Sunday, June 30, 2013

Rekindled Denial

We went home.  I started working for my mom's business, met up with friends, got a car....  It was so odd how things had come all the way back around, I was almost right back where I was when my story began. Almost.

I'm fairly certain that the gravity of everything I had just been through hadn't quite hit me, that the true lessons and changes that had taken a foothold had barely begun to express themselves in my psyche.  In fact, in the beginning of the aftermath, there was a great deal of denial mentally, physically, and emotionally. Being the vessel for this beautiful act, made me feel ugly and empty once I no longer had the luxury of actually witnessing it first hand.  I now only had memories, and too many of them were already becoming fuzzy.  I had moved out of the doing phase and been plunged into the acceptance phase. I was once again in the position of reflection after a whirlwind, and all I can say is- I didn't handle it as well as I would've hoped.  I'm probably being too hard on myself, even though it felt like several years had passed since my last "poor coping with reality" moments, time hadn't jumped ten years into the future and old habits die hard. Still, even looking back at it now, I wish I had learned more from those earlier lessons.

Oh sure, I thought I was untouchable- thought I was doing marvelously. After all, I was back to the life I knew.  Except, I had changed. I fought against this change, for a while refusing to acknowledge it.  I worked everyday, partied all night, convinced myself that I was happy. But the truth, of course, was that I was a complete mess. The mind is an incredible thing, you really can believe any lie you want to tell yourself, if you are willing to believe that is.  And eventually I stopped believing in my own lies. When you come out of a self induced denial, there is inevitable depression, and though I did hide it well, I no longer ignored it's existence.

One of the main motivating factors I had in acknowledging these changes, was reconnecting with a man from my past just a few months after the birth and loss of my son. He proved to have the ability to see beyond the shadows and the lies I told myself, and I think his conviction in my goodness and honest belief in me, altered my course yet again. I fell madly and deeply in love, and that man who entered my life at completely the wrong time, and whom I in no way shape or form deserved, was madly in love with me.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Signing Day

As I mentioned in an early post, most adoptions are not finalized for thirty days.  This is a tremendously difficult time for birth parents and adoptive parents alike- living with the knowledge that one can change their mind at any time.  I changed my mind every single day- the feeling of panic sometimes consuming me.  But some how I managed to get through this time, gradually coming to terms with the finality of my decision. I can't imagine what my son's parents must have gone through during this time.  But when the time came for us once again to come together at the courthouse, I was ready.

As we entered the courthouse, and walked up what seemed like a thousand stairs to one of the offices, I once again felt that quiet strength wash over me.  And with every step, that strength grew.  We rounded a corner and there they sat.  Unbelievably, my first thought was this: Look what I have been able to do! I have made them a real family, and they are a beautiful one.

As we neared, his mother rose to meet us giving me her warmest smile.  We all greeted one another almost as old friends, and then I got to hold him.  He had already grown so much, if anything he was more amazingly beautiful than before. They shared the name they had chosen for him and, of course, I thought it suited him perfectly.  In the hospital, I had named him as well, and it will always be my special name for him: Glenn. It was his name during our time together and I think I'm allowed to hold it in my heart.  I held him until it was time to start the signing of paperwork, and yes-that was the last time I held my baby.

Because I had never been able to get back in touch with his father, I learned that the only thing I had to do legally to have his rights revoked was to post an announcement in the local paper of his last known place of residence. If he saw it and wanted to contest it, he would simply have to call the number listed with the advertisement, which was the lawyer.  As predicted, there was no response.  I cannot allow myself to question whether this was fair, I can only remind myself of what happened to make me sure it was the right thing to do.  His rights were relinquished, and I signed my own away.

My baby, my son, was now officially theirs.  When we said goodbye, they were free to go back to their home state- hours away from me.  We all held back tears and I received the most genuine hugs from both of them.  I watched them walk away, taking comfort in the sight of this brand new family that truly belonged together.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Void

I stayed in bed for a week. I slept, and when I was not sleeping, I cried.  A million thoughts ran through my head like, "Did I do the right thing?" or "What could I have done to keep him?".  I felt devastated by this loss, and I was inconsolable. My mom, not sure what she could do to ease my heartache, let me stay in bed. She would come in and let me cry in her arms, she brought me food, and shared in my pain. And that pain, oh, it was so incredibly deep. I felt empty, drained, and heartsick and I didn't think it would ever go away.  She admitted that even she had entertained thoughts of being able to keep him with us, but believed and reminded me to believe, that we were doing our best for him.

