…and why I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
It would be so easy to lie and say that I didn’t mean to get pregnant. No one would challenge me and I’d be able to publically avoid taking responsibility for this situation, but that’s pure bullshit and doesn’t help anyone, least of all me.
I got pregnant because I wanted him to stay.
I got pregnant because I was 19 and had yet to feel unconditional love in my life. I had been abandoned so many times and in so many ways that the desire to be loved, for someone to please Jesus not leave, felt like a craving does for an addict after 24 hours without a hit. But so so much more intense.
I thought I’d make the man I admired and thought I loved tethered to me and that we’d create a new, perfect person who’d also have no choice but to love me…and I’d love them both with a zeal that would rival any martyr. It wasn’t a conscious choice, but it’s something I now know and am as sure about as I am that the sky is blue.
That didn’t make the moment that I found out I was pregnant any less of a mind fuck. It’s one thing to be like, “Hmmm….let’s see what happens if we “forget” the condom…getting pregnant wouldn’t be the worst. It could be fun!” and totally different when you realize, “Holy shit. There’s a human growing inside of me that has to come out one way or another. This is happening.”
But he stayed with me and I was happy. For a minute. He stayed with me, talking about apartments we could afford and how we would work together to finish our undergrad degrees while raising this little person that was part me and part the guy for whom I was over the moon. He stayed with me when we called his mom from his dorm room when I was 12 weeks along and we told her together, on speaker, that we had decided to have the baby. She cried. She was happy.
And then…he left.
A month later, 16 weeks pregnant, he ghosted me for almost three days. I sat in his dorm hall for endless hours waiting by his door. I called cease-less-ly…over and over and over until I got a busy signal because his roommates took the phone off of the hook. I waited for his friends outside of his dorm to ask if they had seen him. They rolled their eyes and ignored my “clingy bitch-ass” (yes, that’s a quote) and walked on.
When he showed up at my door, I had been in my bed for 24 hours. I rushed into a hug that was one-sided and devoid of reciprocal affection. I was wearing overalls because my baby bump had started to show and walking around one of the country’s most notorious party schools visibly pregnant was an invitation for shitty comments that I couldn’t endure without him by my side.
And he wasn’t.
He walked me over to his dorm where he put me on the phone with his dad. The man was a well-respected attorney and dressing people down was one of his superpowers.
He explained to me that his son had withdrawn from school and was getting on a plane the next day — that I would never see him again. He said he would pay for the abortion and that if I ever thought about contacting the family again I would regret it.
He added some spice about how I was a little trollop and that I should be ashamed of myself for trying to trap his son. He wasn’t wrong — but that didn’t make him or his son right.
Then he was gone. I never saw him again. When it came time to consent to the adoption, we couldn’t find him so we published a notice in his local paper.
I tried to figure out how to make it work, raising a baby alone at 19 in a state I had moved to just 6 months prior, where the only support I had were my unsupportive parents. It’s not shocking that I couldn’t figure it out.
My parents wouldn’t have allowed me to. They said that if I kept the baby, they would stop supporting me financially. They owned my condo, all of its contents, my car, paid my car insurance, and my undergrad tuition. They bought my groceries and my clothes. They said, “We have raised our kids. We aren’t raising another one.”
Except I hadn’t asked them to. Everyone told me they would come around…that they loved me and would eventually get excited at the idea of their first grandchild.
That never happened.
I waited until I was 35 weeks pregnant for them to change their minds. I waited to the point that, had I waited even a week longer, her future would’ve been compromised.
I had withdrawn from school and supplicated in front of some bureaucratic university “compassionate withdrawal” committee — bearing my soul, sharing my loss and exposing my belly and my shame to strangers — in order to request that they refund my parents’ tuition money for the semester.
And they did.
My parents weren’t impressed. I could’ve saved myself the effort for all they cared.
I got a job working 30 plus hours per week, which was all my ever-growing body could handle. Pregnant exhaustion is like no other kind of exhaustion. My days consisted of sleeping and waiting for the next time I could sleep.
My parents were unmoved. I researched resources and possibilities for my life as a 19-year-old completely single mom, and they boiled down to this fact: I was going to lose this game of chicken with my parents because my options were to a.) literally be homeless and keep her or b.) finish my undergrad and live without her. I would’ve taken homeless if the decision were just about me and it meant she could stay…but it wasn’t just about me anymore.
In that scenario, she would be homeless too and I just wasn’t that fucking selfish.
So I placed her in an open adoption. I read book after book, trying to figure out how to make this acidic, steel-spiked horse pill a little easier to swallow. I settled on open adoption figuring that if I was giving someone my firstborn child, they could at least give me their full names. There were no truly “open” adoption agencies in my metro area so I contacted the author of an open adoption book that really resonated with me who lived 5 states away.
She ran an adoption agency and she was at my door two days later.
It took two days to pick a couple and another week to meet them. We stayed in touch for the next three weeks and they were present for her birth when my water broke dramatically and unexpectedly 10 days before she was due.
And then she was gone.
Things have varied from incredibly shitty to incomparably awesome since then, but I wouldn’t have any of it if I had kept her.
Her parents and I have had some dustups. We don’t speak anymore, now that she is 20 years old. My two oldest girls follow her on Instagram and she follows them back, but she doesn’t follow me and that’s okay.
According to her mom, she had some abandonment issues and seemed to wrestle with her identity and finding her place in the world. She struggled to figure out “who she is” in the context of her origin story and I carry some guilt about that.
She has since reconnected with her birth father and has visited him several times in Hawaii with his wife and three children. At first I really begrudged that. I was the one who kept her. I was the one who carried her. I was the one who suffered for months — years — after I let her go. However, I eventually figured out that reconnecting with him was in her best interests, so I let it go.
The good parts are this: she changed me for the better. I was an emotionally friable, traumatized, confused, young woman before I had her. After her birth, I finished my undergrad in two years, taking between 19–24 hours per semester to make up for the one in which I withdrew. I made the Dean's List every semester, despite my overloaded course schedule.
When life became overwhelming and wanted to give up, I told myself, “If you give up now, this was all for nothing. You gave away your baby for nothing. You will have failed her.” And so I kept going.
My birth daughter is beautiful. She looks just like her birth dad and my two oldest kids joke that my genes are “incredibly submissive”. She lives a life ensconced in love and support and privilege…things I never could’ve offered. And, for over here in the cheap seats, she has both benefitted and suffered for it.
As torturous as the pain caused by the loss of parenting my first child was, I know that it had to happen. I’m convinced that I would’ve self-destructed right into the grave if I hadn’t had her. My body knew it. My subconscious knew it. I risked my life through childbirth to keep us both alive.
My four girls, for whom I am now a full-time, single mom, are my reason for living. I’m right where I need to be and everything that has led me to this moment has been worthwhile. The experience of my birthdaughter’s adoption kept me on this earth and taught me essential lessons about the person I want to be.
When I look at all of my girls, my birth daughter and my four daughters, I am filled with both grief and gratitude.
This is a journal entry I wrote from when she was three months old, recounting the day I let her go:
The End of My First Motherhood
Journal Entry from 1/5/2000 2:43am — My daughter is 3 months, 1 day old
There will always be grief, but I’ll never have regrets.