I feel very sad this morning. Many women who give up children for adoption did so because in whatever way they did not feel like they were enough. Strong enough, wise enough, financially sound enough. It doesn’t help that often this is a true and honest assessment of one’s condition.
I left my first husband due to issues of addiction. He honestly tried very hard, more than once, in a variety of ways to change his behavior so that his addiction was not a part of his life nor our life as a family. I tried to stick it out. Because our family’s financial resources were being poured into satisfying his addiction, I eventually believed my daughter and I would be better off if we separated from him.
I tried to handle the divorce in an enlightened way for our 3 year old daughter. Telling her that her father still loved her and I still loved her but that we would not live together as a family any more. Financially, I wasn’t able to pull it off. I wasn’t able to financially support us. I went to my mom for tiny bits of money to get by. I took on roommates to share the cost of providing shelter. None of it worked.
In desperation, I left my daughter with her paternal grandmother, who because I had to go back to work when she was only a few months old, had always cared for her. I didn’t know if I could drive a truck but I knew the money was good and if I could do it for a little while and save it up, then I could recover her and we might make it.
Often, life does not work out as we plan. Her father remarried and he took physical custody of our daughter. Her step-mother had a daughter and together my ex-husband had another daughter with this wife. My daughter had a family and I know the issues of addiction continued to weigh heavily on this family. I don’t have easy answers.
I had a reconciliation of sorts with my ex-husband not that long ago. No recriminations. Only an acknowledgment of how lucky we both are that our daughter is in our lives. She is an amazing person. In spite of all the challenges, somehow we did something right along the way and both of us would say, mostly the work of becoming amazing deserves 100% credit by our daughter.
It is clear in my mom’s adoption file that my maternal grandmother, shown above holding my mom for the very last time, never intended to surrender her. She was pressured and exploited by circumstances and the expert manipulation of that baby thief, Georgia Tann, in Memphis.
I read a statistic that said that more than 30% of women who have relinquished children never have another – either because they chose not to, or could not. There is an increased incidence of secondary infertility among natural mothers.
I know that my grandmother never had another child. I know that while her birth name was Elizabeth, my mom’s birth certificate had her name as Lizzie. I saw her sign Elizabeth to a note and a postcard she sent to Georgia Tann after losing my mom. Yet, when she died in her 60s after marrying a second husband, Lizzie is what is on her gravestone. I can’t help but believe she hoped my mom would find it someday. My mom died without fulfilling her desire to know about her original mother. I was the one to find the gravestone and sit beside it and talk with her soul.
There is no way to know why my maternal grandfather left my maternal grandmother in Memphis four months pregnant. It seems her widowed father sent her away to Virginia to have my mom and I doubt she was supposed to bring my mom back to Tennessee. It is clear my great-grandfather was unwilling to take the two of them into his home.
It appears that the only time my maternal grandmother had any communication directly with my maternal grandfather (after he left her alone and pregnant) was when he decided to go ahead and divorce her 3 years after they married and two years after my mom was born. The divorce papers also show her name formally as Elizabeth. I believe that having lost their child, my grandmother was so filled with shame, she could not face him. The divorce freed her up to remarry and not long after that he remarried. My heart is glad they didn’t die alone.
My mom’s adoption file is a constant reminder to me of what they had not done, of the courage they somehow lacked to fight back and of the child in the middle (my mom) they both lost. I come close to tears every time I revisit this story in my heart’s mind.