Note from Elaine: Five years after writing this post, originally published in 2012 – I’ve incorporated the theme of “adoption” in fiction. Clara Jordan, heroine of my new suspense novel All the Wrong Places, travels from Virginia to New Mexico hoping to locate an unknown birthmother. Instead of finding roots, she falls in love with Henry, who leads a double life and betrays her. She runs further into trouble as she searches petroglyphs for traces of a mother she’s never known. All the Wrong Places is available from http://www.pocolpress.com. I’ll give a reading at Collected Works Bookstore on May 15th, 6 p.m. in Santa Fe.
If you’re in Santa Fe, NM on Monday, May 15, 6 p.m. please join me and Santa Fe author Peggy vanHulsteyn for a reading and booksigning. It’s at Collected Works, 202 Galisteo, in downtown Santa Fe. (Peggy’s mystery-in-progress is titled The Art of Murder)
It’s been said that trauma is not a mystery, that it attaches itself to you in a way that’s hard to undo. My story, as related in The Goodbye Baby, offers living proof. Being an adoptee has added melodrama to my life, created a passion for writing, and ultimately inspired me to take off the masks and to discover who I really am.
Though I was fortunate enough to land in an adoptive family who loved and cherished me, it could not make up for losing that first “mother connection.” My birth mother and I said goodbye before I started first grade, and I waited 38 years for her to come back into my life. I was deeply wounded by the separation.
My struggles have been with feeling abandoned, isolated, and rejected. I’ve worried for years that I will be misunderstood and that I’m simply not good enough- as a daughter, a friend, a partner, a mother, or even as a human being.
Because of being adopted, I felt small and insignificant. Probably because adoption wasn’t something my family discussed, my negative assumptions became deeply embedded. Throughout my adult years, I accomplished a great deal, but in my mind, I was never admirable. Harmful pangs of inadequacy took root and shaped my outlook, my decisions, my disastrous romantic choices. Until I re-read my diaries, I never realized that I myself had invented the self-damaging myth.
How did I deal with my adoption-induced complexes? My adoptive parents had to raise a delinquent teenager who drank excessively, stayed out too late and attracted bad boyfriends. As I grew older, I tended to be an over-achiever: running nine marathons to lower my finishing time, yet always “keeping score” and endlessly coming up short.
Twenty-three years ago, when I first started to write about my adoption, the title of my book was Reunions. My plan was to meet both my biological parents and write about finding the missing puzzle pieces. I met my original parents, but the reunions were not what I hoped for. The pieces were in place but the puzzle remained. Only writing The Goodbye Baby completed the picture.
What my adoption has taught me is that the world reflects my inner reality, that my happiness or unhappiness depend on my actions and not on outside forces. I’ve learned that it is never too late to make a fresh start.
I have always known I would be a writer. In the summer of 1962, I wrote in my diary,
“Some of this frantic recording is wasted energy. How can I have a future as a writer?…I need to find something to say.”
The theme of adoption is that “something.”