Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Family that felt like "HOME"

My family taught me to love deeply and with all my soul, and I took that lesson to heart. I knew I wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember. I knew my children would be my life, and that I would love them just as deeply as my mother loved me. I never realized that loving someone could mean giving up everything I wanted.
I met J. in high school, we had met in passing a few years before when he moved into town and then quickly moved away again. We started dating in December 2001; in late June 2002 I found out I was pregnant. I was barely 16.
I was exstatic, knowing I would finally be a mother as I had always dreamed of being. My parents were wary, supporting me while still trying to make me understand the gravity of the situation. I walked on a cloud of euphoria for 2 months or so, and when J. proposed to me I said “yes”. My sister was the first to suggest adoption, during a visit with her in Utah during that time. She berated me for not thinking of the well being of my child over my own, and I was angry at her for not being more understanding. I was offended at the thought of “giving up” my baby. I would find out later that she was struggling with infertility, and I don’t know how she found the courage to even talk to me. My other sister was also pregnant and due a week or so after me, talk about a double blow.
I moved forward with my plans for our lives, getting secondhand baby clothes and accessories from friends and dreaming of my baby boy. We picked a name for him, Dawson, and we thought of all the wonderful things he would be and do. We wondered if he would have my red hair, or J.’s athletic build, we waxed romantic about our future marriage and the baby that would make it all happen. Then on a warm day in September, J. told me he had made a mistake. He had cheated on me with one of my best friends a few weeks earlier while we were all at my house; I had been asleep at the time. We fought, and I gave his ring back, only to accept it once again when he apologized. I couldn’t tell my parents, couldn’t trust my friends, and couldn’t believe what had happened. I tried to move on, but J. disappeared too much, wasn’t as interested in me or the baby anymore, even threatened to break up with me. One morning I woke, stressed from a night of wondering where he had gone, knowing in my heart it was not good. I felt the baby kick furiously, then go still, I didn’t feel him again for a few hours and I was freaking out. My mom drove me to the Doctor and we found that I was in pre-term labor. I would need to be on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy, taking drugs to stop the contractions and getting periodic ultrasounds.
It was at this point that I realized what was at stake. Not just my own life, my own heart, but also the well being of this tiny boy inside my belly. I sat on my bed that day, stroking the bulge in my abdomen, talking to my Dawson and asking him what I was supposed to do. The answer came, but not from my belly, just a whisper in my head that said “What about adoption?”. I was about 7 months along, giving me 2 months (if that) in order to make my decision. I thought about my relationship with J. and how he would react, I thought about my parents, but mostly I thought about this beautiful boy I loved more than my own life. I knew that if he stayed with me, he would watch me break under the infidelity in my relationship. He would see how his father treated his mother, he would learn from that one way or another. When we broke up, he would have to deal with separate parents, each struggling to get by without an education or any resources. We would have to rely on our parents, probably living with them while we tried to provide for him. I knew what I wanted for his life: a mother and father who loved each other, who knew how to respect one another, and would provide the loving home he deserved. I knew I wanted him to learn to be a man from someone who knew what that meant. I wanted him to have a mother who could be with him, rather than working to make ends meet. I had to admit that I was unable to provide any of that…
So I made a choice that would change the course of many lives, and a choice that would forever alter who I am. I talked to J. and told him what he needed to hear to agree with me. I searched through what felt like hundreds of packets, birth mom letters, pictures, stats of families whose faces blurred in my mind. None felt right, but I found one couple that was what I thought I wanted. My LDSFS caseworker contacted them, arranged a meeting, only to find out last minute that they had moved. I would have to wait, possibly months, until after the baby was born. I knew I couldn’t do that, if he came home with me he would be with me forever. So we moved on, searching even more packets. I stopped reading letters, simply looking at faces and stats, then placing each family in the “No pile” or the “Maybe pile”. One day in the midst of this process I came across one group of pictures that popped out at me. A lovely couple with one biological daughter who was 8 years old. Their pictures were vibrant, their smiles inviting, and their love seemed to explode off the black-and-white photocopy. I did not read the birth mom letter; I simply set the packet aside. I realized later that this had become my “Yes pile”. We arranged a meeting, and just 2 weeks before my due date we met. At that moment I felt a tug in my heart, and I could not question that this was my baby’s family. They felt like home to me.
The last week in January came, my sister had her baby boy a bit early, and my due date came and went. Two days after he was due to arrive, Dawson entered the world just before noon on January 29th. He was a whopping 10 pounds 11.5oz, healthy and beautiful.
I had 3 cherished days with him. I can recall almost every moment. Friends and family came and went, but I only had eyes for one baby boy. On February 2nd, I woke knowing these were my last hours with my baby. Those hours flew by; we dressed him and readied ourselves for the ordeal ahead. We cried a lot, told him how much we loved him, gave him a few last gifts, then placed him in a bassinet and rolled him down the hallway to a small meeting room. There was his family; his mother’s tears seemed like small echoes of my own. I picked up my baby one last time, kissed him and handed him to his mother.

I don’t remember what was said after that, my mind was preoccupied with the screaming pain in my heart. I remember being numb, and the trip home from the hospital is a blur. I watched a lot of TV that afternoon, but I don’t remember what was on. That night I broke down when my Dad hugged me good night. I felt broken for quite a long time after that. J never did mend his cheating ways, but I clung to him as the one person I felt could understand my grief. We stayed together and just after Dawson’s first birthday we had a visit with him. His name was different, and he was not my little baby anymore, bursting my little bubble of grief-filled memory. I think that was the first time I felt like I was healing. I saw his happiness as permission to have my own, and a few months later J. and I broke up for good. I moved on to other relationships and other life lessons. I had my heart broken, and my life changed in ways I never imagined. I moved away from my home state, toward better opportunities. I also grew much closer to Dawson’s family, I have come to love them and think of them as my family as well. I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to have them in my life, and each time I see them I love them even more.
That baby boy is long gone, and the little man he has become is just as I would expect him to be. I still get a little sad thinking of the things I have missed, but I have never doubted that he is where he belongs. I have a child of my own now, and she fills my life with light, but he will always be my first love. I am still in awe of him, and he will always be my baby, but I am not his mother. I was never meant to be.