Thursday, June 28, 2007
I am still working on mine. I’m on # 122. On Monday morning I decided to check my email one last time before I left for pre-op, and I saw her name in my email. That always makes me smile. I get those crazy butterflies in the tummy and then I notice the subject line. “200 Things You Don’t Know About Me.”
I opened the email and there it was. Totally completed and sent to me at 3:00 am, the wee hours of the morning of my surgery. Coincidence? So I printed it out and stuffed it into my hospital bag. While I was waiting for the lab and before I saw my doctor. I was laying there freezing and I asked the nurse to bring me some warm blankets and pull the curtain. I held onto the papers. I was so excited to begin reading it. There in my hands were 200 things I was about to learn about my mother. I should mention that when I was searching for her – I had very little information. These are the only things I knew about her:
1. Brown hair
2. Blue eyes
Then when I found her and we began emailing, I learned a lot about her life and the way she lives it. I learned a lot about my siblings, very few about the time of my conception and birth and some about her likes and dislikes. Our letters to one another quickly turned into chit-chat about daily life and experiences. Then I met her face-to-face and I saw how she lived first hand, but still lacked all those little details that most people know, and take for granted, about their mothers.
Here I was with this paper in hand – wanting desperately to read it but also wanting to savor it. I wouldn’t have traded this paper for gold. I briefly contemplated reading just 10 things a day but I began reading and of course I could not stop. I’ve received a lot of gifts in my life. I got my VW Jetta when I graduated from high school. I got my gold earrings in January from my boyfriend. My grandmother made me my first princess dress that I still cherish today but there is no better gift than the one I received from my mother on Monday. Hands down this was the best gift I’ve ever received in my life.
You live your life as an adoptee always wondering. What does she look like? Who do I look like? Did she hold me? How could she do it? Was it hard to walk away? Did she try to come back? If she could have; would she have? You are so full of questions and there are never any answers. Even after reunion, you’re too afraid to ask. God forbid she look into your eyes with those familiar blue eyes and say “No. She didn’t regret losing you.” So instead, you opt not to ask. The answer could be too painful. So you continue wondering.
I learned so many things about her. I learned about some of her secret dreams. I learned that she likes antique shops, toy stores, wine tasting, what makes her happy, what makes her sad, that she’s quirky like me, how much she loves her children and her husband, what kind of friend she is, her favorite food, and her favorite candy, her favorite book, but most of all, the biggest gift to me was #s 7, 47, 100, 148, 168, and 200. I learned that she loves me, she misses me, she has thought about me every day of my life, she never wanted to give me up, she held me and sang me a song when I was born, and that she wishes everyday that she had kept me.
I read this letter so many times this week and I can’t seem to put it down. To learn 200 things about my mother is a dream come true. Cameron asked me what we’ll find to talk about now. Knowing just 200 things about someone you’re lacking 25 years with is still just an ice breaker. There is so much more to know. I look forward to spending the rest of my life adding to this list.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Surgery is official and it will be on Monday. My tumor markers have doubled and I've got the glows on my scans. My gyn/onc also can palpate a small mass near my bladder so she wants to do a laparotomy; a "second look surgery." My nmom wanted to come and unfortunately I need to call her next and tell her that it's better that she doesn't. I'm so torn about this because I do not want to hurt her in any way whatsoever. I've thought all day long about this and I have to do what I feel will be best in the long run. If my 1st mom comes, my 2nd mom will do or say something that will cause stress and resentment. I can warn her not to until I'm blue in the face; but she will, it's a given. She will then completely deny that she had any ill intentions. I've done this for 25 years, I know the game. I know how it ends.
Additionally, this would be only the second time I've seen her. I'm not ready to go there yet. I can't bring myself to be in this position at our second meeting. There is so much to me, who I am and what I have to offer. I'm so much more than cancer. I want her to continue to know me and care about me without any road blocks like pain, hospitals, crying, whining, IVs, narcotics and prognoses.
These two things combined are the reasons for my decisions + my FREE PASS to do whatever I want to do. :-)
My brother Kieran however, will be coming here. He'll be here tommorow. I think his skin is thicker and he'll handle what my parents throw his way. Maybe he'll even throw back. :)
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Suddenly though it has changed. I dread picking up the phone because I’m afraid it will be the other one. The one who suddenly brings me really down. Really low. She now seems to thrive on bringing me down. I really need to get caller ID.
So this time she’s screeching out something about calling my Aunt Judy. I can’t even grasp what she was trying to say because none of it made much sense. I told her to calm down, that I couldn’t understand her. It turns out that she’s sick or something but I really had no clue what was wrong with her. I hung up the phone promising to call Aunt Judy.
I call Aunt Judy.
She tells me that she was diagnosed with arthritis this morning. I listened to her ramble on about how painful her right knee is and how she’s concerned about the quality of her life from here on out. I console her. I reassure her that everything will be okay. I let her know that I’m here for her. I tell her how sorry I am about this diagnosis and I let her know if she needs anything, she should feel free to call me.
God I hate what is becoming of me. I feel so incredibly selfish that when I hung up the phone I said “I don’t f*king care what happens to you Judy.” I’m insensitive and I feel guilty about it, but I still mean what I said (when the phone hung up)
What bothers me is that Aunt Judy is no different from her. Siblings. Two of a kind. The same person molded into the bodies of two. Precisely why she called me to tell me about Aunt Judy is why I’m so angry with her. Whenever anything is going on with me, she must try to one-up me. Be it positive or negative, it must always be about her. She can’t simply just support me because she can’t stand for anything to be happening in the life of anybody but her. Aunt Judy counts as attention focused on her because like I said, one person, two bodies.
I don’t even want to pick up the phone these days. I want to tell the people that I want to hear from to call only my cell phone, and unplug the house phone and never reconnect it. But then I feel selfish again. Ungrateful for all she does. It’s a crazy cycle. The strange thing is that although I feel guilty for being ungrateful, I continue to feel ungrateful. How do you either: stop being ungrateful or stop feeling guilty for being ungrateful.
So it is a strong possibility that I may be having surgery next week. This morning my 1st mother said that she would like to come here if I have surgery. In part, that sounds incredibly awesome, but of course things can’t be that simple.
#1. I am afraid to be vulnerable near her.
#2. How can I possibly allow these two in the same state let alone in the same hospital?
How do you get to the point where you can allow your 1st mom who shows interest in really being a mom, to do so? Is that a crazy concept? Is that just a pipe dream; or can it really be possible? Still I am so nervous around her. How do I get over that? How and when do we stop feeling as though we’re on a first date with the most incredibly beautiful person in the world?
And, even if she did come. What would the other one do to her and say to her?
It’s giving me a stomach ache just thinking about it.
I have two mothers?
“You have a birth-mother and a love-mother. Your birth-mother loved you enough to give you life and your love-mother loves you enough to love you forever.”
I always wonder what other adoptees thought as children about their adoptions and their natural parents, the scene of when it took place, how it happened and why it happened. I feel really silly writing this but I used to have this big elaborate picture in my mind of thousands and thousands of babies laying in cradles in a hospital, with only a handful of prospective adoptive parents looking into each cradle until they have found the one. The baby that God brought them to rescue. My parents adopting because of infertility didn't even occur to me until I was in my early teens. I remember I once asked them why they didn't adopt any other children and they told me that it was too expensive. I then asked why they didn't give birth to any children and that was the first time I'd realized that there was more to the story of my adoption. God actually didn't really send them to me. God, how naive I was. Pretty embarrassing really.
I wonder how much of this played a role in my original thoughts of finding my first mother. I used to state that I didn't have a need for her in my life. Could it be because I thought that all she gave me was life. Could it be because I imagined that she delivered me and went on to resume her life without looking back? If I knew of the struggle in her decision, if I knew how much love she had for me, if .......would I have felt differently?
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Anyway, that is all I really wanted to say.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Ya know, in the beginning, when I first found my natural mother, somehow I was able to sit through their jabs at her without freaking out. I bit my tongue and made it through each visit home or telephone conversation, with a sore tongue maybe; but no fighting or yelling. However it has progressively become more difficult. I find myself protective over her and I become defensive when they spew out nonsense. The truth is that they know very little, if anything at all, about her. So why is it that they feel they can make all these sometimes petty, sometimes viscous accusations? Why does there need to be a competition? Regardless of what led to my relinquishment 25 years ago; what does all of that matter now? And who are they to decide that they know the facts that they SWORE up and down last year that they did not know? And calling her on these inconsistencies is useless because she turns it around as though I am "cornering her," or "attacking her." Am I absolutely doomed to endure this for the rest of my life?
Cameron sticks up for me. My dad sticks up for her. By the end of dinner, Cameron and I are leaving with me in tears and my mom saying: "I can't believe you Nicole. I can't believe you are doing this to me."
How have I done any of this to her? Hasn't she done this to herself? When will I decide that I cannot take anymore and stop allowing myself to be put through this? And of course when I do decide to stop letting her do this to me, that will be my fault and she will say I am choosing my natural family over my adoptive family.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
I called my adoptive dad and sent him flowers, and I will be there for dinner tonight - the usual routine on Father's Day. Still, I'm thinking of my natural dad and wondering if he's thinking of me today. I have his phone number. I know a lot of things about him thanks to Kieran, who has generously shared all he knows. I''ve seen a lot of pictures of him ... some of the most recent pictures were of him with his 18 year old daughter at her wedding. I was resentful when I was looking at them. Resentful because he gave me up for adoption, because he left my mother and Kieran for the mother of this other daughter and resentful because I could see the love from a father to his daughter in those photographs - a love I have never experienced. I guess it's jealousy. I hate being jealous. It's a very uncomfortable feeling that I was never really used to until reunion. I don't like the way it makes me feel. I would rather not even care. But, I do. Why do I care? Why do I care about a man that I don't even know?
He is aware of our reunion and I have no idea how he feels about it. I half expected that if he cared at all, he would call me and in the beginning, I wondered everytime my phone rang. Apparently he's not planning on doing so. So why do I care? So today I am looking at the phone for the opposite reason. I find myself wondering if I should call him. What would I say? How would he react? Would he even care? And why should I care? He has built a happy home separate from my mother and her family. He wasn't the greatest father to Kieran either; Kieran recalls many, many days in which he waited for his father to pick him up, but most of the time he never showed. Yet, this morning I called Kieran and asked him if he called him for Father's Day. He did.
If I called him, would it hurt my mother? Would she feel betrayed?
If I called him, would he dissapoint me in the same way that he dissapointed my brother? Would he make promises that he wouldn't keep? If he gave me up once; wouldn't it be easier to do it again? I don't want to be hurt. I hate being hurt. Isn't it easier to protect ourselves than to become vulnerable to pain? I don't like all these mixed up feelings. I don't like feeling insecure. I am not used to this. I am not used to any of these feelings I have since reunion.
Maybe I just need to get ready to go to my other dad's house for dinner and be grateful that I have him.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
June 13 -- Ovarian cancer is associated with a specific set of symptoms that should trigger further evaluation by a physician, "preferably a gynecologist," according to a consensus statement released today.
Women should be evaluated if she has the nonspecific symptoms it cited "almost daily for more than a few weeks."
Women with ovarian cancer report that symptoms are persistent and represent a change from normal for their bodies," said the statement. "The frequency and/or number of such symptoms are key factors in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Several studies show that even early stage ovarian cancer can produce these symptoms."
Pelvic or abdominal pain
Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).
"Prompt medical evaluation may lead to detection at the earliest possible stage of the disease. Early stage diagnosis is associated with an improved diagnosis," according to statement issued by the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, and the American Cancer Society.
Only 19% of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at a stage when treatment has the best chance of extending survival beyond five years. According to the American Cancer Society 22,430 new cases of ovarian cancer and 15,280 deaths from ovarian cancer are likely this year in the United States.
The consensus statement also noted that although several other symptoms have been reported by women with ovarian cancer-notably fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation, and menstrual irregularities-those symptoms were judged to be not as useful in identifying ovarian cancer because they are also common among women without ovarian cancer.
The consensus statement was scheduled for release on June 25, but the contents of the statement were revealed in a front page article in today's New York Times.
Sherry Salway Black, executive director of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance one of the groups that has endorsed the consensus statement, credited Barbara Goff, M.D., a University of Washington gynecologist, with much of the research that formed the basis for the statement.
Dr. Goff and Cindy Melancon, a co-founder of the Alliance, conducted a survey of ovarian cancer survivors aimed at pinpointing early symptoms. Those data were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2004.
Black said the medical community has traditionally been dismissive of ovarian cancer patients' reports about symptoms. "We are proud that founders of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance have been the catalyst for changing this thinking," she said.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
These words trigger me greatly. First of all, when I express sadness in my inability to ever bear children, maybe I just want to express myself; maybe I am not looking for your opinion. Yes, I know that I can always adopt. This is something that I am aware of; but maybe I don’t want to adopt. Has that ever occurred to you? Why do you believe that every woman must raise children? Do you know how many people believe that my inability to bear children somehow makes me less of a woman? Do you know that I have felt this myself? I have struggled with this issue for nearly a year and it doesn’t get easier for me. Do you realize that every time you mention it; it feels like you’re pushing in the knife a little bit further? When will you come to the conclusion that the knife is in far enough?
Maybe I don’t want to be like you and raise children who are not mine. Maybe I don’t want to take part in the destruction of a family to fulfill my own needs. Maybe I am putting ahead my best effort to accept the fact that raising children is not a part of my future. If I accept that; can’t you? Are you able to love me and accept the fact that you may never be a grandmother? Are you able to love me for who I am and not for what I can do for you
All of my life I have tiptoed around you in fear of setting you off. I have made certain decisions in life with the sole purpose of pleasing you. From this moment forward, I will no longer worry about how my decisions hurt you. I am confident in the choices I make and none of them go without prior thought. If I make a mistake, I will live with that and change it. I will continue to trudge my road in my sandals, confident in my steps. I don’t need you following behind me warning me of every stone and dip ahead. At 25 years old, I am fully capable of stubbing my toe and getting back on track, all by myself. I am a big girl now. I am all grown up and capable of continuing my direction and coming out in one piece.
You say that how I live my life is a reflection of you – but that is untrue. How I live my life is a reflection of me and only me. You can choose to be a part of my life and how you choose to do that is what reflects you.
I hate cancer. I hate it so much and it is the most difficult thing to have so much anger towards something intangible. I hate it enough that it has invaded my body, but I hate it even more that it has ravaged the bodies of young children like Cheyenne, young children who have never even had the chance to become the people they would have become. Then there is survivors guilt, a very real thing. I feel it every time someone I know has yet again been taken out by this ugly disease. I'm so angry and I haven't yet found a positive outlet for my anger and grief. I end up bottling it up inside and then someone else dies, and the build up inside of me makes me more and more angry.
Then there are people. People who I suppose mean well, but so often say the most outrageous and clueless things at really inappropriate times. "Don't get attached." Um, don't get attached?! How can you not get attached to other human beings? How can you not hold the hand of a child who is dying and not get attached? Excuse me but the last I checked, I am human. I am a human being that feels empathy for other human beings. What kind of person would I be if I didn't get attached? What kind of nurse would that make me? There are enough people, enough nurses in this world who are detached. I refuse to allow that to happen to me. I suppose being removed from my mother at birth could have detached me, thankfully that didn't happen to me, because I wouldn't want to live that way. I wouldn't want to be a person who can't, or refuses, to feel for other people. Ok, can you tell that is a sore spot for me? I probably couldn't even count high enough to state the number of times I have been told to not become attached. ugh.
Then there are the questions of when is enough - enough? When is it okay for people suffering with terminal illness able to let go. Fighting cancer is tiring. It can take everything out of you. When you have a 12 year old body that cancer is ravaging on a daily basis; when is it okay to say NO MORE? She continued to fight for those who love her. She knew how difficult it would be for her parents to exist without her. When do we decide on quality vs. quantity; and who decides it? When will we as society begin to let the patient decide?
I am just so angry. Yes, you can picture me stomping on the ground and throwing things around. That is exactly what I've been doing all morning. I hate cancer and there is no way to kick it in the ass; because even when one person beats it, another one won't. It sucks. It sucks really really bad.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Cheyenne had strawberry blonde peach fuzz hair, compliments of chemo, and blue eyes with delicately placed freckles across the bridge of her nose. She had a smile and a hug for everyone and would always help out with the younger children who were struggling with hospital stays, needle pricks, fear and fatigue. She wanted to become a researcher when she grew up and find a cure for cancer. She is simply an amazing, loving and beautiful soul.
I began visiting children's hospital in hopes to lift the spirits of children unaware that I was the one who would gain from my visits. These kids have given me a new appreciation and meaning in life. One of the nurses once referred to me as selfless but that isn't the case here. If any word describes my visits to the kids, it would be selfish, because they have given me something that I was desperately in search of - hope amidst adversity and true unconditional love.
I will miss you Cheyenne
Monday, June 11, 2007
He brought some of his photo albums, with a lot of pictures of my mom when she was younger. I stare at those pictures in which she is holding him, or playing with him and she looked so incredibly happy. In ever picture she was smiling. I try to imagine myself in those pictures, would she be as happy? More happy? Less happy? Many of these pictures included my father. My mother, my brother and my father, just a few years after I was born and adopted. He looked like he was in love with her and her with him. What went wrong?
My favorite picture of all was a picture taken at the park; a 1 year old Kieran sliding down the slide with our father guiding him down and our mother waiting at the bottom to “catch” him.
It makes me think about how others in their lives somehow convinced them that they wouldn’t be good parents for me, something apparently she still believes, but every picture I see, at my mom’s house and this weekend with Kieran paints a different story. My mom’s house was filled with joy. It sounds corny, but it was really a beautiful place and the pictures on the walls, the kids’ awards hung in frames, the pool in the back yard, the drawings and report cards displayed on the refrigerator……. They are loved, they are taken care of, they are cherished…….all given by the same mother who is convinced she couldn’t raise me.
Of course when I was planning my trip to visit my first family, I went to my adoptive parents and asked for pictures. I went through boxes upon boxes, only to find very, very few photographs. There were none of me at the park, none in the pool on my father’s back, none like the photographs in my first family’s albums. Something else was striking – there were no pictures in which I looked truly happy. No belly laughing pictures like my siblings have. No pictures of the family together; just a few poor quality pictures of me alone. I found myself looking at little Nicole and wondering what I was feeling back then but to no avail; I have very few memories of my early childhood. Based upon pictures and my memories, one would think I didn’t even exist until high school.
Anyway, on another note, I took my brother everywhere. I took him to the hospital and he handed out the build a bears with me. I took him to meet all of my friends and my boyfriend. I took him to my childhood home and he met my adoptive parents. They were welcoming to him. My adoptive mom kept staring at him and asking him a million questions. Somehow we made it through that experience and on Saturday we went to the beach. We had a few beers (which is a huge no-no for me, but it was fun!) and we stayed there talking throughout the entire night. I have never been comfortable enough with one person to spend that much time together before now. It was truly amazing.
He left last night as I walked him to his car. He hugged me while picking me up and swinging me around and we both got teary eyed. After he left I just sat down on my porch and couldn’t believe that all of this is happening to me. I cannot believe how much my life has changed in such a short period. When I came back in, I called my mom and told her that I loved her.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Kieran and I share the same biological father and the rest of my siblings have another father. Although he is in contact with him, he holds a lot of resentments towards him - so they don't talk too often, but fortunately he has shared a lot with me. I feel tinges of anxiety when the subject of my father is brought up, although I am not exactly sure why. Maybe it is anger that he didn't walk to the end of the earth to help my mother keep me. Even so, I think that at some point I will want to meet him, but of course I will need to gently bring that up with my mom. She hasn't expressed an opinion on that prospect one way or another.
Once again my emotions regarding my adoption are bringing me back onto the rollercoaster. In so many ways I feel angry that it ever happened. I feel cheated out of the family that I am just now, at 25 years old, getting to know and love. I am worried that as quick as I found them, I could lose them. I wonder if this paranoia is normal. I wonder if all my feelings are normal - the intensity scares me and thrills me at the same time.
Who knows the rules for adoption reunion? I ordered several books this weekend in a quest to help myself understand all these feelings and to hopefully sort through them. I know I am not alone. Maybe the key is to take it one moment at a time, and at this moment I am so looking forward to seeing Kieran this weekend.
It's a little depressing.
But wait for the good news (next post)
Friday, June 1, 2007
What about your adoptive mother? Are you close? Do you feel as though your birth mother has replaced her?
I guess I was pretty much posting by the rule of "If you don't have anything nice to say - say nothing at all." Don't get me wrong - I do love my adoptive mother but in regards to certain situations, she has chosen to exclude herself from them. Most notably would be my cancer diagnosis and my reunion with my 1st mother.
Fortunately I have a wonderful woman in my life who sometimes gives me my adoptive mother's POV and this allows me a window into what she may be feeling and dealing with, without this, I would not know because she doesn't share a lot with me.
I do not feel as though my 1st mother has replaced anybody in my life. She is an addition to my life that has been absolutely beautiful, kind and loving. She is someone in my life who adds no burden or no pain. She is just simply herself, a wonderful self.
I have worked hard to accept my adoptive mother for who she is - this wasn't an easy task. Immediately after my diagnosis and surgery, she made a few comments that were really blows to the gut. I saw her about 20 minutes after awakening from anesthesia and immediately after being told that
1) I had metastatic cancer and 2) I would never have children. The latter being the biggest blow at that moment because anybody who knows me, knows that my biggest dream in life was to become a mother some day. That day, those dreams were crushed. The doctors gave me hope of recovering from cancer, but there was no hope for children. My adoptive mother told me that she was glad I would never have children because now I would understand what she went through.
Take out a knife and stab me in the heart - that is exactly what it felt like to me.
Even though I now understand what she possibly meant and how those words probably came out the wrong way. That very moment in time changed my relationship with my adoptive mother and I no longer felt that I could come to her when I needed her.
Fast forward a few weeks - Chemotherapy began and I was not expecting it to hit me so hard. I often felt so sick to my stomach that I could not even lift my head out of bed, but she would leave me messages on my machine in a child's voice (picture the puppy dog eyes and whole bit) saying how lonely she felt, and felt as though I abandoned her. When I didn't return the calls right away, the messages would increase and she would begin to say things such as "remember who pays your insurance."
My reunion with my 1st mother has brought more of it. The comments then switched to "Well, is she planning to pay for your insurance?" Now that I am physically stronger, it doesn't affect me as much emotionally. Like my friend has said, she loves you the best way that she knows how. So that is what I have learned to accept. She can't love me the way that I need her to love me, but she loves me the best way that she knows how.
Again, I do love her. The things she does for me do not go unnoticed. Without her, I'd be up **** creek without a paddle financially, because she does in fact pay my insurance as well as my co-pay. I'm not ungrateful for it - which is pretty much why I don't complain about it. I recall the words of one of my friends in my first year of college, during a debate
she said: there is a price for everything.
But when you are sick and tired, and your ear is so infected that you are screaming in pain, and your so nauseous that in order to go to the bathroom, you must crawl to get there. You don't wanna pay a price. You want love, you need love. You need to believe you are loved and you need to feel it. I don't get that from her. And that's a hard reality to overcome.