The first photo is of me 30 years ago – a pregnant, almost-17-year-old junior in high school. The second is a recent photo of me, wife, mother, grandmother, professional, scholar, writer, and birth mom. Since the day when I earned the sacred title of birth mom, society has continued the attempt to silence me. There was the family member who complained that I brought up my “story” too much; there was the church leader who asked me to say that I had three children instead of four; there was the student who had not been told he was adopted, but when he found out I was a birth mom, figured it out; there was the parent who demanded I be fired as a teacher because I was a “bad example;” there was another adopted student who loved me as her teacher and, after finding out I was a birth mom, searched for and found her birth mom on the Internet behind her parents’ backs and whose parents blamed me for putting “family-destroying ideas” into her head . . . I could go on and on.
I have learned so much from this experience, but one of the biggest lessons is now one of the principles that I live by: SECRETS DESTROY LIVES. I refuse to be silenced. Because I chose not to hide my grief of losing a child by choice, I have been able to help other young women and their parents who find themselves in a similar situation to me. There was the mother who stopped me in the grocery store begging me to assure her that her daughter would be okay, and I was able to use myself as an example of the blessing of adoption. There was the couple who chose an open adoption instead of a closed one after hearing my story. There were also many students who reached out to me when things in their lives were difficult because they knew that I hadn’t been the “perfect” kid or had the “perfect” life.
Sure, there have been many who have gone from being friendly to lukewarm, cold, or even hostile when they find out that I was pregnant out of wedlock. I know that I carry baggage and still struggle. Yet, I wouldn’t change a single thing. I am the mother of four children. The mother’s ring that I have worn for almost 20 years has the birthstones of not only the three children who call me “Mom,” but also the birthstone of the one I placed for adoption in an era when all adoptions were closed. For 22 years, all I had of him were a couple of blurry Polaroid photos, a hospital bracelet, a card with his birth name, weight, length, and time of birth, and a hospital birth certificate with inked footprints and my thumbprints.
Now, because of a miraculous reunion, I have a bracelet that has the birthstones of me and my husband, our three children, a daughter-in-law, and a granddaughter as well the birthstone of my birth son, his wife, and his four children. I now have photos and memories of our adventures to the zoo, the lake, and the park as well as graduations and weddings, births, and funerals.
He calls me “Lisa” out of respect to his precious mother, which is just the way it should be. I am not his mom, and I don’t try to be. Even though I am not his mom, he is my son. I once asked him what I should say to people when they asked me how many children I had. I was so afraid that he would think that if I said “four” that I was infringing on his mom and dad. He told me, “I would be offended if you didn’t say four. You are not my mom, but you are my birth mom, and that gives you every right to claim me as your own. Anyway, that gives my kids one more grandma to spoil them.”
No, this is not the end of my story, but it is an end to this series. But not to fret–I will be sharing more of my story from another angle. Look for it at Adoption.com. It will be titled “Refusing to Be Silenced: A Birthmom’s Journey of Healing.”
Read the Other Parts of This Series: