When I was adopted at the age of eight, everyone, including me, thought that this was the most amazing gift, a miracle, to be bestowed upon a deserted child. And it was. Not once since my adoption have I regretted being adopted, or being placed upon American soil. Where I had come from, all roads would have led towards irreparable paths, and my adoption saved me from that.
Right before I was adopted, I was placed with my aunt Thalia. She was a sweet and loving woman, and because of her, I was granted reprieve from my biological mother and her reckless and unstable life. My aunt Thalia loved me as if I had sprung from her own fertile womb, as she loved her own two children, and she taught me that not all mothers were like mine. Not all mothers were crazy and violent, full of debauchery and deceit. Not all mothers abandoned their children, or offered them to gypsies for prostitution, as mine had. I think that she set the standard for motherhood and mothers for me, and I will always be thankful to her for this knowledge, this maternal awareness. Hers is perhaps the style of mothering I aspire towards, but don’t always get right.
It is because of her that I was not afraid of gaining a new mother once I was put up for adoption. I saw my adoption as an opportunity for something better, something greater: a new mother and a new life. And I received both. Of course, the problem lies in the fact that my adoptive mother was nothing like my aunt Thalia and, thankfully, nothing like my old mother. She was indeed very different, and she introduced me to an even stranger version of the maternal.
Having just experienced my aunt Thalia as the embodiment of Kate Chopin’s “mother-woman,” a maternal figure pregnant with child, love, and devotion for her beloved younglings - the ever-sacrificing and demure madonna-like representation we have all come to know as “mother,” my adoptive mother was nothing like my aunt. She didn’t hug me or tell me she loved me; she was over-protective and dominnering to the point that I depended on her voice to tell me who I was and what I wanted; she deemed me a liar and a whore, just like my real mother, by the time I was eleven; she denied me my name and the telling of my history; and she concealed the fact that she had adopted me – it was a dirty little secret. She wasn’t warm or sweet, like my aunt Thalia, and when I first came to know her, the contrast between these two mothers was a stark revelation for me that shocked me to the core. In this case, I did not get what I expected – what I wanted. I thought that my adoptive mother would give me the love and devotion that my aunt Thalia had offered me — and my own birth mother denied me. But this was not the case…at least not in the same way.
I didn’t get what I wanted out of my adoptive mother, but I did get what I needed. And what I needed after years of abandonment, violence, homelessness, and the precariousness of the formative years of my childhood, was the complete opposite of all of this, which was stability.
My new mother may not have been warm and fuzzy, but she was responsible and stable: a hard and sturdy rock emboldened by years of self-protectiveness against the elements of life and loss. She was vulnerable and sensitive, but she hid these vulnerabilities by constructing indestructible veneers with which to protect herself. She was strong, arrogant, and independent. She was formal, educated, and sex-less, and this is what I needed…because more than love and hugs and kisses, I needed her to be the opposite of my birth mother. I needed a roof over my head, education, food, and the prospect of a future, all of which my own mother, the one who had carried me inside her and spit me out into the world without her protection, had no desire or ability to supply any of these things to her five children.
I didn’t get what I wanted from my adoptive mother, what I had hoped for, but in her, and from her, I got what I needed. I am here today because of her. And at the age of thirty-eight, no longer needing her approval or love, I can see that what she gave me was a second chance, a second beginning with which I am able to give me what I need, no longer dependent on others to provide for me, emotionally or physically. My adoption has made all the difference in my life, and as troublesome as it was, as conflicted and unhappy as I was, I did get what I needed to get to where I am today and to become the woman that I am.
And yes, even the kind of mother that I am to my own children, for as hard as I try to anticipate their needs and fulfill them, I know that I don’t always do so. I am just one woman — one imperfect person — and I just hope that years from now, my children will reflect on my mothering and not resent me for what I didn’t give them — whatever wants I didn’t satisfy. I hope they appreciate instead that I tried very hard to give them what they needed — or at least, what I thought they needed, because sometimes these two can be very different.
How about you? What do you hope your children see when they reflect on how you mothered/fathered them?
While you think about this question, typing zealously in response to the comment box beneath, listen to this great song by the Rolling Stones:
Copyright© 2011 by Marina Delvecchio. All Rights Reserved.