We are all equals on many levels. One of them is the memory of our early life: we are unable to remember anything from our birth. Scientists call it “infantile amnesia”. Despite many research and publications for decades, there is still no consensus in the scientific community on the matter.
So the only information we get from the first day of our life obviously comes from our family; parents of course, who will happily speak about the emotion they felt the first time they saw us, telling how loud we cried, sharing all kinds of details that made this day so special. And of course, the cheesy – yet cute- photo album made by a loving grandmother that was at first placed on our bedside table, then in the library and finally will be put in a carton box in the attic as we grow up; but not to worry, we will always have the possibility and the pleasure to flip its pages once in a while with a comforting feeling of nostalgia.
For me, it was a bit different. The day I was born, I also was abandoned. I will never know if I cried. I was never able to ask how special was that day. Who gave me my first bath? Who changed my diapers? Who hugged me? Who fed me? I can only guess this was done by the medical staff – and even if I’ll never know who they are, I am eternally grateful for what they’ve done for me. Because while other newborns in the same maternity were surrounded by their families, I was alone in this world. Was I feeling it? Was I aware of what was going on? I have so many other questions… but they are all pointless because I will never have the answers.
Life is a miracle and abandonment is a tragedy. I had both the same day! I was born on a Friday 13th February. In some cultures Friday 13 is a cursed day and a sign of bad luck… and in other cultures, it is a day of good luck. That’s an amusing anecdote I like to share mainly because I am not a superstitious person. Indeed, I understood a long time ago that it was for me to decide on the symbolic of my birthday: a miracle or a tragedy, bad luck or good luck? Rest assured that I have made the right choice.
Time flies when you have fun, they say. For an adult, 103 days is not that long of a period. But when you’re a newborn, what is your perception of time? What happened in the first 103 days of my life, is a closed book. I gave that period a name: I call it my “dark tunnel”. What was inside this tunnel will always be a mystery. I can only guess I was surrounded by sincerely caring people who were either nurses, social workers or special nannies. Yes, I was safe, I was taken care of, I was in a highly protective system for abandoned babies. But why do I feel a void when I think of the baby I was? There’s always been in me this deep feeling of being alone in this world. No matter what. Even if I am surrounded by people, who care for me that loneliness is here. I am pretty sure that this feeling takes its origin in my 103 days “dark tunnel”.
But life is a miracle, and every tunnel has an end.
I was born a second time, on May 26th, 103 days after February 13th. That’s the day I met my family. Adoption is a second birth. Of course, I have no personal memories from that days… “infantile amnesia” still applies! But for that second birthday, I have the stories my parents told me over and over. The details. The emotions. And of course, the pictures. It was finally my turn to have a cheesy photo album — no more dark tunnel.
May 26, 1981. First photo of my life. It was taken in the orphanage garden, minutes after my parents met me for the first time. (Left to right: my sister, my father, my mother and me).