No I’m not a lesbian, although I don’t have anything against lesbians or gay men for that matter, but that is a different post entirely. No, today I’m coming out of the closet with the biggest skeleton in there because I’m tired of pretending it’s not there.
Today is the day that I have literally been waiting for for 18 years. I cried myself to sleep for so many of those years that I couldn’t eventually keep track. The only thing that got me through the day sometimes was the fact that on June 26, 2008 I would finally be given the opportunity to make my feelings known, to apply to the state to be put on a registry that says that yes I do want to know him, and be reunited with him and be a part of his life. Eighteen years ago today I gave birth to a precious baby boy and I have mourned the loss of him ever since. This is something so precious and personal that I have only told a handful of people over the last 18 years and there are so many different aspects of it that I want to share and get out there in the open but I’m not sure I will be able to coherently express my thoughts and feeling so it may be that this turns into multiple posts for the future. Please bear with me as I pour out my soul. (I know this is going to be a long post.)
As I said I have literally waited for this day for 18 years so I could turn in the paperwork to the state. In Idaho, where he was born, if both parties sign up on the registry then they match you up somehow. As this day has drawn near I have had some major anxiety over whether I should send it in or not. What if he doesn’t ever sign up? Can I take the rejection if he never wants to meet me? What if he is disappointed when he does meet me? Will he be angry with me for giving him up? Will he feel like I abandoned him? After so many years of this being the one thing that helped me make it through the day to know that I might be able to meet him again, I started questioning whether I was even going to do it or not. My husband encouraged me saying that I will regret it if I don’t, and he is right, I would not for one second want him to think that I do not openly welcome a relationhip with him. Therefore today is the day that I will drop that paperwork in the mail and hope for the day that I get to tell him face-to-face that I never stopped loving him.
So many people have the opinion that a birthmother (life mother, first mother, natural mother or whatever term you choose to use) is someone who is irresponsible or undeserving or immature or “that girl” or whatever else you have thought of when you hear the term birthmother because the term is rarely if ever attached to an actual human being. If it is then you know that a birth mother is none of these. I am not any of those. The events that transpired to where I found myself in the position of being pregnant at 16 years old are yet again very personal and I’m not yet ready to share those, but it shouldn’t matter. What 16 year old doesn’t make mistakes or do things that they regret, but don’t have to suffer with quite such eternal consequences as losing a child for all eternity. I would have been a damn good mother to my son too, there is no doubt in my heart, but I tried to do what was best for him, not me! The primary song “Families Can Be Together Forever” has made me cry for the last 18 years because my son is eternally a member of someone else’s family.
When I placed my son for adoption I went through LDS Social Services (I think it’s called LDS Family Services or something like that now) and they only allowed closed adoptions. This will probably be the topic of another post in the future, but let me tell you, I abhor closed adoption. For so many years I closed off my thoughts about this whole thing because it hurt so much. I didn’t research it or outwardly express any feelings or emotions about adoption because the pain was too much and my feelings too raw. I didn’t really even know that you could even have an open adoption, it was not an option given to me. So the past few months as this date has approached I have devoured as much information on the internet and books that I could, yet still “hiding” the fact from everyone because I didn’t want to make anyone else uncomfortable. I can honestly say from my own feelings and a lot of the research that I’ve found that closed adoption is cruel and unusual punishment in the rawest sense of the term. It is not good for the birthmother and it is not good for the child, and if the adoptive family is looking at it selflessly then they will realize it's not the best thing for them as it is not the best thing for their child. There is a book titled “Primal Wound” that is on my list to read. I have only read excerpts from it to this point so I don’t know the full gist or whether I believe everything she writes, but it’s written by an adoptive mother who was trying to find the reason why her adoptive daughter had so many emotional struggles. According to the excerpts I’ve read she believes, through her research, that children bond with their mother in utero (this is pretty much a given) and when that child is taken away from that mother and given to someone else they feel as though they have been abandoned by the one person that they love and trust. As I said I don't know if I completely subscribe to this notion, but wouldn’t it be so much better to continue to foster that relationship through open adoption so that child can feel love from all sides? And birthmothers wouldn't feel cast aside and treated like an incubator for someone else’s child?
Mother’s Day was excruciatingly painful for me for years. I’ve had friends who couldn’t have children and at some point along the path to adoption have had that Mother’s Day where it was just too painful to go to church or talk to anyone. I can assure you that any birth mother knows and understands that pain all too well because not only does she not have her child with her and that day is a reminder of that, but she also can’t outwardly show her pain and broken heart, and it is not just on one or two Mother’s Days, but for every Mother’s Day for the rest of her life! Don’t get me wrong, I love Mother’s Day with my girls, but it doesn’t change the fact that that day is a reminder that I was a mother long before Ari came along and I’ve never been able to celebrate that. A mother that has experienced the death of a child or who is not able to have a child gets sympathy from those around them on that day, we as birthmothers get brushed aside and forgotten. I have to believe that Heavenly Father would not want his precious daughters who endure so much to bring these sweet spirits into this world to be treated that way.
I am his mother as much as his adoptive mother is his mother. Not the same, but very much his mother in my own way. This may be offensive to some people, but this is what I know. When I placed him for adoption it was pretty much a common thing for people (including my social workers, parents and church leaders) to encourage adoption and to say that it is better so you can just move on with your life. I can wholeheartedly assure to you that no one who has ever placed a child for adoption has moved on with their lives. I’m not saying they are stuck wallowing in self pity or anything like that, but the moment I stepped out of that hospital without my baby in my arms I became a fundamentally different person. It’s impossible not to.
For anyone to think or assume or in any way imply that anyone can love him more they are inexplicably wrong. I’m sure his adoptive family loves him dearly (at least that is my hope and desire) but it is not possible for anyone to love him more than I have from the time that I carried him inside me. I had people close to me tell me that they truly felt that he belonged in that other family. I don’t have those assurances that he is theirs and not mine, I’m not saying that he wasn’t meant to be their son, but I don’t believe that that means he wasn’t meant to be mine too. I have to believe that Heavenly Father has a greater plan and he could have been theirs and mine, just in different ways… In doing some of my research I’ve come across some wonderful blogs where they have completely open adoptions or they have accepting views of birthmothers and it sounds and feels so right. Go (here and here), here, here, here, here and here for some examples from adoptive families, birthmothers and a hopeful adoptive family. I wish there could be adoption reform so this was the norm, so that birthmothers aren’t the skeleton in the closet.
As this subject started to consume my life a few months ago I thought about starting a blog just dedicated to my experience and thoughts on adoption. These are a couple of entries that I wrote to post on that blog. I may still start one as a cathartic way to express my feelings, who knows, but here they are, in case you’re interested:
The forgotten piece
There is a triad, as many call it, in any adoption, the birth or natural parent, the adoptee and the adoptive parent. For a long time adoption was a dirty little secret to all three parties of this triad, but for quite a number of years it has become socially acceptable and perfectly normal to be adopted and to adopt a child (as well it should be), but still very socially unacceptable to be the birth parent. You have done something wrong to get yourself in the situation where you have a baby or child that you cannot or choose not to take care of. This is me…I am a member of the third side of this triangle that without which the whole structure would fall apart, but once the “transaction” has taken place I am to be the invisible part that is no longer seen or recognized as ever having existed in the first place.
I am starting this blog because I have a few friends who have adopted or have been adopted and I hear their sides of the story, but you rarely hear mine. There are very few people that even know that I ever had that baby boy. It’s not something that I openly talked about. I am ashamed that I got pregnant at such a young age and then placed that child for adoption. For those who have been adopted I cannot speak for your birthmother, but as for me I did not in any way shape or form do it because I didn’t love him. I did not “give him up” because two parents could love him more than I could as a single parent, because I loved him with every fiber of my being. I did it because I was told that he would be given a better life then I would have been able to give him. Is this true? Maybe, especially if you look at the financial side of things. I was 16 years old. I didn’t have the education or the skills to get a decent job.
