Jim Crow Love

Let’s pretend that you are married, and one day your husband says to you, “Honey, I love you very much, but I’m sorry to say that the love that I feel for you just isn’t exactly the same as the love I felt for my first wife. It’s different. I’m trying really hard, and I’m reading all these books about loving your replacement wife, but, honey, it’s just really, really difficult to love you.”

How would you feel?

Let’s pretend that, some sunny afternoon after a family get-together, your mother takes you aside and says, “Son, I love you, I love you so very much; but I’ve been wanting to tell you that the emotions I feel for you and your sister just aren’t the same. I’ve tried and tried, and I know I should not feel differently about you, but I just don’t love you the same as her. I’m sorry.”

How would you feel?

Let’s pretend that your best friend regards you over her chef’s salad a few months after your mother’s death, and soberly announces that she finds your crying over your loss “irrational,” explaining, “Sorry, dear, but I just feel so detached and frustrated with you for making such a big deal over your mother’s loss. I mean, can’t you just get over it? It’s just so irrational. She isn’t coming back, you know; and in the meantime, you’re being a real drag for the rest of us who have to stand here and watch you suffer.”

How furious would you be with your friend? And wouldn’t you think twice before maintaining a friendship with someone so callous?

Let’s pretend that your daughter confides that she has to “intellectualize” her love for you, because she never really felt love in her heart for you, but that as she keeps working at it, she will probably finally be able to really love you emotionally.

How would you feel if your daughter said this to you?

Let’s pretend that you’re at the movie theatre, and in the scene you’re watching, a helpless infant lies in a crib, red-faced and screaming. Nearby stands his mother, her arms folded over her chest, watching him scream. The sober, detached look on her face says it all, but just in case it doesn’t, we (being movie goers) can hear her thoughts. She is thinking, “I just don’t feel the least bit attached to you. Your crying doesn’t move me. In fact, I feel like your babysitter. I just want a break!”

How sympathetic do you feel toward that new mother? How good a mother do you think she is at this moment? And what prediction would you make about that baby’s future with his mother? Would you want to have that kind of a mother? Would you feel good about leaving your baby in the care of a woman with a heart like that?

I would think not. I know I would not want to entrust my baby to someone who can write of a crying baby, “his crying doesn’t move me.” Most women instinctively move toward a crying infant and want to pick him up and comfort him. They’ll hold him to their breast and make cooing noises, pat him, stroke him, cradle his tense little body until he is soothed.

What sort of a woman would regard a keeling infant with such detachment?

A certain sort of adoptive mother: that’s what.

Everything I quoted in those “let’s pretend” scenarios above are actual statements quoted directly from adoptive mother blogs.

This is how some mothers feel about their adopted children.

Jim Crow Love

A week or so ago I ran across a blog written by a mother who has both adopted and biological children. She had written an article about love that dumbfounded me because it so blatantly illustrated the occasional tunnel vision one runs into among parents that is so deeply disturbing in its lack of empathy for the child. What this mother wrote was antithetical to what I know to be true about loving one’s children, regardless of how they enter the family.

Love is love, I say. Prove me wrong.

But some, perhaps many, adoptive parents exercise Jim Crow love for their adopted children. Jim Crow love is a “separate but equal” doctrine that coolly explains to others that adoptive parents love their adoptlings, all right, but that the love is just different. This particular adoptive mother actually wrote on her blog that the love, feelings, and emotions she has for the child she birthed and the ones she adopted are not the same. She said they are separate and different, but equal.

I’m not joking about this. I read this post a week ago, and it made me froth at the mouth. I posted, and then deleted, an immediate, knee-jerk reaction titled, “I’m a freak,” which was about just how completely 100% the same my love, emotions, and feelings are for all of my children, regardless of how they entered the family. Regardless of whether they are related to me by blood or not. I have birthed babies into the world and nursed them at the breast, and I have gone to the ends of the earth to adopt children (and some have not even been children any more), and I’m an expert on one thing, and that’s my own experience as a mother. I know for sure that what I feel is the same. I know I’m not alone in that; I know other mothers through birth and adoption for whom adoption was not a second-best choice, and they laughed when I called and asked them, “Tell me how you feel about your adopted children as compared with your biological children.” My friends laughed and said, “The same, of course! You know that. Why do you ask?”

