How many times have you heard someone say admiringly “girlfriend is totally rocking that angry, bitter thing?” How ‘bout never?
Lately, I’ve recognized bitterness in myself. It feels funny, like shoes that don’t fit but that I’m wearing anyway.
I try to shrug off bitter. Sometimes I can, but it’s temporary. Bitterness sneaks back. Sometimes I make a deal with myself in the morning about staying positive. This usually ends with me getting pissed off at myself by midafternoon because I fail. I’ve always been a glass half full girl.
Adoption is stressful in a way most people don’t get. Kyle’s adoption in 2013 was stressful in ways Zack’s adoption in 2012 wasn’t. I have two children adopted from China.
Over the past month and change, we’ve been dealing with medical needs we weren’t ready to handle and nightmarish travel snafus. Our homecoming from China was a non-stop roll of Murphy’s Law on steroids: insurance snags, payroll blunders, unplanned home repairs. There’s more and I could go on but I won’t. Let’s just say the events of the past couple of months have created conditions favorable for bitterness.
I’m a big believer in not stewing over stuff I can’t change. If I’m not gonna care about it in five years I try not to get twisted about it right now. But lately, little things have been getting to me. Stupid shit like a late taxi or my two plus year-old super cheap vacuum cleaner crapping out. I think little things are getting to me because I’m not dealing with the big things that are really bothering me (I’m not a psychologist but I once stayed at Holiday Inn Express).
I am smarting over the lukewarm support we got for our adoptions. I am not saying everyone was unsupportive but it’s become obvious that as our family grows, some of our relationships deteriorate. Fizzle out. That “hey, we’ll get together” never happens.
I remember my mom explaining to me in second grade terms what covet meant. To drool over someone else’s stuff or station in life was bad. I’ve always believed in celebrating good stuff that happens to good people. If good stuff wasn’t on my plate, I looked inward, sucked it up, bucked up or perked up. Maybe it wasn’t my time or my turn. This way of looking at life has gotten me through a lot of tough crap and minimized pity parties when things don’t go my way.
Until recently I followed several other adoption blogs, just as I know many of the people following this blog are other adoptive families. I’ve read posts about families being “so blessed” to have such “amazing support.” I see pictures of showers and parties to celebrate an adopted child. And I covet all of this. I’m ashamed to admit that, but I do. I’ve coveted every baby shower, every airport homecoming party with the welcome home signs and balloons (I’m a sucker for a balloon). And even though I’m conflicted on adoption fundraising, I’m envious when a family trills about how blown away they are that their friends have considered it “a blessing to help us bring our child home.” These scenarios have been so very far from my own experience.
Adoption is hard. Even families with their villages firmly behind them still agonize over the waiting and uncertainty. They still have paperwork headaches. They deal with serious medical issues and struggle with attachment and bonding. No one has it easy in this way we’ve chosen to build our families. To admit I am angry and bitter over reading about good things that happened to good people doesn’t make me feel great about myself.
Our adoptions were so deliberate. The stress aside, we were happy to bring our boys in to this family. But outside of a small circle, their becoming part of our family wasn’t celebrated. Kyle’s adoption hasn’t even been well acknowledged. “Congratulations” is something I’ve only heard a couple of times. I’m not sure if it’s because he was so sick and people aren’t sure what to say or another reason. And that has made me feel hollow. The hollowness turns to bitterness and I look in the mirror and see a resentful woman who gets way too upset over dumb stuff like being out of Diet Coke or a broken vacuum cleaner.
I probably shouldn’t take any of this personally. I never told anyone I was struggling until things got really bad. The answer was always “fine” whether things were fine or not (women are good at that.) The people in my life may not have known I needed help or moral support. They were probably going about their own business in their own lives.
Maybe the “outside looking in” of our adoptions was flying to China, eating some egg rolls, being handed a child who is exactly what we expected and delighted to be in our family. We fly home and life pretty much returns to normal. Not so much but maybe that’s what people think because I let them think it.
I can conquer the bitter or channel it in to something positive. I have a wonderful husband. I’m lucky to have our kids. There are probably many who’d trade places with me in a heartbeat.
I share my perspective a few different reasons. First, because I just need to share it. Second, because it’s part of the uglier side of adoption that no one talks about. No one’s adoption story is all unicorn farts and marshmallow cream. If that’s the line they’re feeding you, then check their pants to see if they’re on fire because they’re liar liars. Some families have to deal with the after effects of abuse and institutional neglect. Other families struggle with attachment or dealing with unaccepting family members. And finally, I share this in the hopes that one person reading this will have an “aha” moment. Maybe some other frustrated mom is out there nodding her head and thinking “me too.”
There is no remedy for the anger and bitterness I feel, other than time, and maybe just giving myself permission to let it go and to more fully focus on the good stuff I have in front of my nose. Because bitter isn’t better.
UPDATE: This was originally written and published on Ripped Jeans and Bifocals almost two years ago. I’ve let go of the bitterness and, for the most part, turned it around and moved on. But, this is part of who I am and what makes me who I am now…funny how life works that way, isn’t it?
This post was originally featured on Jill’s blog, Ripped Jeans and Bifocals.