I think fantasy is a common state for people who have experienced adoption, being in care, separation from primary caregivers- especially when that separation has happened very early in life- and also, I imagine for people with a limited knowledge of origins through assisted/donor conception….It is not uncommon for people to describe imagining who their parents might have been, how they came to be conceived or what is in their background.
When uncertainty and unknowns exist, fantasy can run riot. It’s part of human nature to ﬁll in the blanks and put things into boxes, its what helps us to make sense of the world.
My number one fantasy growing up was that my birth mother was a singer and my father a musician and together they realised that in order to live their dreams as successful people they couldn’t commit to bringing up a child (me). Ah, the romance!
On a good day I would think ‘mum and dad’ were Madonna and Bryan Adams, on a bad day things got much darker- hours spent ruminating about how my birth mother came to have me so young (this was one of only two snippets of information I had until I was 18 and I didn’t even know what age she actually was) was she raped? if she was then what were the implications? my father was a rapist? she was traumatised? I had ‘bad blood’.
Fantasy was much easier than living with the reality that my mum didn’t want me, couldn’t keep me, ‘gave me up’ or whatever euphemism or descriptor seemed the most appropriate at a given time- and I suspect this reality would be contingent on how I was feeling about myself. The two things intertwined like bindweed strangling a ﬂower. Fantasy was an escape, a relief and an alternative to feeling alone.
The other piece of information that I clung onto to like a life raft was that my birth family had been relatively local. 13 miles local to be precise and this gave rise to all sorts of interesting day trips. Shopping with my mum or friends, walking along the high street scouring every single face for some trace of familiarity, it was exhausting and all the while keeping to myself what I was doing, for fear of the pain this might bring my parents. For me, it was incredibly alienating to not have a single person with whom I shared a resemblance, it’s can sound such a trivial thing really- but it feels almost primal and animalistic, how do we recognise our mothers if we don’t see ourselves in their eyes?
(NB: I do know as an adult that this was a simplistic view, but I wanted to stay with how it felt as a child to not have these connections)
The only physical place where a connection existed was my navel, and I could literally spend hours poking around, touching the sides, feeling around it to try and experience something of what we once shared- I have spent what must amount to whole days of my life, literally navel gazing. Of course the umbilical cord is the part that is cut too- so my belly button served as a reminder of connection and of severance. Love/loss, joy/grief, strength/fear…the never ending ambivalence of being adopted personiﬁed right there…in my navel.
The fantasising has never really stopped either, although I have found and met my birth mother twice (once in the UK, once in an intensive care unit in Germany- long story…) there are lots of gaps in our contact, I hear things from other relatives and I worry about her, I ﬁll in the gaps with my fantasies but I know that she is still here. Maybe that is enough.