Here is the birthday letter I sent to my son along with a card and a gift certificate. We have talked since he received the letter, but not about the letter. I welcome any comments.
I wanted to get you something a little more personal than a gift certificate for you birthday. However, since I am still getting to know you and your likes and dislikes, I havent been very successful. So I decided that this letter would be my personal gift to you. I also hope you enjoy the gift certificate.
This reunion with you has been a joy to me. It has totally and irrevocably changed my life. I know that I have sent you a lot of information about myself and some about your birth and your relinquishment, but I havenҒt told you the whole story, nor will I now, but I want to share some of my experiences, both during my pregnancy, your birth and relinquishment, and how losing you affected my life.
As I told you before, when I found out I was pregnant with you I was terrified. I had little to no experience with children and knew next to nothing about pregnancy and giving birth. I knew at the time that being pregnant meant getting married and that scared me also. I did not even consider adoption at first. I mean, I knew people adopted children -- I just never related it to my circumstance. My mother called a church member who volunteered with LDS Social Services and she was the one who told us about the church adoption program. The standard line with the church and with LDS Family Services, both then and now, is that if the couple dont want to marry, the girl should give the baby up for adoption. To be quite honest, I donҒt remember much of the decision making process. But I do remember feeling a tremendous amount of guilt because I had let down my mother and my family. I knew the social stigma attached to unwed mothers (much more then than now) and their families. I felt I could handle the stigma, but I didnt want my family hurt by my actions. Cliff was more than ready to marry me. However, he did not have a steady job at the time and he was afraid because I was still underage. Society and the church manipulated us both -- but I was the one who was influenced the most. Cliff had little say in the situation and quite frankly wasnҒt asked. He never pushed me to marry him (at least not that I remember) and just went along with whatever I said. Dont get me wrong; I am not badmouthing the church. At that time virtually every social worker associated with any religious organization or the state pushed unwed mothers in the same direction. They told us that because we had sex outside of marriage we were deviant (even though most of our peers were doing the same thing, they just didnҒt get caught). They told us that we could not be good mothers. I spent several counseling sessions with a social worker that told me how much better off you would be with your adoptive parents.
Anyway, I left school a week or so early, at the end of May or the first of June (I really dont remember. The experience was so traumatic that I blocked much of it from my memory) and flew to Atlanta. I was met by someone from LDS Social Services and taken to a foster home for a night or two. I donҒt remember much about them except they were a nice older couple. Then I moved to another foster home where I remained until I gave birth to you. The Ashworth family of Canton, GA was wonderful. Brenda was a volunteer with LDS Social Services at the time. They had a big house and it was full of kids, the Ashworths had adopted two of them when they were taken from abusive situations at home. One of them was my age and she and I became friends. However, I never forgot why I was there. As nice as they were, they never let me forget. Brenda talked about her work often and was very, very pro adoption. And I remember having counseling sessions with their Bishop in the hallway of a school where their branch met every Sunday and confessing my sinӔ. It was hard. Every couple of weeks or so I was taken to LDSSS for counseling -- or in my opinion -- sessions to make sure I wouldnt change my mind about relinquishing you. I was told you really werenҒt mine and that I was just the vessel God was using to provide another family with a child. I was told good things about the potential adoptive family even though (as I found out later) they did not know which family would adopt you until after I gave birth to you. I was told that if I did change my mind, that my family would be responsible for all the bills I had accumulated including housing and healthcare. I knew my mother could not afford this. And I sure knew I couldnt!
I knew you were a boy from almost day one. Not only that, but I told everybody I would give birth on August 15th! I went into labor early that afternoon. Once again, I donҒt remember many details. Brenda took me to the hospital and stayed for a little while, but not for long. I remember the prep being humiliating and then being in a lot of pain. I wasnt prepared at all for labor. I knew virtually nothing about the process. I was left alone to labor for a while, and then they knocked me out. When I woke up it was over. They told me that I shouldnҒt see you in the hospital. They wouldnt let me name you, but in case you are curious, I wouldҒve named you Joseph. I was moved to a room far from the maternity ward. My mother was able to drive down and be with me afterwards. Once again, I dont remember much about it. I remember crying and feeling empty, but thatҒs all. I saw you three days later back at the agency. I got to hold you for a few minutes, then I signed the papers and we left and I went back home.
We didnt talk about what happened after it was over. I changed schools in case there were rumors at my previous school. Supposedly I was going to a ғbetter school, but I knew why and was happy about the change. I wasnԒt the same person and I could not go back to that school and act like I was. I was given no counseling. I kept my grief to myself, even though I knew my mother would talk about with me -- once again I didnt want to hurt her. My sister had her first baby just a short time after I relinquished you. She and her husband lived with us for several months afterwards. I used to hold Joshua and wonder about you. I think it was at that point I realized just how much I had given up -- just how much had been taken away from me. But I still tried to do what they told me to do -- forget. Today any psychologist would tell you that the thought of forgetting is crazy. How can a mother forget that she ғgave away her flesh and blood. But that is how it was back then. Although I am angry about what happened to us, I am not angry with any person or institution (or I try not to be). They were doing what everyone else was doing and my mother was trying to protect her baby. I am angry at society, religion in general, and the social work profession. Studies had been done in previous decades that described the affect of relinquishment on both the birth mother and sometimes the adoptees. I wonԒt lie to you -- the experience defined my personality and the way I have lived the rest of my life. In many ways I have tried to be the best and achieve academically because I wanted to prove that I still have worth -- I still have guilt, not about being pregnant out of wedlock, but because I gave you away. My self-esteem suffered. You were my secret. Only my mother, stepfather, sisters and husband knew about you. But we seldom ever mentioned it. I never even told most of my doctors. As I told you before, when Mark died it was like grieving for two babies. I wondered why I was being punished. Why did I have to lose two of my children? I still wonder about that.
Anyway, please understand that I am not telling you this to hurt you or cause you any pain or guilt. What happened was not your fault. But I want you to understand that relinquishing you was not easy. It was, and still is, the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. I bonded with you when I carried you under my heart for those 9 months. I have always loved you. This is what I want you to know. I hope that my decision to let you go was the best one for you. I know that I wouldve been a fine mother to you, but hopefully your mother is the best one for you. I really do hope that is true. But I think it is important for you to know that you were and are loved. I didnҒt just forget about you and go back to my happy life. It was a heart wrenching experience that has stayed with me. Finding you has been the best therapy ever! I hope you let me know if I offend you in anyway or if I push the boundaries of our relationship too far. I cant tell you how wonderful it is to play even a small role in your life now. I am so proud of you. You have turned into such a fine man. The more I talk to you, the more I like you. That is such a blessing to me. I have always loved you, but now I know I like you too!
Happy Birthday son! May God always be with you and bless you with a happy and joyous life. Thank-you again for letting me be a part of it.
With much love and affection,