Sunday, March 11, 2012

That Which Does Not Kill Me

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.


Lindsey from The R House said...

I had the familiar warmth of truth wash over me when I read this post. So beautiful, Jill.

That last paragraph is amazing.

Thank you for letting me learn from you and your powerful example.

You inspire me.

Lechelle said...

Jill, you and your thoughts are beautiful.

Que and Brittany's Adoption Journey said...

I loved this. I had to share it!

And I'm so glad those papers brought you peace!!

Jeanie said...

I am a birth mother of 2 and
I have come across my papers while digging for other things many times and read them many times. It surely doesn't hurt as much as it used to. But I still cry. It's amazing how those things are worded. You are a strong lady!

Anonymous said...

Wow...such an amazing post! Thank you for sharing. I absolutely love this part..."My pain has always been for my loss, not for my choice. My loss was Roo's gain."

Single Women Adopting Children said...

I love your post! I only hope my daughter's birthmother can feel the same that you have peace with her decision.