When we are babies our age is measured, first in days, then months, and at some point the measurement switches to years. As children, it’s important to us to specify our age as “and a quarter” or “and a half” or “and three quarters”; we can’t wait to grow up and be big girls.
At some point in our life, perhaps around forty, we realize that time is passing quickly. Some embrace a “thirty-nine and holding” attitude and refuse to think of themself as growing older; some take extraordinary measures to try and hold on to their fleeting youth; while others walk gracefully into their advancing years pleased with the wisdom and sense of self that growing older brings
It was my fifty-second birthday yesterday. In three more years I will be eligible to retire; that’s how I am marking the years now. Sometimes I wish for the years to pass by faster so I can get to the day I can retire from corporate life, other times I want it to slow down so my grandchildren don’t grow up too quickly. Most of the time, I try to take it as it comes.
For a number of years a sense of melancholy has fallen over me on my birthday. I have insisted in minimal celebration: phone calls from my children, the special gift bag from my BFF, and a card and flowers from my husband has been enough.
“It’s just another day,” I’ve insisted.
Yet every year, at some point on January 27, I am overtaken with a sadness for no reason I can explain.
Yesterday, I believe I figured it out.
I’ve been working on my memoir for the past couple of years and, more recently, sharing some of my story with my writing group and my critique partners. The process of writing, rewriting, reading, and letting my words free, has helped me understand why I feel the way I feel about my birthday.
When I was born there was no celebration; there were, I imagine, only tears and sorrow. It grieves me when I think of the joy I felt at the births of my children and grandchildren, and consider that there was no joy in the delivery room on the day I was born. Despite the Chosen Baby story (I am not a fan of this story) I was told by my adoptive parents, the concept of being chosen, has always been overshadowed by a sense of rejection. I can’t explain it; it’s just the way it is. On my birthday the underlying sense of sorrow, and my desire for the day to pass by mostly unnoticed, is coupled with a sense of wanting to be special. Of wishing I was special.
I tell you this not because I feel sorry for myself or because I want you to feel sorry for me. Neither is true. I tell you this because I am probably not the only adoptee who feels this way on her birthday. If you are an adoptee, it may help you to know that you are not the only one. If you are not an adoptee, you probably know someone who is, and this might help you to understand her better.
I also tell you this because it was through writing my story I came to understand this about myself. The value of writing memoir is many-faceted: our lives are documented for future generations and our stories have the potential to help others in similar circumstance. And perhaps, through writing our stories we will learn to love ourselves, and in that love walk forward with a sense of grace, and with the ability to have empathy toward those whose stories have not yet been told.
By the way, my daughter, Laurinda, has shared a special birthday post over at One Woman’s Day. Check it out!
I’d never considered this aspect of an adoptee’s birthday. My parents considered adopting both before and after I was born, and I suppose I’ve always viewed adoption from the point of view of that child who desperately wanted a baby sister. I understand how you have a different feeling. But if you need proof that you’re special, just look at Laurinda.
Adoption is a blessing! And you’re right, looking at our children and grandchildren puts everything into perspective, doesn’t it?
that makes alot of sense Linda…Happy Birthday….
Hugs to you – I understand in my own way about how adoption makes a child feel – though my bio mom kept me for 3 or 3 and 1/2 years before she gave me up for adoption to my stepmother. It forever affects who you are and how you think about family. I guess that’s why so many times my themes in my books are about family and belonging (or not belonging) and Place….
Happy Birthday – find the joy in who you are, a beautiful person who deserved better from their birth mother-no matter the reasons for her decisions. And, now you, as I do, recognize the precious beauty of our child(ren) and grandchild(ren)
Kat you are right, it does forever affect who we are and our perspective on family. Perhaps you, like me, have the same deep longing for family, home, and place. I am blessed beyond belief, and eternally thankful and love my adoptive family, but there is this void that only someone who has been touched by adoption can understand.
What an amazing insight for you to have. Memoir writing is one of the most powerful processes I know. It’s so amazing what gets revealed and how healing it is. Have you read Jennifer Lauck’s blog? You might want to check it out.
I want to say, too, that as a birth mom, I always grieved on my daughter’s birthday. Interestingly, even after reunion, we never got to celebrate that day together. I know there was a lot of emotion about having been given up she never could access or heal.
You are a wise and wonderful women, wounds and all. It’s a privilege to know you.
I will be 60 this Sunday. As an adoptee, there is not a year that passes that I don’t feel sorrow on or around my birthday. I have met my birth Mom – she had dementia when I met her but still remembered my birth date and who I was. She told me “you were a star in my sky my whole life”. I am told by my birth family she always loved to look at the stars. She has passed away not, but I have only understanding, admiration and empathy for her. There were ties that bound us together throughout both of our lives. I think of my birthday as the day we met, but also as the day we parted…and that helps me explain the sorrow I feel – because that date was always significant to us…
I’ve sent you an email, Pat.