"Open Adoption: Not So Simple Math"
In the months before I gave birth, when my boyfriend and I were just getting to know the couple we had chosen, I was able to comprehend the coming exchange only on the most theoretical of levels, but it seemed like gentle math: Girl with child she can’t keep plus woman who wants but can’t have child; balance the equation, and both parties become whole again.
During those months, my son’s mother, Holly, observed that birth mothers have to accomplish in one day the monumental task of letting go that most parents have 18 years to figure out. Days after his birth, when I struggled with letting go, Holly sat with me and cried — for the children she never got to have, for the fact the adoption would bring her joy while causing me pain, and out of fear that she had already grown to love a child I might not give her.
I signed the papers on a hot August day in 2000, sitting at a large conference table with my sister, my son’s adoptive parents and agents from Catholic Social Services. I’d sat there several times before but hadn’t yet been able to say the words to relinquish all rights to my son. Each time I was left alone to think and, hours later, was sent home with him.
My pen rested at the intersection of two vastly different futures, and I struggled to see into the distance of each. It did not seem that a gesture as small as scribbling my name had the power to set me down one path while turning the other, its entire landscape, to dust. It was such a small gesture, but it was the first sketch of my life without a son.
The comfort is seeing my son with his family, whom I can no longer imagine him or myself without. He is an earnest child who seems to kick hard to keep his chin above water in the world, but his mother has a certain lack of sympathy that is good for him. When he wants to retreat into his own head, she pulls him back into the refuge of his family and makes him smile. I am ever astounded that I was able to see in her something that would still feel so right so many years later. [full story]