“I don’t want to forgive her.”
The truth I’ve held onto so tightly for thirteen years came tumbling from my lips. I sat in a worn, mustard-colored, 70s velour chair, legs crossed, with a picture upon my knee.
I stared at her and she stared back, through her old pair of glasses. He hadn’t shipped her newer pair yet, the ones she’d left behind with an old jacket and a volume of William Carlos Williams’ poetry. Ransom, perhaps, or an inability for either of them to deal with the situation at hand.
I stared at her smile—not her normal smile, no. When she’s happy, gums show and her eyes light and dance. I stared at her clothing. At 32-weeks-pregnant, she still didn’t wear maternity clothes. She didn’t need to; the Level III bed rest, living alone, and fight for her life kept her from gaining much weight.
I stared at her, my heart fluctuating between something akin to empathy, compassion and then hard-shifting into ferocious, bitter anger.
“Why don’t you want to forgive her?
A million reasons, all rolled into one.
“She gave away my daughter.”
As many truths as I’ve spoke over the years, that is my truest truth. I don’t want to forgive myself for placing my daughter for adoption. I need someone to remain angry with, and I’ve gone ahead and forgiven every last individual involved. Except for myself.
Logically, I see this as a hindrance to my healing. Remaining angry at myself for things—things of which I spoke of for the first time to my therapist and nearly left her speechless; things mostly out of my control; things which would break my heart if I heard of them happening to another woman, another mother—doesn’t solve a single thing. It doesn’t alleviate my anxiety, my depression. It doesn’t bring my daughter home to live in my house. It doesn’t remove my sons’ sadness, their keen missing of their sister. The anger doesn’t make anything better.
But letting it go feels too scary, still. Too big. Too much.
That anger feels safe, if we’re honest. It’s been the only constant in my life for thirteen years. I’ve had to let go of anger at and with others, forgive them in order to keep moving forward. But that anger at myself? I can move forward with it… however slowly. I can bench it when I need to; I can pull it out and wield it against myself if I feel too cocky, like I’ve done too much of a good thing. It’s a good tool for putting myself in my place.
You gave away your baby. What kind of mother does that? Sit down. You don’t belong with these other people. You don’t belong anywhere. You monster.
Among these mothers who fought to have babies and lost them and would give anything under the sun to make sure they never had to separate from their child, I feel a giant scarlet letter on my chest. Not the A, for adoption. No. The O, for other. For odd. For ostracized. For out of place. For outcast. For orphaned; for orphan maker. So many fought and fight for what I had—a daughter—and I gave her away.
I don’t want to forgive myself because I am still ashamed of my decision, of myself. I don’t care that I was sick, that I fought for my life and underwent two surgeries while pregnant. I don’t care that no one wanted to support a decision to parent. I don’t care that, once entangled with the adoption facilitator, I couldn’t find a way to untangle myself. None of that matters. I gave away my baby, my girl. It firmly remains all my fault.
Needless to say, yesterday’s therapy session ranked off the charts on the How Hard It Felt meter. My therapist challenged and questioned me in ways no one ever has regarding my daughter’s adoption. I ended feeling very exhausted, because I really don’t like to go there all that often. In fact, just searching for this photo caused a dissociative, out-of-body experience for me. My therapist wasn’t surprised, but I felt surprised as to how visceral it felt all these years later.
I think we made progress. I don’t know. Today I feel like someone ran me over with the Emotions and Feels Bus. Maybe that’s necessary to move forward, because lord knows I haven’t gone back to some of those places since, well, ever.
Tonight I sit and ponder, again, what forgiving myself looks like. It doesn’t look like having my daughter, so I’m still stuck on the point of it all.
Maybe I’ll find it one of these days.