Laboring for a baby you are not going to keep is bittersweet at best.  You are creating a family, but not your own.  You are bringing immense joy to a couple, and leaving yourself with crippling grief.  You are told that you will forget, and have no idea what lies ahead.

 

I wish I would have been “sent away”.  In 1985, it wasn’t socially acceptable to just send your daughter away.  So I was walking around with a pregnant body, no baby stuff around the house whatsoever, and the kids at school were mostly cruel to say the least.

On the other hand, if I would have been sent away, I doubt that I would have been able to pick the parents.  And to tell the truth, not knowing anything at all would have haunted me for the rest of my life.  All I had were pictures and first names, but in my darkest hours, I would stare at the pictures, and somehow it would carry me through.

“Rooming in” was just becoming popular, and I wanted to do that.  I knew damn good and well I was not going to be able to keep her.  I wanted to cherish those three days, study her, feed her, just be with her.

“You’ll get attached” is all I heard.  How the hell do you not get attached to a baby you already had?  So I spent mostly those three days in the hallway and sometimes one of the nurses would let me hold her.  I would wonder what she would look like when she grew up.

Deep down inside, I knew I would know.  I kept promising her those days that we would find each other again.  I knew it, and when I would hold her and tell her that, it is like she knew it too.

Even if she slammed the door in my face and hated me years later, she HAD to know that she was loved by me.  People could tell her I loved her all that they wanted.  I just wanted her to know from my mouth, my living mouth, that I loved her beyond description.

Even though I knew this was going to cause me much emotional trauma and baggage, I never wanted her parents to pity me or feel guilty upon her adoption.  Yes, my pain was bringing them joy.  All I wanted them to do was to enjoy her.

And that they did.

Advertisements

The beginning

Sometimes I don’t know how I made it through this.

For a young girl, fifteen in fact, I thought that he was the best.  He was tall, had a car, both of his parents worked, so he had a better house, he smoked and his parents let him.

The big thing was that he had a car.  I was smitten.  We met through a friend, and hung out a lot.  Usual teenage things like bottoming out his car off the railroad tracks, speeding through town, the usual.

I didn’t have a car being so young, and our family only had one car anyways.  I just remember hanging out a lot, and one night, we went out.  That was about it.  No real love or romantic thing, like you see in the movies.  I believe that I was way more smitten than he was.

We continued hanging out until we found out I was pregnant.  Then, he just stopped coming over.  I found out why, decades later.

The guidance counselors from school came over with me to my parents house to tell them the news.  I was scared to death to tell them.  Everyone at school knew, and the counselors were aware and didn’t want me to participate in P.E.

After they left, as you probably would understand, the shit really hit the fan.  I remember my dad worrying about what the neighbors would think, how this would affect their standing in church.  He was worried about having to resign from being a deacon because his family was “out of control”.

They wanted me to have an abortion.  Have an abortion, get it over with, get on with your life.  Everyone, grandparents, parents, everyone.  Even though now as adult I can understand it, it still really threw me for a loop.  Being raised in a Christian home and being forced to have an abortion.

We went to Planned Parenthood.  The counselor there told us about the procedure, and I said I didn’t want to do that.  Everyone was upset because I refused.

Then, my dad said words that still haunt me to this day, “if you don’t have this done, you will give the baby up for adoption.  There is no discussion on this.”

By this time, the boy was out of the picture.  For all I knew, he didn’t give a shit.  Of course, when a girl gets pregnant, she is automatically a whore.  There were rumors he wasn’t the father, I was with so many other guys, etc.

Everyone was so worried about what was going to happen to THEM if I kept the baby.  Looking back, I somewhat understand.  But giving up your baby is a huge undertaking, and you are never the same afterwards.  And this is if you have the proper support.

I had to tell all my family.  Aunts that lived close.  It was all the same, she is going to give the baby up for adoption.  Look at what shame she brought to the family.  I even had to write letters to family far away, that would never have known.  My mother dictated the words to write since she was blind.  It was the same, what shame she has brought to the family, she is going to give the baby up, how much of a disappointment she is, etc.

One Aunt responded.  On my dad’s side, who was broke ass poor.  She told my parents via letter that she was mad when her daughter got pregnant, but that her granddaughter was the biggest blessing in her life.  She begged my parents to reconsider.

The other side said nothing.  If they did say anything, I am unaware.  To this day I have little to say to them.  I’m not sure why, to be exact.  Maybe shame.  Maybe I believed those words that I was made to put in the letters.

We did get a letter from my cousin.  He and his wife couldn’t get pregnant, and they were more than willing to adopt the baby, and be able to keep it in the family.  My dad responded with he couldn’t handle seeing the baby knowing it was his grandchild.  We saw them maybe once every ten years.

Good thing that didn’t happen, because they ended up in the witness protection program.  I still have no idea if they are dead or alive.

