What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s post is by an anonymous reader.
I want you to know that giving a child away is exponentially more difficult than raising one. I was not a teenager. I believe if I had been a teenager I wouldn't have had the guts to go through with the adoption. I'm not sure I was really even mature enough at 27 to handle it, but I did. I made my choice and stuck with it. But it was the most painful, wrenching, agonizing thing I have ever done. Ever. I am 44 now, and I still feel the aching loneliness of that quiet hospital room. Luckily the nurses had the foresight to move me off the maternity floor; I believe the sound of happy new parents bonding with their babies would have sent me right over the edge.
It's not necessary for you to understand the reasons I made that choice. I wasn't on drugs or into anything illegal. Just an unhealthy relationship and a reasonable understanding of the kind of fortitude it would take to raise a child as a single parent. I was lucky, I guess. I was older and had some experience with friends' babies. I knew about the difficult times, the endless crying, the lack of sleep. I made a conscious decision to make a different choice. I was mature, stoic and calm. I visited a lawyer, picked out a family for my daughter, and planned my life after delivery.
And then I went into labor. The nurses at the hospital didn't quite know what to make of me. Some treated me with extra compassion, but I also sensed the disdain of others. I had a very quick labor with a minor complication at the end, resulting in them taking the baby and whisking her away. I was stabilized and then taken to my room. It was deathly quiet. I was agonizingly lonely. And I was heartbroken.
The next day a friend came to see me and he had the foresight to buy me a disposable camera. "Don't you want to see your daughter?" he asked. I hadn't thought of it. I thought when you gave a child up for adoption you never saw or touched that child after delivery. Lucky for me my friend was there. We asked about my baby, and we were told we could go to the nursery and see her. I was terrified that I would change my mind (you know, that's what we always hear about those awful birth mothers). I was excited to see what she looked like. My arms ached to hold her.
When we arrived in the nursery, I could tell the staff didn't agree with my decision to see her. They were probably also thinking I was going to change my mind. But they took me in and gave me a comfy rocking chair to sit in. And then they brought her in. She was beautiful. She was so small. I was amazed that this miracle had come from my body. I fed her and rocked her, and tried to impart all my knowledge to her. I told her about her grandparents and her history. I told her what my favorite stories were when I was little. I asked her to always be kind to her parents, especially her Mom, because I remember the kind of teenager I was. I sang to her. I took all the pictures. And then, I let her go. Again. Finally.
I think of that little girl every day of my life. I often look at those wonderful pictures I took that day in the hospital nursery. She is 17 years old now. I wonder what she looks like. Her adoptive parents agreed to send me pictures, but they only did that once and after that the lawyer shut me out. I hope she has had the kind of opportunities in her life that I was unable to provide at that time. I wonder if she ever wonders about me. I won't try and look for her because I feel strongly that it needs to be initiated by her, but I would love it if she decides to find me someday. I want her to meet her two half siblings, particularly my daughter who would be over the moon to meet her "big sister". But most importantly, I want her to not be angry that I gave her away.
What I want you to know is adoption is not easy. When I hear people in politically charged arenas make the statement "why don't they just give them up for adoption" it makes me want to cry. I had incredible support and resources available to me from my family. I was offered grief counseling after I terminated my rights. I found a birth parent support group in my community. But there are many women (and men) out there who don't have those resources. I wish adoption didn't have to be such a secret with such a stigma attached to it. If you hear of a young woman struggling with this decision, I hope you have compassion for her. When you hear of one of those horrible birth mothers who changes her mind, I hope you resist judging her.
If you know an adoptee or an adoptive family, chances are you also know a birth mother. You just don't know it. She is somewhere in your world, and she has a huge hole in her heart every day of her life. She doesn't have the opportunity to talk about her pain and grief because it's not socially acceptable. But I hope, if you ever get the chance, you will allow her to share it with you.