Thursday, March 17, 2016

I Am Bastard (the most difficult story to write)

Walking into the abortion clinic, the picketers yelling things at us.  Judging us.  Oh the things they were yelling.

I thought, “You don’t know me, and you don’t know my story.”

I chose to come here today knowing damn well that I would have been aborted myself, had my mom had access to such a clinic so many years ago.  Had she done so, I wouldn’t be here today having to make this choice.

Do I have the right to live?

Some people, I’m sure even some of those picketers yelling at me that day, would have put me into that small group that are okay to abort.  This, because of the way in which I was conceived.  I know this because I’ve heard anti-choice people talk about “acceptable exceptions” to their proposed ban on abortion.  Situations where they feel abortion is justified.  I am one of those exceptions.  One of those people who even some of the anti-choice protesters think it would have been okay to abort.

Yes sir, mister “he who proclaims himself to be a pro-lifer”, if your daughter were pregnant with me, you might prefer that I were aborted.

I am Bastard, after all.

The abomination.

I’m well aware of this as I hear the things they are yelling.  Oh their judgement and oh the hatred protruding from their lips.  I want to yell back at them – but no.  This is my story and I walk it alone.

Maybe I should have never been. 

But I am here.  And now I have to make this choice for myself, and for my children.

When I was still a teenager, nineteen years old, I had to face my adopted mother and tell her I was pregnant.  She screamed, “Abort it!  Abort it!” which was not the response I had expected as we were Catholics.  Abortion was never an option in my mind.  It was not something I was willing to consider.  I left their home.

Out on my own, I experienced a series of unfortunate events over the next several months which had left me with nowhere to live and all of my belongings (whatever hadn’t been stolen from me at that point) packed into my old run-down car.  I returned to the home of my adopted family, to beg them for help.

They said I could live there, if I agreed to give the baby up for adoption.  I told them I agreed – to appease them – and so I would have a place to live other than my car.  I figured I still had a few more months to figure this thing out.

My pregnant belly grew to be a bigger and bigger embarrassment to those people and they hid me in the basement with the dog when my adopted-grandparents came to visit.  My dog was an attack dog, a large German Shepherd, and so guaranteed that no one would attempt to open the basement door – exposing the secret.

Funny thing, when you have a huge pregnant belly, that there is not much room for your bladder.  There was no bathroom in that basement and as the hours passed the urge to pee grew and grew.  I made a makeshift toilet out of a plastic bag which I lined an empty box with and remember how my dog was trying to jump up on me as I attempted to balance my large and awkward self over that box.  My dog thought we were playing a game.  I loved him.  He was my protector.  He guarded my room at night and didn’t allow anyone in.  He died a few days after my baby was born.

I had been a waitress for three years already, usually had no problem finding work, and could earn enough to pay rent and make ends meet.  I was, however, unemployed for the time being, and would have difficulty finding a waitress job with my big belly.  I knew I could do this – but I needed some help – at least for a few months – so I could get on my feet.

My adopted parents were landlords, they owned apartments, but they wouldn’t consider renting one to me.  They said they were worried I wouldn’t be responsible enough to pay my rent.

I went to the welfare office to apply for public assistance.  They said that although I was legally of age, because I still lived under my parents’ roof, my parents also had to complete some forms to verify their income so that I could apply for assistance.

My parents refused to fill out those forms.  They said their income was nobody’s business.

I tried to plead my case at the welfare office.  I tried to explain that though I laid my head under my parent’s roof at the moment, I was going to be homeless once my child was born.  I was begging for help.  I needed help more than anyone could imagine.  As I stood there, the only white face in the room, I was not only dismissed, but was literally being laughed at, mocked, and was told to, “go ask your daddy for help.”  I was a joke to them.

I pleaded, and tried to explain that "my daddy" was not going to help me.  The more I begged, the more they laughed.

I felt discriminated against that day, and felt that if my face weren’t white, one of those ladies may have wanted to help me.  (re-reading this before posting and considering whether or not to leave this part in – I don’t like it – I don’t like that I felt that way – and don’t like that this memory has stayed with me all of these years.  However, the fact remains that this happened.  I am not going to apologize for the way I felt that day, and I am not going to edit this out.  Those ladies were wrong to have treated me that way.  None of us should ever treat anyone that way.  It is not okay.  I hope we can all learn from such things and that those of us who choose careers in the field of helping others will do better – and not act like those ladies did that day in that South Chicago Welfare Office.)

