I thought the car ride from Agency, Missouri, to Lawrence, Kansas on January 2, 2011, was the scariest drive of my life. I had just spent the day at my grandma’s house, where some of my extended family celebrated the holidays. Everyone took turns asking if I was sick, if I was tired, if I was sure I had enough to eat. My mood was infectious, and the get-together was a little solemn. When my dad, my stepmom Kelley, my little brother Lucas and I got into our seats to drive home, all were quiet — I, the eye of the tornado.
I knew I had to tell them in the car. My personality was often quiet and pensive, but they could tell there was something weighing more heavily on me than normal. I waited until Lucas fell asleep. In the darkness I kept straightening my spine and sitting forward in an attempt to create enough momentum to fling the words out of my mouth. My dad and stepmom in the front seat may have felt the change of energy, but I guess they couldn’t find any observable difference to mention to me. After about an hour of driving, my chest was beating wildly and I finally had had enough of the suffering or found enough courage to lean slightly forward and say “I’m pregnant.”
“What did you just say?” my dad snapped. He had heard me, but it hadn't absorbed just yet.
I waited a beat.
Kelley said, “Are you sure?”
I responded affirmatively with my mouth closed.
My dad said, “The guy that just broke up with you?”
Again, affirmative sounds.
It felt like no one was going to speak again. The space in the car was completely dark, my body felt empty, like the senseless universe. At some point Kelley asked me what I was going to do. And though my dad seemed angry in the beginning, he expressed he would support my decision. The most logical option was clear. But the word abortion was never said.
A week later, I started to feel different. It was a shift from “This is the End of My Life,” to “I am Six Weeks Pregnant and I Don’t Know What This Means.” I suspended my doubt about my doom. I started to feel affection for the tiny thing inside of me. I told friends I sensed it was a girl. She became real. But so did my situation. I was nineteen, a college dropout, a McDonald’s employee, the ex-girlfriend of the biological father and severely depressed.
I did some research online about adoption and very quickly found Angie and George. I don’t remember when I reached out to the agency, but I told them directly who I wanted to parent my baby. I entertained other options, but just so I could say I was diplomatic. I knew where my heart was.
I remember our first phone call. I imagined that in their situation, where they wanted something so badly and didn’t have ultimate control over the decision, it might have been tempting to tell me what I wanted to hear. But I could sense their genuineness, and I could feel that they didn’t want to pressure me. They wanted it to be right for everyone and that was the only way I was going to do this thing, too.
The car ride from Lawrence, Kansas, to Merriam, Kansas, on August 31, 2011, was the scariest drive of my life. The space in the car was dark, and my body felt as full as the universe, as every minute and 20 seconds I leaned forward with my mouth open, breathing through contractions. We got to the hospital around 3 a.m. I joked with my stepmom and the nurses as we waited.
It was 9:03 in the morning when Ellie was born.
After her arrival into this world, her pale purple, placenta-crusted body was placed on my chest. I put an arm underneath her and a hand on her head. I remember looking at her, teetering between feeling scared because I had never held a being so new and helpless and feeling completely at peace with where I was and what I was doing. As hard as I had tried beforehand, those emotions in no way could have been anticipated. There was magic in how it just was. There was magic in being a mother.
I try to be as open as possible about being a birthmother. It used to hurt when people asked me why I did it, when I knew they weren’t trying to offend me. I think it is because it was triggering the question inside that I was afraid to ask myself: How could I love Ellie so much and be able to give her up?
It’s taken quite a bit of soul-searching to get to a place where I have been able to look at myself and answer this question without fear. It is true that I cared about her very deeply, and it is also true that I wasn’t ready to be a mother. I am so lucky that adoption was available to me and that I found two wonderful people who were ready to be parents, because it was the only way to make a decision that coincided with my highest values of love and respect for Ellie’s life and mine.
With time, healing and maturity, I have started to rely less on other’s responses as validation and just enjoy sharing my story as a way for me to open the door to human connection. It’s as if my experience is only one of the infinite ways to say, “I have felt pain, too; it has made me who I am, and I am proud of that.”
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