Sunday, February 21, 2010

Where's The Pride

Years ago, almost two decades now, I would have told anyone who asked that I was proud of myself for giving up my oldest son.

That was back during the years of my deepest denial, when I believed that I was even less “worthy” of being a mom because of the fact I had given my son up in the end because of the feelings of his adoptive parents over anything else.

To me, that was a sure sign of someone who did not deserve, in any way, to be a mother. How could they when they allowed such a thing to be the deciding factor in the life of their own child. It was wrong, it was sick, and it was further proof that I would have failed miserably if I had tried to keep and raise my son myself.

So, yeah, all those years ago, I would have told anyone that asked that I was proud and would have desperately fought against anyone who suggested otherwise.

And yet, today, twenty-two years later, I find absolutely no pride in giving up my son. There is nothing, not a scrap of what happened back then that gives even an inkling to such a feeling. In that part of my life, in the reality of what happened when I placed my oldest son in his adoptive mother’s arms and walked out of the hospital, all I feel now is the realization of just how much I failed him in so many ways.

How could anyone ever feel pride in giving away their child instead of keeping him and doing everything possible to create the best possible life for them? Where is there pride in giving up and walking away over standing strong and fighting for the most important person in your life – your son.

See, in my life, in what I have learned and experienced in the twenty-two years since I became a mother – and yes, I believe without question, I became and remained a mother the moment I became pregnant with my oldest son – there are areas in my life where I do carry pride in not only myself, but also in my own mother who became pregnant with me at eighteen. But that does not, and never will, change the fact that there is nothing even close to pride inside of me when I look back to the time when I gave in, gave up, and walked away from my responsibilities to my oldest son.

And yes, I am stating that in the most harshest, and honest of ways. Because when I first stepped into this adoption journey, in those early months of my pregnancy, not only did I not see the truth for what it was, but those who were working hard to convince me that adoption was the “best choice” also didn’t bother to give me the darker, truer side of what it meant to be a mother who gave up her child.

Because keeping your child, working hard, sacrificing, giving all you have to be the best to your son or daughter you can possibly be, is something worthy of making you proud of what you have done. But believing others, believing it’s better not to even try but to instead just give your child away to someone else without fighting and sacrificing to give them the benefits yourself is far from anything that builds pride in your ability as a mother.

I know, because I’ve been there, as a mother and a daughter. I’ve lived both sides of the equation and have no question in what I believe, from my own experiences.

I’m a mother from the generation when society believed woman facing unplanned pregnancies actually had a choice when it came to giving their child up for adoption. And I’m a child from the generation when women truly had no choice if they found themselves pregnant outside of wedlock.

And, I can see now, where pride is a part of my life and where it remains absent.

My mom will be fifty-eight this March. I’m her only child. I can remember when I was younger, around fourth grade, when she was still in her twenties, she had to have a hysterectomy. Not by choice but by doctor’s orders. At that point, she was only a few years into her new marriage to my amazing stepfather, would have more than likely had at least one more child with him. But that wasn’t to be for her. Nature had its own destiny laid out for her, and better or worse, I was the only child she would have.

And yet, all beliefs, all statistics weighed against her just for the mere fact she became pregnant with me while she was still so young, before the thought of marriage ever even entered her mind. I was doomed to make nothing of myself. My mom would never accomplish anything. Would forever be held to a life of suffering simply because of when she became pregnant with me.

I was saved – and yes, I mean that in every way – from adoption because my father and his family, did not go into duck and deny mode, as was known to happen back then, and leave my mom having to face her pregnancy alone, knowing she’d be sent away, disappearing like other girls had, only to come back with a vital part of herself missing.

Instead, at eighteen, in what I now guess must have been a wedding planned in the quickest of ways, my mother became a wife only months before having me. Not because she wanted to marry my father, or had any opportunity to voice her desires. But because, it was decided for her. Either she married or she went away until after I was born, returning empty handed.

Such great choices for a young woman facing one of the hardest times of her life.

And yet, in all the people in my life, those who have touched me the most, my mom is my greatest hero. My pride in her, my love for her, is something that can never be matched. I still, even less than a year from forty, want to be just like her when I grow up. And I’ve lived my own life of being a mother, hoping to offer my children the same unconditional love, support and encouragement she has always given me.

Whether she gave a damn about what statistics predicted for her life, or not, it obviously never held her down, kept her back from being everything she was meant to be. I know my life didn’t start out with a silver spoon in my mouth. I know my mom struggled, fought and worked her ass off to provide me with the best life possible while continuing to improve her own life, not for herself, but for me.

Today, she is not only, in my opinion, one of the best mothers and grandmothers around, she is also a CFO. She is well known and respected for her reputation in the financial field here in our section of the country. She is the kind of person who would make a poster child for one who beat all odds. Who pretty much took what others predicated for her and snubbed her nose at it, instead becoming the best she could be for herself and for her family.