Some mothers love their children authentically, with a love that is not false or imitation; it is reliable love, trustworthy, and real, and its actions are supported by unquestionable evidence. They love with real, true, actual, genuine, unfeigned, sincere, unfettered, absolute, compete and utterly genuine regard, empathy, feeling and action. They are real, authentic mothers because they are real, authentic lovers.

Real, authentic love is what all children deserve. It is the birthright of children born into this world. And if they can’t get it from their own first mothers, then by all that’s holy, they have a right to get it from the parents who raise them!

This is what I think and feel most deeply about love and adoption.

So, I realized after my knee-jerk reaction to this other adoptive mother’s post that I was not doing any service to the truth by writing in a way that denigrated my Self by calling myself a “freak,” for though I may be unusual, I am no freak. Loving my children all the same, exactly as if I had birthed them all or exactly as if we are all, equally and individually, human beings is normal and right. The ones acting like freaks are those who do not love their children equally, who seem to want to stop there and shrug their shoulders and say, “This is the way it is, oh well,” and then write flowery posts about it and pretend that there is something noble about being honest about maintaining such a small heart.

This other adoptive mother I’ve quoted went on to write that, while the love she felt instantly and overwhelmingly for her natural daughter came effortlessly, she had to grow to love her adopted children, and this was difficult. Very, very difficult.

When her adopted babies cried–and cried and cried and cried–she felt detached, and then frustrated, and then guilty. She considered the crying and screaming of her adopted baby and toddler “irrational,” even though later she admitted that the baby possibly missed his birth mother.

She had to think about loving her adopted children, “intellectualize” love (how do you do that?!), “before I actually started to feel it in my heart.” I wondered how long—how many days, weeks, months or years it was—before she was able to feel a love feeling for these orphan children in her poor, overworked heart? How long? And what was the child experiencing during that time? Did his second mother not merely reinforce, day by day, the wound of abandonment that he already felt so keenly, the wound that makes one wail?

And yet, she writes that she loves and adores her adopted children. Really. It’s just different love.

True Confessions

Perhaps even worse than what this adoptive mother wrote was the way other adoptive parents flocked around and high fived the author for her brutal honesty. Such comments, (and I quote them verbatim) included one from an adoptive mother who wrote of her adopted baby, “I would watch him scream, [. . .] but still felt somehow detached from it,” and another who wrote, “I did not feel the least bit attached or bonded to him,” and, “I felt like I was babysitting and really just wanted a break.” These adoptive mothers, all of whom waited a long time to become mothers and no doubt earnestly prayed to heaven to receive a child, finally received the human answers to their prayers and discovered that God had given them lemons.

I can just hear them moaning from their lower, egoistic selves: Oh, why did those birth mothers give the babies up in the first place, making them cry so? And why do those irrational little babies have to keep on crying, even after they get shiny new mommies like us? Why didn’t anyone tell us that the only real mother is the birth mother? Why didn’t anyone tell us that adoption would ruin all of this and we would never get our fairy tale lives, and our adoptlings would arrive wounded and grieving and that we were actually going to have to do some healing work?! Why can’t everyone see that we’re the ones who were hurt, and we needed our adoptlings to make us feel better? Why can’t anyone see that we’re suffering too? Why can’t we just live in our happy fairy land with our perfect lives, filled with perfect fulfillment of our every wish, and have some perfect biological children who favor us in every way and always remember to say PLEASE and THANK YOU? Why are we stuck with these screaming little ingrates who so clearly reject us because we are not their real mommies?

Why, oh why?


Brutal Honesty

Perhaps worst of all, though, was the adoptive mother who wrote that “it’s hard to be totally honest when you know people will judge you (that’s what needs to change about the adoption community).”

I don’t know about anyone else, but, honey, you are damn straight that I will judge you! I’m not going to change so as to become less judgmental about people who won’t put their best selves forward when a child’s life is at stake, either.

There’s such a thing as being brutally honest, and that’s what you mothers are being: brutal. Where is your empathy? Where is your care? Where’s your best self? Would you say these words directly to your adopted child? Is this a sentiment you plan to print out and paste in his baby book? Would you want your blog post read out loud at the next Parent-Teacher Association meeting at your child’s grade school?

And what about your child’s birth parents, the ones you say you have so much empathy for? If the birth mother or father of your adopted child read what you have just written, how would you feel? If you had to give your precious biological child to another mother to raise, how would you feel if she admitted that she felt this same way about her adopted child, your baby? Do you want others to understand you to be this sort of a human being?

