For 9 months it was you and I against the world.
I didn't even know I like raspberry sherbet until you forced me to eat it.
I have always loved you.
I wanted more for you than I believed I could give.
I was not strong enough to raise you.
I have not lived a day since finding out I was pregnant, where you were not in my thoughts.
On St.Patrick's Day, Tuesday, March 17, 1987, I became a birth mother a little less than three months after my 17th birthday. I declined the epidural, so they gave me a sedative through an IV. It was an out-of-body experience as I felt like I was in the corner of the room looking down on it all. No tears were flowing down my face, although I feel like there should have been. I looked confused, shocked, traumatized by what was happening within my body.
My mother, an administrator at the hospital, arrived and moved to the side of the bed. She looked out of place and uncomfortable in her work suit and heels. She held my hand, and I couldn't tell if she did so out of compassion or out of an obligation to do so. I took it nonetheless, grateful she was there. It wasn't long after that I followed the nurse and doctor's instructions and began to push with more intent. I continued to push on command until the tension and pain gave way to nothingness. There was a faint wail in the room as the doctor handed the baby to the nurse, and he cut the umbilical cord. The nurse suctioned the baby's mouth and rubbed the blanket against his skin as he protested. It was over. I had given birth, but I wasn't a mother.
I was not going to hold my son. I did not feel like I had the right to do so. For the past several months, the emotionally vegetative state I had existed in was wearing off, violently awakening, and throwing me into an emotional volcano. The tears I denied were now fast-moving streams staining my face. I couldn't pretend any longer nor hide from the magnitude of this moment. I was 17 and had just given birth to a child who would someday become a man and probably hate me. How could I hold him and not want to keep him? What would I do? Could I even change my mind? Would my parents allow it? How could I support him, me? Where would we live? My mind was racing, and I wanted the pain in my chest to cease and my uterus to stop cramping in search of the life it protected and nurtured.
With encouragement from the nurse, I agreed to hold him and she placed him in my arms. I removed the cap that covered his head, tucking it beneath my pillow, the one item I would keep from that day. A head full of curls adorned his head. I opened the blanket enough to peek at his long toes and fingers. I rubbed them gently. The nurse smoothed his black curls as tears that I didn't realize were flowing fell onto his head. His body warmed my arms as I cradled him, tears falling from my eyes but minimal sound accompanying them. The room was in slow motion, the nurse faded away, and it was just him and I as I gazed into his big brown eyes.
Forgive me, I said as a whisper. Forgive me for not being strong enough to raise you. Forgive me for putting you in the same situation my birth mother had put me in 17 years ago. With each word I said, I felt like I was slipping further away, my limbs becoming heavier, numbness waiting to save me and separate me from the moment's gravity as it had for the past several months. The baby that demanded I eat raspberry sherbet while pregnant was here in my
arms; there was no way I could run from my feelings. God, please let him be chosen and loved by a family that could give him everything I can't. May he want to find me one day and the mess I am now, not be the mess he finds later. He wasn't even an hour old, and he was already dealing with being failed by someone who loved him. For nine months, he was mine, and despite all the chaos being a teenage mother brought, I loved him being mine. I'm not sure how long I spent holding him; however, I remember the weight of sitting in the emptiness that followed.
After going through the same process I assumed my birth mother did when she relinquished me, it gave me the compassion I needed to understand that adoption was not easy. I can't believe there is any woman who gets pregnant with the primary intent to place the child they carried for adoption. There is always a degree of guilt and regret, yet as a birth mother I am always grateful. I am thankful that I gave birth to a healthy child, and grateful that he grew up with people who loved him. I am blessed that 35 years later, he allows me to FaceTime him. Happy Birthday, M!