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.

When the pain and consequences of your choices result in a shattered soul, you have only two possible options: 1) Succumb to the darkness and allow it to consume you, or 2) Attempt the impossible by finding the shattered remains of self and somehow putting yourself together again. The second option is infinitely more difficult and many who attempt option two eventually resort to option one because succumbing to the darkness is less agonizing than rebuilding. I once heard it said, and I know it to be true, that healing from what hurt you is much more painful that what hurt you in the first place.

When my dad described a teenager who had rebelled, he would say, “His head came unscrewed.” Well, not only did my head become unscrewed, but it also fell off and rolled under the bed and took up residence with the dust bunnies. Even though I had incredibly loving parents, the rest of the planet had not been so kind. From the time I was in kindergarten, I was the victim of bullying in many ways, shapes, and forms.

In third grade I was bullied until I bled, and while my bullying wasn’t always that physical, the emotional, spiritual, and mental toll it took was incalculable. By the time I was 16, I craved acceptance and began to be willing to compromise my personal beliefs to gain and then keep that acceptance.

Unlike lots of kids searching for acceptance, the smoking, drinking, and partying scene was never attractive to me, and I simply wasn’t interested. No matter how much pressure I got, I had no desire to smoke, drink, or do drugs. After a while, people stopped asking. I did not, however, have the same kind of courage when it came to physical intimacy. I was so surprised that a guy could be interested in me at all. The acceptance I received—not only from a boy but also from others because I had a boyfriend—filled a deep void that had been a part of me since I was a little girl. Desperate to not have to reface the darkness of my soul, I found myself not upholding the values of morality and virtue that I truly believed.

It was in February of my sophomore year of high school that the symptoms of pregnancy arrived with a vengeance. I was sick all day, and not just in the mornings. My body was tender, and my menstruation was silent. This was the era before home pregnancy tests, but I didn’t need one (or blood work) to know that I was pregnant. As soon as I suspected, I told Robert (not his real name), my boyfriend. He was loving and kind and very worried. He felt very responsible, but being only a junior in high school, did not know what to do. We talked about marriage. We were deeply in love, but even though we both felt that we were going to be one of those people who married their high school sweetheart, we felt that the timing was three or four years too soon. We both had strong feelings against abortion, so that wasn’t even mentioned. That left either 1) Me having the baby, me and the baby living with my parents while he lived with his, and us trying to finish high school and then getting married, or 3) Placing the baby for adoption.

For several weeks we talked about our options, leaning towards keeping the child. One night, Robert got out a piece of paper and divided it into two columns. On one side, we listed all the pros and cons about keeping the baby, and on the other side, we listed the pros and cons about adoption. When we had exhausted all of our ideas, there were far more pros about placing and far more cons about keeping. We were both religious but of different faiths. We agreed to pray about it separately for several days and not talk about it until the weekend. The only sure thing we had decided was that we wanted to have a solid plan prior to our telling our parents that I was pregnant.

That night as I said my prayers, a perfect calmness washed over me, and I knew that this child was not mine, was not Robert’s, and was not ours together. The next morning as I pulled into the school parking lot, Robert was there waiting for me, as usual. Before I had the key out of the ignition, Robert had opened the passenger door and got in next to me. He literally picked me up and pulled me onto his lap. He gently took my face in his hands and said, “Lisa, I love you. I want to marry you someday. I want you to be the mother of my children, but . . . this isn’t our child.”

“I know.”

Tears were streaming down both of our faces, we embraced, and a fierce determination settled into our hearts about what we needed to do.

Read the next part of this series: How We Told My Parents About Our Unplanned Pregnancy.

To read this author’s previous series, Silenced by Society, A Birth Mom’s Tale, click here.