I never dreamed I’d be writing a book about her…my late adoptive mom, that is.
It felt like I never loved her…in fact, I hated her.
Now, something quite unexpected is happening.
Warm memories are surfacing. I can smell her apple pie, see her take care of my kitty, and feel her gentle hands rubbing warm oil on my childhood asthmatic chest.
Had something changed in my brain?
Why the warm memories?
After all, mom died 37 years ago and my lifelong memories of her were far from warm. Instead, I remembered daily fighting matches.
Where did the memories come from?
Were they stored somewhere deep inside?
At the same time, I was learning about legacy and how it is a gift from one generation to the next.
Could I be discovering mom’s legacy to me at this late date–the seventh chapter of life?
A few months later, I was asked to speak to a group of adoptive and foster mamas in Pennsylvania.
The meeting planner asked about the topic and it was then that I took a leap and asked if I could share these memories along with truths about how mamas can create a legacy, even if their kiddos aren’t ready to receive it.
Before delivering my message, I felt like a scared cat delivering a dead mouse at the door.
How could these weary mamas who were parenting kids with severe behaviors possibly be edified?
Much to my surprise, their faces were welcoming.
How amazing these turn of events are!
I thought I was done writing books and speaking, but now I’m writing a book about mamas leaving a legacy.
Dear friends…I am pleased to introduce you to Mari Galligher, an Irish adoptive mom. She is soooo brave. When you read about the current adoption atmosphere in Ireland, you will be amazed that she has broken silence in a country that doesn’t talk about adoption. Please welcome her, and give her a big hug. Love, Sherrie
After twenty years of adoptive parenthood, I give much thanks for lifesaving reading material that came my way over the years.
In Ireland,parenting books on adoption do not exist, much silence and secrecy still shrouds the topic and even today as I write, adopted people campaign to get rightful access to their identifying information – information that under Irish law they are not allowed to see.
So as an Irish adoptive parent, I relied on the generosity and talent of adoption writers such as Sherrie Eldridge, to guide me along the way.
Sherrie’s Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knewwas my handbook, particularly when it came to talking about adoption, a conversation I found the most challenging over the years.
Being adopted into a country thousands of miles from your birth home– my son and daughter were born in Russia and Kazakhstan respectively –adds another layer of sadness to the grief of separation.
Having the conversation with my children over the years, taking it all one day at a time, grieving with them for the loss of their birth families, acknowledging how hard it must be and undertaking a search via an international searcher for vital birth information – all these have helped and both children, now young adults, have enough birth family details to undertake a reunion whenever they are ready.
I’ve recorded it all – my longing for parenthood, the milestones, the ups and downs, the tears of joy and sorrow and now there is an adoption book on Irish bookshelves.
My adoptive parenting book called Becoming a Mother: Reflections on Adoptive Parenting was published in 2018 by Orpen Press – the first book on adoptive parenthood on Irish bookshelves and is my story of being an adoptive parent – all that I have learned along the way.
Thank you Sherrie for the opportunity to write on your valuable, wonderful blog or as we say in Gaelic“Go raibh mile maith agat”.
Many of us adoptees wonder if anger is our life sentence. It’s been a constant companion since childhood and even though attempts like counseling have been made to quell it, it’s a strong as ever.
Once a counselor told me to just scream when I feel angry. The next time I felt angry, I screamed in the middle of a session. She jumped at least three feet.
But, screaming didn’t help.
It’s important to understand how anger manifests for an adoptee. It’s a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence around a wrong. An adoptee becomes enraged, incensed, and downright hard to live with.
Anger says, “My birth mom gave me away and I am mad as hell at her for doing that.”
What I’ve Discovered About Adoptee Anger
What I didn’t know until recently is that at the moment my first mom disappeared from my life (at birth), something was borne within me besides anger.
This something grew quietly in my system and couldn’t be identified as a companion to anger. It just did it thing secretly. It grew beneath the surface of my life, yet it was deadly.
It whispers, “You’ve been through the worst hurt. Eventually, I will keep you from ever being free to heal. I will leave a relentless sour taste in your proverbial mouth….I fool lots of adoptees because I grow beneath anger, like a winding root, delving deep even into your soul.”
The Bible says I’m poison and that I can defile many through you. (Hebrews 12:15)
Identifying Anger’s Unnamed Companion
My name is bitterness.
I am like a bubbling fountain laying beneath the surface of your anger. My roots don’t show but my job is to feed strength to your anger. My mission in life is to make it easy to get upset over things others do, especially your adoptive mom’s many attempts to connect with you.
My message is, “Your mother’s abandonment is the worst of pains and will be incredibly hard to accept or even admit.”
It has taken a lifetime to understand my anger and how to deal with it effectively.
Looking back on my discovery, I am sure it took a move of God to arrange circumstances that would ultimately free me.
In the weeks ahead, I will share some of this with you all.
