Thanksgiving break was always a favorite; it was a week off from schoolwork when I was free to do what I wanted when I wanted. This particular break was one to remember. I did not know my world was about to be shattered into pieces. This Thanksthegiving was going to be one I would never forget. If only I could go back and talk to myself back then and tell myself it was all going to be okay. This is my story, and it is not a glamorous story; this is the truth. I will not sugarcoat anything. This is for younger girls who are “wanting” to feel what it is like to be “loved,” ”wanted,” for boys to want you. This is for girls who strive for love and attention.

My mother and father divorced when I was around 7 years old, and my father remarried when I was about 10. My stepmother and I built a stronger bond later in life, but when I was growing up, I resented her, thinking she “took my father away.” Once my father remarried, we drifted apart. My father was my world when I was younger. It was just us two girls and him against the world; my sister and I grew a strong bond growing up. We took care of each other. But later, my brain was focused on boys! During my 12th year of life, my period started and my boobs grew. Boys started to notice me more. My first kiss was at 13. It was not your typical kiss from a prince with your one leg in the air and fireworks going off. Mine was more in a closet and very unsure of what we were supposed to be doing. After that first kiss, I started to become promiscuous. “Boys were liking me!” I thought this many times as I would sneak out of my room in the middle of the night to meet men. I finally figured out how to get a boyfriend.

Fast-forward to a year later, it is now Thanksgiving of 2003, and my whole family is over to celebrate as usual. I went to my aunt’s house the night before to have Thanksgiving with my mother and her family as we did every year. This time, my mom and aunt called me into my aunt’s bathroom and told me to “pee on a stick.” I did as I was told, and we stood there and waited until the two pink lines showed up. My aunt started talking to me and telling me what a disappointment I was to her and the family. This part is a blur as I felt I wanted to disappear and never return, but I remember my grandmother and the rest of my family was in the living room waiting. I came out, and they all started to talk to me about adoption and The Gladney Center for Adoption. No one in my family believed in abortion so that never came up, and parenting was not an option. I was curled up on the couch, crying, when my aunt said the dreaded words: “Time to call your dad.” More words of disappointment came from him. I felt alone and scared; I went to a dark place.

My grandmother on my father’s side has always been “my person.” I am the oldest child and the golden child—her “favorite”—so to hear from her and my grandfather how upset they were with me made me even more upset at myself. I never understood why or what exactly was going on, but I knew I was in trouble. When I got back home, my room had been gutted, and I was grounded. My mother, father, and stepmother were there in the living room talking, and I could hear them. “She should have at least gotten paid.” “She was just handed around.” “She is just a whore.” These words hurt the most, especially coming from my own flesh and blood. The reality was I did not know who the father of my child was, so maybe that is why it hurt so bad. There was a possibility of three guys.

A month went by of being grounded and having everything taken away. Then my father came in and showed me a packet that came in the mail about a place called the Gladney Center for Adoption. He told me this was where I would be going until I had the baby. He said he set up an appointment to be seen as soon as possible. My father, you see, was embarrassed. He was in the ministry, in music. In a Christian world or “church world,” it was a disgrace to be pregnant unwed. I was kicked out of church and lost all friends I had during this time.

The day came to visit Gladney. I was scared, alone, and nervous, wanting to be accepted and taught what to do. We walked in, and there was a lot to look at. My sister, father, and stepmother were all there. My biological mother, unfortunately, was strung out on drugs and soon in jail during this time. As I was looking around, a beautiful young lady came out and called my name, then led me into a room with some couches and a window. She explained to me that this was my baby and my choice. She told me no one could persuade me into a decision I was not ready for. I told her I understood, but that in reality, I had no idea what to think or do. I just knew I had better say that adoption was the best thing on earth to please my parents. Sure I had a choice, but at 14, do you really have a choice, especially when you have zero support?

The move-in day came, and I cannot say this was an exciting day at all. Super nervous, sweaty palms, and questions like, “Will I be accepted? Will they like me? What about my family and my little sister? How will I live without them?” This day was terrifying. I had no idea what to think or do.

