To the childless mother
To the childless mothers of the world, I am one of you. I know your pain. There is no greater pain than to know that you have children in the world who are surviving, thriving, living, because of you and yet you had nothing to do with their current successes. If you've willingly or unwillingly given a child up for adoption, this is for you. If you have lost step-children due to divorce, it's for you too. If you've lost a child to death, believe me when I say that pain is less, because I've been through both.
My name is Crystal. I have eight (8) children. Of those beautiful people, I see one regularly, and most days I don't think he'll shed a tear if I were to die tomorrow. My oldest was raised by my parents from infancy. I was as active in her life as I could be, but legally and emotionally, she's more like an annoying little sister who never listens to me. She and I tried living together after she graduated high school and turned 18. That... didn't work out. The next three: a boy (now almost 16), a girl (now 13) went to live with my sister when my youngest at the time passed away due to brain injuries he sustained while I was pregnant with him. He was a year old. (The older kids were 8, 5, and 3). He was a miracle. He lived far beyond what the doctors expected.
I lost my mind, as a lot of parents do when they lose a child. I lost my son and daughter because my sister/my children's keeper received a load of bad information from a former coworker of mine and proceeded to sue for custody. Being the naive grieving young mother under suspicion I was, I didn't put up a fight. I wouldn't have known how to fight even if I'd had I the strength to do so. I told myself it would be better for them. After all, my sister had a bigger, better house, complete with cable. She had more familial resources and support than I'd ever had. She could and would take better care of them than I could ever dream of doing myself. Better for them. I'll move on with my life without them.
I did try. Lord knows I tried to remain some sort of fixture in their life, but it was never good enough for those who professed to know better... know ME better... know my MOTIVES better... know my ACTIONS better. No matter who I convinced of the fact that I was trying, the person in charge KNEW better. She knew better than the doctors, psychologists, social workers. Of course she did. And her word was literally the law according to the documents written up in my absence and signed by me under duress (because, really, DID I have a choice?) gave her the authority.
Slowly, I faded away from them. First, calling once a week and attending all birthday parties (during which I endured countless cold-shoulders by the other attendee's parents, all of whom only heard the grisliest of details from one side of the story). I called and attempted to interact with teachers and psychologists, which stopped bluntly one day with no explanation. I found out later through some old papers that it's possible that SOMEONE told these people that I'd slowly starved my infant to death. Gee. That would make me not want to talk to someone, for sure. Good thing the autopsy revealed what I already knew: my son died as a result of the traumatic brain injury he sustained in utero. But upper-middle class socialites in Texas don't know (or likely care) about such extraneous details.
After my daughter's 4th birthday party, I met a man, fell in love, decided it might be time for me to move on. My sister didn't take to that well. She quite literally forced him to leave during a family Christmas celebration (one which seemed like a good idea to the children's therapist, but what do therapists really know anyway?). After that, I found out I was pregnant with my fifth child. Great.
I kept in contact with my sister, not revealing my pregnancy until it was far too late to hide it. I attended what would be the final birthday party I'd be invited to for the kids. I can't remember if it was for my boy or for my girl. All I remember is having to sit the whole time because it was advised that the kids didn't know about my pregnancy until after the health of the baby was determined. At that point, I already knew my youngest son would be abnormal at birth. He had a congenital defect that was easily corrected with numerous surgeries.
So they met. The older girl and boy met the infant with the facial abnormality. The first and only time they met. The kids were pretty nonchalant about the whole ordeal, the youngest being an infant recovering from his first surgery and the older two more concerned with Christmas presents and candy. That was the last time I saw them. I delivered some Easter baskets the following spring, but they weren't home.
The telephone arguments I had with my sister were escalating, undoubtedly overheard by them, undoubtedly affecting them. I could feel them dividing their loyalties, the boy increasing in anger towards me; the girl desperately trying to figure out how to not call me "Mommy" without upsetting me. I had to make a decision. I could either sue for custody (three years later, wasn't going to win), I could acquiesce to my sister's/their guardian's increasingly unreasonable demands and restrictions, or I could remove the core problem from the equation: me. If I wasn't around, no more arguments, no more broken promises, no more heart-wrenching conversations about how or why not this or that. They could be mad at me. They could hate me. They could live without me.
Slowly, I stopped calling them. Then, I stopped. All that was left for me was this tiny high-risk, high-maintenance baby. Several years later, it was obvious that he was autistic. Through the relationship I had with my baby's father, I had another son-a stepson I loved dearly. He too was taken away from me by his mother, by the legal system that is prejudiced towards women. I still see pictures of him from time to time, but that's it. Another child I cared for taken from me. I was left alone to deal with this autistic child, a child who has limited affection for me and little to none for anyone else. Like I said, he would be over my death in a week, should something happen.
My relationship dissolved, and I was left with my youngest--alone. It was nice for a time, but then the reality of that loneliness hit me like a stone to my chest. And I sank. Down. Down. Down. Lower. Lower.
I started putting myself back on the market. Several dates from HELL and one pseudo-relationship with a married man later, I realized how little I actually value myself. I realized that the life I was living was no life at all. Because I had nothing to show for it, other than being hailed as an amazing mom to a special-needs child. I realized that my son deserves better than that, and began my search again.
I met my current husband, who had two children. We love. We fight. We see the kids on weekends (now, after a lengthy battle and child welfare involvement). I love those kids as I do my own. But the hole still remains. I look at my step-daughter and crave my daughter. My step-son reminds me so much of my older son that it aches.
I love them, my little family.
The pain isn't gone. It gets worse as milestone birthdays are reached without me. It gets worse each time we have to reluctantly return the step-kids back to the place where we know they are treated harshly, neglected by the one person they love the most--their mother. It gets worse each time I sit down to write with tears in my eyes and my son sits next to be oblivious to my pain, because he simply cannot process that Mommy is sad. It gets worse each time I try a medication that "will help" but makes me psychotic, or suicidal.
I persist. I have a very understanding husband and two very supportive and understanding friends. I persist for them.
I write. It's the only way to get any amount of pain out, temporarily. I sing. Because music has always been a big part of my life and can sometimes bring me out of my hole.
To the childless mothers of the world, know that you're not alone. Know that your pain is shared. We are the marginalized. We are the demonized. That says more about the marginalizers and the demonizers than it says about you. Only you know your story. Only you know what you tried. Only you know your motives. Don't let them win. When everything else is hopeless, don't let them win. When your children refuse the opportunity to talk to you after 7 years' of silence, don't let that be the final say.