The newest prompt at Open Adoption Bloggers is:
“How do you feel after a visit?”
Over the course of the last nine years, I have had three “visits” in total with The Kiddo. My feelings after each, are all very similar in their threads. While there is a tinge of sweetness, the “visits” are overpowered by a deep longing and bitterness that has nothing to do with either The Kiddo or his parents. I used to hope for a day when I could say I walked out of a visit with no heartache or tears, but wisdom tells me that while the visits may become less awkward, the aching and apparent loss will still ride out in the waves that follow a visit with The Kiddo.
That being said, I have only had three whole opportunities to fiddle around with these intense emotions. It also means, that the feelings associated with such visits are also still deeply tied to the day I left the hospital without him. The very fact that I can count on one hand how many times I have been allowed into his daily life, also makes my reaction post-visit unique and exceptionally raw.
The Court Date (1 year)
After we had walked back to our cars, our goodbyes had been said, tears had been shared. My parents piled into their car along with my siblings, and The Ex climbed into ours. I carefully made my way to the passenger door, watching The Kiddo disappear back into the van would take him home to his home. The home that wasn’t mine. I shut the door to our car, then impulsively swung it open again, racing back to the sidewalk so I could watch them drive away. My heart fell to my feet as I watched them drive away. I wondered how it was possible to feel identical to the way I had in the hospital, a year prior.
Eventually I left the curb, to get into the car. The Ex grabbed my hand and asked me if I was okay. In my own true, post-adoption nature, I pulled away. The comfort was only in my own hand, wrenching them together, fixating on their movement, willing myself not to cry. Not now anyhow. My parents would be on their way home in hours, and only then, would I allow myself to fall apart. If I would. I wanted to be stronger, I wanted to be happy that I had held him on my lap, and that he had pulled my hair. Yet, the sadness seemed to be nagging at me, begging to overpower me. For the moment, I would shoo it away. Until I could let it go, I would fixate on my hands, and busy myself.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in a numb zombie like mode. I smiled. I hosted, and I said goodbye. When everyone was gone, I refused to cry. I asked to go to Toys R Us so I could buy a present for a family friend. The Ex looked at me, skeptical that I could handle it, and asked if I was sure going out was a good idea. He offered a movie and take out instead. This only infuriated me, and I stormed out of our tiny apartment yelling that I would wait for him in the car. In later years, I would come to know this as the stage before the complete meltdown.
Off we went. We wandered and wandered. I grew positively more frustrated. I snapped at everyone who would indicate they wanted my attention. I scowled at the mothers who were ignoring their baby’s cries, they had no idea what they were missing. Finally, in the middle of the toy aisle, I stared at a red fire engine, and thought, “He would like that. I bet he would like that. I should be buying that for him”. My hand quickly went to my mouth, my eyes went wide, and I gasped. Without any notice, the tears broke free from my eyes, and The Ex whisked me out of the store in record time, numerous people staring at our pace.
In the parking lot of a Toys R Us, I sat with The Ex for almost an hour, maybe more, and howled into his shoulder, punched the dashboard and whimpered until I collapsed inwardly and outwardly. He took me home, undressed me, and tucked me in as more tears silently fell down my face.
“I’m sorry”, I said to him. He shook his head and said, “You try to be brave about things that you don’t need to be brave about. You have no need to be sorry.”
A week later, the Fire Engine was on the kitchen counter when I came home from work with a note attached:
“You can buy it for him. I bet he would love it.”
The Birthday (Two Years)
Nervously, I pulled up to their house . I was a wreck for a number of reasons; my marriage was falling apart, I had no idea where The Ex was, and was embarrassed to admit it to anyone. I had waited for him to show up until the last possible moment, but had no choice but to go it alone. On top of that, I was going to The Kiddo’s birthday celebration. Something that excited me and frightened me altogether. I had no idea what to expect.
Awkwardly, I was welcomed into their home. I smiled and held my hand out to their guests, then took a seat on their loveseat, where I could watch The Kiddo and his sister play. He had lined up all his toys in a row, and his Mom indicated, when she saw me watching, that it was a common behavior him. I quipped that I was pretty intense about organization, so maybe it was a heredity trait he got from me. We had cake, conversation, and he opened up the red fire truck that had caused an utter meltdown the year before. I thought I would burst when his parents told me that he loved fire trucks.
I left their house feeling sad. Feeling overwhelmed. Feeling numb. Feeling happy. Feeling worthless. I cried silently on the way home, and beat myself up for ever thinking that I could have been enough for him. He had a home, with a backyard, a family, and I couldn’t even find my husband.
Two days later, The Ex and I officially split. The day before The Kiddo’s party was the last time I saw him. The day of The Kiddo’s party would be the last time I would see The Kiddo for six years.
The Baptism (8 years)
Staring in the mirror, my hair dripping wet, I cursed my body. I’ve had three kids, and my body was showing it’s wear well. Stretch marks that started with The Kiddo, were now layered by my two parented children’s pregnancy. I sagged in places I wished I didn’t, my face and eyes looked worn and tired. I was carrying more weight then someone for my height should. I scowled at the girl in the mirror and threw a towel over my body in disgust and embarrassment. My awareness of how much I dislike my body always rears it’s ugly head when I have to face someone of importance, or anytime I have an event where I need to look my best.
