This was tough-and even harder to write about.
It was the first week of March 2020. We had just received news of the stay at home order, because of Covid, when I received a copy of the adoption papers I had requested from the adoption agency. Why did I want to see these documents? I guess the main reason was because I cannot remember signing them.
The last memory I have is holding her for the first time (for about ten minutes), I think before I was discharged from the hospital. I have no memory of postpartum. Nothing. It’s completely blank for probably at least a month after her birth.
So, I sat on the couch next to my husband and opened the large manila envelope. Inside was the legal document several pages long. Also included were notes from a social worker, counselor, and hospital. There was also a form signed by me when I came to the agency stating my intentions, describing my situation as “unwed”, along with other shame building words as “teen pregnancy”, “illegitimate” “best interest of the child” and a warning of the financial burden if I changed my mind. I don’t remember if all those phrases were in one document, but as I flipped through all the papers all the feelings of shame were trying to come back. There was even a questionnaire I had to complete. The questionnaire reminded me of a back to school or “about me” assignment. What did I like to do in my free time, what were my favorite subjects in school, what did I want to do in my future? It also asked about my relationship with the birth father. I was asked about his personal and family information. I filled it out like the good student I was, leaving very few blanks, if any. As it turns out some of this information was given to my daughter and actually helped her in her search!
As I read the questionnaire, I could vaguely remember filling it out. I felt so embarrassed reading what my 16 year old self wrote. I hated reading it and realizing how immature I was. It’s like I had no idea of the life changing event that was taking place.
It was strange reading what the social worker and counselor wrote about me. I was described as an “attractive, well-groomed white female.” It doesn’t really sound like they were there to help me, but only to evaluate me. I don’t even remember talking to a counselor, but then my memories are so few. I’m assuming since they wrote that I was not very trusting that I probably didn’t say much. The hospital notes were very brief, so I still don’t know if I was medicated or if it was a totally natural birth. I was really hoping to get some medical records since I still can’t remember labor or delivery. I remember immediately after her birth but that’s a story maybe for another day.
The legal document giving all my rights as my baby’s mother was the hardest one of all to read. There was much leading type language “for the best interest of the child” but the worst part of all-my signature at the bottom of the last page. There it was in black and white. It says it was signed three days after her birth at an attorney’s office. Even after seeing it and recognizing my teenage handwriting, I still have no memory of this event.
I’m not sure what I was expecting to feel. But I don’t think I was expecting the anger that overcame me for days-even weeks.
It’s no doubt a good thing my husband was with me or I probably would have shredded them immediately. Instead I stuck them in the filing cabinet. I don’t think he saw the same thing I saw in these papers. He saw adoption was the choice made during a time in our society where it was expected. I was too young. And where would we be now if I had chosen to parent? We can’t live in regret. And even though I can agree with that in my head, I explained to him that I still regret the hurts it caused, especially for my daughter. There will always be sadness in the fact that I lost a child. And he encourages me to focus on the blessing of knowing her now and knowing God is sovereign and He is restoring what was lost.
So began the process of trying to align my feelings with truth. Obviously, it was way past time to deal with these feelings that have been buried for forty years. I had little time alone to process now that I was watching our two year old granddaughter while mommy was working. Our youngest daughter and my husband were both working from home and our youngest son was home for college-having to finish the year remotely. I spent nap time walking my 3 miles while I prayed and listened to praise music. I spent some extra time in the morning reading God’s word. In the evenings while my husband “quarantined” in the upstairs gameroom-turned office, because little one had a fever, I spent that time in my room reading books, blogs and most importantly my Bible, trying to figure out this anger I was feeling.
I did a lot of journaling, which I have been doing for the last two years, since reunion. I read that I needed to identify not just the feeling but what things I thought were causing it, so I could work through it. Then I could start the process of replacing these negative feelings with the promises of God. As it turns out, I was pretty angry at the whole situation. How all the words added to my shame. I was angry that the adoption choice was not my original plan but somehow at 16 years old, even though I don’t remembering anyone asking my opinion about anything, it became my choice. My choice to give my child a “better life.” My choice so I had no reason to be sad. I had no reason to grieve. I was convinced she would be better off raised by people who were married and ready to have a family. After all, she would never know the difference, I was told. It was “in the best interest of the child.”
But most of all I was angry at myself. I signed the papers. I signed the adoption document. It’s there whether or not I remember signing it. I started to realize after all the work I had done in forgiveness these past few years, I still needed to give myself some grace. I have to quit blaming myself for everything and remember I was only 16, 17 by the time she was born. I didn’t even have a driver’s license or a social security number. I’m not really trying to make excuses, rather put it all in perspective. It’s difficult to contemplate what I knew then compared to what I know now in experience, maturity, and spiritual growth.
God has always been with me and I knew it even in those darkest days. I prayed for His protection over my baby. I really felt as though I was placing her in His loving arms. So even now as I remember and even when I don’t remember, I know His plans are for my good. He has helped me let go of the anger and to give myself some grace.
Romans 8:28 has been more than just a catchy phrase for me. It’s not just saying God can make something good out of the mess. He doesn’t just try to come up with Plan B after I throw away Plan A. He IS sovereign. He promises His children, those who love Him, those He has called, that He is causing ALL things to work together for good. God is trustworthy to keep His promises. He has orchestrated my life and I can believe that He is faithful and completely able to do all He has promised-not just in my life but in my daughter’s.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28
Some days I still feel the feelings, especially when I think about what my daughter will think if she decides to look at the adoption papers. Maybe she will be angry. And if she is-that’s okay-it’s understandable. I can’t imagine what that would be like-to see your mother’s signature on a piece of paper saying she is giving up all parental rights the day after she held you. That’s what I don’t want her to see. I don’t want her to think I didn’t want to be her mother, because I always thought of myself as her mother, even as another mother was raising her. I pray for God’s protection over her heart, that if she needs to see her history-even the ugly parts-that she can continue to see God’s hand in her life.
The enemy wants to define you by your scars.
Jesus wants to define you by His.Louie Giglio
I’m praying that God will be glorified in my life as I let go of any anger, of any unforgiveness or self-pity. He is bigger than my mistakes and heartbreaks. He has blessed my life with a family who has always supported me. He has blessed me with a loving husband and beautiful children and grandchildren. He has blessed my life with Jen.
For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.Philippians 2:13
KP June 2020