My family went to the store and bought things to go in my new dorm. My sister says to this day that cucumber melon is still embedded into her memory of me leaving. I was the only one in my dorm; it had two beds and a full bathroom, like a hotel room. My family brought all my things in and said their goodbyes. My sister was the only one who cried; she was younger. I was greeted by another girl in the dorm with a knock on the door, a handmade card, and an invitation to meet the other girls in the dorm. Most of the girls were older, but one girl was my age. She had just placed, so she was leaving soon.

While in the dorm, we got to order anything we wanted from the store to eat; that was nice. And then on Fridays, we got to eat out or order in from a nearby restaurant. We had different events that we would attend for free as well, such as Texas Rangers games and Disney on Ice. We would do a weekly Target/Walmart run as well. We could go downtown and many other fun places.

My parents would pick me up most weekends, but it was so uncomfortable going with them and knowing they were ashamed of me being pregnant. When my family came to get me for the weekend, we had to ignore that I was carrying a child and everything about the adoption; basically, we ignored my adoption plan.

I moved into the dorm when I started showing around five months, which was earlier than most girls. When I moved in, I looked online a lot to find a family. This was before I was “allowed” to find a family. While searching, I found a family and set my mind on them. I ran to my counselor to tell her the wonderful news, but then I was told it was too early and that I would need to wait to match with the family. While waiting, another girl could choose the family. I was devastated to hear this news. I ran to the dorm, went to all the girls, and told them to not choose this family!

Finally, it was my turn to choose a family. I told them I already had the family chosen, but they told me I had to go through several profiles and interviews just to “make sure” they were the ones. So, I did as I was told. Every single one was a drag. None of them were at all what I wanted in a family for my unborn son. I went to my counselor and told her that I was ready to choose my family. She informed me that the family I chose was a family who went through an adoption that fell through—a sensitive case. The family had an expectant mother choose them and watched the birth of their baby, but then the mother chose to parent her baby at the last minute. They told me that if I choose that family, I would have to make sure they were the ones and that my decision was clear.

This decision has and will always be the biggest decision I have ever made. This pressure made it even harder. Would I be able to see my child and still place him? What if I want to change my mind? Isn’t this still my choice? I had a lot to think about. In the end, I knew I had no choice in the matter; adoption was the only option. I informed my counselor the next morning that this was my final choice.

Now, I was finally able to call and interview the family! I was so excited and nervous. What if they weren’t the ones, and I was wrong? The line rang and rang. Then they answered with a warm hello. I knew within the first couple of minutes my decision was right. We had so many similarities, and our families shared many traditions. I loved everything about them. I knew they were it!

I was in the home stretch. I got to meet my son’s family for the first time at a local restaurant. That morning, I had received flowers from the adoptive parents. My mother, the one who was strung out, came to pick me up to meet the potential adoptive parents. We got to the restaurant, and they were sitting at a round table near the center. They greeted us with a smile, and we sat down and talked. I am not sure about most of what was said at this time; I was still trying to understand it all. We talked a few times in between, like when I would go to the doctor or just to give an update until he came.

The last time we got together was when I invited them out to my parents’ house for a meeting. I wanted his family to meet my whole family and understand where I come from as well as have stories to tell him about where he came from as he grew older. My whole blended family was there; we took pictures and ate dinner as a family. This is a favorite memory of mine. Even though my family was distant, I’d always wanted a big family that cared. And that day, that’s what we were. I had lots of support while I was in the process of my adoption plan. Afterward, everyone drifted off and went on with their lives, and I was left alone again, until later on in life.

The day eventually came; he started making his debut! It was late in the middle of the night when I started having contractions. The house mom was sleeping, and I was scared to wake her for fear it was false labor. I waited until morning to ask her to tell the on-call nurse that I was in labor. The nurse came in and took me to the hospital.

