Keeping it Together

Begin reading Rebecca’s story here.

Once we started the ball rolling with the Lawyer, the Ex and I assumed roles for the battle, whether we wanted them or not.  The fact that Rebecca was within my blood family and the fact that my Ex and I were not married (at the time) meant it was my name on papers vs Bio Mom.  Lawyer thought it best to keep things simple.

No matter how the story ended with my Ex and I, we knew what we had to do for Rebecca.  The timeline in my head gets a bit off with all of this but at one point the Ex and I did break up.  We still lived together but weren’t together.  Yea, makes total sense, I know.  Our lives were not like our friends.  Everyone else was in full on wedding mode, settling down, working on careers and truly just enjoying life.  Most friends just didn’t full understand what we were going through and struggled with how to be supportive or how to understand.  Plus, I hated reiterating everything to them day in and day out for them to share a stupid solution….like I hadn’t been through the basics yet.  Basically we didn’t have a lot in common so and the Ex and I were struggling to feel grounded.

Basically we were a hot mess and felt all alone on an island.

Our families were there even though most of my extended family had drawn a line on the sand where they stood  Even then, our families could only do so much.

Once the Ex and I did get back together, everyone pushed the fact that we should be joining the ranks of our friends and getting married.  I honestly don’t think our families knew what else to do or say and that seemed like a positive solution for them.  For us, I think we got back together because we were all each other knew by that point.  While we used the break up to provide us with a chance to pretend our problems, outside of Rebecca, didn’t exist, it didn’t work.  However, I believe we truly loved each other at this point. It may not have been perfect but we did have love.

My Ex worked his ass off.  He wanted to do everything he could on his end to pull us through court and what we were doing was costing us a fortune that we didn’t have.  I dove head first into everything to do with court and had to shut down my insurance agency, taking a basic office job that didn’t require so much thought as my brain was occupied elsewhere.  I can tell you to this day, I think this is the beginning of what wasn’t good for the ex and I and this began his career driven life that he would eventually choose over our marriage.

The Ex and I would sit at night, exhausted, going over things.  Our kitchen table littered with documents and research. I would be lying if I said we always remained on the same team.  There was fighting and blame placed because we needed someone to hate.  Yes, we took it out on each other from time to time but always came back together. Sometimes we lost the glue that held us together and had made us, US. It was a lonely world without the other person so we would find our way back.

I remember one day missing Rebecca so badly, I sat on the floor of her room, curled in a ball, holding her baby blanket just sobbing.  The kind of crying where you feel like you are going to puke and don’t know how to come up for air.  All her toys were starting to collect dust and life seemed on pause.  When children are kidnapped or die young, I don’t completely understand, but I have an idea of what that parent goes through.  Life on pause.  I just needed to feel the weight of her in my arms, trace her chubby fingers with mine. Breathe her in.  Whisper in her ear I was trying everything for her.  The Ex came home from work to find me there.  He just sat next to me and started silently crying.  He didn’t break down often but he did that night.  We sat there for a long time, surrounded by smiling Pooh and Tigger, as the sun set, just sobbing.  A 23 yr old and 24 yr old just trying to tackle the worst case scenario.

We got up the next day and just did it all over again because what other choice did we have?  We just learned to take it one day at a time together. But the point is, the Ex and I did it all together and there is truly no way I could have done it without him.

Being Composed While Being Deposed

Rebecca’s Story started several posts back.  You can start here.

Like I mentioned before, I didn’t know what to expect going into any of this.  I did know I had to step up and a lot would be asked of me.  After a million hours of fact-finding and serving the papers it was time to get into the deep end.  I was already exhausted but truly we hadn’t started yet.

Depositions…

Imagine sitting across the table from someone you have come to have actual hatred for.  Actual hatred.

I would sit in a bare office across the table from Rebecca’s bio Mom and her lawyer with my Lawyer sitting to my left. Always to my left.  Bio Mom’s lawyer looked a lot like the Monopoly man but scummier.  (That is a word, I swear) He actually looked a lot like someone who was a loan shark in some nasty, back alley, strip club.

