Last week I got to be on a panel at an adoption conference. Two other birth mothers and I answered questions from new birth moms and expectant parents, and I think it went really well.
One of the questions we got was whether placement still hurt years later. I said no, and it was the truth. It hurt a lot for quite a while but that's in the past. But lately I have been thinking about the circumstances that led me to choose adoption, and I realized that that's where the pain comes in. That's what still hurts.
I may write about all of these circumstances in the future but today I'm going to focus on the one that tapped me on the shoulder yesterday and said, "Hey, I know you were happy a second ago, so I just wanted to remind you that you should probably fall into a bout of tears and self-loathing."
Yesterday was H's birthday.
There's no point in remembering an ex's birthday, but I always remember dates, whether I need to or not. I'm sure that I have been vaguely aware in past years of H's birthday, in the same way that I am vaguely aware of minor holidays like Arbor Day or the start of Brumalia.* But I never thought much about it, and I doubt that I would have thought much about it if I hadn't been trying to do a favor for a friend.
Saying I was doing a favor for a friend makes it sound like I was being generous and thoughtful but the fact is this favor included scouring Pinterest for a picture that in the end I didn't even find. What I found instead made me think of H, and I cried.
What I found was this. More pictures and the full story can be found on the photographer's website here. Go ahead and look, I'll wait.
Anyway. The four pictures from the pin broke my heart. I thought back to my time in the hospital four years ago. It's nothing I would have wanted photographed. It's nothing I want to remember.
I've always wanted to be a mother. I know that's probably appallingly unambitious in today's modern, post-feminist society but it's the truth. In my younger years I used to imagine what my life would be like when I brought my first child into the world. The reality was so far from what I'd imagined, it was devastating. I cried through most of my time in the hospital and very little of my tears were due to physical pain. I cried because this wasn't how I wanted to begin my motherhood. This wasn't how any baby ought to be welcomed into the world.
I had imagined a devoted husband holding my hand, telling me I was doing great. I had imagined both of my parents in the waiting room, talking about the day that I was born. I imagined my brothers and sister anxiously waiting for my parents to call so they could tell their children about a brand-new cousin. I imagined dozens of people - friends, family, church members - all excited about the birth of my child.
Instead, it was just me and my mother. She cried a lot, too. The fluorescent lights in the hospital buzzed in and out and at times the room I was laboring in seemed so dark that I fought my contractions, unwilling to deliver a baby in a place so devoid of light and joy.
I am grateful that my mother was there with me. But her emotions got the better of her. She tried not to cry in front of me but there was nowhere for her to go. "This isn't right," she sobbed at one point. "You should have a husband and he should be here with you. You shouldn't be alone."
I needed her to be strong for me, but she hardly had enough strength for herself. I didn't blame her. I blamed myself.
You may be wondering where H was during all of this. I have no idea. The last time we had communicated I had been planning on placing my baby for adoption and although I had vacillated between placement and parenting since then, I knew better than to bother H with my ambivalence. He had been very clear that if I chose adoption he would be out of the picture.
It wouldn't have been any better with him there at the hospital. He wasn't my husband. He didn't want this child. He didn't love me. I don't think he ever did. And I felt ... oh, so many things. But mostly I felt as though I had given him too much of myself already, trusted him with too much of who I was. There didn't seem to be anything left of my identity that he hadn't colored. I wanted to labor without him, to try to find myself somehow in the beautiful, terrible pain of giving life.
I have learned over the years to not dwell on dark days. I take from them what they have to give me and I leave them behind me where they belong. But every now and then something will take me back down the rabbit hole of my past. Every now and then I get a reminder that once I gave my whole soul to a man with the most beautiful, sad brown eyes, and that he didn't want it. We created life together and it still wasn't enough. I wasn't enough. There was nothing on earth I could do to make him care, to make him love me.
Oh, don't mistake me, please. I don't need him to love me now and I don't need him to have ever loved me. I was foolish then; I still believed in fairy tales. I'm smarter now. I know better. It just stings, the remembering does. The thinking. The wondering.
H was my first boyfriend. H was my only boyfriend. No one wanted me before and no one has wanted me since. If I didn't have eight years of therapy to lean on these facts would break me. Even with the therapy it's easy, when my defenses are down, to imagine that no one will ever want me. It's easy to imagine that my choice is between loneliness and cats. Out of everything emotionally wrenching thing that has happened to me since I found out I was pregnant, that's what still hurts.
Thank you for slogging through these emotions with me. I promise my next post will be happier and include a picture of my Tom Selleck birthday cake.
*Oh, don't pretend you don't remember the start of Brumalia. I can't be the only one ... well, I guess I can. Never mind.