My Truest Truth

“I don’t want to forgive her.”

The truth I’ve held onto so tightly for thirteen years came tumbling from my lips. I sat in a worn, mustard-colored, 70s velour chair, legs crossed, with a picture upon my knee.

October 2003; I Don't Want to Forgive Her

I stared at her and she stared back, through her old pair of glasses. He hadn’t shipped her newer pair yet, the ones she’d left behind with an old jacket and a volume of William Carlos Williams’ poetry. Ransom, perhaps, or an inability for either of them to deal with the situation at hand.

I stared at her smile—not her normal smile, no. When she’s happy, gums show and her eyes light and dance. I stared at her clothing. At 32-weeks-pregnant, she still didn’t wear maternity clothes. She didn’t need to; the Level III bed rest, living alone, and fight for her life kept her from gaining much weight.

I stared at her, my heart fluctuating between something akin to empathy, compassion and then hard-shifting into ferocious, bitter anger.

“Why don’t you want to forgive her?

A million reasons, all rolled into one.

“She gave away my daughter.”

As many truths as I’ve spoke over the years, that is my truest truth. I don’t want to forgive myself for placing my daughter for adoption. I need someone to remain angry with, and I’ve gone ahead and forgiven every last individual involved. Except for myself.

Logically, I see this as a hindrance to my healing. Remaining angry at myself for things—things of which I spoke of for the first time to my therapist and nearly left her speechless; things mostly out of my control; things which would break my heart if I heard of them happening to another woman, another mother—doesn’t solve a single thing. It doesn’t alleviate my anxiety, my depression. It doesn’t bring my daughter home to live in my house. It doesn’t remove my sons’ sadness, their keen missing of their sister. The anger doesn’t make anything better.

But letting it go feels too scary, still. Too big. Too much.

That anger feels safe, if we’re honest. It’s been the only constant in my life for thirteen years. I’ve had to let go of anger at and with others, forgive them in order to keep moving forward. But that anger at myself? I can move forward with it… however slowly. I can bench it when I need to; I can pull it out and wield it against myself if I feel too cocky, like I’ve done too much of a good thing. It’s a good tool for putting myself in my place.

You gave away your baby. What kind of mother does that? Sit down. You don’t belong with these other people. You don’t belong anywhere. You monster.

Among these mothers who fought to have babies and lost them and would give anything under the sun to make sure they never had to separate from their child, I feel a giant scarlet letter on my chest. Not the A, for adoption. No. The O, for other. For odd. For ostracized. For out of place. For outcast. For orphaned; for orphan maker. So many fought and fight for what I had—a daughter—and I gave her away.

I don’t want to forgive myself because I am still ashamed of my decision, of myself. I don’t care that I was sick, that I fought for my life and underwent two surgeries while pregnant. I don’t care that no one wanted to support a decision to parent. I don’t care that, once entangled with the adoption facilitator, I couldn’t find a way to untangle myself. None of that matters. I gave away my baby, my girl. It firmly remains all my fault.

Needless to say, yesterday’s therapy session ranked off the charts on the How Hard It Felt meter. My therapist challenged and questioned me in ways no one ever has regarding my daughter’s adoption. I ended feeling very exhausted, because I really don’t like to go there all that often. In fact, just searching for this photo caused a dissociative, out-of-body experience for me. My therapist wasn’t surprised, but I felt surprised as to how visceral it felt all these years later.

I think we made progress. I don’t know. Today I feel like someone ran me over with the Emotions and Feels Bus. Maybe that’s necessary to move forward, because lord knows I haven’t gone back to some of those places since, well, ever.

Tonight I sit and ponder, again, what forgiving myself looks like. It doesn’t look like having my daughter, so I’m still stuck on the point of it all.

Maybe I’ll find it one of these days.

 

Land Of Nod: Design for Kids and People That Used to be Kids

Deep Thoughts on Snow Day Four

Snow Day Four.

We slept in. They played video games while I did some work. We went to play with friends. Hit the library. Ate one of their favorite meals for dinner. Read books. I, personally, answered a billion and one questions.

Like, “If a blind person opens their eyes under water, does it still hurt?”

I’ve never, ever thought of that. My youngest son is always, always thinking. I think he’s fantastic.

Snow Day Four doesn’t hurt too much.

I figured they’d at least have a delay if not an entire Snow Day. I kind of wanted the full Snow Day because I wanted an excuse to be lazy. A lazy day with my boys and my dogs and some carbs, because we all need carbs in the winter. It’s how we survive, really.

And then I asked the older of the two boys to take the first, but younger, dog outside to do her business. He didn’t watch her. He didn’t know if she did her business. I was in the process of making dinner. I felt a little frustrated.

So I yelled.

I really don’t like yelling. I would rather avoid yelling. I want to talk about things, teach from a place of calm. Yelling scares me, so I know it has the potential to affect my boys in negative ways too.

My son went off to his room, on his own. I continued stirring homemade alfredo sauce, trying to time noodles and broccoli to end up cooked, but not over- or under-cooked all at the same time. He came out, cheeks and eyes red and swollen with tears.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

I took him into my arms, my chin resting on the top of his head.

“I know, buddy. But this is what Daddy and I have been talking about: responsibility, paying attention, being present. This is part of growing up and gaining more independence. It just comes with more responsibility. I love you. Always.”

He nodded. He went and got the book he picked at the library and sat at the dining room table to read while I finished up dinner. He helped set the table. He helped feed the dogs after we finished dinner. Everything went fine for the rest of the evening.

Much like I want my sons to know that one mistake is not the end of the world, I need to model that in my parenting. I sent my husband a text about how negatively I felt about myself for yelling. But if I expect my sons to rebound from supposed or surmised mistakes, shouldn’t I also do the same? Shouldn’t I also give myself the grace I afford them? Shouldn’t I work harder to forgive myself?

My therapist wants me to bring a picture of my 22-year-old—and pregnant—self to my next appointment in two weeks. I’m supposed to talk to myself, tell myself the reasons I’m still angry with that young, scared, very, very alone little mama. Because it’s true: I hold anger with absolutely no one else as to how everything happened. Except me. I’m so very angry with myself.

Today a friend related a story of a mutual friend’s unplanned pregnancy. She shared how she supported her friend through each step of the process. My heart welled up.

“I just needed you,” I said as I walked out the door, heading off to the library with the boys.
“I know.”

It is my goal to someday forgive myself. I know—I know—I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time. I repeat that to myself regularly. My therapist said the same thing at my last appointment. The tricky part is getting to the point of forgiveness, of letting it all go.

Because if I’m no longer mad at myself, what’s left?