Life after baby was strange for both my mother and I. We became even closer than we were before and I think it had to do with both of us having our hearts broken first by our beloved men, then with the adoption of my first child, her first grandchild. We relied on each other heavily for the following year. She was supportive and also wanted me to look into taking action against the State of Missouri for their terrorist like treatment of me. I refused, I did not want to be in front of one more person explaining my life. I was done explaining me to people I did not know. I wanted to just move on and try to live life the best I could. We kept in touch with my daughter and her parents were excellent about sending updated pictures and letters. I cannot even begin to tell you how comforting those envelopes were when we would see one in the mail box. My mom and I would sit for hours and look at her, then get out the photo albums and compare the genes within our family tree. It was astounding how much she looked like me. I am not kidding, she was the spitting image of me in the face with dark hair and olive toned skin. She was so beautiful and in every single picture was a gigantic smile on her face. She looked truly happy, so comfortable in her home with her family, it was hard not to smile through the tears of missing her. I had proof in my hands that she was a loved and spirited child.
But at the same time, it was also kind of sucky to know that she was so happy without me. I couldn't help but think 'Will she ever know how much I think about her? Will she ever know that I am only doing what I thought would be best for her? Can she ever forgive me for not raising her, hugging her daily, showing her the world myself?" These were questions that were blatantly on my face because my mother could see it.
"You do know that you are very brave, don't you?" my mom would ask me. I would usually just nod and blow off the comment.
She asked me often until ... "No. I do not feel brave." I responded one time.
"Well, let me tell you something. I could never have done what you did for that baby girl. Matter of fact, I am not sure that I know anyone who could have done that. I am a strong woman who has been through a lot. But you have seen much more that I ever did at your age and I am amazed at how you show me everyday what it is to be brave in the face of heartache. I know that you may not see it now, but you truly are my hero. I am proud of you and will always be proud of what you did."
I was floored, She was the one who was always strong, I thought she was brave. Here she is telling me how proud she was of me, that she wishes she could be more like me. WOW. I was stunned, and so filled with love for her.
"Mom, I am brave only because you taught me to be that way. You have shown me respect and love in the face of humiliation and ridicule. I would never consider myself any braver than you."
She looked at me and smiled. "But you were strong enough to ask for help when so many others would not have. You were smart enough, and mature enough to admit that you could not provide for your child. I know that I could never ask for help like that."
I had never thought of it in that way before. I realized that she was right. Asked for help. By God I did ask for help, and I also expressed my thoughts on how I thought that it would be better for my daughter to always know where I was, and who I was. Conversations like this were frequent and often so healing for me. She never shied away from talking about the adoption, she welcomed it encouraging me to get things off my chest. She should have been a therapist.
In the following year I slowly began to try to return to normal life. I was beginning to feel depressed again and I was trying to use what I had learned in treatment to get back on my feet. I started to spend more and more time with my good friends who all knew about the adoption, but kind of shied away from talking about it. Not that they did not want to hear me, I just think they did not know what to say to help me. Heading into the summer I found myself hanging out with my friend Bruce much more than usual. It all started when we discovered that we both liked hockey...correction, we loved hockey! I had recently moved out of my mom's in an attempt to remove myself from such familiar settings, and I move in with my dear friend Marie that I worked with. She had a boyfriend and was at his house often, unless we were working at the restaurant together, so most of the time I had the place to myself.
Bruce started coming over all the time because we really did get along well and we made each other laugh. I had been friends with him since high school so we had many of the same friends. He had a girlfriend for a long time, but she had moved to another state at the beginning of the summer which freed up some of his time and I think he just like hanging out with a female friend to replace the loss he was feeling. He was tough, hilarious, likable, gutsy and yes, kind of cute. He was a true friend ... loyal beyond what you could ask for, always had your back and never judged people based on what was on the exterior. He did not care what others thought about his brass personality, he brought life to a party and mischief to the most ordinary task with a laugh that was quite contagious. It wasn't until the end of the summer that we both discovered, at about the same time, that we were madly in love. I mean it really snuck up and just bit us in the ass. Literally. One day I woke up thinking...'Wonder what I will do today?" and the next day I woke up and thought...'Wonder if Bruce is thinking about me? Wonder what he is doing today?' He will tell you that it started long before that, that he always thought I was intriguing. He just saw me in a different light over those warm nights in my apartment partying with friends. He says that we were attracted to each other long before that night. That amazing night when we said ... 'Let's see where this goes.' As I sit here writing this we are heading into our 19th year of loving each other. I would say it has gone pretty well so far.
One problem. Pretty Sande. She was not thrilled that I was living out of the house, and now she was seeing that Bruce and I were a little more than friends. She loved Bruce. She would laugh and laugh with him, she got the biggest kick out of his attitude. He was originally from New York and that fascinated her as well. He was a good friend of mine for several years, through thick and thin, and he never let me down. What's not to like? Well, this all changes when you begin to date that friend. My mother did a quick 180 on Bruce. She did not want her baby to get hurt like before, and with the added factor that I was still fragile from the adoption, to say that her radar was on mother-overload would be an understatement. She was cordial to him when he would come to visit, but she was not as warm before. I think it was her way of letting him know that no matter how many laughs they had before we started dating she was not going to let her daughter get her heart broken without her trying to prevent it. She was protecting her cub, but the cub was not appreciating it. I was thinking to myself that I had lived a lifetime in the last three years and if he is what made me happy then I was going to explore that happiness to the fullest extent. I was a little aggravated because I knew that he was the one, I already knew that I was never going to love another man the way that I loved him. I had learned from the women in my family and I made sure that I was expressing myself honestly and openly with him. There was not too much that he did not already know about me, so there really was nothing to hide. It was a great honest start to a romantic and perfectly fitting courtship.
