As I sit here and wait for word on when my son can come home, my thoughts wander to the journey I have taken in the last decade and the ways that my life has been touched by adoption. It's hard to imagine as I wait to welcome a child into my home that 10 years ago I was preparing to let a child go. And, it feels as if somehow I am coming full circle.
The summer of 1993 changed my life forever. The summer of 2003 is changing it again. The first summer robbed me of my childhood, my innocence and my firstborn. The second summer has returned my strength and given me another firstborn. One will never replace the other. But, the maturity that the last decade has brought to me has shown me that there is room for both in my life and my heart.
In the summer of 1993, my family moved to a new town. Preparing to embark on my final year of high school, I found myself starting over. And, I quickly made a decision that put me in the path of danger I could have never imagined. I accepted an invitation to go on a date with the youth minister's son at my father's new church.
I remember my younger self now and I ache to yell out messages of warning to her. I ache to teach her that life is not safe, and boyish men who seem strange are most especially not safe. I ache to remind her that she cannot heal everyone's hurt and sometimes that hurt is merely an excuse to lash out and hurt another. I see her in my dreams now, and I know what she will face. But, I cannot warn her anymore than I can comfort her. She is my past. But, she has become my present and my future as well.
And yet, were it not for that summer, would I be where I am now? I don't know. Because I was raped and stalked by the youth minister's son, there was never any question in my mind that I would place that child for adoption. I knew then, as I know now, that no amount of my love would ever guarantee to conquer the pain her life cost me.
I knew I could never mother that child. And, I shielded my heart from her. I didn't want to love her. I would carry her. And, I would give her to a family that would love her. I knew she didn't ask to be a part of that rape anymore than I did. But, I would not love her. To love her would hurt too much. To love her would open my heart and my soul to a child that was never my decision to even risk creating. My innocence was robbed when my 'No' was ignored. And, I knew that no matter how innocent she was, she would forever remind me of that night.
Ironically, she taught me more than I could ever understand about life and love. She taught me that I could not shut her out. She taught me that I could not place her with strangers and walk away. And, ultimately, she taught me that I had to love her to give her up. I had to love her and want the very best for her before I could let her go. But, by being what she needed then, I knew that I would be destined to be a great mother again to other children, not necessarily my own.
So, I placed her for adoption with family members. It wasn't the greatest home. But then, what home is the greatest home. If I were to place her in a home today, I probably wouldn't pick those same family members for her. But, I remind myself that today I wouldn't place her at all. I would keep her. Today, I know the unconquerable depths of mothering my own children, and I could never place her in another woman's arms if she were born today. If she were born today, I wouldn't have to place her in those arms either. And so, I made the best decision for her life that I could make with the circumstances I was facing.
Many times over the last decade, I have wondered if I made the right choice for her. I cried. I lamented. I bemoaned and got angry even. But, still I have to come back to knowing that the choice I made for her was best for her then. It wasn't easy even then. I had no idea that the pain and agony would linger in my heart and soul forever. I had no idea that there would be times I wanted to die for the choice I made for that little tiny baby girl. But always, she was there.
She was there to show me that her life is good. She is happy. She has been loved, and no one remembers what circumstances brought her into this world or this family. They call her a miracle. I still see his features in her. And, I know each time that I do, that her mother is more prepared to love her unconditionally than I will ever be. My act of love to her was to admit I could not be the mother she needed me to be. My courage was to give her to a mother who could be what I never would.
For 10 years, I have watched this child grow in love and beauty. I have faced her questions, and those of the daughter I didn't place. This daughter is now my firstborn, born of love and commitment between her father and I. And these daughters have taught me that becoming a birthmother didn't define all of who I am. Just as becoming a mother and bearing 3 children hasn't defined all of who I am.
And borne of this past, I have opened my life and my family to the journey of loving another child. Another firstborn, and this time a son, a son born not in my body like these daughters, but in my heart. A son who also never chose the circumstances of his life is soon to become my final firstborn. He shall come from across an ocean. His life too has been filled with pain and loss. Where I lost a daughter, he lost parents. Where I mourned my choice, he suffered the choices of others.
He will not heal my past or my pain anymore than his sisters ever have. But, his life and his journey is part of a continuation. He will embark on a new life with a second family and a new chance to flourish, just as I gave that life to the first one I carried. We all have lost an innocence that most will never understand. We understand loss and fluidity of family. We understand pain and anguish. But, together, we also understand the boundless reaches of love.
It is in this love that we shall all journey on. And, there is love enough for all. The lines may move and blur. But, still we carry on, somehow all joined by hearts and lives where biology has not defined our family. It is as it should be that the teen who sought a better love for a child would now morph into the woman who extends that love to another child. There is beauty and grace in the love that can bind so many hearts together, despite losses and adoptions. In this beauty, in this love we will all flourish and rise to mark the beginning of another journey. No longer just a 'birthmother' but now an 'adoptive' mother too, through all I see only mother, just many ways to define that term. It's not biology that binds and intertwines a family but love and commitment, and room to accept the unconventional ways that love and family are expressed when we open our hearts to it.
~ Written by Jo, birthmother to one daughter with 3 children in the home and eagerly awaiting the arrival of her firstborn from across the Atlantic.