If not, think about it. Think about what you just wrote and about how it inspired so many other adoptive parents to high five you, and then think about the Golden Rule. If you wouldn’t want your own mother or father to feel and be this way about you, and you wouldn’t want another mother raising your biological child to be this way about your child, then why do you grow and maintain a heart that is so far removed from this little child? Why are you choosing to be such a small person, such a pale shadow of the loving human being you could be, if only you dared? Why don’t you do something Buddhist and think and look deeply into your little boy, and ponder what his life was like from the moment he was conceived in his mother’s womb to the moment he was placed in your arms.

Think. Use your imagination. Ponder. Feel.

Feel, dammit!  Can you not use your feelings for someone other than yourself? Can you not empathize with your little boy? Enlarge your heart to love him deeply, for we are all genetically alike, my friend, to the tune of more than 99% likenesses. Did you know that? Did you know that we’ve all sprung from the same root, from some original biological Eve and that, at our core genetic selves we’re related?

No? You don’t believe me? That’s fine, because next week I’ll be writing about DNA and genetics, for I there is a lot to be learned from DNA. Adopted people and others separated from their genetic relatives are searching for and finding their families through DNA, did you know that? Did you also know that if you did a deep DNA analysis, you might find that you and your adopted children are genetically related?

It’s true, and it’s mind-boggling, I tell you. And it supports what Buddha taught about oneness. And it supports what Jesus Christ taught about oneness. And this is why I believe deeply and passionately that real, authentic love loves everyone.

Real Mothers

This is why, my sister, I want to put my forehead against yours, look you in the eyes, and say listen here! Listen! There is such a mother as a real mother, a good mother, and a real, good mother. And the real good mother doesn’t rely on genetics or biology or sentiment for her substance. She relies on real love. That’s where real parenting begins.

I hope I make myself clear here: being a real mother, an authentic mother, behaving as real mothers act, is not only about biology, and it’s not only about having title to a child, either. Your adoption decree and amended birth certificate and the time you spent raising your child mean nothing if you don’t have love. And, my birth mother sister, your DNA, your story of how you lost your child, the brown eyes you passed on, the genetic predisposition to being musical and to left-handedness your son has from you mean nothing if you don’t have love, real love.

Real love is about having a caring, empathetic, reality-based relationship to a specific human being, your child. Whether you birthed that child or adopted that child, or simply care for that child like a mother does not matter. What matters is where is your heart in relation to that child? Is that child’s pain something you detach from, or do you enter into his pain so you can help heal it? Is he a mere specimen to you, someone to stand away from when she cries, or will you not be moved to tears, as well? Do you need to have him or find him so that you can feel whole? That is your self-love talking; you have yet to really love your child.

Real love loves its way into the place of the Other without so identifying with him that we lose ourselves. Real love gives the other person exactly what it is that we want, with no strings attached. Real love does not look to the other to complete us, nor does it expect that I can complete another, for I am no god or savior.

As Robert A. Johnson writes,

Love is the power within us that affirms and values another human being as he or she is. Human love affirms that person who is actually there, rather than the ideal we would like him or her to be or the projection that flows from our minds. Love is the inner god who opens our blind eyes to the beauty, value, and quality of the other person. Love causes us to value that person as a total, individual self, and this means that we accept the negative side as well as the positive, the imperfections as well as the admirable qualities. When one truly loves the human being rather than the projection, one loves the shadow just as one loves the rest. One accepts the other person’s totality.

Sister mothers, I think we can love this way if we will grow up in every aspect into wholeness with the help of the Divine.

The question is, will you answer that call?

Art by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law


19 responses to “Jim Crow Love”

  1. Eve Avatar

    Cindy, hello. Thank you for commenting here. I’m glad that you feel your son’s adoptive mother is your gift to him, rather than the other way around—that old story of how the surrendered baby is a gift to adoptive parents.

    I’m an adoptive mother (obviously), and I don’t refer to my children as birth son or adopted son, birth daughter or adopted daughter or biological daughter, genetic daughter, natural daughter, and so on. They are sons. They are daughters. I’m their mother. I hope you think about that. You are still a mother, from my perspective.

    Parenting? You’re right… that’s a role. Many mothers and fathers are not parenting their kids, even when adoption isn’t part of the picture.

