The day in court that they terminated my parental rights I asked my daughter if I could kiss her. She looked over to check if her foster mother would let her. Then she put her head down. I went and gave her a big kiss on that soft little cheek of hers. Her face lit up. Then her lawyer took her away. It was the last time I saw my daughter.
This was a date I thought I would remember forever. Yet, I have not uttered it since that day in court. It is too painful to remember the loss of my dreams. There was nothing more I wanted in life than to be a mother.
Our Relationship, Closed in a Box
My daughter was taken from me when she was 10 years old because I struggle with mental illness, and because, at the time she was taken I was addicted to opioid painkillers that a doctor had prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis. I was a loving mother who did so much with her daughter, including reading, cooking, knitting, volunteering at her school and going on train trips, which my daughter loved. But opioids made it harder for me to control my mental illness or to protect my daughter from it, even though no one knew I was addicted but me.
A month after my daughter was removed from home the court ordered two psychiatric evaluations. At the time, I had managed to stop using opioids, but I still suffered from post-acute withdrawal syndrome, a brain chemistry imbalance that can happen after long-term substance abuse. It makes your brain foggy and can take a year or so to resolve.
The evaluations had absolutely nothing positive to say about me or how I had cared for my daughter, even though my daughter was on the honor roll in a wonderful school, and was a thriving child with many people that loved her. These evaluations brought me so much pain. I asked myself: How could someone know me well enough in such a short time to be so critical and judgmental of my character? It felt like a formality. Yet their opinions mattered so much.
I thought about my daughter. If her mother is a piece of shit then what does that make my daughter think about herself?
My daughter’s foster mother had a brother who is an attorney, and an ex who is a social worker who had worked with CPS for about 25 years. She came prepared like a fighter trained for the fight. Because my daughter was 10 when she went into care, she had the right to refuse to have visits with me. Her foster mother said it was what my daughter wanted but I read my file and found letters to show that my daughter was heavily persuaded not to see me.
Unfortunately, my assertions about this only turned the court more against me. They said speaking up about this matter was inappropriate. I ask you: How is a mother to advocate for her child under these circumstances? My court-appointed lawyer seemed just like a laundry, there to smooth out the wrinkles. In court, I spoke the truth, my truth. But the court expects you to show complete and utter deference, even though it is a broken system.
My throat hurts when I feel the pain of my words stuck. How I want to scream.
I saw the lawyers and social workers shove my relationship with my daughter into a neat box and close it. They sealed the box and stored it away on a shelf in a dark room. Me, my words, my everything is closed in that box. My words are history.
I Work to Vindicate Myself
It has been going on six years since I last saw my daughter. I have done many good things in my life since I lost my parental rights. I went back to college one year after my daughter was taken. I felt desperate at that time and wanted to distract myself from the ominous feeling that my parental rights were going to be terminated.
In court a psychologist stated about me: “She will fail at everything she attempts. She is masochistic.” But I know myself and my work ethic is strong. I may be taking off from a masochistic platform to dive into deep waters, but I am a great swimmer. They took my baby after I had worked so diligently to care for her.
If I live long enough to earn my bachelor’s degree and to see my daughter again I will feel so vindicated.
I am still in college. I am also a talented knitter and tailor; I knit and sew constantly. I have also saved up and invested in industrial sewing machines. I am a cottage industry. I am a workaholic. I try to use up my time so I do not miss daughter.
Despite all the good things I have done, I ruminate about my daughter often. I wallow in my guilt. I am that cow that has four stomachs that chews her food over and over again. I wish my daughter could have seen me fight to regain my life. I am a valuable person and I love my daughter more than life itself.
Our Mistakes Don’t Make Us Failures
I have repressed certain painful and shameful events and feelings from my past. For example, I repressed the shame of having been a rape victim. I repressed the pain of having been bullied by my own mother. But all of these events have made me a kinder more understanding person. Our mistakes, even huge ones, can teach us more than all of our successes. Our children need to see that our mistakes don’t make us failures. I would give my life for my daughter. Does the court look at that kind of love?
The box that they sealed that day in court is sitting in a dark room on a shelf. Hopefully, someday a curious mind will wonder what’s inside of it and my words can be discovered. I hope that my daughter can discover those words and understand me—and herself—better.
A Month of Tears
My daughter turned 16 on July 30, 2016. That was really hard. I know she misses me, no matter what milestones and rites of passage her adoptive mother marks with her.
I had once dreamed about giving my daughter a party and inviting her closest friends. It was a dream I had so many years ago as I held her as a baby. I had planned to spoil them. Let them have a nice dinner and a big sleepover. I thought of it as the beginning of her independence.
Instead, I sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers to my daughter’s address. I hope she was able to enjoy them. I do not know if she receives any of my letters or packages because I never hear from her.
July was a month of a lot of tears.