SEX. It fed my low self-esteem and proved to me I was wanted at least temporarily. I used it over and over again and when I got the boy, I chased him away before he could leave me. I lied or I cheated or I just put up walls.
Beginning in middle school and ending somewhere in my 20’s this was my modus operandi: The highschool quarterback, my boyfriend, then his best friend, the older man, the coworker, the pro-ball player, the pilot, the millionaire. And for the ones who would not go away on their own, well the game became to see how many times you can take ‘em back and leave‘em before they finally give up and realize you won’t let them be the heart breaker.
It was a text book example of a young adopted woman struggling with attachment, intimacy, and abandonment issues. I had one exception during those years, one I had hope for and had tried very hard to make work. He was my daughter’s father.
At 19 years old, I created the same circumstances to put myself squarely in my own birth mother’s shoes. Do I keep my unplanned baby? The moment the plus sign appeared I knew what I would do. I could never leave or abort my baby. In an instant it dawned on me, ‘inside me now is my first known living blood relative.’ I was scared and elated.
I did not know then that adoption statics predicted this event; that four out of five adopted females become unwed mothers in some desperate effort to either identify with their birthmothers or to repair or redo the wrong they perceived was done to them. Perhaps it is a subconscious drive to create and connect to someone you can know and who can know you on a level that up to that point you could only dream of from watching others share that special biological connection.
In my adoptive family it was common knowledge the Potters had lots of blondes with prominent chins, they talked A LOT and had hot tempers. The McIntyres had blondes and red heads, a few hot tempers, a prominent family nose and beautiful white silky hair in old age. The Meyers had olive skin, moles here and there, dark curly hair and a tendency to put on weight. I had me — light skin, turned up nose, dark hair and freckles.
I was creative. I wrote poetry. I drew pictures. My Mommy played Scrabble, played the piano and worked on crossword puzzles. She could also do math in her head. Daddy’s nature was more in line with mine – he was the creative one. But no matter how much I felt accepted and part of my family, there was no way around the absence of my genetic mirrors.
At the time of my decision to keep my child, I knew nothing of genetic mirrors. I had never considered how I was physically or emotionally different from those around me or how it affected me. I only knew in this moment that I had to keep my baby. It was also in this moment that I thought of my birthmother and realized she had to have let me go with either a tremendous selfless love or a complete indifference to the matter. I believed no one could have forced my hand with this, no one.
Looking back I realize it was easy for me to think that – I was one of the lucky ones. A teen mom in the 1980’s, not the 1960’s. My odd-ball adoptive family would be supportive. The father of the child was a grown man and he would be around. Yes this would change my world, but I knew how I would feed, clothe and provide for my child. I had let some family down, worried them about my future, but I would not be shamed publicly or disowned, told to pack my bags and leave. Never!
My pregnancy evolved from a relationship with my 32-year-old boss. He was a wheeling dealing, small-town rough neck, seeking fame and fortune in the oil industry, and man was he slick! I was his personal assistant in more ways than one and I travelled around Texas with him a young pretty thing on his arm, a symbol of his success.
A month before the news of my pregnancy we had discussed the benefits of open relationships and were considering sharing an apartment together no holds barred. Two weeks before the pregnancy his apartment got robbed and among the things they stole was my birth control. One hour after the pregnancy test showed positive, and I stated I was keeping the baby, he was asking me to marry him. I told him I had to ask my mom first.
I was surprised that my mother was thrilled I was pregnant. She was relieved I had what appeared to be a wealthy man to help with the child, but I doubt that would have changed her feelings about it either way. She was not so excited about my idea of getting married. To this day I am not sure why she so embraced my pregnancy. I suppose since she adopted at 32 her chances at being a grandmother were slim. My young pregnancy meant she would enjoy her grandchild while my father was still alive, as he too could not have waited for me to play by the rules.
My father was more practical about it but none-the-less supportive and overjoyed at the idea of being a grandfather. I believe my parents both believed that there was not a problem in the world that showering a child with love could not solve.
Telling my extended family, especially on Daddy’s side, was a bigger deal. Yet there in my Aunt Tweeter’s living room, the very living room I had been brought straight home to from the hospital some 19 years before, I sat readying myself to tell my two female cousin’s, both who were more like big sisters, my Aunt Louise and my Grandmother Mom that I was pregnant.
I remember being very embarrassed to confess to my Aunt and Grandmother that I had been having sex, let alone telling them I was so good at it I made a baby. Yet I also remember being very surprised at how upset they all were with the news. Like my mother and father everyone was crying, but these were no tears of joy.
