Monday, September 13, 2010

My Tainted Halo

I know I’ve mentioned it before, on more than one occasion, that I was once one of those picture perfect “beemommies.” My halo hovered wonderfully on top of my head and I stood so proud on that ivory pedestal, basking in what a great person I was for loving my oldest son so much that I presented him as a “gift” to that, oh, so deserving couple.

Oh, and did I know the script so well. I had it memorized – which wasn’t hard to do after how many times it was drilled into my head. I repeated like a robot, like the picture perfect “beemommie’s” of today do, the amazing sacrifice I made because I loved my son enough to want him to have better than I could provide. With a smile on my face, I listed off all the reasons why I would have been such a failure as his mother . . . I was too young. I wasn’t married. I couldn’t provide him with all the glorious things he deserved . . . etc, etc, etc.

And, while I “happily” beat up on my own worth and my own importance to my child, I eagerly shared why his adoptive parents were so much better than me. Why it was them that deserved to raise my child. Why their marriage, their ranch house with horses, their age, their desire for a child of their own, made them so much more deserving of my own flesh and blood.

Oh, I was so “good” during those many years. I was worthy of praise. I was liked . . . respected . . . because I recognized my failures and loved my son enough not to expose him to them. I strutted my stuff on top of that pedestal. Shined my halo till it was a blinding light of all my worthiness. Since I would be a failure as a mother, then I was going to at least damn well succeed at being a good “beemommie.”

And in that time, I was able to create a shield, a barrier against the pain and loss I refused to acknowledge. If I could hold on to the belief that I wouldn’t have been good for my son and that I did the right thing by giving a “gift” to the deserving couple that adopted him, then I didn’t have to feel the grief that grew stronger and stronger every year. I didn’t have to admit to the terrible loss that ached through my soul.

And I didn’t have to see, or realize, what was happening to me, was in any way related to losing my oldest child.

I still know that person intimately. She still exists on the fringes of who I have become today. And in some of the darkest moments during this time when I have truly been honest with myself and faced the pain of what happened, I have wondered if it wouldn’t have been easier to remain that person I was.

And because that person is still so close to who I am, I can recognize her, see her so clearly, in many of those First Moms of today who are the picture perfect “beemommies” on their own pedestals, wearing their halos that have not yet been scratched and tarnished as mine is now.

I won’t be bold enough to assume they are all sharing the same experience I did. That their repeated scripts, their need to be so good under the heavy weight of not being “good enough” is a repeat of what I went through. But I would bet there are a good percentage of them that are doing just as I did, without seeing, just as I never saw, just how desperately they are clinging to their “worthiness” so they don’t have to face the true feelings churning around inside of them. Feelings that come with so much raw pain and grief, it’s terrifying to even think of acknowledging them, much less setting them free.

But I can see those signs. The same ones I never recognized while I lived that life. I can hear their pain, their emptiness, their lack of confidence in the words they share, the doubts they struggle with, and the emptiness they don’t know how to feel.

It’s there in those who immediately have another child. Who don’t realize the need to fill the hole left in their lives. To heal the emptiness weighing them down. Without every realizing, there is nothing – not even having another child – to take that away.

It’s there in those who so drastically fear losing another child to the point of becoming overly protective of the children they are raising, to an extreme that outweighs the normal fear most parents face. It’s there in those who find even the simplest kind of loss knocks them to the ground and leaves them grappling for something, anything, to make it go away.

It’s there in the ones who go over the top to be the “perfect” mom only to never feel as if they are doing it right. Those who always feel like a failure no matter what they try and never allow themselves even the littlest moments to take pride in who they are as mothers.

It’s in their unexplained sadness they can’t define. In their moments of having to remind themselves why they are happy before they can even get out of bed in the morning. It’s in their tears they find other reasons for. In their need to find praise from someone, anyone, just to have the strength to go on another day.

And it’s there, most clearly, in the very fact that they find nothing wrong with taking themselves down to the lowest level a woman could face – not being good enough for your own child – and not think twice about what they are doing to themselves by beating up so constantly on their self esteem and the value they see when they look in the mirror – all under the guise of justifying why they did the right thing and proving how much they loved their child by giving them up.

I can see it, hear it, and feel it, when I read their blogs, listen to their stories, relate to the insecurities they share. But, even though in my times of weakness, I have wondered if it would be easier to be like them again, I know, with every ounce of my being, I never want to go back to that person. I never want to live in that denial. That shell that kept me from feeling what was truly inside of me.

One of the most liberating things I have ever known was being able to completely crumble and demolish the pedestal I stood on. To stomp on that halo with every bit of the pain and grief I had denied myself over the years.

Though it hurt like hell – and still does at times – I would never trade what I have now for what I had then.

Today, I have the amazing freedom to speak my truth, not the truth the adoption industry wanted me to believe. Today I can throw away all ideas that I “placed” my oldest son and made an “adoption plan.” Instead I can be honest, and though it hurts like hell and still can take my breath away, I can look myself in the mirror and admit I gave my son away. That I left him in the arms of a stranger when what he needed most was me. I left him feeling abandoned. That being his mother was the most important role I was ever blessed with in my life and I might not have had everything his adoptive parents had at that time, but I was still a good person, capable of working hard, sacrificing and giving everything in my power to my child. And he deserved that from me, far more than his adoptive parents deserved a child.

I can acknowledge how losing my child affected me in so many ways. I can accept the pain that strikes, though it might be hell to deal with at times, and understand why it’s there, how it has changed me and how I react and deal with things in my life.

Now that I stand in front of a crumbled pedestal and distorted halo, I have a courage I never had before. One that gives me the strength to not only know and understand how adoption has affected my son, but to be there to listen to him, support him and help him. To know his experience, his feelings, his reactions should never be limited to what I expect but instead be given the freedom to be whatever he truly feels inside.

And one that has allowed me to see past the surface of what happened over two decades ago, to the darker, uglier truths. To how adults I trusted used me in the worst of ways. To the fact I was just another number in my agency’s goal to convince mother’s to give up their children.

I wasn’t special. I meant nothing. Their counseling had nothing to do with their concern for me and what was best for my child. It was a taught process, one they had used on mothers before me and continue to use to this day, to ensure I would give up my baby.

I really was nothing more than a warm body carrying a child. I wasn’t Cassi. I wasn’t a frightened sixteen year old girl who had gone to them to seek guidance in the most frightening, confusing time of my life. I was just another offering on a plate and my son was nothing more than insurance for another hefty check deposited into their account.

And though it sounds crude and harsh to think that way, to me, it is much better than living the scripted belief they fed me so long ago. Better than being the “I was so bad I loved my child enough to give him away to someone better” robot they created.

Because who I am today is not controlled or conditioned by anybody. Yeah it can hurt like hell, and it does at times. But it’s me. It’s my feelings. It’s real.

I’m not a puppet anymore. I’m not so encased in having to be “good” that I don’t allow myself to feel the pain inside of me, acknowledge just how deeply losing my son affected me.

And I no longer have to lap at the heels of those who held me worthy and praised me for believing I wasn’t good enough. I don’t have to seek their acceptance just to feel better about who I am.

I can like myself or hate myself based on my own terms now. I’ve broken that evil cycle of the past and I can only hope that those First Moms who are repeating my steps will someday find the same joy of freedom I have.

Because as frightening as it is to face, it is so much better than that damn ivory pedestal and the halo that really never fits right anyhow.

30 comments:

  1. Just for once words fail, but I'm so glad for you that you broke the cycle.
    I'd like to link and share this on my blog as I've never seen a better piece of writing anywhere on how it is to be a mother tricked and cheated by the adoption industry.You, like many other mothers, have had the courage to break through to the truth.We can never tell this truth too often.

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  2. Lori and Von - Thank you.

    And Von, I'm honored to be linked.

