the things they do. It is very frustrating! I always say, "If you want to vent your anger to anyone or any place you choose, then do it! Holding it in is not going to be easy, and is not good for you. Everyone needs to be able to say what is on their mind and how they feel. Its our right!"

Dave and Jen said...

Thank you so much for sharing your feelings and for being such a beautiful person. Your blog should be required reading for adoptive parents. I pray God comforts you and gives you the strength to deal with people asking dumb questions.

Tanya said...

I love that you have takled this issue. Too many people told me the same things as they told you including a few more insensitive comments what I have learnt is that. I will always grieve and I too grieve for my baby who is now a toddler. I grieve for all the nights I cant kiss her goodnight and all the times I dont get to be with her and I grieve for not being able to be her parent. and when I have days like this I alow myself to be sad but those days are far and few now but I think I will always have them.

Huge hugs

Chaney said...

I would have to agree that your blog should be required reading for adoptive parents. I have learned so much from you, and am constantly amazed how strong you are. You have the right to grieve and struggle and to have a hard time. No one has the right to tell you to get over it. You have gone through something life changing, and if people think you are being selfish don't worry about it.

LeMira said...

Until a person has grieved the loss of a child as a MOTHER, he or she will not know what it means to grieve.

Jill, I have buried a child, and although our griefs are similar, they are very different. I would never claim that I will know what it feels like to walk your path. Your path has your own pain and sorrow; one that I do not envy but that I wish somehow I could ease. But I can not.

You have every right to grieve as long as you need to, and that grief is personal. The pain doesn't ever go away, it scars over but gushes out at any moment, most of the time unexpectedly. There is not a timeline on grief. It's been almost 5 years since I lost my little girl, and there are still some days that are hard.

I love, love, LOVE your line, "I grieve because I love." It's true. . .

P.S. I want to add a link to your blog on mine, let me know if that's okay!

Jill Elizabeth said...

Thanks for all the kind words, peeps! In the words of Mr Sunshine in the Jimmy Dean breakfast commercials, you're all awesome.

And LeMira, you absolutely can!

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

A partial definition of a birthmother (by Me):
A woman much-acquainted with grief.

Is this definition less meaningful after 6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years? Not in my experience. The grief of being separated from a loved one is not something that someone should be expected to "get over".

I heard those same kinds of comments after I placed my baby girl eleven years ago...I wish I would've had your line, "I grieve because I love." Word.

Karin Katherine said...

What do you say to a birth mom when she is grieving after placement and YOU are the one holding the child that was once hers?

My heart just breaks. I am happy and sad. I am elated and guilty. I am possessive and guilt ridden. Its a roller coaster.