She is sharing her story with us and the pain that follows from adoption and that feeling of abandonment.
I also highly recommend reading her book, which I read in one go as it is so well written and filled with emotions.
Sandra, can you introduce yourself in a few words and tell us a bit your story?
I am 40 years old, married and mother of three children, 14, 10 and 4 years old.
I am a specialised educator for child welfare service, which means I am looking after the follow-up for children placed in host family and the upholding of the relationship parents/children.
I also practise in the framework of the prevention against abuse in the framework of educative home help.
This profession is not fortuitous. I was adopted when I was 2 years old after spending more than a year at the children shelter of Evreux. My parents adopted both my brother and me.
I lived my childhood in carefreeness, putting aside this adoption, and even erasing it from my memory.
And then, around 8 years old I asked the question to my parents who responded as naturally as possible. But on this day, I became aware that the adoption was making me different. Or at least I convinced myself. And I grew up with this feeling and with the shadow of a stranger, the woman that gave birth to me. Sometime I would idolise her, sometime I would think she was dead, either way I was always making her responsible for this abandonment.
At no point of my teenage years did I wish to meet my biological mother.
You wrote a book about meeting your biological mother at the age of 29, what pushed you to write this book?
When I became a mother myself, I became aware that I was my turn to pass my history.
To become a mother sent us back to the child we were and to our mother.
When everything is going well, we hardly notice it because those moments are not painful. But when there is a trauma (the abandonment for example), this can be a disruption. And this is what I went through.
I lived this disruption month after month, looking at my daughter growing up, discovering the mother love and asking myself how my biological mother was able to cope with being separated from her child. I was thinking that she must have suffered and especially that I must have suffered.
I thought about it every day when seing love in my daughter’s eyes, until the day I felt the pain of the abandonment.
It was the time to move forward. I started a therapy that lasted three years.
I also had to work on my fear to have a second child and to reproduce my own history.
At 29 years old I met my biological mother. It had become an emergency, a necessity, almost a whim.
The day before I told my husband “Do you realise, tomorrow I am going to meet my mother, it sounds like a book title”. While smiling, he said that I should write it. It was the end of the therapy that push me to start. The need to share my experience and especially to pass my history to my daughters.
How did you feel during and after writing this book?
The first part of the book was simple to write. It was all discussed during therapy. I had enough perspective and analysis to remember it without pain.
The second part, the one about the reunion, required much more efforts in analyse and sometime I was moved to tears. But it is liberating, a bit like emptying a USB stick in a hard drive.
I wrote each day for 6 months. Then I put it aside before reading it again, correcting it and completing it. And then I met the association “La voix des adoptés” (The voice of the adopted ones). Strangely this meeting, my investment in this association allowed me to find the conclusion to my book.
As you said in the book, the researches that allowed you to find your biological mother were gruelling? How did you live this time?
It was an overwhelming time in terms of feelings.
I would even say that you are thrown for weeks in an emotional elevator.
You go from delight to anxiety, from excitement to sadness, from wanting to move forward to wanting to run away.
Nevertheless, wanting to move forward gives us an energy stronger than the rest.
To face the woman who gave birth to us it is also to face the woman who abandoned us. No matter what the reasons are, the wound is here. You have to be ready, to have gone over your anger and let the kindness guides the meeting.
It is painful both psychologically and physically.
How did your “adoptive” parents and your partner felt during this research for your biological parents?
I would have never done this research if my parents didn’t told me they were ready to accompany me. Those exact words made me understood that I had a real need to meet her in order to carry on with my life peacefully.
They were there from the start till the end of all the procedures despite their fear of losing me.
I have to admit I didn’t understand this fear, but yes they feared.
My husband was very present, very thoughtful, a true crutch. His role, of course more neutral, was to guide me, to carry me, to be my eyes and ears the evening of the meeting because on that day, I was so disrupt that I shut myself away, like if I was protecting myself.
Parents and I talked a lot during that time.
Each was able to express their feelings. This allowed me to always have my feet firmly on the ground because this time of the reunion smashed to pieces all the bearings and everyone role.
We really should have share with people who had had this moment. It would have helped us.
When did you learn that you were adopted?
My parents always told me that. But it was when I was 8 years old that I really heard it.
There was a program on the radio that talked about adoption in France and I asked what that word meant.
Today, do you feel more at peace regarding your history and your childhood?
Today, I completely feel at peace. My wound from the abandonment is very small.
I would like to say it has disappeared but I know I have some small areas of fragility. We all have. The advantage is that I know them and I know how to detect them.
As a child and as an adult, I thought that I was entitled to my history. The story of my mother made my history. But when I became a mother, my story makes my children’s one.
The parenthood of adopted ones is a topic that shouldn’t be neglected and that deserve interest.
The truth allows that there are no secrets. As an adopted child, you fight against this notion of secret. As you become a parent, you fight against recreating it.
It is a very sensitive topic to bring because to talk about adoption is to talk about abandonment. You need to be vigilant with the words that you use.
To talk about one’s story is one thing, to pass on your wounds and anxieties is another thing.
You also co-write more recently a book to explain adoption to adopted children, what are your upcoming projects?
I do indeed have some writing projects. I would like to start a series of “Tell me mom” which would be a way to practice my job. I would like to approach questions that children ask their parents or elsewhere and allow to have a medium for answers.
I already have a manuscript ready “Tell me mom, what does it mean to divorce” however my publisher cannot afford the cost of children books. I am looking for grants or donations.
I already have some ideas (What is to believe in god, what is racketeering, what is racism…)
Regarding the association, I carry on testimonies beside parents associations or beside professionals to share my experience.