The Same but Different

“The most important of life’s battles is the one we fight daily in the silent chambers of the soul.” – David McKay

I don’t remember the exact question she asked me. I believe it was something like:

“What make us different?” or “What makes us speak up and fight back?”.

I had never thought about it. Yet something in the question struck me. What did or does make me a bit different from some moms? Why do I see, so clearly, what was done to me and to them and why am I a just a tad bit stronger to speak up?

I have thought about this a great deal since the conference.  I pondered my childhood days where I was the black sheep of the family that could never conform. When my siblings were passive and bowing to the abuse of an alcoholic father, I was fighting back. I always challenged, always sassed with my mouth, always stomped my feet and expressed my anger.

I vividly remember one evening when we were all gathered around the television. There were several loads of laundry in front of the girls, myself included, and we were folding dutifully. My brother was kicked back, along with my father, enjoying himself and not lifting a finger.

My father had already retreated to the “dark side” and was abusive, antagonistic, mean and confrontational. No matter what he said, my sisters and mother looked the other way, turned the other cheek or folded the clothing faster. It was a crazy scene to me. At one point he uttered something to me and I blew.

“STFU! I hate you. Why don’t you just shut up you a-hole!”.

Yeah, imagine having your teenager daughter scream that at the top of her lungs.

That was me.

The entire room stopped breathing. I am fairly certain for a second even the clock stopped ticking.

He just stared at me.  Shocked.

A few moments later everyone begins to breathe again and more drama ensues. I end up in my room – but still alive.

Sadly, in my house, all my strength brought was more abuse and anger. I learned recently that in a dysfunctional family it is quite common for one child to be the sponge for all the family anger. I took in and acted out all the anger of those around me. I was the physical, human manifestation of my families’ problems. They walked around in the denial of lalaland and I was the tazmanian devil.

While problematic at the time and in later years, I do believe somehow, that fighting nature of mine contributes to my present day voice and ability to speak out against injustice. I also believed it allowed me to survive the days following the loss of my daughter.

I have difficulty reflecting on those days. They were dark. Lonely, full of nightmares and suicidal ideation.

And the split occurred. It may have been occurring all along but following the loss of my child it was completed. I walled off parts of myself in order to function and deal with the trauma of losing my child.

On the outside, I appeared to be a rather together person. I was surviving on my own, doing all the proper things on my own. Finding a job, finding a place to live, enrolling in school in Chicago. I was trying to afford to live and trying to eat. I had friends. I shopped. I enjoyed Chicago. Present day friends would probably call this my “thinking self”.

Inside, I was an emotional wasteland. I can still see myself, sitting in the corner of my Sheridan Road apartment, rocking like an autistic child, crying, aching for my child. It frightens me to ponder that time. Again, present day friends would likely call this my “feeling self”. This was the woman that wanted her baby back. This was the woman who held her leaky breasts in her hand and had hallucinations of breastfeeding a child. This was the woman who woke at night to the sound of a baby crying and searched frantically for that child.  This was the woman who would wake in the morning under her kitchen table with a table cloth as a blanket – uncertain how she got there.  This was the woman who put herself into therapy and was told by a psychiatrist that she was making it all up and she best “get over it’ and go on with her life.

I put on that mask I was told to wear. I pretended I was okay and that it was perfectly acceptable to turn over your first born child to strangers.

Inside, I knew better.

I always knew that what was done to me was wrong, that I should never have surrendered my child. In those days, I blamed myself. I turned the anger inward and played games of “shoulda, coulda, woulda”. I told myself they were right and that I did not deserve her and that I was worthless. I told myself she was better off with out me.  I played the Catholic tape of the sins of sex outside of marriage. I heard my father over and over again tell me I was nothing and no good and just a problem child. I heard the agency caseworker remind me that no on had called me at the maternity home and that my boyfriend had no interest in me. I heard the agency caseworker tell me I would never qualify for state aid as my parents made too much money. (???). I heard her voice remind me of the promissory note my mother so willingly signed. No one wanted me. They surely did not want my bastard child.

I tried to drink as much adoption koolaid as I could with the hope that I could drown the reality that I never wanted to give my child away, was too weak to fight the powers that be and I had committed a crime against her soul and mine. Like my father drank years before to drown his own pain, I ingested virtual adoption koolaid to try and drown mine.

It did not work.

I did not drink enough. Perhaps I drank the unsweetened version. For no matter how much I tried, I could never accept that giving away my daughter was ever a good thing. How could something so good hurt so bad? 

I believe clinging to this thread of truth is what fueled my desire to find her. It is also what fuels me to help others, to speak out, to work towards stopping the insanity. I fight for them and in some parallel universe; I am fighting for myself – for the 18 year old version of me that no one stood up for.  Even if only a spiritual level, I am attempting to keep my daughter with me when I work towards keeping other babies with their mamas.

Many speak of the thawing of natural mothers…or waking up. I, for one, was never completely frozen and was always awake. I tried to freeze. I did. I tried to completely shut down my feelings but always there was a dim ember of love and loss of my daughter. I never extinguished the flame that she was mine and should have been with me – not strangers.

To answer her question, why am I different, requires me to look at many aspects of my life.  In doing so, I realize I was different all along.

And that isn’t a bad thing.

5 Thoughts.

  1. You have been to hell and back, Suz, I honestly wonder how any woman can survice it. I’m sure your spirit is the reason you did – yes, you paid a price, a high price, for bucking the system, but look now at the result. Your willingness to think outside the box AND talk about it will make change in adoption. It can’t turn the clock back for you, but it may set off alarms on the clocks of other women teetering on the brink.

  2. It’s not a bad thing at all.
    I’m sure it’s caused you pain. But it’s also been your strength. I’m glad you have it. I’m glad you’re proud of it; you should be. It’s helped a lot of people.

  3. Different is good. Without differences, we’d never see injustices or do anything about them. Thank you for being you.

  4. God I just ache for all of us, The ones who have found the courage to speak are I think as you said, the ones who were “the problem child” I wasn’t til my parents divorced but after that oh boy. I know in my heart that my courage to speak and to work comes from my rage. From that young woman who as you did held leaky breasts and looked for a child I was never going to find! Kudos to us Suz.. we are the strong ones, the rebellious ones, the ones who drank the unsweetened kool aid.. I love you chica

  5. The good thing is that we understand who we are. We understand why we do what we do and what we need to stand up for. I know this made me who I am. I do not drink (both parents are alcoholics) I have never been in jail all of this is so I can do what I do. Foster, adoptive, and birth! I strive to help and to be strong and make a difference. I want these children to have a life without abuse and neglect. I want them to know they are loved. I strive to be this! I want to be this! My sons birth father writes me and he is thankful that we could take care of his son and we write him and send pics where as my kids birth mother consideres us and her children ‘dead’. It is one extreeme to another! I want my kids to have all the love that one could give. From me from the family, from thier birth parents. But I can not make the birth parents love them! I can only hope one day that they will put the hard feelings aside and understand that I did all I could do to give these children life. A better life then they or I had. I don’t deny their love. I just do my best to be the mother I am. 🙂

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