We are flawed and it is pointless to argue otherwise.
I find that there is some degree of consolation in knowing that we are all inherently flawed and, in fact, are made that way with all of our broken pieces and sinful ways. If our hearts are right, we do our best to rise above, asking forgiveness from the only One from whom forgiveness matters, and moving ahead. For most of life’s occurrences, that is enough – to reach for an unachievable perfection, finding understanding and grace when we fall understandably short. We err, we learn, we repent, we become wiser. But, not always.
I hate my child’s birth mother.
God help me, but there it is!
It goes against everything I know to be right – everything I am as a person, not to mention, everything we’re taught with regard to adoptive parenting. We’re schooled to be mindful of our thoughts and words so as not to influence our children with opinion or bias or anything else for that matter. For the record, I think I’ve been VERY good at that, but in doing so, I can’t help but wonder if that makes me a good parent or the consummate hypocrite.
We’ve always been open with our daughter when it comes to her questioning, never hiding truths, even when painful, but sometimes withholding certain realisms for more age-appropriate times. At twenty, she now knows most everything and I can’t even imagine how it must feel to carry that burden around – on top of all the other burdens she’s been forced to carry as a direct result of her birth mother’s choices.
My child has struggled her entire life! Even before birth, she had to fight to survive and was thrust violently (hospital record terminology) into this world at twenty-six weeks gestation – just barely viable twenty years ago. She weighed two pounds, four ounces and was twelve-and-a-half inches in length. She was also “extremely bruised” and crack positive. A few hours after birth, her biological mother checked herself out leaving my child behind.
She should not have survived, but she did. There were four heart defects and cardiac conditions, chronic lung issues, a brain bleed, sepsis, retinopathy of prematurity, several reintubations, and more. There were also many close calls in those early weeks, but her tenacious spirit and a dedicated NICU staff met the odds head-on and for the next three months fought their way through each new battle as it presented itself. During that time, she grew stronger in body, but with the wisdom of hindsight, weaker in self. For you see, my tiny warrior had to endure all of these things alone. Even the most dedicated of nurses is not a replacement for a mommy and it hurts me to this day to think of her terrified and in pain as she began her journey on this earth with no one to hold her close and keep her safe.
In fact, I find it unforgivable.
At three months, we got the call that she would be released to foster care to join her toddler brother in our home. And so, together, we entered this next stage of our lives.
It was also the time period when we would be directly involved with biological family. I think it important to share that, in those early months of fostering, there was no stronger advocate for birth mom than I. I was rooting for her and praying for her and making excuses for her. I was also a brand new foster parent with eyes that had not yet adjusted to the darkness of this alternative reality.
So why do I feel as I do?
Quite simply, I love my child! I don’t love her as my adopted child or my former foster child or as a child we “rescued.” I love her at the same primal level that I love my biological child and, frankly, I have to even remind myself from time to time that they came to me differently because I don’t feel any difference at all. And, like any mother who loves her children, I am called to nurture and encourage, protect and advocate, and be a rock and safe haven whether there be valleys to navigate or mountains to scale. That’s what mom’s do and I recognize it for the honor and gift that it is.
But, here’s the thing. For the first three months of my daughter’s life, I was not her mom. During that time and, in fact, from the moment she was conceived, her safety and well-being were the responsibility of someone else – someone who should have protected her – cared for her – loved her. Her biological mother did none of those things and the ramifications of those inactions have impacted my child in almost every area of her life and hurt her more deeply than even she understands.
The next nearly three years would lead us through the foster care chapter where we would learn very quickly the definitions of insincerity, manipulation, mind-boggling behaviors, and true selfishness. In time, the courts saw it too and rights were terminated, but in the meantime, the kids endured the additional traumas of broken promises, inconsistency, and confusion.
Trauma on top of trauma begets trauma.
And so, it continued. Medical conditions because of her start in life. Learning disabilities and diagnoses because her brain was affected during crucial development. Emotional imbalance because, like any child of trauma, she struggles with attachment and accepting love. And, behavioral dysfunction because that was the only way she could process her anger and fear. All because the one person whom she needed more than anyone let her down – repeatedly.