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  3. I'm a birthmother who is very proud and happy to be one.
    I'm sorry you know longer believe in the choices you made but I know I will never doubt or regret my choice to place my son with his wonderful adoptive parents fifteen years ago.
    I don't regret that decision and I still know I did the best thing for him.
    And what is so wrong about being happy and accepting the praise of those who know and understand the sacrifice it is to make such a decision for your child when you realize you can't give your child everything they deserve?

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  4. MissMercy can I have some of that Kool-aide you have been drinking because the buzz from mine wore off a LONG time ago.

    You aren't fooling anyone, especially this NOT (birth)mother but MOTHER.

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  5. Miss Mercy - if you are happy with your adoption experience than that is your right, but, for me, what is wrong with accepting praise from anyone is I have NOTHING to be proud of for giving up my oldest child.

    And I could have given my son everything he deserved because what he deserved most of all was his own mother to keep him and do everything she could for him. He never deserved to be seen as a "gift" for some other couple, deemed "better" than me.

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  6. Cassi, I salute and admire you. I'm not a first mother; I'm an adoptive mother. But I have struggled mightily under the weight of demons that, although different than yours, ravaged my Self and my peace and my wholeness much like the adoption industry did yours. It's a bitter, wearying climb out of the pit, but I agree with you that freedom is totally worth it.

    I'm so deeply sad for your loss and your son's. It's beyond words.

    i have to say, too, that I appreciate your balance, especially when talking about a visceral topic. To me, your words "I won’t be bold enough to assume they are all sharing the same experience I did. That their repeated scripts, their need to be so good under the heavy weight of not being “good enough” is a repeat of what I went through." enrich my experience of reading your blog. I find that many people struggle to accept that reality is an individual experience even among people with much in common. I appreciate you not deciding what anyone else's experience is like.

    Thank you for changing me.

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  7. Cassi,

    You wrote my story. Yes, the names and the circumstances are different but the heart of the matter is the same.

    I stand with you in the painful truth of facing the consequences of my choice to parent my children by choosing adoption. What do you say to your grown children when they ask you why you are so damn proud and happy that you gave them up to strangers?

    Letting myself feel the loss and grief I denied for 26 years has changed my life too. It has broken me in a way I nevery thought I could be broken. There have been many days where I wasn't sure I would recover, but I did and I am a stronger person for dealing with the loss that both I and my children suffered with my decision to place them for adoption. Very sobering, indeed.

    Hugs to you!

    Liz

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  8. Cassi~
    I have always admired you for your strength & words that you share, which often times, have been my exact thoughts. That's what keeps me coming back reading. With that being said I have a request.

    Can we quit with the "beemomie" bashing? I know how irritating that terms is as it still is so lost on me. However, those who chose to embrace that title are more than welcomed to it as it doesn't apply to a majority of women I see who post on here. Just as we (in America) have a right to stupidity, those folks have a right to be called or accept whatever title they like..just as long as I don't have to call them that(I will respectfully refuse to do so) Tolerance is a 2 way street. the "Koolaide" comments & the confrontational attitude that people like Miss Mercy display does nothing but add fuel to the fire. Why can't us women have a civilized discussion without having to lower ourselves to such degrading levels? How does that help anyone really?

    Pity those girls("beemommies") all you like, but I respectfully ask you let them be. They are not receptive to anything but what they have been told to be. Once that bubble breaks all we can do is be there for them if & when they need those of us who have been in their same shoes. I find that moer productive than pointing fingers & calling names personally. It's your blog & you can do whatever you please, it jsut saddens me to see us women attacking each other in such passive-aggressive manners.

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  9. Cassi ~ I have had a draft of this same topic for a week now. Actually two drafts. One of my living in & coming out of the fog. Another of my feelings when reading the new first mom adoption-is-wonderful blogs. I have struggled to get my feelings & thoughts into words, erasing & rewriting but the words still failed me.

    When I read this post for the first time the other day, I was blown away by your words. I could never have written it better, this post is the words of my heart & soul.