    You’ve certainly given me some things to think about. I hope you come back.

  2. cindy.psbm Avatar

    reading all this was very very enjoyable. I love it when I read such good specific articles!! I have worried many times that the adoptive mom I choose for my birthson loves him as much as the child she gave birth too.

    Honestly, sometimes I think that she could never love him as much as I do. My love is not an act of will. My love for my birthson kind of ‘happened’ to me. I didn’t even mean to care that much. Oh, I always respected the life that was growing in me when I was pregnant, but I didn’t expect to be so overwhelmed with the strongest sense of protectiveness for him the moment I saw him . Thats one of the reasons I choose to place. I thought, and still think that I would be harmful to him if I were the one parenting. Noone told me this, its just that all my life I have been very ‘accident prone’. I HAVE dropped babies before (not on purpose of course!) and unknowing put others in danger in small ways.

    I DO want my birthson adoptive mom to love him as fiercly as I do. In a way, I want her to be the love that I feel. In my mind she is a gift, the most important thing that my birthson needs. I think of it this way, when someone gives you a gift that you really really love, you think of that person whenever you enjoy the gift. I want my birthson to enjoy being loved by his adoptive mom as if I am loving him through her, because she was my choice, my gift, to him. If she doesn’t love him, that means that I don’t love him, that I was careless somehow in choosing her. That would be the farthest thing from the truth though.

    This being said, I can understand being detached from children. It does not mean that you no longer have the fiercest kind of love possible. Once, my niece, who is very quiet, had a temper tantrum during a visit to my sisters house and I felt joy in just hearing her scream because she is so quiet usually. I feel weird about feeling the opposite emotion that I should have felt at her distress. Maybe this example has nothing to do with a ‘mothers’ love but we are discussing love for a child. Unlike my birthson, I did not feel instant love for my second niece as I did when my sister had her first daughter, but now my love is just as fierce for her as it is for my birthson. As human being we are prone to selfishness and are emotions reflect that. Everyone is selfish sometimes. Parenting can and is both selfish and selfless at times. I am not a parent, a first mom, but not a parent but I know that parenting can test all your emotions and sometimes they fail you. A true test of character is admitting that you weren’t always perfect.

    Thank you for writing. I will be back to read more sometimes.

  3. Eve Avatar

    Tammy, yes, I too felt harsh and judgmental over ranting as I did. Henitsirk gave me some gentle reminders about mercy by way of her kind example; I forget to have mercy sometimes when children’s already wounded hearts are at stake.

    Tammy, you seem to have the heart of a real mother, or a lucid approach to life that is just pure. I’m glad you’re a pastor, because we need pastors like you. True-hearted, sane, reasonable, yet passionate. If we could bottle some of what you have and give it to other adoptive parents, I think there would be less suffering among adopted people who begin life with loss and then have to keep living with loss because of their blind adoptive parents.

    Thank you for your comments. I was outraged when I first read the blog article I referred to. I didn’t link to it because a small part of my brain knew that wouldn’t be fair to the other adoptive mother, who is not my enemy and who must also have many good qualities (at least some modicum of honesty among them). But I also didn’t want to just let her perspective stand as factual, when her perspective is not shared by many other adoptive parents.

    Your comments underscore this in beautiful ways. Thank you.

  4. Eve Avatar

    RG, thanks for your comment. I have to agree that if a person can’t love the child they adopted the same as they love their biological child, they do need to get some help. I should have said that from the start. It can be helped!

    It’s heartening when other parents with both experiences can step up and speak from their reality. I understand that not everyone starts life as an adoptive parent on equal footing, equally able to give and receive love; but I do think that we can choose to grow. When I think of the kids and how they will feel always second best loved, after already having needed to be adopted, my heart breaks.

  5. Tammy Avatar

    And after I press post I realize how harsh what I wrote sounded. And judgemental. I have been judged at times for feelings I couldn’t/didn’t understand in that moment. In the end, we deserve nothing and get mercy. We deserve judgement and get grace. I will pray for this mother, for all mothers, whether mothers longing for authentic love for their children, the mothers grieving their loss, however it came to them, the mothers trying their best to be parents to the children they are privileged to parent. What else can we do? And hope…

  6. Tammy Avatar

    I have mulled this over long enough. I cannot even fathom the separate love that you describe here. I can’t imagine, honestly, calling myself a mother of both if I choose to love one more than another. But then I haven’t felt the “entitlement” that so many mothers feel to their children. I only know parenting a child on earth who came to me by another mother. I am not entitled to be this child’s mother or even to love him or her. I am privileged to do so by the decision made by my children’s other mothers. It isn’t being a mother to say “I love this child differently than that child”. That isn’t being a mother.

