My Journey - The Middle Part
Life was busy and full......
My kids were all under 10 when our family joined a small church not far from us. I wasn't raised in a very religious household so it was a new thing for me. Daddy was a doctor, a scientist and faith not part of his world. He needed to be able to prove things. Mom's father had been a lay minister and the local church school headmaster when she was growing up. Church wasn't something we did as a family. We spent weekends hiking and sailing, outdoors and together.
The minister, who touched my and heart and was the reason we decided to join the church, announced his departure literally the sentence after he finished introducing us that morning. I have always believed that everything happens for a reason and that we are the sum of our experiences so all that happened during those next few years was meant to be.
The new minister was young with a beautiful wife and family. He was an amazing orator with the ability to make each lesson memorable. It wasn't long before we were going to church regularly and deeply involved in both Sunday school and church events as well.
I had tons on my plate. Three small children, a full time job and decided it was time to become a US citizen. Home for a visit I asked Dad if he had my original birth certificate. I needed it, as the copy I had would not do for the legal paperwork. He and I went digging in the safe. All kinds of interesting paperwork. His university diploma, my grandmothers death certificate, my brother's birth certificate and then a piece of paper that looked exactly like the piece of paper I was looking for but it had a completely different name. Stephanie Alexandra, born July 31st 1961. This wasn't what I was looking for and yet it was. I took it up to show Mom, she was not happy, in fact she was decidedly unhappy about it. Seems they had sworn in a court of law to tell me I was adopted but not to share anything else. Dad put the paperwork back in the safe. Much later that night I went down, opened the safe, copied all the information down and put the original back. Mom had always said she would help me if I ever wanted to know more about my adoption. Turns out, she wasn't quite as open to the idea as she wanted to be and it became obvious early on that she took the idea of me needing to search for my birth mother personally. In hindsight, I think she was concerned that I was looking for a mother other than her but that simply wasn't true. My growing angst had absolutely nothing to do with our relationship, which has always been a good one, but rather a personal need to make this stranger stop thinking, stop worrying about me.
And so began a series of unrelated but intertwined events that put everything in motion.
The first was a statement made innocently at a Sunday school class. Our minister had asked us to join his young adult Sunday school program and the first session was covering the Miracles of the Bible. It was a fun class with great dialog. I spent a lot of time just listening because I wasn't sure what I believed or if I belonged.
I had been listening to several people have a lively discussion about "messages" they had received from God during their lives when I chimed in with "I wouldn't know a message from God if it hit me in the head". They all stopped talking and stared at me. I got really good at stopping down that class with an ill timed question or statement.
My minister knew I was starting to search, it had come up when I asked another Sunday school member who her adorable toddler had inherited all her bright red hair from. The woman smiled and answered, "We have no idea, she's adopted". Given that I'm adopted and that I have an adopted red headed baby brother, I should have known better than to blurt out the question but it led to a long conversation about how I felt. A conversation about the kinds of questions she was likely to encounter over the years. We talked about everything I was feeling.
Same class, different Sunday and we were discussing the immaculate conception. I must have been sitting, staring off into the distance with a look on my face that the group had come to recognize as "oh o, here she goes again" because my minister asked me, "what are you thinking?". I responded with "if you think about it, Jesus is adopted and Mary was a surrogate". Yup, derailed that class again. I was getting pretty good at testing their faith. That particular comment received a "I'm going to have to think about that and we can discuss later" from our fearless class leader.
All that was just build up for what happened next. A friend Kim (not her real name) got pregnant. Problem was, baby was not her husbands. Two families were sent into tail spins. Opinions were flying fast and furious, and then I woke up one morning convinced that I knew what needed to happen. So I picked up the phone and got Kim's husband Joe (not his real name) on the phone. I told him that they could not keep the baby and neither could the father, they needed to put the baby up for adoption. Joe hung up on me.
A couple days later, I was driving home from church when I had a really bizarre experience. It's really hard to describe but here goes. When you think about things, they develop in your head. One idea leads to another and they form into a thought. That's not what happened. I was driving home and a voice from the back seat said "your birth mother could die and you would never know". It was a whole concept, not a little niggle of something that got bigger, I heard it as a sentence. Scared the hell out of me, I actually pulled off the road to see who was in the back seat. It was very disconcerting.
