Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Guest Blogger: Donna Conger

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My daughter was 17 when, after we returned from a weekend away, I greeted her, and knew that something had changed. I didn’t expressly know that she’d lost her virginity that weekend, but I knew that she’d been seeing a man we disapproved of because he was 23. We were a black family who moved to Utah a scant 4 years earlier. We are not Mormon, but were devoutly Christian with Mormon values. Plus, we knew many who were, including my second husband. So, I was pleased when she hotly insisted that she would not abort the baby and inwardly rejoiced that she adopted my belief in giving a developing baby life. 
The paternal grandmother-to-be volleyed back and forth between keeping and not keeping the baby, and each was expressly with extreme emotion. Conversely, the grandfather-to-be did not seem to care either way at times, and other times, he became intensely focused on keeping the baby. The months passed; as my daughter’s belly grew, so did the hostility between we grandparents-to-be. They began accusing us of not chaining her to the bed, thus keeping her away from their son, and we hotly asked why they didn’t step in when they found out she wasn’t over 18. 
So the couple saw themselves as a modern day Romeo and Juliet. If we would all just leave them alone, it would all work out. The only moment during that extremely tense eight months was when I heard the baby’s heartbeat. For a short time, all the pain melted away in the doctor’s office as the tiny life called out from deep inside my daughter and said, “Hello everybody, I’m here, Nice ta meet ‘cha.”
At seven months, we finally put our foot down and said that she was going to place the baby for adoption. She was pouty and sullen, and quietly told me that she did not want to place the baby. The agency we went through taught us that you are literally placing your baby into the hands and hearts of a family that can’t make a child on their own or can’t have any more. So I reject the phrase, “giving up a child”. As the same agency says in its TV ads, “you’re not giving the baby up, but giving them more”. 
My daughter resentfully began to read case files. I read with her, curious about the selection process.  Many of the letters were heartbreaking, like the one about a couple that had a baby with severe birth defects so they decided not to risk possibly putting another baby or themselves through that. Some of the letters to the birth mothers were photocopied, and though they had to be generic, were a little too generic. Likewise, the photos of mostly couples were mostly of faces with smiles, but the smiles were at times tight and pained. We could see the longing and hurt in their expressions. This did nothing to impress either of us, especially my Celeste, who trudged on because I insisted on it. She didn’t know that I had silently prayed that we would find a family soon!
Days passed; Celeste read several dozen files with the baby’s father and with me. She was waning; I was despairing. We got a fresh batch of files, and Celeste stubbornly declared that she’d run away and get married or something if we didn’t find someone in this last batch. God, please, do something! I screamed in my head. She was dangerously impulsive and her threat was real.
A few stories in, there was a letter that had the mark of a scrapbooker. It was a beautiful letter, in both content and appearance. It had a bow at the top, great font choice, and a real signature at the bottom. We looked at the picture. Her smile was many things: relaxed, kind, and hopeful, but not at all pained. We immediately liked the woman who’d poured her heart out to a faceless birth mother, but somehow made us feel as though she knew us and all we were thinking. We both liked her face, an open, warm soul with joy and peace in her heart. We liked the sweet, loving smile and the placid, kind expression of the hopeful father-to-be. We liked that the picture was taken outside. They only had one child, a daughter. We liked so many things about them that the heart-breaking and often exhausting stories we’d read melted away. We didn’t care that they were white or Mormon. We had learned that family is esteemed right after God in a Mormon family, and most Mormon kids had great manners, strict upbringing, and focus on all around wholeness. That, plus a few other things, such as their love of athletics and the fact that they had a farm, assured us that they were right. This was them, the future parents of my unborn grandson! I praised God with all my heart!
It was good, because we were down to the wire. Celeste was due in 2 weeks. The new family was notified and they had their first face to face meeting. Though she and Shawn liked them very much, letting go of the child whose heartbeat was a part of hers, who she “danced” to J.Lo with, and who she talked to constantly, was still nearly unthinkable. She left the house still filled with a few reservations, but came home on Cloud 9. She adored the woman she was about to turn her baby over to, and with absolute conviction, never looked back. It was wonderful to meet them and see what my daughter saw. So when my daughter delivered right on time, I wanted the new mom to be there, but it was against agency policy. All correspondence had to go through them. No last names, no addresses or phone numbers were allowed. Even during the initial meeting, we were given a list of taboos, in short, not too much information.
My mother had flown out for the birth. Two days later, at midnight, my daughter sobbed as she signed away her parental rights. Then she literally placed the tiny little boy into the new mom’s outstretched arms, and forever in her life. I broke down when she burst into tears and ran from the room once the baby was out of her arms. It was possibly the most painful moment of my life, and I know it was for her. My mother stood, and I thought she was going to go comfort my daughter. Instead, she went to the new mom’s side and told her that the baby looked perfect in his mother’s arms. Our adoptive mom-friend never stops feeling guilty for the pain she feels she’s caused by taking a little boy from a birth mother, similar to the guilt the recipient of an organ donation feels at the reality that someone had to die for them to live. But we remind her that she and her loving husband were always meant to be his parents, and that we could not have done better if we had picked them out of a catalog.
Less than 6 weeks later, a miracle happened. We got a phone call. It was the new adoptive mom. But how did she know where to call us? She stunned me by telling me that she not only knew both of our last names {my daughter was from my first marriage}, and our address. It seems that the results from the PKU test had been sent to her, but contained all our information. Plus, as I was rejoicing at having found the perfect adoptive parents to a friend, she realized with a start that she knew exactly who I was talking about, because they were good friends! So my neighbor friend called the new mom and told her she knew the birth mom’s family. She felt she shouldn’t and couldn’t keep something like that from her. Plus, they lived less than 20 minutes away. The agency stipulates that a city and 2 malls should, at the very least, separate an adoptive family from a birth family.
The bond went to the marrow right then with that phone call. We broke agency rules by talking by phone, and further when we invited them to dinner. She has gone above and beyond in inviting us to co-parent, and her concern for what we think about her as a mother never ends. We always tell her that she is that boy’s mother; my daughter was the vessel for carrying him, and that’s all. They now have 4 kids, all of which know they are adopted. She tells them that “Mommy’s baby maker is broken” and they speak openly about their birth mothers. They know who we all are, and photos of our little boy’s brown skinned, Southern Baptist family are dotted around the house, next to his pink skinned Mormon family. It’s a massive family—the adoptive mom is one of 10 children, so you can imagine how many aunts and uncles and cousins he has just on one side! He knows me, his birth mom, his birth great grandmother and many more. I wrote a poem for him on the day he was born, telling him that I was there that day, I spoke his name, and he immediately stopped crying. I told him I would always be there for him, and I am.
We are one, very big, very happy family—even their other 3 kids have sucked my daughter’s son from her recent marriage into their love-fest, hugging him and calling him their brother. It truly is a wonderful, wonderful life!


Crystal Renee said...

This brought a tear to my eye! BEST STORY I HAVE READ SO FAR (today at least.) It really was cute! Thanks for sharing! Seriously.

Sterling Bo said...

I love hearing from birth-grandmothers. It makes my heart happy. :-)

Helen said...

what a neat family you all share. that little boy must be very special.

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