I live everyday with an evil secret. A dark monster that dwells inside with long, guilt-ridden tentacles winding through my thoughts. Always there. Never letting me forget the mistakes I made.
I spent so many years living and learning to hide the pain and self-hating that took root the day I placed my oldest son into the arms of someone else to raise. I became a master at shoving my true feelings deep into this hole where I didn’t have to face them. Didn’t have to deal with the deep, stabbing ache they created.
When asked about adoption, I’d smile, give the “sugar-coated” response programmed for so long inside me. It was better, after all, to follow along with the “rosy mary” belief of all was good and life was bright and sunny. To voice the true words buried so deep inside would only provide an opening for those frightful emotions to return.
Except, something happened that I never counted on. Those emotions gained strength, fought harder and harder with each year to be released. They were boiling over, slowly refusing to be denied any longer.
Eighteen years after losing my son and they were gaining a strength I could no longer battle. The questions and doubts started filtering through. The reminder of that self-hatred found a soft spot and took hold, shoving me toward a realization I was terrified of facing.
And then that day in December came when I sat at my computer and came across a myspace page with the frightening and exciting thought – “Is that my son?” I watched pictures flip through in a slide show, one after another, hope and fear building, until that one.
A close-up . . . his eyes so close, so clear. And I knew I had found him.
I was staring into my own eyes. Same shape. Same color. Same everything. My son. Grown up. Eighteen years old. So big. So different than in that Kindergarten picture – the very last picture I ever got of him.
He was so handsome. And other than the eyes, looked just like his father and his youngest brother. He was there. Real. Alive. With friends. At school. Hanging out. All the normal things teenage boys do.
As I yelled desperately for my husband, his father, the last of my control slipped and the force of those long denied emotions swelled like a tidal wave crashing over me. Guilt and regret. Pain and loss. And the strong, constantly pounding self-hatred.
But mixed in was a joy. An amazing excitement. That was my son. I could look at him. See him. I read through everything on his page, getting to know him from afar. Piecing together everything I could.
He was there. Closer than he’d been in a very long time. I knew where he went to school. Where he worked. What his friends looked like. So much information after so many years of not knowing. Of always wondering.
My husband, too, grabbed every bit of information he could, saving it, remembering it. But his intentions were so different than mine. I can remember the almost uncontrollable fear that surfaced the minute he mentioned going to our son’s work, seeing him, talking to him.
NO! I was terrified by the thought.
How in the world could I face him, see him after what I had done. I could no longer even explain it to myself what had happened eighteen years earlier, how could I explain it to him.
He would hate me. After all, I didn’t deserve anything else. Look at what I had done. An act I could never make up for. I let him go that day in the hospital when I so desperately wanted to keep him. I believed the professionals, believed their dire predictions and I surrendered him because my life was supposed to be so screwed up. I was supposed to be a terrible parent. Someone who never accomplished anything useful and would have stolen everything that was good from my child.
Except that’s not what had happened. He had two brothers, one two years younger and one four years younger. He had a sister, nine years younger. They hadn’t suffered. They weren’t abused, neglected or desperately craving what I couldn’t give them as their mother.
My husband and I had actually worked hard, struggled and sacrificed to be good parents. And yet, somehow, in my mind, that was my biggest deception against my first son. That sweet, adorable baby I’d held in my hands in the hospital. Loved and cuddled. Wanted so badly to keep. To be the one to tend to his scraped knees. Kiss away his tears. Walk him to school and help with his homework.
I wanted to give him the mom I gave my other children. And I didn’t.
After that, how could I ever have the right to walk back into his life. I didn’t deserve to see him again. The monsterous creature I believed I was didn’t deserve even the tiniest hope for that kind of happiness.
My husband, thankfully, followed his own heart and within a week went to where our son worked. He talked to him. Told him who he was and even went over to where he lived with his adoptive mom to visit with her.
And at that very moment, my life swirled out of control. Because my son was coming to see me. In a week. On a Saturday. He would be there. Flesh and blood. This baby I loved, held so tight in my heart, wanted to meet me.
And every emotion there was to feel came in a rumbling avalanche, burying me deep under it’s weight. And in response, I did what I knew best, I grabbed desperately for those feelings and I buried them all over again.
And that is where my evil secret resides.
Instead of finally dealing with what I was feeling, I took the easy way out AGAIN, and in doing so, ultimately kept a distance between my son and I when we were reunited.
I can remember the silent lectures in those days leading up to my son’s visit. I couldn’t cry. I wasn’t going to cry. I had to hold it together. Hold my emotions in check because to let one free would let them all free.
And so I didn’t cry that first moment I held him in my arms. But I didn’t want to let go either. I just wanted to stand there and hold him. Forever. But that was an emotional desire and I wasn’t allowing that kind of thing.
I would watch him as he talked with his brothers, his sister. Listen to his every word. And the surge would well up. To reach out. Touch him. Grab and hug him again. But I buried those needs with everything else.
In my head, it had to be done. To let my emotions show to my son would give him a hint to the monster I was and he’d know, like I did, that I didn’t deserve to have him back in my life for any reason. So I continued to bury, to hide every feeling that crept up.
Instead of giving my son everything I was, every emotion I had for him, I held back and failed him all over again.
Not that I didn’t experience the happiness and joy of having him back in my life. It was amazing to talk to him, to spend hours on the telephone after that first reunion, learning about his likes and dislikes, discovering how we were alike in our passions and talents.
My love for him, which I had never needed to hide, remained strong and constant, but guilt and regret continued to rule the fearful need to keep all the other emotions carefully bound and hidden. And in return cut off a part of myself my son deserved to know.
It’s been a year and a half now since that miracle in my life. The emotions, in time, returned with an even stronger roar, refusing to be quieted again. And because of that I have started on my own path to finding answers to what happened all those years ago and coming to terms with what I’ve learned.
With the help of a therapist and amazing support groups I now understand some of the truths of the coercion and manipulation I went through all those years ago. I’ve learned it was carefully planned to make sure I didn’t keep my son while in the hospital. And I’ve discovered so many moms who were told they would be no good and encouraged to give up their children as well.
I’m not alone in my feelings anymore and that has helped more than anything. But still I must live everyday with the evil secret of what I did when finally reunited with my son. And now, as he has backed away, I will forever second guess if the distance I kept played into that and if I again failed him as I never wanted to do.
Intellectually, I know I can never go backwards and change what has already happened. But on those dark days when the monster is stronger than normal, reminding me of my secret, I wish desperately for a chance to reverse time and right the wrongs I have made.
And I pray, everyday, for one more chance to hold my son. To finally have that one time to have him in my arms and allow every emotion to surface without fear.
In Other Words: Susan Harness and Sandy White Hawk
24 minutes ago