This post is the sixth in a series that starts here.
It was 1980, I was 20 years old and had just given birth to my second son, who was in foster care until his adoption was finalized. I had kept the pregnancy and birth Top Secret except from my mother and sister.
Now I moved forward with my life as if nothing had ever happened, and I never gave it a second thought.
Haha! Just kidding! That was never going to happen.
Six weeks had to pass before the adoption would be finalized. I suppose that was to ensure I wouldn’t change my mind. I didn’t. I gave birth on a Sunday and walked out of the hospital that afternoon. Finals started the following week, so I was back in school studying for and taking exams the next day.
Once I finished exams I had to study for the big test that would make me a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. There were lots of other distractions to keep me busy and keep my mind off of Isaac. I would think of him as “Isaac” for the next 20 years.
I got the highest scores in my class, so I won an all-expenses paid trip to the National Occupational Therapy convention in San Antonio, Texas. This was a big deal for someone who lived in public housing, took the bus everywhere, and washed laundry by hand in the bathtub.
Six weeks passed. I went to the courthouse. In the courtroom it was just me, The Creep, the judge, and about 50 strangers who were there for other cases. The Creep and I didn’t speak. This would be the last time we would ever see each other. He was pleased, I was sure, that he’d be off the hook for child support—not that he paid any for Vince.
There’s a psychological phenomenon called dissociation in which you seem to separate from your own body because you are under so much stress. This must be what happened to me, because it was like I was a spectator to myself. It was like I was sitting in the jury box, watching the judge lean forward and ask, “Do you know what you’re doing, miss?”
“Yes,” I replied.
Again, like when I signed the papers in the hospital, it was as if I was watching a mannequin hand sign my name at the bottom of the forms.
It was over in 10 minutes. I stumbled, dazed, out of the courtroom with the official-looking order that said Termination of Parental Rights at the top and my signature at the bottom.
I went to San Antonio, which was my introduction to the concept of “open bars” at conventions. Free drinks! I drank all night, then slept by the pool all day until the bar opened again. What a great professional opportunity!
I came home and kept drinking. School was over so I had all the time in the world to spend with Vince. Except that my relationship with him had changed. I had gone from doting, passionately-engaged mother to detached, emotionally-absent caretaker. I escaped by cleaning the bathroom, applying for jobs, reading thick novels, scouring the kitchen sink, making lists of things, and drinking.
I kept busy, in part, to blot out the fact that I kept hearing the sounds and smelling the smells of a hospital delivery room. I knew from psych classes that sometimes the mind reacted like this under severe stress—I wasn’t psychotic—but it worried me. What next—would Dr. G and her residents show up in my bedside?
Vince had never been needy before but now he started whining and hanging on me and it really got on my nerves. He was 18 months old; was this some kind of annoying phase? I tried to gently put him off but that only seemed to make him want more attention. Finally, I lost it. I shoved him and yelled, “Get away from me!” He tumbled to the floor, whimpering.
I was horrified and rushed to comfort him, pulled him onto my lap and rocking him. Was this the future we had to look forward to?