A to Z April Challenge

During the month of April I will be doing a different spin on my memoir posts. It starts with a song. Each song will be followed by a brief essay that is evoked or inspired by that song. You might want to click on the YouTube link to hear the song as you read the piece I've written. Or you can listen to the song lyrics first and then read. Whichever way you choose, I mostly hope you'll read and leave a comment with your thoughts about my post. Thank you for visiting and please follow the blog if you are not doing so already.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

HOW I ALMOST KILLED MY MOTHER: Guest Post by Denise Roessle


           I first discovered Denise Roessle in a guest post she did at Linda Hoye's blog A Slice of Life Writing.   She immediately caught my attention when she opened her story with a quote from my favorite author Flannery O'Connor.  Denise has an interesting story to tell in her book Second Chance Mother.  Today she provides a bit of insight about her book and the story behind the book.



HOW I ALMOST KILLED MY MOTHER

A Guest Post by Denise Roessle

I came close so many times — at least according to my father.

My murderous attempts on her life began when I got pregnant at 19. In the sixties, no greater shame could befall a family than having a knocked-up, unwed daughter. Since my boyfriend promised we’d get married, I postponed telling my parents. By the time he announced that he had changed his mind, and in fact didn’t love me, I was more than three months along.

Dad’s initial anger at my shameful behavior soon gave way to disappointment that I hadn’t confessed in time to have an abortion. Although this was still years away from being legalized, my parents would have gone to any lengths — an illicit procedure in some doctor’s backroom or sending me oveseas — to have the whole disgraceful mess erased. Plan B was to get me out of town before I started showing.

“If any of our friends find out that you’re pregnant, it would kill your mother,” my father said.

Unable to find a maternity home that could take me right away, he located an attorney who specialized in private adoptions. Within a week I was on a plane bound for another state. The lawyer placed me with an uninvolved family, where I did babysitting and light housework in exchange for my room and board. He set me up with a doctor who would oversee my prenatal care, deliver the baby, and defer payment until after the adoption.

My parents told my younger siblings that I was away at college. I had already confided in several close girlfriends about my condition.

“Don’t tell anyone else,” Dad ordered. “No one can be trusted. People talk, and if this gets out, your mother would die of embarrassment.”

Alone, afraid and ashamed, I complied. For the next five months, I struggled against the urge to bond with the new life that swelled my belly and twisted just below my heart. I entered labor with the anxious resignation of a surgical patient scheduled to have a burdensome growth removed. Only when my son’s body was pulled from mine and I heard his gurgled cry did the loss take hold. But by then, I had accepted my fate. Everyone insisted that giving my baby up for adoption was the best thing for both of us. He would have a stable, two-parent home and opportunities far beyond those an unwed mother could provide. I would be reborn a virgin, go back to college, meet a nice man, get married, and have children I could keep. They said I would forget and move on.

I moved on, but I did not forget. That failure led me to believe there was something inherently wrong with me. So I buried my feelings and continued to keep the secret. Although I finished college and married, I never had more children.

Twenty-five years later, my son and I were reunited through a mutual-consent registry that reconnects family members who had been separated by adoption. Elated by this second chance at motherhood, I told all of my friends, as well as my sister and brother. I hoped that enough time had passed that my parents would see this as a good thing. Dad voice bordered on joyful when he first heard the news, but once he’d shared this with Mom, he was back on guard. He warned me not to tell our extended family.

“Please don’t tell the relatives about Josh. That would kill your mother.”

I struggled with this for another year before deciding that I had lived with the secret long enough. After reuniting with my son, my loyalty to them changed to him — and to myself. I shared my reunion openly and began writing my story.

Once I had a decent draft, I offered copies to my sister, brother and father. Dad said, “Oh gosh, I have such a stack of things to read right now, I probably won’t have time.” I could hear the meaning behind his words: He couldn’t have that book in the house. My mother would die if she found out I’d written it. My sister read it and said it explained a lot of things. My brother also read it, and true to our family tradition of secrecy, he emailed me: “You can’t publish this. People will be hurt.”

