Community//

20 Years

Don’t break her, I’m thinking as I stare at my daughter’s picture looking back at me. She has just moved into her new apartment with her friends to start her sophomore year and I’m picturing myself saying these words to the first guy who dare tries to hurt her. Me, the protective birth mom who […]

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The author's birth daughter
The author's birth daughter

Don’t break her, I’m thinking as I stare at my daughter’s picture looking back at me.

She has just moved into her new apartment with her friends to start her sophomore year and I’m picturing myself saying these words to the first guy who dare tries to hurt her.

Me, the protective birth mom who has no rights even though we have a semi-open adoption and have for years.

Today, 20 years ago she went home with her adoptive parents to begin a new life, full of promise, protection, wonder, and achievement – and that’s exactly what happened, give or take several worries on my part. More like obsessive worrying.

Her life started out kinda rough.

She was born with a condition called food aversion so she had to use a feeding tube three times a day until she was 16 and no matter how many therapies, programs, therapists; etc. she went to under the care of her parents who were nurses, doctors scratched their heads as to her predicament.

Then, December of her 16th year she just started eating, a little at first, but something.

I give all the credit to a higher power.

There is no other explanation, I figure.

I got pregnant when I was 34 after thinking I couldn’t conceive for 14 years.

I called her my miracle baby and though I couldn’t take care of her in any way and I knew adoption was my only option, it was the hardest, yet smartest thing I ever did.

I caught a lot of grief for my decision, people who thought I should abort or raise her on my own, but those two decisions weren’t in the cards for me. I never even thought of an abortion and raising her on my own was out of the question for many reasons. I thank God every day I didn’t try to raise her because her life would’ve been a nightmare with me. Every day I look back on what I’ve been through in 20 years and I know I made the right decision not to drag her through what I’ve done.

Instead she has been spared what I wasn’t – abuse, neglect, trauma, being passed through different institutions, PTSD, alcoholism, addiction, falling behind in school, divorce; the list goes on.

She never had to worry about her dad crawling into bed with her or her mom showing up at a parent/teacher conference with alcohol on her breath. She didn’t have to experience the horrors of being terrorized in a mental institute on Halloween night or being chased by an older sister who is developmentally delayed and mentally ill around the kitchen table with a butcher knife. She never knew the upset and upheaval of having to pack up her old familiar blue suitcase to go to yet another placement that wasn’t home.

I decided to spare her all that I knew stemmed from my own family history and my mental illness that could possibly put her in harm’s way for all of those things to happen.

I chose to end the cycle of my family’s abuse.

And the only way for me to do that was to give her new roots from a different family tree.

One that was healthy, lush, with big branches of support, love, comfort, safety nets, nests of hugs and safe places reminding me of the big Dogwood trees that my best friend Kristina and I used to play under in her back yard. Safe and secure. 

A place I had never experienced before except with my big sister, Cindy who practically raised me from the time I was eight. She was my After School Special in human form, a Romper Room, my Simon Says “Let’s Play” and forget what’s going on. She still is.

Since my birth daughter and I had a semi open adoption I got to see her two to three times a year but I didn’t know it was going to be like that at first, not until eight months down the road when her adoptive mom surprised me and gave me the news the day of the adoption finalization.

I was so thrilled I felt like I’d won the lottery.

The years have been great and they have been tough.

People always say to me, “Boy, those years just fly by, don’t they?”

For a birth mom, they don’t. Not when you only see your child two to three times a year.

They drag.

But now here she is, a sophomore in college majoring in psychology, of all things, just like my sister Cindy.

I go into deep depressions like this past weekend where all I do is sleep, longing for the day I’ll see her again or she’ll speak to me once more .

I haven’t seen her in almost two years, the longest I’ve gone in her life.

I know she’s alive and the only thing that keeps me going are the emails and pictures I get from her adoptive mom, just a little spark to keep the car running.

My candle has almost burned out many times from sheer grief not having her in my arms, all the holidays and birthdays, Mother’s Days in my empty house and though I know I did the right thing it still hurts.

There is no way around grief.

You just have to walk through it and hope that on the other side is your girl smiling and saying, “I missed you too.”

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