Wednesday, December 25, 2013

I don't know why this day is passing so slowly. Perhaps because I haven't slept in like 30 hours, perhaps because the silence in this house seems louder than ever before. I don't know what I am supposed to do with my day. This year was of course to be different from last... I was to be plus one. But instead, I am minus two. So, because I have nothing to do, and I can't even think about trying to rest... I will write my story. Every last ugly detail. Because it's been suggested that the more I tell it, the less it will hurt. Oh, how I hope that's true.

I have spent a significant amount of time wondering where to begin. Where to start my story and how to really hit home who I am. It's funny that one event always comes to mind now when trying to explain who I am, and what my story is. Birthmom is a word etched permanently in my mind, and on my heart. It's funny... as a teenager, and honestly, up until it was me, I condemned adoption a lot of the time. I thought the women who placed their babies were heartless, and couldn't possibly truly love their child. I mean, how can you let go and "give up" something you truly love? I'm often ashamed of that, but shame has no place in who I am now.

Whenever I write about my adoption story, I sometimes wonder how to do it justice, where and how to begin. My story doesn't begin like most. It doesn't begin in a hospital room, filled with a mixture of sorrow and joy. My grief and loss didn't begin by being wheeled from the mother-baby unit with empty arms and a heavy heart. I didn't watch a couple who were nearly strangers leave the hospital with the child I had carried for nine months. No, I wasn't smart enough for that. I was stubborn, and desperately clinging to the life I had created. I left that mother-baby unit with a carseat in my lap, tenderly and precariously positioned so as not to disturb my newly healing incision. I loaded a sleeping baby boy into the back of my grandmother's Kia, and I took him home. I didn't have to go to sleep that night wondering if he was okay, if his new mother was properly tending to his cries. If he was cold or knew that the heartbeat he'd heard for nine months was miles away. That 8 lbs of baby softness was on my chest that night... crying every hour to nurse. My arms were full. But my heart was heavy just the same.

As ridiculous as it may seem, sometimes I wish that my story had begun as I just described. Knowing as I heard him cry for the first time that he wasn't truly mine. That as I kissed his tiny forehead when my mother brought him to me, freshly swaddled, his parents were waiting outside. Sometimes I wonder if my grief would somehow be different if it had been D in that room with me as I gave birth to her son. But at that moment, he was all mine. Oh, I had considered adoption during pregnancy, but hadn't been able to go through with it. I'm not proud of myself for that, it was one of my more selfish moments.

I have written a few times now about how I came to make the decision to place B. However, you -blog world- have not yet heard the story. So I'll write it again.

B was mine for four and a half months. Although that isn't entirely accurate, as I began the adoption process 6 days before he reached the 4 month milestone. I am certain that September 16th will be a date I never forget. That night was one of the most painful nights aside from placement in my life. I held him on my chest as he slept, stroking his soft little head, feeling him breath. He was so beautiful and warm, and something in me felt as though it died that night. I was going to lose one of the best things that had ever happened to me.

I was now on the path to no longer being his mother.

My adoption story isn't necessarily all warm and fuzzy. It's not full of loving support from family, or an adoptive couple by my side throughout my pregnancy. It is a painful, and difficult story. As soon as I made the choice that adoption was necessary, hate and anger flooded from all directions. Just what the hell kind of mother was I, giving up my son? How could I claim to love him, then give him to strangers? I was a piece of crap, a worthless human being. I was scum as a mother, and deserved to lose him. These were just a few of the hateful things I was being told.

I knew it was their way of bullying me into changing my mind. Forcing me to parent B because they wanted to be able to see him grow up. It did not matter that they would not be the ones responsible for clothing, feeding, raising him. It only mattered that they get to be in his life. 

The process started almost immediately once I had made the choice of adoption. Less than 24 hours later, I had been set up with a caseworker through LDS Family Services, and was in a hotel room with my boys. My head nearly spun with how fast it all happened. And then, it was time to look at profiles. Dozens of hopeful families just in the Phoenix/Chandler area alone. All longing for a child, all appealing to potential birth mothers. It felt like so much pressure, and I felt guilty for each profile I passed up, even though I knew they had no way of knowing I'd done so. I found two couples, and sent out a fairly generic message. 

I hoped they wouldn't answer back. One of them did nearly immediately. 

