You know, I think, over the last couple years, with my son adopted back and life going on as if he was never separated from us, I slipped back in to a mild form of the denial I lived with for so many years.
It didn’t take the same shape as before, forcing me to believe adoption was such a wonderful, loving thing I did just so I could actually get up in the morning and face a new day with a justification for the pain I was feeling inside.
It didn’t, at least lately, take me into the hibernation mode where I simply wanted to snuggle down in a world where I didn’t have to think or talk about adoption in any way, shape or form.
Instead, this time around, the denial was more of a fantasy belief. One shaped from the years my son lived with us, the time I actually got the chance to be his mom in every way, and the knowledge that he was again both biologically and legally my child.
It was one that had me believing that my future with adoption would be different now, better in some way. Brought me to a point where I was so comfortable and accepting of my oldest son back in my life that I let go of just how hard so many of the struggles were with his adoptive mom and the abuse he suffered from her. And I pushed to the back of my mind, where they wouldn’t affect me, the worries I lived with and the fears that haunted me.
Because it was easier that way. Just as it was easier, in some ways, to live all those years denying the pain losing my son to adoption had caused.
And how could it not be?
I could hold on to and live in the memories of my oldest son living with us rather than imagining what he must have gone through growing up under the ugly shadow of abuse. I could see his smiles, hear his laughter instead of experiencing the terrifying images of him being beaten with a tree branch, called the worst of names, and demeaned over and over again until he believed he was nothing and deserved the abuse he suffered.
See, in that time when my oldest son first moved back in with us, and in the months that followed, it was hell. Not for me, or my husband or my other children, but for him. Not only was he having to adjust to this family that was his and yet was foreign to him, he was also struggling with the effects of the abuse he had suffered for so many years and continuing to be a victim to the verbal abuse that was still coming his way from his adoptive mom.
I can still remember the first time he actually got mad at his dad . . . compared to, in the only way I can put it, “kissing ass” because of his fear of making his parents mad and them leaving him or punishing him in a way that didn’t teach but, instead, abused in so many ways.
I was so happy, I was literally laughing. And the first thing I could think to do was give my oldest son the biggest, sloppiest kiss possible. Because, to me, it was a huge obstacle he had just dared. He had taken the risk and gotten mad at his dad, as was normal for any father-son relationship. He wasn’t happy, and for the first time since he moved in, he showed it.
It was wonderful. It was terrific. And it was, in so many ways, that first step for me into another form of denial.
Because, in some way, it gave me permission to start letting go of the worries and just accept my son in my life in a way I could have only dreamed about in the past.
Permission to let go of the hell of knowing my child had been abused. Of the guilt from knowing I was the one who placed him in the arms of the one who did such a thing to him. In a family where the only thing I can be grateful for is the love and kindness his adoptive grandfather gave him during the years he was alive.
But, just like with my previous run with denial, this current bout was bound to end at some point. I just wish it hadn’t come at the same time my son was facing his battle with cancer.
Because all it succeeded in doing was throwing me back into that stupid, old question of what kind of mom was I? And was I really good enough for him, for any of my children, if I spent time dwelling on my feelings when my son was facing the worst battle of his life?
Was I making this about myself when it should be all about my oldest son?
Was I being “selfish?” Yeah!!!! . . . That word . . . The one us First Moms get to struggle with for our entire lives.
It was all there, making me wish I had stayed in my current denial for a little while longer.
But, as I have learned along the way, adoption crap hits you whenever it damn well feels like it. And, unfortunately, it hit me when his adoptive mom made that phone call and then, once the worry and fear of my son’s operation passed, set in with an old force I was familiar with.
One, while I was in this latest fog, I thought I had moved past a while ago.
Because after talking to her again, and then seeing her for the first time since learning of my son’s abuse, I realized, there is nothing, not even the strongest form of denial, that can ever take away my hatred for what she did to my son.
And during his surgery, her biggest concern seemed to be letting everyone know that she was his mom. The surgeon, the nurses who came out to advise us of his condition, she had to make sure that they all knew exactly who she was.
And she did that for her . . . not for him! It was her insecurities, or whatever was rumbling around inside her, that caused her to make sure everyone around knew exactly who she was. It wasn’t about my son, just as it never has been. It was about her and the recognition she sought for being a “mom.”
Like anyone, at that point, really gives one damn bit of care to who is who in relationship to the patient. What the hell does it matter at that time? He’s an adult and we are nothing more than the ones they are advising of his situation. Who gives a damn which one is the mom, the dad, grandma, sibling, or visitor from outer space.
