The Impact of Words

Some time ago, I wrote a piece directed at my mother. It was inspired because she had been proclaiming to my family and others that I was a slut as a teenager. Even in my adult years, my own mother was still happy to call me a slut if it meant justifying her behavior. I’ve since taken the piece down for a number of reasons mostly because it was a exceptionally long winded rant that could have been better articulated.

When I was a teenager, I was sexually active. I won’t dress it up or sugar coat it. I lost my virginity at a young age, and while I don’t regret it, I do wonder if I should have been a little less energetic to move to make that choice. However, I was in a relationship with a person who I cared deeply for, and we felt that it was something we wanted to share together, safely. After we broke up, any other sexual partners I had were always people I knew, and cared for. I spent the time making sure I was routinely tested, was on birth control, and made sure that I knew my partner’s sexual history. In short, I was responsible with my sexual activity.

None of my maturity regarding my sexual health matter to my mother. The Mormon church advocates for strict “purity”, and the act of having sex before marriage is considered as heinous as murder. There was no room for discussion in my home regarding my changing body, my sexual curiosity, or my basic questions regarding relationships and sex. When I admitted to my parents that I had indeed had sexual intercourse, an all out war began. It opened up the floodgates for insults that my mother justified based on church doctrine. Often, I found myself dealing with self-loathing because of the rhetoric that I was being dealt at home. All of my worth as a human being was suddenly balancing on the fact that I had sex before marriage.

When I became pregnant with The Kiddo, my mother told me point blank that my pregnancy was God’s way of punishing me for having sex before marriage. According to her, I was too stupid to listen to reason, and as a result, God knocked me up to teach me some greater lesson. Her insults didn’t end there. For much of my pregnancy, she insulted me sexually. I was a “whore”. I was a “slut”. I was “that girl who couldn’t keep her legs shut”.  During a time when I needed and deserved to have a supportive, caring mother to help me through one of the toughest ordeals of my life, I was instead treated to a woman mad with indignant self-righteousness. She simply valued her reputation in the church more than she valued unconditionally loving her own daughter. This was proven greatly when she threatened to with hold any and all family contact if I decided to parent my baby.

I was never asking for her to celebrate this teen pregnancy. As a parent now, I can understand the disappointment you’d feel if your child wound up pregnant before a time that was ideal. However, I can’t fathom ever behaving in the manner that she did. I can’t understand the idea that you could blackmail your own child with the retraction of your love if they don’t do what you say. There is no way for me to make sense of the idea that a loving mother would repeatedly insult her own daughter. Worst of all? I can’t imagine behaving in such a depraved manner, and never thinking that a genuine apology was owed.

When my brother went on to have issues with his sexuality, I became the scapegoat. I had led the way, it was my example that he was following, according to my parents. Except, that he wasn’t. Where he was reckless in his sexual decisions, I hadn’t been. Where I had gone out of my way to make sure I was healthy sexually, he didn’t even know how birth control actually worked. I wasn’t engaging in sexual behavior recklessly or thoughtlessly, but my brother was. He had/has no sexual boundaries whatsoever. None of this mattered to my parents, because blaming my unexpected pregnancy on his sexual deviance was a far easier reach for them. It couldn’t simply be the fact that they didn’t allow him to take sexual education class. It couldn’t be that their method of obedience at all costs wasn’t working. It couldn’t even be the fact that he was making all of these poor choices all on his own. In their minds, it was, it was me, the slut (according to my own mother) who had led him down this path.

There has consistently been this cyclical system of blaming everyone else for the actions of their children. Instead of taking the time to reflect on the possibility that they may have added to the behavior, or that simply, in my case, an accident, they have decided to blame everyone else, and act as though they are the victims. Personally, I don’t blame my parents for the stance they took on sex; abstinence is taught explicitly by many religions, not just Mormonism. I don’t blame them for the unexpected pregnancy. I do, however, blame them for using said pregnancy as a reason to refuse to act like parents. Instead of parenting, they chose to be religious fanatics, who would have happily stoned their own daughter. They refused to have discussions surrounding all of my options, instead falling prey to their own church. It’s unforgivable in my mind, the abuse they threw at me through the time of my pregnancy, and even after. They had the ability to parent me, they had the ability to ask hard questions, but they simply refused because their religious dogma told them they shouldn’t.

