Showing posts with label adoption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adoption. Show all posts

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Two Little Girls

Warning:  This blog post deals with child sexual abuse and might be disturbing to some people.

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Once upon a time there was a man and a woman who were unable to have a baby of their own.  They applied to adopt a baby and in August 1963 their dreams came true, a tiny girl baby was given to them by the state of New South Wales.

Two years later they had the joy of bringing home another little bundle of pink, gifted to them by the State.   A few years later a miracle occurred ... they fell pregnant naturally.   Nine months later another little girl was welcomed into the family.

This family of five eventually moved out of the small flat on top of a garage and into the home which had been built for them.  To all looking on it was a normal happy family, a man and a woman who had been blessed with three miraculous little girls.  They were special.

It should have been perfect.

It wasn't.

Behind the walls of the small fibro home, a father who should have been cherishing the daughters he had been gifted, was abusing that power in the most evil of ways.

A little girl should be tucked into bed, kissed good night and left to dream sweet dreams.   She should feel safe in her bed.

From a very young age the oldest of the little girls started getting special late night visits from daddy.

He was sneaky and only came in after she was asleep.  He would touch her with his hands and his penis, ever so softly in the hope she would stay asleep.  She was, by nature, a light sleeper and would wake up and pretend to stay asleep because she didn't know what to do.  At first she felt comforted by her daddy coming in and spending time with her, but there is a point when a little girl knows that what daddy is doing is not what a daddy should be doing.  This is when a little girl's world turns upside down and she is no longer an innocent little girl.

She would lay awake every night planning how to stop him coming in.  She would get out of bed after she'd been tucked in and leave piles of books and noisy toys in the pathway to her bed.  She would also lie awake as long as she could so she wouldn't wake up to him touching her in places that a little girl should never be touched.

He eventually stopped trying because the obstacles would make too much noise and her mother was sleeping in the room next door.  It didn't stop the little girl from lying awake at night for many years to come, wondering if he would start again.

During the day she managed to hide her bad thoughts away and get on with growing up.  She made friends, went to school and did all the things girls do.  Despite the awfulness of the secret she carried around, she had a full and reasonably happy childhood when she was away from the family home.

On the inside however she was always insecure.  She always had anxiety.  She never felt loved.  She always felt different.  She had a secret no one else had ... or so she believed.

She sometimes thought of telling her mother what her father had done but could never bring herself to do so.   She was scared that once it was said it could never be unsaid and life would change irrevocably for all of them. The strange thing was that even though the life they had wasn't right ... it was the only life she knew and she felt if their lives fell apart it would somehow be her fault.

She didn't know that down the hallway there was another little girl in the house going through the same thing.  She will never know if it was happening at the same time or whether it only started when it stopped happening to her.   For a long time she wondered and occasionally she would almost ask the other little girl, but could never find the right words.

Sexual abuse was never ever talked about in those days and the two little girls really didn't have a name to call what daddy was doing to them.

The two little adopted girls ultimately endured years of sexual abuse at the hands of this man.  This man who applied to adopt children under the guise that he would provide a good life for them.  That he would give them the love and security their natural parents couldn't.  This man abused the trust of the mothers who made the most difficult of choices thinking they were doing the best thing for their babies. This man who never should have been allowed to be a father.

It wasn't until the two little girls were married woman with children of their own that they found out they had both been abused by this man.

Unfortunately they had never been close as sisters and had never supported each other.  In fact the three little girls had never  been close.   They grew up quite a disparate group with the older two spending as much time away from the house as possible.  They were three very different people who shared two parent figures yet each sister led a totally separate life.

The eldest sister spent as much time as she could away from the family, ingraining herself into her friend's families.  She had close friendships which she would maintain for her entire life.  She would grow into a woman who understood friendships yet had no idea how to do love and families.

The middle sister would ultimately lead a troubled life, as she too must have had trouble with love and families.

The younger sister, who was the natural child, seemed okay.

I can only surmise as to how they both feel because this is not their story.  This is my story.  I am the eldest of the three sisters.

When I found out via a chance telephone conversation that my sister had been abused for years by our father everything changed.  I found out that she had made attempts to tell our mother but she was never believed.  Our mother didn't do anything to protect her children.  This was my turning point.

I was a mother and I would have done anything to protect my children.  I could not fathom how our mother could do nothing.  Having that man in my life while my boys were little was always a terrible conflict for me.  I hardly ever saw them and when I did I would never let him hold them nor did I ever let them be alone with him.

