Tag Archives: grief

this time we go a little lower

My lifelong battles with depression & anxiety are well-chronicled on these pages. Just words.

Last week I fired up a limping laptop that I haven’t used in a number of years, looking for specific photos to move for future use. While scrolling through a untitled album that contained roughly 1000 photos, I found a series of self portraits taken when I was in my deepest, darkest places around 2006-2008. Before the hospital, before therapy, before medication. They knocked the breath from me. So often we don’t know how bad it is until much, much later.

My photo editing skills have dramatically improved over the years, and I must have deleted the original files, as I’d edit them much differently now. Maybe that’s okay. They speak for themselves, to specific point in my life. A place I don’t want to revisit, but always lives in the fringes.

Grieving Foolmonkey

And when it’s over & the hubbub has subsided, when the last relatives have gone back to their lives, you’re left with the remains.

Your friend brought you flowers, which your cats immediately de-petaled in the span of 30 minutes. You’re still finding yellow dust in your underwear drawer.  Friends & acquaintances are kind:  sending cards, emails, messages, lasagna.  You owe responses, thank yous but it all seems overwhelming.

You pull yourself out of bed to go to work, the thought of dealing with the public almost unbearable. So you save up your Klonopin & take them all at once in order to not burst into tears when a lady asks you to individually gift bag three tiny tubes of lotion or scream “IT’S FUCKING OTIS REDDING YOU JACKASS” when a man inquires about the music playing.

You consider joining the circus, but realize that at almost 40 and relatively uncoordinated, your skill set may not be up to par. So you concoct a fantasy about being Fagin to a group of pickpocketing cats. If Ripley has already stolen one wallet, and the others are proficient in removing items from bags & squirreling them away in secret places, their potential for extra income is almost limitless. Because hey, cute & personable cats!

All you want to do is sleep because it’s the only relief from the images & the heartache & the seemingly growing “to do list”. Your therapist asks about your new medication, and you tell her that you can’t tell because you don’t have a baseline. The first day you started taking it was the day of the burial, and you can’t tell what’s depression & what’s normal sadness given the situation.

You help go through his things feeling vaguely guilty, but are handed a photo album you’d been seeking, needing. You aren’t in the photos – the people in the album were peripheries when the pictures were taken. But you need to see them. You need to see the opposite of what you buried. You need to see the young man full of promise, sometimes laughing, living life & traveling. Clearly in love with the photographer.

You pay extra attention to the last season of “Lost”, because the sight of familiar faces running around in the jungle is comforting & you actually think you understand what’s going on.  That’s how hard you’re concentrating.

You try to fake normalcy for each other’s sake.  Sometimes it works.

And by ‘you’, I mean ‘me’. I Me Mine.*


*thank you, George Harrison

Night Watcher

As you’re reading this, my brother in law is actively dying of cancer.  He may go today, tomorrow or next week, but we’re preparing for the worst.  Anything more is a gift of sorts.

I fought internally over the past 24 hours regarding writing about it.  For some of you, you’ve been with me (us) on this trip since January when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.  For many of you, this may be weird & sad news.  I hadn’t written about it because Matt is adamant on keeping his condition fairly private.  At this stage of the game, all bets are off.

In the late fall & early winter, prior to this diagnosis, that commercial ran on TV often (any maybe it still does, we don’t have TV right now), with that guy.  You know the one: “Forty six years olllllllldForrrrrrrty six.  She was forrrrrrty sixxxxxx years old when she died of lung cancer.  I never thought of 23 as middle age.”  We used to mock it endlessly, sending texts amongst ourselves & friends.  Leaving a simple message of “46” on a FB wall, just to bust chops because that commercial was utterly annoying.

The first time we saw it post-diagnosis, Chris threw the remote across the room.  Matt is 43.  The commercial was no longer annoying & mockable.  It was real & present in our lives.

We’ve all been living on borrowed time with Matt.  Through radiation, chemo.  Through hospital stays, emergency phone calls, awkward family moments where things are said that can’t be unsaid.  But Matt’s actual dying still seemed far enough in the future, still nebulous and a fuzzy “later” or “at some point”.