I had already made numerous phone calls in attempts to find a place to live, a home for unwed mothers, a program that might assist me, something.  There was nothing.  Every lead led to a dead end.  Homes for unwed mothers had waiting lists that were two years long (which I still don't really understand how that can be given that humans are pregnant for nine months - but yes, I was actually told there were waiting lists two years long.)

I felt defeated.

I wonder here about those anti-choice picketers and where were they to help me when I needed help so desperately?  When I had chosen to give life but had no idea how I would manage to sustain it?  They weren’t there to help.  There was no help to be found – though I am a rather resourceful individual and have managed to survive many situations in my life that others may not have survived – at this point in my life, I was defeated, and there were none of those people (who like to call themselves “pro-lifers”) there to help me.

It was time for me to stop thinking about where I was going to live with my baby once it was born, and start thinking about where my baby was going to go.  I had eventually given up hope of being able to keep us together.

A lady I was talking to with one of the adoption help groups I was in contact with had advised me on the demands I could make with my child’s adoption.  It was her advice that I followed.

I spoke to various adoption agencies and asked a lot of questions.  

I selected an agency that would allow me to meet the potential adopted family before I made a decision, ask them to be present for the birth, continue to correspond with one another as my child grows, and that all sealed adoption records would be unsealed and open to my child on his or her 18th birthday.

I was given a stack of files to review, and selected a couple from that stack.  They lived several hours away but agreed to come to Chicago to meet me.  The agency was hesitant, as they had never done such a thing before – 

It was the 1980s and open adoptions were not yet commonplace. 

I remember asking the case worker if she would ever hire a babysitter for even a couple of hours without meeting that babysitter first.  She said no.  So I asked why she would expect me to allow a couple to raise my baby for 18 years without meeting them first.

The couple I selected had agreed to the meeting.  I think I was quite demanding at this time.  I felt I was left with little choice other than to give my baby up – but that at the very least, I could call some of the shots as to how this adoption was going to play out – and hopefully spare my baby some of the grief that my own adoption had caused me.

I had decided on names for my baby. The name I chose wouldn’t appear on the adopted birth certificate, but would appear on the original birth certificate.  If it’s a girl, her middle name would be my adopted mother’s name – as a reminder that the child bearing my adopted mother’s name is the one that she forced me to give up.

I was astounded when the adopted couple told me the names they had chosen.  The name they chose for a girl, while not the exact same name I had chosen, is a common nickname used by people who have the name I chose.

On my adoption records, my own name at birth was listed as “Baby Girl Cooper”.  I wasn’t legally given a name until my adoption was final when I was about 6 months old.  I had decided that my child would have a name from birth.

I also had concerns about feelings of abandonment at birth and how that might affect one throughout life.  I had been told that my adopted parents had taken me home when I was one week old and often wondered what I had felt during that week.  I had often struggled with feelings of despair, loneliness, and emptiness in my life.  I was curious as to how much of this could be attributed to the experience of abandonment in my first week on this Earth.

At my request, the adopted couple had agreed to come to the hospital, if possible, for the birth.  Because they lived a distance away, we realized that this may not be possible – but they agreed to try.

The day I had gone into labor, I was cleaning one of my adopted parents’ vacant apartments to get it ready for new tenants that were to move in the next day.  Contractions had started, but were far apart still.  I had become tired while cleaning, and had closed myself in an empty bedroom, and laid on the floor to take a nap.  When I awoke, I held my belly and cried.  My baby was leaving me that day.

This would be the last day that I would have her so close to me.

I came out of that bedroom, found my parents, and told them that I needed to go to the hospital.

My dad had to stay to finish the work on the apartment and my mom couldn’t drive, so I drove myself and my mom home to get my bag for the hospital.

My neighbor drove me to the hospital.  The adoptive parents had been notified and were on their way – but unable get there in time to be present for the birth.

Labor and delivery were excruciating and without pain medication.  I wasn’t prepared at all.  I was screaming and trying to hold my baby in as people were holding my arms and legs and pushing on my belly.

I heard the doctor, in a foreign accent, announce, “She’s a lady” when she was born.

They rolled my stretcher into the recovery room and left me there, behind a white curtain, alone, for what seemed like an eternity.  I was cold and my whole was trembling uncontrollably.  White curtains hanging on four sides of me.  Distant voices.  My baby taken from me.  It felt like a nightmare.

I lay there, trembling, not quite sure why my body was doing that.

Later, in my hospital room, I held my daughter in my arms and stared at her in awe.  This was the first time I had ever seen another person of my own flesh and blood.  I couldn’t believe this tiny beautiful little baby had come out of me.  So precious, so perfect.  I loved this child more than life itself.  I would give anything for her – even if the best thing for her at this moment is to put her in the arms of someone else.  I thought about my mom yelling, “abort it!” and couldn’t fathom the evilness of wanting to kill someone so precious, so helpless  - and for no reason other than this child was an embarrassment to her.

