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I Once Held You in My Arms... My Adoption Story Pt. 2

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

Well, it’s been what seems like eons since I wrote my first story. You may ask why I didn’t write this sooner. The answer is simple. The answer is, I didn’t know I would have a second story to tell. Which is actually interesting since the second story started within the first story. Confused a little? Don’t worry, instead, let me bring you along on this journey.

While I was searching for my birth mother, back in my original story, I mentioned that I failed at so many relationships. I mentioned that I didn’t always have the funds for internet. I mentioned that I believed I was never a whole person due to not coming to terms with my adoption. I would like to be clear and tell you this was not by any means my birth mother’s fault. This just… was. Everyone processes similar life events, well, differently. I was unable to process being adopted for the longest time. I’m not really sure why that is, being as I had a stable home environment, but in any case, I struggled with it HARD.

One of those failed relationships took place in the year 1997. I was 24 years old. I happened to be with a person who I should have known from the get-go was not “my person.” My ability to choose life partners was broken, as I didn’t even know who I was. If I didn’t know who I was, how could I possibly know who I should be with?

As my self induced luck would have it, I became pregnant. I already had a 5 year old son and a 3 year old daughter to care for. I lived in an apartment in Virginia, Minnesota with my children and the guy in my life. He was not necessarily a bad guy, but he was definitely bad for ME. I really don’t want to talk about him, but I will tell you the circumstances surrounding me during this time.

At the time, I had a job working for the clinic, answering calls and sending up messages to the physicians or nurses. I became unable to maintain child care for my children during my job hours, and so I needed to quit. Money was tight at best. I was basically alone in this apartment- alone and scared. I was washing clothes in the tub, with hand soap. I was not eating in order to make sure my children ate. I was going to the Salvation Army for meals. It was not set up this way, it was not supposed to be this way at all. Things happened that were not necessarily in my control. I was sending my kids to my parents house as often as they would take them, so that they could eat well. On top of this, I was pregnant and due in a few month’s time. My relationship was falling apart, and like I said, I was very much alone.

I remember my dad coming over to pick up the kids one night. Our apartment was a mess. I couldn’t keep up with it. It felt like my life was crumbling and everything was spiraling out of control. (Maybe that’s why I’m such a sergeant about my home now, I feel very much in control when my house is clean.) Anyway, my dad clearly looked uncomfortable with whatever was on his mind that day. He could barely look at me. I’m not sure if it was because it hurt to see my situation, or if he didn’t want me to feel embarrassed by my situation, or if he just felt badly about what he was about to say. Maybe it was all of the above. Finally he managed to ask me what my plan was for after I had my baby. I had no plan.

Turns out, I would have no home either. We were about to be evicted. Not officially, but it was coming, I knew it. I do not remember the exact words of our conversation, but the gist of it was this: My dad said that a couple that was a friend of theirs, (and also known to me) was wanting to adopt another child. They already had one child they adopted, and wanted that child to have a sibling. I had known this couple from my childhood. They were maybe 10 years older than me. They were on a waiting list, I believe, and my dad hinted that perhaps this could be an option for my situation.

Wait. I need to say a few things first. Firstly, I was going to regular checkups at the clinic with this pregnancy. I was watching and feeling this baby growing inside me and although I was barely with his father any longer, I loved this little being in my belly more than I knew I could. Secondly, my parents love their grandchildren- my other two children. They would love this child just as much. This wasn’t a situation of “this baby didn’t matter like my previous ones did.” This was a situation where my parents lovingly looked at the reality of my circumstances, and based on the dismal display of living I was doing, they were probably worried for this baby. Ok that’s what I needed to say. Back to the story.

At first, I was shocked and felt like I had been slapped. I felt angry, hurt, sad, relieved, worried, upset, sick. I think my dad took my kids with him that night… or was he dropping them off… I cannot remember. I just remember feeling gobsmacked. I hated him in that instant, hated him for even suggesting this. My heart hurt, and my pride was taking a fiery dart like it was being hurled with all the force of an accomplished warrior. The reality of my life was more real that day than any other. The blow to my ego, my pride, my ability to be a success made my psyche come crashing down all around me. This story is painful to tell, because I’ve blocked a lot of my feelings out of those days. I could call and ask my dad and mom what I said or did, they probably remember even if I don’t. I can’t do that though, because it still pains me. I don’t want to know.