To be honest, I'm not sure how much time passed, everything was a fuzzy mess of hours, minutes, seconds without him. Eventually, however, I got out of bed.  My mom and I went shopping, because that is what we do when we are stressed, it's one thing we've always shared for better or worse. Life was no where near normal, and I knew if I survived this that I would never have the same normal. But at least I was out of bed and the pain didn't seem quite so intense. I still cried everyday for him, but my mind and heart were slowly recognizing that he was alive, happy, and well cared for. Those thoughts gave me something to be thankful for, and the thankfulness granted me hope for healing.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Borrowed Strength

The family waiting room was an enclosed space that had a large picture window looking out into the hall, so those gathered would notice when someone walked out the doors of the labor and delivery unit. When the three of us appeared through those doors, I saw my son's new mother rise out of her chair and her hands fly to her heart. They weren't expecting to see me and her immediate joy at the sight of us was so powerful, it could most likely be felt throughout the entire hospital. I immediately felt the connection between us, the one that I had felt from her very first letter, and any doubt that may have entered my mind in the last few days quickly, and maybe permanently, dissipated. Though my cheeks were still wet, a new flood of tears broke through and I was overcome with emotion. I believe all of us were.  

When we walked through the door, they both immediately came toward me, and I thought "this is it, I'm going to have to hand him over". I wasn't quite steady on my feet, but knew I must do what I had come to do. Instead of reaching for him, they closed in on us both and wrapped me in their arms while I continued to hold him. She had tears in her eyes and explained that they had been praying every minute for me, and how they had hoped so much for this moment to be together. That simple embrace from them in that incredibly overwhelming moment confirmed that they cared just as much for me as they did my son. It sealed in my heart that this was the family for him.

The four of us watched him sleeping in my arms. This child who was so amazingly perfect, who had brought all of us together, whose life seemed so divinely destined, was a gift to each of us in different ways. I couldn't stop looking at him, I wanted to commit everything to memory. We stood together as they thanked God for him. I could barely speak, I could barely stand. And then, just as I had known that I must be the one to give him to them, I knew it was time to go.  I tearfully thanked them for everything.  I looked into both of their eyes and, once satisfied with what I saw there, I placed him in his adoptive mother's arms. 

Once this gesture was completed, I had to turn and leave.  I could not hover, I could not stand there with empty arms, I absolutely had to turn and walk away.  If I had looked back, if I had hesitated, I don't believe I would have been able to leave without him.

I was not prepared for what happened next, but then again, no one could have been. The moment I walked out of that waiting room and the door shut behind me, I suddenly and very literally felt my heart rip in two. It was not a break, breaks are quick and clean.  This was a painful, burning, tearing rip. My knees buckled and every ounce of strength left my body. It was like something or someone else had been loaning me strength I never had but so desperately needed, and when it left - I was completely void. Everything went fuzzy and I was sure that I would pass out.  The next thing I knew I was being helped into a wheelchair.  The nurse pushing the wheelchair was crying, my mother was crying, and I was in the most extreme pain I had ever felt in my life. I was absolutely certain that I was dying.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Final Hours

The time flew by.  It wasn't fair, really. In three days I had slept very little, spent as much time as possible holding him, feeding him, loving him- but time doesn't stand still for anyone, no matter how hard you wish it to. All too soon, I found myself waking up on the day that I would have to go home, empty handed.

I held him so close, whispering all my hopes and dreams for him.  I told him how loved he was by not only me, but by everyone we had met along this path, and by his new parents waiting down the hall.  I told him how much I would cherish this time with him, and that he had saved me. He was my angel, one that had already changed my life in such a profound way.  I still remember the way he looked at me, like he understood every single word falling from my trembling lips.  I remember the way he smelled, it was the most amazing scent in the world. I would be keeping his first clothes, the shirt and hat that still held this wonderful smell. I knew the moment to say goodbye was coming fast, and I also knew that I wasn't strong enough to face it.

I know for a fact that in these last few minutes with him, there were many prayers sent up for us.  I sent my mom down the hall to give his new parents the only thing I had left that was of any value. It was my high school ring. I thought that, when they someday gave it to him, it would act as a symbol and give him a glimpse of the person I was.  When she returned from this errand, it would be time to go.

