Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
I Decided That I Owed It to My Baby to Make Something of Myself
I was the quiet one in our family. I did my schoolwork and went to church and mostly kept to myself. My parents told me how they were so proud of me when I got into a four-year college. They called both my grandmothers to tell them about my accomplishment and we all went to a restaurant to celebrate.
It was the first time I can remember where I was the center of attention. My older sister was popular in high school being a cheerleader and on dance team. Now she was working as a housekeeper at a local hotel. I was the first in our family to go to college. My dad would talk your ear off about how I was going to get a good job and have a grand house and a fancy car one day.
I did all right in college and got mostly A’s and B’s and some C’s, but I also liked going out. I had grown up in a small town and it was a fun thing to be on a college campus with all the new people. I made friends and we went out partying every weekend. We drank and danced at the frat parties and all that typical stuff.
I came out of my shell and it was rewarding at first. But then I started to drink a little too much and some nights were a little hazy about who I was with or what was happening. There were a few times when a boy would get aggressive. I didn’t know a lot about how to handle situations like that.
What I didn’t expect was that I would get pregnant. I thought I had the stomach flu in the winter, and it kept not getting better. I kept getting sick specifically in my sociology class and I thought maybe I just didn’t like the class but then I got worried about it being morning sickness and I bought one of those pregnancy tests.
I almost fell over when I saw it was positive. I didn’t even know for sure who the father was and I was too scared to tell anyone. Some of the guys I’d met at parties, I had no way of finding again. I couldn’t tell my parents. I was so scared and for a few months, I just kept pretending it wasn’t happening and hoped for a miscarriage. But my stomach started to grow and the pregnancy stuck.
Growing up we went to church every Sunday and I had it drilled into me that abortion was wrong. But I also couldn’t let my family down by dropping out of college to have a baby. I was nineteen. I know I wasn’t ready to be a mother. I had no way of convincing the baby’s father to help me.
The shame overpowered me. I cried into my pillow at night and my roommate kept asking why I didn’t want to go to parties anymore. I stayed in because knew I shouldn’t drink when I was pregnant and I cared about my baby. I wanted the baby to have a healthy start, so I took vitamins too. I just couldn’t go make myself to a doctor.
All my life it’s been hard that I’m overweight. My sister was a cheerleader and looked perfect in her clothes. But now being tall and bulky worked out for me because I just kept wearing big sweatshirts and it was cold enough out that everyone was wearing layers and no one really noticed my stomach growing.
After the baby started kicking I knew I couldn’t keep pretending it wasn’t happening. The scariest day of my life was when I called the adoption agency. This was before the Internet. I saw an ad in the paper and called the number. My hands shook something fierce when I dialed. I almost hung up.
I’ve tried to block out most of what happened next. I remember telling my parents that I couldn’t come home for spring break because I was going on a road trip with friends. I told my roommate I was going home early for spring break and staying a few extra days.
I was alone except for the nurses when I had my baby. He was perfect with long black eyelashes and he gripped my finger with his little hand. I held him and kissed him to give him a lifetime of love. I told him he would be going to a family that would love him and take care of him. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I told the social worker from the adoption agency to ask the baby’s family to send me just one picture of him when he was a year old so I could see that he was okay. I would be at college still so I gave them my address.
I didn’t cry then but a few days later when I was signing the papers my milk came in and then I cried for a week straight. It was the most alone I’ve ever been in my life. I told my roommate I was homesick after visiting my parents and that was why I was so sad. She probably thought it was strange that I randomly got homesick when I’d been fine coming to school in the fall but she didn’t push it.
I felt numb for awhile. But I decided that I owed it to my baby to make something of myself. I studied hard in my classes because after all I needed to do something big with my life. After I gave up the baby, I rarely went out anymore on weekends. I gained even more weight and didn’t date. I know my parents worried that something happened, but they didn’t push it. We don’t talk about stuff like that.
Time helped. But what helped the most was that I got a package from the adoption agency about a year after the baby was born. It had two photographs in it. One was of my baby. He was chubby and smiling and he looked healthy and happy. The second picture was the one that mattered even more. It was a picture of him with his mom and dad and they were looking at him like he was truly the best thing in the world. I could see how much they loved him and the baby looked so perfect. I felt like I could breathe again.
At my graduation from college, my dad cried when I got my diploma. True to my word, I got a good job working in a software company. I worked hard and they promoted me every few years and now, twenty-five years later, I’m a manager. I think I’m good with people because I understand that everyone has a story and you might not know what their story is. So I have empathy for their secret struggles and I try to treat people with respect when they seem to be unhappy.
I met my husband at a work conference ten years ago. He is a decent, kind man and a good father to our two children. But he doesn’t know about my first baby. I just had to close that chapter of my life and move on after I saw that picture.
It was hard for me after our first daughter was born. It was like the trauma came back. Everyone chalked it up to postpartum depression when I cried for the first few months. Again, time helped, and so did prayer and support from the women at our church and even my sister surprised me by bringing over dinner night after night. We got along better now that we were both moms.
My daughter was fortunately an even-tempered baby. I would hold her and cry and would imagine it was my son. I said goodbye to him all over again. Once she was a toddler, I was able to move forward.
I did better after our second daughter was born. Our children are delightful! I feel very blessed by all I have, but I do think of my boy who is now a young man and I hope his life is a happy one.
To this day, I still carry around the secret of having had a baby when I was nineteen. I know I couldn’t have raised him properly and adoption was my best option but it still makes me sad that I couldn’t keep him. It will always be a sadness in me. I’ll never forget how it felt to hold him.
I can’t imagine telling my whole family and my husband and kids about this. My mom passed away without ever knowing about him, and in some ways it is a relief not to have to make the choice anymore about whether or not to tell her. My dad lives with us and has his own room in our house. He is very happy in his retirement and I would never want to cause him pain by telling him about the adoption.
This is the first time I’ve written about this. I don’t know why I decided to write my story. Maybe I want someone to tell me it’s okay. I never got a chance to hear someone tell me that I made a good choice. I hope I did. I’m grateful for adoption. I’m so glad my baby got a chance to live his life.
I hope my son is living a good life. I think I’m too scared to ever find him in case I hear that it wasn’t, because I still have the image of him as a happy baby with his parents, and it’s easier for me to get up every day and believe he is still happy. I pray to God it’s true.
J is proud that she made something of herself, and she loves her family.
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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter