Part II: Co-Parenting with Adoption Loss

(Read Part I here.)

The car door slammed loud behind me. My black skull imprinted scarf gets caught in the door as it slams and nearly chokes me further. I am unfazed. I am focused only on hiding and crying. As I push back the seat of my Nissan Maxima the tidal wave of awareness and associated grief over come me. An inhuman moan escapes involuntarily from my mouth. It is beyond my control. I am swinging between then and now. An experience of today spurs a flashback of yesterday. I cannot control the tears.

Semi-aware of my surroundings, the pediatrician office parking lot, I turn on the radio and blast the sound to muffle my cries. I look down at the prescription in my hand. Written on the doctors’ notepad, in blue ink, I see my youngest sons name and date of birth. Beneath that I see the words “Controversial Medicine, 20 mg”. Other parents would be pleased with what I hold in my hand. They would see relief for themselves and their child. I see no such things. I see my son. I see his massive dimples and his brown shaggy hair surrounding his chocolate brown eyes. I see the judgment cast upon him. I hear the doctors’ voice diagnosing his medical “condition”. I hear my sons’ voice crying out as he struggles with the math computation. The image fades and I see myself at 18 years old. I also had judgment cast upon me and I struggled with my “medical condition”. I see myself in my teenage bedroom, my sister next to me. I am lying on my side, hand on bulging stomach, crying into my pillow. I hear my voice crying out for someone to help me.

My son has been diagnosed with a controversial “disorder”. He has struggled with school since he started kindergarten. My requests for help and testing fall on deaf ears until he is in the fifth grade. Prior to that I am told it is emotional troubles (the divorces, remarriage, new homes, changes in school and all that). I am told to give him time. His fifth grade teacher, a male, finally agrees with me something is not quite right. He should be doing better. Testing ensues and the results are inconclusive. He is borderline and does not qualify for extra support. I am frustrated. Six grade arrives and within the first few months we see the learning challenges. Teachers agree he is not trying hard enough, not focusing. His father hands out punishments and calls him lazy and defiant. I am not sure of anything. I ask for a retest and am refused by the principle. I consult the pediatrician. A quick diagnosis is made following a few assessments. Here take the meds and have a nice day.

And here I am in my car crying. There was no talk of complementary or alternative medicines or therapies. No discussion of side effects. No consideration given to the stigma associated with such a diagnosis or how my son may process this mentally. Take the meds. Have a nice day. I am assured my son has a real problem, a medical and neurological problem. This problem was confirmed not through extensive testing but a few questions answered on a survey taken by parents and teachers. I am not entirely convinced of the diagnosis and I struggle with the suggested course of treatment. It is not until I collapse in my car that I realize the parallels between my sons’ situation at age 11 and my own at age 18.

At 18 I was a girl from a middle class white family. I was president of student council, and honor student and a “good girl”. My parents and nearly all of society had certain expectations of me and they did not include getting pregnant two months after I graduate high school. Then, as now with my son, my condition had a diagnosis and even a prescription (however drug free it might have been). I was to be sent away and my child was to be given away. My son with his challenges? Well, the experts suggest sending away the parts of his personality found to be problematic. We will do this via an addictive narcotic and in doing so we will turn him into the type of child wealthy white parents from an affluent community are expected to produce. Unlike children in the inner city, my son has “options” and he could “do better”. He will do better with the aid of Controversial Medicine 20mg – but only if I allow it. I could take the word of the so called experts (as I had done at age 18) or I could trust my instincts.

It was this realization, this flashback and my instincts that forced me to obtain a costly neuropsychological evaluation followed by an occupational therapy evaluation. I agreed to medicine provided we pursue therapies that do not dictate my son be on an addictive narcotic for the rest of his life. I refuse to see my son assigned a sick role, to be categorized and labelled. He will not be ashamed of who or what he is (as I have been). He will not feel he is lesser than simply because he is different. Unlike my mother before me, I will not accept the easiest or most socially acceptable solution to my child’s condition. I will do better by him and in doing so, I do better by the 18 year old girl I once was. I will challenge the biomedical model of health. In doing so, I will help not only my son, but the 18 year old expectant mother I once was.

At least that is my hope.

3 Thoughts.

  1. I wish I was half the parent you are!!! Kudos to you in ways I can’t even begin to verbalize.

  2. Oh Suz, this is a little painful to read. As an educator, I’ve seen many students over the years who fit your son’s description and most turn out just fine when they have a mom as supportive as you. In many cases, those of us who have suffered an adoption loss often go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that we can be the very best parent we can be and I’m sure you will be too! There’s a great poem I think you might like entitled “Here’s to the kids who are different” by Goldie Hawn. Let me know if I can help at all in the education dept. as my area of expertise is reading.

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