A Birth Mother’s Letter to Her Son

Seventeen years ago, yesterday, I gave birth to a baby boy. Three days later, he would leave the hospital with his adoptive family; and I was left to cope with the loss. I’ve written extensively about the circumstances of his conception and birth previously in the post titled, My Story — Part 4 (The Second Half of My Year of Hell). From that post:

I got to spend 3 very emotional days with this little bundle of joy. His adoptive parents and I chose his name together. I felt honored that they would share this experience with me. His parents (and all the people at Caring Choices, too) were truly the first kind faces I had seen in a very long time. They showed me such compassion that I knew I had made the right choice. On May 15, 1999, I signed the surrender of adoption, giving up this child to his adoptive parents, who took him home from the hospital 3 days after his birth. This was truly one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made; but I felt that it was in his best interest to find more suitable, stable parents to raise him than what I, myself, could possibly provide. This was one very special gift that I was able to give in this lifetime, and I can only hope that karma rewards with compassion.

This post is a letter I chose to write in honor of his birthday, which still proves to be an incredibly difficult day for me even 17 years later. 


My dearest C–,

My, how time flies. You’re already 17 years old — a young man. Each and every year on your birthday, I pull out the photo album of photos your parents sent me of you and your family throughout the first 3 years of your life. I also read the letters your mom so graciously sent me. Your family will always have such a special place in my heart for the love and compassion they showed me during a tumultuous period in my life. I am so thankful to your parents, your adopted sister, and their entire extended family members for accepting you as their own and for their love and support.

I sincerely apologize for not taking the time to write and update you all about my life as we had agreed. Unfortunately, the struggles in my life often made communication with others very difficult for me. One day, when you’re older, I’ll tell you my story should you ever decide you wish to hear it. I know this won’t make up for not being a part of your life, but it is important to me that you understand my absence and know that I thought of you often with all my love. I can only ask for your forgiveness and compassion for not being strong enough to continue writing letters and sending photos. The pain of remembering that time in my life was simply too great.

I’m deeply sorry for not being able to be part of your life. When I chose to give you up for adoption, I only wanted what was best for you. I wanted you to have everything I didn’t feel emotionally stable enough to provide. In finding an adoptive family who could provide you with the love and emotional support you deserve, I felt you would have the best chance to grow up in a stable, healthy environment. Despite my soul feeling incomplete without you and the heartache of sorrow I felt when I gave you up, I know I made the right choice. You deserved to grow up without the weight of my burdens in life. You deserved to experience a happy childhood within the safety and security of healthy role models.

One day, I would love to hear of all your joys and heartaches, your accomplishments and defeats, your passions and dislikes, and your hopes and dreams. I often wonder what you look like, now. I wonder how you’ve turned out. I wonder what subjects you enjoy at school and where your life will lead you. I wonder if we will ever meet again — if you ever think of me and wonder the same. It is my hope that I gave you the BEST of me, and that life treats you kindly. You’ll forever be in my thoughts.

All my love,

Your Birth Mother

Lured Into an Alternate Reality

On Monday, I had one of the weirdest experiences of my life (or at least, in the top 10). I had a bag of clothes I was going to donate to charity at the convenience center where I take my trash, but the donation bin was overflowing. The employee there told me to donate it to the help center downtown, giving me directions to where I could find it. I found the help center with no problem and dropped off the clothes. As I was leaving, before I crossed the street to get back to where my car was parked, an older gentleman sitting outside stopped me to talk. This isn’t uncommon in my community as people around here are very friendly — good ol’ southern hospitality.

Not wanting to be rude (I was taught from an early age to respect my elders), I sat on the bench next to the chair where he was sitting as he explained the help center’s services, ranging from bags of clothes for $2 to surplus produce and other food given away periodically throughout the month. At first, I thought he worked at the help center. During the course of our conversation, he asked me, “What do you do?” When I confessed that I hadn’t worked in many years, he replied that he needed someone in his store to help him organize and do light dusting. He offered to show me his shop. Not wanting to seem ungrateful for the job offer, I followed him inside the store right next door to the help center.

This is where it gets really weird.

The first thing that hit me was the odor — a mix of mildew, stale cigarette smoke, and old book smell. The store was cramped with barely enough space for one person to walk through the narrow aisles. The majority of the space was taken up by display cases holding knickknacks. I didn’t really see what was in them because there was so much to take in. Magazine racks lined at least two of the walls, displaying old comic books, other reading material, and vinyl albums (later I noticed porn on those racks, too). The back wall had shelves of toys, more knickknacks, and other odds-and-ins. The only new thing I saw in there was a huge display for Magic: The Gathering.

