I'm not sure which forum to put this in, hopefully this is the right one.
Background: I married DH when Oldest Son (my stepson) was almost three. I legally adopted him and DH legally adopted my daughter from a previous relationship a year later. All this happened before I met him, but the story according to DH, court documents, and DH's family is pretty much this. OS's mother and DH married fairly young and he was stationed overseas when OS was born and for the first five months after his birth. OS's mother had severe PDD after his birth. She tried to self medicate with alochol and prescription drugs. When OS was five months old, she took him to a doctor's office and left him in his car seat in waiting room. She never came back. He was malnourished, had a horrible rash, his back, stomach, legs and arms were bruised and had a dislocated shoulder. DH was given compassionate leave, he met OS for the first time in the hospital ICU. MIL was given physical custody of OS until DH's tour ended a few months later. DH raised him ever since.
OS's mother served some jail time, went to rehab, and surrendered custody and parental rights. She had supervised visitation for a while, but never came. She lives in DH's home town and by all counts has been clean and sober since her rehab. She's remarried, has two other children, and has a job. The few times we've seen her around when we were visiting MIL, she acts as if we don't exist. She looks right through OS and DH.
OS has only mentioned her to DH and I a few times and only in passing to ask questions about his birth when our younger kids were born. If we bring her up, he insists that I'm his mother in the ways that matter. We took him to a counselor for a while and she said, he appeared well adjusted, happy, and content with his life. He is aware of why we have custody, the abuse and neglect, we told him when he was in therapy. He seemed neither surprised or concerned since according to him "It happened a long time ago."
So the issue is recently OS's mother had her lawyer contact DH asking for limited visitation and contact. She would like email and phone contact once a month and twice yearly visit. She has no legal rights. It's completely based on our discretion. DH's still angry at her, but is willing to allow some contact if OS wants it. OS is indifferent, he'd like to meet his other siblings and grandparents, but really doesn't seem interested in meeting her. Inetellectually, I only want her to have contact if OS wants to. Emotionally, I'm so angry at her for the pain she has put OS through. As a mother, even as a mother who had PDD herself, I am so angry I shake when I think about her touching or even speaking to OS. I know she gave to birth to him and is his mother, but I've been there every day for the past ten years. I'm sure my feelings are made worse by the fact I gave birth in December. I know I've never heard her side of the story and at least she got OS help, but I really can't find any empathy for her. I think I just needed to vent.
Lake, I think what you have done as a family in raising this child is awesome. You are a good mama!!!
My first thought when reading was, "How could the mother do that?" But then I stopped myself. I've never been addicted to anything (except chocolate) and in the media today, I bet we could google search and find a mother who did so much worse before I had breakfast this morning. At least this woman took the baby to a doctor's office and walked away. The story could have ended so much worse. And every time I think I've heard the worst story ever, as a race of beings, we manage to top it! :(
In my opinion, it would be way too early to ask for a visiting schedule. But I do understand how she could possibly be in a much better place and have this gaping hole in her soul regarding her "missing" child. If your entire family is open to it and OS wants it, you could arrange a group public meeting. Perhaps the woman could apologize and maybe explain a little about what was wrong in her life at the time and maybe it would bring some healing to OS that no one even realizes is there. Maybe it will heal you a little too?
But there would be no way I'd agree to anything monthly or even annually, even if the first meeting goes fabulously. I think you can proceed with a relationship of some sort but it will definitely only work if you go very slowly and make sure everyone in your family is comfortable. As long as you are all setting the terms, then sure. Unanswered questions can fester in little hearts. (And big ones too!)
What does your DH think? What about your MIL?
Oh, that's a tough one. :( Your reservations and anger towards this woman are very understandable.
I agree with the previous poster - it's much too soon to be consider and kind of ongoing contact. If you do decide to do this, you should take things very slowly - you and/or your DH talk to her first, and if that goes well enough you can think about allowing contact with your son. And if that goes well, then perhaps you could consider more visits further down the line. There's no need to rush into anything. Maybe she's healthy and in a good place in life, maybe not. There's no way of knowing at this stage.