The day I found out for sure about my sister It took me ten seconds to tell her that I never ever wanted to see our mother or father again.  It transpired that he had abused my sister's daughter as well and she ultimately had him charged. I declined being part of the court case because I had moved on.  He was found guilty and died before he was sentenced. I never saw him again.

Cutting them out of my life finally gave me the ability deal with this secret I had been carrying around since I was 5 years old.

Dealing with it doesn't mean I can pretend it didn't happen.  I still have occasional flashes of disturbing memories and suspect I always will.  What it does mean is I know it wasn't my fault and I know that there is nothing wrong me.   It also means that I am not reminded of it every time I have dealings with that family.

Walking away wasn't easy ... I did have guilt.  I felt bad for punishing my mother for something my father had done.  She may or may not have known,  I will never know for sure.  But what I do know is she didn't do anything to protect us, especially when my sister had told her.   She is not alone, her natural daughter has always been close to her, and still is... this made it easier for me to walk away.

I am no longer a part of them and after eighteen years I can barely remember what being part of them felt like.   We all deal with things the best way we can ... this was my way.

Why am I writing this tonight?  An old school friend made contact with me today to tell me that my mother was in the hospital ... she had a fall.  I had to read her message a number of times to realise who she was talking about.  I felt strange because I felt nothing.  I felt guilty for feeling nothing.  This is the woman who fed and bathed me and put me through school.  I still felt nothing.  I eventually felt sad ... but only because I felt nothing.   The only thing I felt compelled to do was finally write about why I feel nothing.  I made my decision eighteen years ago and I don't regret it.

What I do regret is not having the ability to say anything when it was happening.  Unfortunately back then speaking up wasn't encouraged or supported.  Anything of a sexual nature was shrouded in secrecy, we were never ever told what sexual abuse was.

We have come a long way in dealing with child sexual abuse and I know if I had been born in this time, I would have spoken up for certain.

We must never stop talking about sexual abuse.

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If this blog post brings up any feelings or concerns that you are unable to deal with ... please call Lifeline 13 11 14 or Adults Surviving Child Abuse
ASCA's 1300 Line operates between 9am-5pm Monday to Sunday EDST*,

should you wish to send an email please email counsellors@asca.org.au

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Metamorphisis of a Blank Blog Page

This post started out in my head being about my new car, then I changed my mind because I didn't want to write an advertorial for Mazda.  Then it morphed into a post about my mother in law who is responsible for my new car, but I couldn't get that to come out right.  I wanted to thank her for giving us the means to buy a new car and to say how much I missed her since she passed away.  I guess I've done that now and it didn't take a whole blog post to do it in.  I then thought I'd write about a place I used to visit on Mt Glorious where I would sit and think, way back when I was trying to work out who I was.  But, then I didn't really know what to say about that.  Who I thought I was or wanted to be thirteen years ago is really not that relevant to the right now. 

So here I am with a blank blog page, some random thoughts and still no idea.   I've been reading a lot of really moving blog posts lately about people going through some really tough times.  There's Tiff and Ivy at My Three Ring Circus and Kim and Oscar at All Consuming.  There is also the amazing Eden at Edenland who has recently been to the famine in Niger, Africa and is now going through a whole lot of realisations that will most likely change life as she currently knows it. 

As fate would have it, I was just directed to another blog post via Twitter written by Cate Bolt.  Generally I don't think Cate and I are particularly alike, she is far more philanthropic than I am.   However, today I felt like Cate was speaking for me.  I felt my words spilling onto her blog page.  I wanted to scoop those words up and throw them on this blank page. 

I too am adopted.  I too am not a fan of adoption.  I too struggle with who I am.  When I look back at my life I feel like I've always been trying to "find" myself.  Give myself a true identity.  There are specific times where I can pinpoint going through a "phase" of wanting to work out who I was.  I've recently been going through such a phase and I have come to the realisation that it is time to start being who I am right now, instead of pontificating over who I might be or might have been. 

I am who I am.  Just me.  Imperfect and perfect all rolled into one.  I get things right and I also make mistakes.  Sometimes I make monumental mistakes.  But throughout it all I am still me.   Over the years I change, I evolve, I grow, but I don't think this happens because I consciously sit and plan it.  Change happens because of circumstances ... life.  It is what it is.  I am who I am.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about belonging and put down my feeling of not belonging to being adopted.   So many people commented and emailed me saying they felt the same way and they weren't adopted.  It was enlightening for me to see that we all struggle with belonging, even if we always have belonged somewhere and with someone.

