It’s been a year since I started this blog.
A year of change. Of ups and downs. Of worrying I may never see my oldest son again to adopting him back as my own.
When I try to think of a word to describe the past year. A simple, single saying to explain the last year. I come up with only one . . .
I’ve learned good. I’ve learned bad. I’ve learned more of who I am. Of who my oldest son is and what his life has been.
It’s a part of life, I know, seeking and learning, no matter what age you might be. But this past year, at times, feels like an overdose of it. An up and down of so much information to sort through, absorb and try to shift somehow into my life.
When I wrote my first post, Adoption Warfare I was still so unsure about my life and where it was headed.
Before ever putting words to that post, a year had passed since I had experienced any true contact with my oldest son, after months of the normal “honeymoon” reunion stage. A year since my need to deny my own grief had anything to do with adoption turned me instead into believing my marriage was what failed me and, for a space in time, believing a divorce was my answer to find that elusive happiness I spent the majority of my life trying to find.
In that year before my first post, I found a great therapist, was invited into an online support group that offered me miracles I can’t even describe. And slowly but surely, I came to grasp the very real knowledge of what was happening to me and the understanding of denial, PTSD and how the trauma of losing my child affected my life for so many long years.
When I sent that post for the first time into cyber world, I did it with the knowledge of how much I had grown, learned and come to accept in my adoption journey. What I didn’t know was how much still waited for me on the other side.
So now I come back to the life I have lived in this past year. Of seeing where, and who, I was in the month of May 2008, compared to where I am now. What has changed, what has not, and where do I fit it all into the future that still lies ahead of me.
I can see some areas where my life, and my own personal feelings, doubts, outlook . . . etc . . . have changed. And some areas where . . . not so much.
I still struggle with the fear of making someone “mad” at me. Still fight that feeling of being “less than” to those who I have upset or angered because I said or did something wrong . . . if only I had done or said the “right” thing, I would be accepted for who I am.
But I have been able to recognize that insecurity more than ever before when it settles in. Recognize it and remind myself that I don’t sit at the bottom of the totem pole just because I might have done or said something others don’t agree with. That someone not agreeing with me, my words, or my actions, does not automatically put them in authority or make me “less” of a person because I might have upset them.
I have realized I can never be, and no one ever is, perfect. We all make mistakes, decisions that aren’t the best at the time. It’s normal. Happens to everyone. And nobody, regardless of how they might seem or are represented, is without their own faults and mistakes. The exterior of those around us never fully represents the full truth of what happens behind closed doors, where peering eyes aren’t there to judge your every movement.
But, even with that knowledge, it hasn’t completely chased away the “better than” battle I have fought for over two decades. That terrible feeling in my gut I still get on occasion when I drive or walk down the streets of my typical middle age, middle class neighbor, see the moms in their baseball caps, pushing their strollers, watch them talking and gossiping with one another at the school, waiting to pick up their children.
The moms, my age, waiting for their oldest child who is in the same grade as my youngest. The ones who, so often in my mind, did it right. Did everything I failed at because they went through the sequence of love, marriage, career and THEN children. They became what I failed at all those years ago, while still so young myself. Became the “good” people because they did everything right in the areas where I did it all wrong.
On sensible terms, I know it isn’t true. Understand my feelings stem from my being labeled a shameful failure with my very first step into parenting. And in my year of learning, I am finding better ways to recognize these feelings, to work through them so they don’t control my life.
But on the weak days, when too many emotional punches have been thrown, I still struggle, still hate and doubt who I am as a person, wife and mother. On those days, I don’t feel as if I have grown at all and am nothing more than the failure I believed I was all those years ago when pregnant with my oldest son.
But the year has also brought changes and miracles I never dared to believe I would find.
I can, and often do, stand at the bedroom doors of ALL my children, watching them sleep, amazed at the very fact I am able to do so. I sit back, at times during our dinners, savoring the sight of my three boys and only daughter together, joking and teasing, loud and boisterous. Being everything I had always dreamed my family would be.
That is, over all else, my miracle for the year – for my life. It is a moment I will never forget or disregard. An amazing change that I will forever treasure and hold on to as I, and my children, grow older, change and reach different areas of our life.
It hasn’t changed my extreme fear of losing my children. Hasn’t taken away that terrible fear that there might be another mother out there that is better for them. But it has filled a part of that hole of emptiness that has lived in my heart for so long. Has given a thin buffer against the never replaceable loss my son and I suffered during the years we were separated.
And yet, it’s also brought with it another kind of learning. A sickening reality of what my oldest son has gone through. Of the years of abuse. Facing demons I was helpless to protect him from.
Of all the things I have learned in this past year, my son’s pain has been the hardest. There is a dark moment I can’t even put into words when you struggle with the knowledge of your child, who came from you, was literally a part of you for those nine months of pregnancy, facing an ugliness you can never change.
It is so hard to explain that feeling of knowing even though your child came from you, is so much a part of you, you weren’t there to save him in his worst time of need. Mother’s are designed to create and nurture life. To protect, from the day of conception, the life so closely weaved with our own.
To fail that in any way. To feel the guilt of knowing your child’s dark path started with an action you did, for whatever reason, becomes a pain embedded inside of you that will never fully go away. It’s a clash against everything you are supposed to be and do for your child. A shadow always looming with the ugly truth of not being able to take them into your arms, close to you again, to block the hurt and fight against anyone who would dare to cause it.
But that shadow, I have also learned, cannot be allowed to control me, and most importantly, it cannot be allowed to control my son. And of all things I have learned this past year, the hardest, but most important, is the realization that there has to be a balance between accepting and facing the past and living every day lost in the memory of what has happened in the days before that can never be changed.
It’s hard not to allow the anger over what happened to myself and, especially, my son, rule the steps of our life as we have them now. But it is equally as hard to fight off the temptation to bury myself back into that denial I carried with me for so many years and pretend, with my oldest son back, that none of it ever happened. That I never knew different than the loud, loving, always active house I enjoy now with ALL four of my children.
Anger and denial are two very tempting states to grasp on to. But neither are good for anyone. I can continue to speak out against adoption but I can’t be angry at everyone just because of who they might represent in my mind. I can allow my son his own anger at his adoptive mom for what he has gone through, but I can never fall into the line that encourages that anger from my side or takes away the fact that she is still his mother as well and the man he is today is a part of both myself and his adoptive mom, and good or bad, he is two families who made him one.
So, for my next year, I hope, with my learning, I will find the way to be the best mom possible to all my children. I will find that balance between accepting what has happened without giving it power in my life that it doesn’t deserve. And I will continue to build my confidence in what I say and not allow my own insecurities or old beliefs of others somehow being better than me, silence my own experience or push me back into that dark corner where I remained for so many years.
I don’t have to fight in the extreme area but I also don’t have to allow guilt or fear silence my voice for what I truly believe in. Even outside of mine and my son’s experience, I know the practice of adoption in today’s world is wrong. I know the child is too often forgotten in the process and that there has to be better answers out there to help children who truly need homes without taking away who and what they are while still supporting and encouraging parenting as the most important option of all.
And those beliefs are what I hope my next year brings. Every day changes and brings new challenges and this past year has been an up and down of those. But I know, also, that I can’t know or count on what the next year will bring. All I can know is that I need to find the strength to believe in myself and my beliefs while always putting my children’s needs first and offering ALL of them the steps into their future that they deserve.
I will fail and succeed, but perhaps, in this next year, I might actually have learned more to help me work through the three-hundred-sixty-five days lying ahead of me.
In Other Words: Susan Harness and Sandy White Hawk
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