I just remember eventually agreeing to do this, because I felt I would never be able to give this baby anything good. It didn’t seem fair, no matter which angle I looked at it from. Anthony and Chloe were so little, and having divorced their father only a bit before, they were dealing with their own things. They didn’t need to deal with mine. I didn’t really say a word to them about anything. This unborn baby, he didn’t need to be brought into my chaotic, unsettled world. Yes, I knew the baby was a boy, and I had been super happy about that. I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to house him if I didn’t figure life out right away. I was at the mercy of people who weren’t fond of me (my current children's father, and the father of THIS baby). So the chances of a pleasant transition to another home didn’t look promising.

I remember telling my OBGYN - Dr. Passal, about my choice. Dr. Passal was very special to me. He never judged me, not once. He never made me feel as if I were “less than” because of this pregnancy. He admired my choice and told me that adoption was special for him, because they had adopted their children. He let me know that I was doing a brave thing. I needed to hear that, because I didn’t feel brave. I felt like a giant failure.

Oh wow, this story is incredibly humbling to write! I’m normally a very private person about my past, my life, my choices, and my traumas. Yet, this story needs to be told. For all who are adopted, and all who choose adoption, this story needs to be told. Also, it has a good ending. I promise.

There were people with clipboards and notebooks and forms and files who got involved once the decision was made. I had to sign so many things, so many papers. I only asked that this would be an “open” adoption. I wanted updates and photos every couple of months. I wanted to be able to see him grow up, even if it had to be from afar. The couple he was going to were very kind people, I knew they were. I do not believe I could have made this decision if he were going to complete strangers. I knew they would love him and never abuse him, and take care of him and give him everything I could not. That was my only comfort. I knew they would teach him about God, and I knew he would be given a chance at a good life.

The day came for the birth of my son. The father chose not to be present, and instead, a dear friend of mine came with. Up until a few years ago, I had blocked out so much of this event, that I had forgotten she was with me at the hospital! She kindly reminded me that she was there, and since then, memories are coming back to me. She knew I was alone, she knew I needed someone. I didn’t want my parents there in the room. It was too much of a private moment for me and I had no idea how I would react or behave. It was easier with Alicia there for whatever reason.

Prior to the birth, Dr. Passal asked me my thoughts on holding my baby right after he was born. I didn’t want to, I was actually afraid I wouldn’t give him back if I did. Dr. Passal encouraged me to hold him, because studies have shown that women who do not hold their babies prior to them being placed into adoption will sometimes have nightmares regarding the baby. I didn’t want nightmares on top of the stress and the trauma of it all, so I agreed, even though I was terrified.

I was induced, that was the plan from the start. This way I would be assured that Dr. Passal would deliver him. He had been with me from the very beginning, and I didn’t want anyone else to be a part of this. Also, inducing made it possible for the soon to be parents of my baby to be at the hospital exactly when they would want to be. Not in the delivery room, of course, but there- waiting like vultures in the hallway I was sure. That was my attitude at the time. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t want to feel that way, but I did. I suppose that is natural.

I had had my two earlier children naturally, without any drugs of any kind. I chose to get an epidural with this baby, because I couldn’t bear the physical pain on top of the emotional pain. I didn’t want to feel it. Thankfully the anesthesiologist was there with this big ol’ needle like a superhero, and with a sigh of relief, the contraction pain subsided and I was able to get to the pushing stage without feeling much of anything. He was an easy delivery, and when he cried for the first time, I felt two huge tears slide down my face. I turned my head to the wall and felt four more fall freely down my face and into the pillow. It felt like everything and everyone was gone away, and it was just me and that wall. Never had my life felt so void of any color as it did in that moment.

