A First Mother’s Agony, Part Two: Living with Unacknowledged Loss

A First Mother’s Agony, Part Two: Living with Unacknowledged Loss

This is the second part of a 3-part series written by guest poster Casey Anderson.  (Please see Part 1, which also includes an introduction to this miniseries.)

By Casey Anderson

I picked myself up and left that town in late summer with a man who would become my first husband a few months later.  We met when an old acquaintance saw me in a supermarket and stopped me to chat. He asked if he could come by later and when he did, he brought his friend along.

His friend was the first person who listened to me since before I left home.  He held me while I cried. He listened to me rant. He was there when no one else was.  Unfortunately, he was also severely bipolar and had stopped taking his medications.  I didn’t know that until after we’d wed, I’d gotten pregnant and he’d left us—all in the space of two years.  I’d ignored significant warning signs because he was there, he cared, he listened, and I couldn’t bear to be alone again.

There I was once more—pregnant, little money, no support–but I would go to my grave before anyone got their hands on my baby girl.

I decided that I was going to college and no one was going to stop me. That’s when I first learned that adoption agencies lie. I didn’t have to go back to high school like the woman said. I only needed a GED, which I took and easily passed.

I worked full time on the overnight shift, went to school during the day and spent off days, mornings and evenings with my daughter.  I lived on two hours of sleep for years. When my spirits lagged and I yearned to quit I planned my graduation party, listing all the people I’d send formal announcements and imagining their shock and dismay.  The agency woman was always the first entry on that list.

I met my husband while seeking math tutoring.  He attended the same college and also worked full time. We married two years later and I far surpassed him in calculus before giving birth to our son, who is seven years younger than his sister, nine years younger than his brother.

My pregnancy with my youngest was the most surreal event I’ve yet experienced.  My sons’ birthdays are five days apart.  I spent the entire pregnancy praying that my youngest wouldn’t arrive on that day. The nausea, the first fluttering movements, the weather, doctor appointments, holidays–everything was a mirror of what I’d lost.

I held him continuously the night he was born, crying over my lost son, my new son, aching and happy and confused and frightened senseless, concerning more than one nurse.   I insisted on carrying him wherever he needed to go, even to his circumcision.   I panicked when my husband took him to see his grandmother in the hall.  I couldn’t let him out of my sight.

I’ve long wondered whether my rabid protectiveness of my raised children is related to my son’s loss.  I refused to allow anyone to take my babies anywhere, especially family, and babysitting was iffy at best.   I had terrible nightmares throughout both pregnancies that persisted through their toddler stages.  All of the nightmares centered on a faceless someone walking down a hallway carrying my screaming baby while I chase futilely behind.  When my kids were away from me I had ferocious anxiety attacks, terrified they wouldn’t return.

This life has presented so many quandaries it’s difficult to name them all.  How to answer the medical questionnaire entry, “how many children do you have?” I have three, but I’m allowed to claim two.  When I was pregnant with my daughter I stumbled when people asked me if she was my first.  When my youngest was born I fumbled the question, “Is he your only boy?”

Then there are the kids themselves.  I couldn’t bring myself to tell my daughter about her older brother. I just couldn’t.  I couldn’t speak of him with my husband without breaking down.  How could I burden my sweet little girl with a broken mother and missing brother?  A malicious family member solved it when my daughter was twelve.  For a month she was inexplicably, vocally hateful toward me.  Eventually she ended a fierce argument with an accusing, tearful wail. “How could you give my brother away?”

My youngest son also learned of his older brother at age twelve, weeks after contact between my lost child and I began.  I agonized over the telling, terrified he would hate me for months as his sister had. He took it with the stoicism and calm for which he is known.

Everyone who knows me knows the annual three weeks during which mom/wife/coworker/friend is just a little . . .off.  I cook and do laundry and help with homework and make them brush their teeth; I write documents and go to meetings and test software changes, but something is missing.  I’m not all there; I cannot deal with anything outside the ordinary issues of life, and I must have plenty of time alone.

Therapy is a farce.  I had a complete emotional breakdown just days after watching my youngest child plunge his face into his first birthday cake.  I told every “professional” who asked me to explain why I was in the inpatient unit the brutal truth—I could not live another day without the son I lost—but not one of them considered it a suitable explanation for my condition.  They probed for marital problems, work problems, thyroid problems, anything other than my own words.  I might as well have been speaking Mandarin.

I pulled it together after that incident and muddled on as best I could.  I found my lost son’s access limited Facebook page and checked it daily in hopes of a new profile picture.  His eighteenth birthday came and went, as did the nineteenth and twentieth.  I began to despair, and then came May 13th, 2010.

To be Continued in Part 3

Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman, author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.  

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