They were disappointed, saddened and in shock. My grandmother seemed angry at me and could not look at me. Tweeter was kind and supportive as usual and played the gentle referee, as I tried to answer my cousin’s questions about how this could happen and what my plan was. Of course they were worried, I was only 19.
I remember how my cousins implored me to think about how I had my whole life ahead of me, how much things would change if I kept the baby. One suggested I consider adoption and mentioned that I of all people should understand why adoption would be a better choice for me and my unborn child. I tried to explain that that was the main reason I could never consider adoption. Interestingly it is these two cousins, those who took the news of my pregnancy the hardest, that recently took my adoption reunion the hardest as well.
I explained to them that I could not imagine having a mother and daughter lost out there in the world. Perhaps keeping the baby would be a selfish thing, but I of all people also knew what it felt like to be adopted. I would not and could not put my baby on that course — or cope with a compounded loss.
In the end my family of course accepted my decision and was supportive no matter what, but I have never forgotten that talk we had there in Tweeter’s living room. The memory of it took on new meaning for me when I met Lana and heard her talk of the devastation and shame her family had rained down upon her, how she was never given a choice, let alone understanding and support.
Giving birth would later illuminate for me exactly what my adoptive mother and I had lost through adoption. For the first time I felt inside me what had been missing between us all these years. It is still today almost indescribable, but it is what I later understood when I held my baby for the first time as the birth bond, an almost physical connection that begins in the womb, is nurtured in the hours days and weeks after birth and endures for a lifetime.
I am not saying my mother and I were not as close as we could possibly be – we absolutely were – but I could not share her DNA and she could not share mine no matter how much we wanted it be otherwise. And the time I spent in the hospital before being placed in her arms meant we missed a critical time for bonding that came much later than it should have.
My daughter was born a c-section and this meant I did not hold her until after my recovery. I was wheeled out of surgery and into the hall where I was met by my mother and my new baby’s father, “Look what I did Mommy! Isn’t she beautiful! I knew she was a girl!”
“She is darling. She is so beautiful, you did a terrific job,” she assured me. “The nurses say she got the highest scores on all her tests, they can tell you took care of yourself,” Mommy gushed beside my gurney.
I was rolled away sooner than I wanted, and once in recovery was told to lay on my right side. It was explained that when my blood pressure came down I would be released to my room and then I would hold her, my baby girl. I believed that if they would just let me hold my baby my blood pressure would come down a lot sooner. They disagreed, so I laid there as told and cried for my baby.
As the epidural wore off, the pain increased, but it did not compare to the agony I felt when I thought of her being alone in a world of strangers. She should not be away, not for a second, not with strangers, not away from me. Too many minutes between her birth and my arms and we might miss the birth bond. This miracle I had studied and anticipated. But it was not just this. I was tortured by the idea of her there solitary and helpless in a hospital crib. It was heart wrenching to picture it. I did not realize then why this troubled me so, but I do today.
At last I was returned to my room, a trip during which I did not shut up about “bringing me my baby as soon as humanly possible.” Shortly the nurse returned wheeling her bassinette close to my bed. And as my daughter was placed in my arms, I had three distinct thoughts that seemed to come all at once.
My first thought was how amazingly beautiful she was. I knew she was the most beautiful thing I had or would ever see in my life. My second thought was that I could not believe two people, especially if I was one of them, could truly create such a wondrous being, and my third was that I was meeting my first known living blood relative. I was no longer alone in a world of blood kin.
As I held her close, I could never imagine letting her go. I demanded she be kept in my room at all times and only be taken away for tests. With my mother there I could rest with the baby in the room. I would not rest if she were not. She was mine and I was hers. I named her Victoria, I suppose she was and still is in many ways my victory in life.
I never married my daughter’s father but we lived together until Victoria was 4 years old. Then I moved out. He was a passionate man with a talent for making a deal materialize from nowhere but sadly not the world’s best businessman. His passion for his work and his dream to be wealthy beyond all things drove his every action and ruled his world. He desperately chased fortune while longing for the love of a true family. Yet he could not assimilate both into his world.
Additionally he refused to believe a 20 something could dedicate her life to him and not “twist off to sow her youthful oats.” He never fully trusted me and it seems he created exactly what he feared. Perhaps I would have “twisted off” even if he had been totally emotionally invested.
In the last 20 years I have watched replacements come and go from his arm, he is a better visionary and deal maker, but no better with managing his money than the day I met him.
No matter who he is, he gave me my beautiful daughter and a greater understanding of what it is to be a mother. It was having Victoria that taught me the deepest meaning of unconditional love, which set my heart right with my adoptive parents, which later helped me understand the choice my birth mother made and which put me on the path to fully and freely love myself and those around me again.