She Calls Me Mom
At the tender age of 23, life had thrown me another curve. Already a single mother to my son I found out I was pregnant. I had already made plans to move out of state, apartment rented, boxes filled and I was absolutely freaked out.
What was I going to do? Who could I turn to?
Well, the answer to the first question was, I had no damn idea what I was going to do. The answer to the second was no one. So I internalized it. Something about being pregnant and in denial makes you come to the conclusion that the pregnancy isn't real. It would just not be so when I woke up one day. I was in shock. I was scared. I decided to call the baby's father.
Sometimes a phone call can change your life. As the phone rang I was a nervous wreck! I had broken up with him a few months before. Unbeknownst to me, he had new girlfriend. When he answered I told him that I needed to talk to him. When he told me he was with his new girl I immediately told him never mind. I knew then that whatever the outcome, I was doing this alone.
The move went as planned. I was dragging ass the day I moved into my new apartment. I was hoping and praying that my family didn’t notice but when they did I just brushed it off as being tired from the drive. But I knew the real reason. I was physically exhausted from the pregnancy and mentally tired from the denial. I decided to hit up a women's health clinic to see what my abortion options were.
"You cannot terminate this pregnancy, you're 6 months along." Wait, what? For someone who had always been a bigger girl, I wasn’t showing at all. I didn’t do any math, didn’t count back months. This thing was supposed to go away!
I drove straight to my aunts house sobbing the entire way. "I'm six months pregnant and don't know what to do!" My aunt and I talked and she agreed to call my parents for me. After she broke the news to my mom I got on the phone. I was absolutely terrified. I didn't want to talk to my mom, but she was very calm. It came down to either raising two children alone, broke, and far away from home, or I could think of adoption.
I did some research and contacted an adoption agency. They sent me a bunch of packets. These packets included the stories of couples who were trying to adopt. I studied life stories, looked at pictures, and decided to meet with one couple that, after years of trying, couldn't have kids. As soon as I met them, I decided they were my daughter’s parents. These two amazing people had been through the ringer. From not being able to have children of their own, to having a birth mother back out on them. They were about to give up. When I met them I could sense their hesitation. After all, I was young and scared and held the key to them being able to start a family. I assured them that we were in this together.
I never ever questioned myself after I met them. I knew that I was having this baby for them. It became easier for me, to assume the role of surrogate even thought I was this baby’s biological mother. I didn’t want to bond with my pregnancy or the baby. As it were, I still didn’t want to be pregnant. It was harder when people would ask me how far along I was and when I was due.
I went to my 3 months of prenatal appointments, made sure to keep her mom and dad up to date on my activities and then we found out they were having a girl. She was born in January of 2002. They asked if I wanted to hold her, I said no. I knew that if I even touched her I might make a selfish choice. I knew that I could not give her what every parent wants to give their child; the world. A few days after her birth, she went home with her new mommy and daddy. I went home with a post-pregnancy belly, a 3 year old and a lump in my throat.
We had all agreed on an open adoption and on the days that there was a thick envelope of pictures in the mail from her parents, I wished I had opted for a closed adoption. I found out she had a heart condition when she was born, but there were treatments available to help her strengthen her little heart as she grew. I also became aware of the fact that she had a birthmark just like me.
I ended up moving home the next year. I was too far away from my family and I had so much guilt for what I had done. I felt like a failure. I felt like I let her down. I felt like I let my family down. I tried to ignore it, but it ate at me every day. As time went on the pain and guilt and feelings of failure began to fade. I still wondered if I did the right thing. Would it have been so bad to try and raise two kids? My daughter’s parents still sent cards and pictures but it was still hard for me to see. She was beautiful. Her parents were such great people. I hope they never took my actions to heart. It wasn't them, it was 100% me.
My mom kept in touch with them and spoke with them more than I did, which I really resented because she was forcing me to have a relationship that I didn’t want. The pain of giving her up for adoption was fading but the what-if’s stabbed me in the heart over and over again. We would meet for dinners or to hang out. I never wanted to go. It was always under duress. But, since I chose an open adoption I knew that my daughter’s parents wanted me in their lives. They wanted their daughter to know who her birth mom was. They were proud. They were so sweet and kind and patient. Had they known my pain, I’m not sure that they would have agreed to an open adoption. I was in pain every single day. Her face was a reminder of that pain. Every picture, every encounter was a reminder.
Only one person ever said mean things to me about the decision I had made – an ex – who was a wretched, heartless piece of shit. I started to open up to more family and friends. Everyone I spoke to always told me what an amazing thing I had done but I just couldn’t convince myself of it. I cried so many times; guilt, sorrow, anger, bitterness, disappointment. Time went on and each time I talked about her, the pain got a little bit easier to deal with. Let me be clear, the pain receded at a snail’s pace. I always questioned whether or not I had done the right thing. Even now, as I write this so many years later, I am still in disbelief that it actually happened.
She is now 15 years old. She has my face. She is beautiful, inside and out. When I see her now, with her mom and dad and her little sister I smile and cherish the time we spend together. It's not as much as it should or could be but we steal glances and exchange smiles. We talk through social media sometimes. She calls me mom.
I love her. I love her mom and dad. And I absolutely love that I was able to help them start a family. My brother said that to me one night, "It's pretty cool what you did for them.” That made my heart smile. It sort of validated what I had been trying to tell myself for years. It is pretty cool what I was able to do for them. It is not very often that one is able to help someone else’s dream of a family come true.
Now, when I think back to the choice I made so long ago and I know it was the right one. Those old feelings try to push through sometimes, because negativity is my brain’s default, but I remind myself that there is no need to feel bad. Everyone is happy, alive and breathing. Everyone has the life that they were meant to have.
After so many years and so much doubt about my choices, I am at a really good place. My son is now 18 years old. I was able to give him the life that he deserved and along the way I met and married the most amazing and loving man. Though I am pro-choice, I am also pro-adoption. Being able to provide their children with a great life is what all parents strive for. I believe I succeeded in doing that for both of my children.
I will always be there for my daughter when she needs me. I just want her to know that my gift to her was a chance to have a life. A chance to live in a home filled with more love and less hardships. A chance at a life I knew I couldn't have provided for her. I provided her actual life, but she never belonged to me, she always belonged to them.