Sometimes a gesture, no matter the magnitude, can make all the difference.
Two weeks ago my mother and I exchanged two emails. My response to her email was the first time I felt able to articulate, unapologetically, the complexity of my emotions around searching and how to engage my mother in that process. It is hard to navigate, emotionally, searching for relatives when I already have a family. The old tropes of guilt, gratitude towards adoptive families, etc., emerge from the shadows, taking up space better spent on healing. I have wanted to have some version of the conversation below with my mother ever since I decided to search. I lacked the vernacular dexterity to bring it up; I’m grateful my mother took the much more direct route, of just sharing, honestly, how she felt about it all.
A month ago, I was back in Ohio and asked my mother if she would edit some of my pieces for this blog. It was an honest request, I often feel I don’t use punctuation effectively and worry that my tendency to use the passive voice encumbers my message. In reality, there was a much more manipulative impulse at play. By getting my mother to read my blog pieces I could push her to engage with some of the more deep emotional components of my searching process.
Two weeks ago, my mother sent me an email. Until receiving her email I didn’t realize I was waiting for her approval to continue to search, to take what feels like the culminating step. Her email provided relief I didn’t know I was awaiting. It provided acknowledgment, approval, support and direction all in one rather lengthy paragraph.
I was in a chorus concert this weekend and forgot to look for a new document, but it doesn’t look like you shared one. Sorry! I guess an email when you write something you would like me to see would get a quicker response.
I have also been meaning to respond to your blog, which requires more thought. I guess I feel like I should have offered more support to you growing up, offers to talk about questions or feelings you had, made an effort to connect with people from India, etc. But realistically, I am only recently getting to be able to talk about my own feelings. I do understand that the idea of going to confront your birth mother is scary, especially because she denies being your birth mother. I feel like you are more likely to regret not going while you have the chance than you are to regret going, unless the confrontation has a negative impact on her. I’m not sure if saying “confront” is part of my anxiety. How confident are you in Arun and Anjali’s abilities to mediate? I support your decision to go and I wish I felt able to go with you, but I feel it would be physically, and possibly emotionally, too stressful for me.
I will definitely send you an email when I want you to review a piece, that way you don’t have to keep checking if I’m not writing. Good idea.
Thank you for taking some time to read some of my pieces, it really does mean a lot to me that you have read them and taken the time the respond, I really appreciate that.
Thank you for acknowledging some of the things I felt I lacked growing up and the scariness of searching and going back to potentially connect with my brith mother. I know that this type of communication is not necessarily comfortable for you so I appreciate you taking the initiative to meet me closer to where I am. That being said, my observations about growing up and not being around other Indian people and culture serves as a healing process for me. In order for me to feel I can move on and accept parts of myself, particularly Indian parts, I need to acknowledge what I felt I didn’t have. This acknowledgment serves to help me feel more whole, not to criticize my upbringing or indicate that I think you and dad did a poor job. I don’t want to make you feel bad about the choices you made but I need to be able to be honest and critical as I continue to explore this part of myself.
I know myself well enough to know that if you had spent more time or energy exposing me to Indian people and culture as a child I likely would’ve resisted. I wanted, very much, to be seen as similar to others, not Indian. I am very appreciative that you and dad did not “force” that connection upon me. I think that was the right choice. The contradiction though is that I can recognize this dynamic and still feel a sense of loss about not having that connection to India and Indian culture. That sense of loss is not on you to remedy, it is a part of adoption, particularly transracial and international adoption.
As for searching, I appreciate you sharing how you feel about maybe regretting it if I don’t go. I think you are right but having you share this feeling too helps me feel more confident I’m making a choice that will be good for me and that is very helpful. I, too, am worried about a negative impact on her and don’t feel fully equipped to deal with that potential outcome. I feel very confident in Anjali and Arun, but I’ll admit I don’t know how to really evaluate if they will be effective mediators. I think they are the best suited people to lead me on this and so will continue to follow their guidance until my gut tells me otherwise.
Lastly, I had considered asking you to go with me, and in some ways still would like you to be there, but logistically think it is too complex. I’ve asked a friend to join me and he has agreed so I am feeling like I am in a good place in terms of emotional support. I may want to call you when I am there but i feel good about how things are shaping up. Thank you for being honest about your ability to come, it means a lot that you would even considerate it.
I love you and thank you for writing these things to me.
The gesture of writing the email, anticipating my need for clarity about how she felt about this experience, demonstrated to me what I knew but needed to hear, that I am supported in this process.