I hope this has been helpful as you process whether or not adoptee anger is a life sentence.
Mom’s heart must have felt like it would beat out of her chest when the caseworker told her my pre-adoption story.
Abandoned at birth by mother
Father with criminal record
What fears must have surged through her, especially about the father’s genetic influence. Would her child be automatically set up for a dark future because of him?A
I am confident that she could see the depth of abandonment I suffered and my resulting neediness to be touched and held by a loving mom. Her heart bled for all I’d been through.
Many would be scared spit-less and would run the opposite way from such a scary call to mothering, seeking a “nicer back story or a candy-coated adoption they could brag about to the family and friends.”
Not my mom. She was willing to stay the course, no matter how difficult. My mom was like a mountain climber looking at a huge mountain never climbed before.
Wired to Give A Rare Gift
Adoptive and foster moms are wired for such a climb, even though they probably don’t realize it before or during the climb.
For the soon-to-arrive baby who would struggle with abandonment and shame over just being alive, the life experience of the delivery room physician would parallel mine in a seemingly invisible way.
Only during the search phase of my life would I learn this from his granddaughter.
His warm tears landed on my newborn body, like a spring rain.
I wanted to feel them forever.
To my once-orphaned delivery doctor, life was something to be celebrated, to shed happy tears over.
I couldn’t wait to feel his tears again.
What was it about those tears that soaked into my soul?
Were they saturated with hope and comfort? Were they bright lights at the end of the traumatic tunnel of living my first nine months of life in the womb of a mother who fantasized abortion? Or, were they seeds, sown in secret, to produce a great harvest later in life?
Whatever it was, I wanted more.
Orphan Doctor held me up, gazed into my big brown eyes, and smiled.
About that time, that the caseworker called my parents to inform them of my special needs:
Baby requires 10 days in incubator due to low birth weight
Baby refuses to eat and is considered “failure to thrive”
Baby doesn’t have a name and is called Baby X by hospital workers
When mom learned about special needs, all she could think about were her shortcomings and inadequacy. What if our baby won’t eat for me? What if she doesn’t gain weight? What if she resists my desire to hold her? I don’t know if I can do this.
Then in the birthing room, Nurse Kratchit bent close to Orphan Doctor’s ear, whispering.
Orphan Doctor’s eyes pooled with tears.
What did she whisper?
Was there something wrong with me?
Was I ugly? Too little?
Is that why she suddenly whisked me off to a dimly-lit room where pleading and plaintiff cries hovered over me, like smog in LA?
Where was Orphan Doctor?
Where were those large, gentle hands that welcomed me to earth with orphan tears?
Why didn’t he come back?
Then, Nurse Kratchit shoved me into a box made of glass.
I kicked and screamed bloody murder, but the sounds of my cries bounced back, like ping pong balls.
No one heard my needs.
And, so I give up and “go inside.” It’s safe in there.
Then, I hear Nurse Kratchit walking near the glass box which was going to be my dwelling for ten days.
Proudly, she announces the name she’s chosen for me.
The night before my homecoming, I bet mom hardly slept. Feelings of inadequacy must have made her body tight, like a drum.
Wired With Core Belief of A Non-Abandoning Heart
When the caseworker brought me through the front door, she couldn’t help but fall in love.
It was at that moment that one of her rarest gifts surfaced—her non-abandoning heart.
She would reverse the script of abandonment to one of safety and belonging. She would love this baby with every fiber of her being.
And so, over the span of a lifetime, mom gifted me, even though I didn’t realize it.
Wired to Pass on A Legacy
She was creating a legacy for me, passing it down, even though I didn’t want it, need it, or receive it.
That is what legacy is. Passing on gifts, or heirlooms from one generation to the next.
Mom gifted me with the non-abandoning heart over the years by living by these legacy markers:
I will do everything possible to connect with my child
I will still love her even when she rejects me
I will love unconditionally, knowing her back story
I will love her even though I am afraid
I will love her by telling her the truth about her back story.
I will keep loving her even though I never receive love in return.
I will go to my grave knowing I’ve done my absolute best for her.
That rare gift of a non-abandoning heart can be illustrated by this story about a forest ranger who was surveying the results of a forest fire in California.
All the mighty redwoods were but an ash heap.
Kicking his way through the ashes, he came upon a mysterious clump, which he kicked to the side. Immediately, baby chicks scurried out from their dead mama’s body.
What a mom she was. She refused to leave her offspring even though fire raged around her.
She accomplished her life’s mission and legacy of gifting her babies with a non-abandoning heart.
What a mom she was to those scurrying chicks…and what a mom my mom was to me.
Likely, there is an adoptee or foster child that you love. That's why you stopped by, right?
For more than two decades, I've had the privilege of writing and speaking about adoption and my passion is to help the non-adopted world see adoption through the eyes of adopted and foster children.