In October 2012, the day my daughter was born, I lit several candles and whispered all my love for her into her ears. I pulled her against my body and tried to memorize her scent. I stared into her eyes. She stared into mine. I prayed, with every bit of strength left in me, that one day we could talk about all of this. On that day, I imagined, I could tell her all about her amazing parents, my parents, and Ray: the man I loved who had passed away only two years before.
I ran into the woman who would become my daughter’s mother at the 2012 Women of the World Poetry Slam in Denver. When she shared through tears that she and her husband had started the adoption process, I knew my answer. My decision came easily, with the sort of clarity I’d never experienced before and haven’t again since.
The first person I called when I made my decision was the birth father, a friend from high school who had been helping me process the idea that I could be more than a widow. In that impossible conversation, he told me everything I needed to know about what his expectations would be for our relationship — if I kept the baby. He wasn’t going to be around as much as I would want him to. He wouldn’t have extra money to help out. He and I would never be together. I would be doing it all on my own. And while he would miss being near his child, he trusted me to make the best decision for the both of us.
I reported all of this back to my friends, the potential parents, and we spent the rest of that week in Denver going over everything. Would the baby know who their birth parents were? What sort of religion would they be raised with? Spankings? Education? Names? Anything I could think of. And when I ran out of questions, I called my mother.
My mother didn’t want me to do the adoption, and even offered to take the baby and raise it herself.
My mother didn’t want me to do the adoption, and even offered to take the baby and raise it herself. I knew she wanted to make sure she did everything she could to keep her family close, but I tried to explain that this adoption wouldn’t be just about me and my trauma. The woman who would become the baby’s mother, Clara, was getting something she’d been dreaming of for a long time. While the phone conversation with my mother didn’t end on the best note, it did give me clarity about how I wanted to do this adoption.
Just because I wasn’t going to raise this baby myself did not mean I would miss out on the opportunity to enjoy this pregnancy, or give this child love, or celebrate with her parents. We announced the adoption to our mutual friends via Facebook in early April. Within a couple of months, I moved from Texas to Chicago to live with Clara and her husband, Brian, while they prepared for the baby’s arrival. Together, we laughed and cried and found out just how horrible people can be when they don’t understand something.
While most people were excited for the new mommy and daddy, some took to bullying Clara. They tried to tell her I was crazy for wanting to give my baby up and that the baby would be crazy too. Clara and Brian’s other friends worried that I was taking advantage of them and that I would never give Clara and Brian the baby. They even said I was sleeping with Brian and suggested the baby was his.
Most people look at a child’s adoption as a beautiful thing, but rarely see the birth parents in a positive light.
Most people look at a child’s adoption as a beautiful thing, but rarely see the birth parents in a positive light. The assumption is that if you are willing to give your child up, you must lack empathy or mental health or some other important quality.
Years later, I’m glad we got to lean on each other in the months before the baby was born. I got to help put together the nursery, meet the extended family members and sit down daily with the woman who would protect my child as her own. I got to celebrate this new life and start my own necessary healing.
The choice to give my child up for adoption was a simple one. It was the best decision I have ever made ― and that is the hardest thing for most people to understand. Some people claim that I simply made my choice out of grief, and I get why they think that.
It’s hard for most people to comprehend that I, or any woman, could not want to be a mother. But I had known for years that I did not want to be one, that I had no intention of ever having children. I had considered it with my fiancé, but even then I knew it would be going against everything I believed in.
The prospect of caring for a young life was overwhelming, mentally and emotionally. The responsibility of parenthood extends far beyond just feeding and clothing a tiny being. As a parent, you become a moral guide for a future member of society, setting expectations and standards to live by. Your every action and inaction influences the child’s future, contributes to their character development. It determines what kind of life they’re going live, who they’re going to love, what kind of career they’ll have. It’s a big choice. The decision to have children should never be made lightly, and I had known for most of my adulthood that I never wanted to take on the task.
For women who want children but are unable to have them, the decision to give my child up can seem like a slap in the face. For men — like the father of my child — it can make them feel helpless. For parents like mine, who had me when they were far younger than I was when I got pregnant, it can seem selfish. And why would I want to make anybody feel any of these things? I didn’t want anyone to be hurt, but I knew that if I kept this child, it wouldn’t be any of them who would suffer. It would be me and the baby.
The decision to have children should never be made lightly, and I had known for most of my adulthood that I never wanted to take on the task.
After my fiancé Ray’s sudden death in 2010, I was destroyed. I ended up spending over a month in a county jail for old court fees associated with a bounced grocery store check. I started grad school four months after his funeral. I showed up late to classes, slept through lectures and spent my nights playing cash poker games at a local bar aptly named “Bum’s Billiards.” I moved into a $200 room in a house that I soon learned had rats in the vents. The life I had planned with him — a teaching job in Dallas, buying our first house together, making a family — was gone.
My depression was crippling my ability to do anything. I was having a hard time getting out of bed daily, let alone meeting new people or going anywhere. I was genuinely surprised when I went to the ER for stomach pain a year and a half after Ray’s funeral, only to discover that I was pregnant with another man’s child. Even though I knew it wasn’t his, in my heart it was the little girl Ray had always said he wanted — but that I had not given him.
Some part of me knew I would heal someday from Ray’s death, but that I would never want the responsibility of raising a child. Before the baby or Ray, I had been an artist and a poet, and my dreams ― though still unrefined then ― did not include motherhood. I dreaded the thought of coming home after a long day of work at a job I didn’t love (but that paid the bills) to a child who would almost certainly be like me and see the regret in her mother’s face, feel it in her body.
Coming from a long line of “strong” black women, I of course knew I could raise a child if I had to. But did I have to? Would my child be healthier or happier or more loved and cared for with me, or was there someone else who was more prepared to do the job? Someone who wasn’t falling apart in every other way? Someone who desperately wanted something I could give?
The kid is full of energy whenever I can put together the money to visit, and I try to seem alert and cool: the way I imagine a visiting “auntie” is supposed to be with her most important “niece.” I watch Clara and Brian put her to bed. I listen from the doorway as they read her a book. Even knowing how difficult it can be for them sometimes, it’s beautiful to witness this family that was always meant to be.
In many ways, giving birth to this little girl saved me, brought me back from the overwhelming grief of losing my fiancé. I finally got myself together after her birth. I found a job working at a call center for a few years before I left and started my own entertainment company. I finished grad school, and my first book of poetry comes out this year. I even think I might be ready to fall in love again soon.
The baby and her parents give me hope. They remind me that even my darkest moments don’t have to keep me from doing something amazing. I’m hoping it’s something Little C. will keep in mind, whatever comes her way.
I’m hoping that one day when we can finally talk about it, if she wants to talk about it, she’ll know that I made my decision not out of grief — but out of love.
Have a compelling first-person story you want to share? Send your story description to email@example.com.