Tag Archives: trauma therapy

Lobby Day Redux – If Only

To my left, past the Young Parent Policy Fellows table, I catch the eye of a young teen father. Red-headed Dad, decked out in jeans, converse sneakers, concert tee shirt and a baby Bjorn strapped across his chest.  There is no infant in the carrier for the smiling equally red haired baby girl is in his arms where he snuggles and tickles and smiles at her. I guess he is not more than 17.

If only.

Surely I look a bit out of place, perhaps like a tourist to the State House, with my head bobbing too and fro, my ears catching audio clips from a conversation between a State Rep and a Program director or a mother and her toddler child. There have to be several hundred people in the room, nearly half teen parents with their baby on their hips or with their hands holding little toddler hands.

I don’t kid myself into thinking these parents are having an easy time of it but I also know that parenting is hard at any age. It is always expensive. Always life changing. I was married when I had my second son. He is now fifteen. I had a terrible pregnancy, gave birth to a 12 pound child after three days of induced labor followed by a cesarean section. I had post partum depression followed by years of a challenging marriage and a third and final child. None of it was easy despite being married and upper middle class. The young parents are amazing. They are facing the challenges I did (and many  I did not) but they do so keeping their children with their family of origin.

If only.

An elected official carrying the same last name as members of my mothers’ extended family takes the podium. I am interested in him for the few seconds I muse over the fact that his name is an Irish one in my mothers’ family. I wonder if he is related. I decide he is not as I am aware Boston has a massive Irish community and I never heard of a single member of my mothers’ family living here. My mind reflects on the movie The Departed and I reflect on the term Shanty Irish.  My mother used that term.  I thought she made it up, I thought it was slanderous. Turns out it was rather common place.  My mothers family never figured out if they were Lace Curtain Irish or Shanty. I am sure many would have considered me shanty, a disreputable person of Irish descent.

My mind returns to the white haired suited official, but only for a moment. I am turned off by the heavy Boston accent and return to scanning the room. A mother looking harried and lost approaches the table, a child with a runny nose and somewhat dirty clothing is by her side.  She asks for directions to check in. I smile at the child, his greenish white snot glistening in the dim lighting, grubby clothes not fitting quite right. Child smiles back. Wide smile. Happy smile. He may grow up poor but he will grow up knowing his mother did her best, she loved him. She wanted him. She kept him. She was strong enough to fight the forces working against her, the forces lusting over her baby and the price he could be sold for.  I smile again at the snot running down his nose. He smiles again. I never got to see my daughters snotty nose.

If only.

The  booming voice of Representative Gloria Fox (D-Roxbury) takes the podium. Strong powerful voice.  I am inspired. I am drawn to powerful strong women. I am interested in what she has to say.  I try to listen yet am interrupted by another mother and her toddler asking me if I know where the restroom is.  I don’t but I offer to help them locate it. She smiles and tells me she can find it herself. I return to Rep. Fox and I hear her say we all have a vested interest in each and every healthy baby brought into the world.  I choke back tears and try to force down the lump in my throat. The only people that had a vested interest in my daughter were the agency that took her from me and the couple that paid a great deal of money for her to become theirs.

If only.

Angel, teen father to twins, takes the stand.  My eyes violently turn towards him. A father? A responsible teen father?  You mean they aren’t like unicorns?

Angel is young, attractive, well spoken. He shares his story of how he and the mother of his twins were both in college when she became pregnant.  I am having difficulty breathing.  I am simultaneously fascinated, angry, sad, moved, touched, and enraged.  Angel is a slight fellow, average height, dark hair, attractive, presumably Hispanic. The dark hair reminds me of my daughters’ father. Angel manned up to his girlfriend. He will have his children in his life. His twins will know who their daddy is.  His girlfriend will raise her children.

If only.

A young mom, now a college student, tells the story of her pregnancy. She shares how a guidance counselor at her high school confronted her and informed her they did not “need” people like her “a pregnant teen” at their school.

Need? WTF? What education professional says that to student? My adult parent self screams inside and then I flash to my own experience.   I was an honor student in high school. I was president of student government. I got pregnant two months AFTER graduation.  I know without question that had I gotten pregnant in high school I would have killed myself (and my child…we would have been together then).  I wonder if my wacky old guidance counselor would have preferred suicide of the president of student government over her becoming pregnant. I want to hug the mom that is speaking. I want to tell her how amazing she is, how lucky her child is to have her.

If only.

A young lady, a mother, a college student takes the stand. She is introduced as a poet.  I think of her as a powerhouse dynamo spoken word artist. She is incredible. She recites, raps, shares, and recites her story in an incredible work of art.  She talks of coming out of prostitution, having her child, going to college. She says, sort of sings that she wants to be a “mentor, an innovator, a trailblazer”. I suspect she is thinking of young people when she says this.  I don’t think she realizes a 45 year old mother of three, parent to two, is finding her to be quite innovative. This girl, this young woman, needs to go national. I wonder if she is on YouTube. I wonder how I can hear her speak again.

If only.

The opening session wraps up and the many teen parents head off to meet with their respective representatives. I look around for a second unsure what I should do next. Should I stay and help the Alliance staff clean up? Where are they going to go? What are they going to do?

I check my watch and realize I should head back home. I have at least a 2.5 hour ride back to Connecticut.  I pack of my things, say my goodbyes and express my thanks to the members the alliance.

As I wander out of the Statehouse I am overcome with emotion.  I am confused. I am awe struck. I am emotionally bleeding. Not sure which way I should go. I cross the street and start walking across the Boston Common.  Tears blur my view as I walk the direction I will later learn is the wrong way.  I will circle The Common in its entirety and panic before I find my way back to the garage.

