Mothering a Ghost

“Ghosts are a metaphor for memory and remembrance and metaphorically connect our world to the world we cannot know about.” – Leslie What

I rolled over and checked the time on my iPhone. No triple identical digits this time. Instead it displayed 6:59 am. I realized it was time to get out of bed and wake the boys but I did not have the energy.

The pain in my ears, nose and throat made me sluggish and lazy.  I ignored the time and rolled over to the other side of my large king sized bed. I looked up at the four posters and then over my head to the Klimt painting I have hanging above  my bed. I smiled. I still love that painting. Reminds me of the last time I held my baby girl.

I decide to sleep a few minutes more and rush the boys to get dressed. Breakfast can be picked up at Panera versus prepared at home.

Thirty minutes later I wake again. I roll towards my phone on the nightstand and check my email.

There, second in the list of 20 new gmail messages is word from my virtual daughter named Google Alerts.

My virtual child Google Alerts delivered to me news of my daughter.  More specifically, Google alerts delivered to me a link to a music review she recently wrote for an on-line magazine.

My heart wrinkles a bit. I ponder clicking the link and reading the article immediately or saving it for later. Already running late, feeling ill and unsure how much later the emotions of reading my daughters on-line work would make me. I am uncertain.

I lay in bed. I am very aware that I might now be making my children late for school and myself late for work, I pull the heavy yellow comforter over my head and lyrics from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals song titled “Lose Some Time” pop into my head.

“I got arms to hold me every night
But i’m still sleeping with a ghost”

Not a ghost lover, as is implied in Grace’s song, but a ghost child.   I twist the lyrics around in my head.

“I’ve got boys to feed in the other room
but I am still mothering a ghost.”

I ache to know my child, my grown daughter.  I decide not to click the link on my phone that would take me to her on-line music review. I decide it would be best to push the regularly occurring thoughts away for a few moments and start with my day.

I wake the boys. My oldest is slow to get dressed and instead opts to wander around in a StormTrooper mask and his tightie whities versus donning the clothes I have left out for him. I holler a few times through the apartment imploring him to get dressed.

As I get myself into the shower, I find myself wondering, what is it like to be in the presence of your child after so many years? What does it feel like? Does a mother change at a cellular level when she is finally granted permission to be in the same room with her child again? To breathe the same air?

I wouldn’t know.

I want to.

The closest I came (and wow, was it close) was when this happened.

But that doesn’t seem quite right to me. What I question is what it feels like to have your child want to be in the room with you? How do you feel after you have spent hours in your child’s presence? Does something heal inside you or do things get worse? Do you breathe differently? Cry less? Feel less anxious? Do you think of them less because finally you have been granted permission to touch them, smell them and hear them? Do you worry about them less since you finally have a sense of who they are and what kind of person they have become? Do you stop fantasizing about their voice?

The last time I heard my child’s voice she was three days old and a crying infant.

What does she sound like now?

I remember that I heard her voice once since then but it was on-line. She had a youtube video that I stumbled across and listened to a few times. Over and over. I listened to it. I told her, as I always do, that I found it and when I did that she made it private. I can no longer remember what that youtube voice sounded like. I think it was deep, throaty and a little sad.

That was years ago. What does it sound like today? Has it changed?

I finish my shower and with thoughts of her running through my head I sit on the toilet and cry.

Will I ever know?

Will I forever mother a ghost?

Later in the morning, seated at my desk, I decide to click the link to her on-line music review. I read it. It is short. I read it again. I try to read between the lines. I try to get a sense of who she is behind those music reviews. What was she thinking when she wrote it? Did she attend the concert of the band she reviews or did she listen to the album?  I am struck by the loose style of writing compared to the way she has written to me. Which is more her? The loose fun style of the review or the intellectually distant style she uses when she writes me? Are they both her or is neither one her?

I wonder what she would write if she reviewed Grace Potter and the Nocturnals?



13 Thoughts.

  1. i’m feeling the same way today. i fear too many of us are. and i don’t know what exactly it is about the passed couple of weeks but i can’t stop crying either. sometimes i don’t want to and other times rather than grappling with imagining my daughter in all the ways you described but i find myself grasping to remember what it is like to not burst into deep swelling tears.
    i guess i just wanted you to know you aren’t alone today. but then, you know that.

  2. Stephanie – I believe it is a full moon. Some believe that the moon causes hormonal reactions due to increased positive ions in the air (Full Moon Effect). These reactions cause hyperactivity, depression, violent behavior, road rage, higher occurrences of migraines and asthma. Even bees are known to sting without provocation on higher positive ion ratios.
    Sounds good to me, dont you think?

