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Susan Ito trying to do it all: reading writing mothering spousing daughtering working living

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Adoption Up Close

I've been wanting to blog about adoption for a long time now but hadn't gotten around to it. But yesterday's events brought it up closer than it has been for a long time.

When I was in my twenties, I was obsessed with adoption and adoption-related themes. I read every book I could, I belonged to multiple support groups, I searched for adoption movies and ultimately co-edited a book about adoption. I had recently contacted members of my birth family, and it was a huge roller coaster of emotion. But then years passed, and things with the birthfamily took a sudden turn for the worse, and I closed it all off. I felt oversaturated; done with it, at least with that level of intensity. There were many years of adoption hiatus.

But last year I started working for an organization called Pact, an Adoption Alliance, and suddenly adoption has come front and center again. I feel connected to my work, and feel that it is meaningful in the deepest way to me. I've been speaking about being adopted, and writing about it more again. Last year I had a profound experience when a newborn baby who was waiting for her adoptive parents spent a few hours in the office, and I had a very trippy re-living of my own waiting time, in the Spence-Chapin office, the day in 1959 when my own parents came to bring me home.

Yesterday was a wholly different up-close experience with adoption. I had just come home from my water-aerobics class, and was about to shower, when the phone rang. It was my co-worker at Pact. Friday was the Spanish-speaking social worker's day off, and a woman had just appeared in the office, saying something about a baby.

I can't say a whole lot more about the situation, because of confidentiality, but the next several hours involved me speaking a lot of somewhat panicky Spanish with this woman who had given birth the day before and then had somehow found her way to our office. I was awed, anguished, astounded, moved, distraught, elated (thinking of the waiting parents who were about to receive some very exciting news). The things that people go through. I saw in her my own birthmother and the millions of other women who have to endure these things. It was wrenching and haunting and humbling. I like to think that I was able to offer her some comfort and solace with my bumbling but trying-hard Spanish. I found that maybe my Spanish isn't so bad. I heard some awful, awful things. I felt like I really saw a human being, and I really saw suffering. I'll say it again: it humbled me.

I was hoping-hoping-hoping that I might be able to take care of her baby for a day or two, while things get sorted out, but I have a big fundraiser to do tomorrow (if you are reading this, and it is before noon on Sunday, April 30th, PLEASE COME!!), so the baby will be with a family who have this amazing job of caring for newborns in this in-between phase of their lives.

I think of my own in-between phase a lot, and the people who took care of me before I found my parents, or they found me. The nurses in the hospital where I stayed for a month, and the "boarding mother" where I stayed for another two months after that. I used to have a little set of typed notes that they had given my mother when they turned her over to me. Those small instructions, about liking to be propped in the corner of the couch, about liking to watch other children (what other children?! who were they??) mean a lot to me.

Being so close to adoption is a good thing for me these days. It is healing, and it is searing, both at the same time.


Blogger Bustopher Jones said...

That's wonderful, Susan! Thanks for sharing such a personal experience. I look forward to hearing more about your experiences with adoption.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 1:50:00 AM

Blogger firstimpressionist said...

It's got to be fascinating to be there at the moment that the course of a person's life starts to take shape. I was adopted as well and just wrote a post today about some of my thoughts.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 12:23:00 PM

Anonymous Wendy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 12:42:00 PM


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