Me: Hi Ella(name changed for protection). I just want to apologize for how I behaved when you were growing up. I’m learning that some of the things I did hurt you and your family and I did not respect them and I apologize for that. I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me. I love you very much and am learning more and more about how to change. i’m becoming a better person. I promise.
I never considered my children’s birth parents while raising children. I didn’t really care about their feelings. In my mind, I was doing what was best for the child. In my mind, I was saving the child from a horrible situation. In my mind, I was protecting them from all that “could happen if they stayed.”
I was, and still am a selfish woman who really does want the best for the children she is raising. And at the same time, know that she can’t go back and undo it.
I was raised by white parents who always told me that if they had not adopted me, I would have probably died in the mud of Haiti’s soil. So I grew up with this mentality, thinking that if I had not taken my kids in, as foster children, they would have become pregnant or worse, died.
Regardless of whether this was true or not, the way in which it was handled was extremely wrong. This put the first parents in a place of distrust, and unequivocal inability. I can imagine this made them feel uneducated, unloving and unable to provide for their children.
Regardless of how they felt, I didn’t care. At 25 years of age, I fulfilled my promise to a little girl whom I had bonded with at birth. She was my Larimar (rare and precious stone) and I had made her a promise that once I graduated from college, I would return to her and be her second mom. Except in my mind, the word “second” was not part of the equation. I wanted to be her mom because somehow, I thought I was better than her actual mom. Due to many factors, I thought that I was more important, smarter, and more equipped to raise a child….albeit on my own.
And so I did that. I made “good” on my promise and the minute the plane landed, the first thing I did was call this child over the phone. She was 10 years old at the time and the connection I had with her was so strong…one that I can’t really describe so I tried to write about it in my book A Failed Adoption: Who is Your Larimar? She was my savior in a way. She came to life just as I was dying inside. She gave me a sense of purpose, reason, and she gave me the strength to essentially forget about my trials. I felt she was my gift from God-literally. After being abused over and over again, she was the one I clung to.
She came to me after my parents had taken the teen who had abused me, back to his home forever. They said that they no longer wanted to see him and that he was not welcome at our house again. My brother had reported him, telling my parents that he had forced his penis into my brother’s mouth on numerous occasions. At first, my brother was not believed. They thought he was making it up. But then one day the boy looked at my white sister in a “come hither” manner and it immediately scared them. They got rid of him fast. Why they didn’t believe my black brother, but feared abuse of their biological child is lost to me. But either way, he was gone and there would be no more sexual abuse on me or my brother.
But my daughter was born about a year or so after the sexual abuse stopped. And I was stuck to her like birds to a feather. I cared for her, bathed her, spent endless hours with her. She was little, and got used to see me, and she got to know me. I became her god-mother as is common in Latin countries. She and I were inseparable. My heart broke though when my parents sent me to the US for one semester at a time over a period of 4 years. I felt i was losing that connection with “my” child. But each year I returned, she remembered me and we picked up where we had left off-as if nothing had changed. All of my allowance I had saved up went to her clothing, and bottles and shoes and special outings. I was ridiculously and even unhealthily attached to this child. Leaving her each year broke my heart.
And then College came and I had to be gone for longer periods of time. Each time I returned though, we picked up again where we had left off. I promised her that I would always return. And I did. When I graduated in 2006, I returned for good. I returned to live and work where my daughter was and I was determined to make sure that she receive the best education she possibly could. The school she was attending was already being paid for by me, but the education was so poor even though it was a private school. As far as I can remember, she had never gone to public school because I would not allow it. Already I was exhibiting control issues and she was only 5 and 6 years old.
Looking back I realize how little I trusted her parents. I realize how easy it was for me to feel superior to them. I realize how much I wanted to be her entire mom, not just one of her moms. The more I think about it, the more I hate myself for being THAT person.
When she was 10, they gave me custody of her. If she was going to live with me more than just part time, I needed custody of her to be able to add her to my health insurance and to permit her to go to the school I was teaching at. I had to be her legal guardian to be able to give her the benefits she may not have received had I not been her legal guardian. Yes, it is complicated…it is always a complicated mess. But I used coercion.
I had no idea that I was using coercion but I was very familiar with manipulation in general. All my life my narcissistic A-mother manipulated me into thinking and doing things I would not have normally done on my own. But this coercion thing is new to my brain.
When we went to court, I had my A-father go with me. We were dressed professionally and I had hired a lawyer who would represent us. My father is a prominent and well known doctor in our town and he is also known to “help the poor.” He was also very helpful with her family, providing aid when necessary and lending money whenever they need it. My daughter’s father actually worked for my A-father. So we (I) used this to my benefit, not realizing that they really had no choice in the matter. Their clothes were tattered and torn, they could not afford a lawyer nor do I believe they knew they could have had one.
Of course they wanted their daughter to have a life they could not provide for her, but they also just wanted their daughter to be with them. They wanted the help, but wanted her to physically be with them. They mentioned this to the judge but the judged ruled in my favor due to the pressure I now know I put on everyone.
