"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Forty Years

Kathleen

Forty years ago today I was a pregnant eighteen-year-old - alone, ashamed and frightened for my future.

I believed I had another month before my baby arrived, another month of enduring the discomfort of carrying the weight of her, another month before I would have to do the unthinkable, unbearable right thing. I had only just called my mom and told her I was pregnant and garnered the promise she'd be there for me when the time came. I had just been to the doctor - the old gruff man who never looked me in the eye, who expressed concern about how swollen I was, who had just left for vacation.

My social worker, Karen, the one bright spot in the bleakness of my life, had promised everything would be okay. Told me over and over again that giving up my baby would be the most loving act possible - for us both. I didn't believe her, not really, but knew that keeping that child would mean the end of any possibilities of a future for me, and the almost certain guarantee of a life for her no better than the one I so desperately wanted to escape.

Forty years ago today I found myself in a neighbor's apartment. Her room only slightly larger than mine, and no cooler - one of three carved out of a second floor in an old house owned by a little Japanese woman who was scandalized to know the plump girl she rented to was actually an unwed mother. The neighbor, Kathy, and I had met in the narrow, dimly lit hallway on our way to the shared bathroom. Just a year or two older than me, she seemed wise and she cared.

So when my water broke on this night forty years ago as I sat on her floor talking to her and her boyfriend, they took me to the hospital. Where my daughter was delivered from my unconscious body very early the next morning by a young doctor on call. Where my caseworker couldn't get away from her schedule to visit. Where my mom promised over the phone to come get me when everything was over, but wouldn't leave her husband and sons to travel the hour and a half when I'd be leaving the hospital the next day. Picked up by my new friend, Kathy.

My daughter. Forty tomorrow. Unheld by me until she was twenty-four, in a reunion full of more love and redemption than I'd ever experienced before. We knew each other instantly. She came overflowing with love and hungry for her first mother. We devoured stories and histories and pictures like the starving women we were.

The years since have been a roller coaster ride of reaching out and pulling back on her part. The rhythm matching mysterious tidal tsunamis in her brain that make balance of any kind a near impossibility.

Forty years of an unconventional motherhood.

Learning to love the child who was me, who alone, made the biggest and most difficult decision of her life. Holding her in forgiveness. Thankful for her spirit, courage, and unwillingness to quit.

Accepting and believing in my right to love the daughter I signed away into the arms of a family who loved her the way I  knew she deserved, and who are there for her still as she struggles to keep her head above the chemical floods that threaten to consume her.

Forty years of quietly spending July 18 in mourning, celebration, and gratitude. Not once spending the day with the daughter whose birth blesses me now and whose difficult life I wish I could ease. Always holding hope for healing that might give us both the day, and so much more, to share together. Always loving her.

Loving my daughter as she is. Over miles both geographic and internal. Grateful for her existence and her tender spirit and her presence in my life.

Happy Birthday, Kathleen.

34 comments:

Bernie said...

Fantastic. This is a great story again and I really am so happy for you. You are writing a book about her? I know it shall be a work of your heart's whisperings and that will make it great along with your writing skills.

Kathryn Magendie said...

this broke my heart, even while filled with love and hope . . .

Wanda said...

Screw scandal! We are not meant to be alone in these times. Thank God for your friend, Kathy. How interesting that your daughter is Kathleen. Coincidence? Yeah. I love coincidence...because I know what it means.

Wanda..... said...

To be 18 and alone without family, at that time, would seem to be very hard to overcome.

I hope you both find a clear path to sharing your lives in the future, Deb.

Belle (from Life of a...) said...

I cannot imagine going through pregnancy and childbirth alone. You were a brave young woman.

Lilith said...

I can't imagine giving up a child, not because I think it's wrong but because I don't think I'm strong enough to put my child's needs before my own.

I was a single mother too, but only twenty-seven years ago and times had changed. It was only slightly scandalous and I was older than you were.

My son still carries the scars of those turbulent days though. He's struggled with addiction, feelings of being worthless. Keeping my child didn't keep him safe or make him happy.

There are no easy answers when you are a parent but there is always love.

Wen Baragrey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tabitha Bird said...

Oh Deb! that was... I have no words. Amazing. You are amazing. hugs to you and your daughter. I wish I had known you then... hang on... I wasn't born yet (LOL) Sorry :)
Well, I am blessed to know you now.

Jody Hedlund said...

Oh, Deb! Wow, your story brought tears to my eyes. I can't imagine how difficult this has been for you. You've been very brave!

Jessica Nelson said...

