This is the story I submitted to Love What Matters.
There are about 5 million things to think about when you find yourself 16 and pregnant. There are also about 5 million opinions on what the right course of action is for you to take.
I don’t know if any of the directions you could choose to go in this time ever end up in you feeling completely at peace with the choice that you made, I know for certain, 19.5 years later I am still not. I wish that at 16 years old someone could have drawn a road map for me with all the stops along the way highlighting my life as a result of the decision I would make, that is not life though. So here I am left wondering if I would have been alright, ultimately if he would have been alright if I made a different choice.
Sometimes I get mad at myself for not fighting harder to keep him, I have this long lasting deep rooted belief that I am a selfish person who wants to finish growing up and live my life. The part I forget to remember is why I made the choice, just because my life has worked out well doesn’t make me selfish. The decision I made at 16 was a hard one and based on my current home environment and my limited ability to go it alone and raise a baby.
To just highlight what I mean when I say home environment, there are some key things that are important here, a simple one is resources, or lack of. My family of 7 was being managed on $17 an hour that my mom made at the drugstore in town, and a disability allowance of a measly $800 monthly. And then there was the emotional environment which was unstable at best, and more often than not something much worse. My father was addicted to alcohol and pain medication which in different combinations brought out different Dads. At the time I became pregnant, it was mostly the abusive one Dad who showed up. The house was filled daily with yelling and screaming, name calling and aggression. It was so bad that even us kids often treated each other the same way. It even extended out of the home in the same ways. My sister was pregnant at 16 and ended up moving in with her boyfriend to raise her son, and then in with her Grandma when that didn’t work. My Mom was overwhelmed by all of it and often retreated to her room to just rest her eyes for a few minutes, not to return till the next day sometimes. Looking back I can’t even blame her, I would probably do the same. My Mom did have moments of intense nurturing and understanding, and I believe her unconditional love for me is what got me through my childhood. I only wish I knew how much I could trust and rely on her back then.
This story is not about growing up,, so let’s get back on track and talk about what got me here. When I was 14 I met a boy who was everything my 14 year old heart wanted, tall, athletic, handsome and funny. He was the guy I chose to have sex with for the first time. We were together for a long time and spending time at his house was an escape from my crazy world. I loved him as intensely and surely as any teenager can. We were together almost 2 years when it ended. And it ended because I was pregnant. I remember not getting my period after we had had sex after a fight, and I just wanted to make up, I knew it was bad timing but I was desperate for him to love me. When I told him he made it very clear that if I stayed pregnant we couldn’t be together. Both of us had huge fears of telling our parents so for him it was easy, break up with me and he would never have to tell. For me it was obviously not that easy, and it took a long time. I remember the crying and the nights on the phone trying to change his mind, I needed him, I felt like I had no one if he left. He left.
My heart ached and I cried, I got mad at the little life inside me and blamed it for my sadness. I told no one else. In private I was lost and broken, but I was still 16 so I spent the summer doing my best to make sure that I forgot I was pregnant and no one knew, denying it to myself at every thought of him. I remember I was dating a guy and we were watching movies, he was sitting on my stomach and I felt the baby move for the first time. I freaked out and left pretty fast. Lets just say that relationship ended pretty quickly. I continued to pretend everything was fine for a long time, even as I lay in bed at night feeling him kick me, I avoided thinking about what the future would hold for him.
In my 16 year old mind I had convinced myself I would be able to walk into a hospital, have him and walk away, letting them find him a good home. I was naive on so many levels at that age, this is just one of them. And on those night’s when I allowed myself to think about raising this baby I would cry, because I knew no good way ahead where he could have a happy life with me.
In September my mom really started bugging me about being pregnant, asking often enough that it was ending up in fights. She would look over at me on the computer and say “Amy, are you sure your not pregnant?” and full pregnant/teenager hormonal rage I would explode “How dare she even ask!”, I yelled at her ” I have told you I am a virgin a million times” My Mom really wanted to believe me so she wouldn’t ask for awhile. I was very “lucky” in the sense that my belly didn’t pop till after 8 months. It became rounder but not obviously a bump for a long time, which allowed me to hide the pregnancy longer than you would think.
In October, winter sports were back in the full swing of things, and my usual dexterous, sure footed self was nowhere to be found on the ice, I was falling and sliding all over the place like a Novice. It was on the way home after a particularly rough night on the ice, my mom said she was worried, and though maybe there was something wrong with me. I just started crying, and I said ” Don’t you think that’s why I haven’t told you, because I don’t want you to worry.” She looks at me and says ” You didn’t tell me what?” Silence, and then I say ” That I am pregnant.” and she literally slammed on the breaks in the middle of the road. She was mad and scared, shocked too. The first thing she said was we needed to go for a abortion immediately, and I said it was too late, after some back and for on that and me admitting I was somewhere around 8 months pregnant, her response was something like “We need to find a adoption agency, I can’t raise a baby, you can’t raise a baby.”
The next day she pulled me out of school due to “mono” , locked me up in the house to hide me from the world. She found me a doctor and an adoption agency and that became the normal for a while. She made it very clear she had no interest in helping me be a Mom, choosing to keep the baby would mean I would be doing it alone. There wasn’t money and there wasn’t time. If abortion wasn’t an option, then adoption was the only option. Looking back now, I get it, but after giving your baby away and needing someone to blame for your pain, that person for me was two people, my Mom and my babies dad.