I genuinely like Matt, even though he is sometimes very unlikable.  I’ve known him almost as long as I’ve known Chris – so let’s say 23 years.  I smoked my first cigarette with the Brothers Grim (as the Matt & Chris were known to some) at 16.  Matt talked me through a difficult adolescent identity crisis when I was about 17.  There have been times in the past decade where Matt has been an important person in my world, someone with whom I’ve spent a lot of time.

The sun hasn’t broken the horizon yet.  But the night sky is clear & the stars are bright, planets visible.   I’m keeping my focus on the day ahead.

If you are the spiritual sort of any flavor, please send peaceful & kind thoughts for Matt. For Mom, for Chris, for Michele, for Russ, Maria, Vicky, Dom & Sammy.

Color, Revisited

Six years ago, I wrote this blog post, titled “color”.  Just another little piece of a memory regarding a tie-dyed onesie I’d bought soon after finding out I was pregnant.  More or less.

And until a few days ago, that onesie still resided with my other “Kid birth” stuff.  I noticed it when moving around art stuff.  I shook my head at it when I picked it up.  “It’s time, you”, I muttered.

A tie-dyed romper has no business being a manifestation of my loss.  Who can possibly grieve wearing tie-dye?  The colors spread in a pattern like a flower.  It had become my touchstone of what I didn’t have, and would never have.

This is ridiculous.

My friend is ready pop with her third kiddo.  The tie-dyed onesie is going where it should, to be laughed in & pooped on & encasing a little body who’s ready to grow.  It should bring joy rather than a reminder of sorrow.

While I’m not ready to give up the other hospital bits & pieces, I can let go of these dreams unrealized.


Flying Monkeys

I’ve had a pretty weird couple of weeks.  In my head.  Yeah, Hurricane Irene was a pleasant distraction for a few days.

I’ve had to change my priorities.  I threw myself a big ole’ pity party for myself.  Although pleasant for awhile (I do throw engaging parties in my head), it’s been time to just snap the fuck out of it.  I think I’ve had enough baby/child/motherhood loss for a lifetime.

Moving on.

(I may feel differently next week, of course)

Moving on.

I’ve spent years trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  Some things are just not meant to be.

He & I, we’ve been stuck in this rut.  This constant cycle of mourning, sadness, depression.  There’s a better life out there for us.  I think we need to open up the curtains a bit & see.  Maybe just a little at a time.

It’s okay to re-prioritize. Shake things up a bit.  Coming to a place where I can finally say “I’m okay with not having children”, is a hard, weird road for me.   Perhaps I need to sleep at the Rest Stop for awhile.

Moving on.



My first trip to rehab, back in 1992, I learned about “drug dreams”.  I’d have this very vivid dream of getting high.  When I woke up with a start, I’d check myself, my surroundings, my memory of the previous few hours to discern whether or not it was a dream.

Last night, I had a dream about The Kid.  Not that I was parenting, but we were together.  Talking, laughing.  It was comfortable & easy.  I woke up smiling & the normal household sounds smacked the dream from my head.  It was just a dream, stupid.

Because I was stupid, I gave my son to strangers.  I can’t even believe my own bullshit at this moment of “being the good girl trying to do the good thing”.  The bottom line, I was stupid.  Women before me raised children without a partner, women after.  Like childbirth, it happens every day, and has from the beginning of time.  I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  I mean, a year beyond the unplanned pregnancy.

A few years after The Kid was born, I got married. I waited desperately to have kids, to legitimize my own status: A REAL MOM.  I left my first husband for several reasons, one of which was that it appeared he didn’t want children with me.  I moved & futzed around, treating my body more like a roller coaster than a temple.  Then the infertility.

true story:

several days ago, while i was working in the store, two women came in with their 6 month olds.  i hated them on sight.  faux hippie, tanning bed brown, bottle blondes with their clearly adorable children.  i hated them all.  kids too. (sorry babies)  these stupid plastic bitches co-opting my style & having the nerve to bring their babies to my very public place of employment.  later on i huffed & puffed & blew down the eardrums of those closest to me.

