I am a birth mom.
Some things about my identity are obvious and unremarkable. I am a female, a daughter, a friend, an employee, and I am Caucasian. If one were to scratch the surface, one would learn that I am also an only child, an only grandchild on my mother’s side, and also that I am a mother. You may be asking why you’d have to dig a little deeper to discover that I am a mother—isn’t that something a woman would primarily identify herself as? My claim to motherhood differs from the typical definition. I am a birth mom.
At age nineteen, no one could tell me what to do or who to be with. I was stubborn, hard-headed, and saw the world through rose-colored glasses tinted with what I thought was a “forever” kind of love. Truth be told, for over three years I was involved with a man I shouldn’t have been, but I wouldn’t realize this until much later. Eventually, he and I both felt the tension that comes along with dragging a relationship out after it’s run its course. It was at that time that I discovered I was pregnant with his child. Not a few weeks pregnant; several months pregnant.
I think I knew in the back of my mind that I was pregnant about a month or so before I was able to admit it to myself. Denial is a strong reaction. So strong, in fact, that when I found myself looking at the word “positive” on a black and white sheet of paper in my doctor’s office, I was literally in shock. To say I had no clue what I was going to do would be an understatement. I felt flush; the room suddenly became ten thousand degrees. I remember bits and pieces of what my doctor said to me after that: “…get you in for an ultrasound ASAP…”, “schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN…”, “are you going to keep the baby?…”, “resources for abortion…”, “…we’ll help however we can.” I honestly don’t think I responded to a single one of her comments. I just wanted to be out of those four walls and into the fresh air.
I knew I would choose between parenting or adoption.
I remember the exact time I made the outgoing phone call to the man who was about to find out that he was going to be a father—5:18pm. It all became real the first time I heard myself say it out loud. The first thing he wanted to know was whether or not I was going to keep the baby. I wanted her. I loved her already. When I responded by telling him that I wasn’t in a position to raise a child with or without him, it was assumed that I meant that I was going to have an abortion. We went to my ultrasound first thing the next morning with the idea that if my pregnancy was still early enough, I would have the abortion and move on; yet that was never a choice for me. I knew I would choose between parenting or adoption, and that was final. After that ultrasound, abortion was off the table anyway. I was too far along for anyone to even try and intimidate me into thinking I needed to choose an option I didn’t believe was in the cards for me or my unborn child.
Reality set in that day. I was having a little girl. No longer was this just a “thing” growing inside me…she was a little girl. Many discussions were had from that point forward. I brought up adoption; he disagreed immediately. He later came around. I knew that ultimately, I had to do what I needed to do. I called an agency. I set up a meeting and we both attended the meeting, all the while disconnecting myself from the situation. I was aware of what I was doing and the severity of the life-changing decisions I was making, but it was almost as if I was watching a movie in which someone else was the main character.
Choosing an adoptive family for my baby.
The social worker came to my home with a pile of books. Profiles. Hopeful adoptive parents who wanted nothing more than to be chosen to raise a baby born to someone who felt that they couldn’t, for whatever reason, properly raise a child at that point in time. I felt unworthy of the power that was placed in my hands. Believe me when I tell you there is nothing more surreal than getting an up close look into someone’s life, family, and marriage, and then having the authority to deem them either worthy or unworthy of becoming a parent. The first profile I looked at stood out to me, but in a robotic fashion, I looked through the others anyways. My parents looked through them with me. Her father looked through them with me. It always veered back to the very first family I read about…the family I eventually chose.
I didn’t want to meet them. I dismissed the idea before I even gave it a second thought. It would be far too hard and far too painful. I went to bed with that thought firmly planted in my head, yet somehow, I woke up feeling the complete opposite. How could I not at least meet these people who I was trusting with my child? I felt that I owed that to my baby as well as myself. The day before Halloween, we met. I was reserved, yet I felt something indescribable as I listened to them talk. I saw a lot of my own characteristics in the adoptive mother. My mind was made up. On the ride home, when her father told me that very same thing, it had been decided. That man and that woman would become my child’s mom and dad.
