Sunday, 6 May 2007

Jenna


Jenna
was born in 1984 and is the result of a casual affair while I was married and living in Ireland. I might not ever have known that she existed except that a mutual friend informed me about her when Jenna was about 3 months old. Jenna's mother, Heather, after some persuading, let me see her. Heather lived with her widowed mother and some other family members. I saw Jenna irregularly for about the next 2 years - partly my fault (it was during my unreliable period) but mostly Jenna's mother's family's fault. They didn't want me around and would make me feel unwelcome when I visited the family home. I also wasn't allowed to take Jenna out on my own. I kept the whole matter secret from my wife (at Heather's request - she didn't want to be the cause of the breakup of my marriage - but it suited me also) and other family members except for my sister who became very friendly with Heather. Heather and Jenna and my sister and her daughter Carisa spent idyllic days chatting and playing and often I would visit and join in.

Then Heather got a boyfriend. Soon afterwards I was banned from seeing my daughter. I begged Heather to change her mind, arguing that this course of action would be detrimental to Jenna's future. She refused. I requested that she go to Social Services for advice. She refused. I pleaded with her boyfriend to argue my case with Heather. He agreed to do so and later told me that she wouldn't change her mind (although years later I found out that he lied - he didn't want me to see Jenna, either). Since I wasn't married to Jenna's mother I had no legal rights to access to her - as the law was at that time. Not long afterwards, Heather stopped calling with my sister, which upsets my sister to this day.

Years later, I moved to England, and Heather and Jenna moved to a new address which Heather didn't want me to know.

Twelve and a half years later, Heather let Jenna contact me for the first time. By this time all my family knew about the "missing" daughter. Jenna had been asking to see me for several years but her mother didn't want this to happen. She was suffering from depression, anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome. She was a mess; and I think that this is what made her mother relent and see me after all these years. I can't explain the depth of feelings that I felt when we met a few months later in Ireland, and I know that Jenna had similarly strong emotions. We couldn't see enough of each other.

Jenna
spent 14 weeks in England during the following year. Eventually we settled into a pattern of visits. Jenna would see me (and the rest of the family she hadn't previously known about) every 2 months for varying durations. Unfortunately, I turned out not to be the knight in shining armour that Jenna wanted, and she had problems with her mother's family who were still very much against her seeing me. Now she had additional problems to deal with - disappointment that I had been unable to solve her mental health problems and guilt about seeing me, knowing that her mother had not wanted this to happen. She also had rejection problems to deal with because her nearest-in-age half-sister, Colleen, resented the sudden expansion of her family. Life was anything but easy for Jenna, and one consequence was academic failure, despite her very high IQ. Among other consequences were her depression, which led to suicide attempts and self-harm; her worsening IBS; acute hypochondria; and anxiety, including some agoraphobic tendencies.

When Marie came along, Jenna and Marie were able to empathise with each other. They got on extremely well and a friendship was beginning to bloom.

Then, suddenly, Marie started to think that Jenna and I might begin to have a relationship (some time in the future). This was a totally irrational fear - but aren't all phobias irrational? Jenna did exhibit some inappropriate behaviour patterns while with me - sitting on my knee, rubbing my chest... Perhaps I should have stopped her from doing these things, but I thought that she would grow out of them in time. I didn't want to upset her at the time, due to her fragile emotional state; but what happened was much, much worse. Marie banned her from my (now our) home. Furthermore, she wouldn't let me talk to her on the phone unless she listened in, and she had to see any letters or cards that Jenna sent me.

Should I have acceded to her demands? To have refused would have meant not only losing Marie, who would return to her family home, but also our unborn child. Lose Jenna, potentially, or lose my unborn child - that was my choice. An impossible choice! It caused me intense anguish. I eventually chose the latter, hoping that the situation between Marie and Jenna would improve; and I also believed that abandoning my unborn child at that time would lead to him most probably having a poor quality upbringing due to his mother's condition and his grandmother's wish that he didn't exist at all!

Predictably, Jenna's mental health quickly deteriorated...and there wasn't a thing I could do...

Did I do the right thing??

1 comment:

j said...

I encourage you for your honesty to talk of your past right or wrong! I am hoping things have worked out for all of you three!