Jealousy? That shit will kill you, girl. I know, neocortex, STFU.

Whether it’s some simple thing my body can’t do, or something I DID to my body while riding the previously mentioned roller-coaster, the result is the same.  I feel cheated, and stuck in No Mom’s Land.

I wanted to opportunity to buy overpriced onesies with kickass graphics.  I know it’s not practical, but who gives a shit? I wanted to dance to motown classics in my living room holding The Baby, singing.  I wanted to be the comforter, the tear wiper.  I wanted to know that those smiles in the photos were for ME.  I wanted to watch my husband fall in love with our perfect little terror (I mean, gorgeous spawn).  I wanted to teach little Malcolm or Ophelia the mysteries of the universe.  And for the love of salsa, I wanted to obtain Membership to the Mommy Blogger Club.

This has been eating away at me, in delicate bites, For years.

For the first time, maybe I’m reaping what I’ve sown. It’s a hell of a harvest.  Black, bitter, hard to swallow.


a year ago i was sitting in a behavioral hospital, medicated to the gills.  while this isn’t something that i advertise in daily life, i’m not exactly ashamed of it either.

i’m no more mentally ill than you.

grief is a tricky little demon.  because i walked around those first few years buying into the dream of OA, i couldn’t see the big picture.  i didn’t grieve, because this was GREAT!  the best option, because The Kiddo “deserved someone better than me”. when the fog lifted in full a few years ago, it was an unfortunate bitch-slap.

i started howling.

not baying at the moon in the backyard, but internally.  hence the ulcers, the years of stomach problems in general, the gradual settling in of deep depression.  i still believed that the people in my life who love me didn’t want to hear how much emotional pain i was suffering., how i hurt.

i’ve learned somewhere along the way that some external howling isn’t such a  bad thing.  literally.  i’ve waded in some deep water, howling my fucking head off in my therapist’s office.  it has allowed me to get to the root of some issues, to say things that i’ve buried because i believed it would make me a lousy person if they came to light.  through the tears & the sobbing & the inevitable gnashing of teeth that come with my particular brand of howling, i’m finally getting somewhere.

adoption has become part & parcel to who i am.  finding a proper place for it has been the tricky part.  fortunately, there is & always been plenty of space for the Kiddo.

fish knives

“how was therapy?” one of my dearest “on-line” friends asked.

“I’m gutted, filleted” i responded. “my entrails are lagging behind”.

I’m becoming increasingly agitated with adoption in general, more frustrated with my own experiences. i didn’t read the fine print.  in fact, i didn’t even KNOW there was fine print.  silly birth mother-to-be, there’s always fine print.

my fine print reads something like this: in addition to your already low self esteem & uncertainty about your future:  you may or may not have a good relationship with the people to whom you gave your child, your child may or may not want anything to do with you, you may eventually suffer traumatic consequences as a bonus for doing “the best thing” (lucky YOU!), you may suffer secondary infertility (super BONUS!), you may be prone to bouts of crippling guilt, smothering depression and self directed anger for an indefinite amount of time, the rosy picture of open adoption (everybody WINS!) may or may not apply to you.  in short, you may pay and pay and pay and pay and pay (forever & forever, amen) for your attempted redemption of your indiscretion.

i spat these words, practically verbatim, in a fit of rage & tears at Samantha at our Tuesday session.

“how long do i have to pay for this?” i shrieked at her, not caring for a moment how i sounded, not caring that I’d have to go back into the lobby with my tear streaked face in a few moments.  a rare moment of emotional freedom.