    Being a mother is doing the love even at times when it doesn’t feel like it. I would say “you made your choice to bring this child into your family by another way. This child didn’t choose you so he/she could be loved differently… get over yourself and start loving already!” (Can you tell I’ve mulled this over, I’ve tried to find gentle speak and fear I’ve failed???). This makes me angry, so angry. MommaBearLove kind of angry…so much so that I can’t see the screen right now. I fiercely love the children that I am privileged to parent. And I believe that their other mothers do too. I will not let anyone tell me or even suggest that I’m missing out because they didn’t come from me. Or worse yet, make excuses for favoring a child born of them over one they brought into their family another way.

    And philosophically speaking if I may, has this woman even become a mother through adoption? Oh she has legally brought this precious little soul into her family. But has she BECOME mother to this child? Because what that entails is NOT separating AT ALL. Adoption legally entitles a child to every right of a child born to someone. And that includes the right to be loved for all of who they are, regardless of how they became your child. So based on your whole series, is she really a “real” mother? Not even close.

    I’ll shut up… honestly there’s so much more but it may have to wait. Life outside of blogland beckons. My SON needs me. And I love him more than I can express.

  7. renaissanceguy Avatar

    This adoptive father agrees that love is love.

    If you can’t love the child you adopted in the same way that you love the child that you birthed, you need help. And the sooner you get it the better.

    I feel the same protective feelings toward my adopted son as I feel toward my biological daughters. I feel the same pride when he is complimented. I have the same amount of interest in the things that interest him as I do the things that interest my daughters. I feel the same feeling of contentment and “rightness” when he gives me a hug as when they do.

    I made a choice to love him, and I do. And the feelings are exactly the same, too.

  8. henitsirk Avatar

    Ah yes, you noticed the halo?

    Please, it’s like I’m the straight man or something. You get to be Lucy, I get to be Ethel.

    Remind me of how virtuous and superior I am the next time I lose my temper at my kids, or when I write another vacuous and insubstantial blog post about how cute they are. Ever notice that I shoot my complete intellectual wad here on YOUR blog, not mine? 🙂

  9. Eve Avatar

    Alida, Heni/Anthromama is something, isn’t she? I enjoy her so much, but every now and then I have to admit I feel a little aggravated that she comes off looking so much more virtuous than I.


    Good for you and how you handled your blended family. I too am surprised that people will still make that sort of comment (yes, I’ve heard it too), especially when it’s apparent that people can love more than one spouse in a lifetime, for instance. It seems so self-evident to me, but there is still this idea that the love we have for our kids just has to be limited by biology somehow.

  10. Alida Avatar

    Oh how I enjoy your posts and Henitrisk’s comments.

    One of the first things I put a stop to after marrying Sergio was comments like, “they are not your kids.”

    It was interesting because it seemed that whenever I mentioned an issue regarding the kids, members of my family (pick any one of them, with the exception of my Dad.) retorted with that piece of advice.

    I think everyone was surprised by my feelings on the matter. I always found it a bit curious.

  11. Lee Avatar

    Another interesting post. I have to say up front that I love all my children. I love different things about them but I love them all with the same burning intensity. I can’t imagine NOT loving them.

    On the other hand, I do know that when I first held my eldest son at the airport in NY I was deeply and profoundly petrified. LOL Probably all new parents are. However this scrawny, sickly 15 month old was dumped in my arms by an adoption agency director and I was told “he just needs a room full of nice toys to play with.” Then she scuttled off. I had missed our flight home because his was late coming in. I am very inexperienced in the world of travel, had been up 24 hours straight and as I set the squirmy little guy down (he could walk) and picked up a bag, he knelt down and began banging his head on the floor of the airport terminal.

    There are no words for how scared I was. I picked him up and cuddled him. I remember how stiff his body was, how resistant to my embrace. I probably smelled and sounded so foreign and frightening to him. It was the week before Christmas and cold and rainy in NY. He came from the hotter regions of India.

