I am. Still wrapping my head around the custody thing, I think.
It still doesn't feel like a big deal. And everyone says "well, I never doubted you'd win" and "there was no question". I suppose on the outside looking in, it's easy to say. On the surface, I was about 95% certain I'd win, too. After all, the man has certain, documented issues. But still. "What if????" the mind would wander.
"What if?" One thing life has taught me... one thing I know for certain: Nothing is certain. Nothing is predictable. You go your whole life thinking one thing, feeling one way, and something can come along and wipe everything away. Everything you thought you knew could be gone in the blink of an eye. One day you wake up and there are two enormous, ugly buildings at the tip of Manhattan, that can be seen from practically all five boroughs. You know how solid they are, how massive. You worked in them. Hid in the store rooms and wiring closets when you didn't feel like working. Knew where the airshafts were. Shopped every store in the underground mall; could wander it with your eyes closed. The next day by bedtime, those towers are gone. You get out of the train and can't immediately see which way is 'downtown'.
One summer, you live 9 miles east of Kingston in a little cement house by the beach with your family and a dog and a bunch of cats, listen to horse races on the radio and cook on an open fire, and by the end of that year you live in an entirely different country, watch color television and huddle against the cold in a dank and dingy apartment, in the middle of Harlem at it's worst, in the middle of the worst of NYC's history.
One year, you spend your days at work, your evenings drinking and carousing in a bar with people you know and maybe like sometimes; the next year you're a mother and you suddenly realize you can't just pick up and go like you used to. You don't even drink at all anymore. The things that were so important before mean nothing to you and other things you never knew about or thought nothing of or just didn't "get" (like why 8 year old boys still sometimes sleep in mommy's bed) suddenly take on a whole new meaning.
I'm a lazy bitch. I work hard at things that consume me; obsess over them. But until they grab me I'd much rather do nothing. Children never occurred to me, especially after I'd gotten divorced. I mean, there was the Diva, but I quickly realized that the Professor, although 3 and a half years younger than I, was a much better mother than I could have been at that particular moment. I had A Plan, when the Diva came along... and the Plan was to get married to the then boyfriend, and bring the Diva with me and live happily ever after. So I orchestrated and jumped into a marriage. And realized that not only was it not the right thing to do... the marriage was decidedly NOT one where I would bring a child... let alone someone else's child that we were still fighting for in family court. And by the time everything was sorted out, the Diva was the fully the Professor's baby, which I do firmly believe was the right thing for all concerned. My Plan was not THE Plan for me.
So aside from the Diva, while I wanted kids "at some point" I wasn't consumed by the thought of marriage and children. But then I got pregnant. And I decided, after thinking over the pros and cons (Pros: unconditional family support, a solid job, my own apartment, the desire. Cons: Father has temper issues/has no job/doesn't want a baby, would most likely be raising a baby without him.) that I wanted a baby. And so in typical "all-or-nothing-type-chick" fashion, I became consumed with being pregnant, giving birth, with being a mom. Having watched the Professor struggle with mommy issues (and then some) I knew what I was in for, but I certainly didn't count on the intensity of it all. On the overwhelming, all-consuming love.
The custody petition I was served with--by TF's sister--was something of a joke, initially. The claims were bogus and easily disputed. And I'd already been to court to file for custody of a child that wasn't mine and won. "Temporary" custody of the Diva took a year. Two judges, one team of investigative social workers, one law guardian and two court-appointed lawyers. (After the Diva and the Professor were in The Accident, there was another round of court, but it didn't amount to much.) And everyone told me I'd win.
But a year dragged on. Then two. Then three. He fired two lawyers. We had two different Law Guardians. Then my lawyer was suspended. Then he was "Pro Se". Then I got a lawyer, and the Sun got a new Law Guardian. Then four years. Then we had a new judge. Then he had a lawyer. And all the evidence, all the testimony, all the prep work, everything was shelved/ignored/forgotten. No matter what anyone said, nothing was certain. "Two years, tops" people said (it was more like 5). "This time, there WILL be a trial", the judge declared (there was never a trial). "He'll lose visits, based on this behavior" (kid got sent to California). Five years, four lawyers (plus two subs), three law guardians, two judges. All before I could claim custody of my own child. All before I could say with certainty that he belonged to me, that I had the right to make decisions about his life--uncontested.
I always felt reluctant to get a "real" job once the custody battle began, because I couldn't count on only using my standard two weeks vacation for anything other than court dates. I felt that I couldn't make an permanent decisions about how far I wanted to move, or how to raise my kid, since any decision I made could be called into question at any given time. And I could be called upon to (bare minimum) outline the thinking behind the decision, or (worst case scenario) outright defend my decision at any given time. You don't realize how many little decisions you make in a day, until you are aware of the fact that any one of those decisions can blow up in your face.
On the outside, it may not seem like a big thing. I am the mother, after all. It's my job to make those decisions. But it can be debilitating, year after year after year, to know that you have to be able to defend your reasoning or thinking just because somebody got a bug up their ass that day. It is very daunting to sit in a courtroom before a judge, who has Ultimate Control over your life, and with at least two people who are prepared to oppose you just because you sit there, one person who's supposed to be "neutral" but isn't, a bunch of nosy-assed people (court officers, lawyers-in-training) and just a lawyer on your side.
I was often reminded of the story of Solomon and the two women. He was to judge between the two of them, and to decide which one was the real mother of a child. One wanted her child to live. The other wanted to eat the child. Each were passionate in their claim. Each one must have been convincing, since Solomon actually had to deliberate. I have often thought of the sheer terror the real mother must have felt; does she fight? Does she give in? But she CAN'T give in. Giving in is just not an option. And then to have someone say flippantly "Oh, just cut the kid in half." And then for her to say... just take him then. I'd rather you take him than cut him in half. I felt just like that when I saw the trip to CA was a done deal. I could go... go sit in a hotel room in CA and wait for him. "Have a vacation! It's beautiful out there" the judge joked. But like the mother in the story, I would rather you just take him. It's less confusing that way, less painful for him and for me.
I do have faith in God and that He knows what your limit is, because this custody battle was ended right when I knew I couldn't do it another day. I do have faith that I endured all this for a reason, though at the moment I'm not sure what it was. At this moment I'm exhausted. Unfuckingbelievably tired, and I wish I had the luxury of a week of doing nothing, but no such luck. And last week--the week the Sun Wasn't Here, probably could have been a good week for that, but I couldn't breathe. The week proved though, that the Sun will come back. More importantly, it proved to his father that he was beaten, which is probably more important than anything else. Not that I take joy in beating him, nor was that the point of all this, as far as I'm concerned. But the man has no understanding of "negotiation" or "compromise" or "agree to disagree". It's all win/lose for him, and in order for him to back off, he had to lose. He had to return the Sun to me at a specified time and location and not when he damn well felt like it, and to him, that meant he lost. And I knew this... but I still couldn't breathe.
The day before yesterday, TF sent me an email, ccing Lawyer and Law Guardian, but I didn't see it till yesterday. He sent me a bunch of pictures from the Sun's trip. I sent him back an email, NOT "cc"-ing (although I did blind copy someone):
"Thank you very very much for those. I appreciate it. He had a wonderful time. And we got the big dreads out of his hair. I was ready to cut them out but he wouldn't hear of it.
I still haven't set up the webcam. I keep falling asleep. But I will, I promise. I want to set it up on his laptop because I work on my computer.
I expected a nasty email back, but so far, nothing. Nothing, in this case, is a big something. A HUGE something.
The Sun has insisted on sleeping in my bed, along with Torpedo his stuffed dolphin every night since he's been back. The Cat, who feels that he was there first and thinks "I'll be DAMNED if the Kid sleep in the bed and I can't" has decided that he must sleep there, too. I wake up pushing a long-and-heavy-legged Sun back over to his side, and kick the Cat out of bed. I asked the Sun when he might be going back to his room; he said tonight when Nana came.
Little bits of the week are beginning to slip out; he had a great time but it wasn't ALL easy. There was the issue with the Pizza on the last day; the Sun didn't like the frozen pizza taste, and refused to eat it. TF got mad, and yelled, and dumped two pizzas in the trash with great flourish. The Sun was scared a little--he cried, he said. "Why didn't you push 'The Red Button'" I asked? The Red Button was our code word for "MOM, GET ME OUT NOW!" "It was the last day" he shrugged. I laughed. His composure was unbelievable. There were other little "prickly" times, but none warranted pushing The Red Button. "They weren't Mega Ultra-Bad, like the Pizza thing" he said.
We go to Schemitzun tomorrow. It won't necessarily be "restful", but it will be spiritually reviving, and the weather is supposed to be nice and I can't wait. I hope I come back feeling rested, cuz right now.... I'm just drained.