I felt no peace as she and I emailed, as we spoke of her other two adopted children, one of whom was part of an "open" adoption. Except that he was 8 years old and had never met his birth mother. Despite feeling like I needed to choose a family, and despite this being one of the only two families I had been okay with, I felt doubt. She mentioned allowing B to see me a lot as a baby, but not wanting to confuse him as he got older. I wanted to say "what you really mean is you'll cut me out once he's not too little to know me". She mentioned changing his name almost immediately. It hurt. What was so wrong with his name? I'd agonized over choosing his name, and it was the only name that truly fit him. 

I started to feel despair, that night my phone rang. On the other end was M, a woman I didn't know, who had heard of me through her relief society counselors. She was sorry to bother me, but wanted me to know her niece was looking to adopt. And would I please just look at D and her husband's profile? I said I would, but hung up angry. I wasn't going to look at anything... except that I did. That night laying there, feeling a distinct lack of peace, I finally looked them up. My heart kind of stopped when I saw them. She was beautiful, and he had kind eyes. They exuded happiness. Even in their message, I could feel the love they had. 

Suddenly, the other family seemed all wrong. Why had I even been looking at them, now I felt too guilty to tell them they weren't the family. Yet I mailed D anyway, and waited for a response. It came within a few hours, and I read it a few times, trying to decide if or how to answer. But I did answer, and we started talking back and forth immediately. She was sweet, and talking to her was easy. I looked down at B in my lap. "Is this your mommy, B?" I asked him softly. He cooed, and smacked the keyboard. Not the clear answer I hoped for, but a cute reaction nonetheless. I asked to meet them while emailing with her the next day, of course she said yes. The other woman text the morning I was to meet them and invited me to breakfast. I politely turned her down, saying I already had plans. Part of me knew we'd never meet.

Meeting J and D was easy. I was terrified, of course, but excited. I felt an immediate connection with them, J seemed so kind, and I could tell he loved D. She was so sweet, and I felt like I really saw compassion in her eyes, I felt like she cared, even though she was just meeting me. B loved them, he let them hold him, cooed and grinned, and drooled all over D. She just laughed and let him drool all over her hair and shirt. I loved that, she seemed so happy to just be holding him. She didn't care about drool or having her hair pulled. She just appreciated the baby who was doing it. THAT was the kind of woman I wanted raising B.

It hurt to have faces with names... real people who had suffered heartache, loss, infertility and pain. My heart broke so much for D's pregnancy losses, for her inability to be a mother when she clearly was meant to be one. I was being given this opportunity to give her what she longed for... and honestly, I didn't want it. I left that day knowing I was going to choose them. Whether I kept it to myself or not, I knew.

Those were B's parents. I felt him slip through my fingers a bit more, and the breaking of my heart truly begin.

D was so loving, making sure to text and email whenever I needed, pouring out love and encouragement. I felt something different about her. She wanted to be a mother, but it wasn't just my son she wanted. She cared for me, she cared about what I was going through. I felt an immediate love for this woman who was to be my son's mother. I wished so much that I could take the pain out of her eyes, that I could fix everything. Give her as many children as she could want, ease the heartache that loss brings. But I couldn't do that, all I could do was trust in the Lord, and make her a mother to B. I couldn't change her infertility issues, or take back the losses. I couldn't give her all the children she may want. But I could give her a son, and I knew that for her, that was more than enough.

I felt a lot of love for J as well. He was such a nice guy, even my older son loved him. I loved watching him hold and talk to B, it was the sweetest thing. It made my heart happy to know that B would have him as a father, and that he would have the kind of father I never did. One who would always love and protect him, and never hurt him or tear him down. His mommy and daddy would read to him, love him, sing to him and shower him with affection. That made me feel so good. I worked hard each time I saw them to not let them see how badly I was hurting. To remain strong and keep going in the process.

I remember the night I told them I chose them. I remember looking at D when she told me of a full time job she'd applied for, and telling her "don't take it". I remember the look on her face. I still feel good about that look.

Two days later I went to my birth mother support group for the first time. I hadn't really cried yet. I'd chosen his parents, I'd realized he was going to be gone. But every time I started to feel the pain, I pushed it down. That night at group, I struggled to keep it together as a girl who had placed only two weeks before sobbed, trying to express her grief. This was my very near future. When it came my turn, as hard as I had tried to keep in through the week since LDSFS had called me... it hit me. I got my name out, and had only just started to talk about B when I broke. The sobbing began and I couldn't stop it. I could see they felt my pain, and somehow, it helped.