They brought him to me once he was cleaned up a bit and his vitals were taken. He was wrapped in a blanket, and had a hat on his perfect little head. I looked down at him, and knew at once that he was mine, he was beautiful, and he was perfect. Holding him seemed like forever and only seconds all at once. I tried to memorize every inch of him, I tried to lock away his scent in my mind so that I could think of it later. I gazed at him until they came and gently took him from me, and I don’t remember anything after that.

The next thing I remember was hearing the cries of the newborn babies down the hall, and I asked to please be moved to another floor, it was too much for me to listen to. Thankfully they were able to get the ok on that, and I was promptly moved to another room. My baby’s new parents came and saw me, I knew they were going to. It was so difficult at the time to do this. I didn’t want to. I wanted to hate them, but I didn’t. I wanted to scream at them, but I didn’t. I wanted them to hurt as much as I did, but at the same time, it was so awful, I didn’t. They were kind, sincere, thankful, joyous, sensitive to my feelings, and cautious. I’m sure I told them what they wanted to hear, I don’t really remember all that well. I think I may have been a bit curt with the dad, perhaps projecting my own feelings about men onto him. I feel sorry about that now.

Afterwards, I went home. I went home alone. It was quiet. It was too quiet. I still had a bit of a belly, and I hurt physically. I felt numb emotionally. It didn’t feel real, had it actually even happened? The court date that followed assured me that it did. Aside from that, I had a pounding headache for days because when they gave me that epidural, my blood refused to clot. That caused a hole that was leaking spinal fluid. That gave me a headache that made me feel like someone was hitting me in the head with a sledgehammer. So, I went to the hospital again, where they administered a “patch” to help seal that hole up. Then I had court. My head had not stopped hurting yet, and when the judge asked me about my decision, he first asked me if I was physically able to even make a decision because I was wincing in pain. I assured him that I was fine, and to just get on with it. Well, I didn’t say THAT to the judge, but something along those lines.

Sure enough, it was official, the father of my baby and I split. It was a relief, and by that time I was back in my house in Eveleth. Anthony and Chloe’s dad had moved out of it and I could move back into it. Anthony and Chloe were really none the wiser about the baby and the adoption. They were so little, they didn’t really have a clue as to what I was up to outside of them.

We struggled as a family, we went through hard times, yet somehow we plodded on. Sometime later, there was a funeral at our church, and I attended out of respect for the family of the person who had passed. I found myself walking down the hallway, heading for the kitchen to look for my mom, when at the very end of the hallway stood a woman holding a gorgeous baby, talking to someone. It was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. As I drew closer, the realization of who he was hit me as the woman turned slightly and I could see her face. There he was- my baby, who was not my baby. I froze, and my heart caught in my throat. I don’t even remember if I kept going, or if I turned around. I just know I left and went home and was in shock for the rest of the day.

They had named him Joseph, Joey of course, for short. Over the years, his mother sent me pictures of him. There he was laughing with his brother. There he was, looking like trouble, his hair stuck out and gave him a mischievous look. There he was, by the Christmas tree… the photos were always accompanied by a letter, telling me about his likes and his behaviors. I would carry these around and read the letter often, and then I would put them away and not look any more. It was great to see him, until it wasn’t. Until the hurt would once again take over and I would put the photos away in order to not be reminded of my hurt, my failure, the unfairness of it all. Every May I would experience depression and sadness, and then it would dawn on me- “ah. This was the month of his birth.”

At this time, my mom used to teach Bible School with our church. One of the things she would do, was travel down to Wilmar, Minnesota, to teach with a few other ladies as our Bible School was partners with this church down there. Sometimes she took Anthony and Chloe. Usually just Anthony. Anthony liked going places with my parents and meeting people. I think he was about 8 years old at the time. Interestingly, Wilmar is where Joey lived. He and his family went to the church down there, and on occasion, Anthony and my mom would visit with Joey’s family, and Anthony played with little Joey, never knowing that he was playing with his little brother. This wasn’t serendipity, this was arranged by God, I’m sure of it. It both broke my heart and warmed it to healing to hear of this. I was jealous that my mom was able to see Joey and I was not. I was happy my son was visiting with his little brother, and I so wanted to share that with him in my excitement. Yet I knew I could not.