We had decided the day before, because I might lack the strength when the time came, that I would leave without being part of the "exchange".  We would go home, and his new parents would have time to spend with him, and ask questions while they were still in the hospital setting. It seemed the best way for everyone, at the time. I was dressed, bags packed, and my discharge paper-work had been signed.  This was it, the moment of goodbye.  In a minute my mom would walk back through that door, a nurse would take my son from my arms, and I would be walking away. Suddenly, I realized that none of this was right.

I shakily stood up, baby cradled in my arms.  At that same moment my mom came back through the door.  I told her I had changed my mind, that I had just realized that I absolutely HAD to be the one to put him in his new mother's arms.  She smiled and began to cry in the same second, and together we slowly made the final walk down the hall, toward his waiting parents and new life.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Precious Arrival

When we arrived at the hospital, I was apparently already having contractions.  The doctors decided to wait a bit to see if I would go into active labor on my own. Because I was already dilated five centimeters, I was able to get my epidural almost immediately. Getting that going along with some other minor paperwork, passed some of the time quickly.  After a while, they decided to go ahead with the medicine to induce me, as I was not making any progress on my own.  I was also given some pain medicine because they warned me the contractions brought on by the Pitocin would be considerably stronger than normal. Soon after, I fell asleep.

I was awakened by what seemed to be a stampede of wild animals.  The doctor and two nurses flew in to the room, explaining that the baby's heart rate had dropped very low.  Frightened, I sat up quickly and let them lift the gown.  The astonishment was apparent in my doctor's face, then they all smiled.  "Well, that explains it, he's crowning! It's time to push!" Dazed, I pushed- or at least thought I did, how can anyone tell when they can't feel a thing below the waist? Nonetheless, I made quick work of it and within fifteen minutes my son was born.

I did not understand why they took him away at first, I did not realize they had to do so much before I got to hold him.  But then, he was there, in my arms, and I was desperately in love with him. The incredible journey leading up to this miraculous moment, completely disappeared. Nothing mattered but this beautiful child, and he was perfect. Over the next few days, the comments from the nurses- how he seemed so much older than any newborn they had ever seen, holding his head up, focusing on people- confirmed what I already knew, there was no doubt in my mind that this boy was special.

Three of my friends came in shortly after he was born and I will always remember their reaction to my appearance: "Your hair isn't even messed up! You just gave birth and you still look perfect." I suppose those words stay with me not only because I was completely flattered, but also because I FELT perfect, like the whole thing was just way too easy.  Looking back, I think my easy labor and delivery was yet another part of a well orchestrated plan.

I don't think the hospital staff had been in very many situations like mine, and it was interesting to see the differences in the way they each reacted.  I had filled out paperwork prior to his birth that included a list of approved guests. The main reason for this list was the understanding that this was MY time with my son. A few understood and tried to give me as much time alone as possible. A few others, though meaning well, let anyone who came by in the door. And there was one, that seemed to think that I shouldn't be spending so much time with him, that I needed rest, to whom I explained that I could sleep when I left the hospital, but right now he stays with me.

His adoptive parents stayed in the family waiting room outside the unit.  I knew that they wanted to see him and meet me, but I just wasn't ready for that.  In fact, the more time I spent in that room the more convinced I became that I didn't want to meet them at all, and would not be able to handle being present when they left with him.  Of all the careful planning I'd endured, I had not considered how this "exchange" would take place.  Perhaps it was selfish, but I honestly didn't want them to have him until the minute I had to let him go.  I remember resenting my mother when I discovered that she had sneaked down the hall with him. I was angry with her for making that call because it was mine, whether she felt it was right or not. It's easy to see now why she did it.  They wanted to see him, they were parents in a hospital eagerly awaiting the first glimpse of their son. She was an adoptive parent herself and knew more than anyone else what they were going through in these moments. I forgave her of course, as I said, it was easy to see why she'd acted on her feelings - but what if I changed my mind?  What if I realized that I was not able to follow through with the adoption? I still had time, and the legal right to do just that. Now that he was in my arms, it was nearly impossible to see anyone being strong enough to let go.


 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Calm

The next month and a half was blissfully normal.  I went to check-ups, ultrasound appointments, and birthing classes.  I was placed on bed rest for the last six weeks because I had dilated four centimeters a little too quickly and a little too soon.  I ate Chinese food and lots of ice cream. My mom and I bonded so much during this time, I believed us to be closer than we ever had before.  I know it was an interesting experience for her to be on this side of things. After all, she never actually got to experience pregnancy for herself, and now was able to vicariously through me.

