Let me backtrack a little – my sister-in-law is a drug addict. Before she had this baby, she had given birth to three more. Three kids that she didn’t take care of properly. Three kids that she had taken away from her by child services because she was a terrible mother. Three kids that, no matter how much love she gave them, she could never fully be a mother to.
Those three kids now live with my in-laws, and are brought up by the two of them with a lot of help from myself and my husband. It’s taken a long time to get things to a place where the kids are settled, but now they’re thriving. The eldest has a natural ability for sport that none of us could have predicted, and a burgeoning love of books that I’m proud to encourage. The middle one is an incredibly smart, perceptive kid, full of questions and hilarious statements. The youngest is the sweetest kid I have ever met, calm and happy and capable of so much love and warmth. We don’t have our own kids yet, but I know that when we do these kids will pretty much be siblings to ours. They’re a huge part of our lives, and we a huge part of theirs.
But then, a few months ago, my mother-in-law got a phone call. My sister-in-law was in labour. She was eight months into her fourth pregnancy, and none of us had been told. She gave birth to a boy, one month early, who then had to be weaned off methadone, as did his siblings before him.
My sister-in-law has been allowed to keep him, despite her track record and her addiction. Child services in our part of the world focus on keeping families together, so she gets the opportunity to try to look after her son, to prove herself to be a better parent than she has been in the past.
None of this seems fair. Especially not to that poor baby, who now is not only recovering from the bad stuff that comes with being a drug baby, but who now won’t have much to do with his siblings or his grandparents because of the choices his mother has made in the past.
But, strangely, this is not the part that made me hate her. I was angry, sure. Hurt, confused, disappointed, heartbroken – but still it took something else to make me feel hatred toward her.