This is where it gets weirder.

After we were inside, he began talking about peculiar things — like conspiracy theories and how religion, government, the education system, science, and healthcare are all forms of mind control. He made some seriously outlandish claims, making it a point to stress these “facts” were “truth” and his role as a “prophet” was to help others see his truth by opening their minds to it. He pointed to a collage of words and phrases cut from magazines, taped together on the wall and told me to go over and read it. I did. It didn’t make much sense. He explained, but by this point I was a bit leery, making it difficult to pay attention.

I didn’t know how to excuse myself from this situation.

He kept talking about his theories on everything — the pyramids, heaven and hell, God and Satan, the moon landing being a hoax, 9-11 conspiracies, the Bible (specifically the Book of Revelation), his ability to read minds through mental telepathy — you name it, he probably covered it! He kept saying how his “truth” blew the minds of so many because they weren’t open-minded enough to accept it. Despite the growing anxiety I felt, this man was fascinating to listen to. The conviction of his beliefs showed through his fervor in talking about them. I actually understood where he was coming from — a fearful place in his own mind. I honestly tried to understand this reality he was presenting me with. Some of it, I’ve even thought myself; but a lot of what he was saying was completely out there, like another galaxy, out there. He spoke at lengths about so many topics that I became completely overwhelmed.

He offered me a cigarette, a Pall Mall, because I left mine in my car. I smoked it without even thinking. At the same time, he offered me a drink. I accepted a bottle of water, again, without even thinking. I tend to smoke more when I’m nervous; yet by the second offer of another cigarette a short time later, fear had already reprimanded me for accepting the first one and the bottle of water. I was so thrown by the odd conversation that I was a bit “beside myself.”

The occasional perverted statement infused with sexual innuendo reminded me of what I often had to put up with from patrons of the bar where I worked so many years ago. This type of talk disgusts me and crosses a boundary that leaves me feeling more than uncomfortable. His “prophecies” became more blatantly about sex as he explained another “sign” taped to the wall, comparing monuments to phallic symbols. Even his interpretation of an Easter yard sign had sexual connotations in his mind. (It was a sign that said, “Welcome Easter,” with a smiling bunny holding a carrot. He said the “L” separated “we come” and the bunny represented — only pointing to my crotch — and followed that up saying the carrot represented, you guessed it, a phallic symbol. He joked, “No wonder the bunny is so happy.”)

It was at this point that I knew I had to get out of there. I changed the subject, asking if he knew when the local newspaper closed as I needed to stop by there. He said he could give me a stack of papers, and he did. So, I made the excuse that I needed to head out and get to the store. He kept me there another few minutes trying to get me to pinpoint a time when I would be back to help him in his store. When I wouldn’t give him a direct time to come back, he told me to put his phone number in my phone and text him so he had my number. Yes, I know I could have simply refused; yet by this point, I honestly couldn’t gauge how this man would take rejection. I obliged and did as he asked, thinking to myself, “I can just block his phone number after I leave.”

After texts were sent, I quickly made my way to the door which I realized he had locked! I didn’t wait. I turned the dead-bolt myself and quickly made my way outside with a sigh of relief. It wasn’t until I got back to my car that reality sunk in. I could have seriously been in danger. I was in there talking with him for an entire hour! What began as curiosity and fascination with this man’s alternate reality, ended with my intuition telling me to get the hell out of there. Thankfully, he never touched me; but that fear was there.

How do I so often end up in crazy scenarios like this?!?! No, this isn’t the first time I’ve found myself in a bizarre situation that creeped me out. I was so creeped out by the time I got to Wal-Mart that I walked around in a daze, completely nauseated, and panicked. I fought the urge to go to the ER to be drug tested, in the end choosing to believe I was overreacting and simply being paranoid, triggered into hyper-vigilance. I can easily terrify myself thinking about what could have happened. Again, I put myself in a position that could have been incredibly dangerous. WHY have I done that so often throughout my life?! Am I truly that gullible and naïve? Still?!

However, this man lured me in with a job offer. I had no reason to believe prior to walking into that store that he was anything but a kind elderly gentleman offering me a job. It wasn’t until we got inside the store that he began telling me his “prophecies.” Those in and of themselves weren’t enough to frighten me. I’ve heard it all before. I simply concluded that he lives in an extremely fearful reality, something I can relate to. It was his sexual references that put me on edge, caused my own voices to sound the alarm, telling me to proceed with extreme caution. It’s a strange, scary world in which we live. It doesn’t surprise me that so many of us are exhibiting signs of mental illness. Finding inner peace is difficult.