The damage my parents did by not being my parents during my pregnancy has been lasting. There was a removal of trust. I became frightened of them, emotionally. I wasn’t eager to pursue a relationship with them. My pregnancy was not a greater lesson from a petty God, nor was the pregnancy itself foreordained so my child could go to another family. I resented my parents for not only supplying this idea, but giving it wings to fly. This idea that this Mormon God was this mean spirited caused a great deal of inner turmoil both emotionally and spiritually. Most of all, this rhetoric ultimately played a defining factor in damaging our relationship as a family.

There is a long list of things that I didn’t know or wasn’t told about the big picture of adoption. Where I used to be angry at my parents for their behavior, I just feel incredibly sad for them. They were (and still are) so wrapped up in their religion that they didn’t have the clarity of mind to ask the right questions. They didn’t even ponder the long term rammifications of the adoption, on both myself, themselves, and The Kiddo. They just accepted, blindly, that their church was doing the right thing, because they have been conditioned to never question church authority. As a result, they lost out on their first grandchild, and subsequently, their inaction caused a great riff between themselves and their daughter.

My family is welcome to proclaim from the highest mountain that I’m a slut. I’m not angry about it now; I know the truth, and I’m old enough that I don’t have to explain myself over and over again. However, underneath all their self-righteous proclamations, I wonder if their are projecting their own hurt, their own anger, and their own regret regarding the situation. It’s often easier when we’ve made mistakes to place the blame on others instead of taking a hard look at our own actions. In the Mormon church, many members are happier in their own echo chamber, preaching to the choir, and receiving “answers” that solidify their actions. It’s hard for many to step out of that box, and re-evaluate their personal role in tough situations, because it may mean that they have to admit that they were wrong.

And, my parents are/were wrong. I wasn’t a slut. My pregnancy wasn’t some sign from god, or some attempt at mediation from a higher power. It was the result of failing contraception, and I wish that when I had been pregnant, that less time had been spent on lecturing me on how I was being punished by a petty god. I wish that instead of insults and coldness, my parents opted to take that journey with me, and help me make the right decision instead of passing me off to their church. I wish they had the wisdom to understand that their action and inaction then, would have a resounding impact on the future.

The Unforgivable

In late December, after I wrote an articulate, but blunt email to my parents regarding the drama that had filled up the weeks before the holidays, an email was sent in response from my mother that left me both defeated and angry. With my fingers poised over my phone, ready to respond, my husband quietly suggested that I might want to refrain. Originally, I scowled at him, and gave him a list of incredibly poignant reasons why it was imperative that I respond, in anger, of course. He shrugged his shoulders casually, and just said, “I just think you know how this will end. You can end it now, gracefully, or you can battle it out, and have to deal with the collateral damage that comes along with it being drawn out.”

His reasoning was sound, and suddenly, I was picturing an email war that would cycle for weeks, maybe even months, with nothing ever getting resolved. My feelings, already fragile and broken, would become even more frail, and wounded. There would be more anger, more frustration, and no peace. History had shown me already how this ended, and I needed to finally have the state of mind to step back and know when it was time to say, “Enough”.

I’d been advised by health professionals that ridding myself of my family’s toxicity would solve a significant number of issues I was contending with. It had been a somewhat offensive suggestion because I was in this mindset that I could fix it. I could fix the historical abuse and dysfunction. Admitting that it was irreparable would mean that I would have to deal with the fact that I would never have the family I always wanted, and furthermore, it would mean having to actually survey the damage that had been done because I was so fixated on an ideal that was far fetched.  When I deleted that email, it was the first step to admitting that there was just nothing I could do to make my family see the error of their ways, or even inspire a change in them.

