The Birthday/Anniversary Blues, Life After Relinquishment

At my last Birthmother’s Support group meeting, one of the birthmoms was discussing how she handles the anniversary of her relinquishment, AKA her child’s birthday.  The counselor, after listening to some of the other women confess their emotional trauma, looks over to me, curls her mouth slightly, and says, “How about you, Karen?  How do you handle the anniversary of your son’s birthday?”

I didn’t have a birthmother’s support group to attend fouteen years ago and the adoption agency never offered me counseling or seemed to care how I handled my parental relinquishment or the loss of my son.  I remember calling “my” adoption agency shortly after my mother left for home.  I spoke with my counselor and told her I thought I needed to set up a meeting to talk about my feelings.  Her response, “You think you need counseling (in a very surprised tone)?  I told her no, maybe not.  I never felt so used in my life.  It was like having sex with a man and then calling him the next day only to hear him make comments that sound like, “What are you calling me for.  I already got what I needed from you.  Now go on about your merry way and don’t bother me (us) again.”

Truth is, I assumed that I handled my relinquishment anniversary very well.  With Noah’s birthday being so close to Christmas, it seemed to me that I was more fortunate because people are generally friendlier, more giving, and more loving all of which somehow helped me to stay focused on the happy rather than the sad.  It’s also a busy time with shopping, decorating, and celebrating.  Staying busy can keep a person’s mind preoccupied.  It’s when our brain idles that our thoughts can invade our mind and linger on until we are left with hopeless despair and shameful guilt.

On the other hand, I knew that something happened to me during this time but I couldn’t really put my finger on it.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized what was happening.  I was reliving the experience, unconsciously, over in my mind.  I would learn later that it’s a real trauma symptom that many birthmothers experience.  And for me, it seemed to get stronger a week or so after Noah’s birthday.  Maybe that’s because I was Noah’s mom for the first week of his life and for his very first Christmas.  Noah didn’t leave me until a few days after Christmas.

For some reason, this year seemed to be much harder for me to maintain my emotional balance than previous years.  I would tear up at work, in the car, and at home for no apparent reason.  It seemed like every minute of every day I had to fight back my tears.  And it was a battle that I was seriously loosing.  I didn’t understand why I was so emotional.  And then it dawned on me.

The previous two years, Jaren and I drove up to stay with Noah and his family during the Christmas holiday.  Both times, we visited a couple days after Christmas (during my trauma period).  Jaren and I always enjoyed this trip.  Our families joined together and the missing pieces of the puzzle were all together again.  And just maybe this togetherness helped me by reconnecting with Noah again.

Seeing both of my sons together, face to face, playing, laughing and talking is the best medicine any mother could have.

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