My childhood ended the night my water broke on a cold hospital floor.
Mortified, I quickly apologized to the nurse who walked in
and questioned, eyes still on her chart,
“You’re still giving this baby up?”
It was brisk business.
“Yes,” the word comes from the far back of my throat and I’m embarassed by the sound.
She raises a syringe to my arm and rubs vigorous with wet cotton
that smells like my pediatritian’s office.
“This will help dry up your milk.”
Dry up. I know these words. They mean don’t feel so hard. Don’t say too much.
Stay small. And sweet. And agreeable. A shot to help me be agreeable.
Let’s all just get through this as pleasantly as possible, they seem to say.
But this doesn’t feel like Becky and Patty anymore.
I’d moved in across the street from their families
the Summer before second grade and we’d quickly become friends.
Becky showed me the picture of her home-going
one hot afternoon while we played inside with paperdolls.
There were two smiling parents standing on a white covered porch, a baby safeheld in their arms.
“So you’re adopted,” my mind wrapped around the idea as I took in the happy of her room.
“Yes, and Patty next door, too.” Patty, whose Mom’s quick smile filled the kitchen while she fried bologna slices and offered more tea.
I loved their home. And the way my name sounded when her Dad said it warm,
like I was more than a guest at their house.
It hasn’t been so terribly long ago since he drove us to matinees and little league.
I can see their houses from the window when I hear the results of my pregnancy test.
The weeks that follow are a hard tumble on some heavy rocks and I agonize.
This is an impossible decision. I don’t see a win-win……there just isn’t one for me.
I call them – the place where Becky and Patty’s parents smiled. I picture again their birthday parties
and scavenger hunts, shiny roller skates and the tree house that their Dad’s together built.
They of the porch sound kind on the phone and will become a strong voice in my ear
as my belly grows.
They are the matronly ones that knock on my door for the nine months before she is gone
and each week the last several of my pregnancy. The ones sent to support my choice for adoption
with words like “unfit” and “unwed” – the ones who assure that everyone isn’t meant to be a mother.
They have come to harvest my baby. At least that’s what I feel, but I don’t say the words.
My own voice goes clinched like a fist holding on because I’ve made up my mind
and I hate them for trying to take what I’ve already decided to give.
A new family is going to be born and I won’t be a part.
I am the outsider; they coach me on my role.
It’s my job to disappear. They will not offer me a shot for this.
It’s a difficult delivery and I spend hours in recovery before I’m wheeled back into the room where they will come with the papers.
I cannot stop crying and send them away. I read the impatient fear in their eyes and feel the push,
the press, the please don’t screw this up.
I can feel how anxious they are to not disappoint parents. Her parents.
But I can’t sign right now. Come back tomorrow. It’s not going to happen like this.
I won’t be stripped of her. I call Brother B.
This grandfatherly man is my pastor. I haven’t known him long but right now he is my lifeline and I need him to come.
He does and pulls on gloves and gown and, with him, they roll her little bed out into the hall and let me take her.
B is patient as I push her cart, carrying her with my eyes, to the sterile room where I offer her my finger and she holds on tight.
He begins to pray out loud and I dig down deep to say my heart to the One who I believe is listening with love.
“I’m not giving her away. I’m not, dammit. And they’re not taking her. I give her to you. Take care of her, please.”
And so it is done.
I don’t meet their eyes when I finally sign. I don’t answer later when they call to see how I am.
How do they think I am? I’m bereft and between. I’m counting days, suspended; I have 28 of them to change my mind
and I will myself through each one.
I want her waiting to be over…..for her parents to have and hold her wholeheartedly.
For her to belong. I busy myself against the pain.
I have become in every way un-fit. I don’t fit anywhere, an outsider.
I avoid old friends. I’m a face person and I read too much on theirs.
And I see babies everywhere.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Now, 29 years later, they are calling again and they want information fast.
My head swims and I buckle just a little with each wave, but I’ll ride them in time and with joy.
I’ve been on the out and life has tossed me a line, offering to pass her a note inside.
They’ve let me send an e-mail. Medical advice. But she needs more from me. I know it.
She needs to know my whys.
“I want to write her a letter.”
I’ve held my love up quiet for three decades,
waiting for a door and it has opened.
I will be censored, every line scanned for approval, but I’m free at last to write
and I begin to push my pen and shave off tender portions of me
to offer Dear Allison.
(So much back story, I know. But I can’t tell it any other way. I’ll wrap ’round and ’round
the staircase until it’s told, this Summer series. Hold my hand if you get dizzy; we’ll steady each other:)
Thanks for being along.)
“But what if the great secret insider-trading truth is that you don’t ever get over the greatest losses in your life?
Is that good news, or bad news, or both? The pain does grow less acute, but the insidious palace lie that we will get over
crushing losses means that our emotional GPS never finds true north, as it is based on maps that never mention
the most important places we have been to. Pretending that things are neatly boxed up and put away
robs us of great riches.”
– Anne Lamott