This is the thirteenth post of "30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days," a series designed to give a voice to people with widely varying experiences, including birthparents, adoptees, adoptive parents, foster parents, waiting adoptive parents and others touched by adoption.
The Grief in Knowing I Will Never Be Called Mom
Written by Anonymous Birth Mother for Portrait of an Adoption
From the time I was 16, doctors had told me that I could never have children. I resigned myself to not wanting them. I became convinced I would be a bad mother, and maybe God's way of showing me that was preventing me from having children. When I met my fiancé fourteen years ago, we talked about children and decided we never wanted them. We can still barely take care of ourselves, let alone think about taking care of a baby.
Last summer, I checked myself into Urgent Care with some annoying pain in my abdomen. In the testing to determine the cause, the nurse asked me if she could test for pregnancy. I laughed, but told her to go ahead and do it. Why not, right? I was certain it would come back negative. That night I was at the theater, participating in an audition process, when I got a call from the Urgent Care doctor. I couldn't answer, but he left me a voice mail.
I will never forget that message: your pregnancy test came back positive. When I called him back the next morning, we scheduled an ultrasound. From the hormone levels present, he estimated I was about five to six weeks along.
Going for the first ultrasound was one of the scariest things I have ever had happen to me. I didn't want to be pregnant, and I didn't want to see the baby as a person. I was hoping, praying for a false positive test. Mentally, I checked out of the screening until I heard the ultrasound tech say, "Oh my God." I looked up, and there on the screen was a baby.
Not five to six weeks, as expected -- but eighteen and a half. I choked on something, maybe I cried.
The rest of the day was pretty much a blur. The ultrasound tech was very nice and congratulatory to me, and she printed out three pictures for me to take home. But I wasn't happy. I was angry. I was scared. The image on the screen looked like a baby, not just a mass of cells, and in my mind it was already a little person. Abortion wasn't an option, but neither was keeping the baby.
Friends of mine had tried very hard to have a baby themselves, but for whatever reason were biologically unable to do so. They had also tried going through the state to adopt, but they really wanted an infant from a known background. So I talked with my fiancé, and we made the difficult decision to ask them if they would like to adopt our baby.
I will never forget how my friend's face lit up with joy and how her entire demeanor changed -- it was like a light was turned on somewhere in her soul from a place that had been hurting and cloaked in shadow. When she and her husband finally decided they would adopt, it felt as if a weight came off my shoulders.
Because of my health issues, I knew there would be a lot of complications carrying a child to term. I had to go off my diabetes medication and directly inject insulin. I ended up in the hospital just before 33 weeks with severe toxemia, and at 33 1/2 weeks had an emergency c-section because my kidney functions started to fail. I slept through the surgery because I didn't want to know what they were doing, but I woke up long enough to hear my son cry. My friend wasn't able to be there due to the urgency of the procedure.
I did not visit my son in the NICU. I left that space for him and my friend to bond.
Through the entire process, I could not tell my family or my fiancé's family. It was my secret agony. My sister was going through her own pregnancy struggles, finally carrying to term after a tubal and a miscarriage, and my mother was ridiculously excited to be a grandparent. She loves my nephew like her own child, and that is great.
But I couldn't bear to break her heart by telling her I was giving her other grandson to parents who would love him -- to fill a hole in their lives like my nephew did for my sister.
I love my son with every fiber of my being. I always will. It hurts every time I see my friend post pictures of him on Facebook, to see those expressions on his face that are so very much like mine. The pain is so raw; the nerve endings hurt.
My friend and I have an open agreement that I can see him any time I want, but when I hold him now, I can tell he knows exactly who I am. When I talk or sing to him, he turns his head and looks at me with these wide blue eyes -– an innocence that asks me "Why did you give me away?" It haunts me.
I know in my heart that adoption was the right decision. It has given such a beautiful gift to my friends and enriched their lives. But even believing this does not lessen the grief in knowing that I will never be called "mom." The process has called into question my desire to raise a child, even though I know that the risks I already experienced would be worse during a second pregnancy.
Regardless of this, however, I am hopeful that my child and I will be able to have the same kind of relationship that Katie (daughter of Carrie who writes Portrait of an Adoption) and her birth mother have. It is because of that hope that I let this hurt linger. The promise of seeing my son grow up -- to know what of me there is in him.
Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman, author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear. If you have a story you would like to submit as a candidate for next year's series, please email it to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.