I pulled a clean pair of PJ pants on and shrugged a shirt over my still damp body. Sitting on the edge of the tub, I put my head in my hands and sighed back the emotions that were bubbling over. I couldn’t let myself go there, not today. Today was to be an incredible day. I was getting to see The Kiddo. I was excited, nervous, and almost beyond words. In the meantime, I wanted to drown out all the negativity that was lurking around me. My parents had been to visit the week prior, and our home still reeked of the tension they had created with their explosive arguments. Then of course, there was the offhanded comment that my mother had made, saying she thought “we” had made a mistake by choosing adoption and The Kiddo’s family. The very thought of that conversation made every hair on my body stand on end, and my blood turned to ice. What I wanted to do was to tell her that they were no longer welcome, yet I knew this was the only time they would get to see a grandchild baptised in their church. I felt like it was my duty to share it with them.
After a mad rush to get the kids ready for the sitter, to get myself looking presentable, and to pickup The Hubby from work, we were finally sitting in the church parking lot. I heard my mother barking criticisms about my driving at me, and I felt my self begin to twitch over her presence. I may have made driving errors, but I had a damn good reason, and pointing them out now, was not going to make a damn difference. I wished that she would shut up or disappear. It had been six years since I saw him in person. I had no idea when it would happen again. I wanted silence. I needed silence. All I wanted to do was memorize every glorious moment of this day, but I knew I would remember her shrill voice forever, too.
The Hubby took my hand, and I whispered that he was right about inviting my family. He smirked and shot me a look that said, “Yeah, told you so”. We entered the building and were met with strangers, dressed in their Sunday Best, milling about. My eyes, instinctively scanned the room. I had no idea what I was really loooking for, until I found it. There he was, the boy, my boy who I had only seen in pictures over the last six years. My heart stopped. My hand grasped onto The Hubby’s tighter, who looked at me, then followed my eyes, he tightened his grip on my hand, and pulled me in, as he muttered, “Are you okay?”
I nodded. I was barely breathing, but I was okay. We were breathing the same air, and that would keep me moving through this moment.
Then The Kiddo caught my eye. He looked away, then looked back suddenly. I felt his eyes bore into me as he looked me up and down. I felt my breath catch, and I wondered if the plan to not introduce me was about to backfire. His eyes searched mine, and then as quick as it happened, he was skipping off, holding his Dad’s hand. I felt air fill my lungs, and I walked toward the chapel.
“Keep breathing, keep taking those “pictures”. You will want to remember this.” I told myself.
Behind me I could hear my parents making comments about hiding so he didn’t see us; they were undoubtedly angry about not being introduced that day. In a hushed tone, I told them we would sit wherever we wished, and we would just drop the issue. I wanted to enjoy every beautiful moment of this day. I wanted to watch, but most of all, if I could have willed it to, I wanted time to stop, just for me.
The ceremony went on as they normally do. I watched him during the prayer, during the speakers who sought to send some inspiration to the children participating. During the baptism, a family member stepped into my view, and I didn’t even get to see the actual ritual. Panic set in at the realization that this was the epitome of our relationship. No one knew who I was, and no one in that room, except myself cared about the depth of being able to witness anything in his life, even this moment. I escaped the room, my husband and brother on my heels begging me to tell them what was wrong. How could I explain how that moment had felt like a slap in the face? I shook them off and stepped outside, trying to maintain my composure. The fresh air eased me back to earth, and I convinced myself that I was only hours away from being able to let it all out.
During the remainder of the ceremony, my parents continued their negative commentary, even taking it to text. I watched with disgust as my mother embraced The Kiddo’s Grandmother, and sobbed into her arms, knowing the things she had just said about all of them, and the things she was texting. I felt so much anger at them for ruining the spirit of that very, very special moment for me. They didn’t care what it meant for me.
At home, that night, after ice cream, and some harsh words to my father about their behavior, I climbed into bed. The Hubby was sleeping.
Like the beginning of an earthquake, I could feel the tremors starting within. I stared at the ceiling, and felt the movement of emotion rising quickly to the surface. I felt my toes curl, I felt my stomach clench, my legs began to curl upward trying to fend off the impending attack. I quickly flipped over knowing, instinctively what was coming next. My breathing became haggard, my heart beat faster, and as I closed my eyes, I felt the first wave wash over me. It crashed around me, and my whole body was overcome with the anguish of loss. I yelled silently into my pillow, and begged through my tears for the pain to release. Beside me, I felt The Hubby stir, and he grabbed my hand that was clenching my pillow, and put his other arm around my hip. I felt his tears on my neck, and I muttered, between deep gasps, “I’m so sorry”. He grasped my hand tighter and softly said, “I wish I knew how to make this go away for you. I wish I could feel this so you didn’t have to. You should never be sorry. I am sorry that you have to deal with this. Now let it all out. All of it”.
So I did. I moved with every wave, and I cried until my pillow was soaking wet, and the tears simply refused to show themselves. I thrashed until I felt as though my legs had run a marathon. My heart started to slow itself, and the 17 year old girl within, held my hand, and said, “Enough, we need rest.”
* * * * * * * * * *
The Hubby, when I mentioned this prompt retorted that I truly had very little to write about because my “visits” in essence, are hardly visits. They are like watching from behind an observation glass.
My emotions are harder to deal with post-visit because I don’t see The Kiddo often. I see him in pictures, I see him in my mind, but with each visit, he’s grown more. It’s a harsh reminder of everything that I have lost, and everything I can never get back. It’s a reminder of how little access I have to him, and how little of a role I play in his life. It’s a reminder of my own unresolved grief, and anger with those who forced me into a role that I am no longer happy with. It’s a reminder of how, while I have never mothered him the way his mom has, I still have those instincts, ones that I was told would diminish with time. It’s a reminder of everything I was not allowed to be. My heart always hurts, hurts in away I have never been able to describe after I see him. It hurts more then any other worldly pain I have ever experienced, and I would never wish it on even my worst enemy.
Open Adoption Roundtable #37: After A Visit