I continued to correspond with my son's chosen family, learning more about them and feeling more secure in my choice. Their lawyer was largely responsible for all the particulars regarding the adoption, which saved me time and unnecessary stress associated with the legal process.  I did have to decide how much, if any, contact and involvement I wanted with them once the adoption was finalized. In private adoptions, the choice  to be involved is a wonderful one.  Some mothers are able to physically watch their children grow and be a huge part of their lives. Some choose no contact in order to heal from the loss. His prospective adoptive parents wanted me to be as involved as I wanted.  I thought a long time, searching my soul, and contemplating my own situation growing up.  It's never easy to decide something before you truly know how you feel, or how you will feel in the future. I looked at how much hurt and pain my birth-mother had carried with her, how palpable it was even now twenty years later.  Was part of that pain because she just simply had no idea if I was alright? Alternately, I thought about my early teenage years and wondered if I had known my birth-mother then, would I have threatened to leave my mom in a moment of anger, breaking her heart in the process?  I decided that, what was right for me, was that I would not interfere with their parenting, or potentially risk confusing my son, by being too present in their lives.  I requested that I receive pictures and updates several times a year, so that I knew how he was and what was going on in his life.  I told them if he ever wanted to meet me once he was eighteen, or even slightly younger if he was ready, I would cherish that meeting. But that if he decided he did not want to meet me, I would respect that wish as his.  It was scary to make a decision that would be firm for so many years into the future, but I felt, as always, that his emotional well-being must be considered above everything else.

The weeks quickly passed as did my due date.  I was scheduled to be induced one week after that date.  The days just before his arrival, I felt overwhelmed, knew I felt overwhelmed. Yet, this quiet sense of peace slowly filled my thoughts and actions.  The change was so subtle that it went unnoticed in my conscious state, but when I woke up the morning of my son's planned birthday, I was undeniably ready.

The bags were already packed, plans set, adoptive parents called on their way. I looked at my mom, and she looked at me, and then off to the hospital we went.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Recovery

Much to my dismay, being home again didn't alleviate my stress by any means.  What did happen was that, because I was left to my own devices during the day while my mom worked, the conflict I faced became internal rather than external.  I was somewhat blindsided by emotions, thoughts, and memories of the past few years, moments in time that I had not allowed myself to deal with.  It seemed as though, while in survival mode, I had pushed reality down so far that I wasn't even aware of it anymore. Mentally returning from this self-imposed apathy was like the aftermath of a storm. Choices I'd made, people I'd lost, those I had hurt during my incredibly manic and selfish phase swam around in my head, frequently leaving me a mess of tears. Some I reached out to, some I vowed to at a later date, and finally some had to be let go. I could not give up, I could not dwell on the past.  I owed someone a life, a good life, and I had to push past the heartbreak and gain clarity if I was going to make the right decisions for him.

I didn't leave the house much.  My friends would visit, call, and occasionally make me get out for a while.  But what I needed was the solitude and those around me understood this.  I was healing, slowly, and I knew that I would have to also steel myself for the days ahead.  It seemed in the few weeks I was home, a year passed, I had all this time now.  I wasn't running anymore, I wasn't fighting anymore.  And this may have been the strangest and most difficult lesson of all, learning to stand still.

My mom's sister called one night.  She lived out of state and had mentioned to her church family the decision I was facing and asked for prayer on my behalf. She was introduced to a woman who said her daughter and son-in-law had been trying to adopt for a while, and would it be alright if she mentioned my situation to them.  My aunt wanted my permission first, not knowing if I had other options in mind. I said yes, and that if they were interested in contacting me, I would be open to that as well.  Something about the chance exchange between these two women felt serendipitous to me and I was intrigued.

A short time, and several phone calls later I received a letter from the perspective adoptive mother.  I had asked her to tell me about herself, her husband, why they wanted to adopt, and so forth.  She sent me a copy of their file from the adoption agency they had been with in their attempt to find a child, which included background checks, Bios, and interview notes. All of these were outstanding, but what most impressed me was her letter.  It was hand-written (which I have always preferred) and completely honest. It was not a desperate plea for my child, it was not filled with expectation.  The tone was hopeful, and the words came from her heart. I knew that I loved this woman for my child, knew that this was what I had been holding out for.  I had never been so sure of anything.