One thing that I never commented in depth on was being separated from my son for five weeks.
I haven’t talked much about it because it wounded us both pretty deeply. In talking with my momma friend sympathizers, I believe this is what took their breath away more than anything. I know for my own parents and brother it broke their hearts too.
Most people never got too angry at my husband, but this. This would stop those that knew us in their tracks. “I don’t care what anyone says. He needs you.” I, honestly couldn’t disagree. I don’t know that his father could either, however, he feared the threats from the District Attorney that somehow Colorado social services would place our Tennessee son in Colorado foster care. This is borderline impossible, if you understand the law, but he was very lost and confused. He felt he couldn’t get advice from his social worker wife. He consulted with his parents and you can read about how that ended in the previous post.
Leif had just turned 3, and I had never been away from him for longer than four hours at a time. In fact, this was my number one complaint in our marriage at the time. My husband spent time with my son, but often with me there. I had to do a lot of pushing to get him to watch him. Even then, I would have to leave the house because he didn’t want to leave the house with him. As an introvert, I felt like I was on the clock 24/7 for 3 years straight. Getting to relax alone, quietly, in my bed with a good book was what I longed for to just finally get some rest and rejuvenation. No matter how many different ways I said it, I don’t think my husband could understand it. Our compromise was preschool, but it took me 18 months to win that argument. I was beyond burned out by the time he entered school 3 days a week one month prior to this happening.
Only when I would say, “I need you to take him to the park for an hour now,” did it click. Even then, I would often hear, “I need to…” As though his needs immediately trumped mine. Without thought or consideration, it was my job to care for our son because he worked.
To some extent I agreed to this. To the extent of even a 50-60 hour work week, I agreed to this. I loved my job, after all. However, I started getting to where I needed a break, relief, sleep, something, when that toddler will started to kick in.
I think all mothers feel this at some point. I’m pretty sure no one loves negotiating with a toddler 24/7. If you do, I want to meet you for coffee or tea and pick your brain.
Ultimately, though, I never wanted to NOT see him. Never. Ever. We were still nursing. I was still putting him to bed most nights unless I demanded time for myself. I was still spending most days “adventuring” with him.
Then, one evening, he witnessed me being escorted by the police out of our vacation rental with handcuffs on and then he didn’t see or hear from me again for 5 weeks.
My heart yearned for his tiny arms wrapped around my neck with everything I had. I would cry myself to sleep every night, longing to hold his tiny body and feel his tiny kisses.
My mom was with me the first time we talked on the phone. My husband finally went against the order the state of Colorado placed on me and let me talk to him on Mother’s Day. His little voice was so beautiful to me.
My mother was outside working in her flower garden. After I got off the phone with him, I sobbed so hard that she came running into the house. She sat next to me, held me, and rubbed my back. I’ve never loved my mother more than I did in that moment.
I saw him at the Farmer’s Market a couple days later. We have gone there every single week for over two years. He didn’t even notice me the first several times I walked by him. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t want to startle him, and just looking at him was amazing to me. He looked like a blessed little white haired angel.
The third time he walked by me, he went past me about 6 feet, and then I heard a very tentative, “Mommy?” from behind me. I turned around and he was staring at me with his mouth open. I started sobbing immediately. Deep, guttural cries that came from my gut.
His dad looked at him and said, “It’s okay.” He came and ran into my outstretched arms.
“I missed you very much, Mommy.”
“I missed you very much too, Buddy.”
It felt like a piece of my soul finally came back to me.
I haven’t really written much about this because it was the most painful part of the entire ordeal. The follow up was even more painful. He experienced intense trauma in a way that taught him the world wasn’t safe and trustworthy. He had never experienced anything like this prior because I was so attentive to him.
Over the last several months, we have been working very diligently on reassuring him that he is safe to trust. It has been a massive test all around, especially with all of the other things going on: repairing our marriage, interference from my in-laws, and a new pregnancy. We are both extremely diligent and driven people and my gratitude couldn’t be greater for these traits.
I’m not going to lie. We are sleep deprived and both could use a day or two of pampering. I do, though, feel like I can finally confidently say that we have succeeded in working towards the most positive end in all of the above. Leif still isn’t sleeping all the way through the night, but I’ll take it. It is only a matter of time before he feels secure enough to do so.
He now let’s me hold him in such a way that his little body melts into mine. He holds my hand. He gives me tiny little kisses. He is willing to negotiate needs with me and compromise again. For the most part our days go very smoothly, as much as any 3 year old’s days can. It has taken months of hard work to come back to this place because of his fear of my leaving him again.
I finally feel like I can breathe a sigh of relief. I knew this would be the biggest challenge I faced. I know that often the biggest challenge that any of us face is repair. So often, this is a skill that is overlooked, but such a necessary thing. With my husband, we can at least logically empathize and communicate to facilitate a connection repair. You can’t do that with a preschooler. Your only clear communication is loving consistency.
During this, those that were kind enough to be there for me, all asked the same question. “How can you be so calm right now?”
Sometimes I asked that of myself. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have. I think that’s a big piece of it. A lot of good not being calm does. It’s guaranteed to make things worse. I’ve acted out plenty in my life. It never served anyone in a good way.
I think, though, that I knew, intuitively, deep in my heart that it was going to be okay. I had been praying at length prior to all of this happening, for the walls between my husband and I to crumble. Obviously, I couldn’t control his side of things, but I trusted in my prayers being answered. It was a constant, daily prayer. I wanted him back, not this shell of a human that transformed the moment I moved in with him.
Many times, intuitively, I felt this was the massive breaking away, tearing down, crumbling of all of the walls. Often times when things are torn apart, you are given all of the tools you need to rebuild a better version.
My heart swells at this strange opportunity we have been given. Each following blessing fills me with joy. The growth, connection, and love that we now have leaves me in absolute awe and curiosity of what other blessings await us.
Faith. That’s what saw me through. Faith that light eventually follows the darkness.