She was beautiful. I fell deeper in love the moment the nurse placed her on my belly and I saw her for the first time; all pink and soft and beautiful. Over the next week while she remained with the agency’s foster mom, I visited and held her, committing every bit of her to memory. I told her everything I could, knowing she wouldn’t remember but explaining, nonetheless, about how much I loved her, and how I agonized over the decision to make the adoption plan.
When I got pregnant, it was not unacceptable for a woman to have a child out of wedlock. It was, however, during a time when adoption seemed to be relatively unheard of and even viewed negatively by some. I chose adoption regardless, not out of shame or fear, but out of love; a deep kenotic love that realizes love of other over love of self.
I experienced such profound beauty over the nine months I carried her. I knew those months were all we would have together, so I savored every moment and created an intimate world for just the two of us. I would talk to her all day long, telling her what we were doing, where we were going, and who we were seeing. I cherished the movements and kicks, the tiny hiccups and rapid heartbeat. I cried joyfully when I saw her first ultrasound and I named her when the tech told me she was a girl. I wanted to keep her there, in my womb, safe from the world and with me forever.
And all the while, I was researching and learning about adoption, weighing my options as to what would be in her best interest. I had to consider what I wanted for her: a family, stability, a chance at a good future. My situation at that time would have been a terrible burden on her. I had to be realistic about my limitations because the risk was so great. I found an agency and began working with the social worker. She was a lovely woman, supportive and genuine and not once did she pressure me. I prayed to make the right decision and in my gut I knew the answer. It was about her. It had to be. Even though I felt so strongly convicted to my decision, it did not make it any less painful.
I felt moments of deep loneliness, sadness, and even anger. I had never encountered feelings so deep before or since. While some close friends and family members were supportive, others made careless and callous comments. So I remained cloistered at a friend’s house for much of the nine months to avoid further criticism while at times feeling acutely alone and isolated. Then came the day when the social worker brought me five family profiles from which to choose. After reading the profiles, I forcefully threw them across the room, rejecting each and every one of them. My anger was in control and my initial reaction was that none of these families would raise my daughter. Once the emotions subsided, one family seemed to emerge from the now scattered pile. I did not feel that they were better than me. I felt that they were in a better situation than me. At my request, the social worker arranged a meeting with them soon after the choice was made. Despite the desperate blinding tears on the way to the agency, upon meeting them, I felt tremendous peace. It is this family I chose for her, and the one she has today.
As my deliver date came closer, the pain and sadness intensified. I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it, yet this knowledge did not take away the sense of loss that I was feeling—the loss of her and the loss of being her parent. It was that rip-out-your-heart kind of pain—the kind that physically hurts. As I prepared for the day when I would say goodbye, I began therapy and worked on therapies that would help get me through the days and months of grief that would inevitably follow the delivery. I prepared as best I could, knowing that nothing would stop the onslaught of emotions.
And there she was, on my belly, all pink and soft and beautiful. While I fell deeper in love with her in that moment, I also knew love sometimes requires sacrifice. My heart was heavy and a storm of emotions swirled around me; however, I knew my decision for adoption was a good one and it was right. I also knew once she went to her family, I had to let go of her completely. So at the agency’s foster mom’s house, I mothered her and cherished her…then I let her go.
Although I could not present her to her family, I did meet with them briefly moments before she arrived at the agency. I congratulated them on their new daughter. And then with a hollow ache deep in my heart and a horrible emptiness in my arms, I left. There are no words to describe the grief that followed. In a way it was like death, yet very different; it wasn’t death at all. The days and months that followed all blurred together in waves of tears and sadness, yet in the midst of it all, there remained a sense of peace. I knew that the pain would not last forever and as the grief slowly subsided, I began to feel the beauty of what had taken place. This was not death. This was life. A family had been created out of love.
It’s been over a decade now and I continue to think of her; however, there is no grief or longing anymore as I no longer feel emptiness or hollowness. She taught me things about myself that I never imagined before and had transformed my life in a powerful way. Most importantly, she taught me how to love in the purest sense—with the good of the other as the only purpose. And I bring that lesson with me as I move forward in life. Although I gave the joy of raising her to another, she is with me always; all pink and soft and beautiful.
This story is an excerpt from the book, Adoption Means Love: Triumph of the Heart. Real and raw, the book explores the many experiences and emotions of adoptees, adoptive parents, birthparents, foster youth, and foster parents.