Assembling Self

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The much dreaded adoptee birthday

How do you really explain to people in the "nonadopted" world what your birthday as an adoptee truly means?  That it is probably the one day a year you dread more than any other because it is the most gut wrenching emotional day you share with your first mother.  Especially since twelve years ago I was given one of the best birthday gifts an adoptee could hope for, acknowledgement that your birthday was not forgotten and instead, you were remembered.

August 24, 1999 a date I will never forget I received via the court a 40th birthday card.  From the prior non-id letter exchange I had told her all about myself part of which is that I collect shells, baskets, love to garden and to write, and my favorite color was green the color of "our" eyes.  She had found a green Hallmark card with a basket filled with ivy, shells, with a pen and a pencil on it. I wonder how long it took her to search to find that card, the obvious time she must have spent, and how symbolic it was.  She was "listening" to what I had said and then signed it "Love, your Birthmother".  I remember holding the card in my hands knowing her hands had touched it.  I didn't want to let it go.  Little did I know this would be the last contact I would have from her.

It's gotten better over the years I am in good company in the adoption community.  I know now I am not alone in how I feel and that validation is worth millions in alcohol and or therapy.  I know that what I want and need to fill my life is not something I can "get over", "forget", or see as anything other than a tragedy that is the separation from my first mother.  That primal wound thing that will never go away that so many of us have to deal with year after year.

I've done my best in adoption educating and reform to get people to see that adoption is NOT all about creating a happy and loving family, it FIRST destroys one.  That's how I feel on my birthday destroyed and devastated for what could have been for a mother that wanted to keep her child but society and her family at her young age of 17 offered her no options other than to be hidden away and forced to relinquish her own flesh and blood.  Happy Birthday?  I think NOT.

My adoptive parent never remember my birthday and continually forget. They can't help it this day holds no real meaning for them they didn't know me until I was two weeks old.  My first parents won't acknowledge me let alone the day I was born.  How can you celebrate this type of pain?  Why would anyone want to?

I pray someday my first mother can come forward and break free from the secrets and stories that hide my existence.  I want to know my siblings.  I want and NEED to know the faces and names from where I came.  I want that for my children too.  I hope this all makes sense it so hard to type through tears.

So, I'll repost this poem I wrote about ten years ago.  I still holds true to this day.  It probably always will.

Unhappy Birthday

There were no birth announcements.
No cigars were handed out.
No newborn baby pictures.
No parent's joyous shouts.
No counting toes and fingers.
No comparing eyes and chins.
No nursery decorated.
No proud grandparent grins.
Instead the day that I was born,
a mother silently wept.
While in a room close to her,
her newborn daughter slept.
So close we were together.
So far we're now apart.
Two lives were separated.
A love doomed from the start.
And so each year since I was born,
this day has been the same.
No one can know the sadness.
No one can know the pain.
No candles ever bright enough
to light my darkened soul.
No happy birthday party.
No heart that can be whole.


  1. Karen, your poem brought me to tears. I understand the birthday pain from the other side as a first mother crying every year on my daughter's birthday. My blog post yesterday was about this. Some people didn't understand why after so many years it still hurt. You know...., I know... it's not something you get over, you just learn to cope. I hope for both of you that you and your mother can one day come together. ((((hug)))

  2. Tough call for us all and hope you get through the day better each year.

  3. Oh...too sad. Your post brought me to tears too...even before I got to the poem. Oddly enough, from this side of the fence I used to vainly hope that my daughter, after I found her, would remember my birthday. But she had not grown up with me, and there was nothing to remind her back in the state she was living. But of course that does not compare to the sense of abandonment that you must feel on your birthday.

    The cross you have to bear seems so unfair; and I am sorry.

    Lorraine from
    First Mother Forum

  4. It's so unfair to all of us. At least now I can bear the cross better not easily but knowing that what I can do out of my pain is work to change this horrible system called closed records adoption. Thanks means alot.

  5. Very good post, Karen. Keep up the good work. And I'm right there with you in the pain department.