Once again, a beautiful post. It makes my eyes sting. My little sister gave her daughter up for adoption. I KNOW it was the hardest thing she ever did, but it was also a complete act of love. Like yours.
Wonderful post, Deb! I pray her life smooths out.
So is that pic you??? :)

colbymarshall said...

Happybirthday to her, and to you, *hugs* and how I admire your courage :-)

Carrie Link said...

Oh, Deb. As you said to me so kindly. Love. You are heard. Love.

patti said...

Oh, DEB!!! My third novel, The Rhythm of Secrets, incorporates the story of Sandy Sperrazza, advocate for birth mothers. Sigh. I venture into a Home for Unwed Mothers in St. Paul.

THANK YOU for sharing this today. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL girl you have!!!!!!!!!

Jerri said...

I can think of nothing more loving or more appropriate than to echo you and Carrie--You are heard.

You are heard and loved.

Suzy said...

Beautifully written from one of the most beautiful souls I know.

Love,

Suzy

fullsoulahead.com said...

Holding you and Kathleen in a space of love. Wishing you both balance and joy.

Terri Tiffany said...

this brought tears to my eyes. I was so hoping you'd hold her again and was leaping to hear you did even with all the ups and downs to come.

Amber said...

"The rhythm matching mysterious tidal tsunamis in her brain that make balance of any kind a near impossibility."--

love.

You were so young and so strong. I can only imagine what that was like for you. And then all of it as it has played out...I send you love and join you in your hopes.

oxox :)

M said...

I'm at a loss for words at the way this story impacted me this morning...so beautifullly written. The pain and the healing so very evident in your words.

I'm loving you
Mark

California Girl said...

This is heart wrenching, inspirational, and very hard to imagine although you bring it to life. I have often wondered about the girls/women strong enough to give up the children they bore but could not care for. My brother adopted two girls, non-siblings, one of whom did find her birth mother by age 18. My brother, his wife and their daughter flew to Texas to meet her and his daughters half-siblings. It was a joyous meeting and they've been in touch and visiting ever since.

Your daughter is lovely. You are brave. Thank you for sharing with us.

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kario said...

I have such a strong feeling that this story is nowhere near its end. You are not only a mother to Katherine, but to so many others. You are a mother in the most amazing sense, my friend; one who is there by choice to help guide and educate with love and patience anyone who crosses your path.

Love to you both.

kario said...

ACK! Kathleen, I mean. Sorry. ;-(

Barb said...

As an adoptive parent myself (my girls are 39), I commend your 18 year old self who had to make a hard decision virtually alone. And, I applaud the fact that you are trying to heal both yourself and Kathleen by your caring and candor.

#1Nana said...

There but by the grace of God go I. I am fortunate to never have had to make such a decision. I don't know that I would have the strength. I am a strong supporter of choice because every woman needs to make the decision that is right for her.

I have a brother somewhere who was given up for adoption...and this is the first time I have stated that out loud. In my family, all these years later, I think there is still shame.

Your piece is beautifully written. A great birthday gift to your daughter.

Tammy said...

Your story is so moving. It brought tears to my eyes for its beauty as much as its ache. All the best to you both.

Linda Myers said...

Thank you, Deb. I am coming up on the birthdays of our two sons, now 31 and 33, adopted by us as infants. I think of their courageous young birthmothers who made that tough, loving choice.

My sons have their struggles with alcohol. I watch with loving detachment. I wonder whether they'll pursue a search for their birthparents. I'll help them in that venture, if it happens, however I can.

Katie Gates said...

This is beautiful.

Wander to the Wayside said...

This is such a touching story, Deb, and I'm so glad that I found it. I don't know if you know that I did a whole series on being adopted, and then another on finding out about my mother's relinquishment of me and my three months in the orphanage. I'll look forward to hearing more about your story, or back-reading trying to find anything. Thanks for visiting me!

Kathryn Grace said...

My heart aches for you, reading this. May you both be healed. May the time together for which you long come soon and often. May there be an end to suffering and a rising of joy.

Linda Hoye said...

Wow. This brought tears to my eyes. I am an adoptee and reading your story touch me deeply. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site www.blogger.com
Is this possible?

Wander to the Wayside said...

Deb, I was never able to find other posts about this story...can you direct me to them, if there are more? (linwin48@hotmail.com), in case I forget to come back to this particular post to see if you left an answer!)

Lorna said...

Deb, I cannot express how this post touched me. I ache for both of you, hope you and Kathleen get to share as much love and togetherness as life allows. Hugs.