Monday, December 19, 2011

Two Years In, A Lifetime To Go

It’s hard to believe that two years ago, on December 13th, I gave birth to my son Reed. Two years is not very long ago in the grand scheme of things, but I like to think that I’m starting to establish my own traditions in how I celebrate this event. Even though it’s his birthday, I seem to think that I get to celebrate by treating myself to something somehow. Maybe it’s because of the connection I still feel towards him; if he celebrates I celebrate, even if I’m on the other side of the planet. This year the date happened to coincide with what also happened to be the most practical date for our new house warming party, so it really did feel celebratory. That morning I made one of my favorite desserts, a raw vegan version of a key lime pie (made pretty much with avocados, coconut, honey and lime, with a crushed macadamia nut crust… delicious and full of vitamins- yes! Low calorie- far from it) for his birthday cake, I wore the earrings that my friend Shelley gave me as a special gift when I was pregnant with him, listened to my “Reed” playlist of songs I sang to him when I was pregnant with him and now to myself when I think about him, and looked forward all day to the Skype date I had with him and Maura that night. I worked that evening and when I came home there were already friends over for the party, but I went up to my room for our date. It is so fun to see him, and Maura is fantastic at following him around with the camera so that even when just she and I are having an adult conversation, I get to see and observe him the whole time. How thoughtful she is to intuitively know that that’s exactly what I need! He did all sorts of cute things, like making his giant toy lobster get my nose and we would touch foreheads against the camera which he thought was particularly fun. He also showed me his sofa gymnastics and how fast he could run through the living room, trying to imitate Doug’s apparently show-stopping sideways slide on the slick wood floors. As entertaining and interactive as he was on the computer screen, I cannot wait to see him in person!

Towards the end of the conversation, I took my computer downstairs to where the party was happening, took out the pie with two lit candles, and we all sang happy birthday to him. He even blew out the candles on the computer screen. All of my friends of course commented on how adorable he is, which I know is obligation when your friends show off their kids, but I still like to think there is some genuine truth to it and I’m not just being completely biased when I swoon over those blond curly locks and that charming smile.

I’ve always tried to be open and honest about my experience with Reed, but putting him out in front of my friends so they could sing happy birthday to him brought it to a new level. While I don’t go around broadcasting it to strangers, I talk about him in casual conversation as I do any other member of my family; he is nothing for me to hide and I do not feel the need or desire to. When I first decided to place him for adoption I knew that it wasn’t anything I felt ashamed or embarrassed of, and didn’t think I should be. It’s true that at the time when I first found out I was pregnant I didn’t want it to happen, but now when I look back, if I had the choice to do anything different, even not getting pregnant in the first place, I wouldn’t change a thing. This is a really hard thing for most people to understand, and lately, as he has come up in conversation quite a bit in the past few weeks, I realize more and more that people don’t really need to understand.

I tend to think that I have to justify myself sometimes, to convince someone that what I did was what I really needed to do. Reasons start to come out, like I didn’t have a house, a stable job, insurance, a bed, more than two suitcases full of belongings, and I wasn’t in a lasting relationship with his birth father (though I always want to put in the disclaimer that Bill still continues to be a supportive birth dad to Reed and a close and cherished friend to me). However, the truth is that none of these things really warrant someone giving up their child. If a woman came to me with all of those same difficulties (which for me, they weren’t difficulties, they were just a regular part of the lifestyle I loved) and said she was pregnant and asked my advice, I would tell her that if she wasn’t completely convinced that this was the right thing to do, than she shouldn’t do it. I could have kept Reed, I could have moved in with one of my parents, I could have gotten two jobs and worked hard for the both of us, I could have tried to make something work with Bill. If I had decided on any of those roads, I would have had plenty of support from friends and family, and though it wouldn’t have been easy or ideal, we could have made it work somehow, as many single parents have done for thousands of years past and will continue to do so. I guess this is the part that’s hard for people to understand: I didn’t want to make it work, it wouldn't have been right, I would have had to force a lot of things that I didn't believe was the right thing to do. It wouldn't have been good for me or for him, and while many say that the best thing for a child is to stay with his mother, if that mother isn't doing what she truly feels is right by keeping that child than I don't agree. I just can’t explain how much I knew from the beginning that he belonged to someone else, and how I could love him so deeply and intensely while being so comfortable and at peace with giving him up.

But what I’ve realized more and more, especially this week, is that people don’t need to understand. Maybe they shouldn’t. I don’t think a mother needs to understand how someone else could give up their child when that mother has the light of her life in her arms and couldn’t imagine herself without him/her. She shouldn’t be able to easily identify with going through the laboring process after nourishing a life inside of her and then placing the fruit of that labor willingly into someone else’s care, giving him to someone else to love. A person, woman or man, who wants to have a family at some point or perhaps is trying to have one shouldn’t be able to relate to the feeling of preparing for the birth of a child while planning on giving it away. It’s not normal or natural, and I’ll be the first to admit it.

When I made the decision to be open about our open adoption, I knew it would bring out slew of varying reactions. Since I’ve been particularly up front about it this past week, I’ve had hugs, tears, and lots of questions as I’ve related my story. Honestly, I love the questions. “How? How could you give up your own son? What a child needs most is his mother,” a good friend said to me. I wasn’t offended at all, I appreciated her honesty and it was a genuine, mutually respectful conversation. I wish some of the people closest to me would be honest with the questions and doubts they have, because I know they are there. “What are you going to say to him when he’s older and is asking why?” “How is his mother suppose to feel confident in being his mother when you are still openly calling him your son?” “How can you be 100% convinced that you did the right thing, because I’m not sure you did.” Thank God for friends like that! (Or thank God for the consumption of a little liquid conversational lubricant which may or may not have been consumed during some of these conversations) These were not attacks like I’ve experienced before, they were questions asked while holding my hand, in conversations of mutual self disclosure and honesty, and often ended with hugs.

I’ve thought more about conversations I may have with Reed when he’s older and we really start to have conversations about the big WHY question. First of all, I hope that throughout his whole life we’ll have an open stream of dialogue so that nothing will creep up unexpected for him or me. I think he will always have a general sense of ‘why,’ but at some point of course he will become more in tune with his heart, which I hope will make him want to know more about other’s hearts, more about my heart. And then I’ll tell him, “Reed, the reason I gave you to them was because my heart told me to. I knew I loved you and always would, and my heart told me that there was a way to continue loving you, for us to still be a part of each other’s lives, even while it was telling me that you had a different mother waiting for you. If you know one thing about me, know this, that I have loved you from the beginning more than I’ve loved anything or anyone. And if you learn one thing in your life from me, I hope it will be this: that you should always follow your heart, even when no one in the world understands.”

I don’t ever want to shy away from questions about Reed, or why or what will happen or what do I think now. The ‘hard’ questions are the ones which make me think about him more, and I welcome that. Two years is a short time, and I by no means have everything figured out yet. I’m still learning how he is a part of my life and what role we play in each other’s. We (Maura, me, Doug and Bill) are all still learning about each other and how we somehow make a family, extended as it may be. Hopefully I have a long time coming to contemplate these questions and for many more people, including Reed, to ask them.

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