At what point does “belief” turn into “delusion,” requiring intervention without becoming a witch-hunt?

When I left his shop, I told him, “It’s been a pleasure talking with you.” He said, “I’ll know it’s been a pleasure if you return.” I can’t ever go back there. I won’t. My own fear of jeopardizing my safety and sanity would prevent me from interacting with him again. That’s sad because I don’t think he meant to frighten me or meant me any harm; but the fact is, I could be wrong.

Change Is Inevitable

Today was my last visit with my case manager, whom I liked very much, enjoyed talking with. During the last few minutes of our visit today, she told me she has accepted a job offer elsewhere; so she will no longer be my case manager. I was a bit floored, shocked by the news. It’s so sudden. I hate sudden changes. Who am I kidding? I hate “change” period. I think most people do; but for me, I desperately need consistency and predictability. Change sends everything into chaos — inner and outer worlds.

A change in case management means having to get to know yet another case manager, the third in as many years — not even 3 years. What if I can’t make myself talk to the new one? What if we don’t “click?” Trust doesn’t come easy for me. How am I supposed to trust another case manager? Just keep the conversation light and trivial, polite yet impersonal.

 

“Don’t express doubt in treatment or you’ll find yourself without treatment or emotional support at all.”

I’m beginning to believe that the idea of “emotional support” is nothing but a myth. Maybe it doesn’t really exist at all. I’ve searched for it my whole life, yet nothing fills that void of neglect or heals emotional pain. My parents chose to ignore emotion. Maybe that is the only way to cope with it.

 

Getting Through Another Anniversary Date

I have to write about this before I minimize and rationalize it away. I slipped over the weekend. Friday night, I had 3 shots of Tequila — several hours apart from each other, not enough to get drunk — but nonetheless, a slip. I know what the triggers were.

April is full of trigger dates — rape #1 – April 11/12; my dad’s death – April 14; the child’s birthday, who I gave up for adoption – April 27. Also, I could include the suicide attempt on April 12, 1998, as it was the most serious attempt I ever made, and the period of homelessness from April 17, 2005 through May 1, 2005 after the move to Tullahoma, TN. There’s just a lot to process in the month of April, a whole lot.

In addition to the trigger dates, a good friend of mine gave birth to a baby girl last week. She and her husband are mine and KR’s closest friends. That’s saying a lot considering I don’t easily trust enough to make lasting relationships/friendships. I spent most of Friday shopping for a gift for the new baby. I struggle a lot with my inability to parent my own children. That reason, alone, is a source of great pain and loss — as well as guilt and shame.

Most days, I avoid the children’s sections of department stores like the plague; yet on Friday, I was determined to do something special for my friend to commemorate the new addition to their family. All I can say about this experience of gift shopping is that it left me with a crippling indecisiveness that bordered on insanity, walking the aisles of the department store for more than a few hours. Seriously — hours. However, I am glad I got through it. Gift giving truly is as much for the giver as it is for the receiver.

When KR returned home from work with his usual Friday night bottle of Tequila, I didn’t think twice about it. I took a shot to settle my nerves and calm my incredibly noisy mind. I didn’t even get a buzz because I spaced the 3 shots out over several hours. Quite honestly, I hate the taste of Tequila, probably the one saving grace that stopped me from drinking more than I did. I’ve been fighting the urge to go out and buy a bottle of Jack Daniels ever since.

I’ve resisted.

Sobriety is a bear of an opponent, especially when you have voices in your head telling you things like, “A few drinks won’t hurt anything.”

Or, “You’re not really an addict. Look at how long you can go without using anything. If you were truly an addict, you wouldn’t be able to resist having a drink every time it’s in the house.”

Or, “Complete abstinence from alcohol is as unrealistic a goal as any other form of abstinence. How is complete abstinence any different from other forms of ‘black and white’ or ‘all or nothing’ thinking? It’s a contradiction in psychology to say one form of exaggeration is okay while another is a cognitive distortion. How can that possibly work?”

So, I made it 100 days this time before I gave in to those voices. It doesn’t surprise me that I would, especially not at this time of year. I refuse to feel guilty about a slip. At first, I was a little disappointed in myself; but I know that I am doing the best I can, given my circumstances and life history. I struggle enough with self-blame not to tack on anymore over something I consider trivial compared to past experiences.

I didn’t cry when I held my friend’s baby for the first time over the weekend. I was worried I might, but I didn’t. All of the emotion was there, just below the surface while I gazed at that beautiful little face. I held onto my tears until I reached the safety of my home, crying myself to sleep that night.

That loss hurts every bit as much today as it did 17 years ago.