Saturday, December 15, 2012

Adoption Day

So for anyone who isn't adopted, or who is less hyper-navel-gazing as I am, birthdays for an adopted child can be a little weird.

The only story of my birth is that my parents got a call on the evening of the12th of December saying there was a baby girl available for adoption.  They had adopted two boys and had been waiting for a girl.  They said yes and Mom opened up all her Christmas cards to add my name.  And there was a scramble for baby stuff because they hadn't saved everything from Jim's infancy.

I was lying in the bath this morning thinking that it was 7.30 a.m. in Missoula.  Fifty-six years ago this morning my parents picked me up from the hospital and brought me home.  It was a school day and they would be going to court the next morning to make it all legal, so they didn't tell my brothers, who were in first and third grades, that a baby was coming that morning.  Mom was keeping her fingers crossed that I wouldn't wake up when Jim and Dick came home for lunch because she didn't want them going back to school with a story to tell before it was official, but I did and Jim's grew round (I'm guessing) as he asked, "Is that a baby?"

Which, I think, is what Thumper said upon seeing Bambi.

I'd love to start calling you Thumper, Bro, but would have to kill you if you started calling me Bambi in return.

I don't remember if the boys tattled.  My father told me last Christmas, which was that in 1956, when a baby was born who was being given up for adoption, it was swept away immediately, before the birth mother could see it.

I know that her name was or is Ann[e] Taylor and I have joked that I should get a discount.  She was supposedly a student at the University of Montana but I know from one of my brothers' searches that the annuals did not reveal his mother.  Who knows if she gave her real name?

I only know this much of my birth and the subsequent days.

The rest I have to intuit and guess at.  My birth certificate reveals that the delivering doctors was one of my father's partners at the time which probably accounts for the immediate inside scoop of my availability.  Kind of like medical inside trading, I guess.  My godparents were the other branch of his medical practice.  Trip, who delivered me, was a close family friend.  How strange it is to think of that now, all those times at the lake and dinner parties and working with Dad making bullets and shotgun shells and he knew who my birth mother was.  What she looked like.  If she was silly or heartbroken or smart or funny.  If it was an easy birth.  If she had requested a Catholic family.

And how strange it is that one chromosome made me a Kuffel rather than a Smith or a Kelly or whatever.  Not only would I not be who I am if I'd been born a boy, I wouldn't have the parents I did/do.

My father is tight as a modern o-ring on a space shuttle about his years of practicing medicine.  He'll tell stories sometimes but never with a name attached and not many tales at that.  Having been in general practice transiting to anesthesia, which he got a bigger crash course in in Korea, then one of two anesthesiologists in the state for a while, he has some cool stories and I used to call a trip to the mall Doc Country because of all the people who'd come up to him to say the babies he'd delivered were now parents themselves.

But I think it is probable, despite his saying otherwise, that he checked out Ann[e] Taylor and Baby Girl Number Something.  He once admitted she was Irish.

Or did I just want that information so much that he gave it to me to stop my questions.

Someone once thought I had Native American blood.  My mother was appalled.  "You're German," she said shortly.  But I hung on for the sake and literary/religious history of my Black Irish features.

Who knows?

And how strange that for three days I had a phantom name -- my paternal grandmother's and mother's -- that a few people -- my parents, some nurses, Dad's partners -- may have known but which was not official, probably not used in the hospital.

Where did my birth mother recover from giving birth?  If it was in the obstetrics department, did she hear me crying?  Did it make her breasts hurt?

Did the nurses give the motherless baby some extra cuddling?

I have learned that those are critical days, from the moment of birth on.  I missed the first two most important days of my life, that time of extreme bonding.

When I asked my mother how long it takes to bond -- to physically feel your baby crying -- as an adoptive mother, she said, as shortly as she said I was German, ...oh hell.  Now I don't remember.  Eighteen hours?  Thirty-six?  Something like that.  It was reassuring, her fast as fast response and the short time it took her to own her babies.

So those are the questions and the facts that some adopted children spin in the week of their birthday.  And it is a week as we look back on unknown events, from birth (and often on our birth mother's delivery) to the next transfer, whatever that means and wherever it was to.

What adopted children feel in that week....well, that depends on the kind of person each of us is.  An over-thinking depressive has some blank-to-black days in that week, kind of mirroring baby and birth mother, maybe.

I'm always glad when the 15th rolls around.


Anonymous said...

You are fascinating Frances. Please, write another book! Write about being adopted, write about living in New York, write about that scary older brother, anything.

I hope that this is not construed as advice, because you seem fairly together, - have you read "The Primal Wound"?

Unknown said...

Do you think your dad would tell you more, now, if you asked? I know by now she could be gone, but she might still be waiting and hoping to hear from you.

At the time, an unmarried girl wouldn't have had much choice about what to do with a baby.

Anonymous said...

If you truly don't know who your birth parents are, I sense that this is the time to find out. I know I may be overstepping, but you know what they say about the truth--it may set you free. I also feel strongly that knowing where we came from and who are parents are is a basic human right. There is no disloyalty to your "real parents," (the Kuffels) in such a quest.

The other "anonymous" is right. Write another book about something, and I would say your search and its outcome would be a wonderful very human story. You have so much to offer so many of us.

Anonymous said...

Frances: You are such an amazing writer - please consider writing this story. Your books are the ones I kept after a major decluttering - I read and re-read them simply because they are so beautifully and truthfully written. You have the true gift of writing and communicating and that is such a rare talent. Your writing flows effortlessly and naturally; what you say makes me think and feel on such a deep level. I know you have struggled with so many things in your life, but please always remember that there are many people, such as myself, who have the deepest admiration for all you have (and will) accomplish. Keep fighting the good fight!

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