Being deposed meant I had to sit for hours being questioned by the scum lawyer and I had to answer with as little information as possible, even better, with a simple yes or no.  A woman about my age sat at the end of the table recording everything and I used to wonder how simple her life must be compared to mine when we would walk out the doors at night.

The point of a deposition is to gather information to build a case to use in court.  I had to build a case against bio Mom saying she wasn’t a good mother and they in turn were building a case against the Ex and I saying we were worthless and meant nothing to Rebecca.  You can see how this would get fucking annoying after some time.  They would nit pick apart every penny we made, our bills, degrees, our families and parents incomes.  Everything was laid on the table.  Naked and exposed.  Me against her. Then my Lawyer would hit bio Mom repeatedly with questions and she would inevitably have some sort of anxiety attack and we would have to quit early.

Wuss.

It was at one of these depositions I learned bio Mom had at one time gone to the police, with Rebecca, and demanded to file a report that my Ex had done something to Rebecca.  Sexual abuse. We had never heard of this prior to that moment because, thank God, they realized bio Mom was fucking psycho and there was no case.  If you ever want to practice self-restraint this would be it.  This is where I learned composure, this is where I learned to not forget to breathe.  This is where I learned not to reach across a table and strangle someone with my bare hands.

Bio Mom would act like a bad actress on TV, claiming how great of a Mom she was because she changed a diaper once last week and managed to not be high that day.  I wish I could say I was joking but this literally came up. You would think all of this would be pretty black and white to a judge.  Apparently it isn’t.

These depositions were draining.  Let me say that once more, DRAINING. We would walk out and Lawyer and I would stand in the parking lot discussing what just happened and what the next step would be.  I always needed details on the next step so I wouldn’t dwell on the step that just happened.

Then I was on my own.

Losing my composure in my truck.

These weren’t times when I could bring a friend for support.  My Ex and I had roles to play and he was working his ass off to pay for this debacle and I worked my ass off to make it not a fiasco.  We did what each of us could do.  I would call him when the depositions were over, he would hide in some back office at work while I replayed every horrible minute and comment.  He would stop and ask me questions as I went.  They were often questions I wished I had asked Lawyer because the Ex could always think clearer than I could in these moments.  He always took it well, never acted like I could have done better. When we were both home at night we would replay it all once again.

Those depositions were typed up and page after page is tucked away in a box in my basement.  I don’t know if I could stomach reading them.  I don’t know if I could stomach all over again the things bio Mom put against the Ex.  Things that were hardly touched on in court because they had no merit but they were never the less said and for a man who chose to raise a baby without questions, well, he didn’t fucking deserve any of that.

This was all just laying a foundation for court though.  We were not even close to done.

No One to Come and Save Us

Rebecca’s Story Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

The day I turned 16 was on a perfect, July, summer day.  I climbed in my car with my license fresh in my pocket and my Mom ran back inside to grab my insurance card.  “Just in case.” She stood waving on the front steps, crying, while I backed out and headed to freedom to pick up my best friend.  Six hours later I had to use that insurance card because there was an accident where an old man totaled my car with me and my best friend in it.  If it wasn’t for seat belts we would have met a very unforgiving windshield.  I thought I was going to be in trouble but the cops reassured me and called my parents.  The accident was really no ones fault but both of our faults and Mom came running.  She came running in a crappy moment and fixed it because I was scared.  She took care of everything, learned a lesson and life went on.

Hiring the Lawyer felt like it should be the same way.  I was in a scary moment and he was the equivalent to Mommy coming to save the day.  He was going to take over and fix it all.  Boy was I wrong.  I had no idea how this worked.  It wasn’t a small accident. It was big time.  I can’t remember how many times I had to go in and sit with Lawyer to go over this and that.  His paralegal (I think that is what you call them) and I became close. I would sneak out of meetings constantly to take a phone call from them that would cost me another $120.  I would run to their office to sign this paper or that and I became the biggest sneak.  I found all sorts of information.  Because let me tell you, you need lots of information.

