“The first thing that Kaia* would ever teach me is that I can trust myself.”
I found a story I wrote in 2002 about giving birth to Kaia and how it was something that gave me personal peace. I was stunned by how much the story’s themes still thread themselves throughout our lives.
I am not in contact with Kaia at this moment. She moved out a few months ago, contact has been limited since then, and I decided a week ago to cut off all contact with her until she gets the help she needs. It’s a decision I made hastily, like the one I made when I found out I was pregnant with her and decided to have her and raise her. It was visceral, from the gut. I felt no emotion or question about it. I had run out of ways to feel by the time I made the choice to cut off contact.
She wouldn’t answer a basic logistical question that I asked, she called me stupid three times, she made some other cutting remarks about me and my life that I had gotten used to ignoring, and I just decided then and there that I wasn’t helping her or myself by continuing to be in communication with her. So I told her that. And I told her that she had a week to get her phone and car insurance bills transferred to her name. I emailed the grandparents right away to let them know, in case they wanted to either step in and pay those bills or join me in pushing her toward getting help.
Her grandparents all think I am cruel for cutting her out. They don’t live here and have very little idea of what her behavior is actually like day to day. They have been in denial about her mental health condition for the past year and a half. None of these people are here to help, but they all have opinions about what I should do. And they all have opinions about me. They are all people who don’t like when I set boundaries. They all would love a narrative where it turns out I’m the bad guy, and they can jump in to save the day. They were all very eager to buy into Kaia’s narrative that her problems are because of me. They were so eager that they helped her move out and are paying for her rent. They all thought Kaia was going to go to school, get work, and then be able to pay her own rent. No one would listen to me when I told them that I doubted she’d be able to manage it in the condition she was in. No one listened to me and no one is around to pick up the pieces now that she’s dropped out of school and is floundering and friendless.
But I knew. I knew because I can trust myself. I have the instincts that I need to care for Kaia, and I always have. And right now, she needs me to do what I can to push her into treatment, and she needs me to care for myself in the ways that I can.
Kaia texted me a heart emoji last night and I ignored her. She knows that my love for my kids had made me a softie in the past, and she wants to test my boundaries. It did test my boundaries. I wanted to disregard the boundaries I set and let her know that I love her, but she already knows that I love her. My love is in every cell in her body, in every memory, and in every glance into her own eyes in the mirror. No one can take my love away from her, not her mental illness, and not my absence from her life. No one can take the memories that we share. I have them here for her when she is ready to get help. I am starting to feel again, and I cried, because I miss the her that I knew before mental illness took her from me. We grew up together.
I am enduring the pain of a labor right now. “My body was naked and exposed, and my spirit was weak and unprepared.” I was in transition and thought I couldn’t do this, couldn’t handle this, but now my body is pushing. “My body has been taken over.” And eventually, there will be a birth. There are people telling me what she needs, people still not trusting me after all these years that I raised her alone, and just like back then, I know what she needs, and I am giving it to her.
“Who would have thought such peace came from such turmoil?” I will feel this again one day, as I have after every birth, death, and rebirth I have experienced.
“And, now I know that God will guide me through any tough times Kaia and I have together. He always does.”
It’s a strange part of the journey when I’m given strength and courage by a Me from 20 years ago, who was so young, but so brave, so strong, and so powerful beyond her imagination, and who took the time to write it all down.
*name has been changed