1969 bore the fruits of free love and the sexual revolution that had picked up momentum in the years just prior to it, as I was one of several close friends born that year who were also adopted.
I didn't go to live with my Mom, Dad and brother Michael on Long Island right away. Where were you before that you ask? Ok I’ll tell you.
Smidge of background: Grace, my biological mother, was in her early 20’s, estranged from her alcoholic husband, and living in Brooklyn with her alcoholic mother and her baby daughter Michelle, when she got pregnant with me. We spoke on the phone a couple of times and met once in person before she passed away (which unfortunately was not long after we met), that although she said she didn’t drink (reasons seem obvious) she had a small gathering in her apartment, people from the bldg, and one of them was a “handsome, young Jewish man” (that’s all I know!), she had a drink and they had a one-night stand. She shared that this man had a wife and kid who were out of town that weekend, that she didn’t see him again, and that she never told him she was pregnant.
In 1968, single moms/women didn’t have a lot of independence and being estranged from one’s husband while trying to arrange to give up a baby for adoption was challenging! I imagine her stress and anxiety while pregnant with me, smoking cigarettes (could this partially explain why I loved cigarettes for so long?), telling people at work she had cysts that made her look pregnant. OY! I probably had to start toughening up from the moment of conception.
Spoiler alert: Grace went on to have a 3rd daughter years later. I was the only one of the 3 not raised by her. Grace herself was adopted, and was one of I believe 4 or 5 sisters all given up for adoption. Grace’s adopted mother was also herself adopted!
Michelle, Melissa and I are in touch and we’ve been working on deepening our relationships even more so recently. Pretty interesting Nature vs Nurture experiment we three are. I think we’ll write a book about it together one day!
Ever hear of the movie “Three Identical Strangers”? It’s a documentary about the agency I was adopted through, Louise Wise, were found to have been experimenting with theories of Nature VS Nurture in the mid to late 60’s, by separating twins and triplets at birth, adopting them to separate homes and never telling the adoptive parents that it was a multiple birth. They kept in contact for years with the adopted families to analyze the results. I don’t believe that I have a secret twin anywhere because I think I’d feel it but who knows! Grace told me the anesthetic they used on her for my birth was known to cause gaps in the mothers’ memories.
They let Grace hold me in the hospital, they don’t do that anymore. From the hospital in Brooklyn, I went to live with a foster family in Westchester while the adoption screening process began. My mother and father met with me several times and when it was clear it was a good fit , the permanent adoption process began. ….but wait, the foster family has fallen in love with Baby Me and they want to keep me for themselves. Doesn’t go over well with my parents. Some legal shit goes on, according to my Dad, and because the foster couple was significantly older and had several natural and adopted kids already, my family finally got to take me home just before my second birthday. A year later my parents break up and my Dad moves out. A lot of change in a short time for Baby Me.
Present day :
It began with a conversation I was having silently in my head, I was berating myself about some less-than-productive choices I’d made. I’m not usually one to beat myself up but I was extra frustrated in that moment, and then I caught a glimpse of my framed baby photo sitting against the wall. What’s up Baby Me?
I wasn’t showing myself any compassion in that moment and when I saw the photo and my big, hopeful eyes staring back at me, I looked back into my own eyes and my heart softened.
I at once felt accountable to that little girl. If I’m being mean, I’m being mean to her. If I’m not doing the meaningful and valuable work I know I’m meant to, I’m letting her down. If I’m not present and waste time with no endgame in sight, I’m disappointing her.
While it can be easier to anchor yourself to another person, an animal, a cause, a job…to anchor yourself to your younger self, that’s the ultimate accountability. I don’t ever want to have to look at Baby Me in the eyes and tell her that we did some great stuff but never saw to fruition our true life’s work, or that we didn’t try as hard as we could to make her dreams of a better world come true. Fuck that. That’s partly why I’m finally making good on creating my digital course and online business!
I hung this picture on my office wall and I look at it every day. It’s a reminder to me to love myself!
To love myself actively, not just to say it with my words, but to live it via my actions.
Acts of self-love shows reverence for this human experience we’re all having now. Self-love and nurturing tells the universe that you’re grateful for what you have, and brings more to be thankful for. So…
Go Love Yourself!
Ps, this is the one and only baby photo of me, or at all, prior to spring 1971, as my foster parents refused to give up any others to my parents. Luckily I nailed the hair and jewelry in this one :)