Going Back in Time (Adoption Awareness)

This is always a hard time of the year for me.  It is coming up on the anniversary of the relinquishment to parent my second son.  I am not alone in feeling this PTSD.  It is a known fact that birth mothers suffer during the anniversary of their child’s birth or relinquishment date.

The Damage to Relinquishing Mothers

Without fail, this time every year which is a joyous time of the year for many, I get emotional without warning.  Tears fill my eyes unexpectedly and without immediate cause.  I get irritated easily and anger quickly.  I become withdrawn and sometimes unapproachable.

In about one month, my office is moving to another building in the same city as our current office location.  Late last year, our management began talking about moving to another building.  They wanted it to be somewhat close to our current location, within 10 miles or so.  They looked in nearby cities and also in our current city for a new place to call home for our Service Center.  Employees waited impatiently at times curious as to where this new office would be.  Many worried if their drive would be longer while others hoped their drive would be shorter in this very populated metropolitan city with hefty rush hour traffic patterns.

So we waited and waited while our management team looked for a new office building in the Dallas/Ft Worth area, assuring us every few months that they were getting closer and closer to a final decision.  Needless to say, the possibilities were endless.

The city is the main cultural and economic center of the 12-county Dallas–Fort Worth metropolitan area—at 6 million people, it is the eighth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. – wikipedia.org

Earlier this year, the management narrowed it down to office space they had found in three different cities.

In April, during an all-employee meeting, they finally announced our new location.  An exterior frontal building picture flashed on the projector and I couldn’t help but notice how familiar this building looked.  As I continued to listen to our VP speak, I kept staring at the picture.  I was pretty sure I recognized this new office space but waited patiently to be certain.  Then the new address of our new location popped up on the screen.  I was stunned.

I quietly told the person next to me that I had worked at that building before.

The VP gave the projected date, which was initially scheduled for November.

At first, I think I was surprised and somewhat shocked by the synchronicity of it all.

As reality began to sink in, I began to process the impact of this move for me.  Moves are always somewhat stressful.  While many employees in the office were talking about this new place, both positive and negative comments, with their highest concern being about the commute, I was internalizing what this move meant for me.  I was pretty certain it was different.  It wasn’t just about packing and unpacking, or a new driving route, or a greater or lesser distance from home, or longer rush hour traffic delays.  For me, it was much deeper.  It was about a traumatic moment in time that I would much rather leave in my past.

The first time my office moved out to this building, it was back in the late 1990’s.  I was living and working in downtown Dallas.  I was a single mom to Jaren and pregnant with Noah.  And, I was on the road to making one of the most life changing decisions I have ever made.  Life was filled with uncertainty.  I was alone to care for my son and future son yet to be born.  I was castaway by many of my family and even some friends and my children’s father had abandoned us.  Life was challenging at best.

My employer at the time had scheduled our move to the new building at the end of that year.  I was also due to deliver Noah at the end of that same year.  And like my current employer, the move was set for November but then pushed back to December.  My delivery date was also set for December.

As the end of the year approached, I was released for short-term medical leave to prepare for my delivery and my choice.  I packed up my desk and went on maternity leave before the move occurred.

The next couple months would challenge my emotional resolve.  I did not have the luxury to worry or think about our new office space, my new cube or my office belongings.  My day-to-day was filled with taking care of my first born son Jaren and the future that I was considering for his younger brother.

After Noah was born, I signed relinquishment papers on December 24th of that year.  Within a week, I handed over my newborn baby to a couple that I had never previously met.  I trusted that the adoption agency had did their research and homework.

When my maternity leave was up and I was about to return to the office, I called my manager.  I informed her of my decision.  I asked her if she could send out an email to the office and inform them of my choice.  I didn’t want to have to answer those questions over and over again.  I also didn’t want to lie and say I lost the child.  But sadly, she refused.  She said it had something to do with policies.  Ironically, within a year, another co-worker returned from maternity leave.  Her child died.  This time, my manager did send out an email to the team to let them know what happened.

So after giving birth, saying hello to my newborn son, relinquishing my parental rights, kissing my baby and placing him in the arms of his new parents, I prepared for my first day back to work.

I walked into our new office space no longer pregnant and with one less child than what my coworkers were expecting.  I sat down at my new cube.  I began unpacking my material belongings while trying to box up my clouded brain, broken heart and my muddy emotions.

This is the place where I walked out to the parking lot during my lunch hour, sat in my car, and cried tears of sadness and hopeless despair.  Where I wrote letters to God asking Him to find a way to return my baby and heal my broken heart.  A place and time where I contemplated suicide just so I could stop the pain, had it not been for my son Jaren, who gave me every reason to live.

I was stripped down to my core and there was little left of me.

And now, after several move dates have changed, with one of the scheduled move dates being on Noah’s birthday and I was thinking, “Are you freaking kidding me,” we are finally moving to our new office building in less than one month.  I am bewildered.  How do I move through this?  What does this mean?  Is there healing in all this?

I’ll admit, in the early months, I was amused by the fluke of it all.  I joked about how God was playing a trick on me, all the while, reserving my anxiety.  But now that the move is less than a month away, it has become very real.

I talked to my current supervisor privately and told her my story.  I wanted her to be aware.  I explained how this is a traumatic time of the year for me and that I am not sure how this move will impact me because of all the similar details; the history of the building, the same time of the year.  I tried to make light of it and withheld my tears that were readily available to me.  We both chuckled at the synchronicity of it all.  I promised her that I am and will continue to do my best to move through this.  She did seem to understand.  She even said, “Well, this time you will be involved in the moving process rather than someone moving everything for you.”