There, I was told it was false labor and to go home and wait, so I did that. Later that night, I ended up going back to the hospital—this time for real. He was on his way. I was in so much pain; I was not thinking about what was going to happen in the next few weeks. I was in labor and in pain for two days, so when I was able to sleep, they gave me morphine to help with sleeping and the labor. The next thing I remember was my family coming in, and my grandmother brushing my hair and saying good things. I always felt safe with her, and I love her dearly.

I went to sleep and woke up to the urge to push. Within three pushes he was here with so much jet black hair and a tiny cry! It still warms my heart thinking about seeing him and holding him for the first time—his smell and his perfect little face. I was in love. I had never felt anything like that before.

The adoptive parents sent me a bouquet of cookie sunflowers that said “You are my sunshine,” and I called them to thank them and tell them how perfect he was. His mother answered, and I started to cry, and then I could not talk to her. My heart was shattering into pieces; it was starting to settle in. My father stayed the night with me while I was in the hospital. We did not say much. I could not sleep, and I did not want them to take my baby away. I wanted as much time as possible with him before I placed him. The day came when I had to leave the hospital. He could not leave yet due to breathing problems. I got all my things together, got into the wheelchair, and they wheeled me out down the hall past my baby and into the elevator to the front door where my parents’ car was waiting. My heart broke and tears began to flow. My baby was not mine. He was never going to come home with me; he’s not a part of me anymore. My dad drove me to the dorm where I went to my bedroom, into my bed, curled up, and cried all night long. I asked for pain meds to ease the pain of a broken heart. I couldn’t take it. I called my dad the next day to pick me up. I cried all weekend, and I did not understand why or how. I was lost, confused, hurt, and, most of all, alone. How could anyone have asked me to do this with my firstborn son?

A few days went by. It was now time to sign papers over to the new parents. My grandmother was supposed to be there but couldn’t be. As I said before, everyone had their own lives to live. I walked down the hall and signed the papers right after I got to visit him. Leaving the hospital was worse than signing the papers over. The potential fathers had to sign over rights as well, and since they were not only hard to find but not very willing, we had to wait it out to relinquish rights; that took six weeks. This, to me, was not the worst news. It meant I got to visit him for six more weeks before he was placed. I took all the time I wanted and was able to take with him. His foster family was a family that used to come to Gladney to cook for us, teach us wonderful things about God, and teach us other crafty stuff. Everyone who saw my son fell in love. I got to witness his first smile and capture it on camera! My family came to see him as well during the visits, and they supported me as much as they had the time to. I took lots of photos and gave so many kisses and whispered lots of great things to him.

Placement day came. It was sometime in September, I believe. I bought an outfit and matching socks for the event, and I dressed him in his clothes. My grandmother, sister, and father were with me on this day. We admired him, laughed, and took pictures. I was still numb to everything going on. I wrapped him in a baby blanket and walked him down a long hall to two large doors. They opened, and his family greeted us with the same smile, but this time, with their other two children. I walked to the mother and handed him to her. Her husband walked up to me and gave me a bracelet that said “sweetheart” in Hawaiian. I looked around the room and watched the family love on their new baby. I knew deep down I did the right thing, but it really still did not dawn on me that he was mine or what I was doing.

We took pictures and shared stories and wishes for the little guy. My grandmother and sister started to cry, so they left the room. It was time for the new family to leave. We walked out of the room, and I left with my father. We did not speak about the adoption; I think he expected me to just move on.

It was not until after about 10 years of hurt and pain that I found a group to help me deal with what I had been fighting inside for so long. I finally learned that it was okay to cry and have feelings about the adoption. I learned that I was loved, and I mattered. I still get pictures and letters from his mother, and he is now 17! He is a happy boy who loves anything outdoors. He is very smart and athletic. They raised a king, and for that, I am proud. One day, he will come look for me. I’ll be ready to embrace him again, and he will get to meet another family that loves him so dearly. I look forward to that day. Placing him for adoption was the best choice I could have made for him.

Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.