For anyone new to my story, I am not the kind of birthmother I am advocating for – but I’m not not the kind of birthmother and/or prospective birthmother I am advocating for either. Specifically, my situation was this: No one coerced me to give my baby up for adoption. In some ways, maybe, adoption for me is harder to grapple with than if I had been coerced because I have only myself to look to whenever I feel victimized…victimized by my own ignorance. It’s still hard for me to comprehend the levels of self-loathing I have experienced through the years – even to the point I believed at times I deserved the punishment I’ve lived in – which is an oxymoron because I don’t believe that anyone deserves that kind of punishment.
I was very resolute and had convinced myself that I was not mother material – which I’m sure also made me very convincing to everyone I was speaking to about it. Getting pregnant made me stop and pay attention to my life in a way that I hadn’t done before, and it made me see how aimless I was, how messed up a person I was, and how messed up my life was. I thought, ‘I’ve made my bed and have no choice but to lie in it,’ but I didn’t feel it was fair for this baby, who was an innocent life and had done nothing wrong, to have to lie in it with me. I was 26 and had lived long enough to see that I was stuck but not long enough to see that it was possible to get unstuck. So, I guess the whole self-loathing thing really took root even deeper then. And I had not come across anyone who seemed to have any of the answers I’d been seeking. Sometimes even the most mundane and basic things that seemed to come to a lot of people without much thought or effort would be baffling and overwhelming to me. What my life looked like when I was pregnant was a fast-moving train that was headed for derailment.
It probably wasn’t until moving to California in the month before my son’s 2nd birthday that I ran into a kind of “happy accident” as I sometimes like to call it: Rehab. With all the gamut of internal struggles, I had been trying for years to self-medicate, mostly with alcohol and pretty much any drug anyone would put in front of me. The story of how I got there is interesting but not necessarily relevant to what I’m trying to express here. I tried for a while after my son’s birth to stay away from substances but had reached a point of such numbness…I felt like a walking dead person…how I chose to handle the crisis was the same way I’d chosen to handle every crisis: Screw this! Will someone please tell me why I’m existing in this hell sober?
When it was first suggested I go through treatment, I didn’t understand why but basically said, ‘What the hell…I’ve tried everything else known to man…what can it hurt?’ I didn’t think of myself as an addict. But the more I went into those rooms where I was being introduced to the 12-step program, the more I started hearing similarities in the way that I’d been thinking and conducting my life. Gradually, the fog began to clear, and I started really making a connection with God, and things started looking up. The dark and terrifying places I’d been going to in my mind and emotions were not as dark, not as terrifying – not that I couldn’t be knocked off balance…it just kept getting better the more I sought the Lord and the more I simply stayed away from drugs and alcohol. That fog clearing was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I was happy about my newfound freedom; on the other hand, I began to wish I’d known there was a way out sooner as the fog clearing also meant that the horror and regret over having made the choice to give up my son was all the more apparent. I remember well the day when I had the thought, It would have been okay after all...I’ll never forget it, I can still remember where I was when the thought hit me, everything. I was crushed…so I leaned on the Lord even heavier and poured myself even more into learning more about God, about myself in relation to God, and, in all my searching, Jesus was the most shining example I’d found to follow. And I devoted myself to following Him with everything that was within me.
Whenever I’d see boys around the same age as my son I would wonder if that little boy would be someone my boy would want to play with and hang out with. I’d see things I imagined would be similar mannerisms, similar interests, sometimes I would even see similarities in appearances, just little nuances here and there to my boy like maybe in the shape of the face, the hair color or cut, a piece of clothing similar to clothes my son was wearing in the pictures his parents were sending me.
And that brings me to the pictures. In the throes of my active addiction I managed to lose almost everything I owned, sometimes a piece at a time and sometimes in whole chunks. After sobering up, what I didn’t lose in my disease I threw away because it was too painful a reminder of the past that I was trying so desperately to purge. There came a point, literally, when the only thing I had with me from my past was the pictures of my baby. The agreement was that, in the first year, I would receive pictures and update letters every 4 months, then after the first birthday I would receive them every 6 months, then every year around his birthday thereafter.
The parents were so proud!! And I couldn’t help but be proud too…such an exquisite, exceptional, beautiful child…kind of bittersweet, you know? As he grew from a baby, to a toddler, to a little boy I was so falling in love with the person I was seeing through those pictures and through the letters telling me about him…falling deeper and deeper in love with each passing year. As he grew, I could see that he was growing up a sweet and confident young man with a very intelligent mind with a sort of focused resolution to himself. I’ve said it for years and years…those pictures, those letters were my absolute lifeline. I can’t imagine how awful it is when parents do not honor their agreements to send the pictures they promise…it is the most brutal betrayal any mother can endure – which is why I’m so rabid about defending the rights of each mother where we have been tossed aside, betrayed, violated in such countless ways…that betrayed birthmother is me, and I am her; we are one. I’ll never forget the first woman who told me she had a daughter she’d given up; she was promised the same thing but after only a few short years the letters and pictures stopped coming. She had no idea where her daughter was, how she was, she knew nothing…horrifying…and terrifying! I mean, in my heart, I didn’t feel the people raising my son were capable of something so callous, but, you know…that fear and insecurity was always there, lurking. The day of his birthday would always feel precarious, and the package would usually arrive some time after his birthday. It was the biggest relief imaginable when their packages would arrive in the mail as promised.
I’ve been crying desperately through this post, and I feel feverish and sick in my stomach like I’m coming down with something, so I’m going to jump off here with a promise of more later when I’ve kicked this thing’s butt!