It’s just us. All of us. There for him. That’s what they know and that is all they care about.
But truthfully, what does it matter anyhow? She is going to be who she is going to be, and I . . . I have realized and accepted, I will never be at a point where I can forgive her for what she did to my son. I had thought, during the last couple years, after the fog came back and I lived that time in a kind of oblivion to my feelings, that I could move past that, forgive and embrace her in the way my son desires.
But I just can’t. And I am so sorry to my oldest son for that admission.
There are things I can’t do in this life. And one, I have come to realize, is forgive anyone, for any reason, who harms my children in any way. I am so sorry for that – to him . . . my oldest son. I know, as a mother, I should be able to do whatever I can to make things easier on him.
But I just can’t do this. I just can’t.
She abused my son. She left him believing that he was the cause for every bad thing that happened in her life (caused by her alcohol addiction.) She said such terrible things to him. Things I heard while he was living with me.
She told me horrible things about him in a ridiculous belief that it would somehow change my desire to have him in my life. She lied to him to try and keep us out of his life. She beat up on him, some physically, most of it mentally, and blamed him for it, never once realizing how amazingly lucky she was to have him in her life.
There is just too much. Too much that I can’t go on denying any longer.
I love my oldest son more than I could ever say. I want to do whatever I can for him. I never want to place him in a situation where he feels like he has to choose between the families he wants in his life. I wish, with everything I have, that he could have that “perfect” scenario he craves where he has both moms there for him, happy together, and loving each other because we love him.
But that won’t happen. And I admit, I am part of the reason why.
And so, where does that leave me . . . leave him? Because I can’t, ever, expect him to walk away from his adoptive mother or his adoptive family (though this post isn’t exactly uplifting, the conversation my husband had with his adoptive aunt is actually a much, MUCH happier topic I plan to write about later. Our goodbyes on the final day in the hospital were actually given with true “heart-felt” kisses and hugs.)
The only thing I can think of – and PLEASE, those who have lived adoption, abuse, or anything close, tell me if you think, from your own knowledge or experience, if it’s right or wrong –is to be honest with my son (after recovery and treatment for his cancer.) To tell him that I will be respectful to his adoptive mom when we are together, for him, because he wants both his mothers in his life, but that I just can’t forgive her for the abuse she put him through and that will probably always prevent me from embracing her in the way he might desire.
And the only way I can think of to maybe get him to understand is to use (yeah that word sounds icky here) his baby sister as an example. He is very protective of my daughter. He tracks everything she posts on Facebook. Is very aware of any boy that might pay her attention. She is, in this point of his life – single with no children - the one person who might make him understand.
If she were to get involved with anyone who caused her harm in any way, his first instinct would be to stand up, fight and protect her. But what if the person who harmed her still wanted to be a part of her life and she believed he (or she) had changed. And what if, after starting to believe that the person had changed, he was told by them that she lied about the abuse and deserved what happened to her because of how bad she was (though he at this point still doesn’t know about what was said in the last phone call with his adoptive mom.)
I can only hope that I’m right when I say he would struggle too with trying to understand the reasons why she would want this person back in her life while also realizing that his actions, in any way, could affect, for better or worse, her treatment by this person because of past history.
I hope he can understand, with the example of his love for his little sister, that the last thing I ever want to do is hurt him anymore than he has already been hurt by adoption and abuse. That I don’t want to place him in a situation where he feels like he ever has to choose between one mom or the other. And that I will always respect his desire to have whoever he wants in his life and do whatever I can for him.
But there are some things I can’t do . . . I can never forgive his adoptive mom for abusing him, especially not now when she still is blaming him for what happened. I can never fully embrace and love someone who put my child through such pain.
I thought for a while there that I could. But after talking to her and hearing her blame my son for his abuse and then seeing her and knowing, every time I looked at her, what she did to my son, I just can’t do it.
I just can’t.
Is it one of my shortcomings? Maybe . . . Probably.
But what is worse . . . lying to my son and making him believe in something that isn’t true or being honest with him and hoping he’ll understand?
At this point, I have to go with the truth because during his last twenty-three years of life he’s been lied to enough.
And living like that, believing something that isn’t so, isn’t good or healthy for anyone. To do that to him, to put him in such a situation, just doesn’t seem right, fair, or even loving.
So I’m hoping for the best with what I know. Hoping the advice of others, as it has in the past, will help guide my way. And hoping, most of all, that whatever happens, my son will be spared the pain and loss he has suffered for so much of his short life.
It’s the least I can do after everything I have already done.