I learned the hard way how much evidence you need.  Proof.  I was never one to watch court shows on TV but I remember wishing I had.  Lawyer said get a private investigator and I did.  He pulled court records and I stayed up late at night reading them and then reiterating them to the Ex.  Filling him in on every move every free second he had at work.  In between I built my insurance agency client by client while keeping my mouth shut on it all to everyone I worked with.

Slowly my life was becoming wrapped into its own.  The Ex and I were in a world no one else could enter or understand.  Fuck, we barely understood.  The storm winds were building to hurricane force winds, swirling around us.  In between all that we had to pretend we were normal people who didn’t miss the child they had been raising with this enormous force.  Nights were spent with me crying into my pillow wishing my Mom, my lawyer, just anyone could fix it and make it better.

I couldn’t just hand over responsibility to the lawyer and hope for the best.  Just as much was riding on my shoulders which was almost worse.  I wouldn’t have anyone to blame in the end if things didn’t work out for the best. It was the weight that started slowly crushing both the Ex and I. Life was hard and there was no break from it.  Rebecca was gone, the concern for her was heart wrenching.  The bills were coming in.  I had a business to start and the Ex was working his way up at his job.  There was no one big enough to come along and make it all better.  Just like that we were grown ups dealing with far more than most grown ups ever do.  I was suddenly very much an adult and I didn’t want to be one anymore.

The First Document

Rebecca’s Story  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Do you ever wonder if it would be better to know if a moment was your last?  Or would you rather not know?  When I know those last moments, I over-analyze.  I attempt to freeze the moment and gulp too much air so that later in life when something reminds me of that exact moment I want to puke.  I still do that with moments of my Ex and I.  Because I Knew. Every. Last. Moment.

I didn’t know the last moment I would hold my Rebecca in my arms.  Quite frankly I couldn’t even tell you to this day when that last moment came before the storm.  The beginning seemed simple with the Lawyer.  The Ex and I sat and answered even more questions while gripping hands, hoping we were answering correctly.  Lawyer scribbled notes and I’m sure he explained everything.  He was good at that but all that produced was a document so bio Mom would be served with the knowledge that we wanted custody.  I KNOW I didn’t allow myself to think about the outcome because sometimes it is easier.

So to this day I don’t know the last day I held Rebecca before she was gone from us for over a year.  Yes, we would see her in spurts but nothing was the same.  The baby we had raised for the past couple of years was now being held from us because her bio Mom and guardian were served and they saw us as a threat.  This was it.  We were going in for the battle.  There was no turning back.

Do you have a child at home as you read this?  Do you have a baby on your lap as your read this?  Imagine that child being ripped away from you by people that are addicts, in and out of jail, people who didn’t know what you child’s cry meant…imagine handing your baby to them.  That.

To this day I can’t look at court documents without wanting to vomit.  Black and white letters put in such a way on a paper with such power.  That is why the Ex dealt with the lawyer and paperwork when him and I went through our divorce many years later, he knew I couldn’t do it.  It was his turn.  I couldn’t take another court document that changed our lives.

The process had begun and the rumors and hatred began to spread through my family.  Years from now, when I’m long gone, someone will do our genealogy and wonder who fucked up the whole family.  It was me.  I tore my Mother’s family apart.  Simply put.  A line was drawn and shots were being taken.  I can look back and tell you now what those moments of legal documents being sent out meant.  It meant my Mom’s siblings, all 7 of them, would never go home all together for Christmas.  Grandma would be fought over, turns would be taken while Grandpa was in the hospital and one huge Irish family would never speak to one another again. It stands true to this day. Why?  Because so many had legal problems, so many didn’t want others in the family business, because they stood to lose something as well, because they thought if you saw something bad you should turn away and shut your mouth, mind your own business.  I was different though.  Although I can tell you some more truth to this day, I have had some family members finally give in and say “If it wasn’t for you, there is no telling where Rebecca would be at now.  You did the right thing.”  I know it pains them to say this and some won’t say it to my face but they have said it.

Just like that life changes.  I wouldn’t have wanted to know every moment I changed.  I’m sure I never will.  I didn’t just change me and my Exes life with that first document, I changed the course of everyone’s life.  I just had to keep telling myself that I changed the most important life…..Rebecca’s.

