Deep Thoughts on Snow Day Four

Snow Day Four.

We slept in. They played video games while I did some work. We went to play with friends. Hit the library. Ate one of their favorite meals for dinner. Read books. I, personally, answered a billion and one questions.

Like, “If a blind person opens their eyes under water, does it still hurt?”

I’ve never, ever thought of that. My youngest son is always, always thinking. I think he’s fantastic.

Snow Day Four doesn’t hurt too much.

I figured they’d at least have a delay if not an entire Snow Day. I kind of wanted the full Snow Day because I wanted an excuse to be lazy. A lazy day with my boys and my dogs and some carbs, because we all need carbs in the winter. It’s how we survive, really.

And then I asked the older of the two boys to take the first, but younger, dog outside to do her business. He didn’t watch her. He didn’t know if she did her business. I was in the process of making dinner. I felt a little frustrated.

So I yelled.

I really don’t like yelling. I would rather avoid yelling. I want to talk about things, teach from a place of calm. Yelling scares me, so I know it has the potential to affect my boys in negative ways too.

My son went off to his room, on his own. I continued stirring homemade alfredo sauce, trying to time noodles and broccoli to end up cooked, but not over- or under-cooked all at the same time. He came out, cheeks and eyes red and swollen with tears.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

I took him into my arms, my chin resting on the top of his head.

“I know, buddy. But this is what Daddy and I have been talking about: responsibility, paying attention, being present. This is part of growing up and gaining more independence. It just comes with more responsibility. I love you. Always.”

He nodded. He went and got the book he picked at the library and sat at the dining room table to read while I finished up dinner. He helped set the table. He helped feed the dogs after we finished dinner. Everything went fine for the rest of the evening.

Much like I want my sons to know that one mistake is not the end of the world, I need to model that in my parenting. I sent my husband a text about how negatively I felt about myself for yelling. But if I expect my sons to rebound from supposed or surmised mistakes, shouldn’t I also do the same? Shouldn’t I also give myself the grace I afford them? Shouldn’t I work harder to forgive myself?

My therapist wants me to bring a picture of my 22-year-old—and pregnant—self to my next appointment in two weeks. I’m supposed to talk to myself, tell myself the reasons I’m still angry with that young, scared, very, very alone little mama. Because it’s true: I hold anger with absolutely no one else as to how everything happened. Except me. I’m so very angry with myself.

Today a friend related a story of a mutual friend’s unplanned pregnancy. She shared how she supported her friend through each step of the process. My heart welled up.

“I just needed you,” I said as I walked out the door, heading off to the library with the boys.
“I know.”

It is my goal to someday forgive myself. I know—I know—I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time. I repeat that to myself regularly. My therapist said the same thing at my last appointment. The tricky part is getting to the point of forgiveness, of letting it all go.

Because if I’m no longer mad at myself, what’s left?

 

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13 Years In Seems As Good A Time As Any To Look At Trauma, Right?

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Today my daughter turned 13.

I’ve been struggling in the past week and a half leading up to this day. When she left after a visit last week, I felt depleted, empty, and overwhelmingly anxious. I did finally schedule a therapy appointment for this coming Friday, but not before suffering through a nearly all day panic attack.

The flashbacks are the worst during this time frame. I’ll just be sitting or standing or walking, watching TV or working or cooking, and suddenly I’m in a hospital room. Or I’m driving away from New Jersey. Or I’m in the clinic office. Or I’m alone, on Level III bed rest, in my basement apartment. Or I’m in the ambulance. I can hear the words that others say, what the doctors are saying over my head as I fight for my life yet again. I can feel the cold, damp air. I can smell the antiseptic smells of the hospital.

I have a strong, photographic memory about most things. I can remember what I wore on the first day of school every year of my life. But this is a very different experience. When I want to recall something in my past, I willingly go there and rifle through memories and pick out the one I’m looking for at the time. When it comes to the flashbacks, they come uninvited, unprompted. They take my breath away, quite literally. They’ve actually gotten stronger over the past few years.

A friend of mine used the word trauma to describe what I experience, and I immediately shut down.

I recognize there’s a lot of trauma in adoption, especially for adoptees. So why did I balk?

I have the best case scenario. I have a positive, on-going relationship with my daughter. I’m great friends with my daughter’s mom. We have nearly-monthly visits, save for occasional misses due to life. My sons not only know their sister but they love her. I am surrounded by loving, compassionate friends who show up at my house when I need them, who check on me, who want to be present with me in the good times and the bad.

I’m a mental health advocate. I have helped mothers who suffer from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders understand that PTSD is a real, treatable illness. I assure them that PTSD isn’t just reserved for our Veterans, that their trauma is real.

But me?

I chose this, right? That’s what some of my haters and trolls have reminded me of over the years. I chose this. I could have parented. I could have done a million things differently. Right?

Yes, I could have.

But I’m working really hard on understanding that I did the best I could at the time with the information and resources available to me at that time. I swear I’m working on believing it, internalizing it. It’s really, really hard.

Today, a beloved woman I am so lucky to know and call a friend shared this as part of her 24 days of poetry.

Forgive yourself.
For something you’ve been carrying around.
Say it out loud
into the air.

I laughed out loud when I read it. Today, of all days. My daughter’s 13th birthday on the 13th of December; her golden birthday. I’d love to forgive myself. People keep telling me to forgive myself, asking me to forgive myself, pushing me to forgive myself.

I just don’t even know how. It’s been my goal in therapy for years. I’m maybe like two steps closer to figuring it out, but barely. I don’t know what forgiving myself looks like, let alone how to get there.

Maybe that’s because there’s more trauma involved than I think. I don’t know yet.

But I do know this: 13 years ago I gave birth to my daughter. I loved her from the very moment I knew she existed and I have spent every moment since loving her all the more. If I had to relive all of this—every single moment of sadness and depression and anxiety and fear and loneliness and emptiness—I would. Would I change things, if I could? Yes. But if I had to relive it all just to have what I have with her now, I’d do it. I would do anything to have my daughter in my life. And I have.

I’m the mother of a teenager. I’m figuring it out as I go, the same as we all do. I am lucky to have her, and I hope she feels lucky to have me.

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