Having to grow up…
The first moment in my life that I believe defined who I would be some day came at the age of 19 when I found myself unmarried and pregnant. The father was a young man who was just a few years older than me and just as confused about who he was and what he wanted in life as I was.
This was a typical “first love” story from my view-point as he was everything my young heart and mind told me I wanted. He made me feel beautiful, grown up and desirable all things that up until then were just notions in my head fueled by the fairy-tale fantasies young girls covet. I was willing to give up my heart and soul because I desperately wanted him to do the same. Little did I realize that by doing so I would be defining my life in a way that I was not ready for. And as it turned out, neither was he.
I remember the moment my brain processed the truth that I was pregnant. I was already well into my 6th month and up until then I had just convinced myself that it was everything but what it was. I was sitting in the den of my parents house watching some boring show on the TV when I was overcome by the most incredible feeling. I placed my hand on my stomach and at that moment the baby kicked so hard my hand actually bounced. Still unwilling to concede what I knew in an instant was the truth, I sat in amazement as I watch my stomach roll from side to side. Without saying a word I got up and went to my bedroom. I sank down on the floor next to my bed and didn’t know if I should cry or laugh because both seemed like insanity at that moment. The only thought in my head was how was I ever going to tell my parents?
I am not sure just how long I sat on that floor with my head in my hands and my body shaking. I just kept going over and over it in my brain trying to make sense of what it really meant. The relationship with this young man was all but over so how could I now tell him I was pregnant without it sounding like the trap of a desperate young girl? I remember thinking at one point that maybe if I just ignore it, it will somehow go away. Yes, that is illogical but the brain of a terrified 19-year-old often visits the illogical seeking comfort from reality.
It took me a few days but I finally swallowed my fears and told my mother. No I was never afraid of her anger, I was afraid of the disappointment I knew she would feel. She had every right to feel both because this was not the daughter she raised me to be but I also knew that after she digested this news she would be my biggest support for what ever was to come. The moment the words were out of my mouth I knew there was no going back and the funny part was that in that very moment this was to be the beginning of my first “defining moment”. I had stepped out of the comfort and protection of being a “child” and into the uncharted and terrifying world of adulthood. Ready or not every decision I made from that point on would have to be and adult decision based on things I didn’t know so I had a choice to make. Live up to what I knew was right or take the easy way out….I choose the first path.
Telling my Dad was much easier. Not that he would be any happier than my mother was but my Dad was a unique person. He always believed in me and always believed I would do the right thing when I had to no matter how hard it was. Yes, he was angry and disappointed in me as well but like my Mom he was going to support me any way I needed him to and just knowing that gave me some of the strength I would need to move forward.
We discussed all the options and in the end we decided that adoption would be the only logical choice because the reality was I was 19, in school and unable to provide for a child of my own and it was not fair to ask or expect my parents to support us both. So with that decision made I took the steps needed to protect myself and the rest of my family by moving away. I spent the last 2 months of my pregnancy surrounded by other girls of various ages all in the same situation. Each of us had a different reason for being there and some of us had made the choice to keep our babies while others were going the same route as me with adoption.
To say I grew up during that time is an understatement. I learned so much about myself and most of it scared me silly. Each day brought me closer to motherhood and the finality of giving my child away. My emotions were at war with each other but I held tight to the idea that I would be giving my baby the best chance in life. There were many times in the middle of the night when I would sit by the window and question myself about the choice I was making but come the light of day I couldn’t find a reason to change any of them and so I waited…
The morning I felt the first twinge I knew I wasn’t ready for what was coming but mother nature had other ideas. I kept quiet for as long as possible and when it was clear that this was it, I finally spoke up and was sent to the hospital. Riding in the ambulance I had a young man with me who clearly was uncomfortable and not sure what if anything he should say to me, but he stepped out on a limb and held my hand as he told me that whatever I had decided I had to trust that my heart and head would do the right thing for me. That if I was doing it for someone else then I would know and that was never going to be the right choice. Those words would have such an impact on me but I didn’t realize it until much later.
The nurses were kind and the situation was explained about my giving the baby up for adoption. I didn’t want to see it at all because I was afraid I would not be able to deal with it if I did. I spent the next 72 hours in labor with my parents by my side. My brain shut down at some point from exhaustion and I don’t remember much beyond fuzzy bits and pieces. My mother was in the delivery room and my father was pacing the hall. I remember them telling me to push and then hearing the baby cry. I looked over at my mothers face as they carried the baby over to be cleaned up and all I could see was what “mothers love” looked like. It was there in every line, tear and smile as they put the baby in her arms and it was etched into my memory as I closed my eyes.
I awoke some hours later and was told I had a girl. My father came in and I asked if he had seen her? He had said he didn’t want to but that he just couldn’t stay away. The nurse came in and asked if I wanted to see her and I told them no. I had to stay strong if I was going to get through this. In the middle of the night they again came in and told me that she was not eating. They asked if I wanted to try breastfeeding her to see if that would work, and I again told them no. The next morning the nurse brought me a breast pump and asked if I would give it a try, that maybe they could get her to eat that way. I did as they asked but it didn’t work so that afternoon I asked them to bring her to me. This was going to be a huge risk I knew but what other choice did I have?
They rolled in this tiny bassinet and there she was. Six pounds of nothing, screaming her lung out from hunger and my heart skipped a beat. The nurse explained how I was going to feed her and then handed her to me. The first contact was like a lightening bolt. They got her in place and within a few moments she was nursing. To tell you now that I was not affected by this would be a lie but my head was screaming at me that I needed to keep sight of the decision I had made. That this was only a necessity and nothing more. After she ate they came and got her from me. The moment that they left the room I felt the pain but my determination would not waver.
I spent the next 5 days with her in my room. Taking care of her every need and talking to her. Telling her who I was and why I had to make the choice I had made. All I could hope for was that some day she would understand . She may not have come into this world the right way but she was loved and always would be.
The morning of the 6th day they came and got her. I thought they were just taking her to the nursery and shortly there after the social worker came in with the adoption papers that needed my signature. We discussed the situation and I was told there was a family waiting for her. I signed the paperwork and after the woman left I went to the window. To this day I don’t know why I did that but I watched as she walked out of the hospital with my daughter. I was never going to see her again and the pain I felt almost brought me to my knees. My Dad arrived shortly there after and we packed up my things and left to go home.
On the trip home my Dad didn’t have much to say and I was consumed with my own thoughts. Every fiber in me wanted to scream at him to turn around because I had changed my mind but I held my tongue. Finally just before we arrived home he said to me that he respected my decision but the sadness on his face was clear.
I spent the next 2 days in silence. At war with what felt right and what I knew was right. Sitting at the dinner table I looked at my parents and realized that I now shared a bond with them that I had never considered. I to was a parent, a mother and an adult. It was in that defining moment I made the decision that would change my life forever. She was my daughter and belonged to me and with me. I may not always get it right but I would always try. Unless I was willing to put the selfish idea of a child behind me and accept the truth that I wanted her in my life, my life would always have a huge hole I couldn’t fill.
I got her back and never questioned my decision. I had changed and in doing so had started to grow up. She was my first defining moment.