Read the previous article in this series: After I Placed My Son for Adoption, I Struggled to Have Faith in Myself.
There are numerous reasons a woman considers placing a child for adoption. Whether she is single or married, a teenager or not, with a good support system or not so much, the ultimate decision to abort, keep, or place is one that will haunt her for the rest of her life. For me, I was 16 years old, with a loving, supportive family and an awesome boyfriend. I was simply too young. It was 1984 and choosing to place was a forever deal—closed and sealed with no choice about who the parents would be and with no option of ever seeing your baby again. This is my story about grief and healing but most of all, about love. I dedicate this series for all birth moms, whether their adoption was closed, partial, or open, for their sacrifice and grief and loss that is so profound and so deep and complex that even their closest loved ones don’t truly understand. May you find healing and peace.
High school graduation. For some it is the pinnacle of their lives. For me, it was a relief that it was finally over. My closest friend and I marveled at the girls who were crying because they were so sad that it was over. My friend had grown up as well, and we just shook our heads at those around us while we were celebrating that we could get on and move away from our lives. We were both ready to start over.
Starting over, for me, meant going to a university. For my entire life, I had dreamed of being a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree. I had applied to three universities, but only wanted to go to one—Brigham Young University. I had gone to a youth event at BYU and had fallen in love with the place. Getting into BYU is difficult, and I was relieved when I received my acceptance letter. I wasn’t scared about leaving home like so many because I had already lived away from home when I was in foster care when I was pregnant. I knew that I could do this by myself. I was sad to leave my family because they had become even more important to me, but I was glad to move on.
Robert had dropped out of high school and as I moved to go to college, he moved when he found a good job. We were going to attempt to have a long-distance relationship founded on daily letters and weekly phone calls (this was before cell phones; you had to pay extra to talk long-distance). Robert and I were technically engaged. We had decided to be married but had agreed that I needed to have a couple of years of college under my belt first. I am so grateful that we didn’t decide to quickly get married after I graduated.
Was I nervous about going to college? Of course I was nervous! I wasn’t nervous about living away from home or going to school or even living with strangers (been there, done that), but I was nervous about being accepted. I had chosen to go to a church school with a strict honor and behavior code, and I was certain that I was going to be thought of as “tainted goods,” but I was determined to not hide my true self. I had a chance to start over, to be my real self, and that was who I was going to be.
I lived in the freshman dorms. My roommate was a girl from Missouri. Terry and I quickly became friends and then discovered that there was another Lisa/Terry roommate pair on our floor, and a natural friendship occurred. Before long, a fifth from our floor joined our group and Terry, Lisa, Terry, Lisa, and Tania were inseparable. They accepted me and loved me. I did not hide who I was or where I had come from, and they did the same. I wasn’t the only non-virgin in the group, but we all were working on repentance and being better. Guys were also part of our group, and for the first time in my life I truly belonged to a group outside of my family. Not only did I find belonging with my dorm-mates, but I also gained a group of friends in the BYU marching band.
As I went to church with my friends and worked to decide what I really wanted for my future, I continued to be open with my story. As I shared not only that I was a birth mom but also my experience with learning about my Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and His Atonement, I found that I was accepted and even respected. I found myself torn between the fear that I would never find a husband in my faith who would accept me, and the knowledge, once again, that I would never be alone if I had Christ by my side.
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One Friday as I walking from my dorm to French class, I was startled when I heard a crystal-clear voice that wasn’t my own in my head. “You need to break up with Robert.” I walked a few steps and, once again, “You need to break up with Robert.” The second time I heard the voice in my mind and my heart, I found that I had stopped walking and was no longer physically capable of moving down to campus. I tried a couple of times and was not able to move. “You need to break up with Robert.” At that moment, I knew that I had to do it, NOW. I was able to turn around and walk back to my dorm. I called my parents to tell them what had happened and what I was doing, I packed a small bag, left a note for my roommate, and then drove 400 miles.
Needless to say, Robert was surprised to see me. We spent the next two days talking about things, but on Sunday I drove back to BYU without my set of his keys and no longer named on his bank account. I cried most of the way home. It was hard to let him go because I knew that I would never go back. I was certain that I was choosing to be alone in this earthly life, but I knew that in order for me to be the person that I had discovered I wanted to be meant me being chaste and honest and true and valiant. I had learned to love this Lisa, and, as I drove, I learned that I actually liked who I was, which was a first for me. By the time I reached BYU, the tears were gone, and a new strength had been lit inside of me. I was ready to face the world as a single, strong, smart, independent woman.
I had no idea that at the very moment that I heard “You need to break up with Robert” there was a guy also being prepared for me.
Read the next article in this series: God Strengthened me as I Grieved the Son I Placed for Adoption