Samantha tried to find an analogy, tried to make it work in her mind to say something helpful.  and she couldn’t.  i can’t fault her for that.  there is no equivalent, no parallel experience.

i don’t believe for a second that this is a universal experience.  there are open adoptions that work.  mine is just not one of them.

figments, fragments, spies and lies

shortly after the Kiddo was born, i was faced with a new dilemma. what do i CALL him? i felt uneasy and a fraud calling him “my son”. i signed the TPR, after all. i signed away any claims i had to call him “my” anything.

i remember bringing it up to Trusted Ally one afternoon, while i was standing in the parking lot, smoking.

she responded that i could call him “my son”, or “my birthson” or simply “Kiddo”. i tried “birthson” on for size and found it utterly ridiculous and redundant. and since i felt like a Motherhood Imposter with “my son”, i didn’t call him anything other than “Kiddo” for years.

as i searched the internet for guidance, for kindred spirits who had endured the same grief as i had, i believed the hype that i read from some adoptive moms, that “just because you give birth doesn’t make you a mother. that a mother, a REAL mother, is the one who is there everyday, the one who stays up all night with sick kiddos, etc…”. well, that sealed it. i wasn’t real, genuine.
the state reissues birth certificates, making us invisible, non-existent.
at some point, when the Kiddo was probably around six or seven, i began to call him “my son, The Kiddo, that-i-placed-for-adoption-at-birth”. it was my gentle way of “outing” myself to company that i felt could take it.
in the past few years, something inside me shifted. does a piece of paper and a court appearance change what we all know to be true? the Kiddo is my son. always has been, always will be. i bear the scars, i have the memory of carrying him, of birthing him. i am no more a figment of anyone’s imagination than the house you live in, the car you drive.
i am REAL. and i will always be a REAL mother even though i am not parenting the Kiddo.
(thanks to Kim for the push)

motherhood interrupted

one of the things i spoke at length about with Samantha was the first few months post-placement. i’vewritten about this before, in an earlier version of this blog, some 4 years or so ago.

you try fighting nature. and most of us birth/first mothers do, during pregnancy and after. i think its one of the greatest unspoken battles that we face. many of us try to outwit it by logic and pragmatic reasoning. maybe some of us do beat Mama Nature, but i suspect she wins in the end.
“i considered the baby already belonging to the soon-to-be adoptive couple”
“i didn’t want to see the baby, because i was afraid i might change my mind”
“when the baby started to cry i gave him/her to the nurse because i couldn’t be the one to comfort him/her”
“i didn’t name him/her because…”
and so on and so forth. i read these snippets all the time here in the blogosphere. and i’ve uttered many of them myself when pregnant with the Kiddo and shortly thereafter. because i was going to out-think all of this grief. because i was smart. you can see how far THAT got me.
the fact remains that our bodies anticipate this new life. we’re set to nurture, to feed, to comfort. i considered the Kiddo already “belonging” to Betty and Barney. but it didn’t stop me from doing some odd nesting rituals. it didn’t stop my hormones from raging in a predictably pregnant fashion. it didn’t stop my milk from coming in. and it didn’t stop my aimless wanderings for months (or years) afterwards, looking for something to fill the void of the child i had just nurtured and loved for nine months.
i remarked to Samantha that in giving away my son and my motherhood, i felt like i somehow gave away part of my womanhood. “talk about that”, she prodded.
birth/first mothers hear so often that they’re “selfless and brave” for placing. for allowing another woman (or man) the opportunity of motherhood (or parenthood). i know i heard that repeatedly, like a mantra, from the people around me. that i had given Betty and Barney the “greatest gift”. meanwhile, i was stuffing tissues into my bra in the bathroom to stop my breasts from leaking and wondering when the baby schwag samples would stop arriving at my apartment door from some mailing list i unwittingly joined.
while i appreciated the kudos on some level – i suppose they made me feel better for a moment – i couldn’t hold those sentiments. or feed them. or hug them. or burp them. or love them. i had nowhere to go with the feelings that my previously pregnant body and mind naturally produced. i was supposed to be a mother, according to my body. and this is where i told Samantha that i felt like i gave away a part of my womanhood, by nulling and voiding my motherhood.
i’d lie in bed at night, running my hands over my deflated and fat stomach, feeling lonely. missing something. it didn’t matter that i traveled or got a promotion or got married. i’d smile and blather about the greatness of open adoption. but my body knew otherwise.