The Importance of Being Met
at the Gate
by Barbara Free
I fly to visit someone, or fly home from a trip, I want to met at the gate
by someone. If I m flying on business, with no one expected to meet me, I
deal with it just fine, but when I m looking for that familiar face, and
it s not there, I am let down, and after a few minutes, I wonder if I ve
been forgotten, or abandoned. This may not be rational thinking, but it is
what happens to me. Because of my visual impairment, I sometimes have difficulty
recognizing individuals from a distance, and my desire to be met at the gate
is therefore stronger than it used to be.
Since last September 11th, new regulations
mean that I cannot be met at the gate by anyone. It happens that I have not
flown since then. When I was planning for my son and daughter-in-law and
granddaughters to come for Christmas, I realized we would not be able to
meet them at the gate, and the thought made me sad. I had been looking forward
to seeing my baby granddaughter coming out of the jetway, and there we d
be waiting, cameras in hand. Meeting them clear outside of the security area
didnt seem nearly as exciting. I wondered why this was so important
Then one evening, I was watching a PBS program
about fertility treatments and adoption. It followed a couple through their
fertility problems and treatments and even genetic testing. Then came the
birth of this much-wanted baby. Childbirth is always very moving for me,
and I always recall the excitement of giving birth to the three sons I raised,
and the sadness of giving birth to my first son, whom I relinquished. The
sadness is not just about the relinquishment, but also about being medicated,
not really able to participate actively in pushing him out, holding him,
or even seeing him at the time. I watched the couple in the show, and their
joy at seeing and touching their son for the first time.
We ve been waiting for you! they
said to him as he looked so intensely at them.
I was suddenly in tears, as I realized that,
when my first son was born, there was no one telling him they d been waiting
for him. His adoptive parents had been waiting, of course, but they werent
there. I was not given the opportunity to tell him anything. No one in that
room was overjoyed. I felt such grief for him, watching that happy birth
on television, grief for both of us that we didnt have that joy, and
grief for his adoptive parents that they couldnt be there, either.
There was no one to meet him at the gate, in other words.
I have been comforted to learn that the doctor
called his adoptive parents within minutes, and that they came to see him
within a day. I carried his little face in my mind for over thirty years,
after insisting I must at least see him, though I never got to touch him
or hold him. Now, I get to see him frequently, but seeing a thirty-five-year-old
man is not the same as seeing a newborn.
Yes, he had a good life. Yes, I went on with
my life, married, had three more sons, and you can bet I was not medicated
for those births. Husband by my side, I breathed and I pushed and I welcomed
them in a state of euphoria. But the absence of that welcome for my first
son will always be there. I realize that in that day, and decades before
that, most mothers were much more medicated than I was, totally unconscious
in many cases, and some did not see their babies for as long as two days
afterward, so its not just about relinquishment and adoption. We have
two generations of society that have experienced this initial void. We have
survived, but perhaps not thrived.
For me, watching that scene and realizing exactly
what we missed, my thoughts went immediately to the upcoming arrival, by
plane, of my granddaughters, and my desire to meet them at the gate. It all
came together for me at that moment.
Everyone deserves to be met at the gate as
their life in this outside world begins, and we deserve to have someone with
us when we go through the other gate at the end of life. When adoptions are
being planned these days, birth parents and adoptive parents are able to
decide, at least part of the time, who will meet the child at the gate. It
wont eliminate all the sadness of relinquishment, but it can certainly
make it a happier birth for the child and both sets of parents. Perhaps a
lot of what has been referred to as the primal wound is as simple as not
being met at the gate.
Excerpted from the April 2002
edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2002 Operation Identity