I am a Birth Mom.
March 31, 2017
I am a Birth Mom.
I was a young hairdresser from Shreveport Louisiana, living the dream in Chicago during the mid to late eighties. I was on top of the world, 24 years old and making nice money for the first time in my young life. We were local celebrities, our salon being one of the most well known in the Chicago area. We had VIP access to all the best restaurants and clubs. Life was good and I had arrived. The new life that I had crafted for myself in Chicago was worlds away from my upbringing in Louisiana. I had an abusive alcoholic father, a workaholic mother and basically no guidance.
The lack of parental attention and proper boundaries had resulted in me becoming an adult early, and with very limited skills. So when I became pregnant at 24, I was emotionally and financially unprepared for the reality of the situation. I was scared. Terrified is more accurate. I had no family support, financially or otherwise. My older half sister was the first to mention open adoption. I had had an abortion when I was younger and felt emotionally scarred from that experience, so the idea of adoption appealed to me right away. That combined with the fact that I had no role models for healthy parenting and was an only child with a very strained relationship with my parents. I didn’t want to repeat the pattern that was set in my family home. To this day I am grateful that at 24 years old, I was wise enough to see that I wouldn’t have been the kind of parent that I wanted for my child. I was alone and I was scared.
I found out I was pregnant about a month before I had planned to move to Los Angeles to pursue my hair career. I had everything lined up and a pregnancy was NOT in my plans. I knew only 3 people in Los Angeles, none of whom were close friends. I was truly alone and I knew what I needed to do. I boldly went ahead with my plan to move and reinvent myself. Part of this “logic” was that I desperately wanted the pregnancy to disappear. I wanted to deny the inevitable with every fiber of my being. I thought that by going to a place where I knew no one, I could escape from reality. That I could somehow deny what was happening to me.
I found an attorney specializing in private/open adoption and after looking through book after book of photos and bios, I ultimately chose a wonderful family to raise my baby. They were progressive California couple that, in spite of several attempts at in vitro, were unable to conceive. The husband had 3 teenagers from his first marriage and they so desperately wanted a child of their own. The adoptive mother’s family had come from the south and she looked very much like my older half sister. I felt in my heart that these were the people who would give my daughter a wonderful life filled with the opportunities, structure and love that I had not had in my own childhood.
About 6 weeks before I was due to deliver, we discovered that I had a condition called placenta previa. This meant that I was immediately ordered on 24-hour bed rest for the duration of the pregnancy. Since I knew no one in Los Angeles and lived alone, I had no choice but to enter the hospital where I was to stay for five weeks until the birth. This was an interesting time. The nurses loved on me and gushed over me. I was this smart, pretty girl who was selflessly giving up her baby. But I wanted my mom, and I asked her to visit me from Louisiana. She said no. NO. She had chosen to lie to everyone in the family, even my father, about my “situation” and was heavily invested in her denial. This caused a deep fracture in our relationship that still exists to this day. I never really got over that even though I now realize it was my mother’s way of protecting herself from the pain of losing her only grandchild. My baby was born by cesarean section on May 29, 1989 at 9:54 a.m. The adoptive mom was in the operating room. My mother sent flowers.
I was numb, both physically and emotionally. I had begun to shut down. My baby was handed to her new mother, and I was stitched up and taken to my room. No baby, no visitors. I was in a fog of fear and emotions that would take years to unravel and begin to be understood. I had opted to have no contact with the family. I wanted no updates, photos or letters. I also opted for no ongoing therapy, which was offered to me in the beginning of the adoption process. I was so deeply invested in the denial that was set into place by my mother. It was my familial conditioning. I truly believed that I could just “move on” with my life and start over. I was so wrong.
Those of us who are birth moms know that there isn’t a second that ticks by that we don’t remember the children that we gave up. We wonder where they are, if we will ever see them again. Are they even still alive? Our bodies bear the physical signs of pregnancy and birth. Our spirits and souls bear the emotional scars of secrecy and shame that can exist for those of us without a solid support system. I, for one, built an emotional barrier around myself so that no one could get close to me. I trusted no one. I have since been told that there was always a sense of detached sadness or distance about me. I did however go on with my life, carrying with me the internal wounds of shame, denial and mistrust. I judged myself more harshly than I would ever judge another person. I hated myself for what I had done, and worse than that, for having a childhood that provided me with no tools to cope with an unplanned pregnancy. All of this self-loathing was done in secrecy, or so I thought.
As I now know, those self-judgments festered and bled out into all of my relationships. I sabotaged every wonderful opportunity that came my way because I felt deeply unworthy. All of this took a miraculous turn during what was the darkest time of my life. My daughter was a few months from her 18th birthday and I was distraught, in agony. I was depressed and wanted to die. Then, after screaming at God, I got a phone message from my daughter’s adoptive father saying that they wanted to meet me. I was terrified. Now I know that this single ph
My daughter and I met in April of 2007 when she was 17 years old. Again, I was terrified. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be enough for her. I found out that her parents had gotten divorced when she was 2 and her mother had died of lung cancer when she was 14. I also found out that my daughter was the center of her mother’s universe and that her older brothers would fight over whose turn it was to babysit her because they loved her so much. I told her that though I was her “first mom”, she had had a wonderful mom that could never be replaced. I learned that no family is perfect even when they seem that they are. I learned life is definitely not fair and that people get divorced, and that they can die just when they are needed most.
I thought I was giving my daughter this perfect life, and I now know that is an impossible task. What became clear to me is that she was loved and she was happy. And she made sure to tell me that, and she also told me that she never judged me for placing her for adoption. She had an amazing childhood filled with love. Everything was as it was meant to be.
I also learned that there is no guidebook for this type of thing and that by talking about the adoption (my secret), I could not only heal myself, I could help others begin to heal as well. I had carried this secret for so long and most people, even my closest friends, didn’t know me at all. I began to talk about the adoption and thus, I began to heal. It is a multi-layered process that continues to this day and will always be an important part of my path and my growth.
My daughter and I have travelled together. We have had adventures together and laughed together. Fortunately we live in the same city and are able to see one another fairly often. Her large, loving family has now “adopted” me, and I spend most holidays with them. Even though it was somewhat uncomfortable at first as we fumbled around figuring out how to build this unconventional relationship, we are building amazing memories together.
I am a completely different person than I was before our reunion. It has caused me to open up to people and let them see the real me, to really know me. I have learned how to be soft, vulnerable. I have learned how to love intimately. I have learned the meaning of compassion, and that it starts with compassion for myself. I now see that the perfection lies in our imperfections. The more we talk about the things that we see as our flaws, the more it gives others permission to be open and imperfect. I also see how wonderfully positive open adoption can be, particularly if the birth moms have a solid support system with both family support and professional counseling. I see how our own openness and self-acceptance can help remove the emotional charge that exists for so many of us birth moms.
My own personal healing has been profound. And it is ongoing. Sometimes I think about what my life would be like if we hadn’t met. I am not sure I would still be here if I had continued on the road I was travelling. Now I am happy, whole and filled with joy for the life that I have. I know now how to be a good listener, a good friend and how great it feels to tell people that I love them. I have learned to love myself, and in turn love others more.
My life started when I met my daughter.