After my son was born and we left the hospital, he went into foster care and I went back to my mother’s house. I had been living with her since about the 5th month of my pregnancy, after almost a complete severing of ties with the birth dad. I was scared as hell and alone… and I wanted my mom.
So, while the days ticked off during the mandatory waiting period I finished collecting the items I planned to send with him into his new life. I added the final entries to the journal I’d been keeping during my pregnancy, finished some artwork for him, selected a personal piece of jewelry to hand on. It was, I remember, a mostly quiet and introspective time for me, and to be frank, I can’t really tell you much more about it. I was…. waiting. Waiting and preparing, and in a type of limbo before the next stage of life would begin. I don’t think I was even grieving at this point. Shock, maybe, but not grief. Not yet. I could still change my mind…
The most memorable moment during the mandatory waiting period came one night at dinner. I got a call from the foster parents worried that my son was colicky, and they wanted permission to get treatment. After I gave verbal permission I sat back down to dinner, at which time my mom abruptly stood up and made a comment about how he should be with us so she would be able to care for him.
She was suddenly very upset.
Up until this point she had made no comments, positive or negative, with regard to my adoption plan. I don't even remember talking to her about it at all. Or anything related to my pregnancy. Consequently, her reaction was a) surprising and b) made it pretty clear to me where she stood. I was shocked and hurt and angry.
But now, I am beginning to see the pain and loss she was going through too - she was grieving the loss of her grandchild. I was so caught up in my own $h#T that I never saw it. I never gave her the respect she deserved, or credit for keeping her opinions to herself. Never realized how hard it must have been for her to give me the space I needed to process and to make my own decision about placement. Unfortunately though, she hadn’t had the chance to process her emotions, and I think that is why things happened the way they did, and why I struggle to this day with my relationship with my mom.
You see, once he was placed with his family, and I had signed over my parental rights, she said one thing to me. Just one:
“He’s dead to me now.”
I was devastated. My son was gone, and now I felt as though I had lost my mother too. I felt betrayed and abandoned. I couldn’t get past those five words…
So, regrettably, when he died, truly died, and she wanted to come to the funeral, I didn’t want her too. Instead, I wanted to lash out at her and yell that he had been dead to her already, so there was no need for her to come...
She did come to the funeral, but I kept my distance. My son’s adopted family said she could sit with my husband and I near them, but I couldn’t let her. I couldn’t share it with her, because I didn’t think she earned it. Those same five little words continued to ring in my head, over and over and over.
What I am just now realizing is that for her, those five words were more likely a way for her to cope, a reflection of her pain - not an instrument of pain. And despite the fact that I have been told this before, on several occasions, I didn’t “get” it, until now. It's a very profound difference. Even had I realized that she said it out of grief, I don’t know if I would have been able to, or capable of, realizing that her grief didn’t trump or negate mine. That it was not only reasonable, but natural, for us both to be experiencing powerful emotions.
I wish I'd comprehended this earlier. I wish we’d have had a chance to try to work through it together, right after the placement. But I just shut down, I never gave it a chance; I was unwilling to try for fear of being hurt again.