Many people pass me as I walk, slowly, deliberately,  confused and crying.  The beauty of the city is that no one questions the crazy people.  No one looks at the crying woman circling The Common.

The event is a bittersweet experience for me.  It is inspiring, encouraging, enlightening to see change happen. It is powerful to see press and policy makers supporting the rights and needs of teen parents. It is gut wrenching to see the struggle yet hope and determination of these young parents and the programs that support them.  I wish I had access to, knowledge of, such programs in 1986.  Children understand poverty. They dont understand a mother that gives them away to strangers. I wish I knew of such programs, such adults when I was pregnant and alone. My life could have been different. Very different.  I might have raised my daughter. I might have avoided 27 years of trauma therapy. She might be talking to me today.

If only.

Unplanned

“And unwanted teen girls are far more likely than wanted girls to experience their fathers as hostile or neglectful.” – Myhrman, Antero. 7he Nolthern Finland Cohorl, 1966-82,’ in Born Unwanted: Developmental Effects of Denied Abortion, Henry P. David Q&L, eds. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 1088.

 “So tell me, what is she doing? Is she saying anything? What is she feeling?” he asked.

I stare at the young girl. I think for a few minutes, perhaps a few too long.  He patiently waits, rocking slowly in his bentwood rocker and doing that finger thing he does while he waits.

“Uh…nothing.  She isn’t doing anything. She is just sitting there, hunched over, a ball, sort of like a sitting fetal position, hiding her head in between her knees” I say. The image of a Lladro figurine I have at home comes to mind as I describe her.

“What is she saying?” he asks again.

“Nothing. She cannot speak. She doesn’t speak.”  I offer with a slight garble to my voice.

“What?” he asks as if he could not understand me. 

“She doesn’t speak” I repeat only this time a bit louder.

He is lightly startled by that fact.  Appears confused.  Pauses again before responding.

I keep watching her on the floor. She starts to rock. In my  mind she is rocking, for in reality, she is not there. He cannot see her.  She is an image that comes to me during EMDR.

“Uh, I am sorry, I don’t recall. But what is your birth order in your family? Were you a wanted…and by that I mean…planned addition?” He asks gently.

Before I have a chance to process the question fully my body responds for me.  I gasp, pull my lips in tight as I do when I am about to cry and squinch my eyes.  My crying face. It is not attractive even under the best of circumstances.

“Uhm. Oh. Well…actually…” I stammer as the memory of what I am about to share comes rushing to the back of my eyeballs.

“No.  My mother once told during my preteen years, or may be it was my teen, that my Dad did not want me.  See, Dad and I fought a lot when I was growing up. I mean a LOT.  While I was certainly a challenging kid, in that I spoke up and back and forward when my Dad preferred you remain quiet, most would say that he was unjustly cruel to me. Others would say I was precocious but to my Dad it was disrespect…or something. Children were to be seen and not heard and all were to obey his rules no matter how illogical they might be.” I shared struggling to get the words out.

“Oh…” he responds indicating for me to continue.

“Yeah, well, I don’t think my mom meant it the way I took it or the way it sounds or whatever but no, I was not wanted. Not by my Dad.  My mom told me while trying to explain his treatment of me that he only wanted one child – my older sister. Dad was quite content with him, Mom and sister. His perfect little life.  Mom apparently wanted more children and so she got pregnant. I was, well, I was the beginning of the end as my mother got pregnant two more times after me. You know, Irish, Polish, Catholic…birth control?  I suppose my dad could have wrapped the meat after me but who knows. I don’t even know if that is true. It is what my mother told me. It is plausible, knowing my dad “ I say.

He smirks a little at my suggestion of “wrapping the meat” and pauses yet again. More of that deep breathing, finger play and slight rocking. I find myself curious why he went from her not speaking to the timeliness, or not, of my birth. Did unplanned children not speak?  Was there some correlation between these factors?

I flash again to the vision of me sitting on the interior steps of the Carroll family home. I am not sure if I really have this memory or if I have crafted it due to my mother telling the story so frequently during my child hood.

I am five or six.  Mom has taken me with her to visit a friend up the block from us.  I am not happy about the visit and I plant myself at the bottom of the staircase that leads to Mrs. Carroll’s second floor.  Mom and Mrs. Carroll try to pry me from the step. Candy, cajoling, jokes, arm pulling.  I am not interested. I do not speak. I do not cry. I sit stoically waiting for my mother to finish her visit.

I am told I sat there for hours. Perfectly quiet but utterly antisocial. This event coupled with many others from my early years lead my father and mother to believe I might be a bit “slow”. I rarely spoke. Always quiet. Always watching. The lack of speech was so alarming that when my kindergarten teacher called my parents to express her delight at how “bright” I was, my mother paused and asked if the teacher had called the correct student home.  Mother explain to teacher that they worried I was well, a “little slow”, the polite way to say daft, or dumb, or retarded, or more politically correct, special needs.  Mrs. Neery assured them I was quite the contrary.

The connection between my conception and my speech confounds me.  Is one related to the other?

My confusion must be obvious to him (still not speaking) for he begins to explain. 

“I don’t know if this is relevant or why it came to me but I am going to share. There was research done in Europe on planned and unplanned conception. The research followed a number of individuals through out life.  I am not sure I recalling all this correctly, or where it was in Europe, but I do recall that the startling conclusion was that the children that were unplanned had more challenges in life than those that were.  One could make many cases for this, of course, and I am not sure, as I said, it is relevant to you but it came to mind as you were speaking.”

And this is surprising, I ask myself?