Why did she leave me? Did I do something wrong? Was I a bad baby? Did I cry too much? Did she like me? Did she love me? Is it because I am a girl? Did she want a boy? Do you think I have a brother? Do you think she loves/likes him more?
For those of us who have chosen IA, especially from China, it is just a matter of time before our children ask the preceding questions. I am thankful for the many parents who have blogged about their little one's inquiries about their history before coming to their forever home. We read carefully and try to glean as much wisdom as possible, and soon, it's going to be our turn.
Although I will never know what is like to be in SS's situation, we do share some similarities. We were both born outside the U.S., and we both have unconventional families. We do share another similarity, one that we do not advertise, and never thought would blog about. I know what is like to have some of those questions swirling on my mind. Unlike SS, I have answers, harsh answers, there should be closure, but instead, I feel eviscerated. No pun intended about my minor surgery.
I do not have a single complaint about growing up with Mami and Papi. I was loved, cherished, respected, and always treated as though I was something truly special. Life abruptly changed when I found myself alone at sixteen. Since then, until I met P, I was alone at the most difficult times in my life. Let me tell you, it sucks, but it also builds character.
From an early age I was aware that I consistently failed to make Abu's list of priorities. It did not surprise me that she was not by my side when I gave birth to JJ. Abu has always claimed a special connection and relationship with him (and now SS). I have always known that it is on a completely superficial level, but was not about to burst JJ's (and now SS's) bubble with that information. What's the harm in him thinking that his Abu adored him.
Knowing my place in the familial totem pole (buried at least ten feet underground), I have always managed on my own. I have only asked Abu for help twice. When JJ was very young, Abu planned to do her CA sweep (my brothers live in the Bay area and I lived in Southern CA), while I was ill. I was hospitalized, had just returned home, and did not feel ready for company. Abu is exceptionally high maintenance. I'm not kidding, ask P. When she is here, she will not go into a public restroom on her own, I have to be there. Makes me wonder how she manages when I'm not around. I know that it is part of her let's pretend we have such a close relationship mentality. Abu is VERY concerned about appearances and what other people think. Anyhoo, I was in no condition to play mother to my mother, and asked her to please postpone her visit until I recuperated. No, she did not even think about it, just rolled off her tongue. She went ahead with her plans, visiting my brothers and completely snubbing the grandson she claimed to adore and love above anyone else. JJ was young, and I covered for Abu by telling him that she did not have enough time to visit us. I just did not have the heart to tell JJ the truth.
The second request was about JJ. Adolescence is an emotionally unstable stage, and JJ was no different in that respect. He had been abandoned by his bio father, and this caused a lot of acting out. P and I were dorks growing up, doing as we were told and not questioning much. JJ's very normal behavior caught us off guard and we went through some very unpleasant times. P and I were attending school full time, and working a minimum of 32 hours a week. It meant that we studied and/or worked seven days a week. The situation took a toll on us, and we desperately needed respite. P's father had a standing offer to have JJ during summers with him in Maui, and had even graciously offered to pay for his plane ticket. When things became difficult, Grandpa even offered to have JJ stay with him, and attend school in Maui for at least a semester. But JJ refused the offer.
We were rapidly burning out, and after much discussion, I swallowed my pride and asked (a retired) Abu for help. P had already met Abu and was aware of my place in her life. He was not pleased, but seriously thought that she would help the grandson she proclaimed to love so much. No, again not a second's thought or hesitation, just no. That was it for me, the hell if I would ever ask for her help. I again chose not to disclose this to JJ, because I knew it would devastate him.
During our wait for SS we had plenty of time to discuss how to handle our complicated, blended family. Abu was a constant source of support and encouragement, and we will always remember that. P thought that perhaps age and insight were responsible for her behavior. I knew better, I recognized that superficial, I am a super grandma in waiting, look how supportive I am, I really love my granddaughter even though I have not met her front stage personality. We had decided to allow the grandparents to be as involved or as uninvolved as they chose (Our bio parents are divorced). P went one step further with Abu, after being hurt by her refusal to help with JJ. P wanted SS to have a family, and decided to start with a clean slate, forgiving and forgetting, for SS's sake.