Nearly 30 years have passed since that date and I still remember clearly, looking at my perfect baby in my arms – and I cry, even now, as I write these lines.  She doesn’t know me at all now – and I wish I had some way to tell her just how much I love her, have always loved her, and will always love her.

Her adoptive parents arrived at the hospital in the morning.  We were all together in the room, and they held her, and I could see that they would love her too.

These lines, honestly, are difficult for me to write.  I have tried numerous times over the years to write this story – and always break down into tears at this point.   My other daughter, now an adult too, has walked in on me on occasion while I was writing and asked what’s wrong.  I tell her what I’m writing, and she tells me she is sorry.  

Deep breath.

I didn’t know much when I was 19 years old, but it was important to me that my daughter was able to hear my voice as well as the voices of her adoptive parents in those first days.  I knew she knew my voice from being in my womb the previous months, and felt that having all of us present those first couple of days would make for an easier transition for her.  I didn’t want her to live with that feeling of abandonment that many of us adoptees feel deep down within us.

As it came time for me to sign the final papers, I searched my mind for other options.  I did not want to sign those papers.  I did not want to let her go.

Two things were on my mind at that moment, that caused me to sign: if I don’t sign, me and my baby would be homeless, and, I couldn’t imagine the heartbreak I would cause her adoptive parents if I changed my mind at that moment.

I signed.

On the way home, my adopted dad patted my knee and said, “I’m proud of you.”

(fuck you.)

They dropped me off at home and went shopping.  I sat at the kitchen table, chain smoked, and cried uncontrollably.

When they returned home, I had to pull myself together – because we had a graduation party to attend at a neighbor’s house.  It was always about appearance – you know. 

My dog died a few days later.

In my first week home I had written:

* * * * * *
June 6, 1988
I bet it’s wonderful to have _____ at home now.  I know how long you’ve been praying and waiting for this day to come…
I still can’t get over how beautiful  _____ is.  I’m sure you agree that she was the prettiest baby in the whole hospital.  I love her so much,  I would give my life for her.  I cry because my arms are empty.  How I wish I could just hold her in my arms forever!  I want her to know that when she is ready to meet me, I’ll be waiting with open arms.  There’s nothing that I can ask of you that I know you won’t be giving her anyway, I only ask that you let  _____ know just how much I love her.  She won’t remember me holding her or telling her I love her, so please, tell her for me.
* * * * * *
I had returned to work a week later and it wasn’t long before I was living on my own.  Maybe another decade or so before I would cut ties with my adopted parents for good.

Though I was actively searching for my biological mother throughout my pregnancy, two more years had passed before finding her.  When I told her my story, she told me that had I found her in time, she would have done anything she could to have helped me keep my baby.

As the years passed, my daughter’s family had kept in touch with me and we had exchanged many letters and photos.  When I had planned the adoption, I had fully expected that this arrangement would be for eighteen years, and made sure that on my child’s 18th birthday, all records would be unsealed and available to her.  Unlike my own records which had remained sealed.  I had also expected that we would have a reunion when she turned 18.

For 18 years I waited in anticipation of that day I would be able to wrap my arms around my daughter.  Oh how I had missed her.

Ten years have now passed since her 18th birthday and there has been no reunion.  While I have spent my life in search of my own roots, it seems my daughter is not interested in hers.

For 18 years I lived with the hope of that day – but that day came and went.  I thought it might take her just a few more years to be ready – but those years came and went as well.  I eventually had to accept that the reunion I had long hoped for may never happen.

I hope that this means that my daughter has not suffered the longing and emptiness I had suffered in my life.  I hope that this means that my daughter is happy and fulfilled, longing for nothing.  I hope this is an indication that she is happy and that she has a good life.

Sometimes I’m amazed at the years that have passed and how not a single day has passed that I haven’t thought about my daughter and missed her and wondered how she’s doing.  I would think that as we’re approaching thirty years, the frequency of my thoughts of her would decrease and the pain would subside.

I had always wondered if my own mother thought of me on my birthday.  What I didn’t know was that as a mother myself, not only do I think about my daughter on her birthday, but not a day has passed in her life that I haven’t thought of her.

I will never turn my back on her.  If she ever chooses to get in contact with me, I will greet her with open arms.  She doesn’t know me, but I am her mother and I love her unconditionally with the entirety of my heart.

Perhaps one day she will.  I do have hope – but I realize that she may never.  I made sure that she would be able to find me without having to endure the struggle I had in finding my own parents.