    And this "I really was nothing more than a warm body carrying a child. I wasn’t Cassi. I wasn’t a frightened sixteen year old girl...", this took my breath away. That was me, too.

    Great post. One I wish everyone could read and understand.

    Susie

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  10. Little confused etropic... I thought this was Cassi's blog? And to add to that, I haven't seen any "bashing" as you put it so very bluntly? One thing your failed to see in your rush to defend people you perceived incorrectly as being bashed, is Cassi has a right, in her own space to say whatever she likes. I think you need to reread her post and comprehend what it is she was saying because from what you have said, it looks like you missed the point entirely.

    Hi Cassi, yes I am supposed to be having a break BUT when I saw you were blogging again I couldn't resist coming to read. Fabulous post as always, you have said so eloquently, firmly yet very gently, what needs to be said. You have nailed so many important things and like Susie above said, this is a post ALL mothers involved in adoption, either before or after birth, placement etc, need to read.

    Nice to see you back in blogland!

    Hugs,
    Myst xxx

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  11. Etropic,

    My use of the term "beemommie" in my blog is not meant to be an insult against any women who has lost her child to adoption, no matter how she feels about it.

    In the times I have used that term (even applied to myself) I have done so to mock the adoption industry. To make a joke out of their pretty little pictures of happy mother's with empty arms and broken hearts.

    Using "beemommie" is my anger and disgust at them and at the disgusting term they placed on me, but it is not meant to insult those who actually live that life. Even those who embrace the title they were given.

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  12. Oh, and Etropic, I'm sorry, I should have added, that I do agree with you. When/if the bubble pops for the First Mom's of today, yes they are going to need support just as we received. And there is nothing that will keep me from offering that to them when the time comes.

    I find myself walking a thin line when it comes to my feelings and the First Mom's of today. On one side, like I said, I can see myself in so many of them, so I understand where they are (or where I'm guessing they might be at the moment.) But I also struggle with the way, I believe, they are being used by the industry to encourage more women to give up their babies. That makes me angry and, I know, some of that anger gets transferred on to them as well. Sometimes worse than other times.

    Have they come to my blog and said hurtful things, yes, and I am sure I have done the same to them whether on their blogs or forums, etc . . .

    But I really don't set out to insult them. Because, to me, even if they don't agree, I believe they have suffered a loss in giving up their child and my heart breaks for the pain I know that causes.

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  13. Myst~ read the last line of my post. No one is denying Cassi the "right" do anything. Gimme a break! This "attitude" is exactly what I'm talking about. Hostility over a few words that you happen to disagree with? I am & was respectful in offering my humble opinion & apparently it has no worth unless I agree with everything written here. I'm not in a rush to come to anybody's defense either. I just find it odd how quick those of us who don't understand the "happy happy joy joy" birthmoms are so quick to lash out and be mean towards them. There seems to be enough hatred in this world we live in. Everyone has value even if we perceive them to be odd, in denial etc. Just some food for thought..not pointing fingers by any means. Mocking someone because of what they believe or who they are is THE most intolerant thing I know.

    Cassi~ I thank you for your clarification. I too can relate to "walking that thin line" that you speak of when it comes to first mothers. There are some who make me want to gag & then there are those who I deeply admire. But like I said before, I try to find value in what EACH one says or feels. (yes, there are times when that seems like a daunting task)When we share a bit of who we are we make ourselves vulnerable and that can be a scary thing at times. No one wants to be told they are dumb,naive,ignorant etc just because they may hold a different viewpoint than that of the main stream. Once we start shunning people for things such as that, no one benefits; people will quit sharing, others quit listening, no learns, nothing changes & growth is stunted. I for one don't want to see that.

    Reading this blog, I learned that I am not alone in my feelings about adoption & more specifically my feelings of anger towards my adoption. (Even though logically, I already knew that) There have been times when I read this blog & I am struck by how the exact words written were EXACTLY what I was thinking inside as well. Thank you for that Cassi. Because knowing that what I was feeling was felt by another helped me. It helped me to shed that fake "happy little birthmom" image & get real; get in touch with my real emotions & what I really felt & wanted to say but feared doing. Been there, done that. Great post here... And I couldn't agree more with your comments too..