In the days leading to the ceremony, it went too fast. I laid awake all night, exhausted yet unable to sleep. Watching B sleep and feeling the hollow ache begin. I remember so very clearly the day before placement. The day I turned 28, the last birthday I would spend as B's mother. D and her sister took me and the boys to the zoo, and they had so much fun. I watched them with B, let D be the one to push his stroller and tend to him. It was such a good day for me, and for the boys. J and D took me to dinner that night and celebrated my birthday. Gave me a beautiful angel that is now on the shelf on my wall. A card written with such loving words. Despite knowing I was placing B the next day, it was the best birthday I've had.

I battled with myself that night. Again reminding myself I could change my mind. I knew I couldn't, but told myself differently. In reality, that wasn't something I could even do. I loved J, and loved D like a sister. My heart broke each time I thought of her loss and pain. I couldn't do that to her... I couldn't take this sweet baby away after I'd promised him to her. I imagined having to tell her that he wasn't going to be hers, and the idea of the hurt it would cause killed me. I would not allow her to feel that pain again. I would not take her baby away. 

Placement day is probably the one day that I will remember nearly every second of for the rest of my life. The morning was decent, I had my boys, and I tended to them. Bathing B; a small, sad smile crossing my face as he gummed his fist and grinned up at me while kicking in the water. This was my son, one of the two loves of my life. He was my absolute sunshine, what kept me going, my boy. I was bathing him for the last time, toweling off those chunky arms and legs for the last time, rubbing lotion on his soft baby skin for the last time. I threw a onesie on him, knowing D was bringing his placement outfit. I picked him up and held him to my chest. I breathed in his sweet, soft baby smell, the baby shampoo the most comforting smell I could imagine. I ran my hands down his back, cupped his head as he started to doze on my shoulder while I paced. Someone came and picked up my older son, and then it was just me and my baby. 

I sat on the bed with him, watching him doze in my arms. I ran my finger along his soft, chubby cheeks, marveling at how adorable they were. I traced along his ear, remarkably like his adoptive fathers. This wasn't right, this couldn't happen. I could not sign those cold, legal forms giving up my rights to this beautiful little boy. I couldn't hand him to D, ceasing to be his mother. I couldn't do this, I had been a fool to think I could. How was I supposed to EVER feel joy again?! How was I supposed to just keep on living without him. I gently laid him in his rock n play, and busied myself. Shortly after, D knocked on the door.

And then she was in my room. Changing and dressing my son in the outfit her father and stepmother had bought him.  Smiling and talking to him, tickling his little belly. There was a particular moment as she changed his diaper that, despite my love for her, I wanted to scream at her "get away from him, that's my job, I am his mother!" I didn't. I slowly packed his little clothes in the duffel she had brought. His blankets handmade by my grandmother. The redsox romper he looked so cute in. The little horse toy I thought was so sweet when I bought it. I packed my son's belongings, knowing it was the last time I'd ever pack a bag for him. Packing to send him home with people who were the only parents he would ever know. I tried to chat with D, not let on the pain and anger threatening to consume me. In the ride to the ceremony, we didn't say much. I think she knew I couldn't handle a conversation. I told her that I was thinking about how in just an hour, he wouldn't be mine anymore. My voice broke as I said it. She didn't respond, I don't think she even knew how. What do you say to a mother who is losing their baby? There's nothing you can say. 

Walking into that building, stepping into the room filled with their family and friends... it was so painful. I couldn't even enter that room, as soon as I tried my pain was too much and I had to step out. I went to find C, telling her we had to sign the papers now, before I couldn't. I slowly walked into C's office with J and D. She pulled out the papers, explaining them briefly again. J and D sat listening, and to this day I wonder what they were thinking. Were they wondering if I'd sign? I wished I didn't have to. Were they as terrified as I was? No, they couldn't be, they were gaining a son as I lost one. I didn't really feel as I signed, initialed, dated form after form. And then suddenly, I was on the last copy of the last page. I put the pen to the paper, then pulled it away. Turned the pen around in my fingers, willing myself to just get it over with. Finally, I did it. I signed the last form that severed my rights to my baby. 

I was no longer his mother.

C smiled gently. "You just made J and D parents", she said softly. I knew. I knew what I had just done... I had just ripped out my own heart. I put my head in my hands and just cried. J and D didn't move, didn't speak. I am unsure if they knew what to do or say in the face of my pain. I took B into the next room to have a few minutes. I cradled my sweet little boy, sobbing into his hair. I begged him to please, just not forget me. Told him how I loved him, how I just wanted to take him and run. Then I told him how wonderful his new mommy and daddy were. How they loved him, and how he would never know the struggle and sadness he had lived in those first few months. I memorized every feature, every eyelash, every breath. I wished I could take him home and forget this whole thing. Then C knocked on the door and joined me. Suddenly, I felt the need to hide my pain. 

