We arrived home from enjoying a sunny and warm week in Playa Del Carmen one week ago and ever since then I’ve been struggling to get back in the groove of life. I’ve been in a funk.
At first I chalked it up to fatigue from the long flight and adjusting to the time zone change. I attributed it to the heavy fog that covered the area for the first few days this week. Then, back at work and faced with an over-abundance of email and work to get caught up on, I told myself I was still getting used to my work-life pace.
I suppose I should have expected it. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. It wasn’t long before this melancholy that has shrouded me in almost every waking moment for the past week began to feel strangely familiar.
It happens almost every January. It’s my birthday tomorrow.
For a number of years, a sense of melancholy has fallen over me on my birthday. I insist on minimal celebration: phone calls from my children and a card and flowers from my husband are enough. “It’s just another day,” I insist.
Every year on my birthday, the underlying sense of sorrow and my desire for the day to pass unnoticed is coupled with a sense of wanting to be special, of wishing I was special, and at the same time wishing I wasn’t.
For the past few days I’ve been trying to snap out of this mood. I’ve prayed about it, shed a few tears, and chided myself for the absurdity of allowing myself, again, to be caught up in it. I even googled “adoptee birthday sadness” looking for something to help me snap out of it.
Ironically, the second item on the list that came up was a link to an article I had written that had been published in Adoption Voices Magazine last year talking about this very topic. Oh yes, I’ve been here before.
I came across many other articles confirming that I’m not alone. I’m reminded again that the grief is real and that many adoptees experience birthday grief. Karen Belanger’s poem Unhappy Birthday that she wrote at age forty-three says it well.
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.
I am frustrated, even angry, that it’s happening to me again this year. My logical mind reminds me how blessed I am, that I have a family who loves me, and that I’ve worked through the issues associated with being adopted, but I’m beginning to believe that grief becomes hard-wired in someone who has been separated from her first mother and from her entire family of origin.
So here I am again, back in the same sad place I’ve been in years gone by.
This too shall pass. Until it does, I’ll be wrapped in a quilt nursing a cup of tea.