Soon after, I found myself reading articles about families like mine. I found myself nodding along, and realizing that for many, many years, I had been banging my head against a wall that was never going to crumble, no matter how genuine my intentions. Putting together that narcissism played a huge role in their personalities, and the dynamics of the family was liberating, and haunting. They were never, ever going to be better than they were at this moment. And, the longer I held on to the false hope of change, I would just continue to drag myself into their darkened abyss of misery.

In the past, my biggest issue with maintaining a distance from my family has always been guilt.  So I began to, on the advice of some new found supports, write a list of all the things I had lost out on because I had been working on the fantasy of having functional relationship with my family. It would serve as a reminder when I was in those sentimental moments, or when they randomly popped up into my life. As I wrote, I could barely catch my breath. Event after event appeared on the screen, long lost relationships, and so much more. It wasn’t even physical incidents anymore, but the realization that I had spent many years putting energy into people who had proved, time and time again, that they were not worth any of that.

The adoption was of course near the top of the list. Instead of parenting me through one of the most difficult moments of my life, I was passed onto their church for handling. There was no kindness granted toward me, my own mother repeatedly telling me that I was nothing more than a common whore. All of it, the end result, my son going to another family, was never truly for my benefit, though they nobly expressed that it was to anyone who would listen; It was so that they could ultimately repair their reputation. They didn’t look at the long term impact it would have on me, or on my future family. They didn’t even consider for a second what could go wrong. They were hellbent on ignoring important questions so they could just say they did the right thing.

Then, somewhere in between, they realized they may have made an error. There was no apology, there was no admission that perhaps they were too eager and too self-focused. Admitting that they played a distinct role, negatively, meant confessing that they were wrong, and with them, they are never wrong.  When I did get to see The Kiddo at his baptism when he turned 8, the whole scenario was tainted by their mutterings, their dissection of every move the adoptive parents made or didn’t make, and ultimately, the focus was redirected to them. This adoption story, the one that was beginning to bend and break before our eyes, was their personal tragedy. It wasn’t about me, or about The Kiddo, it was, and always would be about them.

The list of wrong doings grew. As I scanned it, I knew that some of the supposed sins were forgivable. Some, however, were not. The adoption was one of those unforgivable actions, if only for their lack of remorse and inability to take responsibility for their actions.  

I’ve been writing about adoption loss for over two years now. I’ve seen therapist after therapist to deal with the rammifications of it. No matter how much healing I do, and I’ve done a lot, I would just never find a logical reason why I should forgive them. I knew that I would be able to move forward, and I would eventually find away to let go of the anger I had, but forgiveness is just not an option.

So, at the top of the list, I wrote,

“Can you trust the unforgivable?”

Quietly, I hit enter several times, and then softly typed,

“Never.”

 

 

 

Whispers of His Name

I heard his name whispered as the kids were playing their game. As if he knew, my son quickly glanced over at me, watching to see if I heard, and how I would react.

“What are you playing?” I asked.

“The Angry Birds are playing house.” He seemed tentative.

“Oh, that’s fun!”

My daughter ran over to me, and exclaimed, “These are the brothers.This one is Potato and this one is Kiddo.”

I bit my lip, unsure of how to respond.

“I have two brothers, Mama. Potato and Kiddo. We don’t see Kiddo, but he’s still my brother.”

I forced a smile, and nodded. “That’s right.”

“When do we get to see him?” she asked, innocently. My mind raced for a moment, trying to think of the perfect way to tell her that she likely wouldn’t see him any time soon, possibly not ever.

Potato jumped in, ” We don’t get to see him. His parents don’t let him see us. Right?”

My fake smile faded. It was blunt, and it was true. I nodded again, afraid to speak.