After I read Cate's post I also wanted to write that the reason I can't "find myself" is because I'm adopted.   Because being adopted meant I never was myself.  I don't know who I am.  But the funny thing was, as I started to write these words I realised this is not what I think anymore.  The words no longer rang true.  When I read Cate's blog I was nodding and saying "yes, yes, yes" in my head.  However, over the last little while I've come to the conclusion that this is not necessarily the case and as I wrote the words down it really hit home just how much.  

I've spent most of my life blaming the fact that I'm adopted on why I feel disconnected from people.   Why I've never belonged anywhere.  If I take a long honest look back over my life I have always belonged somewhere.  Not necessarily with my adoptive family, in fact mostly not with them.  Not with my birth mother, how could I belong to her when I was never really hers?   However I have still belonged.  I've always belonged somewhere.  There has always been a person or persons who have been there for me.  Someone who has my back.  A friend or a family to take me in as one of theirs.  Never, ever have I been totally alone. 

Yet, if you asked me about the time I left my husband I would tell you how totally alone I was.  No one cared.  I was an island.  It was just me.  The reality is, it wasn't like this at all.  I had a fabulous circle of friends who held my hand throughout that first awful year.  No matter what, they were there for me.  There was never a time I was totally alone.  Yet in my mind I was alone because I didn't have a family. 

I have a family now.  I have my two boys and a wonderful husband.  I have two beautiful step daughters.  I even have a dog.  I have extended family.  I belong somewhere, yet up until recently, I have still felt the need to "find" myself.  I've always blamed this need on being adopted.

I do believe there is a certain disconnect from being adopted that others can never understand.  I personally don't understand the love children have for their parents as I've never had this type of love.  Of course I feel it in reverse for my boys so I have a better understanding than I used to.  I sometimes feel cheated that I don't have the bond that many of my friends have with their parents, but I know many people who were brought up by their biological parents who don't have a close relationship with them either. 

What I have learned in recent times is the disconnect I feel doesn't give me an excuse to feel sorry for myself and it doesn't mean I've been cheated of love and belonging.  It just means I'm different.  We are all different. There is no longer a standard "normal".  

Getting older doesn't just mean grey hair and incontinence pads ... it means getting comfortable in our own skin.  It means blaming our circumstances and other people less and taking full responsibility for our own happiness.  A life well lived doesn't depend on where we originally came from, it depends on where we've been and who we've shared it with. 

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weekend Rewind - How Red Shoes Taught me about Love

Thank you once again to the gorgeous Al from Life in a Pink Fibro for giving us the opportunity to dust off our old posts and give them another airing with her ever popular Weekend Rewind post.  This week it is May.  Last May I wrote this post after a major "aha" moment.   
The original post & comments are over at my old, discontinued blog, Living Life as Me.  You can still go there if you want to check out some of the amazing comments.
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How Red Shoes Taught me about Love 
(Originally Written 4 May 2010)