    Loving him was right away, building a relationship with him was a long time. We didn’t know despite seeing many medical professionals that he was an Aspergers individual. We di d learn early what bothered him, overstimulated him,and made accommodations so that he could function. (for instance I never took him to stores in the afternoons as it bothered him more, we went out to dinner early as restaurants with lots of noise caused him to melt down and actually still do)

    But the idea of standing and watching any of my children cry? I can’t conceive of that. My partner laughs at me often because I am a sling person and often carry our two youngest around. But it builds close bonds because they can look into my eyes, touch my face, cuddle against mee if the world feels too big for them at the moment.


  12. Eve Avatar

    P.S. The second answer the four of us at dinner last night arrived at was that life is suffering (thank you, Buddha) and in this life you will have tribulation (thank you, Jesus), but that the spiritually-centered person paradoxically works to surrender during suffering, and thus transcends. Out of what we learn from suffering, we also learn how to hold onto what’s good or necessary, and how to let go when we must let go.

    I love my passion, because it’s part of who I am, but it is not my mistress, and cannot make me suffer; but suffering can make me many things.

  13. Eve Avatar

    Interesting that you’d ask how do you figure out these parts. A friend of mine asked over dinner last night how we figure out what to hang onto, and what to let go of; I think some of the answers we arrived at apply to many areas of life, whether ways of being or thinking (habits), friends, relationships, parts of some interaction.

    The answer I gave her was from depth psychology, firstly. That discipline teaches a person to go within, to listen to the unconscious and to try to show the hidden parts of oneself that you (ego) are sincere. One does this through active imagination, dream work, work with symbols, spiritual or religious traditions and rituals, and (of course) through analysis. One can self-analyze if possessed of sufficient knowledge, or one can have an analyst or aware friend, or any combination.

    I am pretty sure of my work thus far, although I can only be sure of my level of consciousness in this very moment. As I wrote this morning, I recall being in the moment. I knew what I was writing; I made sure of myself. So I’ll be surprised to discover any naughty house elves hiding behind the woodwork.

    But it’s possible; I’ll ask my naughty bits to give me some dreams, maybe some Freudian slips of the tongue, some moments of unplanned-for anger (yes, I schedule my spontaneous combustions; it’s an art form I’ve developed over the years), and we’ll see.

    In the meantime, since my Carl Jung action figure has lost his pipe and won’t speak to me, I’ve also asked my son, who does some clay modeling, to make Dr. Jung a new pipe. Then he’ll talk to me. I think I have my bases covered.

  14. henitsirk Avatar

    Hee hee, one of the few ways I can make trouble these days! Infiltrating your brain while you clean house.

    Well, how do you figure that out–whether you are truly “hard wired” for attachment, or rather hiding the detached side of yourself? I think that quite often what makes us angry is a sign of something awry inside ourselves. Who are you not sufficiently taking care of? Who are you not nurturing?

    But then, supposedly the only one who ever absorbed everyone’s suffering also turned water to wine and calmed storms, so unless you’ve developed new superpowers, don’t worry too much 🙂

  15. Eve Avatar

    Anthromama, interesting you should mention your feelings for your son after he cracked an eye open. I just read a research report about eye contact between infants and mothers, and how the author had found a link between lack of eye contact and autism.

    I found this interesting, because I had just written last week about Jung’s monument erected on his property, on one side of which he carved the image of a pupilla, the image you see of yourself reflected in the eye of another. I think he was onto something about relatedness; I just haven’t put it all together (if I even can).

    “…trying as hard as you think they should.” Well, yes, that’s it I guess. The more insult added to the original injury, the more the child must overcome later. That many do not, but turn to self hatred, self medication, and other means of escaping that pain that might have been ameliorated, is evident. I just so wish we acted more like the rational yet loving beings we can be.

    As grandma used to say, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

  16. Eve Avatar

    Anthromama, I was thinking about some of the things you wrote while I was cleaning the kitchen earlier. I realized that I wrote, “I doubt there’s a mother who has not felt those same feelings.” I went right over the detachment to the frustration, and that’s a disservice to myself I think.

    Perhaps I have felt detached from a child’s suffering, or another person’s suffering, before; but if I have, I can’t say that I recall it right now. Maybe I am freakish, which I always fear, because I’ve had a sense of … community? universal relatedness? something like that from my earliest days. My dad says that from the time I could walk I was always trying to help the suffering, whether it was flipping over the stranded beetle or bringing home stray animals or visiting shut-ins (yeah, as a child I preferred that to playing Barbie with the neighborhood girls).

