Following a summer that cannot be fathomed without the words turbulent and chaotic, August of 2005 proved to bring me yet one more twist. There was a slightly messy breakup in May. I turned 21 in June. Lost my job (and medical insurance) in July. And I bet that you can guess what happened in August. One year ago, at this writing. The little strip turned pink. ALL THE WAY PINK.
I cried for hours. I drank water, just so that I could cry some more. I heaved and sobbed like I’d never known I could. Scared? Try terrified. Confused? Try nauseatingly dizzy. I wasn’t even in a relationship. I was barely dating that man. That man whose life was somehow more screwed up than even my own. In fact, when I told him that I was pregnant, the next immediate words out of his mouth were, “Can you still give me a ride to the bar?” I just turned 21. Just six weeks ago. I felt like a child. I was a child. I was one semester deep into going back to college after a 2-year hiatus. How could I quit again? I lived four hours away from my closest family. I had a rent payment, yet I had just lost my job. I had nothing. And I was losing all of that nothing really, really quickly. And I didn’t understand how things could have gotten so bad.
I told my grandma within an hour of that positive test. She helped me develop the strength and the resources to tell my parents. Having raised one of them, she actually did know a thing or two. Within the week, I told them. They were calm and supportive, though obviously disappointed, and I will never forget the sound of my mother welling up with sobbing tears as she promised it would be okay and said goodbye.
The first 2 months were a blur. I spent most of it with my head on the toilet seat, and eventually found ways to make throwing up more comfortable. I sought counseling at a pregnancy crisis center, even spoke with an adoptive mother about my thoughts on adoption. It was at that point that I began to seek out the resources that I so desperately needed. I even got myself another job. As I was beginning to meet with an agency, I felt like they really wanted to schmooze me. Meaning: take me out to lunch, be my friend, do nice things. However, I was having difficulty talking business. I wanted numbers and figures. I wanted profiles of adoptive parents. I wanted black-and-white details in Times New Roman, font size 12. I wasn’t getting it, and restaurant food didn’t taste so good coming up.
During one phone conversation, my mom mentioned that she had located an Indianapolis-based attorney that specialized in adoptions. I thought that an attorney probably wouldn’t try to be so pretty and sweet about everything, and might give me the answers I was looking for. And he did. Two days after I made the phone call, he was in my part of the state meeting with me in a small airport conference room. He served the birthfather with legal notice of my intentions, and I knew what my options were. And he even managed to slip in how nice I looked, even though I was miserable, nauseous, and might have had a little bit of throw up on my shirt.
Ironically, it wasn’t until after this meeting that I decided to parent. Yay for parenting! I get to change diapers and wake up at night and quit school and find a babysitter and… wait, what? That lasted about 2 weeks. I had looked through several “Dear Birthmom” letters, which, by the way, are not worth the paper they’re printed on. (Story for another time.) Nothing jumped out at me. All rich, white, suburban, Christian couples seeking healthy, white infants with no strings attached. Boring.
Enter to one seemingly uneventful day in September…
3 pm: While I sat on my couch, watching addictive vh1 specials with a friend of mine, he picked one up out of the pile. This particular friend was with me at my very first Dave Matthews Band concert, number one of 25… so far. Then he said, as only a Dave Kid could say, “Do you see what I see?” At closer glance, the woman on the front of this 5-page letter was wearing a very blurred, yet unmistakable Dave Matthews Band shirt. This time, I read the letter with eagerness. The man was British. And British men are just something special for us American girls. The woman was a big DMB fan, and even took her husband to his first DMB show. I was loving her already.
4 pm: I called the attorney’s office, and said “I want them. I want them now. And don’t let anyone else have them.”
7 pm: I had my first phone call with the woman who is now a proud first-time mother. And is my son’s mommy. We talked for at least two hours. About everything there is. My pregnancy. Their infertility. The weather. The war. And of course, Dave Matthews.
We started a beautiful friendship, based on what we had in common, including the best interests of this child. I actually matched with C & R before I was 3 months pregnant. Normally, they don’t allow matches that early. It’s risky. It opens up more doors for pain and failed adoption plans. On the contrary, I had over 6 months to know and learn and love everything about them. And unlike any other adoption placement I’ve ever heard of, they were at my 20-week ultrasound, and saw a little pee-pee at the same moment I did. They really got to live out the pregnancy of their son. It was also during our first meeting that they offered me the beautiful chance to help name him, by choosing his middle name. We spoke on the phone almost weekly, and e-mailed in between. We sent pictures and cards. They sent me a Christmas present. And little pick-me-up’s when I was sad about not being able to work anymore. On our second visit, they met my mother, and we all went shopping for Henry’s leaving-the-hospital outfit. It was a memory that I will never forget. I remember asking about the baby’s room, and hearing about the crib they were getting. I asked if she had gotten a baby shower, and was happy to know that some of her friends had thrown one. The bottom line was that I DID NOT want them to sit around wondering, “What if… she changes her mind, she picks someone else, we do something wrong…” I wanted them to be awaiting this child with full faith in me. Having doubt in the air just makes things harder.
Just a couple of months later, I was in early labor. Dilated and having irregular contractions for weeks. But in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 8, 2006, the contractions were stopping me from sleep. I couldn’t get comfortable. And as much as I tried to just sleep through the whole thing completely, I had to wake up my mom and tell her that it was time. She bought me a Dr. Pepper and a donut on the way to the hospital, knowing that I wouldn’t eat for some time. Once the doctors gave the okay to go to delivery, C & R got their phone call, and I got some Pitocin. Then, 12 hours, 2 nurses, 1 doctor, 1 horrible anesthesiologist, 6 needle holes, way too much epidural medication, 1 hour of me attempting to convince the nurse that he was coming out the wrong hole, and 30 minutes of pushing later, Henry Guy was born at 4:59 pm. And he was a big-un’.
And I just stared at him. No words, no tears. I’ve never known love like I felt at that moment, and I said to him “Oh, that was you doing all of that.” I let my mom hold him while I ate more food in one sitting than I had in 5 months. I spent 48 hours exactly with my son. Looking at him, holding him, feeding him, changing him, and loving every little drop of him. He looked like a little version of me.
The morning after he was born, the papers were signed. The deeds were done. And I signed papers requesting the hospital to release my child to C & R when he was released. And then I left. And I will never forget walking out that door. And kissing him one last time. And seeing him one last time. And how much I wanted to run back down the hallway as fast as possible just to get that one last look. But I knew I had to say goodbye. And sooner was just as painful as later. They promised to let me know when they got home safe, and told me how much they loved me. I could see the struggle in their throats as they searched for the right ways to say Thank You. But I knew there wasn’t one. Because if there was, I’d have said it to them. Thank you for being who you are, thank you for being my son’s parents, thank you for everything that you mean to me, and everything that you are to my Henry. And once I left the room, he wasn’t my son anymore. He was my birthson.
Just a week after his birth, my first set of pictures came in the mail, and have arrived monthly since. I love the pictures and updates, they even sign his name. That’s right, newborn who signs his own name. I have a box, my Henry box, that has all of my hospital stuff. It has an outfit that he spit on, some blankets, a feeding cloth (with formula on it), his & my hospital bracelets, and lots of other special things. But don’t tell the women’s hospital, because I don’t think I was supposed to take the blankets…
I was discussing this writing with a very good friend of mine, because I had no idea how to end it. While seeking her opinion on the matter, she said “You can’t end it, because it’s not over.” I couldn’t have come up with anything better if I tried for the rest of my life. How true that is. There’s not an ending, and I know that there never will be. This “adoption thing” as it’s called, like they say about love, isn’t a noun. It’s a verb. It’s an ongoing journey and it lasts a lifetime. Being the grown-up Dave Kid that I am, I want to leave you with these thoughts.
“I remember thinking
I’ll go on forever only knowing
I’ll see you again
But I know
The touch of you is so hard to remember
But like that touch I know no other
Do what you will, always
Walk where you like, your steps
Do as you please, I’ll back you up”
~ “I’ll Back You Up”, Dave Matthews Band, RCA Records