Friday, July 23, 2010

Melissa's Story

Life is a tapestry woven together by the threads of our experience. Each choice we make is a single thread and each day thousands of these threads are intermingled. They cross over each other and the threads of our friends and family. And often our threads cross over the threads of people we don’t even know, people we see in cars driving past, people who work for us and who we work for. Sometimes out threads even become essential to the lives of others, but we can’t imagine how until our threads run into theirs.

I sat on the hardwood floor of my birthdaughter’s home last week, cradling a mug of hot coffee, watching my birthdaughter play with my own daughter. My infant lay on the floor by my side, my birthdaughter’s mother and I sat, enjoying the playful scene together. The threads of our connectivity are thick and complex.

Each time I look at my eleven year old birthdaughter, I see her looking up from my arms the night she was born. As I watch my daughter playing in her birthsister’s home, I am swept back in time to the night I gave birth for the first time, to the afternoon I met her parents, even to the day I found out I was pregnant.

It was January of my senior year. I left school just after my last final exam to walk the three blocks to my family’s doctor. I had been feeling ill for several weeks, nauseated on and off, tired, yet restless at night. “Is it possible you’re pregnant?” the nurse asked candidly. I flushed a deep red wondering how honest to be with the nurse who treated my mother too.

“Um, I don’t think so…” I hedged, “…but it’s possible.”

“Okay,” the nurse said politely, “I think we’ll do a pregnancy test just to be sure.”

The feelings I experienced when the nurse announced that I was indeed pregnant are indescribable. One feeling cannot encapsulate where my mind went. On one level I was terrified, shocked, confused and scared; but another part of me instantly shot through time. I could already imagine this baby that was growing inside me. The mixture of pride and fear I felt were unequalled by anything I had ever experienced.

Over the next six months, my life was marked by negotiations. I spent hours negotiating with my parents about what the “right” thing to do was. They were supportive and glad I was carrying the pregnancy to term. Of course they were also very sad, worried and fearful about what my future as a pregnant teen would hold. When I told my Dad I was pregnant, he cried. He said, “I’m so sorry sweetie, because nothing you do now is going to be easy.” His words were chilling; I knew he was right.

Coming to the decision to place my baby wasn’t easy; neither was convincing my boyfriend. It took me months to decide that I wasn’t ready to be a mom. But when I did, I was sure of it. I knew my boyfriend and I couldn’t do this together—we had a tumultuous relationship. We argued a lot; broke up often. I couldn’t see bringing a child into that situation. But he couldn’t see “giving his baby away.” To him, placing our baby felt like abandonment.

But finally, a month or so before I gave birth, we were able to agree on adoption. We met with a young couple who had been waiting to adopt for several years. After years of In Vitro Fertilization, they were ready to face the reality that they weren’t going to have biological children.

Over iced coffee in the heat of an August afternoon, my boyfriend and I realized we liked them, we trusted them; we thought they could be the parents of our child. That very afternoon we asked them if they would be willing to meet our families.

The night I gave birth, my mom and midwife stood by my side. For six hours in the hospital we walked, breathed, rested; walked, breathed, rested. Contraction after contraction ushered in the night. As I paced back and forth in the hallways, our baby’s adoptive parents sat, quietly waiting.

When my birthdaughter was born, it was almost midnight. I reached out and took her from my midwife, holding her slippery, naked body close to my chest. I beamed, hardly breathing; tears filled my eyes as we stared at each other. Her piercing eyes remain burned in my memory. My mom went out and brought in my birthdaughter’s mom and dad. They smiled, they cried, I handed her to them.

We cried together, we hugged each other, finally we slept. The next night as I prepared to leave the hospital, my mom presented me with an idea. “What about a ceremony, a passing over ceremony? Some people do them now to mark the moment of placement.”

Many of us gathered in the hospital’s chapel. My aunt read a poem; my birthdaughter’s new grandmother gave me a book of angels and said that I was an angel because I was giving her son and daughter-in-law the greatest gift of their life. My father prayed, we sang, and then it was time. As I stood, everyone stood and gathered around me, some were crying, some touching my arms holding my birthdaughter. I walked to my birthdaughter’s mother and placed her baby in her arms. Through our tears we hugged; we thanked each other. She held her daughter in her arms and for the first time she looked like a new mother.

As I look at her now, almost eleven years later, in the heat of summer that once ushered in her daughter’s new life; she looks like an experienced mother. And I am the new mother. Now we are both mothers and in some way that makes us both whole. We sit and watch our children play and it seems that the threads that make up life’s tapestry are woven together in the only way they ever could have been.

Melissa Nilsen is a mom, a birthmom and a writer. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two daughters. She blogs at: www.birthmomguide.blogspot.com

Pic I is Melissa the night her birthdaughter was born.

Pic II is Melissa's two daughters

Pic III is Melissa with her oldest daughter and her birthdaughter

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