My daughter processed this information, something she has heard before, but forgets because she’s just little.  “That’s not very nice. I want to play with Kiddo.”

I sighed, and explained,

“I know. I wish we could see him to, but it just isn’t possible right now. Maybe one day. For now, you can pretend to play with him all you like.”

A consolation prize, of sorts. You can’t see him, know him, or be near him. He can’t play your pretend games, or discuss the intricacies of Star Wars, or Angry Birds, or any of the other things my two parented kids are interested in. Even with their age, and only a partial picture of what it means to be the sibling to a child who has been relinquished to adoption, they seemed to grasp that they are missing out on important moments.  A few years ago, I would have imagined that these conversations would have turned into discussions about our most recent visit.  Now, all they have is dated pictures, my own recollections of when Kiddo as a tiny baby, and any other small glimpses I’ve been given through the years. I do my best to share this with them so they can, hopefully, feel connected to this sibling they’ve never met.

It all  seems drastically unfair. Another check in the long list of things I wasn’t told I would have to cope with post-adoption. Another situation that I have to maneuver, blindly. Another realization that the simplistic idea that adoption would only ever impact me was completely and utterly wrong. Another slap in the face that part of my family is missing, and my family actually recognizes that. If only I could accurately describe the level of guilt this raises within me.

I miss out on my son.

More importantly, my kids are missing out on their brother and all I can offer to them is the encouragement to continue to imagine that he is there with them.

Try As You Might, But I’m Still Here

Sometimes, I forget that actual, real life persons read my blog. Sometimes, I forget that of those readers, some are of the variety who know me, who were involved in my adoption story, or otherwise. Sometimes, because mostly, I’ve had a pleasant experience sharing my thoughts, I forget that there are some people who were involved who would like to see me fail. They would like it if I stopped talking about the uncomfortable aspects of this adoption gone wrong. They’d like it if I didn’t bluntly state my opinions on events, or even about other people.

Back in December, I began to receive an onslaught of anonymous comments here. They were pointed, they were exceptionally personal, and they were most definitely from someone who knew me outside of the blogging world. I shrugged them off, because, I know that when I found my voice, there was a double edged sword that came into play. By being as bold as I am about my adoption experience, especially when it’s mostly been negative, I invite naysayers. However, I’ve learned over the course of my blogging career, that you can’t let every single comment, even the really innately personal ones, impact you.

This time, I did. Between losing the hosting on this site because of a billing error (not updating a credit card, and not finding out until it was too late, and too costly to repair), and the fact that it was the anniversary of my semi-open adoption closing, the persistence of these bullies got to me.

It was the small reminders that they were always watching, ready to pounce at any opportunity. It was the notifications that they were following my blogs suddenly, and the way I found some of them following me on Twitter. I kept telling myself that I had to accept this because I’m very visible in the social media realm. However, there is this fine line between being interested in someone, and keeping actual tabs on them to feed a certain obsessive hatred. There is and was no innocence behind their incessant need to remind me that they are always there, always waiting.

So I crumbled. I was devastated at the loss of all my work and wondered if all of it had just been in vain. I felt violated. Most importantly, I felt unsafe. If these people were going to these lengths to cyber stalk me, was there a line for them? Would it stop at the internet?  Or could it go further, and potentially have devastating consequences to myself and my family? I had no answers, so I pulled away from the community that has become a sort of village for me over the years.

Frustration mounted to the point, that my husband and I had several lengthy discussions about whether I would continue to write about my adoption experience, or even in general. Anxiety propelled itself to the forefront of my mind, and I just couldn’t figure out how to cope with this new found issue. For me, I wasn’t sure that I would ever be content knowing that these people existed in the periphery. Their abuse online had rendered me speechless, and left me staring at the screen in fear. What if I wrote something that aggravated them just so? Was I, by speaking my piece, adding fuel to their fires, and inspiring them to find other ways to belittle me?