There the Ex and I stood on our own island.  Us against the world.  Over and over there was no turning back from simply having a baby placed in your arms.  Hell, it was only the beginning. Better yet….it was just the beginning of our own hell.

Finding a Lawyer

Rebecca’s  Story Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Have you ever had to try to find a lawyer?  It seems one will always need a lawyer when in a pinch and time is precious.  They can see you weak, across the desk from them, looking for a life raft.  I had never even spoken to a lawyer in my life, I didn’t even know what a retainer fee was.  Not to mention just trying to get past the front desk to get an appointment with one.  I thought they were suppose to help, not be unreachable.   I didn’t have a lot of faith going in.  Hell, no one cared to help us up to that point, why should I expect anyone now?

By this point we were out of college and the Ex was well into his job.  I had studied and passed all license exams for insurance along with starting my own agency.  We were college graduates using our degrees and paying our bills while having a life at home that consisted of a fucking hurricane with non-stop worry. At this time the Ex and I were good.  We were the only ones on the same team fighting a rather lonesome battle. Since his job took up the most time and I had a more flexible schedule I designated myself to find the lawyer.  Plus, Rebeca was technically my family and we figure that was an important factor.

I think I started by Googling.  Family lawyers?  That sounded about right.  I did some research.  Was anyone else in the same boat as us?  The closest was the classic Grandparents getting custody from the nutty daughter.  Not second cousin of child, with a boyfriend, both fresh from college.  Nope, we weren’t the norm.  I just started jotting down names and numbers and went down the list calling and hoping.  It was narrowed down by what paralegal wasn’t a bitch and who was willing to politely listen to me and then what lawyer was willing to give me a free consultation.  (They act like they are so  fucking generous to do this.)

I went to them all, one by one.  By the time I got to the second to last lawyer, we sat in his office and he literally told me to give it up, basically laughing at me saying it was useless and we didn’t have a case.  This is how kids have it these days he told me, the biological Mom has rights.  I was already sick of hearing that but I was learning it was never the kids being protected it was always the bio parents.  That asshole actually wrote a number on a piece of paper and slid it across the desk to me.  A retainer of $5,000.  I think I said something along the lines of go fuck yourself and then sat in my truck in the parking lot with tears running down my face.  I still had to go back to work.  I still had to call my Ex and fill him in on the latest.  This was what my life had become.  Drying the tears before I walked in to work and continued to build my business from scratch.  I would continue this crying in the parking lot scene for almost two years.  I always carried extra cover-up make-up.  At 23 my life wasn’t exactly normal compared to my friends.  It was hard to explain to someone why you felt so strongly that you weren’t suppose to give up, that you believed in what you were fighting for.

The day I found our lawyer I was on my last leg and had nothing left in me to be polite or care.  This guy took my call and I slid past his paralegal and everyone else fairly simply to find myself across his desk crying before I even got started.  Amongst the mess on his desk Lawyer pulled out a clean piece of paper, turned the ringer off on his phone, handed me a box of Kleenex and told me to start from the beginning.  Then he listened, he wrote it all down, he nodded politely in the correct spots and asked a lot of questions.  When I was out of tears and he had multiple pages filled he set his pen down and stared at me.  He was younger looking, cute almost, dark hair and dark eyes.  The pictures behind him showed a blond-haired wife and a few younger kids.  The certificates on the wall showed years of accomplishments and his time in the Marines. His specialty was actually helping fathers gain custody of their kids in a divorce.

I think we were both sizing one another up in this moment while we had our own internal debates.

This isn’t going to be easy.  This is going to cost a lot.  This isn’t a normal case.  I can’t make promises.

Lawyer was telling me things I already knew.

They are going to tear you and your boyfriend apart.  Every inch of your lives will be exposed.  If there are any skeletons in your closets I need to know now. You both have to be willing to work with me. 

My boyfriend had some speeding tickets.

Think harder,  anything at all that they could put against you.  Right down to MIP’s when you were younger, anything.  Anyone out there who would come out and say something bad about either of you. 

