Yesterday, I met E’s biological mother (who I’ll call Sally). He is unaware that this meeting was taking place, as his therapist recommended not sharing due to his current emotional fragility (plus, he’s already trying to deal with moving and although he’s excited, it’s also a trigger for him).
I wasn’t as nervous as I expected leading up to this meeting, but boy were my hands sweating as my social worker and I followed Sally’s worker and walked through the cubicles of the agency to the meeting room where Sally was waiting with her lawyer. The door opened, I walked in, and I got my first look at her.
She wasn’t what I expected. She was well put-together, and I could see some of E’s features in her face. As we sat down, she kept her eyes mostly on me, as if soaking me in. I kept my eyes mostly on whoever was speaking, stealing occasional glances at her.
The main purpose of our meeting was to help “un-demonize” me to Sally, in the hopes that perhaps soon she would be willing to sign a surrender/open adoption agreement rather than go through the TPR (the trial will happen regardless for E’s dad, though). Her social worker went around the table and introduced us all, and I noticed Sally was shaking, but I couldn’t tell if it was nerves or a side effect from psychiatric medication. When her lawyer began speaking, and talking about Sally’s fears and feelings coming in to this meeting, Sally started to get emotional. It was quiet, just a little crumpling of her face and a few tears shed, but it really hit me. I didn’t head into that meeting with any kind of anger or negative feelings towards her. E is plenty angry with her, and for that I’m regretful, but I have always felt more pity for her than anything else. She lost E (and his sister, though she is going back) because of neglect, mostly due to mental illness and domestic violence that she couldn’t untangle herself from. She made some poor decisions, yes, and failed to make her children’s needs the priority they should be, but it’s always made me wonder what her childhood was like, and feel sad about how these demons have robbed her from being able to raise such a great kid as E is (she is getting a “second chance” with his baby brother, but I have not heard anyone in the system express high hopes for her ability to parent him in the long run).
Watching her tear up, I became emotional, too. As these official people talked around and about us, I wanted to stop them and look at her and say, “Hey, we’re just two mothers who love the same child and want what’s best for him. I know you love him, and so do I.” I didn’t, though, and I so wish I had. I think it might have helped.
Once the lawyer stopped talking, Sally was asked if she had any questions for me. She didn’t know where to start, so I pulled out the photos of E I’d brought for her. She loved them, and it really broke the ice. We talked about his interests, and school, and some of his little personality quirks. We ended up laughing quite a bit.
As we got about 30 minutes in, and started wrapping up, Sally requested another meeting. Her social worker let her know that we all needed to let this one settle first, and process it before moving forward. Sally then decided to risk telling me she’d seen me before, that she’d been outside E’s school one day when I was picking him up, and I said “hi.” I didn’t remember the moment, but she said somehow she just knew who I was. I think we were all a little stunned at her revelation about doing that (it freaked me out a bit), but the lawyer was very tactful and praised her for her restraint in such a situation, saying that not all people would have acted like that.
Sally was understandably worried about our move (we told her it was in another state, and only a couple hours away, but didn’t identify the state), but I think we helped allay her fears a bit. I think she and I bonded, and I wish I’d taken the opportunity to give her a hug before we left.
So, the next step will be another meeting sometime before the TPR pre-trial in September. My social worker and I are under no illusions about Sally’s high interest in another meeting; we’re pretty sure it’s to get updates on E since her visits with him are suspended (at his request). Hopefully, though, she will be able to see what’s in his best interests and let him go. Of course, for E, although he wants that and wants so much for me to adopt him, that will bring its own emotional backlash with the knowledge that she stopped fighting for him. Sigh. This whole process is so complex.