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.



What Kind of Person Am I?

I have a new friend who was adopted and has recently happily reunited with her birthparents/firstparents. Growing up, she often wondered what kind of person gives up a child. As a birthmother, I feel like I can shed a little bit of light on that question, which many adoptees may be asking themselves. In preparation for the possibility of one day reuniting with my birthson, I have been reading countless stories of other birthmoms out there and I’ve discovered a common factor.

What kind of person gives up a beautiful human being to virtual strangers?

An overwhelmed one. That is the simple answer. As far as my personal story, I was overwhelmed by the circumstances I created around me. As a young college girl, I blindly ran through my days, trying to escape the responsibilities of life and school, searching for love, but not loving myself enough to really be open to the possibility. I married very young to a very wrong person, and rather than discovering that escape route, I found myself handling a lot more responsibility than just going to school and making a decision on what to do with my life. Fast forward in time to  1 year and 3 months after saying “I do,” I finally left the abusive relationship with a 9-month-old baby, discovering a couple of months later that another was on the way. I was an uneducated, single mother, living in a town where I had no family and not many close friends; I was seriously overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by a lack of financial means, social support, and fear of not ever being able to provide a “good life” for my children.

Some of the stories I have read are truly tragic. The so-called “baby scoop era” where countless women and young girls were forced to place their babies in closed adoptions because they were unmarried and their families didn’t want to carry the burden of shame by which our society judges such “sins.” Overwhelmed by the demands of their parents and society, many of these birthmothers were forced to relinquish their rights to their babies involuntarily.

Some were not cut out to be parents or became pregnant by criminal means. Overwhelmed by the responsibility of following through in a role they did not want.

Poverty, lack of social support systems (perceived or real), parental or societal pressures, and any combination of these aspects can contribute to a person’s choice to keep or relinquish a child, and even without the help of society’s prying eyes, many of these birthmothers judge themselves harshly. They live with so many regrets and so many “If only…” statements playing in their mind. I can say that living with the knowledge carries its own punishment. “How many kids do you have?” Silently subtract 1, when you give your answer. Cautiously remembering to alter your history, adjust your life story… After all, you can’t include your birthchild’s story into the pregnancy discussions that women share with their friends countless times over the years.

Because what kind of person are you?

For so many years, I’ve been burying that question deep inside my heart. Now, I’m facing the possibility of reunion and even though it is the day I have been looking forward to for so long, it terrifies me. Guilt that I never acknowledged has surfaced unexpectedly, so I’m trying to embrace the lesson and to forgive myself for the difficult, yet at the same time wonderful choice I made 18 years ago. Wonderful because even today, with the roller coaster of emotions that have been riding through my heart and brain, I am grateful that I was able to give quite possibly the greatest gift a person could give to another. I am grateful for the hopeful couple I met through the agency who have loved and raised him and given him every opportunity that any parent would want for their child. I am grateful that he is a healthy and happy young man with a childhood full of joyful experiences.

To my dear, new friend, and to everyone else out there who may be wondering or discovering for themselves, the kind of person who gives away their child may not be that much different from you. 🙂 Love and light to us all.

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