    Maybe it’s the way I’m wired. Maybe I’m just reactive; but I can’t see myself standing back and being detached from my wailing baby or child. Or anyone who is wailing, for that matter. But on some level perhaps I am detached, and that part of my self is hidden to me, and that’s why I so abhor it in another mother. That would be what I’d suggest to a Jungian friend. I would ask, “In what ways are you like that mother, my friend?” But on the other hand, I’m aware that I abhor it and I know I must be detached on some level, because detachment is survival. If we could absorb the suffering of everyone, everywhere, would we not just transcend? Would we not just “walk with God, and be no more” as Enoch did? Wouldn’t we be saints, or something?

    Sigh. See? You are such a little trouble-maker, hurting my brain with thinking. God, I’m glad I met you.

  17. henitsirk Avatar

    Hmm. I wonder if these mothers hang onto these feelings of detachment out of a sense of being more noble for caring for children they don’t feel bonded to? I guess I’m just trying to figure out why someone would want to stop there, what about this detachment feeds something for them.

    I can imagine being very idealistic about adopting, and then having those feelings come crashing down around you when you really have to start parenting. I can imagine not feeling bonded with a child, and being faced with the irritating parts of parenting.

    I didn’t feel bonded with my son for several weeks after he was born. It’s just a fact. I didn’t have to physically care for him because he was in the NICU, so that wasn’t an issue. But my heart didn’t open to loving him until he first cracked an eye open. Then, for whatever reason, I completely fell for him.

    So I guess I have some empathy for these adoptive mothers. And I am trying to have compassion for them in their struggles. I can see how you might be angry at their shortcomings, how you could feel a certain righteous anger at their inability to put their children first, if you want to look at it that way. It’s hard to be patient with people when they are not trying as hard as you think they should.

  18. Eve Avatar

    Anthromama, everything you write is true. I doubt there’s a mother who has not felt those same feelings. And yes, I agree that we have to look into those feelings before we can go on to help ourselves with them.

    I got the sense from reading this particular string of comments that these other mothers were going to stop there; that they accepted that their feelings were part of being adoptive mothers, and that they would just continue to feel that way. This is one of the pitfalls of having a non-traditional family: one is able to blame the non-traditional aspect and get stuck there.

    Yes, some of those mothers did try to soothe and nurture their children. But they always came back to “it’s not the same.” There were nay-sayers and detractors who felt as I do, that they loved their children equally and that their mothering could be ‘normal.’ We all have bad days and good days as parents.

    I think my objection is to blaming adoption for problems that are solvable, if only people will not look at them as permanent handicaps. I may not be making much sense at the moment, but this is my immediate response to your comments.

    I really like and appreciate how you comment intelligently and compassionately. You keep me on my toes and appeal to my best self, and I’m really grateful for that. I feel so angry, sometimes, because I value principles and just expect people to step up and act like grownups. I feel strongly that when one chooses to parent another couple’s child that one had better step up to the plate and be a star player, for that child has some Issues already. I get aggravated when parents don’t take the ordinary and customary care that one ought to take when caring for someone else’s beloved.

    I don’t believe in Jim Crow love. Separate but equal didn’t work for African Americans in this country, and so I don’t know how it should work in adoption.

    Maybe I’m mistaken, though. It would be embarrassing to be so het up about something only to discover later that I am a freak, after all.

  19. henitsirk Avatar

    I would give these mothers one small concession: at least they have awareness of these feelings of detachment and frustration. I have felt some of the same things about my (birth) children: irritated at their crying, wishing they could be rational, feeling like a babysitter, needing a break. It’s one small step to at least acknowledge where you are emotionally.

    Yet I think the key is to not stop there, with merely recognizing the existence of these feelings. I think the real work is in then observing the feelings themselves, and working out why the sense of detachment is there, where is the frustration coming from, what now is missing that is preventing a feeling of bonding.

    I’m not an adoptive mother. I can’t say what I would feel for an adopted child. And I’m not willing to say what all adoptive parents should feel. I think feelings are valid in and of themselves. And perhaps these blogging adoptive mothers truly needed some outlet and acknowledgment of these “negative” feelings.

    But what they do with those feelings is another matter. Do they nurture their children? Do they soothe their tears? Do they tell their children outright that they are not fully loved?

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