When I said goodbye to CJ, and despite my Sister saying it wasn’t a goodbye it was a ‘see you later’, I had to treat it like I may never see him again. So many things could have happened for that to be a possible outcome, and we knew he would never come home.
We said goodbye to CJ on the day before my 19th birthday. I held it together outwardly until we had our final hugs. I had a brief ‘private’ moment with him, which was really me trying to say a lifetime worth of things to him in the space of a minute while everyone acted like they couldn’t hear me. Two halves of me met at that moment. One giving in to what was happening, the other having been preparing for this for some time. The part of me that never wanted to have hope that he’d come home and was pessimistic so as not to fall too far when it ended badly, and the part of me that clung to hope secretly that life just couldn’t be that cruel and nobody would truly take a baby from a woman who did nothing but love her son.
It is gut wrenchingly hard to say goodbye to your child, your heart is crying out for the madness to stop and pleading silently to just please bring him home. I still don’t know how I walked away from him that day. I think in the back of my mind I knew I didn’t want him to see me break down. This day is still incredibly painful to think about, I’m crying as I write this blog. More so now because I know it truly was a goodbye in some ways. It was the very last time I ever saw my son. I haven’t seen him again, not really.
Fast forward to 2011 and through the email contact that had now become regular for me and Peggy, I read the words that I never expected would come. CJ wanted to see me. We gave it a year on the advice of social workers, and he didn’t change his mind. So, we made our plans, and everything was set for me to meet my sons again. I remember it very clearly. I had so many dreams of how it would go. The bad, the good, the disastrous. I imagined them running in to my arms and it feeling like we’d never been apart and that they were home again, though not physically. I imagined crying because I thought years of pain would be erased the moment we embraced once again. I imagined them being scared of me, or not liking how I looked and immediately wanting me to leave and never wanting to see me ever again. I imagined it being too much for them and it doing more harm than good. I imagined a thousand different versions of every moment of our meet up, none of which came to fruition.
The morning of the meet up I was so anxious which made me moody, a habit I hate about myself. I was shaking, sweaty, and a little dizzy if I’m honest. I over analysed what I was wearing, my perfume, my hair and my makeup. I so desperately didn’t want to do anything wrong and I somehow thought they would care about what I was wearing. I didn’t want to be the disappointment I thought myself to be for this situation even being what it was. If I could change one thing, it would be that I wish I’d have done the mental work on myself that I have now, back then. I was still healing through all this and putting on the best possible façade I could to drag myself through this day without breaking down, because as soon as I got there I realised something that hit me like a ton of bricks. These boys were not the boys I said goodbye to.
While I never truly felt that RJ was mine which made seeing him slightly easier, CJ was once mine; he once had a home with me. I realised the little one-year old boy that I said goodbye to was gone. There was nothing that could bring him back, bring him home to me, to my heart, the way he was. Now all I had was a memory of a little boy who still knew me enough to give me one final hug before I handed him to someone who took him away from me forever. The boy in front of me calling me Mummy Laura wasn’t my baby. He bared a striking resemblance to him, he had knowledge of who I was but probably no real memories of me. But this older boy was shaped by his parents and his current life, his need to see me only came from what he had been told and not from a memory of me. Somewhere in my mind I feel like I still expected him to be the small baby he was when I last held him in my arms. Right then I felt a loss. An unexpected, heart aching but very familiar loss. It felt like I lost CJ all over again. Getting through the day without showing the thoughts running through my mind was difficult, but I did it for the boys.
On a happier note, having contact with RJ seemed to help me build a connection to him that I never had. Having time with him that wasn’t pressured. Without the looming presence of my ex-husband and with his enthusiasm and excitement driving me, I really got to know him and bond with him. I am forever grateful for that and can say that this has only continued to grow.
Meeting the boys again was such a powerful event for me. In the end seeing them with Peggy and Chris, as a family, gave me a closure that I never knew I needed. Seeing them made me realise that the boys were happy, healthy, safe, and loved and it truly felt like it was right for them to all be together. While I had the unexpected pain of realising they were no longer my boys, I then had the satisfaction of the realisation that actually it didn’t matter.
The boys were home, after all.