About Cheerio

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In general I am a cheery and energetic person. But I am enshrouded in a cloak of iron. That cloak is the weight of greiving my son, whom I've lost to adoption.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dear Movie Man ...

Dear Movie Man … Do you remember me?
In case not, let me sum all of this up (I’m not good with summaries, but I’ll try).

Cheerio gets an e-mail from you, indicating your plan to film stories of original mothers as a documentary.

At some point you indicate you read or have read my blog. I think my blog has been rather transparent this year (I’ve lost an unborn child 16 years after losing my only other child – a son - to adoption). It’s pretty easy to see that I do not share the same viewpoint with most of society’s thinking that adoption is “wonderful”, nor do I view it as a “win/win situation.”

If anyone misses either of those points on my blog this year, they must’ve been speed reading and the words were a blurr.

In my e-mail reply I asked you what the goal of your documentary is, I think that is a fair question. Since you’ve been to my blog, you would not be surprised that a response from me clearly stated that I could not participate if the goal was to promote adoption.

To keep this as a summary we’ll just skip right to the part that we exchanged phone numbers and actually talked on the phone one evening. Bottom line, you wanted to know if I would or would not be willing to do an video recorded interviewed? You asked what my concerns were. We talked about those concerns, which helped me resolve them and they were not a roadblock, just concerns. We talked for about an hour.

I thought it was a reasonably balanced conversation where we both asked and answered questions. It seemed as if we both shared. I agreed to do an interview with you. One of the last things you said to me was something along the lines of hearing my story of the birth. Then we hung up the phone.

Movie Man, I am not a Hollywood actress. I am not a character from Broadway. I am not merely a voice reading lines on a radio program.

I am a broken hearted original mother who has not seen her son in almost 16 years. Our separation through adoption was completely unnecessary and I have lived with the regret and the betrayal e v e r y s i n g l e d a y of my life. Ever day, Movie Man.

This is not a script I can put down when I’m done reading. I have to find the courage and strength to go on one more day with a bottomless hole in my life. Adoption has broken me. Adoption has broken hundreds and thousands of original mothers.
Our daily lives are lived walking on a tightrope.
Each day we find ourselves balancing all the stuff an average woman does … family, finances, health, education, jobs, taking care of our homes.

Those are in the buckets on the ends of the pole we carry as we walk our tightrope of the soul.

Why a tightrope of the soul? Because losing a child to adoption affects us to the very soul level, it is so deep that even our best of friends cannot meet us there. It is a tightrope because life is full of triggers. Triggers that can completely upset our sense of balance and we find ourselves teetering – without a safety net below.

There are the expected triggers that come with the cycles of the seasons … our lost child’s birthday (which is inexplicably painful for most), the days or weeks leading up and/or following that birthday, family holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Fourth of July, and the maddening punishment of Mother’s Day. These seasons we become aware of and try to brace ourselves for the longer we walk this adoption journey.

But then there are the unexpected triggers, that come out of nowhere and blindside us; hence, “unexpected.” It can be a major trigger such as M-TV’s 16 and Pregnant, or commercials promoting adoption, or a news article on yet another celebrity who has purchased a new child to parade around like their new charm on a bracelet. Or it could be as simple as seeing a child of the same gender and age of the one we are missing, that triggers the memories, the wondering, and the undying longing. Sometimes it’s the few words from a song

“What would I give to live where you are?
What would I pay to stay here beside you?
What would I do to see you smiling at me?
Now there's a dream
Now there's a goal
Now there's a need I'll never control
I won't get free
Till I can be
Part of your world

What would I give if I could live outta these waters?
What would I pay to spend a day holding your hand?
I'd give my life
I'd sell my soul
'Cause I can feel I'll never be whole

But I can see I'll never be Part of your world”

A trigger could happen when driving by a street, house, or building we were in carrying our child. A trigger could be seeing another woman with an infant, or it could be something more innocent, like someone asking how many children we have, or even a kid’s movie.

Since you’ve only talked to a few original moms in the past year, let me give you a little hint. Talking about the birth of a child we could not keep – is a major trigger. We don’t want to think about, let alone talk about it. But I was willing, I braced myself and began to think about some of those hard things – the major triggers – to participate in this documentary.

I’ll be honest with you – It was difficult, very very very very VERY difficult to hear the part if your story that you and the other person in your life, have no interest whatsoever in ever searching for your original mother/family. For me to hear a man (which someday my son will mature and grow into man) say he has no interest in his original mother – it was instantly like a knife through my heart.

And yes, it contributed to the unexpected triggers and the teetering on the tightrope. Yes, the tightrope is my burden to bear, it is my journey. It was a risk I was willing to take as I sorted through the memories and tried to ponder and decide on the important parts of my story to “share”.

The part that makes this whole thing a train wreck; however, is not me teetering or even the crash I experienced for the next two weeks because of it. It was not because you were honest in sharing your thoughts and feelings, nor was it my being traumatized again by remembering and reliving my son’s birth, the separation, and the pain of empty arms.
Falling from my tightrope was painful for days after the initial trigger. It dropped me to the place where I cried uncontrollably for long periods of time. The kind of crying where you can't breathe, your eyes are puffy and hurt for hours later, and there aren't enough tissues to keep up with all the stuff dripping and running down my face. Back to a place of being curled up with my knees pulled to my chest with no appetite, no motivation, no feeling of happiness - just pain, immoilizing pain.

Falling from the tightrope is the videotape of the mind playing and relaying what happened. Wishing it weren't true, hoping any minute to wake up from the nightmare. The feelings are intense as my gut is twisted in knots and my mind is against me. All the crying and extreme intensity is draining and is physically exhausting.

So, the hard part was that you would yank the tightrope under my feet, and wile I've lying smashed to the ground, you simply disappear into the sunset.

Where did you go?
Why did you abruptly change your mind?
What happened that you didn’t have the common courtesy to send a final ‘never mind’ e-mail.

I am fully aware that you owe me nothing; however, it would be nice to know.

Tell me, were you disappointed?
Were you hoping to find a mother with a more sensationalized story? A mother who was drugged and tied down? A mother whose family lied to her that the baby died? Or were you disappointed that I did not meet your image of a mother who ‘moved on’ as society believes? Was it a disappointment that I admit it was a mistake – a horribly wrong mistake? Did it disappoint you that I had regret instead of peace?

Were you afraid?
Of my emotions? Of your own emotions? Did my talk of desperately longing for a reunion with my son maybe give you an unexpected push on your own emotional roller coaster?

Were you disgusted?
Maybe that I abandoned my son, yet have the gall to hope he’ll allow me to be part of his life as an adult?

You owe me nothing – True. But please tell me – What were you expecting to find?
Dear Movie Man
What were you
to find?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sight of the Unsightly Redbud Tree

The week of my original due date was very hard emotionally.

Just two days before she was due, I took yet another hike in the mountain. This time, though I was scouting for redbuds. It is a beautiful native tree here in PA, and early April was when they started to blossom. One of the characteristics of redbuds is that they have big heart shaped leaves.

That day and each time I walk through these woods, I am just amazed at how much work my husband has put into restoring the land. When we first bought this property, it was an unsightly sea of green overgrowth. It was not a good or healthy green at all.

In the sunny areas mile-a-minute (devils tail) had taken over and literally climbed up and grown overtop all the vegetation. It climbed the wildflowers, shrubs, bramble bushes, and was even growing in the trees. When walking, our footsteps were precariously balanced on vegetation, not touching solid ground.

The woods were in just as bad shape. The trees were choked and being strangled by white clematis, wild grapevines and worse -- the foreign invasive Oriental Bittersweet vine. You could not look through the woods and see trees or shrubs. Instead everything was entwined with some kind of vine and/or vines.

Here is a brief synopsis on the growth habit and damage caused from Oriental Bittersweet vine. True to a vine’s nature, the vines grow encircling the branches as they spiral their way up. Over time the vines themselves get thicker while the tree is also trying to grow. The vines constrict the branches and reduce nourishment to the leaves. This constriction deforms the branches and stunts growth. The greatest danger; however, is how quickly the vine races for the tops of the tree and there in the sunlight it becomes very dense with leaves and fills the treetop with it’s ever encircling vine. The bittersweet vine reduces the amount of sunlight to the leaves, thereby weakening the tree. As the bittersweet vine thrives, the weakened tree gets to the point where in several years it can no longer bear the weight of the vine with being weakened and top heavy, the tree breaks and collapses.

Oriental Bittersweet vine is not a native plant. It is foreign plant introduced here. It was not part of the original landscape thereby disturbing the natural balance. It is invasive because it crowds out and kills native vegetation, which in turn affects wildlife – flower, trees, birds, butterflies, and more.

So as I journey on my hike, there is an amazing feeling to be walking on a path, and be able to see through the woods, down to our house. This was not possible three years ago. I was strolling up a path my husband cleared just last spring. I was walking slowly, enjoying nature and breathing in the fresh air. I saw purple ahead of me and anticipated seeing a beautiful stately redbud in full bloom.

As I got closer, I was confused by what I saw. I was trying to make sense of it as I noticed the redbud branches and blossoms were low to the ground, which is not normal for this type of tree. It looked like an older dead tree must have fallen over on top of the redbud.

The confusion changed to puzzlement as I got closer. Is this broken tree I see a redbud? Those blossoms near the ground, are they evidence of survival?
Can this ugly brokenness I see at the top be the same tree as the purple buds branching from it?

I leave the path and walk down to investigate.

Sure enough, the brokenness and blossoms were from the same tree.

I walked around the base of the tree and noticed remainders of Oriental Bittersweet vines hanging from it. This must have been one of the trees my husband has freed from the strangling vine. When he found her, she was weighed down, crushed, and broken. If he had not intervened, surely this tree would have simply collapsed and died, killed by an invasive foreign vine (Oriental Bittersweet) that was never part of the original design.

As I’m standing there in amazement at this tree, it was as if God spoke to me. It was as if He was pointing out that right now in my life I’ve been feeling broken. Not only from the lost of our unborn little flower bud, but also and even more so from the adoption pain of the son I have not seen for over 15 years. And it was as if He was letting me know that even though I am broken in ways, that it does not have to utterly destroy me. Instead there can be some beauty from my life, despite the brokenness. As I was sharing with a friend this bit of encouragement from my hike, she says to me, “But how do you know you are broken? How do you know you’re not what God intended you to be?” No wise person would look at this tree and say it's meeting its full potential. This tree is obviously broken. It is bent over and will NEVER be in the straight upright position that a lovely redbud tree is designed to be.

No matter how many years pass, the gaping holes in its trunk will never grow closed. No amount of time will erase the scars of brokenness and years of damage done to this redbud tree. This is what adoption has done to me. Just as the Oriental Bittersweet vine was a foreign plant invading our hillside, so adoption is a foreign blight in our world. It was never God’s design to break women’s hearts, lives, and motherhood. It was never His design to bring about crushing brokenness to families.

Even though some claim it to be “ordained” by Him or they claim superior knowledge that adoption is “His Will,” they are misguided. Just as it is with the Oriental Bittersweet vine, it is so with adoption. The people who want to keep it alive are the ones who benefit from it. Crafters view Oriental Bittersweet as a wonderful thing of beauty because they can use the bright orange berries. But they totally ignore the damage the vine does.

So it is with adoption. The ones who view it as a wonderful and beautiful thing are not the ones living under the crushing weight, the strangling pain of losing a child, or losing an original parent.

Another irony I see in this story is that the bright orange berries are more highly revered than the natural heart shaped leaves of the redbud. Could it be mere coincidence that this vine was choking out the ‘heart’ of the forest?

I have been strangled, weakened, and choked from pain caused by adoption. I have collapsed at the weight of it upon my soul. My heart is broken and pieces of it have splintered beyond repair. I will never be what I was originally designed to be. I will never stand in the forest straight, tall, and strong.

When people look at my life, they will not see beauty BECAUSE OF adoption. No, adoption has caused the grotesquesness. But when peole look at my life, if they see beauty, it will be IN SPITE OF THE permanent damage caused by adoption loss.
Beauty Despite Brokenness

Friday, April 2, 2010

Are you gonna celebrate?

Wednesday mornings we have a team meeting at 9am. Those who are in the office are expected to join in person, rather than just dial in on the conference line.

