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Whose Child? MAG
Carolyn had this enormous, oak-framed sofa in her office. It was long and bizarre with stiff, square, violet and gold-streaked cushions, squatting low and ominous. It matched nothing in the room but at the same time had a confident presence. When I sat in it, I felt small and awkward because at five foot one, my legs dangled over the side with no hope of ever reaching the floor; but somehow, this gave me a sense of safety. It always took me almost the entire session to get comfortable and today was no exception, I realized, as, with heavy eyelids, I glanced at the digital clock on Carolyn’s disorganized desk behind her.
She was smoothing her billowy silk skirt over her knees. It was floor-length, made of some wildly exotic African design in shining coppers and browns and rusty oranges. Her wardrobe sometimes amazed me.
“You have really rotten self-esteem, Liz,” she said matter-of-factly. “You’re pretty; you’re smart; you’ve got lots of friends … and you’re a good person. But there’s still something inside you that’s pulling you down and destroying your inner confidence.”
I didn’t want to meet her eyes. Of course everything she was saying was true, because she was my therapist, and she was never wrong. There was a part of me that felt ashamed for thinking such degrading thoughts about myself, and being so helpless when I tried to stop; the knowledge that so many others had worse problems than I did hovered over my conscience. And I was embarrassed.
“I really believe,” Carolyn declared, “that people who are adopted have a built-in insecurity about themselves. They have a fear of rejection right from the beginning – after all, their biological parents have given them away, and they immediately start to think, what’s wrong with me? Why wasn’t I kept? Wasn’t I good enough?” She paused and smiled at me sympathetically with her coral painted lips. “Face it, Liz, it comes with the territory. There’s no way to avoid it. And it’s not your fault.”
I always felt kind of strange when she brought up my adoption as a reason for things. It was like suddenly being plucked from the present, out of my terrible, familiar, normal teenage life, and being whizzed back to that early, early part of my childhood that from the very beginning had made me different from everyone else. It all felt so complicated, but it made sense, too.
I was holding Carolyn’s unwavering gaze now, not wanting to speak because I knew she was on the absolute verge of saying something important.
“I’ve been thinking about this for the past week or so, since our last session.” She shifted gracefully in her chair. “And I’m wondering if it’s about time for you to start thinking about searching for your birth parents.”
I know that my facial expression hardly changed, but the nerves in my stomach began to jerk and shake, and my heart started to punch against my ribs, and this sensation of tingling and utter confusion spread through my body.
I nodded understandingly.
“Maybe meeting with them and talking to them about why they put you up for adoption would help ….”
I moistened my lips, which had become dry and stiff. “I know consciously why they did it.”
She bobbed her head vigorously in reply. “Of course you do. And you have dealt with it all very well. But there’s a part of you that doesn’t know, that isn’t satisfied. Maybe you would feel more secure and resolved, and somehow better about yourself if you could fill in what you don’t know about your life, and the people who brought you into this world.” She was quiet for a moment. “Liz, you think about it for a while. If you’re not comfortable with the possibility, then that’s absolutely fine. But if you feel it would help you to learn more about yourself, then we’ll do what we can to reunite you with your birth parents.”
All I could do was continue to nod. What could I say? I felt different, detached, and in a way, alone, like nobody’s child.
I left Carolyn’s office that day feeling lost.