Thursday, July 29, 2010
The Bride Wore Black
This was definitely not the wedding of my dreams. I was no different from any other girl who wanted the white, flowing dress and veil, music, flowers everywhere, a troop of attendants and a young man waiting at the altar who would be the love of my life. But I was told, when I became engaged, that a church wedding in white was "unseemly" considering my recent past. It was suggested that there be a "nice, little" gathering at the parsonage with just family and that I should wear a nice, ice blue in recognition of the fact that I could not presume to the exalted state of virginity. My mother later told me that some of our family had stated that they would be too embarrassed to attend my wedding if it were held in a church and if I wore a white gown.
So, what I got was a sleazy elopement with a nice guy who was willing to overlook my scandalous past. I liked him well enough but he was not the love of my life and that would make the next 24 years very hard ones for us and our children. And that was what I wanted from him..respectability and children I could keep and raise. After all, the social worker had told me that I would forget my two oldest children, lost to adoption, once I had "children of my own." Now I wonder...what made my two oldest NOT children of my own?
In any event, though my two raised children have brought me so much joy, the formula didn't work. You cannot replace people with people. Mother's Day was bittersweet because I gloried in the sweet attention of my two youngest and silently grieved for the two who were not with me.
That dream turned nightmare stayed with me for a few years. When I finally gave up, after 24 years, on a marriage that had been torture for both of us, I think all of us breathed a sigh of relief. I had already met the man who would replace my former boyfriend and then tower above him in every way as the love of my life. We were married in 1989 and I wore white and carried flowers. It wasn't a full-blown church wedding, but is was sweet, pretty and appropriate without looking like a "settled for" wedding. The music was the Pachelbel Canon.
I had worked hard for the few years prior to my second marriage, to regain the self-esteem that was stripped from me by the treatment I received from all who were responsible for the loss of my two oldest children. I had obsessed, for years, over the father of my oldest who really didn't deserve a single one of the tears I had shed over him. I had felt I didn't deserve all the things that were part of a young woman's life. I didn't even graduate with my friends, or the few I had retained, because I was forced to withdraw from school before they could expel me when I became pregnant. Expulsion from school was routine at that time.
I had taken the test for my GED and even taken a few college courses, but the course of my life was forever changed by the loss of my children. I entered into rape crisis counseling to deal with the assault that resulted in the conception of my second child and I started realizing that, maybe, just maybe, I did deserve better. No cap and gown, maybe, but self-respect would be wonderful. The self-loathing I had carried with me for years became limestone and hope was a river running through it, eroding and cutting away at it until it collapsed.
With the reunions, in 1993, with my two adult children surrendered in 1962 and 1963, and acknowledgement of the grief I had carried with me for over 33 years, the learning and growing process accelerated. To help with the mourning process, I wrote reams and reams of poetry and prose that were all about loss, rediscovery, hope and, finally, anger. I had a couple of good friends with whom I was able to share my grieving process and then I discovered the Internet and struck gold in the form of online, natural mothers' forums.
Now I sit here at age 65 and wonder at the years I lost to self-hatred, to the grandiosity of seeing myself as the lowest of the low. I have a solid, wonderful marriage and I am grateful. I have four children who are alive, fairly well, and fighting their own way through this jungle we call life. I have grandchildren and even great-grandchildren and family I love. I have made friends online, a fact which makes me smile, and some enemies, a fact that doesn't bother me near as much as it used to. I also have a fantastic little dog and laughter. And I have the ability to take that intimidated, coerced, insecure young mother and hold her in my arms and reassure her that she deserved better.
She deserved to keep her babies. She deserved to wear white.