Finally, when Anthony and Chloe were older, and I was confident they could keep the news within our family, I told them about Joey. They had lots of questions, but all in all, they took the news well and even thought it was interesting and they were excited they had a “little brother”. I hadn’t yet told Bri, and I let Anthony and Chloe know that she wouldn’t be told until she was older. Anthony and Chloe would ask me questions about Joey, but I didn’t have many answers, and that made me sad.

Years went by, and as my first story shared with you, I found my birth mom. I had also married and brought a little girl into the world, my Brianna, the wild child. I would take care of her and love her and give her everything I could not give Joey, and even Anthony and Chloe. I was older and a bit wiser, and although my life is not with her father, I did manage to provide for her and get things on track. Oh, we went through changes and moved a couple times, and over the years, the letters stopped arriving and the photos stopped as well. I think this was due to a few things, one of them being that I moved all the time, and another thing being that life happens.

I thought about Joey often, and wondered where he was and what he was getting up to. I would search for him on the internet, and found out that he was an accomplished pianist! I played piano as well, so this was kind of cool to discover! He was a handsome young man, and he looked a lot like his father. He also looked like Anthony, and especially Brianna. He was tall and lanky, and I smiled when I heard him play piano.

The day came when I was able to share the news of Joey with Brianna. She was conflicted about it. She was sad that she didn’t know him, and excited that he existed, and I believe she wondered how I could “give my kid away”. I didn’t expect her to fully understand, but I tried to explain it the best I could. I’m sure it was a bit frightening for her in a sense, that little girl train of thought perhaps wondering if I would ever give HER away. As the years have passed, she fully understands that placing a baby for adoption is NOT “giving away” your child. Yet at this time, she was wondering why she couldn’t just message him on Instagram and say hello. I had to explain to her that I didn’t know how much he actually knew about it, and that it wasn’t up to us to blow the lid off of news he may not even be aware of. That was his mother’s choice whether or not to tell him, so we would wait patiently.

Brianna came to me one day and said, “I accidentally liked one of his pics on Instagram! What should I do??? Should I unlike it?” She seemed a bit panicked, and I cringed inwardly. “Leave it,” I sighed. “It might draw more attention if you unlike it, cheese and rice. Ugh.” She looked a bit sheepish, “I’m sorry mom.” I assured her it was ok, at least, I tried to believe it would be ok.

Shortly after that, July of 2019, I got a call from my dad. Joey’s mom had contacted them, as they didn’t know how to reach me, and told him that Joey had expressed an interest in getting to know his birth family. She was wondering if I was ok with this. Was I ok with this???? I had only waited for literally decades for this moment! I was given her phone number, and I was invited to call her to discuss.

In the meantime, everything with the kids just fell into place. They started talking on social media, friending each other and Joey even started a group chat with Anthony, Chloe and Bri. I know he was testing the waters and going at his own pace, and I had to respect that. He did not reach out to me, not immediately. My kids shared a bit with me, just in general, about their conversations with him, but they were thick as thieves, keeping him to themselves, hungrily making up for lost time. I was just happy that it was all happening, and that I could see all four of them finally being able to connect.

It wasn’t long after that that Joey and I communicated. Conversations were too long for texting, and, not yet ready for a phone call, we emailed instead. We learned a lot from each other, about each other. I think I was on cloud nine for days. I learned that Joey was a good hearted person, and he assured me that he held no resentment or anger toward me. I was relieved to hear that, because I felt so undeserving and so sorry for the choice I had to make. He understood, and let me know he had a good upbringing and it was ok. I cried so much during that time, because I wouldn’t have blamed him if he had hated me.

