Those are the two emotions I’m feeling right now. And if there’s one thing I’m still learning how to do, it’s to really feel my emotions.
Last week, I came out – in a manner of speaking – about the fact that I had a child at 18 and placed him in an open adoption. It’s now 25 years later and in all honesty I can say it has been the most loving, open and honest experience. But being pregnant during my senior year in high school, and then getting whisked off to the west coast to give birth and hopefully get things “back to normal” left emotional scars. I vigorously pursued my career and achieved nearly every goal I had set for myself, professionally. I dated infrequently mostly out of low self-esteem and quite frankly, in an age where casual sexual partners was the norm, out of fear of getting pregnant again. When I did eventually marry 14 years ago, my husband fully and completely accepted my birthson, his family, and the birthfather’s family as if it was completely normal.
I lived in denial for more than two decades. Oh sure, I knew the truth and my husband knew the truth. But no one outside of my immediate family and a select few close friends knew my secret. The residual stuff left over from years of hiding, of secrets, of shame and of guilt was completely overwhelming at times.
But today I’m feeling overwhelmed in a better way. Through a random encounter on Twitter (note: nothing in life is random), I became part of a TV documentary about motherhood and specifically about adoption. When I realized the promos had started airing on the Oxygen Network, I knew this was my chance to come clean. Now granted, Facebook is many things. But an open forum for an honest dialogue about major life experiences it is not. Still, I’m connected to most of the people in my life on this particular social network. And so, with a bit of trepidation, I posted the following:
I’m nervous and kind of excited to post this.
In 1988, I had a baby.
I wasn’t ready to be a parent, so I placed him in an open adoption.
Now, 25 years later, I can honestly say it’s been the most wonderful, loving and entirely open relationship since day one – and I attribute that to his parents, who have raised him to be an amazing young man! I was very humbled to be asked to participate in a documentary that will appear on the Oxygen Network on June 12 called “The Untold Stories of Motherhood.” Here’s a clip…
I hit send and bam – it was out there. At that point, I didn’t care what anyone thought. For the first time in 25 years, I DIDN’T CARE WHAT ANYONE THOUGHT. Perhaps that’s one of the good things about getting older. At 42 years old, I really don’t give a shit what people think. It took a long time for me to get to this point. The view is good from here.
Now that could very well be the end of this post. Except that it isn’t.
The response I received from friends in high school and my college years was overwhelming. Completely and utterly overwhelming. There was a time when my friends’ opinions really mattered to me, mostly from trying to fit in and be liked and be normal. But now, they mean something different. We all have life experiences that make us wiser and a bit more compassionate. I know I have and I like to think that my empathy for others is greater now than when I was younger. The comments I received from friends and acquaintances was like getting a big cyber-hug. And it felt really good.
There’s something to be said for being vulnerable, for finally letting go. And perhaps, for being brave.
And while I no longer need or seek anyone else’s approval, it’s really humbling to know that friends and family have my back.