Ari, Non-Parenting Mother of Four
Let’s start with an introduction of yourself....
I’m Ari, 30, and I live with my partner, Kasin in Missouri. I like to spend as much time as possible helping other people – whether that’s helping them catch up on cleaning, sharing our food stamps so they can provide more for their children, or just being a shoulder to cry on.
We know you have quite a story, and we’re so thankful you’re open to sharing with us. Should we start from the beginning?
I have a very jaded view of motherhood because of how I grew up. My mother was a chronic alcoholic, and because of that, my childhood was full of trauma and abuse. When I finally had the chance to speak up when I was in kindergarten, my mother landed in jail and my sister and I were off to foster care. Unfortunately, even though our foster mom adopted us, it was another abusive household and one I was eventually kicked out of, leaving me to fend for myself as a teenager. I ended up reconnecting with my birth mother, but that’s a whole other story for another time.
That must have been so difficult. How would you say that impacted your perspective on what it meant to be a mother?
Growing up as an unwanted child made me want to be a mother so badly so that I could show a child the love that I always wanted. The love that children deserve. The mother figures in my left defined everything I didn’t want to be when I became a mother.
You eventually became a mother to four little girls – tell us about that story...
I always knew that I wanted to get pregnant and be a mom. It took some time and different partners until I found Kasin. All in all, we had four beautiful girls together. I loved it. I loved staying up all night preparing the perfect birthday parties and holidays for them. I loved watching them dancing and singing. I loved being proud of them, including our oldest who could do almost 40 pulls ups before she was three. They had SO much energy.
You speak a lot in the past tense. What’s changed?
Unfortunately, I carry too much of the trauma from the traumas I’ve experienced in my life to be the mother I wanted to be for my children. I took parenting classes and committed to good routines and habits, but it was hard enough for me to keep consistent habits for myself, nonetheless provide them for my children. Having three under three years old became too much, and while intellectually I know what to do, I’m too ill mentally to execute it consistently. The same day I found out I was pregnant with my fourth baby, was the day the department of social services intervened and took our three girls.
That must have been so difficult. What is your relationship with them now?
Because of everything that was going on with the girls, we knew that it was going to be very difficult for us to bring our fourth baby home. I explored a number of different options and with the help of some wonderful organizations, we decided to pursue adoption for the baby we were expecting. After finding an agency we wanted to work with, and narrowing it down to a few different hopeful families, we finally found the couple that seemed like the perfect fit. We had wanted to find a gay couple, in part to spite my homophobic mother, but also because I knew how much it would mean to them to be able to have a family. When I was pregnant, I had a dream that they named her ‘Rose’ and their faces froze when I told them. They had just decided that would be her middle name after one of their grandmothers. It seemed like a sign.
Today, we keep in touch with all three of them and regularly FaceTime. The baby’s face lights up when she sees us. Somehow, they always call when I’m having a hard day or am needing love and I instantly feel better. That decision and our relationship is very healing.
And the other girls?
We fought long and hard for them to come home to us, took all the parenting classes, met with counselors, and everything they asked us to do. After almost a year, we realized we had to remove ourselves from their lives in order to break the cycle – so they didn’t have to grow up like I did. Placing our fourth for adoption made the process of terminating our parental rights for the other three somewhat easier, because we had realized that the best love we could give them was the gift of a better future.
We know they were placed with a foster family that eventually adopted all three together.
That must be so difficult, but also proof of how strong you are and how much love you have to give. How are you doing now?
I have to work on healing. It’s the only thing I can do. I have to heal my soul. I have to heal the traumas that prevented me from being the mother I wanted to be so that if they make their way back to me someday, I am changed and able to be a positive part of their lives.
Finding ways to channel my nurturing energy has been really helpful. I’ve been exploring my spirituality. I grow food because I love to watch things grow. I feed people to make sure they and their children are fed. I care for the disabled, so they don’t feel that way. And I cry. I allow myself to grieve.
There are so many layers to your story – any advice to anyone finding themselves in these situations?
Find ways to heal and be the best self you can be for your children. If you’re struggling, ask for help.
Understand that certain things may be out of your control, but you always have options. When we found out we were pregnant again, we reached out to a variety of organizations to understand what our options were. Their support was key to us navigating those difficult decisions.