Fast forward to when I learned I was pregnant with the twins. My mother was again, so supportive of me. I told her that Bruce was willing to let me handle all of the adoption and he would do whatever it took to support me. She was beginning to see that we were really in love with each other and she was impressed that he did not fly the coup when he heard the word "pregnant". She could see that he was a gentleman and wanted to take care of me the best he could. She was proud of him for making the decision with me, and even prouder that he in no way treated me any differently because I was pregnant. As I prepared to leave for California she started to show signs of stress at the airport. I told her that I was going to be fine, I would be staying with family and if I ever needed her that I would call. She made me promise to call her at least once a day, if not more. She was just wanting to make sure that I had an outlet, that I had support and that I knew that she supported me yet again. I was a little nervous to go to Cali. I knew my cousins there, but I had never really spent any length of time with them. It was always in passing when they came to visit, or at family reunions so the access was limited. Bruce was very sad that I was leaving and he thought that he should be doing more. I told him the best thing he could do for me was to check in with my mom from time to time and make sure she was doing okay. He agreed, although he admitted that he was a little frightened to do so. She was still kinda giving him the cold shoulder.
I fit right in with my cousins and just like they said they would...my mother and Bruce called every single day to check on how I was doing. I was loving the beauty of California and also loving the time away to really access what I needed to do to prepare my mind and soul for the second adoption. The morning I went into labor I tried desperately to get a hold of Bruce to tell him it was time. I was too late, he had already left for work and this was before cell phones and pagers. He would not be able to get to Cali in time for the birth, so I told my mother to just get on a plane in the morning and come to Cali without Bruce. He did not seem to mind, I think he was nervous about the whole thing. He knew what I had been through with my daughter and he was worried about how I would handle this adoption. The twins were born in the evening with no epidural, no drugs, it was an all natural delivery as per my doctor's orders. They were healthy and good sized, breathing well and quite long for twins. Their parents were right there in the room with me to witness their boys coming into the world. That was so wonderful for me to see. (For the full story please see Happy Thoughts #3 on this blog). I was so relaxed compared to the Missouri adoption. I felt like it was a completely different world there.
When I woke up the next day, sitting there next to me with a smile on her face was my mother. I looked at her, and I began to cry. She held me and sat with me for most of the morning. When they brought the babies in, she was a puddle of mush. She cooed and sang little songs. She took endless pictures and told me how handsome they were. She met the parents and told them that they did not ever need to worry about her daughter changing her mind, she reassured them that I was a very strong woman. We spent our time with the babies until they were released to go home. We said our goodbyes, hugged them one last time and told the parents to make sure to tell them just how much they were thought of and loved from afar. With joy in their hearts, they agreed to keep in touch as much as they could. Then we watched as the twins left to begin their new lives.
After the births, my family could tell that I need a pick me up and they decided a nice get away up North would do the trick. We traveled up the Pacific Coast Highway and what a beautiful drive it was. I had never seen such amazing landscape before. Beautiful green mountains on my right, aqua blue and emerald green ocean to my left topped off with just gorgeous sunsets. We traveled far enough to see Monterey and Carmel and I just could not believe that I was still in the United States! The scenery was brilliant, and it did take my mind off of the heartache that lied beneath my bright smile. It was in that trip that my mother did everything to make me laugh and forget my worries. My very favorite story about my mom happened on that trip. We spent the night in a cabin in No Cal with no phone, no radio, and horror or horrors...no TV! If there was one thing my mother loved it was her nightly programs. My mom was freaking out, so she fashioned a tin foil antentae hat to try and channel something in her head. Sitting there, with the shiny, mishapen hat on her head, she began staring at the ceiling. Soon she said..."Pat, I would like a T please....okay, I would like to buy a vowel, an A!" She was imagining that she was watching Wheel of Fortune. Just hilarious!!!!
I could not wait to get back home. I was just dying to see Bruce, to hold him, to squeeze him, to tell him how much I missed him. We returned on a Sunday and I knew that he was playing hockey. My mother could tell that I was chomping at the bit to see him so she told me to "go, go see that man of yours." I drove my car to the rink and walked in undetected. I spotted him taking a break and walked up behind him. Our friend was there talking to him and he looked shocked to see me standing there, but the shock soon turned to elation as he said..."Well hello stranger! Great to see you!" Bruce had no idea who R was talking to and he turned around. Our eyes met. He threw off those stinky gloves and grabbed a hold of me and just held me. I did not care that he smelled like the entire locker room of the St. Louis Blues. It was like breathing in freshly blooming jasmine on a warm summer night. I felt safe. I felt loved. I felt like a whole woman again. We stood there for what was like an eternity just embracing each other after such a long absence.We stood back and just gazed at each other, never saying a word. Finally the silence was broken and R said...
"So I guess this means that Bruce is done playing hockey?"
To which Bruce replied..."You got that right brother. I will see you in a couple of days."
He grabbed his bag and as we were leaving R said, "Well, it's good to have you home Kels. We sure did miss you."
I thanked him and walked arm and arm out of the rink with my loving man. We were ready to start our lives again. And even though we had a rough road ahead of both of us, we were feeling rather optimistic about our future. I think I smiled for the next two days just being at his side. I thought that I loved him before I left. The following year would prove to be filled with more love, learning and laughter. And that is just what the doctor ordered.
Next chapter...I leave home for good and Sande hears words that she has longed to hear for years and years.