It was that summer that I was finally able to meet Joey in person. Again. It is not lost on me that so many adoption stories end sadly, tragically even, and that I am a very blessed woman. Not only did I find my own birth mother and establish a rewarding relationship with her, but I have also been given the chance to be reunited with the son I placed for adoption so long ago. I feel unworthy, and humbled by this whole experience.

The meeting would be up north, at my parent’s home. This way he could reunite with his biological Nana and Grandfather, and his uncle Aaron and his cousins. I prayed it wouldn’t be too overwhelming for him, and that it would be alright. My heart was pounding so loudly, I swear you could hear it across the state! We made the drive from Minneapolis to Britt, Minnesota, and as we pulled into the driveway, there he was. He was tall, dark and handsome. He was smiling, and his hair- oh he has amazing hair!! Hahaha! I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough. Suddenly I was aware of myself and all of my flaws. Would he be disappointed? Would he think I’m ugly? Would he think I am good enough? Those fears disappeared the instant he wrapped me in his arms in a big hug. It was then that I think a million different moments flashed through my mind. My dad’s face as he had that talk with me 22 years ago. My sad, forlorn little apartment. The eviction notice on my door. The faces of Anthony and Chloe and Brianna all morphed together and turning into Joey. The letters in the mail from his mother. The photos in my hand of him as a child. The feelings of being alone at the hospital. The look on his mother’s face as she thanked me through tears at my hospital bedside. The beautiful baby down the hall at my church. The joy of discovering his talents in the music world. The elation at knowing he wanted to be a part of our lives. The fear of rejection. And finally, the realization of love that never went away but was still new somehow. All of that in that one hug, and the laughter and smiles afterward. I couldn’t get enough of him. I studied every body movement, every tilt of his head, every word, every smile, every mannerism. Some looked very familiar, some were only faintly familiar, and some were not familiar at all.

We visited and laughed into the evening with my parents. What I wouldn’t have given to have my own birth mother there to meet her grandson as well. But, that’s a selfish thought given how blessed I already was, isn’t it. We had so many questions, and we answered so many questions. We met his friend Lyndzie and even his brother Zach. What an amazing day and evening this was! We celebrated with food and wine and coffee and music and everyone talking all at once. It was a proper family get together, and we meshed well from the beginning. Joey did tell me that he noticed when Brianna liked one of his pics on Instagram, and he was intrigued. I think that was maybe the instance for him that gave an already formulated thought momentum.

Over the months and years, we have had many visits. Each visit has taught me more about Joey, and more about myself as well. I’ve even seen Anthony, Chloe and Bri in different lights. Joey is the one that binds them together, it would seem. He was the missing piece of our puzzle. I look at photos of all four of the kids, and each one looks like the next, yet they all have their own distinct personalities, with similarities among them. Anthony is gentle and very considerate. He thinks about things for a while before making a decision. He is strong and takes good care of his body. Chloe is free spirited, my hippie child. She is spontaneous and has a cool vibe. She is responsible but somehow able to be have so much fun. Bri is sarcastic and has a tough exterior, but she is creative and strong and determined. She does just about everything well. Joey is gentle like Anthony, free spirited like Chloe, sarcastic and creative like Bri, and yet he brings his own things to the table. He is a talented musician and quick and confident… I love watching the kids all together because somehow they just make sense that way. You know?

Earlier I mentioned that this story is humbling to write. I like for people to think I have it together. I like for people to see my successes. I like for people to think I’ve done ok for myself. It’s brave when you peel back the exterior and show people that if you’re ANY of those things, it’s because you went through times when you were NONE of those things. The best moments, the best stories, come when you allow yourself to be YOU, with all of your mistakes, poor choices, big experiences and times of raw truth. Only when you let others see you or your life for how it really is, do we find commonalities.

I share this story with you because this is who I am. This is me. I am adopted, and I have placed a child into adoption. I am a woman living with her life partner Devante. I have four children. I have three dogs. I have had traumas and moments I’m not proud of; but I’m thankful for the fact that those moments, those traumas, have made me appreciate my life now more than ever. Because of those things, I live my life, and I am brave.

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