.....is kind of a bummer for me.
You see, this is the time of year that our daughter (for all intents and purposes) was originally placed with us, and one year ago this month, my husband and I made the painful decision to stop fostering children and to forfeit our adoption dreams.
It wasn't an easy decision. The only reason we made the decision to get my tubes tied after our youngest son's birth, was because we knew we would have the ability to adopt someday. I always saw myself having five to seven children. Most people think that's loco, but that's always been the plan for me...even when I was six years old. As the youngest of three children, whose brothers were years and years older than me, nothing felt more perfect to me than the idea of having a large brood of my own. It sounded like utter bliss. Unfortunately, that was never meant to happen.
If we'd known what we were in store for, we would've kept my tubes in tact, and just muscled our way through a few more excruciating pregnancies. (My body was very, very tired of being pregnant, and I bled off and on through my last pregnancy=no bueno.) But we were of that "pie in the sky" mentality that adoption would be easy peasy lemon squeezy for good, honest, well intentioned folks like ourselves. Alas, it was not. Our adoption experience was horrific, at best, and we still mourn the daughter that was taken away from us, and placed back with a dangerous bio family. We've spent the last year in therapy, in tears, and on our knees in prayer.
Needless to say, it hasn't been such a great year for us. I've worked very hard to keep my head up, only look forward, get healthy, stay healthy, and become as productive and positive as possible. Frankly put, if I don't....I'll curl up in a ball and die. Die because of the daughter I so desperately long for, even though she was never technically mine. Die because of the other children my husband and I know we were supposed to have in our family, but won't ever meet, because we can't put ourselves through that living, festering, breathing hell a second time.
So as the fall settles in, and the leaves turn gold and red, and the air starts to smell smoky and crisp, I'm taken back to last year, when my emotions were so jagged and raw that they cut anyone who came near me.
When I couldn't walk through Costco without dissolving into tears because I was certain I'd heard my daughter crying in the next aisle over.
When I woke up soaked in sweat because I'd had yet another horrific dream about something ugly, evil, and sinister being done to my daughter in her new home.
When every muscle in my body ached like I had the flu, but instead of being actually ill, I was just longing to hold, touch, lay eyes on, or at the very least smell my daughter one more time.
When I couldn't stand the sight of my remaining children, even though I adored them desperately, because they reminded me of the little one I would never lay eyes on again.
When I hated my husband with everything inside of me, because he was still somehow functional enough to wake up, get showered, get dressed, and go to work without one single meltdown, whereas I couldn't get through an hour without losing my sh**.
When hearing that yet another friend was pregnant or successfully adopting a child felt like a knife dipped in acid being jabbed into my heart again and again and again and again and again....
When the thought of driving to the north side of my city gave me hives because of the mere notion that I could possibly run into the horrible, wretched people who took her away from me.
Yeah. It wasn't such a good fall last year. October was a real bummer.
I'm not sure when or how things got better for me. Some days are good, others are bad. Most days are...well, medium. And I've come to appreciate medium for what it is. Medium means I'm not manically happy, and ready to bounce off of the walls. And medium means I'm not drowning in the depths of anger, sadness, and self pity. Medium is good. Medium is fine. And medium is where I am the most comfortable.
I've changed a lot in the last year. I no longer cry at the drop of a hat, and I rarely fall apart at the thought of my daughter. Sure, I still get ticked off and ramble on and on about the injustices and shortcomings of the foster care system, but I rarely launch into a tearstained tirade. And sometimes I have bad dreams about her being sick, or hurt, or worse yet, dead, but those dreams are few and far between. I mostly dream about being shopping centers or at carnivals or fairs where I can hear her calling for me, but can't get through the thick crowd in time to see her before I wake up. And those dreams mostly just annoy me. What I wouldn't give to simply see her again. The idea feels so far fetched that it's up there with spotting a unicorn or becoming a princess.
I no longer pray for the people who stole her away to die in a fiery car crash. I no longer hope they contract polio or ebola, or whatever big disease with a fancy name will render them in agony for the rest of their miserable existence.
Now I mostly pray for forgiveness for not doing a good enough job at being her mother in the first place that God felt the need to take her away. I pray for forgiveness that my husband and I gave up our adoption dreams and will never meet the other children we know were meant for our family. I pray for forgiveness for the resentment I feel whenever I hear someone is pregnant or adopting, and for the jealousy that fills my heart and pushes away all the good feelings I want so desperately to feel for my fertile and happy friends.