I was sent to a counselor.  One of those Christian Counseling Services.  After a few sessions, I said that I wanted to go to a foster home.  I could barely stand staying there.  Everything that was wrong in the family was my fault, what a disgrace I was, maybe I wouldn’t show, maybe I would miscarry.  I even got yelled at for eating a piece of lunch meat that I wasn’t supposed to.

When I would vomit, I would hear, “serves you right”.

Of course, when it came down to it, I couldn’t leave my Dad.  I would put up with my (probably for a long time) depressed mother and bide my time.  I did get some maternity clothes donated from someone.  I never really had any good regular clothes, let alone maternity clothes.  We were poor.

If you are middle class and have a baby, usually you bring the baby home and get on with your life.  It is a whole different ballgame when your family is poor and you know that you are going to bring in a baby into a home where there is not much to spare at all.

Plus, I was only fifteen.  That would mean dropping out of school.  My mother told me that she wouldn’t allow that to happen, that her and dad would adopt the baby, they would care for it and I would be the big sister.  That was an insane idea at the time.  My mother was not stable, and my father worked two jobs just to put food on the table.

I think it was around November 1985 that I went to the welfare office, knowing damn good and well that I wasn’t going to be able to keep this baby.  There were a few other girls pregnant at school, and only one of them other than me chose this route.  The others kept them.  Some of them, their parents helped them, some of them went on welfare.

The caseworker was kind.  For a long time, she was my only adult friend.  She would take me out for ice cream.  We would go to Dairy Queen and I would usually get a mint sundae.  Now, the thought of a mint sundae doesn’t appeal to me.  Physically.  Must have been the hormones.

She would explain the process, I would have the baby, sign the termination of parent rights, and leave the hospital and “go on with my life”.  I would see her about twice a month, and finally, I told her how it would go.

I wanted to meet the family.  I wanted to give the baby over to them.  I wanted them to know that this baby was wanted, not just given away.  I didn’t want to be one of “those” girls, you know, who give away their kids with what society thinks she does it without a thought.  I was different.   I just wanted them to know.

No dice, she said.  In fact, she just said “no.”  I told her I wanted pictures and updates.  She told me that was rarely heard of, once you sign the baby over, it is over.  Well the first thing I thought is how the hell do you expect me to hand over my baby like it is nothing and then “go on with my life?”  I’ve always been family oriented, especially since my mother and I had a stormy relationship to say the least.

Finally, she relented and agreed to meet me halfway.  I would choose the parents.  I would choose who the baby would complete another family’s dreams.  She told me that was unheard of, but she would start sending out notices to the other agencies.

When the profiles started coming in, it was madness.  There were hundreds.  I didn’t like the ones that started with “Dear Birthmother”.  I didn’t want the baby to be a second child.  I wanted the baby to be the first one for the couple.  I didn’t want the baby to be a sibling to be a playmate.  (Remember, I was fifteen when I was thinking this.)  The Xerox copies were thrown in the trash.  My baby was worth more than a Xerox copy.

I finally told the caseworker that I had found a couple.  I had no idea what profession they were in.  I just know that I liked them.  Sadly, when the  caseworker contacted them, he had just lost his job and they had to move in with his parents, and although they were thrilled, it was a bad time financially for them.  I appreciated their honesty, and I still do.

A couple of weeks went by, and I received a package.   It had real pictures.  The husband resembled my father, and in my teenage mind, I thought that maybe nobody would know the baby was adopted if the baby resembled him.  You see, not all adoptees know that they are adopted, and I figured it was their right to tell the baby or not.

There were pictures of animals.  There was a picture of a crib.  I still have them tucked back in a tote, but for years, I kept them in a fireproof safe, sometimes looking at them and wondering.  Those pictures gave me hope.

The letter wasn’t a “Dear Birthmother” letter.  It was heartfelt, and I felt it was sincere.  I saw their first names, and knew that I would never know the last.  My parents never went with me to these appointments.  It might have to do with transportation problems, I have no idea.  A lot of times, I would just walk up town to the office, being it was about a mile and a half away then.

I do remember vividly going to the Christian counseling place.  One time, she wanted to speak to my parents alone.  We would go in, the three of of a few times.  I believe she was concerned that they were not handling this well at all.  My dad was one that didn’t do feelings, and my mother had suffered from depression every since I can remember.  She would lay in bed and sob a lot.  To a lot of people outside of the family, she was a gem.  It could have a lot to do with her being blind, and she was stuck and she knew it.

I was in a counseling session, and I got pulled out mid session.  She told me, “Leanna, you are going to have to deal with this for the rest of your life, and when you start to feel really badly about this, please get help.

All in all, the pregnancy went along well, although the stares and comments and out right laughter was sometimes hard to handle.  Kids at school would say things like “are you going to have puppies?” and such.  I’d usually just tell them to fuck off or something like that.