  3. you know, you’re right! i saw the full moon (or nearly full) on my way to work a couple days ago. i’d say, yes, i can go with that theory…and run with it.
    hugs too…hang in there.

  4. It’s the most mind boggling feeling in the world to be a first mother. You spend year after year, remembering until you know they start to get older and then they slowly become a ghost. it’s like you know you have a child out there because you ache for them so much but you are frozen in time forbidden to know them.

  5. Does a mother change at a cellular level when she is finally granted permission to be in the same room with her child again? To breathe the same air?
    In my experience (I did not get to see or hold my son after he was born.), the answer to that question is yes. I could literally feel something leaving my body and moving in my son’s direction. I think it was my heart.

  6. Does a mother change at a cellular level when she is finally granted permission to be in the same room with her child again? To breathe the same air?
    In my experience no. She ditched me when I was an infant after holding me and it seems then all she was amazed by was her mother’s behavior. At 20 she drove and left me at a mental facility. After being in the delivery room and meeting my children, telling them to call her grandma, she now avoids us and threatens to call the authorities if we visit.

  7. “Does a mother change at a cellular level when she is finally granted permission to be in the same room with her child again? To breathe the same air?”
    I wish I knew…

  8. Ah the full moon, it is indeed a “Trigger”, for lack of a better word. Funny that you bring it up. My son and I end up lauging each and every month(in the year we have been in reunion..anniversay today!!) the day after the full moon because we both know I will be overly emotional and wig-out at least once during the 3 or 4 days leading up to the full moon. As well as the fact that my lovely boy and I seem to be especially in-tune on a psychic level during those days as well, including almost sharing dreams. Strange. Glad to know I am not alone.
    Does a mother change at a cellular level when she is finally granted permission to be in the same room with her child again? To breathe the same air?
    YES, YES SHE DOES!!!!!!
    Be Well,

  9. I do believe something happens at a cellular level. The first time I met my son, not so much, that was more like an out of body experience – I mean I couldn’t even think. At the same time maybe that is indicative of a more cellular level, visceral, experience.
    I do know that since reuniting with my son, whom I’ve only met 4 times in the past 2 years, I have experienced physical sensations that lead me to believe that there is something happening at a cellular level. I have felt physical aching in my arms, and tingling sensation in my skin just thinking about him, much less being with him. Add to this the emotional turmoil we experience.I don’t think that my experiences are unique, and I think the medical community is missing out on learning much about the human, mind and body by not paying attention to what happens to mothers and infants who are separated at birth. Wouldn’t it be nice if they would recognize the harm it does to us physically and put as severe a warning label on adoption as what is required on cigarette packs. I feel strongly that losing my son to adoption has impacted my health negatively.
    As always, thanks for another thoughtful post. BTW, I went back and reread your first encounter with your daughter. Of course, it brought tears to my eyes. I’m sorry life is so tough right now. You are in my thoughts.

  10. I definitely think something happens at the cellular level…when I am around my son (and he lived with us for several months) all I wanted to do was touch him….several times during the week we would watch tv together (I didn’t care what we watched – it usually ended up being his choice, S Park or Family Guy!) he would lie with his head on my lap, so I could caress his hair or rub his back, for hours. I could not get enough of having him near me. I could not explain to my husband the feeling it gave me- there were no words that could describe the deep, deep satisfaction and love I felt. And even after months of being able to be near him, I still felt absolute awe that he was in my presence, that he was a real, live, person. It is like a miracle, a person coming back from the dead- that was the closest I could get to explaining it to him (my dh) And I know my son felt it too, maybe not as intensely as me, but he would usually say to me “Want to watch a movie, Mom?” and I would never have to ask him to sit by me, he’d just come over and lie down, and sometimes wrap his arm around my legs.
    And yes, I still worry all the time how he is…I keep wondering if I will ever feel “normal” around him. I don’t think so.
    Someday you will find out the answers to your questions yourself, Suz.

  11. Jeez, Suz. Just read the Nose post, “this happened” link, for the first time since I didn’t “know” you then. Took my breath away. Abso-freakin’-lutely, there is a cellular connection, a physical reaction to being in the same air space. I’ve experienced it, too. And the absence of it.
    I hope you get to hear your daughter’s voice again soon… HUGS.

  12. Hope you are feeling better Suz. The same air thing . . . peel me off the ceiling . . .then maybe I can tell you. I tend towards dissociation like a helium balloon when I’m in the same room with my daughter. She thinks I’m being selfish and wierd. But I’m not allowed to talk adoption trauma with her so I feel most misunderstood. Another tenicle of the every growing adoption octapus. I guess I would rather be on the ceiling looking at her that not looking at all. Count my blessings while i’m scraping up the crumbs. Drink emergenC and plenty of fluids 😉

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