Anyway, a few days after that, I woke up "knowing" I had to try again. So I called and got Kim on the phone. Told her the same thing, baby's should not come into the world carrying baggage. They needed to put the baby up for adoption. Kim thanked me for my "opinion" and hung up. A few more days past and I awoke knowing I had to try a 3rd time, I was getting really good at being hung up on.....
Ten days passed but my phone finally rang and they wanted to know how I was so sure. I repeated that babies shouldn't be born with baggage. That a child should not have to go through life in a family where one parent was reminded of the others infidelity each time they saw each other. I was sure there was a family who desperately wanted a baby of their own and would give it unconditional love. I told them I was the poster child for happily adopted children and would be there for them all the way through the process. Adoption was the decision they made but it was a really rough time for Kim and Joe. They ended up moving a hundred miles to get away from all the opinions and scuttlebutt.
One of the hardest things for Kim was trying to figure out how to handle the natural conversation that occurs when a pregnancy becomes obvious and people start asking about the baby. I told her to respond that the baby wasn't her's, that she was carrying it for a friend. Privately we discussed that although she didn't know the mom-to-be yet, they were friends who hadn't met. By making it her mantra, Kim was able to keep her head up and move forward. It's about that time that Letters To and From My Mothers became a solid idea. I had tried to find Kim something positive to read about giving a baby up for adoption. Something that described what an amazing gift carrying a child for someone else is. Don't get me wrong there are lots of books but they tend to be from a single point of view. A child who searched, an adoptive couples experience but not a collection with stories from all the different perspectives. Yes, I needed to do something..
Kim's doctor knew she was giving the baby up for adoption and scheduled the delivery for a specific day. Since I was her birth coach I got up really early to make the really long drive to the hospital. When I arrived in the hospital room, Joe was pacing , Kim looked extremely stressed out and there was another couple sitting on the couch in her room. The woman looked enough like Kim that I assumed she was the sister I hadn't met. Kim was not progressing and the doctors suggested that we all leave and give her a chance to rest. Turns out I was wrong, the other couple were the adopting parents. Joe introduced us and asked if I minded answering their questions about being adopted. We spent almost an hour discussing what I was going through and questions I had asked growing up.
Remember the whole messages from God discussion and the voice in the back seat.....
After spending time with the adopting couple, I went to get a drink of water. As I bent over the water fountain, a voice behind me ( not a whisper, not a voice inside my head) a voice very clearly behind me said "Joe needs to go home". I had already been thinking the exact same thing and completely agreed. As I turned around I was nodding my head and I said "I know" but no one was standing there . A nurse walking down the hall way looked at me like I was losing my mind for talking out loud to no one.
I'm still not exactly sure what drove me that day, but I walked back into Kim's room, took Joe by hand and told him to go home. The nurse tried talking me out of it but I wouldn't shut up. I told him that he shouldn't be there to watch his wife give birth to someone else's child. That was my job. I told him he needed to go home and spend the afternoon with his children, their children, and I would call him when it was time to come back. The nurse tried arguing with me but I remember Joe looking deep into my face, nodding his head, and going home.
Kim hadn't wanted him there either, she just didn't know it. After Joe left, she transitioned to fully dilated in under 45 minutes and the room changed from a simple hospital room to a birthing room. It's different coaching someone you know is giving up a baby. The regular encouragement didn't feel right so we talked about all the things she could do when she wasn't pregnant any more and without an infant.
As the baby crowned, the doctor moved the adopting couple around so that they could watch the birth of their son.
I gave birth to three amazing children of my own but I can honestly say that nothing I have ever experienced was as beautiful as the look on their faces as they watched their child come into the world. There aren't words to describe it. Kim kissed him hello and goodbye then held tightly to my hand as the nurse ushered his new parents out with her to have the baby measured, weighed and foot printed.
I don't believe that everything we do is preordained, I am fully responsible for every selfish act and bad decision I have made and will make. What I am absolutely sure of, is that I was supposed to be in that room on that day to experience that moment.
I called Joe and told him to come back. The room was back to being just a hospital room when he came flying back in like Kramer, skidding around the corner. I walked down to the nursery, was allowed to kiss the baby on the head and then drove the 100 miles back home in tears.
I needed to find her. It was time to give her my letter. It was time to get serious. It was 2001, I had made a promise to myself and my 40th birthday was just around the corner....