I do know how to contact her and I have written her.  I don’t know how my letters were received – and I don’t know if the words I choose properly convey what I feel in my heart.  Sometimes I just feel – stupid – like I don’t know what to say or how to say it – or like I always somehow manage to say the wrong thing and totally screw things up.

Hopeless – sometimes.  Like I just can’t manage to get it right.

Now, I just send a simple, “happy birthday”, once a year.  Just to let her know that I am thinking about her – but hoping to not put any pressure on her.

If she ever chooses to know me, it will be in her time and on her terms.  I don't want her to feel responsible for the way I feel.  My pain is not her doing.  This pain was caused by those who chose to adopt me but then turned their backs on me at the moment I needed them most - and by my inability to figure out how to make things work without their help.

I want her to be happy.  I hope she knows that I love her and that I'm here for her should she ever want me.  I don't want her to feel pressured, or responsible.  I wish I knew how to convey that - but maybe it's better to just allow her space.

-

As the years passed after my first child was born and after finding my birth-mother, I married and had two children.  I later divorced, and found myself a single mother.

After having an endometrial ablation, and being in my 40s, I wasn’t thinking that I could even get pregnant again.  But then there I was.

I researched the risks of carrying a pregnancy to term after having an endometrial ablation and knew that it was possible, but also understood that there was a chance I would die in the process.  Also, my last pregnancy was high risk due to diabetes – so that, in addition to my age, and the condition of my uterus, created a risk to my life that I had to think long and hard about.

I had to ask myself: am I willing to die to bring a new life into this world?  Am I willing to leave my children to be orphans?  Am I done being a mother?

All of these things going through my mind that day outside of that abortion clinic as those picketers were yelling nasty things at me.

No.  You simply do not know my story.

I have chosen life and I have chosen death.

I have chosen sacrifice, and I have chosen self-preservation

I have chosen to be a mother and to protect my children – and yes – one I have chosen that one child never come to be, for the sake of the others.

But then, none of us should have ever been

Because I am Bastard.

***********************************************************

Re-reading this before posting and not altogether comfortable with everything I have written here.  I have allowed myself to dig deep into my emotions and explore my many “issues” in this writing.  Much of this has been painful, and I had allowed myself to regress a number of times in these posts and have brought myself to tears.  I am choosing to leave those parts “as is”, as they are representative of the emotions I have experienced – and portray the truth of my story.  I think it is therapeutic as well, to express such deeply intense emotions, rather than to suppress them.  Such emotions make us who we are and help form the people we become.

When discussing “trauma history” with a patient yesterday, she told me that losing her husband was a life shattering traumatic event for her.  I thought about this.

Losing a loved one is traumatic, though it is a trauma most of us will endure at least once, if not more frequently in our lifetimes.

I’ve heard it said that every relationship will ultimately end in one way or another.  This is a fact of life.  This is a pain we will all experience.  I don’t know that it makes it any easier to know we’re not alone in our journeys and our pains – but we’re not.

As for me – I am Bastard – the one who should have never been.  I am also mother, wife, and nurse.  I have saved lives, created lives, and held people’s hands as they have taken their last breadths.  I listen to the stories of those who have given up hope and who have lost the will to live.  I’ve heard stories of the pain endured by others that are incomprehensible to me.  I have gazed upon the face of death and survived to tell my story.  I am very well aware of the pain and unfathomable evil that exists in this world.

But then – you know – there are also angels who walk among us.

There is as much joy and love in this world as there is pain and evil.  Sometimes we just have to open our eyes and allow ourselves to experience it.

I consider my own pain as a lesson.  These have provided me with an education I could have never obtained in a classroom.  I hope that these lessons will serve to make me a better person.

-

...and a final thought on the topic of abortion:  I believe that we each should have the right to choose.  Each of us is faced with our own story that no one else can truly know.  Choosing to go to the abortion clinic that day was not an easy thing for me to do, but was something I felt I had to do given my situation.  I've married since then and my husband and I sometimes talk about what it would be like if that child  was here in our home today.  However, there was never going to be a child.  What I didn't know as I was walking into that clinic, but learned as we saw the ultra sound, was that I was already on my way to having a miscarriage.  My aging uterus is done.  A D&C and a tubal ligation later, and this is not a choice I'll be forced to make again.

As for those anti-choice protesters, I say: shut up and go help someone.  I mean - actually *HELP*SOMEONE*

-


***editing to add that my second born daughter has encouraged me to write & share this story.  I've struggled for years with 'how' to present it.  I hope I have done it justice here.

No comments:

Post a Comment