Nothing could prepare me for her first cry in the delivery room.
I read plenty about adoption in the days that I could barely walk around the house. I read articles for adoption; I read articles against adoption. I read message boards where women asked “How will you feel getting blurry, terrible-quality pictures of your child?” or “How will you feel if they cut contact?” Heartbroken. That’s how I’m sure I’d feel. But I believed then what I still believe now: it was not about me. It was about my daughter. I knew that I was essentially signing myself up to have my heart ripped out like a puzzle piece, and then bent and twisted, never to be put back in a perfectly aligned way again. I went through phases of swearing I would regret it, to knowing it was best. I decided I would not hold her in the hospital, and I wouldn’t have her in my room either. But no amount of reading could prepare me for hearing my daughter’s first cry in the delivery room. No decision I had made about not holding her could stand a chance against my new and compelling instincts to hold her and kiss her cheeks. She was here. She was tangible; I was holding her in my arms. She had a head full of jet-black hair and looked exactly like her birth father.
My time in the hospital with her was precious. While I will always be her mother, I knew I didn’t have long to be her mommy. The three days in the hospital were my treasured time to be both. I held her, I fed her, I changed her diapers, I barely let her out of my sight. She slept in my room with me at night, and snuggled in my bed with me during the day. Her birth father came each day that I was there and spent time with her, my parents spent time with her, and my best friend—and one of the only people who knew I even had a child—spent time with her. For what it was, for how heartbreaking and bittersweet it was, it was beautiful. Tears fill my eyes whenever I think back on those days, but I wouldn’t change them for anything.
Her adoptive parents have held up their promises and then some.
My beautiful daughter is now three and living a life more enriching than I could have imagined. Her adoptive parents have held up their promises and then some. We have very open communication and have discussed contact at length. I trust her parents and they trust me, and trust is key to any relationship. I never questioned the choice I made when I chose her parents. I had a gut feeling, and I have never looked back. Yet still, something recently happened to re-affirm my decision sevenfold. I wrote to her adoptive mom and explained that my grandfather was very ill, and had been for the past two years. I told her boldly and honestly how he told me outright that he had lived his life; he was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, he was retired from a job he loved, and had just celebrated his 80th birthday; but something was missing. He wished to meet his great-granddaughter just once on this earth. He talked about her all the time. He asked me for photos of her and asked how she was doing each and every single time I visited him in the nursing home. It was a couple of weeks after telling her this that she created a miracle. She made a trip down to his nursing home and explained to a bright-eyed, curly haired little girl that this man was her great-grandfather. He got to spend over an hour with her and soaked up every minute of it. He later told me with great detail and happy tears in his eyes how “simply” amazed he was by her. Sadly, he passed away a day short of a month after their visit. There is a part of me that believes he was waiting for her. He had been sick for years and held on despite the odds the doctors gave him time and time again. I’d like to believe that his life was complete when he met her and they exchanged hugs and smiles. Her mom told me not to thank her; that family and roots are very, very important to her. To have witnessed this; to see the love that her mom has in her heart and to see the way she honored my grandfather’s wishes speaks volumes to me. It tells me more than she could ever say.
Admittedly, I am still picking up the pieces of my life day by day. There are days where I don’t want to get out of bed without my daughter by my side. There are, of course, days where I wonder “what if?” and question what my life would be like at this very moment if I were raising a three year old. I tell myself that as long as my daughter is happy, safe, loved, and well-cared for, then I will survive. And that is true. Do I think adoption is all sunshine and flowers? No. But do I think it’s a life sentence of misery and never-ending depression? No. You never really know how painful it is to admit that you are not prepared for your own flesh and blood until you have to admit it for their sake. However, I believe in my heart that my child is being raised by an amazing couple who can provide her with the life she deserves, as much as it may hurt me. I believe that I needed her to come into my life when she did. I believe she helped me get out of a toxic relationship that no one could convince me to get out of until she came along. Her existence and placement made me feel that I was worthy of better, too. All I can do from here on out is ensure she knows that she always was and always will be loved by me, and to live my life in a way that will make her proud to call me her birth mom.