so much regret
September 18, 2012 § 3 Comments
At the time I was choosing your parents, I felt so worthless and insecure and guilty. All I wanted was to fix my mistake, to redeem myself as better than an irresponsible girl who got knocked up. I had known about my pregnancy for a couple weeks when I went to the adoption agency. And here I was, looking at all these people who wanted children, who were successful and happy and in a loving marriage and seemed better than me, more deserving, in every way. I had held the belief for a long time that I did not want children and that I would make a bad parent. I was cold, distant, selfish, impatient, stingy, and needed too much time to myself. Only afterwards did it come to me, as in a montage of flashbacks, all the instances in which I had displayed enormous emotional maturity and given everything of myself to those I loved, without expecting anything. I did it because I wanted to. I had been so hard on myself I was blind to my real qualities. I know now I would be a generous, loving, affectionate mother.
I didn’t realize either that who you are before and after becoming a parent is not the same person. The fact of being a mother did not change just because I didn’t raise my child. It was something that happened to me regardless. Adoption is not like abortion, where you are suddenly “un-pregnant,” and that’s how I viewed it. I didn’t understand the emotional gravity of the situation. I didn’t realize how profoundly I would change, everything would change, once you were here.
The 42 hours that I spent with you in the hospital were the best hours of my life, as well as the worst because I knew I would have to say goodbye. I had counseled myself to not be swayed by my emotions in the hospital. Everyone warned me about how frequently that happens. I thought it weak, to change my mind based on emotion. It didn’t occur to me that I had chosen adoption based on emotion, especially fear. I thought I was being strong by ignoring my feelings. I knew I would fall in love with you and it would be hard, but I committed myself to do it and have it done and to not back out. I wanted to back out and I didn’t and I wish I had.
“Reason is, and ought to be, slave to the passions.” How could I have forgotten? In life, logic and reason is nothing compared to the heart. I changed my mind after you were born. And I went ahead and signed the papers anyway. Oh god. I wish so badly I hadn’t. I wish I had told the ladies from the agency to fuck off, I could never leave my baby. I wish I had told my mom to go to the store and buy a car seat for me because I couldn’t leave the hospital empty-handed.
Instead, David and I wheeled your hospital crib down the hallway, where C and L and their caseworker were waiting. We said goodbyes, barely able to look at them. We left the hospital as quickly as we could. Neither of us could believe we had done that. I was crying so hard, like I would never stop. I felt empty and ripped apart.
That was the day after David and I signed the paperwork, which was at 8pm on August 8th. You were a day old. We sat together in my hospital recovery bed and signed everything they handed us. I was quiet the rest of the night after that, trying not to think about everything. When David and my friend Sara fell asleep, I began crying and didn’t stop until long after being discharged from the hospital the next day. I didn’t sleep at all. You cried every hour wanting to nurse, and you would nurse for so long that my arms hurt from holding you. This didn’t bother me. I loved holding you close, seeing your beautiful little face pressed against me. I could smell your sweet baby smell and I watched you fall asleep to the comfort of my heartbeat. I could’ve spent eternity holding you and been happy.
I cried and cried. How could I give you to someone else? You were mine and David’s, and we made you with so much love. You were a part of me and it was me you depended on. The importance of this had never occurred to me. When you were born, I felt silly and incompetent because I had no experience with babies. But throughout that first day, watching my mom and Sara and various nurses swaddle you, change your diaper, burp you, I realized slowly that I could learn all of it. And that night, every time you cried, I didn’t feel scared. I knew exactly what to do, and the conviction grew in me that I would always know what to do. I would always be able to comfort you. My mantra when I was in labor was, as suggested to me, “I am not afraid, I was born to do this.” The realization that I was born to do this too, to be a mother, filled me with ice. I felt sick, holding you, my perfect baby that I had signed away. I had been so stupid, never thinking of what you would mean to me.
When I was pregnant, I prematurely resigned myself to being a mere vessel for bringing you into the world, and only that. And now that I knew I wanted to keep you and was capable, it was too late. All I could do was accept a lifetime of pain and grief, a wound inside that never heals. Never ever feeling understood by anyone, unable to laugh and have fun, thinking that other people’s conversations are trivial and stupid. All I can do now is accept my mistakes, even if I am unable to forgive myself for making them. All I can do is to keep going, keep going to school, going to work, keep holding on, eating and sleeping and waking up, over and over and over. Keep trying my best, smiling, making the effort to treat people with kindness, to leave the world better than I found it. I don’t want to continue to live when all I can think of is dying. But I have to.
I hope I have the opportunity to relive those moments in the hospital and have the outcome be different. I hope I get to be a mom someday soon. But nothing and no one could ever replace you in my memories and my heart. No single being will ever be more special to me. You would have been the one to teach me about love and joy. You would’ve been my love and joy. Oh my beautiful son. You were just so cute. No one could get over what a precious baby you were. I know everyone says that, but it’s true. You were so smart you latched onto me right away and had no trouble nursing. You were alert immediately after birth. And you were so strong for a newborn, and you could practically hold your own head up. Your cries were so adorable. Even my labor and delivery with you went perfectly. I had you naturally without pain relief or any interventions, and you were born perfectly healthy. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Being pregnant with you was a wonderful experience too, aside from the emotional aspect which was awful. I steered clear of all the complications and health problems that are so common. I never even had morning sickness or heartburn, which is almost unheard of. If only I had had a loving partner and happier circumstances, then I would’ve loved being pregnant. I guess you can only have so much.
I have a gorgeous wooden box in my closet, and I made it a memory box for you. When I get pictures and letters from your parents I’ll put them in there, but so far I have our hospital bands–David’s, mine, and your tiny one–and your footprints, a lock of your hair, and my blood-stained polka dot nightgown I wore at the hospital. There is my birth plan, and the paper from Planned Parenthood confirming my pregnancy, and your hospital crib card. Most painful is the little hat they put on you immediately after you were born, so your head wouldn’t get cold. I didn’t even intend to take it, but when I was unpacking from the hospital it fell out of my bag.
I plan to get a tattoo for you. A stargazer lily, with a bud growing from its stem, about to bloom. I chose that flower because it’s one of my favorites, and recently I read: It is a combination of the finest features of the Oriental and Asiatic lilies from which it is derived, a pleasing result that enfolds the best of both worlds in the hybrid. That seems appropriate. You possess the best qualities of your parent flowers. You are the most perfect little arrangement of atoms.