This week I finally did something I had been intending on doing since getting home from the hospital after giving birth to my son.
Those who have known me a while and know my adoption story know it all started with one thing: the bravery and honesty of a woman I already held in high esteem. She was a former boss of mine, and it was just chance that we ran into each other in a parking lot and began talking. At this point, I looked like I was hiding a beach ball under my t-shirt, and my boss was no fool. So when she asked me how I was doing I was honest and said,
“Well, obviously, I’m pregnant. Didn’t intend to get like this, but that’s what happened. And right now I’m trying to decide whether to keep the kid and raise it or to place it for adoption. But right now I just have no idea what to do.”
To my surprise she replied, “Well, I don’t wave it around like a flag, but I placed a child for adoption when I was about your age.”
She went on to tell me that she had gone to a home for unwed mothers, as many did in the 60s. She gave birth, gave up her child, then a year later got married, and had a child of her own. Her son would later track her down in his adult life and they have a fantastic relationship to this day. And it may sound weird, but at that moment the first thought that went through my head was, “So, this is actually survivable.”
Don’t ask me why. I don’t know to this day. But before that moment, whenever I thought about placing my child for adoption, I just imagined my life stopping there. I couldn’t fathom living past that day. I couldn’t fathom what my life would be like without this child I had been carrying. I wasn’t sure that I even deserved to keep going after doing that. Obviously, I don’t believe that anymore. But at the time, all manner of thoughts were going through my head and I wasn’t sure how to sort it all out.
Most of all, I was looking at doing something that none of my friends had ever done. All of them, if they got unexpectedly pregnant, dealt with it in other ways. I even know a few of their kids by name. If any of them ever thought about adoption, none of them ever said it or just never said it to me. But when my old boss told me that she had done the same thing and had in fact lived on, I was finally able to break the constant loop in my head that had been driving me crazy. It was only two days later that my boyfriend and I would have the discussion in which we decided placing our son for adoption was the best idea.
As you know, my son just turned 4. And Wednesday was his first day of school. Tuesday, I finally sat myself down and wrote the message I had been intending to write for four years. My old boss and I are friends on Facebook and have been so for a long while now. But I never did tell her what had happened after seeing her in the parking lot. Tuesday I finally pulled together all my thoughts and wrote her a message thanking her for sharing her story with me. I also told her that she was the reason I finally pulled together the bravery and courage to do what needed to be done for my child. I even sent her a picture of him from his recent birthday party. Unsurprisingly, she wrote me back a very positive message and was glad that I had told her and had likewise shared my story with her. She agreed that at times, we each have to do what we think is best. She also sent me a link to her son’s blog that details his search and finding of not only her, but also his birth father.
For the next half hour, I was glued to the screen, reading this man’s account of his happy life, always knowing that he was adopted and always knowing that if he went looking for his birth family, his adoptive family would be, and was, completely supportive. Then he found them and reconnected with them. The happiness and the joy and the connections that connected them without even realizing it were amazing.
The most amazing thing to me was the unshakable bravery I found in his words. In their story, I just found mountains and mountains of incredible bravery. They had both been searching and found each other. Then they finally met each other and got know each other. There were questions and finally answers for the both of them. And to this day they keep in touch.
I’m extremely lucky in that my son’s adoptive family is so willing to have me around for parties and visits and going out to dinner. I’m also extremely lucky that this happened to me in a time when open adoption is an option. And yet, there is still a distance between my son and I. That’s really what this made me realize. While I won’t have nearly as large of a gap to travel to get to know my son and for him to get to know me over the years, I know there are going to be times that will be difficult and awkward. I know that sooner or later there will be a reckoning for me. There will be things I will have to explain to my son as he gets older that will be a little bit difficult. And there will be questions for me that I will have to answer. And they are answers that he has a right to. I’m only hoping that I have half the bravery that my boss and her son did when it comes time.