We headed into the room for the ceremony. I remember as if it were five minutes ago when D introduced me. "This is Benjamin. And this", her voice broke, "is Benjamin's very brave mother". Only I wasn't his mother, she was. The hugs began, all of these wonderful people who were grateful for me. Hugging me, thanking me as tears ran down my face. We all sat to begin the ceremony, and the door opened. I turned and saw my mother standing there. I jumped up and walked into her arms. I sobbed on her shoulder. I was so thankful she was there. We sat and listened together.

Shortly after, B began screaming... the emotion of the day, and lack of a nap taking a toll. I heard D murmur softly to him, knowing she was behind me rocking him. My mother asked me quietly what was wrong. I shrugged, but every fiber of my being was screaming at me to get off my ass and comfort my son. But he was her son now, and I didn't have that right anymore. I wasn't going to be the one who comforted him when he cried, or soothed him when he was sick. I wouldn't be the one to be there for every tear and every happiness. She would be. 

I cried the entire hour everyone spoke to me. Thanking me, expressing their sorrow as they watched D struggle to carry a baby, their joy at the gift I was giving her. J and D gave me a necklace. An owl charm hung next to a small circle engraved with "I gave him more". The owl symbolizing the stuffed owl I'd given them to keep for him. It meant more than I could express, and I loved them even more as D fastened it on my neck. I got letters from D's father, stepmother, and sister. I got a necklace from Her father and stepmother as well. I was hugged more, photographed holding and kissing B. Posing with J and D as D proudly held B. 

After it was over, J gave me a blessing before we left. I felt immense peace, as crazy as it seems. I was okay at that moment. And then I did something no mother should ever have to do. I kissed my son's head, watched D put his bag in the car, and turned and left. Climbed into a car without my baby and went back to that hotel room. His empty pack n play and rocker a harsh reminder that there was no longer a baby to fill them. I was numb. That numbness lasted until the next Wednesday, when I got home from support group. J and D had been there with B, and we'd told our adoption story. It had been good, but now, I was back in that hotel room, not knowing when I was going to see B again. I knew it would be at least a month, we had agreed on that time frame to allow my son to detach from me, and attach to his parents. 

After that day, the grief hit hard. You try to prepare for it, try to brace yourself for the pain of losing your baby. But nothing does. It slammed into me with a force that took my breath away. I sobbed into my pillow as I lay in the dark, my heart and arms aching to hold him. I would wake, and the grief would often hit before my eyes were open. Some days I forgot, and I woke to wonder why he wasn't crying. And then I realized he wasn't there anymore. Your days seem so much darker when you grieve a child. Nothing is bright, your days drag on, until you wake up already wishing the day was over.

 His empty playpen taunted me, chipped away at my heart. She posted a pic of him and his daddy on facebook, a bigger smile than I'd ever seen on his face. And I felt empty. Lost. How could I go on without him? I sat on the floor of the shower, water hitting my face and mixing with tears. I pleaded with God to either take this pain, or let me die. I talked to D a lot, her voice a comfort to me. I felt better when we were on the phone together. I loved D and J so much, D was quickly becoming one of my closest friends. But my pain was still so real. I couldn't express to her the depth of my pain. Even if I could have found the words, I didn't want her to be sad for me. She deserved the joy she was feeling. I would often just wish I could die. Death couldn't be worse than this pain. It would just make it easier. I could not live with this hurt.

I thought I would die from the heartache. I hoped I would. I tried to sleep but usually just passed out in the wee hours of the morning, only to wake an hour later in a state of oddly painful numbness. The loneliness and longing for my son threatened to take over. This felt so wrong. I felt like my baby had died. How did mothers who lost children keep going?? How did they face each day with the knowledge that their baby was gone? I didn't think I could. 

The cloud slowly lifted over time. I grew closer to D, and enjoyed my visits with B. I know every moment that I chose the right thing. But the pain of choosing to give him a better life with someone else.. it will never completely go away. I don't doubt my choice, I'm blessed to know them, blessed that I was able to make them parents. I know by the miracles that occurred, he was always theirs. I think about how without M's call, I would not have found them. The fact that if I had gone through with adoption during pregnancy, my bishop would have introduced me to J and D. It's all built on miracles, and enabled me to give them the joy of a child. But their joy and my pain are still intertwined. That's okay.

I chose to give my son more. And I will never be sorry for that.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story, including your pain. My daughter's birth mom I'm sure has felt the same thing, but she has hidden her pain from us. Reading this helps me understand her better. Thank you, thank you!