Then this little surgery thing happened. Nana realized that this was no appendicitis like surgery and immediately told P that she would come and help out. At that time we knew I would undergo surgery, but had no idea what exactly it entailed. I did not want to tell Abu, I just did not see the use. But P insisted, he felt that she had a right to know, and that she should hear it from me. I called her, explained, but was in so much pain that our conversation was very brief. Abu called P, asked for more information and offered to come and help for as long as she was needed. Shortly after her call to P, Dr. G informed us about the surgery, the open incision and the colostomy bag. P told me about Abu's offer, and while I was apprehensive, he noted that it was the best situation for SS. He joked, "OK, she's going to kill you, but I'm here to run interference and keep you alive. Baby, you know that this is what is best for SS, it's about SS." It was unfair to Nana to be stuck with my surgical mess, and P had a point, it's about SS. I foolishly agreed.
On Abu's second night here, the cell phone of doom rang late at night, while she was visiting me at the hospital. Hello H (crazy brother), goodbye K. Abu spent more time on that cell phone than a teenage girl. She cried, pleaded and scolded H. She did the same with Abuelo. SS became an afterthought, and SS became aware of this quickly. JJ noticed it minutes after arriving home. I lost count how many times I had to bend over and get things for SS (yes it hurt). On one occasion, SS was on the stairs with Abu when the damn phone rang. I told Abu to stay by SS, because I could not get to her fast enough if she needed me. Abu left SS on the stairs, and I only noticed when SS tried to follow her, tripped and landed behind the sofa (I was feeling good from the pain med). SS felt that one and I had to pick her up and bring her to the sofa (P knows about the incident, but I omitted picking her up) with me. That is when the feel good stopped and the real pain began.
Let's not forget the many times Abu locked herself in SS's room. SS is accustomed to move freely around the house, especially her freaking room. Our baby felt slighted and would bang on the door, shouting, "Abu open door, SS's room." It was rather annoying when Abu emerged and claimed to not have heard SS. Talk about ignoring a little one.
Abu has 30+ years of experience as a nurse and was well aware of my condition, that is what compelled her to offer to fly here and help. But from the moment she received the first phone call, she began to talk about how H and her husband really needed her, and that I was not doing as bad as everyone else (the medical staff) claimed. When P purchased her ticket with a return date in two weeks, it was understood that the recovery period was much longer and once we had accurate information, the return date would be changed. HA! I now think we should have changed her ticket on her third day here and just let her return to P.R. to tend to the ones she really loves. Instead, we have a stressed out SS, a stunned JJ (he's never seen his Abu's selfish side), a devastated and angry P, and a very ashamed me.
Ashamed? Yes, ashamed, because really, I am (Sorry B). No matter how long I have known the answers to my questions, the live physical manifestation is painful. The realization that I have always been at the bottom of the dog pile and will always be hurts. Yesterday, in a moment of despair, P said "I know you are hurting and I do not want to add to your pain. But I just can't understand why she is incapable of showing an ounce of compassion towards you. Why she can't love you, why she can't empathize with you." Don't know P, maybe there's something terribly wrong with me. What hurts me and I can't forgive is the total disregard for SS. This precious child she makes such extravagant claims of love about. The same child she eagerly awaited for so long. Then again, she had offered to come and care for SS after I returned to work, but reneged as soon as we received our referral. It's all about appearances, not substance.
So there you have it, having the answers does not make it better. SS has an option not available to me. SS can choose to think of her birth mother as a woman who really loved her, and made the ultimate sacrifice to better her life. Sadly, from what we have heard and read, children in this situation resent being abandoned (DUH), and do not tend to romanticize their birth mother's actions and motives. We will always be honest with SS, and support her through what will certainly be a very emotional part of her life. Something that we know will become a life long struggle. It does not matter if you are 4 or 5, or 45, rejection is painful. My daughter's pain and confusion is going to be very close to my heart. I hope through the prism of my experiences I can somehow help SS with her own struggles.
FWIW, I love Abu; even though she has deeply hurt and disappointed us, she did bring me into this world. Perhaps there is something missing in her, whatever component is needed to feel compassion, concern or empathy towards me. Like Auntie C says, "She is doing the best she can with what she has." I am blessed that I have the ability to love my children, and place them above anything and anyone in this world.
We crashed downstairs last night. P was out on the air mattress JJ used by 8:00 p.m., and I could not get him up to go upstairs. SS did not fall asleep until 11:30 p.m., and I could not carry her upstairs. Impromptu sort of sleepover. Now let's work on healing as a family.
***Sorry about the long, rambling, disjointed post. Pretty much a reflection of how I feel. Definitely not going to make SS's baby book.***