“Bob,” I wrote back, “people have already been hurt.”

He told me to never speak of it again. For the next several years, I didn’t mention my book — not to any of them — until it had been accepted for publication.

My mother didn’t die after any of these egregious acts on my part. In fact, my refusal to comply eventually forced my parents to accept my son or lose me forever. If only I’d realized that I could have stood up to them and disobeyed sooner.

She passed away in 2004, eight years before “Second-Chance Mother” was published. A blood clot took her while she was still in the hospital, two weeks after a successful back surgery. Although we’d never discussed what happened, nor the impact of adoption on me and Josh, by then I had made my peace with her — secretly, in my heart.
                               #############################


Second-Chance Mother is available as an ebook and in print on Amazon: http://amzn.to/MWalYG
For more about the author, visit her website: http://secondchancemother.com
Denise is also among 14 memoirists featured in the recently released anthology, “Loving for Crumbs” (edited by Jonna Ivin): http://amzn.to/PBWIfc


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14 comments:

Sally said...

How times have changed now. So nice to hear mother and son have been reunited after all this time. So nice to read this.

Sheila Siler said...

My mother-in-law confessed to us some years ago that she too had given a child up for adoption before meeting and marrying my father-in-law. The secrecy involved was tragic. I'm glad you shared this post with us.

D.G. Hudson said...

People sometimes hold onto old roles way too long. I left home at 19 to avoid being stifled by 'family traditions'.

Good for you, sometimes we have to think for ourselves and do what's best for us. Also, men sometimes misjudge how much the women they love can handle-re life issues, IMO.

Joy said...

I think of all the lost years--so much loss in so many people's lives: you, your son, the relationships with your parents, siblings. We can't go back, but we can move forward. You have moved forward. One thing that comforts my heart when I think of my losses in life, is how one day, God will make all things right and will "restore the years the locusts have eaten". I have that to look forward to. Great story, thank you for sharing.

Dee said...

Again and again, while reading your posting, I was reminded of Robert Frost's poem in which he says "two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I took the one less traveled by and that's made all the difference." Oh the roads that we take. What is the glory of it is that we sometimes come back to the road we left before and find ourselves again. I'm glad that happened for you. Peace.

Wendy said...

Oh the business of family secrets! One of my relatives has lived a miserable life because he learned upon obtaining his birth certificate to join the army that his parents were NOT his parents after all. Everyone who knew the truth refused to tell him who his parents were and now they are dead. As a family historian, I can't imagine what it must feel like not knowing. People who perpetuate the secret are not helping.

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

A heart wrenching post! Thank you for sharing your story and commendations on finally putting the history right. I felt so sorry for the lack of support, the emphasis on others rather than you. Well done for taking a stand and making your life and your son's the priorities. And I too was a 60s teenager so I know indirectly the strength of those cultural mores.

Melissa said...

No matter the family secret, the reason for the fear of shame, this is a story people can relate to. Great post!

Patricia Stoltey said...

You were a victim of the times like so many other young women were. It's wonderful you were able to connect with your son later in life and tell your story. Congratulations on your book.

Spacerguy said...

Wow this is really deep. This is a story I can identify with having recently been reunited with my much older sister Eileen, living across the US for 40 years! She was quite a lovely surprise let me tell you.

DENISE said...

Thank you to everyone for your comments. It means so much to me to connect with you on this level. :)

Denise

Maurice Mitchell said...

Denise, what a powerful story. Thank you for sharing. It made me think.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee - what an excellent read from your guest Denise ...

It must have been so traumatic - thank goodness we talk more, women are understood more .. and people generally are more empathetic to life, as it ebbs and flows ...

I am so pleased you are reunited with your son ... and that you've published your book - I'm sure it resonates with many ...

Thanks for sharing this with us ... with thoughts - Hilary

Cally Jackson said...

Your post touched my heart, Denise, and I have added Second-Chance Mother to my to-read list. I'm currently pregnant with my first child and couldn't imagine being forced to part with them once they're born. Thank goodness the world has changed (for most of us, at least).

Good on you for having the courage to share your story with the world and for standing up to your parents.