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Those Darn Goodbyes

posted by Linda Schellentrager on Wednesday, May 23, 2012

This is a follow-up to my post in December, when my son was knee-deep in boot camp. Those days were among the hardest times of separation because there was no way to look in his baby blues or have a conversation. There was no phone or email allowed for 13 weeks. When we reunited again … it was exhilarating. That happened when he locked eyes with both his birthmother and me as we watched him practice for boot camp graduation. What a moment to share with her. We were giddy.

Now, we are six months into this journey as a Marine family. We’ve had many more meaningful hellos and goodbyes as he took each new step in his training. Each time we said “goodbye,” I knew we’d see him again in a month or two. It kept me sane and upright. And, also, thank goodness, we could communicate by phone via talking and texting.

But, yesterday, oh yesterday … we said “goodbye” to him as he boarded a plane for Japan. For two years. No longer could my denial mask this reality. There I was, heart wide open, in front of the open box. I cried noticeable, visible tears in the airport lobby, surrounded by strangers. The world went away as I looked in his baby blues and said “goodbye” for potentially two years, to my beautiful child.

Help. I am not upright. I am not sane. Is it harder on adoptive moms to say goodbye to their children? Is there any connection to years of infertility to this unbearable feeling of loss? I am not sure. I only know that I am going to miss my only child with more intensity than I have ever known.

Again, I am reminded of his birthmother and the pain she must have felt when she said goodbye to him and placed him with us. I’ve known her for 20 years. I thought I knew her pain. But, no, I haven’t known it … and maybe even now, I still don’t know it. I do know, though, that NOW I can feel the gravity of the loss, of the missing, of how it stabs the heart to say “goodbye.”

I am stunned at the connections between this loss and adoption. I can now understand how birthparents deny for decades that this experience ever happened to them. Because, I admit, denial is at play for me, too … denial allowed me to be happy when he was home in the days before he left, denial is blocking out the length of time or the distance apart. Denial has a bad reputation, but as a coping mechanism (at least for me right now) – bring it on.

With our openness, I know there is another person in the world who loves and misses the same person with the same intensity of a mother’s love. So with that thought, and maybe a little denial in my pocket, maybe I can face the day. Day dreaming, too, that before the day is out, maybe technology 
will allow me to look into his baby blues, and say “hello.”



I have created a personal fundraising page in honor my son, Eric. During May, make a $20 donation to Adoption Network Cleveland in honor of 20-year-old PFC Eric Christo Schellentrager -- U.S. Marine and adoptee. Click here to donate now.


2 Comment(s)


Valli Spahn said: 

Whether your child came to you through adoption or not, sending that child off to serve is very counter to everything a mother has done before in parenting.This is especially true if that child is in a "forward operating base" of the infantry. As moms, we are there to protect our children from harm and now we are sending them directly into danger. As a mom who has been there, I felt insane until the day my son came home from his two deployments lasting a total of 27 months. He was stop lost and active for 5 years. I feel better now but ache still when I see my son reliving his combat experience. Our whole family sacrificed. Our family is a touched by adoption and military service. Please remember those who serve and have served during this holiday. It is nice to see that Adoption Network Cleveland is currently acknowledging those who give so much back.
May 23, 2012 at 5:00 PM

Lori Holden said: 

What an apt analogy about parting with a beloved child. I love how you find empathy for your son's birth mom -- all birth moms -- with this experience with your son, and also how the parting further bonds your son's two mothers. May you have countless more opportunities to look into those baby blues again.
May 19, 2013 at 7:03 PM
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