Nothing.  Neither of our parents are even divorced.  We grew up small town, middle class, private college, normal.  Nothing in our pasts.

I’ll do it.  There is something here that says to give this a chance. (15 months later Lawyer actually told me what he was thinking in this moment.  That these kids don’t have a chance but he thought I just looked so desperate he didn’t know how to tell me no.)

Then Lawyer went through the basics, what might happen, the general process and everything else that sounded scary but we weren’t going to back down.  I think he thought we wouldn’t be able to handle it.  We covered money and I wrote a check for a retainer fee that I would later learn wouldn’t even cover two minutes worth of work.

For the first time in a long time I felt like I had someone on our team.  I felt some sense of hope deep down even though I knew we had a long road ahead of us.  But I felt like we were making steps. From that moment on we didn’t have a lot of moments that gave us hope but I believe people come into our lives for a reason.  Lawyer was one of those people and believe it or not, we were those people in his own life.

Fight or Flight

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Remember how I said some things get fuzzy with Rebecca’s story? This is another one of those times.  I could go into tiny details about life with her but there is no need.  We just lived our lives like anyone else with a child and she started growing up.  We graduated from college with an Elmo cake at our party because someone was also turning two and that was far my important.  Two years of her in our lives and at this point she didn’t know who her real bio parents were because they had spent all this time in jail.  A week after graduation we moved from our dingy apartment to a brand new home.  To top it off my ex got the job that would change our lives and ultimately save us financially but would kill our marriage.  (My stomach lurches just writing that.)

At some point her bio mom got out of jail and decided it was time to try parenting again.  This thought apparently never occurred to my Ex and I or we were ignoring the inevitable. One of the two.  This is where we should have put our foot down.  Instead we gave her bio Mom the benefit of the doubt and tried to do what was fair.  Never did anything fair happen to us in return, let me tell you.  Her bio Mom only wanted to parent when it was once again convenient for her and then Rebecca was still with us the rest of the time.  Her bio Mom was still getting high and out partying with random guys.  The problem started when bio Mom wanted to make rules and here poor Rebecca just had no idea who she really was. Bio Mom would smother her and treat her like an infant because she just truly didn’t know what to do with her.  The child she had birthed was just a stranger to her and vice versa.  It also didn’t help that she was wacked out on her meds and stoned so what kid wants to be around that?  I can tell you one thing, kids aren’t stupid, they know when things aren’t right.

It got to the point where family members that never wanted to have an opinion started to have one.  Started piping their white trash mouths up because we started making noise.  We started to really freak out every time Rebecca was with her bio Mom.  Leaving Rebecca at a casino day care to go get drunk and gamble, taking her around strange men in strange homes, not keeping a schedule with her and ultimately not keeping her safe.  The stories were piling up and my Ex and I were freaking out. Then began her bio Mom began being shipped in and out of a psych wards and rehab.  Are you still with me in this tangled web?

This is the point where I wish I had my blog at that time.  I can’t recall all the horrific stories because I think I just choose not too.  They are tucked away in a large box with legal information in the closet.  Someone once read my old blog from front to back and said it was best when it was written at the time I was going through something not looking back on it.  That is how I feel writing Rebecca’s story now.  I don’t know how to dig down to get to the depth of sheer despair at each phase my Ex and I went through with her.  I don’t know how to convey the terror and fear. It was living in a horrible movie and not being able to get up and walk away. And not one single person understood.

One night does still stick me with me though.  It was like I knew something bad was happening even on the way there that night.

Bio Mom was staying at my Grandparents home in the basement and we went to drop Rebeeca off one night.  She was almost 3 by this point and all hell broke loose.  Rebecca would often cry when we dropped her off but this was a full on panic attack, screaming and kicking her bio Mom, yelling how she didn’t want to stay with her and she wanted to go home with “Mom & Dad.” All this little one knew was life was fine until this crazy person came along that we dropped her off with every now and then and it was a scary place.  I don’t know how I held it together as three adults attempted to hold her back while we had to walk out the door and I lost it in the front yard.  My Ex had to pick me up and put me in the truck with tears running down his own face.

