Read the previous article in this series: During my unplanned pregnancy, I felt alone. But I wasn’t.
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.
Secrets destroy lives.
This belief has become one of my driving forces—what I live by. I’m not talking about the kind of secrets you have at Christmas or birthdays or for fun. I’m talking about the kinds of things that you hide from others and even yourself.
Up until my 17th year, however, I kept many secrets. I was a victim of bullying and abuse during two episodes of my young life. One began in the first grade, was at its worst in the third, and ended in the middle of the fourth. During this time, I was bullied by the kids at school. Interestingly, it occurred at three different schools in two different states, but it was continuous. The second was my ninth grade year of school. I was bullied by a foster sister in my own home.
My parents did not know about the abuse when I was in elementary school until I was an adult. I hid it from my parents and my teachers, afraid of retaliation. I became very good at hiding my emotions and keeping things to myself. I hid the teenaged abuse for about nine months. The second I told my parents, my foster sister was no longer living with us. I know that my parents would have done everything they could to protect me and to help me, but they simply did not know. They knew I hated school and did not have friends, but they did not know the extent of the abuse.
When I became pregnant in 10th grade, it was something I could not hide . . . at least for very long. I am not one of those women who can get away with wearing baggy shirts and no one knows that they are pregnant. The only way I could hide it was by not ever leaving my home. I am grateful I couldn’t hide it because I was forced to act or react to the ridicule, rumors, and unkindness that were thrown my way by young and old alike. I found a courage, a defiance, that I never knew was in me. I refused to hide my growing belly. I refused to stay home. When I moved to Denver to live in my foster home and was in a new school surrounded by strangers, I walked with a purpose and a steady gaze, daring anyone to say anything to me.
I began to be honest and upfront with who I was. I began to say things frankly and openly. “Yes, I’m pregnant. No, you can’t touch me. I’m placing my baby for adoption. I’m living with a family until the baby is born and then I will go back home. No, you still can’t touch my belly. No, my parents did not send me away—I talk with them almost every day.”
In the process of learning to be open, I began to learn who I truly was, who I wanted to be, and that I had more courage and strength than I ever imagined. I learned that what others thought of me didn’t really matter. I still cared what my family thought of me, but beyond that, I refused to allow myself to care. When you care what other people think, you start lying and deceiving in order to make them believe that you are who they think you are. I began to understand that I should be careful about worrying about what even my family thought of me. There were only three people whose opinion of me truly mattered: my Heavenly Father, my Elder Brother Jesus Christ, and myself.
And, you know what? I was learning that I actually liked myself. If I liked myself, then there was no need to hide parts of me. In order to be open and honest with others, I had to be open and honest with myself. I learned that secrets destroy lives.
Read the next article in this series: The Moment I Became a Birth Mom.