From A Second Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul

Finding a Son

I felt like I was giving birth again as I walked into the adoption agency to meet my grown son. The physical pain was absent this time, but the anxiety was just as high. It had been almost a quarter of a century since that scared and lonely girl had last seen her firstborn child.

I didn’t remembermuch about that young girl anymore. Over the years, new experiences and tragedies had taken over the rooms where those memories had lived. The feelings that had survived weren’t clear either; they had all run together, producing a dull ache that never let up.

Twenty-five years ago, my boyfriend and I had lived without thought for how our actions would impact the future. Morning sickness was my wake-up call. Though we had been carefree, the laws weren’t, and at that time, ending a pregnancy could have meant ending my life, too. I had no choice but to confront my fear and my parents. It would be painful, but it wouldn’t be fatal.

Everyone cried and took a slice of responsibility. I took the biggest piece because I was eating for two—the absent father and myself. Fortunately, I gained weight slowly—slow enough to be undetected by outsiders, and more important, by my younger brother. My mother shied away from explaining my condition to him, so I dutifully camouflaged myself. I didn’t want to be sent away.

My mother and I passed the next few months like ladies of leisure. We shopped, we redecorated, and we lunched. I was a little girl again, home with the flu and being entertained by my mommy so I wouldn’t dwell on how bad I felt.

The tactic worked in the daylight hours, but at night in my bed, I faced the cold truth. I wouldn’t wake to find that my pregnancy had broken in the night like a fever. In fact, each day brought increased physical awareness that I was not alone in my body. It began with a flutter that could have been too much pizza, but within a few days, I knew this was not a bodily function. This little being was becoming real to me. I yearned to share the excitement of this discovery with someone, but there was only my mother, and I didn’t want to hurt her. I felt that I could revel in this experience nowand still dowhatwas expected ofme later. But I knew that this first-time grandmother would find it hard to face the fact that she would allow herself to hand her newborn grandchild to strangers.

The soft rumblings that had lulled me to sleep now became urgent jabs. My nights were increasingly sleepless, and my days were filled with backaches and boredom. I had to discontinue all projects that required lifting, bending or climbing, and I couldn’t go out anymore because someone might recognize me. Eventually, this started to get to me, and I felt that unless I was ready to have my baby on the psychiatric floor of the hospital, I had to get out for a while. A girlfriend suggested we go to a new club, and suddenly, I was an eighteen-year-old girl again. “What are you going to wear?” took on a whole new meaning. Fortunately, Empire dresses were the fashion and hid my seven-month stomach.

At the club, I found it frightening being out among people my own age again, especially in my condition. But as we settled into seats away from the dance floor, I began to relax and enjoy the new sound called disco. I pretended that it was a year ago, and I hadn’t yet messed up my life.

Suddenly, I was brought back to reality by a young man’s face peering into mine and asking me to dance. I hadn’t planned on this, but maybe if I didn’t move too fast, no one would guess. I was concentrating on my balance and the new dance steps when the disc jockey started a slow song. All the breath seemed to rush out of me as my partner took hold of my hand and prepared to slide his arm around my waist. There was no time to pull away; in a second, this cute college boy would realize he’d been flirting with a pregnant woman. Would he drop his arms with a look of revulsion and leave me alone on the light-speckled platform? But wait, we were still dancing. Could it be he hadn’t noticed I was leaning like a bell? Then, as I was congratulating myself for being so controlled, someone close to me woke up.

The movement started small—like a cat stretch, and I silently pleaded, Go back to sleep baby, but he wanted to dance, too. The song was almost over, and it looked as if my luck would hold—until my little partner tried a new dance move. Before I could lean away, a tiny foot shot against my abdomen. I cautiously glanced up, and my big partner was smiling. Did that mean it was okay that someone else’s child was kickboxing his body?

“You must be real hungry; even I felt that rumble,” he said as the music finally stopped.

I would need that amusing memory to get through the next few weeks. Everything that had been physically uncomfortable becameworse. Itwould be happening soon. I would be ripped apart. All the falling out of trees and off bikes would not equal this one excruciating day of pain.

As I came to in the recovery room, it wasn’t the contractions and delivery that left me hurting. I can still see the nurse’s face, telling me to stop crying. “You’ll just have to live with it!” she said. In her cruel way, she was prophetic. I did live with it; through the ten minutes they allowed me to hold my son in my arms and the following nine thousand days I would hold him in my heart alone.

One afternoon, decades of living later, my therapist, in a moment of inspiration, said, “Okay, you can’t change a lot of what’s happened, but you can finish this chapter. Go find your son.”

So I had. And now I was walking past the offices and down the stairs toward the room where he waited. I had taken such care getting ready, and although I looked mature, inwardly I didn’t feel like the mother of a twenty-four-year-old man. I was that frightened girl again, imagining that the workers in the offices upstairs were making unflattering remarks about me. The counselor took my arm to steady me as we entered the room.

“This is your son,” he said, and to him: “and this is your mother. Take all the time you want.”

By the time he had finished speaking, I had covered the remaining distance and was being embraced by a tall, dark and handsome young man. I pulled away just enough to study his face, a familiar face. I had looked at that face many times in a portrait on my mother’s dresser—only there, the face wore a World War II army cap. This child I had tried so hard to visualize had grown into the image of my father. We hugged and kissed, laughed, cried, asked and answered questions for well over ten minutes.

All the people in the offices upstairs were smiling, and some were wiping their eyes as we walked out hand in hand.

That was three years ago, and since then, many of my family members have been introduced to my newfound son: his sister and two brothers, and my own little brother—the uncle who had been an adult before he knew I’d had a fourth child. My first son finally met his grandfather, giving my father the rare opportunity of seeing himself as he was fifty years ago. My mother would never meet her first grandchild, as she had passed away eight years before I made the decision to find my son.

For me, it had been the right decision. I felt so fortunate that we found each other, and that we felt so comfortable together. I didn’t think there could be more, but I was wrong.

Five months ago, my firstborn and his lovely wife completed this circle of life. My son handed me his son, and I cried with joy that the next nine thousand days would be ours to share.

Lin Faubel

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