I couldn’t do this anymore.  Neither of us could.  Technically the three of us couldn’t.  This was a fucking mess.  A big fucking mess and no one would look at the obvious.  While we had been in contact with CPS about what we could do it was the same song and dance.  They kept giving her another chance and there wasn’t enough proof of anything.  They needed to walk in to the child close to death to do something more.  They flat-out told me they just didn’t have the resources.

Three years of raising that baby and it was time to do something about it.  We had no rights and we didn’t want her to be the next baby to drown in the bathtub or tossed in a river by the mentally ill parent strung out on God knows what.

It was fight or flight time and we were fighting because she was all we had to give her a chance at life.

Where the Tables Began to Turn

Part One

Part Two

I always knew most of the problems that Rebecca’s biological Mom had but I didn’t know them all.  What I did know of, I don’t think I truly understood.  They were big mental health words that sounded like they belonged in a movie.  Unfortunately there were a lot of other things going on in that household that I didn’t know of.  Rebecca’s biological Mom was living with her biological Dad and one night when Rebecca was with us, their home was raided and both parents arrested.  Dealing drugs, using drugs, weapons in the home, gang activity…you name it, it was probably happening and off to prison they went.

Insert family drama.  More specifically, Rebecca’s Grandma who was receiving guardianship of her by default.  Trust me, not really the next best choice.  She had her own fair share of mental issues and a drinking problem.  Hell, she had let enough crazy men into her life to abuse her kids growing up but the child system let her go ahead and have guardianship anyways.  Easy for her though when she realized we would do it all.   Mainly because we had been doing it all.

Perhaps this is where we realized we were in the middle of a mess.  We had no legal rights but we did it all, bought it all.  We knew how to put this baby to sleep and knew what every fuss meant.  This baby knew us and cried when we handed her over to anyone else, including the Grandma.  One specific day I went to pick up her up to find her crawling under Grandmas kitchen table getting ready to chow down on some prescription pills that had been left spilled on the floor.  And the hits just kept coming, over and over. That is where I could write story after story.

I was young, we were young.  We were frustrated but what do you do?  Yes, I called CPS.  No, there was nothing they could do.  Was there proof? Was the baby physically abused? OBVIOUSLY we were over-reacting according to them.  For the next few years I would grow increasingly frustrated by CPS.  I would learn the horror that kids go through because the system is so absolutely fucked up.  But I was one of two people trying to fight a huge up hill battle and we were tangled in the mess.  There was no walking away.  The point you realize you are fucked is always too late.  All we could do was start documenting everything.

This right here is where people get lost in our story.  What do you mean no one would help?  Someone spanks their kid in a parking lot and the kid gets yanked out of the house for good.  No.  The system is very broken.  The system doesn’t work.  The system is not a system, it is a joke.  This is where kids don’t get the help and safety that they need because this system is over-run, out-dated and needs an overhaul.  These kids need help. 

So we did what we could.

Rebecca was one happy baby with us and the two days out of the week she wasn’t with us she would spend crying and upset. Which left me crying and upset. Which left my ex stressed out.  But damn we clung to one another like a raft.  Our families started really understanding what was going on and tried to be supportive but that was all they could do.  So we kept on.  School, baby, school, baby.  At this time we had no problem keeping her.  No one else cared to speak up and actually want to raise Rebecca. So we were it.  Throwing her first birthday party, watching her take her first steps, teaching her how to feed herself, listening to her say “da da” for the first time (to my ex), letting her scream on Santa’s lap at Christmas, and taking her for hay rack rides.

There we were on our own life raft just holding on.  Two college kids finishing school with a house full of bright plastic toys, extra diapers shoved in our back packs and empty sippy’s lost under the couch.  My ex and I didn’t know what else to do besides keep going forward and hoping someone would direct us at some point.  Hoping perhaps things would just work out on their own. But hoping was useless to be honest.  Whether you believe in God’s plan or not it fucking sucked.  We loved that kid more than our own lives by this point.