My daughter was born on August 24, 1998, and was placed with very loving adoptive parents whom I picked. I was 18 and in my first year of college when I got pregnant– my boyfriend didn’t feel ready to be a father and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to give my baby the life she deserved.
When I was two months pregnant, I visited an adoption agency where I received books, information, and paperwork, and was told to think about it very hard. As the months went by I struggled over what to do. During this time, I was living in the dorms, and I had no privacy. Many days I would find myself sitting in the shower, sobbing at the thought of giving up my baby. I knew I couldn’t support myself much less a baby. I wanted a better life for her.
The search for adoptive parents was crazy. I had people who promised to buy me new cars and pay for my college if only I would give them my baby (as if I would consider selling something that precious). The worst example occurred when a lady I knew got my number at school and said, “I heard about what happened and what you are doing and I want it!” She spoke as if I were giving away a puppy or something.
The couple I finally chose was wonderful. The adoptive dad (Tony) worked with my mother, and I had known him for years. They both drove over for my first ultrasound, and that was my first meeting with the adoptive mother (Kathleen). It was great because I felt no pressure, and they weren’t offering me insane things to try and buy my baby. From then on I would get a weekly call from Kathleen and she would ask how I was doing. Many times we wouldn’t even talk about the baby– we would talk about family, school, and work.
Towards the end of May, I went home for a visit and ended up in the hospital because of pre-term labor. I was sentenced to 8 weeks of bed rest and couldn’t return to school for final exams. Kathleen and Tony came to the hospital to visit and they got to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. After two days in the hospital I went home to my parents’ house. As the weeks went by, the tension levels in the house got higher. My stepdad and mother were constantly fighting.
After a horrible day when my stepdad blamed their marital problems on my unexpected pregnancy; we decided that their environment wasn’t healthy, so I moved in with Tony and Kathleen for a month. During that time, I was able to really get to know them and began to think of them as family.
Together we all prepared for the baby’s arrival. Tony, Kathleen, and my mother attended Lamaze classes and doctor appointments with me. My mother and I went to a baby shower thrown by Kathleen’s co-workers, and I went with Tony and Kathleen when they bought a video camera to film their daughter and all the special moments she would have.
Tony and Kathleen picked out the name Kayla Nicole and asked if I wanted to add or change part of it. I had never thought of a name because I knew that I wasn’t going to keep her, but it was so special to be asked asked. So we all decided that she would also have the middle name Leigh. (Leigh is my dad’s middle name, my middle name, and the birth father’s middle name, though we all spell it ‘Lee’.) Tony and Kathleen were there when Kayla Leigh Nicole made her appearance into the world at 2:19 a.m. on Monday, August 24, 1998.
It was the most amazing thing I have ever been through. It was a shock to see the little one that had been kicking me and giving me heartburn for the past nine months. She was so beautiful and perfect– a true gift from God. I had a day and a half with her in the hospital. She cried and screamed almost the entire night. I don’t know what I would have done if my mother hadn’t been there. Kayla wanted to be held all the time, and I was afraid that if I held her in my sleep I would crush her. But sometime during the night I woke up with her in my arms– I have no idea how she got there. I slept holding her until early the next morning.
Tuesday afternoon I checked out of the hospital and Kayla went home with me for the afternoon. Once we got there my mom left to run errands, and I was completely alone for the first time with my daughter. I think both of us were tired from the night before and I lay down with her in my arms and we slept. It was bittersweet having Kayla cuddled up on my shoulder knowing that we only had these few hours together as mother and daughter before I would take her to her new home and new parents. Then I would become her birth mother, and someone else would become her mommy. As the hours slipped by, I explained to her how much I loved her and how she was a gift from God, but not a gift I could keep for myself; one I had to share with others. Then I cried for the first time since she was born– my heart was breaking.
The time came for my mother and I to go to Kathleen and Tony’s for the entrustment ceremony and to give Kayla to them. It was the worst drive of my entire life. My heart kept screaming for my mother to stop the car and turn around– I couldn’t do this. But eventually we arrived at their house.
Everyone was there and we were the last to arrive. During the ceremony, Tony and Kathleen read aloud letters they had written to me and gave me some gifts. Afterwards we talked to the few people that had been invited and took pictures. As we drove home, I felt so much better and told my mom that I didn’t feel the great loss that so many people talked about– I felt like I had gained so much. Tony and Kathleen were now a part of our family, and when I saw the look on their faces when they held their daughter, I couldn’t help but notice the love that you could almost touch; it was so strong. If you can be a part of that kind of love, how can it be a bad thing?
Since then, we have continued learning more about how to make an open adoption work. Tony and Kathleen have brought Kayla to visit me and I go home about every three weeks and visit. My mother visits about once a week and is proud to be considered one of Kayla’s grandmas. We are very careful to give each other space, to avoid uncomfortable situations, and to talk about anything that is bothering us.
I’ve had some turbulent times since Kayla’s placement. A month after Kayla’s birth, I left for my second year of college thinking everything would be fine. After all, I had the ideal situation. What did I have to be upset about? I jumped back into life by becoming a full-time student, working 25 hours a week, and doing “just fine.” Except I cried myself to sleep every night, and some days I wouldn’t even get out of bed.
I didn’t let people know. I pretended that everything was fine. I saw other students with kids on campus and thought that maybe I didn’t try hard enough to find a way to keep my baby. I was haunted by the “what if’s.” I never regretted my decision, but I wondered what things would have been like if I had chosen to parent my baby girl.
I tried to push these feelings aside. I felt so lost I didn’t know what to do. So, I started to live the life everyone expected of a college student. I rarely went to my classes, worked late, partied even later, and tried to fill the emptiness in my life. Luckily, I was still so bitter over my relationship with the birth father; I didn’t try to fill the void with other guys. I hated all men and wasn’t afraid to tell every guy I met exactly what I thought of the male gender.
One day I took a look at my life and saw what a mess it was. I had finished fall quarter with a 1.68 grade point average and was put on academic probation. I was drinking way too much, and I didn’t even like the people I called “friends.”
I started to get my life in order. I went to church, quit partying, got a different job, and returned to class. More importantly, I allowed myself to mourn. Even though I understood that I had a wonderful situation– a beautiful daughter, a great set of adoptive parents, and the ability to visit and have contact– I still felt pain and loss. I found that it was normal and I needed to feel those emotions. I don’t think those feelings will ever fully go away. I will always mourn for the life that I could have had as Kayla’s mom, but I will never regret my decision. I love Kayla and her parents.
Lately the bad days have been fewer and fewer. I’m working through my different emotions and finding peace and order in my life again. Every time I visit, I see the wonderful child that we share. When I see how happy Kayla is, and how much her parents love her, I know that I made the right choice. I look forward to the years ahead and watching “our” beautiful Kayla grow up.