To the adoptive parent, I feel you need to know what I have gone through as a birth parent for all these many years. As that baby was placed in your arms you gained something as I lost something and I will never be the same again. I am not trying to make you to feel bad as an adoptive parent, or feel sorry for me in some way; I’m just trying to help you understand what it’s like on the other side. That hole in your heart that was filled as you cradled your new bundle of joy was filled with the piece of my heart that will never and can never be whole again. I cried myself to sleep many nights for many years wondering if I had made the right decision. Sure you tell your friends about me and the selfless choice I made, but do you really consider me his parent too? Do my hopes and dreams for that sweet little boy matter to you in your decisions to parent him? Is it fair that you should have to consider me in your parenting when your friends who have biological children don't have to consider anyone else? Probably not, but life hasn't necessarily been fair to me either. Do you know that a piece of me died the day I walked out of that hospital without that sweet little boy in my arms? I have felt the overwhelming joy with my friends who have adopted as their children became legally theirs, I get that and I am truly happy for them, but in all that joy I wonder if they can truly understand my heartache and sorrow. Allowing someone to adopt and raise your child is, if not the most unselfish, at least one of the most unselfish things any human being can do for another. Shouldn't that be relished and respected and shouted from the rooftops?
This is not something I “hide” from the important people in my life. My husband knows and has done since we first became good friends oh so many years ago. But this is not something I wear on my sleeve because I don’t want others who don’t really know me or don’t know the whole situation (of which is a story in and of itself) to judge me.
There is so much of this quote that feels like it is describing me:
In the years following surrender, how did we fare without our babies?
Was our grief a short-term problem or did the adoption have lasting ramifications? According to Birthmothers, Women Who Have Relinquished Babies for Adoption Tell Their Stories by Merry Bloch Jones:
... most birthmothers lost their innocence, self-esteem, and prospects... many relinquished their trust in others and their sense of identity within society... many felt that their most important relationships... were damaged beyond repair. More than one in five became involved in abusive relationships... Under the influence of anger and depression, some set out on paths of self-punishment and self-destruction... Many became emotionally estranged from everyone who had been involved... About one fifth developed eating disorders... More than one in five developed secondary infertility. Most... remained permanently incapable of trust and intimacy.
May 27, 2008
I didn’t realize how letting out some of these feelings that I’ve had pent up for so many years would change the way I look at things. We have some friends who just recently found out that a baby boy was going to be placed with them. I’m having a hard time being happy for them. Don’t get me wrong, they deserve to be parents and I am happy for them, but what about the birth mother of that precious little boy? My heart breaks for her. DH heard the news about this family before I did so he was the one that was telling me that the birth mother doesn’t want to be involved at all and it’s going to be a closed adoption. I just wanted to scream “nooooooooooo”. I don’t know the whole situation, but I really believe the more open these things are the better it will be for all parties involved. That little boy would have the opportunity to know that it wasn’t because he wasn’t loved or wasn’t wanted. The birth mother would get to see him grow up healthy and happy and know that she made the best choice. I have to wonder if it is a decision that she will regret someday and I wish there was a way for her to leave the door open, just a crack, so that relationship doesn't have to die altogether.
Adoption is not the ideal option that it is always made out to be. If I had known then what I know now I may not have made the choice that I did. Walking away and entrusting my baby to complete strangers, without knowing so much as his name, all I can call him is my baby boy, and no letters or anything letting me know he's ok! I can’t change it now and I wouldn’t have my husband and daughters, which I wouldn’t want to change, but I also wouldn’t have gone through 18 years of torment up to this point of hoping I did the right thing (and there is a lifetime yet to go). I wish there had been the option to know him and love him right there alongside his adoptive family. Who can argue with having more people to love a child? I can only hope that when I meet my Savior he will tell me whether I made the right decision or not. That he will either say “Job well done, I’m sorry you had to suffer so someone else could have joy, but I’m proud of you for making that decision”, or “I didn’t mean for you to have to make that choice and I’m sorry that I didn’t make it clearer to you what path I had laid out for you, but you handled your struggles well.”
Anyway, there are my very personal emotional demons laid out for all to see. I’m sure now that I’ve allowed my skeletons to come out into the open it is a subject that I will revisit in the future, but for today I need to go and nurse my broken heart.
Please feel free to comment or ask questions!