Other people whose lives have been touched by adoption spoke as well. It was a very powerful service. I am grateful that Seymour, Ep, Jo's mom, and JP were all there to lend support.
During my youngest daughter's pregnancy, people would regard the two children already by my side and ask, "Is this your third?"
"Yes," I would say, "It's our third."
Because she was our third. But she was my fourth.
I became a birth mother as a twenty-year-old college student, when I realized that, to me, being pro-choice meant carrying an unexpected pregnancy to term.
To be completely honest, the whole experience was and remains surreal. I was not mature enough to appreciate how profoundly my choices affected the lives of everyone involved. When I think about being a birth mother, it is with a certain detachment*, because I feel my choices were completely logical. I realize that the child shares my genes, but I never once thought of him as mine.
I maintain this attitude for emotional self-protection, and because his parents wanted a closed adoption. His mother was willing to send me pictures, but his father wanted to pretend I didn't exist. I don't know if he will ever be told about me.
When he was eight years old, his mother died of cancer. I found this out while my husband and I were trying without success to have children of our own. In my anger, I cursed the universe that allowed my birth son to be a motherless child, while eight years later I remained a childless mother. I simmered down after the joy of our first child's birth, but still wonder how that boy will feel if he ever finds out that he could have had contact with another mother during all those lonely years.
Being a birth mother is not something I bring up in casual conversation, but it is also not a topic I avoid. This is not to say that I lack strong feelings about that child, or that phase of my life. I find it painfully ironic that the son I got to keep is autistic, whereas the son I gave away is not. But my strongest emotions are not about me.
Mostly, I wonder how my mother was affected. She was the one who convinced me to consider adoption. Good thing, too, as I hadn't a clue about the costs and realities of parenting. Before she intervened, I just figured that my boyfriend and I would keep the baby, and I could have fun dressing it in cute clothes. How big a deal could it be? Maybe I'd take a quarter or two off from school.
Knowing what I now do about child rearing and my own capabilities, I can only think about that life-that-could-have-been with panic and relief. Every time I look at the husband and children I so desperately love, I silently thank my mother for guiding me towards them.
My mother has six grandchildren now, but at that time she had none, and it would be five more years before a real one arrived. She was the one who arranged for the child to be adopted by an office acquaintance. How did she bear it, seeing her only grandchild grow up in the picture frames on her co-worker's desk?
I suppose I could ask her.
*I wanted to write "...with almost Vulcan detachment," but Seymour said that a Star Trek reference would be jarring and inappropriate.