Forty years ago I gave birth to, and then surrendered for adoption, a tiny golden-haired girl.
That event defined me for the next 40 years.
The boy lived about 100 miles away; he didn’t have to face me, and … he didn’t want to give up high school basketball, so he left me to manage on my own.
My mother, aghast, put me in a Florence Crittendon home for unwed mothers 200 miles away, so there was no chance anyone I knew would find me, including the boy. Not that he looked.
I had my baby girl alone, went before a judge alone, and when that was done, my mother came and took me home.
A Loss You’re Not Allowed to Mourn
Every woman who gives a child away isn’t happy to be done with it. The girls I met at ‘Flossies’ almost without exception were greatly sorrowed to be doing what they were doing, but didn’t feel they had a choice. I didn’t have a choice.
The problem is that losing a child is losing a child. The fact that I signed her over to her adoptive parents didn’t make my loss any less. If anything it was made greater because not only was I bereft of her, I didn’t know if she was being taken care of …. if she was safe, if she was sick, if she was even alive.
I was heartsick with mourning for her, and in my parents’ house that was worse than having been pregnant with her. The only approved emotion was shame, the only accepted behavior was that it never happened. It was never talked about. Never.
Because it never happened.
Except that it Happened to Me
I shut down after that. I killed off part of my heart because I wasn’t willing to experience that pain again. The girl I was was gone. Along with the memory of the boy that I thought I had loved. I had no idea that I would mourn her loss for the rest of my life, or that I would shape my future from that one experience.
A Tribe of Kids to Make Up For Her
I didn’t have children for a long time – 11 years. And once I turned that part of me loose, I’ll admit I went for it in a big way. I had six more children, three boys and three girls, and built my life around them.
Having children didn’t take away the pain of my first born; it was a bit of a double-edged sword. While I was so happy to have my babies, I had nightmares that I was handing my children over to someone else and I would awake hysterical, thinking they too were gone.
Guilt and Recrimination
I vacillated between waiting for her to grow up to 18 — because she could come looking for me then — and worry that she was dead, or worse, abused, and when I found her or she found me, it would be a horrible reunion. Full of guilt and recrimination. After all that was all anyone who knew about her offered me.
Anything that threatened the children who were with me was of monumental proportions. I could imagine anything, everything, from having one of them snatched in a department store, to having one of them snatched walking to the school bus. A vulnerability that was exploited by my ex-husbands when we split up: Fighting for custody was life or death.
I Finally Gave Up on Ever Meeting Her
By the time she approached 40 I had decided I’d never meet her — she wasn’t going to look for me, or she wasn’t able to find me, or she didn’t even know about me — but I had to stop waiting for her. On her birthday I thought to myself, “I haven’t cried yet today. Maybe I’m getting okay with this after all.”
She got in touch with me the next week.
We had a joyous (for me) reunion – I traveled with her, she even flew all my children, and their families across country for Thanksgiving that year.
We’ve had off and on times since then, it has been some years, but I’m crazy about her, and thankful everyday to know she is safe, well and happy, sorry she’s on the opposite coast.
She had a great life!
Her parents thought of her literally as a gift from God, and treated her that way. They were gracious in explaining that I was too young to take care of her and that is how they came to raise her.
When I met her adopted Mom she said to me that when she heard my story she told the social worker she would take me too, and raise us together. It was one of the kindest things anyone has ever said to me and I will always love her for that.
My oldest daughter had a natural curiosity about her father. I was mostly ambivalent about him, but helped her by phoning him and telling him about her – and later talking to his sister about her, but she had no word from him. For several years, nothing.
Then just days ago she brought him up again; I ‘Google’d’ him and gave her his number and his address. She called him, and then together they called me.
During that phone call I was able to ask after him, “You doing okay?” and get in all the Cherokee research I needed from him for a family project I’m doing, and I told him he needs to meet my girl in person. I pointed out, “You need to see her, Kenny, she’s beautiful.”
Phone call over, I went back to whatever I was doing before, sort of dazed at what had happened. I started crying the next day and cried until I realized it was that phone call that upset me.
In one of my more hysterical moments, the phone rang, and I checked it … hey. if my kids call, I’m going to grab the phone. And, since it is the 21st century and I have caller id, you can imagine my shock (and dismay) to see his name on my phone.
My Mood Worsened
It made me even more hysterical. I can’t remember ever crying like that before.
Forgive me for being a little slow on the uptake, but it took the second phone call to realize that I was crying for all those years that didn’t have to be so hard.
If … if … if
The possibilities are endless, and considering them pointless.
But if my phone rings again with his caller ID, I’ve only one thing to say.
“I’ve been waiting 45 years for this call … so, whattya got?”