Are You a Girl Who Went Away?
The best book I’ve read this summer is Ann Fessler’s The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v Wade. Written by an adult adoptee, it comprises interviews with birthmothers separated from their children. All true stories, many of them are heartbreaking. Instead of writing a review, however, I chose to use the title as a springboard for today’s post.
Specifically, it’s that “went away” part. As an adoptee who’s long struggled to feel authentic, I realize that for years, I had forgotten the small, cherished part of myself—the “Little Me” within.
As I learn more about what it is like for other adoptees, especially women, I have come to feel that in a way, women adoptees are all “girls who went away.” We went away from being the adorable children who knew they were precious and lovable. If we were adopted by good parents, as I was, we felt that we had to please. Secretly afraid that we might not be good enough, we endeavored to be perfect.
There is no way to take back the years that slipped away between the girl of yesterday and now, but is never too late for a fresh start. The hard part is to recapture that girl within, the lovable self who was drowned out by years of self neglect.
After reading The Goodbye Baby, my diary/memoir that speaks of recovery from adoption issues, my scientist son commented that we never really get over the past. What happened cannot be re-written. Or, as a Stephen King character commented, “What’s done is done and can’t be undone.” My son and Stephen King are not totally correct. While not underestimating the power of the past, it is with hope that I feel we can transform its influence.
That said, I also believe that one’s outlook is a do-it-yourself project. Perspective is the result not just of the events of one’s life but of what one makes of what happens. Having spent many years imagining myself as the “victim” of a bad beginning, my patterns of reacting negatively were deeply ingrained.
If “she” has escaped from you, it takes courage to reclaim that girl within, the younger,
more optimistic YOU. Thanks to joining an extensive online “adoption community,” I’ve learned to put my reactions in perspective. Reclaiming oneself: hard labor, but work worth doing!
NOTE: If you are a male adoptee, I would love to hear from you. Your journey may have presented itself to you in a different way, but it could enlighten “the girls who went away.” Please comment, and I promise to write back.