I am not sure what I was expecting the day I left the hospital. I didn’t think it was going to be so hard. I imagined that I would walk out of the hospital and look like I did before I got pregnant. I’d pick up right where I left off. Feeling grief didn’t even occur to me. The aftermath left me feeling empty. There was still a formality with the adoption that had to be taken care of. I had to stay put for a couple more days. I had already moved out of my apartment, so I stayed in a hotel room. I was numb while I watched television to pass the time.
When the day came to sign the papers to relinquish my child, I insisted on leaving right afterwards. I was finally going home. My mom and I drove in separate cars. The music blared as I bawled. I think the last time I really cried was on the second occasion that I attended church. At that time, I couldn’t control the sobs; I had to leave in order to get a hold of myself. Those tears were a foreshadow of what was to come. In my car, a catharsis of emotions came pouring out. I had believed that if I stayed strong and pushed away the feelings of intense fear and the reality that I was giving my child to someone else to raise, I could follow through with the commitment I had made to adoption. I sacrificed my body, the innate instinct to mother, and I had overcome my will to self preserve by staving off the feelings. I was no hero; I just wanted to turn a wrong into right.
When I returned home, I had to start all over. It was clear that I had hit a bottom, of sorts. I was physically past the pregnancy, but was looking up at a life where I had to move on from something that I had never processed. I honestly didn’t understand the lasting impact that an unplanned pregnancy would have on my emotions and ability to live life fully again. I didn’t believe there was anyone to talk to about what I had been through; I kept my mouth shut. I had spent a lot of time with the adoptive family and they had become a refuge for me during my pregnancy. Now, I was back with my own family and it was really uncomfortable. We all had feelings about what had taken place but none of us knew how to talk about it. I liken it to an alcoholic who just got home from rehab. There was a huge issue in the room but no one was willing to acknowledge that something life changing had just happened.
I was grieving privately to loud music in my car or in my bedroom. I wasn’t doing much but eating, sleeping, and working. My creature habits hadn’t changed since I gave birth. I knew that I didn’t want to go back to a party lifestyle but I had no idea how to establish new interests or rhythms in my life. My old friends had moved on and I wasn’t interested in reestablishing those relationships. There was no one to guide me through this. It was just me.
They all say you have to move on with your life. I would say that life was going on, I was not moving on. I felt a lot of discomfort when asked about my personal life. Most of the time I just said, “I’m fine.” There were a few times where someone identified that there was something not quite right with me. On one occasion, I got really upset when someone made fun of me. I told them, almost yelling, what I had just been through. He messed with me on the wrong day. People just don’t know how to handle these situations. I didn’t either. The only thing to do was to stuff it and get over it. If I lashed out, then I lashed out. If I didn’t it was a good day.
About 4 months after giving birth, I met my future husband. I had a married friend who wanted me to go out with her. I figured since she was married it wouldn’t get too wild. While out with my friend, I met a man, we dated, we moved in together, and we got married. To be honest, I didn’t think anyone would want to marry me after what I had been through. He met me while I was still grieving. Most people would recommend that a man steer clear of a girl like me. But, we pursued the relationship. We told each other our deep dark secrets quickly; revealing that we both had a lot of dating baggage. It wasn’t a healthy relationship but we got married anyway.
I had a couple of pregnancy scares while we were living together; it seemed like every time I missed my period by a day or two I would go into a panic. Then, 9 months after we got married (I was married this time!) I found out I was pregnant. Although everything was “as it should be”, it seemed like the first time all over again; a crisis. My husbands family protested, my husband asked if I was sure (which sounded like, “are your sure it’s mine”), and I wasn’t ready for a baby. It seemed like I was walking uphill with this pregnancy; everything was going wrong. We had lackluster support from those closest to us (except my parents who were elated), a challenge from all sides of the family with the name we chose, trying to finish college for the 4th time, and to top it all off, my body was fighting the baby growing inside of me. I got preeclampsia at 30 weeks. I dropped out of school, again, to go on bed rest. My son was born at 32 weeks gestation. I left the hospital without a baby for the second time. I thought I was going to die.
Having a premature infant is scary. There is a lot of risk involved; with underdeveloped lungs and a delicate brain, premies are susceptible to infection and disease. Our son lay in the hospital for 6 weeks. I visited twice a day, everyday. I got up in the middle of the night to use a breast pump so that he would have fresh milk. I wasn’t producing very much milk; later we discovered that my having a breast reduction made using a breast pump useless. The internal scar tissue prevented the pump from working properly. Another thing to feel guilty about, I was in super mom mode, trying to make up for something that had happened in the past.
Being a wife and mother wasn’t working out really well. I seemed to be in a constant state of grief. I kept asking myself why I couldn’t just snap out of it. Why can’t I just enjoy life and be free again? It was like I was a voyeur to my own life. I was living someone else’s story, not my own, because this was not what being married and having a baby was supposed to be like. The reality was that I lived in a constant state of denial. I acted out viciously at times, living on defense, in deep shame and guilt. As you can imagine, I was in an unlovable state.
My weaknesses were so exposed as I doubted my life’s reality. I tried to find peace through spirituality and self-help books but as I read and did and applied, I failed. I fell flat on my face hard with each attempt to change. Our family got to the point of falling apart. When the breaking point came, it was 11 years after the adoption. My worst fear was about to come true; I was going to be a single mother. At another bottom of sorts, my only option was to go to church and hope to find the healing and freedom I needed to function. I had kids to raise and stability to find. Thankfully, I found what I was looking for. Sitting in my chair, I heard I could be made new.