Knowing is a funny thing though. Grace often says, "I only know what I know, mom." She uses this when I expect her to understand something when she doesn't have all the fact, or when pieces of useful information are missing. To say that the general public only knew what they knew would be an understatement. The half-stories and half-truths, were so far from the big picture, the TRUE big picture - that it is surprising that people were so quick to believe them.
Back at the Farmer's Market, Grace and I were approached by a person that we knew by association (a friend of relative). I'm in the middle of saying hello to him, he started pointing his finger at me. Accusing me of throwing my daughter away because she had HIV, because she was black, because she wasn't the perfect child we wanted... People were looking, Grace was shaking, I was absolutely frozen. It wasn't simply a case of being uncomfortable, or being unsure of what to say. I was immobile. I couldn't speak, couldn't move, I couldn't even think. This man (that I knew) is standing in front of me, poking his finger at my chest, accusing me of the most bizarre things I had ever heard.
I didn't "throw" anyone away. We purposefully adopted an older child with HIV from Africa - I went into it knowing she had HIV, knowing she was older, and knowing she was black. I was not surprised on any of those things. I did end up being surprised by the physical violence Ava dispensed with great regularity - and that is the reason she needed to spend some time away from our home.
I don't enjoy stress or conflict and try to avoid it at all costs, I could feel my breathing becoming out of control. I was hot, shaking, and close to tears.
In the midst of it all - I felt sorry for this man because his judgement of me was based solely on the information he had received from one person, *relative* - which was grossly lacking in truth, details, and the full story.
He walked away, telling me that I would be going to hell (might have hurt had I not spent the last four years IN HELL). And that was the first time I felt shame over trying to protect my family. Shame over having to make choices to keep both children safe, to keep myself safe, to keep pets safe. To make a home that is safe for all that live in in.
Shame - for doing my absolute best, for everyone in my family.
That was almost a year ago. We've lived through many more experiences just like this since then. I'm proud to say that a year later I no longer find myself hiding in bathrooms. I have an amazing team of people to support my family and I - and we are figuring it out.
Shame - it may know my name, but it doesn't have any control over me anymore.