The lack of control really stumped me, and wisely, my husband encouraged me to find a way to fight through the doubts. I didn’t have to understand the behavior, I didn’t have to like it, and while it was apparent that I wouldn’t be able to tell these people where to go, I didn’t have to allow their actions to control me. 

These “fans” are not likely to stop visiting my blogs, my Twitter, or even my Facebook. Maybe the anonymous comments will stop now that I’ve said something publicly, or maybe they won’t. However, I’m not going to allow their negativity to dictate how I tell my story. Furthermore, it only serves to prove a lack of maturity, and common decency on their part. This is my work, my life- when I write on this site, I occasionally leave a part of myself out there for the world. I would never badger these individuals at their work, or their home. In fact, save the communication I see from this angle, I have no interest in engaging with them at all. What they do with their lives is of no importance to me. I wish, that I could convince them that they can have the same approach with myself.

I’ve spent so many years of my life biting my tongue because I was concerned about the proverbial and literal fallout. I hid my feelings, thoughts, and opinions in dark places, and condemned myself to isolation just so I could play a role that would please specific people. I won’t do that, because, that’s not who I am.

I’m loud, and sometimes, abrasive. I have a story that needs to be told, that is still being written, and my voice is, humbly, necessary and important to this vast adoption conversation. These bullies have already stolen a lot of things from me in my life, and this is one thing I refuse to hand to them willingly. It’s my story to dictate, not theirs.

Mourning The Loss Of What Could Have Been

It was the admittance that we could have made it work that has sent me into this dizzy dance. In a matter of seconds, my heart both broke and took flight. We could have made it work, he said. We should have tried.

But we didn’t, because we were so young, and didn’t really understand the enormity of the situation placed before us.

What we’re left with is this depressing realization that we probably could have made it work. Not just because we had a kid together, but because, even at the young age of seventeen, we’d found what most people search their whole life for. There’s a moment of palpable tension when we both admit that we’ve never found what we had, even in the partners we both have. In each other, we’d found that intense love that many would walk the earth to find.

We’ve broken each other’s hearts. We’ve picked up pieces. We’ve understood each other, even when there was the murkiness of this adoption, a path I chose for all of us. The regret I feel, it’s profound. Yet, beyond the hurt, the hurt we’ve managed to overcome, there is this lightness, and still some of darkness. We’re still here for each other, walking this darkened path of adoption together.

I’m mourning.

I’m mourning the loss of a man that I still having certain feelings for. I’m mourning the fact that my fantasies could have been reality, and then the pain that comes knowing that we just didn’t tow the line in order to make it work. That, ten years later, wisdom and experience under our belt, there is this reverberating connection that’s linking us both together.

Does he wish what I wish? Does he wish that we could undo it all and try again?

How can I possibly still care for  this man? So many years have passed, I’ve found another man that I do love. I’ve started another family. Yet, all I can think about is what I’ve missed by not being with him. With that comes this incessant urgency to make it happen, like it might fix everything that has been broken in the last decade.

Despite that, I know it won’t fix a single thing. What’s been done, cannot be undone.

I’m stuck in this vortex, one that sucks me into the past, and makes me feel as though it was just yesterday, that he was kissing my forehead. That it was just yesterday when he showed up with flowers to a drama performance. That it was just yesterday that he uttered the words, “I love you” and I knew he really meant them. That yesterday was today, and that we could be everything we weren’t able to be.

In all the years since The Kiddo was relinquished, I never thought there would be a time when I would be entertaining the same fantasies, now with a bit of age to them. The idea that we could be together. I was content to let him fade into the background, to see hear of him, to speak of him, but never to engage these overwhelming feelings.

Unattainable; does that make this more attractive to me? Blind am I, to the actuality of the circumstance?

I just know this; I still love The Kiddo’s father, deeply, and strangely.

And that alone is cause enough for me to mourn the loss of what could have been with us. A path that lays undiscovered because of hasty decisions that were made for us, because we didn’t speak loud enough to change the path.