Chapter 37, loren
To my son, Jack
“From the moment I held you in my arms for the first time, I knew I was holding the greatest love of my life. As my greatest love, I vowed to love and protect you until my last breath.”
Motherhood has posed new challenges that I could have never foreseen. As mothers, we prepare ourselves, mostly our hearts, for the day our children will leave the nest and spread their wings. The day I had expected to come many years down the line and with much excitement, came instead much sooner and with a heartbreak of immense proportion.
My oldest son, while only 7, still understood everything that took place during my divorce and custody battle. He held an anger for me, that I can’t say I blame him for. I, on the other hand, held the guilt - much like most moms do.
Jack has always been my high energy, highly intelligent, button-pushing child. He fits into no mold and paves his own way in life. He is wise beyond his years, but as a mother all I ever wanted was to keep him small and innocent for as long as possible.
Instead, I was faced with a choice I still question to this very day.
Per our usual arrangement, I had picked up all three boys one evening, at 4pm on the dot. As I drove down the road, from the back seat I hear Jack say, “My mom said she is my mom, and you only grew me in your belly.” He went on to say, “I call her Mom because she is my real mom and you’re Loren.”
The pain and fire of a million scorched knives went through my soul as I stopped the car and yelled, ”I am your MOM! I am your real mom and no one else!” I turned my car around and went back to John’s home. I took Jack out of the car and marched him up to the front door. April immediately came outside. By this point, myself and Jack were both in full hysterics, both for two very different reasons.
April held Jack, consoling him, all the while my face turning every shade of red imaginable.
“This is my baby! Why does he hate me?”, I thought.
“This is all your fault John! You have allowed this disrespect and not my son doesn’t even know who I am!” Ignoring my cries, instead John quickly sideswiped the direct issue and rationalized that due to high tensions Jack should stay with him for a few days. “That’s your grand solution to this?”, I said, but stopped my argument there. With a heart now ripped in two, the only thing I could rationalize to any degree- If my son did not want to be around me, then I should respect his decision and not argue it further with him nor his father.
A couple days later I received an email from John. It read that per his attorney and Jack’s therapist, it was advised that Jack no longer visit with his mother and should remain in sole custody of his father. My heart sank. It sank so deep down I questioned whether or not it even still had a pulse.
“How do I fix things this time? I am the worst mother in existence? My own son wants nothing to do with me.”
His tiny life of seven years flashed over me...and every single day thereafter. Now with even more questions to answer, I felt knocked down and defeated. Motherhood was not supposed to look like this. My son was too young to carry this much anger towards me. How on earth could I repair something I felt I did not break?
My heart broke for myself, but more than anything it broke for my sweet, innocent Jack. He did not have the capacity to hold such emotion and so much responsibility. My role as his mother quickly changed and I did the only thing I knew to do - love him through it.
My love for him was strong enough to be the mother he needed at that time in his life, and that looked like me stepping down from my main role in order for him to heal. That is one thing no one teaches you about motherhood - how vastly you are needed and in ways you may not see. He needed me, but not in the way I felt he did. No, he needed to not need me for a bit and there is really nothing in life that prepares you for that moment.
As the thoughts continued to haunt me, I took comfort in the fact that for the first time in years, John, April, and I had agreed somewhat civilly on a very difficult topic. So much so, that a seed was then planted that would turn out to be a giant step in the right direction.
April came to me one day with an interesting proposal. She suggested that we collectively come up with our own custody agreement.
“Why the heck not?”, I thought.
After all, we had been waiting on pins and needles for over a year for some sort of agreement, and it never came.
“How hard could it be to just make one ourselves?”, I quickly assured myself.
So, we set out to create our own agreement. We each knew exactly what we wanted and were all willing to compromise. Additionally, this was a chance for us to all remain in communication for a good cause that we all equally wanted. We all agreed and began our go at a custody agreement as if we were construction the Declaration of Independence. We were thorough, strategic, and as analytical as possible. We took our legal knowledge very seriously and left no stone unturned.
After only a few short weeks of back of forth exchanges of this non-legal document, we had surprisingly all done a good job at resolving nearly every aspect of the agreement, aside from a couple details. So, we presented it to our attorneys, and were thrown for a loop when they advised another round of mediation.
This time would be the final time. We would iron everything out no matter how long it took!
In the meantime, a storm was brewing, and it was one that I never saw coming. The man I once felt so safe and loved by began growing more distant with me. I could no longer read him. I wanted so badly to get inside his mind and figure him out, but I was also battling my own demons and trying not to see his red flags in the same light as the red flags I had seen during my marriage. I knew that was not fair.
“Not every man is John, Loren. You cannot treat this as you would have in your marriage”, I rationalized with myself.
The day of mediation was stressful in more ways than one. A looming hurricane, of the natural disaster kind, was headed to our town, and we were all waiting on pins and needles to hear about an evacuation.
In the meantime, I spent seven hours of that day in a small, musty smelling conference room that looked like it had not been decorated since the 80s. Just me, my attorney, and an older gentleman with a briefcase, who slowly paced between the room we were in and the room down the hall which housed my opposing council and his bride.
By the end of the afternoon, I was left with less hope than before, yet had no time to bask in my pity party, as we had just been given word that we were now under a mandatory evacuation.
That was the beginning of my new life falling apart, in order for a much more beautiful one to emerge from the darkness.