I had a mum once. I can’t really remember if she was a good mum or a bad mum. She wasn’t very loving. She only told me once that she loved me. That alone doesn’t make her a bad mum. Not everyone can say “I love you” freely. I am guessing she loved me, at some point, in her own way.
I was adopted.  They also adopted another baby 2 years after me.  We were told we were special because we were “chosen”. They told us they got to walk along a row of newborn babies and were able to choose the one they liked the best. Unlike other mothers, who had to keep the one they got whether they liked them or not. I believed that for a long time. Now I don’t.
I don’t have that mum anymore. She didn’t die. But she’s not my mum. I’m not sure she ever was.
I’m an odd person because I don’t really understand how you love a mother.  I’m a mother myself.  I totally get how a mother loves her child. I don’t get it in reverse.
The man I used to call “dad” is dead. I didn’t go to his funeral. I didn’t cry. I felt nothing. I want to say I was glad, but I don’t think I felt that either. He was just a person who died.
He was also a despicable man. He was the type of man who never should have been allowed to adopt a child.  We weren’t special – we were picked for his pleasure.
I was too scared to speak up.  They also had their own daughter after we were adopted. I didn’t want to destroy the only family I knew. I learnt to cope. I would booby trap my bedroom every night so if someone came in things would fall down and wake everyone up. It eventually stopped. The memories didn’t, but the actions did.
When I think back I stopped having any feelings for parents at a very young age – single digits. I never felt safe, protected or loved. I found these things in other families, with friends and with my dog. For a long time I thought it only happened to me.
Sixteen years ago, just before Mother’s Day, my sister admitted she was also a victim of this man we used to call dad. We had never discussed it. She always hated me, thinking he only chose her. I never hated her, but thought he only chose me. He never touched his real daughter.
I was a mum by this stage. I had a 2 year old and a 3 month old baby and constantly worried about protecting them from this man. I never let him hold them and I never left him alone in a room with them. Ever. I did not want these people in my life, even before I found out about my sister. I only kept them there because it was the right thing to do and I didn’t know how to push them away without destroying the life of their real child. No child wants to find out their father is a pedophile.
My sister told our mother on many occasions and she did nothing. She did nothing. I don’t understand that at all.  It is a mother’s instinct to protect her children. My mother failed in that respect.  From that moment she was no longer my mother.
I have purposely told this story in a clinical, unfeeling way, because that is truly how I feel about it now. I’ve dealt with it all and have come out the other end relatively ok.  I haven’t ended up a cold unfeeling person though, nothing could be further from the truth. I am a very warm, loving and giving person. I feel very deeply, have strong relationships with my own children, my partner and my dear friends.
Why am I writing this today? It is coming up to Mother’s Day.  There are two days of the year I don’t enjoy - Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  Admittedly Mother’s Day has become a lot better since having my children but Father’s Day – that’s a whole other story, which I’ll save up for September.
To keep this real, you need to know that I have found my birth mother, and I have a relationship with her. It’s also a whole other story which I will write another time.
I didn’t originally intend for this post to be a reveal all. The purpose was to talk about an “aha moment” where something I haven’t understood for most of my life actually crystallized. Without the background though, this post would not have made any sense.
Most people I know love their parents & siblings dearly. Regardless of how they get on with them, at the crux of it all, they love them. I read blog posts about relationships people have with their mums and I just can’t get it. I can’t feel the feelings I’m supposed to.  If I read a story about a sick child or a child passing away, I’m a mess. I can feel those feelings as if it were my own child. Tell me about a parent or a sibling, and as sad/bad as this may seem I feel nothing.
I recently read a post by @CarolDuncan where she talked about her mother’s funeral. For the first time I felt something. I got it. I understood how she felt, how her mum felt. For the first time I understood a relationship between a mother and a daughter.
I finally realized these relationships weren’t a “one size fits all”. They come in all shapes and sizes. There are loving relationships, there are smothering relationships, there are volatile relationships and there can be no relationship – but always at the crux of it is this special love.
I never understood it because I never had it from my mother. I think a mother grows alongside her children – being a mother is part instinct, but also part learning. I also think the love you feel for your mum grows and changes through the different stages. When you are little you love your mummy because she comforts, provides for and protects you. As you grow older you look up to her because she is still so perfect. Then you reach your early teens and your mum is no longer an idol – she has flaws – you possibly don’t like her as much. You blame her for your problems, you find fault in her parenting. You actually realize she is a person who isn’t perfect. That comes as a shock initially and relationships go haywire for a while. As you progress through your teens to your early twenties you watch your mum come to terms with her children growing up and no longer “needing” her as much, you watch your mum go through menopause (which turns her feral at the drop of a hat), you watch your mum and dad drift apart or maybe find each other again and you gain a different respect for her as you realize just what she gave up to be your mum.  With each year, through each phase the love and respect grows stronger and the bond deepens. This happens whether you are best friends or sparring partners. You have both grown together.
I now understand why I don’t feel these feelings. I haven’t “grown” with someone like that. There is nothing wrong with me, I just didn’t have that opportunity. And you know what? I am totally ok with that. I feel free.
I do have the opportunity to be a mum and I am now doing it with my boys. Whilst I am not the most “conventional” mum around, I believe I am a good mum. My boys and I are growing together on this special journey that only we can share. It can’t be recreated. It is what it is and it is our journey.
Did I mention that I finally get it? I am feeling so free about this. I am ok. I know I can’t recreate something that never existed. I know that even though I didn’t have that relationship, I have very loving relationships with many people in my life.
I also have the chance to be friends with the woman who gave me life. It won’t be the relationship I thought I always wanted – but it will still be special.  Even more so now because I understand how it should be.
I hope that when my time is up my boys will wear red shoes to my funeral. You will need to read Carol’s blog post to understand what that means.
Thank you so much Carol Duncan for freeing my mind of something that has haunted me for years.   We've never met, however you and your mum are now part of the tapestry of my life.   Thank you for taking me on the journey of saying goodbye to your mum - it was special.
Happy Mothers’ Day to all the mums who read my blog. May your journeys be filled with much love, laughs, happy memories and red shoes.


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