Something you hope to never have to do in your life.
Forgive the hair and the eyebrows in that picture of me from April, 1992. I have no excuse for either of them. And the shirt button up to my neck? What's that all about?
I have avoided this day for a long time because I haven't known how to write about this topic.
Most people have responded to this theme with, "Lose a child." I would say the same thing, except it has already happened.
You see, in that picture there, I am seven months pregnant with my first daughter. I had her in June 1992 and parented her for nine deliciously happy months. Unfortunately, I allowed my culture and my religion to convince me I was not a good parent simply because I was single and that she deserved more than me. So, in spite of my better judgment and because I trusted people I have since learned I should not have trusted, I relinquished her for adoption.
Yes, she is with a good family. They have loved her well and taught her well. For that I am grateful, especially since that outcome could have been far, far worse.
But I still lost her.
She is still just as gone as if I had buried her that blustery March evening exactly 18 years ago today. My arms are just as empty and my heart just as sad as any mother who has lost a child to death.
However, instead of condolences and gentle caring treatment by my culture, I get blame and shame heaped on me that I chose this, that I should be happy about it, and that frankly, I deserve this pain. There are some who say I should be proud because I made such a courageous, unselfish choice and that I should be grateful to have been relieved of the "burden" of parenting on my own.
Make no mistake about it. I was not courageous. I cowed to the cultural belief that a single parent = a bad parent. I was not unselfish - I chose my church leaders' good opinion of me over my daughter. I was not relieved to no longer be parenting my precious daughter. My daughter was never a burden to me. Quite the opposite. There is not one single thing I regret about how I parented her during the eight months and twenty-nine days she was with me. Nothing.
I am not proud, not in the slightest. I am not grateful.
I have spent every day over the past 18 years wanting to undo what I did by relinquishing her for adoption, wishing I had had the courage to be selfish on behalf of my daughter. I wish I could have had the courage to tell every single one of those people I am enough.
But what's done is done - it is what it is. She deserved a mother that would fight to the death for her, that would move heaven and earth to be with her.
Instead, she got me.