31 May I am enough from Caroline MacMoran
As I sit here writing, on the fourth anniversary of my mother’s death, I am aware of the impact my mother had on my sense of “enoughness”. My mother was the kind of woman that spoke her mind, loved fiercely, moved heaven and earth for what she felt deeply about, and made the best chocolate cake ever, hands-down. She was a wonderful mother for me. Not perfect, but she was certainly close enough. She was my Mom in all ways but one. I didn’t grow inside this mother; I was adopted.
I’ve struggled with this for many years. How could I be enough if I was relinquished at 3 days of age? Not enough for one mother, yet seemingly enough for another. And at a young age, I defined my “enoughness” through other people. In fact, I did this well into my early adulthood. It wasn’t until I hit my thirties that I started to really look at being enough just for me. I gave lip service to being enough, and I really think I wanted to believe I was enough, but I didn’t truly and deeply question this until somewhat later in my life.
Many points of my life converged when I was in my early thirties, including searching in earnest for my birth mother. Though I had dabbled in a search in my early twenties, it was a challenging quest, and because it didn’t come together easily, I fell away from it. I purposefully used “fell away” and not “stopped”, because I never really stopped searching. From my adoptee perspective, the search was life-long even when there wasn’t a specific search activity to pursue. I was always searching inside myself for some answer to who I was.
Small answers to my search came in bits here and there. My birth mother had lived in a small beach town, and so there was one long afternoon when I went to the local high school of this town and searched the yearbook for pictures of a woman I believed I’d somehow recognize. It didn’t happen in that magical way, and the search continued. Through various different ways, I finally found out that my birth mother had died at a relatively young age. The grief I felt over never looking into her face, or not having her know that I was searching for her was enormous. I wanted her to know that she was enough, and that I was finally coming to a place where I could understand her decision all those many years ago, and honestly thank her from the bottom of my heart.
I was able to subsequently meet other birth relatives, and remember with such clarity that feeling of walking on air, of my legs going numb as I opened the door to the coffee shop where we all met. To finally look into the eyes of someone who shared my genes was amazing and terrifying all at once. And then there were the photographs of my birth mother; pictures that instantly healed a part of me, that allowed me to breathe with a calm I hadn’t previously experienced. There was proof she existed, and in small ways proof where I could see resemblances to me.
All of this, including my deepening relationship with my Mom, helped me to start to feel like I was enough. Sadly though, my Mom’s health continued to deteriorate over the next ten or so years, and she became less and less of who I had known her to be as her dementia became more pronounced. As I was coming more and more into myself, my Mom was moving farther and farther away. There were small glimpses of the person I had known for so many years, and the final time I sat with my Mom she was all of a sudden herself–caring for me and comforting me. We were caring for each other.
Throughout all of this and in the days that have since followed, I understand that I am enough, and that I have always been enough. Part of the joy and pain in my life has been this process of searching–of looking beyond what I can see clearly. Of being open to looking further. Of being open to knowing that I Am Enough.
Caroline is a full-time psychotherapist in Wilmington, DE at The Brandywine Center. While she loves her work there and being with the 3 best colleagues and friends in the world, she dreams of being an artist and photographer and living on a farm. Her plan is to start a blog in the next 6 months, so stay tuned! She lives in Philadelphia with her partner and their 9 year old son.