The story starts like most of these stories do; I was seventeen, and one autumn afternoon I received that life altering news; I was expecting a child. To this day, those words, their enormity will never leave me.
I didn’t hide it from anyone, like I know some choose to do. I promptly told my parents, close friends, and began to imagine what my life was going to look like going forward. Even though I was terrified, I was never ashamed. Honesty was the only thing I had left, I felt, as my friends dropped from my life, and the rumors spread like wildfire.
I was raised in a highly religious home. For my parents, having an unwed pregnant daughter was next to murder. It was a mark on their reputation that I know they weren’t pleased to deal with. It was a situation that I know every mother hopes is never her situation to contend with. Yet, that’s the cards that were dealt. I held my head high, and hoped that somewhere between then and the end, I would have the answer.
Of course, there were no discussions regarding sex before marriage, except the “you don’t do that” variety. However, I didn’t buy into that mantra. Call it rebellion, call it curiosity, if you like. I was sexually active as a teenager. I don’t hide that, even now. However, I wasn’t one of those girls on reality television who just had sex once or didn’t use protection. I was educated about contraceptives, about STI’s, about the reality of sexual intercourse. The pill was a normal part of my daily routine, and had been for years. I had routine PAP exams, and STI testing. I used condoms, and I was always aware of who I was sleeping with. I was not promiscuous, or any of the other words that often get labeled on young mom’s or birthmothers. I was just the reality that sometimes despite your best efforts, contraception fails.
For me, the girl who was smart about her sexual activity, and had gone out of her way to be protected, an unplanned pregnancy was the absolute last thing I expected. Which is why, I remained in a state of shock for months before realizing the magnitude of the situation. It just seemed so surreal.
My parents had their church swoop in. Everyone told me it was adoption, because that’s what was best for the child. A mother and a father; it was assumed, I could not provide that. I tried to speak up for parenting, I tried to ask for information, but no one pointed me in the direction of resources. I was told, at every turn, that single parenting would ruin my child, ruin me, and set us both up for failure. Adoption, they said, was the answer.
And so that was what I chose. I picked a family. I liked them, I really did. I wanted them to like me so much. I wanted them to love me, and love my son the same way. I wanted this to be the perfect adoption, the one they kept telling me about. Yet, I wanted desperately to run in the opposite direction, my son in my arms and just forget the word adoption ever existed.
I signed the papers with this hopeful, vague idea of what open adoption looked like. I signed the papers with this overwhelming sadness that I have yet to be able to describe in any earthly fashion. I signed and hoped it was the best decision. In fact, I tried to pretend it was, even despite my doubts. I repeated all the words everyone else told me about adoption.
Then, on one Sunday afternoon, in the chapel of a hospital. Four of us stepped into the adoption world. All of us held our breath, and took one single breath for this little boy. We hoped for the best, the four of us. The truth is, none of us had any idea what adoption really meant beyond that day in the hospital, where a young girl handed her child to the waiting arms of a young couple. Even today, ten years later, I’m sure we still have no idea what adoption really means.