During the past few months there have been a few weeks I’ve skipped the personal appearance. Instead I dialed in while I sat in my office with the door closed. I felt like I was doing the rest of the team a favor. I figured that no one really wants to sit across the table from someone with puffy eyes, a red nose, and face all blotchy -- obviously from crying.

The drive into work in the mornings is still a time of struggle for me. When I first started back to work last October, I was crying every morning during the 20 minute drive. Now it’s down to crying most mornings, which I guess is an improvement?

Wednesday of this week, during the drive I teetered. I felt the overwhelming sadness the hurt. It was incredibly intense (again and yes, still). My chest and throat tightened and the tears welled up, but somehow I was able to keep them from spilling over. I sat in my car a few minutes to gain my composure before gathering my stuff to head into the building.

The big hand edged closer to the 9 and I reluctantly gathered my stuff to head off to our status meeting. I felt very uncomfortable when Cottonmouth sat directly across from me (background on him is found in this prior post). I know that I need to address the unresolved issues there, but I am just not ready yet. I am not as violently angry at him as I felt a few months ago. So I know the time will soon come, but until then I will try to manage.

The meeting was the usual stuff, nothing out of the norm. At the end of the meetings they usually mention any company anniversaries or team members with a birthday. Thursday, April 1st is my birthday, and I knew it would be mentioned. Which I’m ok with, I like to celebrate birthdays. It’s a great opportunity to stop and take the time to let someone know what they mean to me personally.

So, of course my birthday was mentioned and there was a little chatter around the table. I mean, there could not have been a more fitting day for me to enter this world. I love to make people laugh and pulling pranks is a gift handed down thru the generations. Yes, I’m an April Fools baby, and it fits me to a T.

But this year is different. This year it’s hard.
This year early April was supposed to be our Little Flower bud’s birthday too.

This year I should have had a baby shower, not a birthday party. I should be doing the finishing touches on a nursery, and making sure my ‘hospital bag’ was packed. My birthday this year was supposed to be about the best gift in the world due to arrive any day.
I wanted so much to look into those eyes, to embrace her little body close to mine. I wanted to see the peacefulness on her face as she slept. I wanted the tiny little fist to wrap her tiny little fingers around my thumb.

But she is gone as are the hopes, wishes, and dreams I had for her, for us.
All the happiness I had thinking about my hubby finally getting to be a Dad. What I have instead is a cold stone to memorialize what will never be. It has no birth date engraved. It only symbolizes the death. How can someone die before they were even born?

So, as the comments of my own birthday were made around the table, my mind immediately went to her, and all the thoughts I already grappled with on my way into work. When a co-worker asked if I was “going to celebrate” I could barely hold it in anymore and I hid my face as I meekly answered “yes.” I was saying ‘yes’ just so the subject could pass quickly. But another person commented “Of course she’ll celebrate!” While another person said, “it beats the alternative.”

“…the alternative” is what I am already facing and I couldn’t hold it in anymore and I started to cry. The room quickly grew quiet and the meeting was dismissed. I was embarrassed as I gathered my stuff and quickly slipped away to my office without making eye contact with anyone. I closed the door and cried for the next two hours.

With her due date being only one week away, I don’t want to celebrate. I don’t want to clink glasses together and make a toast. I don’t want to laugh carelessly and pretend that life is grand and beautiful and wonderful and perfect.

Not right now.
Not today.
Maybe that time will come again. But for now I just want to get the tears out. I have another hole in my heart It needs to heal and mend some.

I am sure that I will always be sad to an extent. But at least I will have closure, unlike the ongoing and growing torment I feel about my son. With her I won’t have to look in the mirror and wonder (as I already do about him) where is she? -Or what she looks like? -Or if she is truly happy? -Or if she hates me for abandoning her? -Or if I’ll ever see her again? -Or if she’ll forgive me? -Or if she is being loved and cared for as I hoped? -Or if her parents are aware and are helping her deal with her adoption issues? -Or if she’ll include me/us in her life as an adult?

So, for now I need to grieve, to mourn, and to be sad before I can move on.
Are you gonna celebrate?
No. I’m gonna cry.