James 4 months
When I was 21, I had my first child. It was probably one of the more difficult challenges I had faced. Both my husband and I were still in college, I wasn’t sure he would stick around, and I had no idea how I would make ends meet. I was scared and unsure of myself. But as it is with all mothers, you fall in love long before you ever hold that baby for the first time in your arms. The fear subsided and turned to excitement, that is until my father stepped in.
I’m sure we all have major regrets when we look back in time. This is one of mine. I wish I knew that I could stand up to my dad. I wish I had known that it is okay to tell him, “no”. I wish I hadn’t felt so scared and helpless. If only I could go back in time and talk to the girl I was back then.
My dad and step-mother sat me down in a restaurant and told me that I would not be able to keep my son. That while I was in college, he would live with them. They would keep him until I graduated from school, which was in two years. I argued against them, but they were firm in their position and refused to back down. I sat there, my face stained with tears, and they both seemed so indifferent to my pain. It didn’t seem to faze them that I was crying. There was no sympathy.
Two months after my son was born, I left him at my dad’s house and returned to college. Everything went downhill pretty quickly. I had been told I couldn’t manage college and raising a baby at the same time, yet Dad found this to be the perfect opportunity to go to grad school. My father did not take care of my son, my 14-year-old brother was in charge of taking care of James from the time he got home from school until he went to bed. I hadn’t left my newborn to be taken care of by a 9th grader, that wasn’t the plan. Added to it, my father never made mention until I went back to school that I would be expected to pay for all of James’s diapers, wipes, formula, and daycare expenses. I’m not sure what the point of leaving James with my father was if there wasn’t any support.
I called home one evening and James was crying in the background. When I asked what was wrong my brother explained that he was upset because he wasn’t being held. He cried the entire 45 minutes I was on the phone, no one ever picked him up. The most painful part was watching my son’s reaction when I came home every weekend. That first evening he wouldn’t look at me, he stayed really quiet and you could see his little gears turning as if he was trying to make sense of things. It would take all weekend for him to warm back up to me and then I’d leave. My brother mentioned one time that James would be really upset and fussy for the next couple days after I left. I knew what we were doing wasn’t good for James. I tried to explain it to my dad but he just scoffed at my words. Then James stopped gaining weight. He went from the 50th percentile for weight down to the 15th. I’d had enough.
Four months later I got an apartment and took on a second job. I brought my son home, and it was the best decision I could have made. But my heart still hurts when I look back on it. I missed time with my son that I could not get back. A lot changes in those first six months. I still remember the pain that I felt upon finding out I wouldn’t be able to keep him, how much it hurt to leave him, and I remember all the tears that were shed. There was rarely a day that I didn’t cry. My throat still tightens when I think about it.
I kept this information from my therapist for the first year we worked together. She found out about it in an EMDR session. She found out a lot in that first EMDR session. I remember her saying, “Well, I learned a few things I hadn’t been made aware of before now.” I cringed a little bit. And then she asked, “Do you want to be in therapy forever?” No, no I don’t. No secrets. That’s a hard one for me. To be honest, the story was too painful to go back and retell. Not to mention I was ashamed of myself for leaving him in the first place. There was a lot of regrets there. Today was the first time I talked about what happened from beginning to end.
Today, we talked about getting back into EMDR. Because I’m a teacher, the perfect timing seems to be now while school is out of session. I was surprised at how difficult the conversation was. She asked what it was that I want to tackle next in the EMDR sessions. My heart began to race, and I couldn’t look at her anymore. “I don’t know. Okay, that’s not true, I do know….” “I know you do. But I also know this is hard though.” It was. I could barely whisper out my response. “I guess the sexual abuse stuff. And Dad taking David is another big one.” She agreed with me. I explained that I was more afraid of EMDR this time around than I was last time and she asked me why is that. “Because it’s easier to talk about Dad than it is the other stuff.” “Well, we can start with your Dad and tackle the other stuff next.” I like that idea, but I also know I’m only putting off the inevitable. I’m still going to have to talk about the rape and being molested as a child, and that’s going to be really, really difficult to do.
She mentioned something today that has me thinking. She noted that I don’t seem to be bothered by what my father did to me as a child, but it’s the things that happened to me as an adult. I need to explore that in my own head a little bit and figure out why that is.