The Book I Always Wanted to Write
Another letter I never sent…
7 June 2013
Dear Eric –
Writing that graduation letter has opened the door for me to start a series of letters I’ve been wanting to write to you for a long time. I realize as I write this that I may or may not ever send them to you. They may just one day become a book that I dedicate to you. The idea of a book has been hovering over me, since long before I moved to Arizona and began my business working with authors. It was actually an adoptive mom in the small basement of a church somewhere near Nyack who gave me the idea.
Interestingly, this was also the same group where another woman was shocked – mouth hanging open surprised – that I referred to you as my son. “What … what … what do you mean, your son?” she sputtered at me.
“Well, he’s my first-born male child. What else would you have me call him?”
“It’s just that I … I … I never expected that somewhere out there, another woman would be referring to my son as her son, too.”
“Well, she probably is. You might want to get used to the idea.”
I was frustrated with this woman – perhaps even a little angry – but I was also empathetic. No matter how thorough the case workers at Spence (or any adoption agency) tried to be, they couldn’t cover everything. And I think they actually dodged some of what I always felt needed to be said – so I said it. I hope I wasn’t bitchy, but just forthcoming as I told them that no amount of wishing and praying and hoping it could be otherwise would ever make the adopted baby their blood child. And the sooner they came to terms with that, the sooner they could move on from the grief and any resentment they might not even realize they felt toward the birthmom or birthparents.
I told you before I never liked the word “lucky” to describe my situation – but I was fortunate in one significant way. Your mom and dad had already had Meaghan, and now they had Jill. They were already parents who had experienced pregnancy and given birth to their own children. Most adoptive parents never experience that, so understandably, they might feel some resentment toward the birthparents, even wondering how these people who can do the very thing they want so desperately but cannot do themselves could just toss away a baby. Of course, it’s usually not as simple as tossing away a baby. I’m not saying abortion is an easy decision – but it takes less effort than carrying a child to term and then saying goodbye to him or her. A birthmom is committed to the life of her child – whether the adoption is her choice or not.
Anyway – I was speaking to this group of adoptive and prospective adoptive parents, as I did a handful of times while I lived in New Jersey. While the one woman had this shocked, seemingly unenlightened response, another came up to me after the end of the discussion and asked if I had thought about writing a book. I kind of shrugged at the moment, because I had considered it and pretty much dismissed it. I didn’t see what I could possibly add to the conversation that wasn’t already out there. Birthmoms writing their stories just seemed boring to me. This woman was insistent, though. She told me I was a really good speaker, and that I could probably translate my story very well into writing. She had no way of knowing I was actually a pretty good writer, that I’d majored in nonfiction in college – all she knew was what she heard as I told my story to the group. I shrugged again, thinking it wasn’t really for me. Then she suggested I might write it as fiction. Looking back all these years later, I told your mom I could never write our story as fiction, because it would be so boring. All things considered, I think we’ve had a storybook adoption experience, and people would either hate the book because nothing happened in it, or they’d feel certain I was whitewashing the story.
The woman’s insistence stayed with me for a while, though. I thought maybe I was different enough from most birthmoms that I could write a story that wouldn’t be just another birthmom memoir. So I started writing. But it was too soon and I was still too raw.
You see, Tony came to live with me after he found out I was pregnant. I think at some point he told me that he wanted to make sure I went through with the adoption – that I didn’t change my mind and decide to keep you. So he was there for the first six or seven appointments at Spence Chapin. He was there on New Year’s Eve 1994 – our five-year anniversary and the day I told him I would not still be there, five years later, unless I was married to him. And he was in the delivery room. He even went with me to the nursery once to look in at you.
But once the papers were signed and you were gone, so was he. He moved out exactly two weeks to the day after you were born, and I was lonelier than I ever could have imagined. He said as he was going that he knew he was making a mistake, but he was already committed to his mistake, so there was no going backwards. I held onto that stupid comment for a lot of years, hoping one day he’d change his mind. Thank God he never did. But, wow – I sometimes want to kick myself now for hanging in there so long. I think, ultimately, three good things came from the experience: you, my computer skills, and my immeasurable patience.
So I wrote the first 80 pages of my story – longhand, on yellow legal pads. And then I got to the part where Tony left, and it was just too hard to keep writing. So I stopped. I know those legal pads are here somewhere – I never threw them away and they moved with me to Phoenix. But I’ve never sat down to reread them, either. I imagine they might bring up some challenging feelings, but if I can write this to you now, I could certainly read what I wrote back then. I’ll look for them – and the photos of Tony I promised you. Maybe it all will come out in these letters anyway.
So here you have not the book I originally imagined. Not the fictional depiction, either. Just a series of letters about things I think you should hear from me. Some of them are about the adoption. Some are about my family. Some are about my beliefs and philosophies and thoughts about the bigger world that surrounds us. Some are about my hopes for you. Some are about my own plans for the future. Maybe you’ll read them, and maybe you won’t. But once I get them down, I won’t have them rattling around in my head anymore. And I will no longer have to “wait to share them with Eric someday.”
I love you, kiddo.