When we started talking about this with family it was kept hidden from so many people for a long time, my mom and I had a lot of shame and felt the need to hide from as many people as possible. I think I made my mother feel like she had failed at being a Mom. My brother would get in fights at school as word had got out and they would talk to him about it, and he felt the need to defend my honour. My step family told me I was no member of their family if I gave him up because Abrey’s don’t give up their babies. What got me through this hard time was visits from close friends and DQ french fries.
Most people will never get to see what adoption looks like and may make assumptions about the ease of which adoption happens, like in the movies. Let me tell you this is far from the truth. For myself, after going through what felt like a billion questions and having them repeated over and over. yes, I drank, just once though, maybe half a micky of sour puss before I knew, no I don’t do drugs, no prenatal. Then I guess when I passed the test, I was given a huge binder full of pictures of couples and families and asked to pick any I might want to meet. My mom and I flipped through the book for hours, she pointed out families with big homes and lots of money. I was immediately drawn to the same couple over and over again. They traveled often and seemed to really love each other. They looked like parents I could have loved. My heart knew they were for my baby. To this day his Mom’s smiles brings me back to the first time she smiled at me and I knew it was going to be OK. I was then given their giant case study in which I learned more about them then I think another person has the right to know. I didn’t need that though, I already knew.
We met and their hearts were open and they were above all else kind. We met in a tiny room and we talked. We talked about what the next 18 years might look like as we had agreed on an open adoption, we talked about who I was as a kid, his birth father and who he was, and how I ended up in this room. We talked a bit about their journey to the same room. We talked about how they would raise a child and their hopes and dreams for him. When it was over I was even more sure that they were his parents. They would take him home and raise him in all the ways I couldn’t, giving him a life full of love, joy, stability, and experiences I could never offer him. All I had to give was love, and love is not enough, not when it comes to raising a child anyways.
It all seemed to happen really quickly and not knowing my due date I was sent in for induction in December. It was an early morning, and when it all began my mom told the nurse, no pain meds, she wanted me to feel all of it. When the pain started getting bad though, she was the first to ask for an epidural for me. I was literally eating chocolate cake minutes before it was time to push. That evening I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, strong baby boy. They didn’t immediately take him away from me and I was able to hold him and love him with all my heart.
This is when regret and doubt in my decision comes crashing down on me. I love him, like a love that has never existed in my life, I am proud of him and the shame is gone. He is mine. He was mine for 40 hours. He was with me often in my room, we cuddled alone in my hospital bed and I tried to make sure he got enough I love you’s to last a lifetime. As much as I loved him, as much as my body ached for me to put him to my breast and claim him as my baby I had promised him to another couple, I had arranged an amazing life for him. I set him up to have opportunities I could never have dreamed of.
So I told him I was sorry I couldn’t be all the things he needed. I told him I was sorry I wasn’t good enough to be his mom. I told him he deserved better than me. And I cried. These were the hardest days of my life thus far, and maybe still.
When the attorney came to my room to have the papers signed it was one of the hardest actions I have had to take, the intense bond and love I had for him made it nearly impossible. The selfish part of me that knew I could ease this acute and heart ripping pain by not signing, life would be hard at best but I would have him. Somehow I found the strength to sign, for all the other reasons, for him, and his best chance at happiness, I signed.
That evening the couple I had chosen to be his Mommy and Daddy took him home. He was gone, he was no longer mine, he was theirs. That night as I lay in the hospital bed alone, I cried enough tears to last my lifetime. My heart shattered into a million pieces. I was broken.
The following morning I began the next phase of life, pretending everything is OK and burying down deep anything that hurt. The world around me would probably have observed me as resilient and strong, but they didn’t know the turmoil inside. Not even my best friends. I resumed normal life with exceptional speed. No one knew what hid behind that smile. The following years of self abuse and then healing myself from this trauma is a whole other story though.
I returned to School in January and my Vice Principal called me to the office. I remember him asking me to sit down and him telling me that he would be watching me very closely because people like me don’t graduate high school. If you want to talk about shame and where it comes from this is one of those moments. I had always been a good student who played sports, and one action then became the thing that defined me. I was no longer all the good things I had been, I was a teen pregnancy statistic.
His birth dad never signed his birth certificate, to this day on paper he has no bio father. After 10 days, the adoption was set in stone and we started on our open adoption journey. Navigating what that looks like. Always trying to do the best for him and what he needed.
Being a birth mom is hard. I am not sure if not knowing how is he is doing is easier or harder then seeing him and going through heart break every time we parted. It didn’t get easier and the bond we had was there for many years. There was a day after I started really getting my life good, he looked at me and said “can I come home with you now?” I told him no that he would never be coming home with me, his Mommy and Daddy were going to raise him and love him forever. My heart couldn’t handle it and I stepped out of his life for a few years to heal and hopefully make things easier for him. Coming back into his life now we are strangers, that connection we had feels lost.
My heart hopes that one day he wants to get to know me, I struggle with knowing when to reach out to him and let him know I am open.
I hope to hear one day that the choice I made for him was the right one, and we can talk about the amazing life he has had with these two special and wonderful people as his parents.
I hope that one day my heart will heal and be at piece. Some call the pain of being a birth mom a scar, but I am not even sure my wound has healed over yet.
Although I always have the scar I believe its a big part of my current strength, and in case you were wondering, I did graduate high school, I have a very successful career in management, and am starting a new venture into life coaching. Most importantly I finally have two little toddlers who call me Mommy, and an amazing kind and supportive husband. I am truly blessed.