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  14. Myst,

    You take your break however you need to. I hope things are going okay for you.

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  15. ***Because knowing that what I was feeling was felt by another helped me. It helped me to shed that fake "happy little birthmom" image & get real; get in touch with my real emotions & what I really felt & wanted to say but feared doing. ***

    Etropic - I understand this SO much. When I first started to come out of that numbness that held me for so long and actually started to question what happened and was truly starting to feel the pain of it, I never even thought to search online for others who were going through the same.

    I spent years believing, in my mind, that I was the weird one, the bad one, for what I was starting to feel so it never even dawned on me to seek out others who might understand or know what I was going through.

    But, just like you, when I finally stumbled across those who I realized were putting to words what I was feeling inside and that helped me so much. It was the stability and support I needed to finally know I wasn't alone and I could face what I was dealing with just as others were doing.

    And the truth of the matter is, nobody can support us and understand us better than another First Mom who has traveled that journey and knows what it's like.

    Take care of yourself Etropic. You deserve that and so much more.

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  16. "I don't regret that decision and I still know I did the best thing for him."

    I can "understand" not *wanting* to have regrets...

    But as an adoptee, really? You're HAPPY you gave up your child? Seriously?

    Or... are you in the 2% group of birthmothers who wouldn't have wanted to raise their child anyway?

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  17. Meiling said . But as an adoptee, really? You're HAPPY you gave up your child? Seriously? . I'm happy I gave my child the best life he could have. I'm sorry as an adoptee if you cant' understand that but I know my son will have no problem understanding what I did for him. He's been blessed with wonderful adoptive parents who have always let him know that it was because I loved him so much that I wanted better for him then what I can give him.
    I'm sorry Meiling if you were not given the chance to understand how much your birthmother loved you and wanted you to have better than she could give and so you cannot understand why I am proud of what I did for my son all those years ago.
    And it wasn't a question of wanting to reaise my son it was knowing I couldn't.

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  18. "I'm sorry Meiling if you were not given the chance to understand how much your birthmother loved you and wanted you to have better than she could give"

    Way to assume.

    "And it wasn't a question of wanting to reaise my son it was knowing I couldn't."

    So it wasn't that you WANTED to give him up. It was that you COULDN'T raise him.

    Big difference.

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  19. Miss Mercy,

    I would suggest you actually take the time to read Mei-Ling's story before making any assumptions about her and her experience.

    And I hope that even though you "know" your son will understand, you will be open to whatever he might feel even if it isn't the feelings you "know" he'll have.

    What worries me in these kind of situations is that it could place an adoptee in a situation where he might feel stuck having to be grateful to both sides - his adoptive parents for "giving him a better life" and his first parents for "giving him up so he could have a better life."

    I just don't think that is a fair situation to put anyone in.

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  20. Precisely what Cassie says.

    I am supposed to feel grateful that my adoptive parents had the decency to "provide" me with a better life.

    Then I am supposed to feel grateful that my mother gave me up out of love.

    So, if I don't feel grateful, and instead I feel sad/angry/confused about my adoption, am I... not... supposed to voice my feelings?

    Because if I say anything less than a "thank you" for the two issues above ("thank you" for loving me enough to give me up, "thank you" for raising me), then it's a slap in the face to both sets of parents.

    So ultimately, I don't have room for my feelings because it will hurt everyone else's feelings.

    How is this ultimately about the adoptee?

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  21. Amen Cassi and Mei-Ling! What MM said is exactly the same rubbish that has been handed out to adoptees for years.

    Its like the assumption that if one speaks out about their adoption experience being less than "wonderful" and "loving" then they are immediately labelled angry, bitter etc.

    Maybe its because these people who have to see adoption as this "wonderful" institution are fearful of what it would be like if they looked at it honestly. There are many, many people out there who just cannot face the truth about their lives and their choices and so live in a chosen state of denial and in the process cause others to suffer for it.