While the direct contact and influence ended at adoption, the effects grew through the years. To pour salt into an already gaping wound, our daughter’s birth mother decided it was okay to contact her out of the blue on the occasion of her eighteenth birthday by way of social media. I will never forget her eyes as she burst through the door, phone in hand, having just discovered the message. I saw every emotion flash across her face from hurt to anger to fear to confusion and the storm of the moment literally dropped her to the floor. There would be an onslaught of unsolicited and unwanted attempts at contact over the next two years, amounting to little more than stalking and harassment and requiring legal intervention to keep it at bay.
All of this on top of all of that.
It may still be difficult to understand why I feel as intensely as I do toward this woman who was my daughter’s first mother. (even that is hard for me to say)
I equate it to this…
If your child was forced to endure repeated PHYSICAL attacks throughout his life, how would you feel? If every developmental milestone was interrupted by a slap or a punch from someone who was constantly lurking in the shadows? If friendships and relationships were hard to come by and even more difficult to maintain because someone would jump between and spew hateful remarks and all out contempt? If choices and behaviors were controlled by another person who would forcibly drag your child into negative situations and dark places even when he knew them to be wrong? If his attempts to grow and see himself as loved and worthy and in a positive light were constantly undermined by someone who berated and sucker punched him every step of the way? As a parent, how would you feel if this was your child’s existence?
I know how I feel.
And yet, I’m expected to feel otherwise because my daughter’s wounds aren’t visible. I’m also supposed to be impartial with regard to the person who has and continues to cause her pain. What parent sits back and does that??? Does anyone say to a child, “go ahead and put your hand on that hot burner” KNOWING that he will be hurt? Of course not! We protect our children when they are young and in doing so teach them to protect themselves. But, the “rule books” say that I am not permitted to do so because protecting her from the obvious is not mine to do.
I would ask, then, exactly whose responsibility is it if not her mother and father?
Not so long ago I sat in a hospital room with my beautiful daughter who was sobbing out her pain. “Why did she leave me there in that NICU and walk away?” “How can she be so selfish as to ask me to be in her life when she’s still using after all these years?” “Why won’t she leave me alone?” “Doesn’t she realize how much she’s messed up my life?” “What’s wrong with me?”
My heart was shattered right along with hers and I struggled with my own turmoil. Being the parent was never more important than in that moment. “Oh, my beloved child, there is NOTHING wrong with you! What you have carried your entire lifetime was never yours to carry and that is the tragedy of it all. You are a precious daughter of The King and your story does not define who you are and who you will be. You are a gift – a miracle – you have purpose and you are infinitely loved!”
And then this girl who was beaten and broken said something that stopped me in my tracks.
“Maybe if I forgive her, this can all go away.” Forgive her!? FORGIVE HER!?!?
I looked at my daughter in amazement and in her eyes I saw something that had not been there before. Hope? Release? Could it be the first step in healing – something as simple and yet complex as saying “I forgive you” and meaning it?
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of her than I was in that moment. It was a deep and spiritual realization and profoundly strong decision to make and I was humbled by her clarity in the midst of buried pain. She was the one who found the way to take that first meaningful step into the light and begin the healing process. I am amazed still.
For me, I am still struggling with my humanity. As a mom, forgiveness does not come easily toward someone – anyone — who hurts my children in any way, shape, or form. Especially when there is not one ounce of remorse, regret, or intention to stop. It matters little whether it was twenty years ago or twenty minutes.
What I have come to terms with, however, is my understanding that hatred, while very much less than what God asks of us to feel, is human too. If we are given the ability to feel it, then it has merit. Where we go with it in life is what I think God is watching to see. I am acutely aware that I carry an emotion toward my child’s birth mother that is not pleasing to God, but even in the knowing I struggle with the release and I think He understands.
In the meantime, I will be asking for His grace while I find my way toward forgiveness, following my daughter’s lead and recognizing that every step of the journey involves the mindfulness and experience of earthly, God-given emotion and, even in its displeasing state, hate is human too.
(Information in this post was shared with permission)
Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it — Hebrews 4:16