Emotional Cutter

“I cut myself again and again to remind myself of you.” Scream of the Butterfly, Acid Bath

When I told my eldest son about the existence of his half sister, I focused in on two areas, or root causes, of my loss. I told him:

  1. I did not have a job
  2. I did not have a place to live.

I did not make a big deal about not having a husband. I did that intentionally. My belief is that families come in all shapes and sizes and colors and qualities and that the Husband-Wife combo is but one of those possible configurations.  I have (and my son knows them) gay friends with children. I have single mom friends with children. I have divorced dad friends with custody of their children. You don’t HAVE to have an opposite sex partner to raise children.

I intentionally steered away from the lack of husband as it conflicted with my own desires for my children.  I want to teach them openness, and tolerance and respect for all types of families.

So, I landed with the lack of job explanation and housing. I could not feed her and I had no place to live. My son was 7 when I told him this. Really, what option or other explanation could I have reasonably given him?

I did not tell him the awful things my father said to me. I did not tell him how my mother ignored me and gleefully whisked me away to the maternity home one thousand miles away. I did not tell him about the baby broker who lied to me, threatened to sue me, intimidated me. I didn’t. Would you tell a seven year old those types of things?

I wanted to protect him and well, yeah, even my parents. And even my daughter’s father. (Translate: I don’t want to hold others responsible. It’s my entire fault. Blame me.)

I have recently been advised that I may want to correct myself.

Huh?  The truth is that I was coerced and lied to and deceived and used and manipulated. Why am I hiding that fact from my child?

It was suggested to me that my explanations to my son appear to make the loss of my daughter to be MY FAULT. I wasn’t smart enough to find/get/keep a job. I wasn’t savvy or lovable enough to have someone allow me and my child to live with them. I am still, even with my subsequent children making the situation my fault.

When the day comes (if it already hasn’t) that my son is angry and grief stricken about the sister he may never know, do I want him to lash out and be angry at me or do I want him to be angry at the system that soul raped his mother and his older sister?


I never looked at it that way.

Does my son see it that way? Will he some day understand the welfare system and ask me why I did not go on welfare to keep his sister with me? Will he wonder why I did not find a place to live? If does, what will I say then? Will I tell him the truth or will I find someway to twist it to make it look like, well, my fault? What do I gain by making it my fault? What old learned behavior am I perpetuating by making it all my fault?

I was reminded that thousands of women the world over have and KEEP babies WITHOUT HAVING A JOB.

I was reminded that an equal number of women have babies without having a place to live. They live with family, friends, shelters etc. 

It was suggested that I tell my son the truth. Tell him that there are people in this world who do horrible things to vulnerable young woman. Horrible people who think rich people deserve babies and poor people dont. People who punish young mothers for doing nothing wrong than loving the father of their eventual child.

Tell him that some bad people did bad things to me.  Tell him that people who said they loved me did not support me.  Stop telling him, if even subtly, that his mother was bad and wrong. Stop making it my fault.

I agree with the concept.  I see their point but I am not prepared to explain that. At least not yet. I question his ability to understand (or is it my own ability to handle the explanation?).

My oldest son is a deeply insightful, intuitive, caring child. Do I want him to think it was my fault his sister was lost to adoption or do I want him to have empathy for me? Do I want him to think that his mother is a bad woman who willy nilly gives babies away or do I want him to know that I was a victim?  Do I want him to blame me just like my parents, society, and others have done in the past? When will I cut myself a break? When will I stop the insanity?

Truth is I believe my son can and someday will understand this. My delay in telling him the truth is likely due not to his limitations or inabilities but to my own.

That much I do know.  For some reason I still want to (although to a much lesser degree than year past) to flagellate myself. 

I am an emotional cutter.

5 Thoughts.

  1. oh Suz, I have such respect for the relationship you’re building with your sons. I found your blog as I searched for what to tell my own two raised kids (now 8 and 10) about their older half sister (23). They met in December, have seen each other 3 times now, and rarely ask a question but just take in stride that I was “too young” to be a good mom to her, which most definitely is but a tiny tip of the truth of what really happened.
    I also struggle with how much to say and how to explain the hell my parents put me through, without damaging their relationship with their grandmother. I want to tell them how much I regret reliquishing E, and how I wish I’d handled things differently, but my deep thinking 10 year old already said that it must be something I was supposed to do so that I could be his mom later….and how do I respond to that without burdening him with pain he’s not prepared to deal with?
    I guess we just will have lots of opportunities to say different pieces of the truth at different times, and to give our children the full story as they are ready to hear it and as we understand it at the time, much like with any other big issue or event they are exposed to (how many conversations have you had with your sons about 9-11 or the Iraq war? about where babies come from and puberty? about poverty and homelessness? about death or religion?). It’s a little different conversation each time, and thankfully we are able to be with these kids and have as many of those conversations as we are open to.

  2. I think you can start with the simplest story and add to it as he is more able to process the complexity and painful parts of the situation. I don’t think you need to say ‘bad people did bad things’ to you, although I absolutely can understand how that is how it feels. I think you could explain that different people have different beliefs about what is best for babies and mothers. How some people believe/believed that babies need to have X, Y and Z (home, job? 2 parents?) in order to be healthy and happy. But HOW WE NOW KNOW that this is not the case. And how sad it is that when people had those mistaken beliefs in the past, it led to convincing you that adoption was the only/best option for your child.
    We speak a lot about intent and impact. Probably the intentions were good- along with the mistaken beliefs that this was a good thing to do – but unfortunately, the impact has been devastating and terrible.
    I don’t think you should place blame on yourself AT ALL, nor should you present it that way. Everyone acted in a way that they felt they had to, for whatever reasons. Unfortunately, this was a mistaken assumption, and you feel horrible about that. People make awful mistakes all the time. The people around you made a terrible mistake when they assumed you could not parent your child, and perhaps you made a mistake in believing them. But you were young, you needed their guidance, and they were wrong. I think looking at it in this way allows your son to see your past in a compassionate light.

  3. Suz, the best part is, you are talking to your sons, they will know about their sister and with time your experiences and feelings for her.
    For me it is hard to look back, admit the adoption happened and know that I didn’t do something to stop it. For me, I don’t think there are any simple answers, there are many reasons that it happened. Maybe I could have done something about it but I don’t know, many things were outside of my control.
    You are a good person, your sons will know that you did the best you could, you don’t need to justify it to anyone. It happened and it hurt, let them learn from your lessons.
    Today is the time to look forward (I keep telling myself that every day).
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it helps to know that others have similar feelings.

  4. WE all have so much to deal with. And each of us in our own way has spent almost a lifetime feeling guilt, shame and having to explain an action. At that time, it was fear that perpetrated every emotion imaginable. But, it is ours alone. I dont think anyone would ever completely understand the years of emotional abuse we have put upon ourselves. Those kids of yours will never think of anything beyond what they feel for their mother.
    They already know who you are for them.
    I lived clutched in a closed up closet all of my life and one thing I can say is, I have had enough! I can do nothing more to me and there are no more reasons available.
    I didnt tell my kids until they were much older. And now we are all hoping to find the one that is looking for us too. Strange thing was I didnt have to explain to them why or how, it was as if they just understood. Funny, in the end its always the rest of the “bunch” that needs to know the gritty details, as if anyone gives a damn now as they did then.
    There is no way to reweave the past. I am thankful that I can speak out loud about it now. I have suffered enough! I can only pray for a reunion. And if that happens, I simply know he will understand it all because he is of me.

  5. Thank you for giving me a sort of mental idea on how to handle the discussions with my kid(s) when the time comes. We, as well, believe that families come in all shapes and sizes so I don’t want to focus on the lack of a man.

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