My daughter even had a chance to speak to the judge and she too was convinced and blinded by my coercion. She was 10, and didn’t understand what was going on but somehow I had convinced her that living with me was better. Regardless of what was true or not, I had managed to manipulate the entire situation.
I now had the daughter I had always wanted to raise, not considering in any way shape or form how this would affect her parents. As she got older however, she started to realize that the once every 2 week visits with them was not enough. She started to ask me for more time with them and I become skeptical and hurt.
I started to think she didn’t want to be with me anymore. She wanted what they provided which was lack of discipline, and more freedom. They also loved her very much but I never saw that before. I only saw how the way they would raise her would allow her to get pregnant.
What we experienced together included all of this. She had definitely stepped into the world of partying and having boyfriends behind my back and I wanted to blame someone instead of myself. So I blamed her birth family for allowing her to sneak out when I had entrusted her to them on the weekends. They really did not know how to raise a teenager but neither did I really.
At 14 years of age she started talking to a man (22). Often times in these cultures, it is quite normal for a poor family to give their child away to an older man with the hope that they will care for her and make sure she is fed. So her family was ok with it. When I found out however, all hell broke loose.
I continued to limit her time with them more and more and it was just causing more strain on my relationship with her. I feared that the more time she spent over there, the more “unruly” things she would learn. But I think back and though it may be true, my bigger fear was losing her completely.
There were so many things I did that did not respect her culture. Remember reading about me cutting my daughter’s hair? That is something I never chose to look at in respects to culture. I did not respect the culture in which she was raised and I did not respect her parents. What I did was do what I thought was right and didn’t consider how they felt in the end. Her grandfather passed and her birth mother begged me to baptize her child because she feared that the child would go to hell if she all-of-a-sudden died. I didn’t respect her, I was not raising them catholic because I was not catholic. I did respect her family tradition, religion or heritage. I’m sorry for all of this.
And what happens when people begin to say sorry, heaven opens up. I’m not really one to believe in a heaven or really hell, but I do believe that we can choose to make our world we live in hell, or heaven. When you say “I’m sorry”, you allow heaven to invade the world you live in.
A few days ago I was feeling so pained with the way I had treated my oldest daughter’s birth family that I finally gathered the balls to apologize. I didn’t apologize directly to them, but I did apologize to my daughter. I apologized because I didn’t respect her feelings about the whole thing. I apologized because I tried to make her into a mini-me. I apologized not because I wanted a better relationship with her, but because I wanted her to know that I validate her feelings now more than ever and that I had not when she was younger. I want her to feel whole. I have not taken the step to apologize to her birth family yet, but I promise I will! When you apologize, things are different.
Heaven literally comes to earth when you humble yourself and say “I’m sorry”. There is a weight that is lifted off your shoulders not because you realized you were carrying it, but because you realized you couldn’t carry it any longer. Some people will learn to do better and still choose not to actually do better.
My friend Brina Collins writes about her life as a birth mother (I asked permission to mention her in this post). Every time I read one of her posts and blogs I think to myself “how can I apply how she is feeling to what I have done or am doing as an AP, right here, right now?” And it is amazing how much I learn from Brina’s posts. And there are so many other first parents out there who share their heart….they share it because it helps them, but they also share it because they are hoping it helps us see, touch, hear, feel, and taste what they have been through and are going through now, today.
continued Whatsapp conversation with my daughter (we live in two different countries now) went as follows:
Ella: Mom there is nothing to worry about I love you as well and I am very happy about you. Forgive me as well for everything.
Me: I worry because I want to make things right. You were a child and you did what children do at those ages. So you are not responsible for your actions when you are a child. I was an adult and it’s my responsibility to show you love and sometimes I did not and I’m sorry. And I’m sorry I did not fight for your little sister (she spent 6 years with us) I should have…and for ruby (my 12 year old daughter’s sister who lived with us for 4 months).
Ella: I understand your point mom but you have to understand that you were alone and young and after all, you always wanted the best. It is true that I had some hard times but I learned to forgive and to let things go.
Me: I’m learning too. You are much stronger than I was at your age. I’m glad I’m one of your moms.
Ella: Thank you so much mom and I am proud of you too!
As I raise my 12 year old daughter, I’ve made many different choices in order to not repeat the same mistakes. I hate making mistakes, but when I see that I have failed, I try and do better. It is who I am as a person and it is who most of us are.
When I apologized, heaven came crashing into this sacred place I’ve called my soul. There is something about an apology that changes the way you think, and go about your day. It is not about whether that person actually forgives you back (though it helps), but it is about surrendering yourself to something that has kept you safe and comfortable for so long.
See, I’ve always felt as though I was the better person…but in the end, she was. I want to continue to experience that heaven with her, as it seems as though she found it before I did. She saved me and when she said she forgave me, more of that heaven became part of my life here on earth.