I thought about her statement.  It resonated with me.

 

Traumatic Events

I believe we all have had some type of traumatic event in our life, an occurrence that made a lasting impression.  Some of us have had many of these.

We often forget those bad moments or traumatic events that occurred.  It happens often with accidents of some sort.  I’ve heard several people say, “The last thing I remember is…,” (which was the moment the crash was about to happen) and then the next thing they remember is being in the hospital.  This is our brain’s way of protecting us.  Or maybe it’s our soul or our guardian angel or it may be Jesus and God himself that are shielding us of the memory and the pain.

I can tell you that I have forgotten many of those traumatic moments over the years.  That is until I experienced the trauma of relinquishment.  Over time, the good memories of my childhood would be replaced with traumatic events that altered my emotional state.

Other than those scary moments when you get separated from a parent in a large department store, which can be pretty traumatic for a young child, I’ve had some other unique experiences.

My earliest memory is when I was around three years.  I saw George, a live-in boyfriend, who was sometimes an abusive man to my mother, much like my own biological father, get very angry at my mother and shove her up against the wall, banging her head  repeatedly while she cried.  I felt helpless.

Another time, around the same age, George walked in my mother’s bedroom and saw me laying on top of my mother’s bed, grinding on my dolls foot.  He scolded me and disciplined me.  I wonder how I learned this.  I must have seen this or experienced something like this.  Children mimic what they see.  This moment has impacted my sexual life.

1967 karen in Florida

When I was five, a lady in the neighborhood babysat me.  My mother was working and my older siblings were at school.  We were in her backyard as she sat on a lawn chair and watched me frolicking in the yard.  I saw some dogs, about five of them.  I ran over to the fence, hopped onto the fence to get a better look and then called them over.  The dogs looked at me and one of them lunged up towards me.  My babysitter got to me just in the nick of time with the raging dog just inches away from my face.  It seemed there were some stray rogue dogs roaming around our neighborhood.  After that experience, I’ve always been a little apprehensive around dogs.

When I was around six, I went for a drive with my mother and her date.  My older siblings were away for the weekend with their paternal family.  My mother’s date drove to a playground that was located at one of the local lakes.  They pulled to the edge and asked me to ask a lady that was there with her kids if she would watch me for a moment while my mother went to park the car.  The lady agreed.  I ran back to the car to let my mom know.  I played for a while.  At that age, I didn’t have any concept of time, but what I do remember is the lady saying to me, “You’re mother is coming back isn’t she?”  What a thing to say to a small child.  When my mother and boyfriend did return, they parked in the same place they dropped me off.  My mother got out of the car, fetched me and we left.  I remember saying to her that I thought they were parking the car so we could go to the park.  I’ve always wondered why they left me there.  Where did they go and what did they do?  Anything could have happened to me.  This memory created an abandonment feeling inside me.

Another time, my mother’s boyfriend took me to our family doctor.  I got on the table and the doctor examined my vagina.  I recall the Dr. looking over and asking if it was okay for him to examine me first.  I’ve always wondered why my mother’s boyfriend, a man who later became our father however who did not attend school events or activities or other doctor’s visits, except when my parents took me to Philly to have my hearing tested, took me to the doctors.  I’ve asked about this but it seems they don’t remember or they give vague responses.  I would think this would be something they would remember as it was such a rare occasion for my step father to take any of us to the doctors.  What happened?  Being on the table in the doctor’s office with my lower half naked and exposed, without my mother or siblings there, being among two men that I didn’t feel that close or secure with made a lasting impression on me.  But I think it’s the not knowing why that has created more anxiety.

I would continue to experience a few other moments throughout my childhood of the scary, drunk, angry, yelling step father, gritting his teeth, threatening and pushing our mother, with my younger brothers screaming for him to get away from her, that left our mom and us kids so scared that she yelled for us to go get our grandparents (my step dads parents).  They always seemed to be able to calm the situation.  We just never knew what the night would be like when dad came home from drinking with his buddies.  We didn’t know what personality would be walking through the doors and if one thing said could turn the switch and make a calm night turn chaotic.  It was not an easy life to experience and one that left me feeling fearful many times.

I was visiting with a friend recently and we were talking about my second pregnancy and my relinquishment.  I was telling her how Noah’s mom has asked me over the years if I ever had doubts or changed my mind about adopting out Noah.  I would always reassure Noah’s mom and tell her that I didn’t.  Maybe that was my way to cope with the truth.  My dear long-time friend said, “Don’t you remember?  You had changed your mind.  You had decided you weren’t going to give up Noah, until your mom came to Texas.”  I shared my deepest and darkest secrets with my dear friend and relied heavily on her for support.  She remembered for me what I could not remember or recall for myself.  I had forgotten all about it.  I didn’t even really discuss it much in the book.  I wanted to put on the reassuring face, the please everyone else face, the make everyone else happy face.  And that left no room for Karen and her feelings, her wants, her needs, and certainly not her pains.

When I think back and look at my actions, it is very clear to me now.  When I went to the hospital, I never called the agency.  My doctor must have informed the agency because they called me and asked me if I had the baby.  A few days later, I took my baby home and planned on parenting him with Jaren but the events that would occur over the next few hours would be tremendously difficult for me to bear.  I am angry at a lot of people but mostly I am angry with myself for allowing others to coerce and manipulate me during my vulnerable moment into doing something that I wasn’t prepared to do.  At times, this traumatic event and the pain that I feel as result of my choice are almost too much to bear that I sometimes fear that death itself will be the only healer of my heart and soul.

How Common is PTSD