It’s amazing how quickly, in a swoop of an instant, my heart can still sink when a milestone happens. I have joy and peace with my adoption plan most of my days. 14 years later I still see her several times a year. We text and FaceTime. We take trips together and have sleepovers, getting to know each other deeper in our different homes or neutral ground. Our visits reassure me that she is well loved, taken care of beyond what I could have given her, that she knows I love her deeply, and that I’m here to answer her questions. All those are good things and proving to benefit her as well as she grows. Our relationship carries me daily and it gives her wholeness.
But, some days the bottom drops out and I physically feel a bottomless hole emerge in my chest like quicksand dragging me down.
I was making lunch for my kids when I realized: it is October.
This is the month I found out that I was pregnant, barely 16 and just starting my junior year of high school. I’ll always remember the tormenting question leading up to taking that test, am I? Am I not? Watching for signs. I suddenly was eating an entire cucumber with ranch for a snack. Once a night owl, I was now falling asleep by 7pm. And of course, the telling sign being that I was 2 weeks late.
I had to gather the guts to tell my friend so she could help me get a test because I had no money or a car. The moment the two lines appeared my heart sank and soared. New life is precious, I knew I wanted to be a mom. But the timing, my situation, my youth, my parents, what have I done? I didn’t intend to get pregnant, but I was naive in thinking it wouldn’t happen to me. I’ll never forget the heart wrecked discussions with my family as I told them my news.
She was never unwanted, let me make that very clear. Never.
She was loved the moment those lines announced her little poppy seed size within me. And, eventually, my love would drive me to love her enough to let her go into another mother’s arms. But I can’t pretend it was easy, because I do love her so. I can’t pretend that though my open adoption is very much ideal, that I don’t still have pain. So does she.
While we are more whole together and we have the answers every birth mom and adopted child craves to know about one another— are they happy? Are they mad at me? Do they know I love them? Do we look alike?— we are still a part and experience feelings of grief.
Would I change it? No. From our conversations, I don’t believe she would change it either. I still would make the same choice that I made in trust because I know how the story ends-- with joy, second chances, redemption, and so much love for one amazing girl.
Her presence changed my life for the better. It gave me a new path, a new direction and launched me into my passions of life. It gave her a full family-- actually, double the family-- with both sides to adore her. October is that reminder for me. While the darkness settled in for a season that felt uncertain and painful, much like the hole in me today, it was a milestone of a new me emerging into a better me, just as she was growing within me.
Sometimes growth is painful, just as my children’s legs ache as they grow taller. Sometimes there is pain before the joy, and even joy amongst the pain. Today in October that truth is evident in this birth mother’s heart.
-Leah Outten, a birthmother