The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Our lives are made up of stories. Stories that are written in the now on the blank pages that once were future. Remembering is mentally flipping back through the chapters to that “one time when…” So of course, it follows that these stories are important…they help shape who we are and the choices we make. They create the dots that we connect when looking back on how we arrived at a certain destination.

In preparation for and then after becoming a birthmother when I gave my first son up for adoption, I repeatedly told myself the same story to help me be strong in my choice. This story was essentially that I had made the best possible decision for everyone concerned under the circumstances. My son would be loved and raised by two parents who were better prepared for such a huge responsibility. I still believe this story is true, but it is only now, almost 22 years later, that I am recognizing the undercurrent of that story I have been telling myself.

People who know of the adoption imagine that I must be a strong person. I have heard that I am incredibly generous, self-sacrificing, and brave. These adjectives that they weave into my story make me uncomfortable. I do not believe any of those things about me. Paging back in my book, I see a scared and powerless girl. I see, feel, taste, and smell failure. She failed her choice in husband, she failed her parent’s dreams for her, she failed her daughter’s opportunity to grow up with her biological brother, she failed at raising her son at all…she failed herself. This is the flip side of making the “best possible decision” for my son. I chose better for him because I was not good enough.

Periodically during the first five or six years of his childhood, I was able to place notes and still-photos sent from his parents. The images of his beautiful smiling face and the stories of his charming disposition were a comfort to my heart. How could I regret his happy life? The updates peppered the pages like a scrap-book, spreading further apart until the day the letters stopped completely. The following years were just blank pages…

Something has been bothering me lately. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was until I realized that I am grieving. The candy coating has cracked and is falling away. I have raised a daughter and son and we have a complete encyclopedia of experiences together. I have passed familial stories down to them in both words and actions like supplements to DNA. I didn’t realize how important the merging of these stories with life experiences would be to me. I am grieving all that I missed and all that I could not give him. I am grieving the blank pages in between his adoption and our reunion.

I would not change the choices I have made because to do so would change the very person I am today. I rather like her, and the life that I have written is full of many blessings and much happiness. However, this is another reason why I grieve this loss. Because even though I believe the words I just wrote, every once in a while I can’t help going down the “what if” road. I wonder about the stories we might have written together. If I can claim that I wouldn’t change the many disappointments and heartaches that I have suffered through just to be the person I am today, then I am convinced that this alternative life is also full of many blessings and much happiness and the same convictions of not changing a thing.

My story as a birthmother is complex. I made the right decision, but I didn’t. I don’t regret my choice, but I do. I wouldn’t change a thing, except for the things I’d change if I could. It may seem contradictory, but this is my emotional ballast. After all, who would I be if I never missed my son? I’m not as much of a failure after all.

When I started writing this post, I was not sure if I would have the courage to hit the “Publish” button and send my story out to the world-wide-web. Writing is often a therapeutic exercise for me and though my intention when sitting down was to write for the blog, I grew reluctant over fear my words may cause unintentional pain to others involved (if they were to read it). I decided to publish in part because I believe “Elizabeth Said So” needs to be real. Through writing, I am discovering things that I have hidden away from judgment (yours and mine) as we all tend to do, and in doing so, I am experiencing much-needed personal growth. The other part is that this is me continuing to reclaim my role as birthmother; a role I hid from most people for many years. I locked my emotions away with my stories and as the saying goes, “Feelings buried alive, don’t die.” I picked up this particular shovel with my blog post, What Kind of Person Am I?, and continued digging away while writing a memoir for my son about his birth story (soon to be self-published!). The work continues…

Thanks for listening.

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