it happened almost a year ago. the date escapes me now – it’s importance to the story is irrelevant. the greatest challenge: how to begin. resolution came unexpectedly, in the form of a woman, a client – not mine – sitting next to me at the wedding of a friend. funny how what we seek most finds us when we are ready. not a moment sooner.
she told me a story. the story focused on a concept known to the social workers arena as “red dress syndrome”. new parents, parents who are absorbed and engrossed within the adoption process, often enter their journey filled with idealistic ideas and expectations of what they “want” in a child:
“we want a girl.”
“she must be tall, because my grandfather was tall.”
“brown eyes please.”
“can you ensure she’s good at mathematics and science?”
“blonde is preferred – we’re both blonde.”
the task, it would seem, is akin to ordering a new car, a new bedroom set, or a fancy new BLUE DRESS online. submit all your preferred criteria, and out pops the perfect addition to your family. “yes, i’d really love a blue dress please.”
months may pass, and the anticipation of waiting for their blue dress to arrive has them anxious, excited, and the ideal panoramic they’ve created in their mind’s eye grows, expands, takes on a living breathing existence of its own – it has become their mantra.
what an incredible expectation for a baby to live up to.
one day, their moment will arrive. their “package” – addressed and sealed only for them – is awaiting their acceptance, envelopment, and love.
only – wait….what’s this? a RED DRESS?!!
yes indeed. what an incredible, overwhelming, and dare i say it, ridiculous expectation for a baby to live up to.
to spend the rest of their life trying to sustain and fulfill their parent’s dream of a blue dress that cannot possibly ever come to fruition.
just think of the psychological consequences that could potentially ensue from the off-putting introduction of expecting parents to a child that in no way fit their carefully selected and adamantly communicated criteria. the devastation, the grief, the mourning – over a baby they’ll never meet, never have. in complete disregard to the devastation, the grief, the mourning – that this poor innocent child is born into; no one ever takes the loss the infant experiences into their long daunting considerations. those are reserved for selfish tendencies.
it is the set up for a tragedy. it is the self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.
what should be a happy time turns into an occasion marked by selfish disappointment.
seriously fucking tragic.
in listening to this story, it was as though the beginning was handed to me. a special moment in time, that only i could recognize as anything of significance – isn’t that always the way – that opened a doorway to my own history; a story that never had a beginning and therefore was resting silently, waiting.
although my parents always accepted me as i am, isn’t there always the little nuances of suggestion that they had wished i’d be “this”, or do “that”? although they’ve always loved me unconditionally, isn’t there always that gnawing feeling that i could do better, be better, achieve more, succeed greater – make them love me more? make them less likely to discard me? make them love the RED DRESS they received instead of the BLUE DRESS they wanted.
i must take a moment to clarify that i do not truly believe my parents fall into the example of these idealistic individuals assuming they have any control at all over the gifts they may receive – not from their perspective anyway, and maybe – more realistically and likely – any expectations that i’ve failed to meet were those laid out by no one other than myself. regardless of that small, minute, miniscule detail – there was something in this story i heard, at that wedding, almost a whole year ago today – which spoke to me. invited me to begin. and this is my beginning.
this is my story.
i am the red dress girl.