I pray for forgiveness for spending an entire year mourning a child who was never really mine to begin with. And I pray that somehow, even though I know it's unlikely (and sort of unfair,) that my daughter will never forget me. The truth is, she's three now, and she likely already has. But when people tell me so, I want to throat punch them. Hard. That feels unbearable. We'll never forget her, so she should remember us, right??
So while everyone yammers on and on on Facebook and Twitter about how very much they love their pumpkin spice lattes, cookies, tea, lotion, candles, Scentsy wax, bath salts, and whatever the heck else they're slathering in pumpkin spice these days...I'm feeling incredibly bogged down by sadness. While everyone else is getting halloween costumes ready for their littles, and snuggling up under blankets to watch football games, I am feeling perpetually tired because I simply cannot get thoughts of my daughter out of my mind. They keep me up at night. They tickle the back of my brain, and force themselves to the forefront of my thoughts. They pop up at the worst possible times...at work, during church, at the store, in the middle of a nice REM cycle. It's really annoying.
I feel older than I am right now. I feel like I should be 60 years old sometimes, because of the way my grief pushes down on my shoulders, hunching my back and making me shuffle forward like a geriatric. I do my darndest to make sure that I am putting on a good face for the rest of the world. I plaster a big, fake smile on my face, cram myself into a cute outfit, and crack a joke or two. I portray myself to be exactly what I want people to think I am: confident, funny, energetic. When on the inside, I am screaming and crying like a two year old: I don't want to go to work! I don't want to coach cheer tonight! I don't want to cook, clean, fold laundry, write a book, or do ANYTHING else except sit around feeling sorry for myself!!!!! Better for me to have everyone fooled, rather than let them in on how much I *still* hurt. Shouldn't I be past the hurt by now? Good grief, you would think so.
I've become "that friend." You know the one. The one that everyone tiptoes around. I had a girlfriend cry while she told me that she was pregnant, because she was so afraid of my reaction. I had another friend avoid telling me that her daughter was successfully adopting from the foster care system, because she was so afraid of my reaction. I'm now being treated like a bomb that needs to be handled with kid gloves, otherwise I'll detonate and take everybody down with me. I don't want to be know as "that friend."
And yet...I am. Good grief. I so am. I am as fragile as spun sugar, and everybody around me knows it. It's so humiliating. I actually saw my daughter's biological dad in a Walmart this past summer and literally unravelled right there next to an end cap of Ruffles chips. Called my husband. Called a girlfriend. Sobbed. Right there in Walmart, until a clerk asked me if I was okay.
"Ma'am, if you need assistance, we can help, but you can't sit on the cheddar and sour cream Ruffles anymore, otherwise you'll have to pay for them."
A few weeks ago, a woman at a church function I was at complained about being pregnant again. (It was clear she had at least 5 or 6 kids already.) She was whining about sore nipples and having to pee all the time, and I honestly wanted to knock her over. I wanted to remind her that for every complaint she has, there were at least 5 women in that cultural hall who probably would've traded their kidneys to be in her shoes, so she needed to shut.the.he**.up.
But I didn't. I plastered on that prize winning fake smile of mine, adjusted my skinny skirt (in a size 8, thankyouverymuch) and moved on. Let them think I'm tough as nails, instead of spun sugar. Eyes up. Keep pressing forward. Onward and upward, and all that crap....
I hope everyone enjoys their October. And especially their pumpkin spice lattes. I hope everyone looks at the beautiful fall colors and thanks their higher power for such a gorgeous gift this fragile life is. I hope they kiss their children and say a prayer of thanks for them. I hope they know how lucky they are that they know where their children are, or what they're doing, or who is with them. It's easy to forget how many grieving parents (like myself) are left to wonder. Wondering sucks, for the record. Hard.
I know I'll get through this. The holiday season will pick up and I will be busier than ever with presents and parties and traveling and family. I will find myself sleeping through the night without a nightmare, or I will find myself passing her photograph on my dresser without crying, and I will go back into a good phase again. I'm sure of it. But for now, when I smile at you in the store, or shake your hand at work or church, or send you an email or Facebook message filled with smiley faces and LOL's, please say a tiny, silent prayer for me. On the inside, I am kinda, sorta crumbling.
I'll be happy when fall ends, and winter sets in. Once the snow starts to fall, maybe I'll stop feeling so raw all the time. Maybe my hurt will lay dormant, or hibernate under the white stuff like a bear for the season. That would be nice.