April was about people. Telling people what was going on, that is. I had informed my younger brother and sister of the news in March, but now struggled with whether I should tell the rest of my large family prior to my sister’s wedding or after. By the end of the month, I would barely be showing, so I could probably have made it through the wedding weekend without revealing the secret, but after both of us waffling back and forth for weeks, we decided it would be best for everyone to know ahead of time rather than risk it coming out during the festivities. I had no desire to take the attention off of my sister during her big day, and this way, I could handle any questions or initial reactions ahead of time. In my typical non-confrontational style, I sent out a group message to my remaining family members with a straight-forward statement of the facts. Their reactions ranged from nonexistent to kind and supportive, with two of my siblings even immediately offering to raise the child, loving gestures for which I will forever be grateful.
I wasn’t as fearful of spreading the news of my pregnancy to my family as I might’ve thought. I was raised in an extremely conservative family, and, granted, if my mother had been alive to witness my discretion, I would have instantly gone on the list of people who had broken her heart. However, since her death, we have all grown up and become adults and made our own life choices, and, frankly, I wasn’t that ashamed of announcing that I was not a pure, sweet virgin. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t humiliating, though perhaps for a ridiculous reason. I had spent so much of my life claiming I would never, ever give birth to children that allowing this to happen was simply… well, embarrassing. I was reminded of Cary Grant’s character in the old movie Arsenic and Old Lace, who is greatly chagrined when he is discovered taking out a marriage license with the love of his life after publishing a renowned book on the foolishness of marriage.
Despite my uneasiness, I knew that the responses of my family members would ultimately have little to no affect on the reality of my situation. The decisions that needed to be made going forward were only mine to make. The child was only mine to carry and birth. Although I had carefully hidden my pregnancy on the ship in order to avoid becoming a central gossip topic, I really had no problem with letting anyone know now. “I’m not shouting it from the rooftops, but neither am I hiding it,” I said. Being open about my pregnancy to those around me, to whoever wanted to know, was actually very liberating. I had some amazing conversations with friends, family, coworkers, and even total strangers throughout the next several months, which is why I want to continue to communicate my story now. This turned out to be a pretty incredible journey, and I can only hope that the things I experienced and learned will help someone else feel inspired or informed or more capable.
By this time, I was talking about adoption as a fairly set decision. As a person who hates to close the door on any opportunity, I couldn’t help sliding in little clauses now and then about the possibility of me raising this child, but when I was being most honest with myself, I knew that would not happen. Anytime I considered how my life would change with a baby in it, the first thing I thought about was all my varied dreams: the career I wanted to pursue, the degrees I wanted to earn, the countries I wanted to live in, the hobbies I wanted to take up. I was so afraid that if I gave up those dreams in order to dedicate my life to being a mother, that I would end up resenting my child someday for taking those things away from me. I was looking on motherhood as a burden I would have to bear, as a lifelong punishment. That seemed like one of the most selfish things I had ever thought. How could I be that selfish, that devoted to my own being and happiness, and allow myself to raise a child?
I knew I could do it, logistically. I can do anything I set my mind to. My mom trained her children from early childhood on how to be good wives and mothers. I had taken care of multiple children of varying ages in the past. I could figure out the finances, I could work hard, I could – technically – be a mother. I mean, at twenty-four, I didn’t even have the excuse of being far too young.
But just because I could didn’t mean I should. I was unsure if I would ever be able to love “this thing,” as I often referred to it. I have an extremely short attention span and have often grown bored of relationships or activities shortly after beginning them. How could I guarantee that I wouldn’t become tired of mothering and want to give it up and move on to the next thing? How much worse would it be for me to start out and then discover I could not finish than to simply never start at all? I realized that no matter which decision I made, I would, somewhere down the road, have regrets. If I chose to give the child to a wonderful, loving family, then only I would have to face those regrets, but if I chose to raise the child, those feelings of regret could and probably would be manifested in bitterness or anger towards the child itself. Because of my own selfishness, I knew I couldn’t allow myself to raise my baby.
That wasn’t as easy a decision as it may sound though. Despite all the glaring evidence telling me I wasn’t ready to be a mom (I mean, come on – when a child touches me, I jump like a giant bug landed on me), there was still a list of things I had always imagined I would do for my child. Literally, I made a list. There were things like writing letters to my unborn child to be delivered to them when they were an adult, something I had always found wonderfully touching despite my desire to avoid pregnancy for infinity. There were images in my head of reading my favorite books to my child, of allowing them to pursue whatever activity they wanted, of feeding them gourmet food instead of chicken nuggets, of taking them on grand adventures around the world even at a young age. Now, faced with the opportunity to begin those adventures, it became glaringly obvious that those were only highlights. Unrealistic highlights at that. I couldn’t base the fate of a new human being on a few quaint pipe dreams, especially considering that the reality of single motherhood would hardly allow me to achieve most of them.
Another struggle was my jump to the other side of the adoption tracks. I am very passionate about adoption. The chance to raise a child and love a child who may have otherwise been abandoned or aborted is incredible. Children who are adopted are never unplanned or unwanted by their parents; they are fervently pursued and desired. Honestly, it saddens me a little how much people will struggle to conceive a child of their own, so set on it having their DNA, when there are thousands of children around the world desperate for a home, love, and a family. As I mentioned before, I had always assumed that later on in life, I would be adopting children of my own.
Yet here I was, placing a child into the very system from which I longed to take children. I found myself on the opposite side of the table from where I had always expected and wanted to be, and it was disconcerting. I couldn’t help but question whether I was doing the right thing in placing my child up for adoption. I remember wondering what that child would end up thinking if I went on to adopt other children in ten, fifteen, or twenty years. I still wonder that. How could I give one child away because I didn’t feel ready to love it as I should, and later on, decide I was ready to love someone else?
I don’t have answers to those questions yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel ready to be a mother, if I’ll be haunted by my decision to turn down motherhood now, if I will open up to the idea of giving birth to my own children, if I’ll be able to love those children without feeling guilty about the one I gave away, if I’ll ever allow myself to see this as not only the right decision, but also a good decision…
We can’t know everything in advance. Heck, maybe we can’t know anything in advance. I don’t know who this child will turn out to be, what my relationship with it will be like, or where both of our lives will take us in the future. All I can do is make what I feel is the wisest and kindest decision for it now, then let life happen.