And as her daughter, my pride in her and all she is and has done, is at the top of the list. When I look back to what she faced when she was pregnant with me, knowing, from experience, what was thrown at her, believed of her, I find myself in awe at how absolutely different she is from what others expected from her for no other reason than she became pregnant with me before marriage and while still so young.

She fought, for me, for herself, and in that fight I find the greatest pride I could ever hold in a person.

A pride I lack when I look back on my own first step into finding myself young and pregnant out of wedlock. Back when I didn’t have a knowledge of my mom’s own experience. When, because of what happened to her, being denied any and all choice, she remained silent when I faced the same situation, believing she was doing right by avoiding, in all ways, any chance of forcing me in the same way she had been.

And, in complete opposite of my mother’s strength, I gave up and gave in.

But, two years later, when I gave birth to my second son, knowing, without doubt, I was never going to lose another child, still only eighteen, I found a fraction of the same strength my mother has always had. And today, twenty years later, I can look back at that and at the birth of my third son, only two years later, when I was twenty, and find pride in myself.

Because, though I was far from perfect, and never quite matched my mom’s accomplishments, I didn’t give up again. I fought, just like my mom, to offer them the life I believed they deserved. My husband, the father of all my children, and I worked hard, never gave up, and tried as best we could to create the kind of life we wanted for our children.

Always knowing though, that we didn’t do the same for our first born. That he, too, deserved everything we were working so hard to offer our younger children.

Yeah, and live with that one and then question why it’s simply impossible, in any way, to have pride for giving up my oldest son.

See, that’s the catch. In today’s world, in the change that happened from the Baby Scoop Era into the world we see today, it’s a selling point to tell a pregnant mom that she will be proud of herself for giving up her child because she can’t offer him or her what they deserve. And yet, moms, like myself and so many others, go on to have more children and realize, that what they told us was bullshit. Because we could have, would have, been great mothers to the children we gave up. And it wasn’t money or material possessions that made it possible. It was ourselves. The love and instincts we held inside as their mothers that made us capable of being good mothers to ALL our children.

In the beginning we might doubt it, doubt ourselves, believing, even in the children we have after the child we gave up that we are failing and not being a good mother, because that is what we expect of ourselves.

But in time, as the years pass and we begin to see our children grow and flourish and realize we weren’t perfect and that we might not have done the “perfect” thing by them, we realize that we did our best and offered everything we could and take pride in the fact that we did so. Knowing and understanding how important such acts are.

And seeing, for the first time, how believing, or allowing others to let us believe, that we would not have been able to offer the same to the child we gave away, is the worst sin we could have committed. Against our son or daughter. Against ourselves.

Because, by then, we understand, we see, what so many know and yet nobody told us when we faced one of the hardest, most confusing, times of our life . . . being a mom doesn’t mean having money or offering tons of material things. It isn’t about our age or material status. Our homes or the cars we drive. It’s about us, and our love, and our determination to work hard, give all we have to our child.

But that love, that determination, is used against us. Is set up for us to believe that it means giving up our child to someone better instead of fighting, struggling and working every day of our life to be better, ourselves, for our children.

It’s a realization that hits hard when it comes. A moment when all you believed in from way back when, shatters and makes you realize the harsh truth . . . there is no pride in giving away your child when you know you could have fought, worked hard, and been the one to provide your child with everything you wanted for him or her.

It’s the truth that should have been seen the moment any mother even thought of sacrificing to the point of giving their child away. The evidence that any woman, willing to live her life with such a loss, is one who would, without adoption, do whatever it took to provide the best life possible for her child, because she has already proven that strength in the very fact she is believing, through society, through others, that giving away her own flesh and blood is the only chance she has to give her child everything she believes he or she deserves.

And then expecting her to have pride in herself for doing so when there really isn’t a true way for her to do so. Not when the years have passed and she steps back and looks at the truth of who she is, how she loves her children, and realizes she held the same qualities, love and dedication for the child she gave up.

Where is the pride in that?

There isn’t any.

It just doesn’t exist.

I have four amazing children, from twenty-two to twelve, three boys and one girl. And I can see it now, on this side of my adoption journey. I can feel in my heart what I wasn’t supposed to know all those years ago when I was pregnant with my oldest son . . .

Loving your child does not mean losing them because you can’t provide better. It means doing all you can so that it is you, and no one else, who provides them with the best you can.

It’s about being there for them, never turning away, even in the hardest of times, because they are a part of you. A part nobody should ever try to take away.

It’s about realizing that vacations, private schools, fancy houses and designer clothes, do not make a mother. Unconditional love and a desire to give your child everything you can, is the key. The reason to fight and be there for your own flesh and blood, without every giving up, or giving them away.

