That's what the documentary "Closure" was for me.
S and I hosted a local transracial adoptive family gathering to see this film, and as luck (irony, the universe????) would have it, I ended up going alone. For the first time, we asked X's first-mom to babysit while we went out, and she had some issues that came up that precluded her from being able to come over.
Starving, because of a raw-food experiment isn't going as awesomely as I had hoped, and running late, I ran into the independent theater, said hi to a couple people then hit the popcorn counter and the bar. Hellooo dinner.
Anyway, it didn't matter that we sat in a group or not, as I (and many others I gather) had a profound and personal experience in watching this film. It tells the story of Angela Tucker, a transracial adoptee raised in a white town in Washington. The focus of the documentary is on her search for her birth family as her adoption was closed. Many of her adoptive family participated closely in the search, as well as her husband Bryan, who filmed and edited the documentary. However, in watching the film and then later listening to her answer questions, I felt this overwhelming realization, that no matter how much support she got from her family, this was a private and intensely personal journey that only she understands.
Her parents were decidedly supportive and literally journeyed with her throughout the process of searching, locating and ultimately meeting her birthfather and birthmother and their families. Her siblings were with her, and some traveled with her to meet her families. Her husband was with her every step of the way, filming, and ultimately turning editorial discretion over to her as they finished editing the film. (as a side note, she mentioned an instance that she vetoed being in the final cut, and I kind of wish she had let that raw emotion show through, because much of the film shows her in a tightly constrained and keyed up frame of mind. The emotion was there bubbling under the surface but it appeared as if she was fighting letting it show.)
Along the way, she discovered some truths that were disconcerting. Her birthfather, while welcoming and gregarious, had his own issues. Her birthmother stated that she "would take the hurt to the grave". I may be paraphrasing a bit, but I want to point out that was the point in the film that I started to lose it. To hear a mother who knew that in the situation she was in, found it necessary to place her child for adoption talk about how much she hurt over that decision was heart wrenching. Interestingly, while the reunion between Angela and her birthfather and family seemed rather jovial, the reunion between Angela and her birthmother and family was far more emotional. It made me wonder about the connection between my 3-year old and C. I had talked about her coming over from the time he got up in the morning to when I picked him up from daycare. When it was clear she wouldn't make it, and we decided I would be the one to go to the movie with S staying home, X lost it. He started crying when I hugged him goodbye, and according to S he cried for a while after I left. This is a kid who hardly notices when we drop him off at daycare and usually isn't up for leaving the playground when we come to pick him up. I have to wonder if there is something to the situation that happened tonight.
Angela's adoptive parents were supportive of her search and that comes forth in the film. While her mom admits to being uneasy at first, she is there every step of the way to support her daughter in her journey. And, presumably to catch her if she should stumble upon unwelcome news. It reminded me of what we are supposed to do as adoptive parents. I am not X's only mom. S is not X's only dad. We have an inherent obligation to take ourselves out of the equation and let him explore those other connections.
My takeaways from the film began with the statement by her birthmother that the pain will always be there. No matter what the situation is, even if a mom is seemingly detached, I strongly believe that there is always grief associated with a placement. It's not the surficial grief that you sometimes read about on blogs or in the media, it is deep and visceral, as if a piece is missing. I am willing to say that most women talking bout placing children for adoption are trying to convince themselves and society-at-large that they did the right thing, when in their heart, it really wasn't. Circumstances dictate whether a mother can parent. Circumstances are fluid, and what was a crisis at the time of placement, often is not a crisis several years post placement. So, circumstantially, it may be the best decision at the moment, but regret and loss follow. Another thing that maybe I'm just sensitive to because of the blogs I've been reading of late, is that the agency didn't do what they should have done post-placement. There was one particular scene that made me cringe. A social worker was talking to Angela's birthmother about how it must feel good that she made the right decision now that she was meeting Angela. To credit her birthmother, she was forthright and candid. She expressed that she was in pain over the decision and had been since the day she placed Angela for adoption. In watching the scene I felt indignation growing on the part of Angela and her birthmother. Instead of keeping letters at the agency, the agency could have found Angela's birthmother and forwarded them. As Angela stated in the Q&A session afterward, the agency and her mother were in the same city all those years. By keeping the correspondence from Angela's family at the agency, they are putting up a roadblock to reunion.
It's taken me a long time to decompress from the documentary, and I imagine it's going to stick with me for a long time. I fought back tears through much of the movie, but eventually let them flow because I couldn't fight them back anymore. I managed to pull myself together enough to ask a coherent question (I think), and I managed to chat with other adoptive families afterwards. When I got home, I walked straight to S and dissolved into the chest heaving sobs that come from deep within. Two and a half hours later, a big thunderstorm has rolled through, I tried to lose myself in mindless tv, and have attempted to numb myself with a couple more drinks. My mind is still reeling, but it's 12:51am. I. Need. To. Go. To. Sleep...
...and so I go.
check it out. This is definitely worth a watch: Closure
If you live in the Denver area and have time to see it on Thursday, May 8th, I encourage you to buy tickets! Tickets can be bought here: http://www.tugg.com/events/8108 Also, the Q&A panel will feature Angela, Bryan, and Lori Holden There will be one more panel member, I think, but I don't know who it is.