I met with my attorney today.
He's representing me for free - I don't have a huge amount of faith in him, because nothing has gone my way even remotely in the past year, but it's better than not having an attorney at all (and I've been without one for some of the process so I know). But today felt a little different.
Several months ago he told me that it was highly unlikely that I'd ever be the primary parent again - nor was it likely I'd have a chance at being considered a 'residential' parent even if part time. My absolute frustration at that was a like a thick simmering bitterness always faintly bubbling under the surface; the main feeling around his statement was pure howling grief.
Now, some level of grief is what I've been feeling daily for the past year. It's what has me always afraid of drowning within it. Yet that moment, as I had to sit there calm and composed and accepting, that howling grief became something that fractured the last tenuous hold I had on the will to keep moving forward. Up until then I'd been broken, but I was still the mom. At that point, I was only broken.
Fortunately for me, I have a couple of truly supportive, encouraging, and listening girlfriends who rescued me with their love, their feirceness, and their anger on my behalf. I also have my writing, an adult daughter who came home to stay with me and remind me that I wasn't done being a mom yet, and the sweetest most loving dog who curls himself around my heart every day and loves it back to life.
I picked myself up, only stopping to howl and grieve and fall apart once in a while in private, and moved forward.
Today I met with him again to discuss some recent issues: my ex's ongoing claim that I am mentally unstable and a threat to my children, his continued lack of regard for the "joint custody" status and the way he decides on medications, ear peircing, and camp enrollment for our kids that he fails to inform me of or tells me about with no notice (hey, the kids are leaving in 4 days for two weeks of camp. period. end of discussion.), and to talk about what comes next while we wait for our next court date.
Our discussion wasn't exactly fruitful, but I think something elemental has changed.
Somehow I've moved, in my attorneys veiwpoint, from some charity pro bono case he got suckered into handling by a "can't say no to me octogenarian who made legal history and is a county wide legend" who took pity on me to a real actual client.
Somehow altered in his eyes from some "very likely crazy incompetent parent who I'm forced into defending by stupid unwritten lawyer code of brotherhood" into a mom who is getting totally shafted by a power and control abusing ex and whose kids are at the heart of it and who really really really wants just one person in power on her side.
I'm not sure what it was: was it all the medical records I gathered and forwarded to him? Was it all the letters of reccommendation from my friends, my doctor, and my adult daughter combined that I handed to him? Was it some discussion he had with my ex's attorney off record maybe? I don't know. All I know is that at some point in our conversation, his words went something along the line of this: "it's a ladder we are climbing and we are starting at the bottom rungs. We have to go up just like everyone else, rung by rung, and we move from more liberal time with your kids until you finally are in a place when your kids ARE WITH YOU full time..."
That's all I can hear now, resonating in my heart... "when your kids are with you full time"...
I have potential. I have hope. I am, yes, I am, still the mom.