Four or five years ago, when I was making decent money doing hair, I bought a lot of vintage clothing on eBay. Among my most prized purchases from that era is a pair of blue and black Foster Grant sunglasses. They lean a bit too far toward the Willy Wonka end of the sunglasses spectrum to be considered stylish or cool but I knew as soon as I saw them that I had to have them.
In the time that's passed since then, I misplaced them. I recall seeing them a couple of months ago and thinking that I'd probably developed the chutzpah to pull them off. So I put them ... somewhere. And I couldn't remember where, and it was driving me crazy.
I thought that perhaps they'd ended up in some of the boxes of stuff at my mom's house, and so a few weeks ago after work, I went to her house to do some digging. I discovered a number of interesting things lurking in those boxes, none of which is my Foster Grants. I found thinning shears, Hello Kitty checks for a bank account that I no longer use, Mr. Sketch markers (they still smell!), a wooden model of a human hand complete with movable joints, a case for my iPod, several records, my old baseball mitt, and a stack of magazines from 2005.
There was one more box I thought my sunglasses might be in. As soon as I opened the lid, I found a handbag I'd been looking for. I seemed to remember having my sunglasses around the same time I had the handbag, so I dug deeper into the box. I'm sorry to say that I did not find my Foster Grants (they showed up later in my closet). What I found instead was a manila envelope that I quite purposely had not looked at for two and a half years.
I did not look at it again at this time, but I did slip it inside the handbag and I took both home with me. A few hours later, when I was home for the night, I sat down with that envelope and decided I was finally strong enough to read the contents.
The heading on the first page: Birth Mother Consent to Place Child for Adoption.
My heart beat a little faster, but I was surprised to find that I felt mostly okay. I read farther down the page.
"The undersigned represents and declares ..." There were my name, date of birth and address. Below that, "I am the birth mother of [Roo's name at birth] born on July 7, 2009 at [hospital name and address]." I was surprised to find myself smiling at that. Surprised mostly because last time I attempted to read this paperwork, not too terribly long after I signed it, I fell apart before I got to the third line (which reads "I am not presently married and was not married at the time of conception or birth of this child," which felt like a forced confession of sorts). I'm not sure what's changed - everything, maybe - but I sat there, uncharacteristically sanguine, and read every single paper in the stack, including the one that uses the word "sever" in a way that always punched my gut a little.
I read the whole thing, and I didn't hurt. I can't explain it, but reading through these papers, the very ones that cut me to ribbons a few years ago, left me feeling happy.
I am happy I signed them. I am happy for what they say and what they did. One line in particular jumped out at me that night. I never noticed it before probably because I was too caught up in the "sever" part which, incidentally, is in the very same paragraph. The paper says, about the adoptive parents, that "They will be the child's parents."
I realize that's probably very obvious and stupid, but it struck me as very profound, and I loved reading it. I think it's because more and more lately I've heard the uninitiated make reference to birth parents being the "real" parents. P and M are Roo's real parents. It says so on a binding legal document (and it says so in their hearts). They are the child's parents; Roo's parents. And I am so happy for all of them!
I read through every single page I signed 2 ½ years ago, and I felt happy. I am so happy with my decision! I have such peace. I don't think I've ever made another decision in my life with the certainty of this one. I've had reason to question a lot of the choices I've made, but never this. Not every birth mom got the result I did, and I'm sorry for the ones that didn't. But here's the truth of my experience: I don't regret it for a second and I never have. My pain has always been for my loss, not for my choice. My loss was Roo's gain. And now my loss doesn't feel so much like a loss at all. I still love her. I always will. She has everything I could want for her and so much more. Her gain has become my gain. I'm happy because she is.
Instead of pain, I found peace in that manila envelope. The paperwork that I once thought would kill me, didn't.
It made me stronger.