Read Part 5 of this story: Did I Want to Live At Home During My Pregnancy?
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.
Have you ever spent part of your life surrounded by people, but day after day, week after week, you were completely alone? The only word that can describe being 16 years old, pregnant, and in foster care is ALONE.
I lived in a home with a married couple and their two-year-old daughter. My foster “mom,” Julie (not her real name), was pregnant too, and due a month before I was. Mike went to work every day at LDS Family Services, and Julie stayed home and took care of a very rambunctious toddler. The home was happy and good, but very different than my own. The only way I knew these people was from one hour, every-other-week sessions when I met with Mike as my adoption counselor.
Mike and Julie were very young. Mike was probably 30 years old, and Julie was several years his junior. Their parenting experience was only two years old, and I was a teenager with hormones pumped up beyond the norm. If I was asked to do something, I did it, but no more (what teenager does?)
When Julie was in the hospital having her baby, I was asked to vacuum the upstairs, tidy up, and put away the toddler’s laundry that was in the dryer. Before Mike and Julie came home, I did just that—I vacuumed the upstairs, I picked up a little bit, and put away the toddler’s clothes. I felt good about what I had done and thought they would be pleased. The day after they got home from the hospital, I found that I was in trouble because even though I had done what was asked, they had expected me to vacuum the whole house, not just tidy but clean, and wash the toddler’s dirty clothes, not just put the clean ones away. While I lived with them, I didn’t know what to do with them, and they didn’t know what to do with me. I spent a lot of time in my room with the door closed.
School was similar. I was surrounded by people, but few ever talked to me. Except for one class, I was ignored. I was always in a crowd but always alone (to read more about my experiences in Denver, see my other series: Silenced By Society: A Birth Mom’s Tale).
While in Denver, through the kindness of a man at church, I also got a part-time job. This man owned a business. They closed early on Wednesdays and weren’t open on Saturdays, but they needed someone on those days to answer the phone and take deliveries. As soon as I arrived on Wednesday, everyone left, and I opened and closed the place on Saturdays. Even during my job, I was alone.
I missed my family terribly, especially my mom. They called several times a week, but it often just made me homesick. I came home for a short visit for my 17th birthday, but that visit made it worse (I cried the whole way back to Denver). The loneliness became painful. I often drove around Denver (I had my car with me) just to get out of my room and to do something. I went for a lot of walks by myself. I went to the doctor by myself. The only thing I didn’t do by myself was go to church.
At first, much of my alone time was spent crying. Even though I knew I hadn’t been abandoned, I was going through the most frightening time of my life, but I had to be alone to do it. After I couldn’t cry anymore, I would think. I began to think about who I was down to the very core of my being. What did I know? What did I feel? What did I believe? Who was I? What did I want to become? What did I want my legacy to be? How was I going to accomplish it? Little by little, I began to discover myself. I began to find strength through the trials that I had at school and with my doctor. I began to be transformed.
When I didn’t want to cry or think and all of my homework was done (I had the best grades of my entire public education while in Denver because homework gave me SOMETHING TO DO), I would listen to music. One of my church leaders gave me a cassette tape (yes, I am that old), of Michael McLean, an LDS Christian singer. I would listen to the tape over and over and over again. There was one song, in particular, that reached through the darkness of my loneliness and brought me light.
“Here’s a little song to help you get along.
It will see you through when you’re feeling blue.
And though it’s not profound when you’re feeling down, so down,
Sing this little tune, and you’ll feel better soon.
You’re not alone, even when you’re feeling on your own,
You are loved in ways that can’t be shown; your needs are known;
You’re not alone.
And when you cry, you’re just letting go of heartache deep inside,
And tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and sky and love close by;
You’re not alone.
And we know that it’s not easy, but we know that it won’t last,
’cause one that loves you more than me is sending blessings fast.
You’re not alone, say it one more time,
“I’m not alone,”
And even when it’s hard to find the words, our prayers are heard;
We’re not alone.
You’re not alone.”
Words and music by Michael McLean, 1984
This song helped me remember that with Jesus Christ by my side, all things are possible, and that even during my most alone times on Earth, He was always with me, and I was never truly alone.
Read the next article in this series: My Very Visible Pregnancy Taught me to be Open and Courageous