    Mei-Ling, in answer to your question "How is this ultimately about the adoptee?" - it isn't. And it never has been. Its about the adults, it always is when it comes to children because too many adults forget to see children as people and don't try to put them in the child's shoes. Working with kids, I saw this frequently and I have seen it with my own kids (yes, I am guilty of sometimes forgetting about their perspective). With adoptees, its worse because when you become adults, it appears you are kept as a child and are told what to do, how to think, what to say, what not to say. Yes it happens to persons not adopted but more so to adoptees. Because adoption never was, never will be aboutt he children or the adopted adult and when adoptees speak up about this and reveal this truth, people with invested interests in adoption or living in that chosen state of denial because it suits them better, do anything to shut them down. Because they can't have the truth out there, it simply doesn't suit them.

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  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  23. I deleted my original comment to add to it and then lost what I originally wrote. Ah well. Probably for the best because it was a personal issue and this post is really about celebrating your found freedom! That should be celebrated above all.

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  24. Ah Diane, I'm actually curious to know what you would have added and I think it did have a relation to this post.

    But, sadly, I have spent the day thinking about your orginal post, and I don't have an answer for you, though I wish I did.

    A part of me wants to say, yes, defintely talk about her daughter because sometimes it does help to have others acknolwedge that we are still seen as mothers for the child we gave up.

    And yet another part of me wonders if, no matter what she shows on the outside, it hurts to think about and/or talk about the daughter she has so recently lost.

    I just don't know the answer for your question. I think, the only real advice I can give is go by your instincts and watch her reactions. In that you will hopefully find the answer I can't seem to come up with.

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  25. I've read the post (cassi- you made me cry! Not an easy task!)

    But as an adoptee..some of the comments really got my goat. Presuming that any child will understand having been placed for adoption is absurd. I am a perfectly rational, educated and well adjusted woman who happens to have been adopted. I have a great adoptive family. And STILL I cannot find it within myself to be grateful for my situation, and I certainly don't understand. My birthparents (with whom I've been reunited for over 10 years) can tell me all day about the reasons behind their decision..and all I can think about is all of my friends whose parents were younger and poorer than mine but who were kept. What did my birthparents lack? Or, better- what was wrong with me?

    We aren't talking logic here. None of these feelings have much basis in reality. But being given away doesn't feel good, no matter how many politically correct ways you try and phrase it.

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  26. Amanda,

    "Presuming that any child will understand having been placed for adoption is absurd. I am a perfectly rational, educated and well adjusted woman who happens to have been adopted. I have a great adoptive family. And STILL I cannot find it within myself to be grateful for my situation, and I certainly don't understand."

    You've given voice to my greatest fear as an adoptive mother. What you say is completely logical and rational, and it scares the stuffing out of me.

    I visited your blog from here, and I plan to do so again.

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  27. Cassi I'm curious when you 'came out of the fog'. It happened for me after my daughter found me. I did a passive search but she wasn't good with computers and found me when she was 29. I didn't ever realize I would be torn up by reunion. Believe me I am grateful that I get to know my daughter and even more so that I get to tell her about her beginnings and mirror her heritage. I will do whatever I can for that lovely woman. But today two years into reunion I am as heartbroken as I was the day I realized I f'ed up big time by placing her. Suz quotes Voltaire on her blog "Those that can make you believe absurdities can make you committ atrocities".
    Great awesome post Cassi. Thanks for sharing what I feel.

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  28. I just read this today and I must say it is the most powerful piece I have ever seen. I cannot fathom your pain when the kool-aide started to wear off and the truth began piercing your conscience and could no longer be denied. I wonder if this is part of why some first mothers refuse reunion. Maybe they have just accepted for so long that they did the right thing, that their child got a better life and even were brainwashed that the child wasn't really theirs. I wonder if they fight so hard to keep the lid on these issues out of fear that if they let the truth start to bubble through that the world as they knew it might be destroyed. And that it might destroy them, too.

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