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.