Saturday, September 3, 2011

Survivor's Guilt

I've always been a pretty lucky person. A Caucasian raised by married parents in a middle class household with a nice education and supportive family, with no major health problems, and living in a first world nation. I always had nice grades and good friends, and when I grew up I met and married a wonderful man who is supportive both emotionally and financially. My only "big" problem in life has been infertility, a pain in the butt to be sure but even so, how many people who have suffered with infertility would give their right arm to have two healthy little boys through adoption before they turned 30? I mean, seriously, we're lucky.

And while I suppose I should just be riding high all the time on this, relaxing in our safe, warm home with my happy, loving family... well, I guess I'm a bit too compassionate for that.

When we adopted Paxton, things were rough. He was traumatized and all the preparation in the world couldn't really prepare us for becoming first time parents to a child who hated us and couldn't communicate with us. It was a very difficult time.

And what made it more difficult was this: Survivor's Guilt.

I hadn't really cared about first families at all before we got P's referral. All of that, the child, his history, everything, just seemed so far away. Sure I felt bad for the plight of the Ethiopian people, and I did often wonder what his family history would be like but there was no real emotional response.

And then we got the call. And I learned that his first parents were no longer among us, that I'd never meet them, that I'd never get their blessing...

And I started to cry. Even more than knowing we had a son out there, even more than knowing what he'd been through and was going through, suddenly I realized that I would never be able to meet the mother of my child, never be able to keep in contact, never hug her, never see what she looks like, never explain our family to her, never promise her I'd love her child as my own.

I didn't realize until years later that what I had was called "entitlement issues." I truly didn't feel that I deserved Paxton, and I was often angry at myself for not being absolutely perfect. His first parents hadn't chosen international adoption, they'd chosen to place him with family who later on realized they really couldn't provide him with what they needed. I can only imagine what his first mother would think if she'd learned that her beloved children were split up and her youngest sent to another nation to be raised with people she'd never met before. It's a hard thing to think about, a hard fact about international adoption, and to say I felt (and sometimes still feel) guilty over this is an understatement.

It took me awhile to come to terms with my own emotions in regards to P's first family, and I have to admit that Ambrose's adoption healed me as well. We met his first mother and I'm able to send her letters and pictures which is wonderful! Perhaps someday we'll even meet again, maybe making a habit of it. I just feel so much better knowing that she chose adoption for him, knowing why, knowing that we're able to stay in contact.

But there's always guilt...

Why do I get to be the one to be their mother? They are such wonderful kids, so funny and smart and loving. And it's not like there's anything special about me, anything that makes me better than the families they came from. I'm just lucky. I have a great husband, money in the bank, family support, a house, insurance, etc. I'm able to adopt because of all of these things. And they weren't able to keep their children with them not because they are bad people, but because they weren't lucky. No money or poor health or lack of support... they can't control that.

They're no worse than me, I'm no better than them. So why do I get all the rewards? Yeah, hard to swallow sometimes....

So I guess that brings me to where I am now. Right now I am either friends with or at least follow a couple dozen different families. Some families I'm rejoicing for, as they add a new child by birth or adoption, and others I'm rooting for as they strive to enjoy their life together. Other families, though, are going through such incredible pain...

Two are struggling to build their families and have been for a long time, with lots of fits and starts, and oh man am I crossing my fingers for them!

Another just found out a few weeks ago that she and her husband are getting to keep their foster children, a son and daughter, after years of seeing children come and go and hoping to one day be forever parents. The joy was shortlived. Her husband died right after finding out the good news and the woman is left behind to try to pick up the pieces, emotionally and financially, for herself and her children.

And of course there's the family who lost their son in a contested adoption when he was over a year old. The kicker with this one is that they very easily could have ended up with Ambrose and we could have ended up with their son in the same scenario. I am glad, of course, that we have our sweet Brosey and that P did not lose yet another important person in his life, and yet I'll admit that in some ways I do wish it was us, that they didn't have to suffer and lose a child. It's not fair, to them, their family, or this sweet baby boy.

I find myself questioning our luck, my luck, frequently. How easily could it have been us in one of those scenarios? Why wasn't it us in one of those scenarios? Why are we so lucky? Will we have a situation in the future, such as a loss or illness, that makes us one of the 'horror stories'? Am I awful for being more emotionally torn over sad situation closer to my own situation and not those happening in situation far outside my own, such as the horrors at Darfur?

I don't know, I think I'm a bit too philosophical sometimes... and I think I can get swept away in emotion.

And right now I'm feeling sad, deeply sad, for the families I know facing loss. I wish I could do... something. Anything. To change it, to make the loss have not happened. And yet I know I can't and it makes me feel so hopeless.


I supposed right now all I can really do is hope and pray and offer support and hope that someday, somehow, maybe things will work out just as they should.

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