Another important point - you don't need to feel empathy for this woman. If you decide to allow a visit, it should be because you think your son could benefit from it, not because you feel that she deserves it. None of you owe her anything, but it could be a healthy step for your son to make, if & when he feels ready.
Just follow your son's lead. If he's indifferent now, then perhaps you could leave it for the time being, but remain open to the possibility of doing it in the future. He may well develop stronger feelings in either direction as he gets older.
Good luck with everything.
Mama to a preschooler and a baby.
This isn't by any means any sort of professional opinion or clinical advice, just my own opinion.
I work in the field of early childhood and family mental health and I teach trainings on abuse and neglect prevention. So I may have a very different perspective than your average person. One thing that we talk a lot about in our training is that, if faced with enough risk factors (single parenting, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, abuse history, lack of family support, poverty, children with challenging temperaments or health issues, etc etc) and not enough protective factors (an available and supportive partner, supportive extended family and friends, positive parenting role models, financial stability, easy-going children, etc etc)... ANY one of us has the potential to abuse or neglect a child. So when I read the story I hear risk factor after risk factor for this struggling mother, not to mention all the ones I don't know about. And then I hear about the decisions she made to protect her child-- leaving him at the doctor's office, giving up her rights so someone else could take them over. And I hear lots of recent positive changes: rehab, a new partner, parenting experience, age, and others that I don't know about...
That absolutely doesn't mean that I condone her past behavior. I know the horrible and lasting damage abuse and neglect (even minor abuse and neglect) has on children, But I guess I'm just saying can see it as having its roots in the context and setting of her life many years ago, and it sounds like her life is a lot different now. Absolutely I would want to approach it carefully. And I might decide it is best left alone until my son decides to pursue it. I don't think he should feel he has to meet her adult needs to get to know him or to get closure on that chapter in her life or reassure herself that he ended up okay or whatever the reason is she wants contact. But if and when he is interested and contact with her would meet HIS needs, I would support him in that.
I agree with PP. Follow your son's lead and take everything very slow. I have PPD and I in no way understand how a woman can hurt her child even in that circumstance. I've been there. My daughter was colicky, challenging temperament, and a ton of health issues essentially single parenting since SO had to work so much and I STILL can't fathom how any woman could ever hurt their child. I'm happy that she's in a better place and that she has at least gone about it in an appropriate manner (via her lawyer to DH) rather than just popping up demanding things. Go ahead if that's what your son wants. If DH is really angry he honestly may be more detrimental to the situation because it could influence your son so perhaps it would be best if you went with him? Or the two of you meet with her as others suggested until you three can meet on friendly terms before bringing in your son? Good luck and hugs mama!
Thank you for the replies and support. After speaking with Oldest Son (we met with his old therapist and him), we've decided to limit contact to letters and pictures sent by us via her lawyer. Oldest Son requested pictures of his siblings and information about his family tree and medical history. He is not interested in meeting, speaking to or exchanging emails with his mother at this time. He says he may want to meet her in the future, but he doubts it. Oldest Son did ask to see the court documents from the custody hearing and his mother's plea bargain. I'm not sure he is old enough, some of the medical information is pretty bleak. I'm not sure how my little boy who cries at the end of "My dog, Skip." can be so logical and clear headed about all of this.
I'm not sure DH is so much angry as bewildered. He and Oldest Son's mother dated for almost seven years before they got married. They grew up together, they started kindergarten together. It's not like he didn't know her or they had just met a few months before getting married. They were married for a few years before Oldest Son was born. It was a planned conception. I think he feels as if he never really knew her at all. MIL says the same thing, there was no signs she had mental health issues or drug/alcohol issues before Oldest Son's birth. I think DH doesn't understand how things changed so quickly. Granted, he was thousands of miles and several time zones away, but she never told him there were problems. He says she sounded fine, happy and thrilled to be a mother in her letters and phone calls. I've scheduled an appointment for myself with Oldest Son's therapist so I deal with my own anger about this situation, because I am very angry and pretending I'm not isn't working. I don't want my anger to effect Oldest Son, DH or my other kids.