The best way I could have shown my oldest son I loved him. The way I could have looked back now and been proud of myself as his mother, would have been to walk out of that hospital with him in my arms. To fight, struggle, and sacrifice for him just as I did for his siblings, as my mother did for me.

That was my love for him. That was the love he deserved.

In giving him up I never had or deserved pride, because he deserved better from me, not from the strangers who I was led to believe were more deserving, loving than I could ever hope to be.

It should have, was meant to, come from me.

Just as today, the many young woman who give up their children, believing it will someday make them “proud” of their decision, should have been given the help, support and education, to realize that gaining “pride” as a mother means knowing you never gave up, never let others beat you down and that you fought, with every ounce of strength you had, to protect your child, keep them in your arms, and give them everything they deserved . . .

Through your own means . . . not the means of another.

9 comments:

  1. Thank you for this very honest and brave post. I hope so much others will read this and think again, that women in your situation in future will have proper support and help in their decisions and their future.A child's place is always with the mother if at all possible.It's not about money, wordly goods, schools, it's about the bond between mother and baby which no-one can replicate or replace, ever.It's about love and blood ties.
    When we are young and vulnerable it is so hard to make decisions we might be able to stand by once we are older and have more experience of the world and the things unscrupulous people do for money and for other motives.
    I hope you don't blame yourself and your bravery in speaking out is such a courageous thing to do.You are I expect more like your mother than you care to acknowledge sometimes.
    Good wishes to you, I'd like to post this to my blog if that's ok for others to read.
    http://eag-oncewasvon.blogspot.com

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  2. Von,

    Your blog is one I highly respect and would be honored to be linked from.

    You are right, being a mom is about love, not about money and schools and possessions, etc . . .

    Yes, there is always a part of me that will carry the blame. That is the fact of what happened. But by, hopefully, sharing how it feels . . . now and in the past . . . I might reach somebody, anybody, in the situation I was in and make them think a little more before giving up their child.

    I would give anything to have more moms share my pride in keeping, fighting and sacrificing for their children then ever have another mom share the experience of giving up their child and realizing, later on, that there is absolutely on pride to be found in doing such a thing.

    At least none that I have ever seen or felt.

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  3. Oops . . . I meant absolutely "no" pride . . . not "on" pride.

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  4. Cassi - I hear you and that is one of the most honest posts. I relinquished even longer ago than you - my daughter is 31.

    I was so tired and afraid by the time - 3 years of battling the State of Arizona - that I was cornered and forced to sign those papers, I didn't feel pride.

    For a while I wanted to die.

    Now I finally just know that I am mom - was always mom and will always be mom. I don't care who raised her -I loved her - from the beginning, whole heart, nothing held back. I was the only one that could.

    So yeah I get it - we never knew what it was really about.

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  5. Ah, Lori, knowing what I do about your situation, I can only imagine what it might have been like and I can completely understand, "wanting to die." How could you, and so many others, not feel that way after what happened to you and your children.

    And yes, you are so right, we never did know what it was really about. Just like so many today don't have a clue what it's all really about in the world of adoption.

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  6. I was profoundly moved by this post. It's hard to forgive ourselves for this, even though, for many of us, we had no say in the matter. I remember being brainwashed by the sw's into thinking that I would be a toxic mother. Toxic because I was young, unmarried and not yet financially independent. Just the least little bit of support from my family would have made things go in a much different direction than they did. My ordeal was over 20 years before yours, yet the similarities are there. Your mother sounds like a real heroine, Cassi. But don't put down your own courage in the here and now. This post took fortitude to write and to publish.

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  7. This one made me cry, because I completely get it- No pride here either- none- All I can think of is how I have raised my other three kids basically alone and done the best I could for them. That is all any mother can do- the sacrifice is worth the gain-

    Your honesty makes me proud of you! How brave you are Cassi~

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  8. I am kind of in this place right now about adoption, not about my mother!

    Although I never really felt a big pride about giving her up, I always felt like it had been better for her. In some ways it has been better for her but really she missed out on me and that's awful.

    I had a kind of A-HA moment last week about it and it was really painful.

    I'm trying to just focus on what 's good and what I have now, I'm lucky to be in reunion.

    I'm also choosing to have compassion for that young girl that was me and I am wise enough to see the bigger picture.

    I do at this point of time want to just blame myself and not point the finger because that feels like the most powerful place to be standing in.

    Beautiful post Cassi.

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  9. Hi, Cassi,

    As always - thank you so much for sharing more of your story.

    When I read this post I was struck by the fact that you seem (to me at least) to be SO very hard on yourself.

    What I kept thinking when you were writing about not being "strong enough" was just this - you were just 16 years old and frightened and from all accounts pretty overwhelmed by those around you. Perhaps - like KimKim - you could find some compassion for that frightened young girl. It seems to me that you did the best that you could at the time given the circumstances and your resources (both internal and external.)

    Again, thanks for sharing.

    Best and peace.

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