I approached the hotel room door with my stomach in knots. I almost couldn’t bring myself to knock. This was real and I was beside myself.
I was about to meet my son for the first time since his birth. The perfect golden-haired baby boy I had given up for adoption 18 years prior. The precious being that I carried for 42 1/2 weeks and held in my arms for 3 days, before sending him off into the world with more love than I had ever felt before; leaving an ocean of tears between us. And now, a small lifetime later, He was standing on the other side of that door.
Dreams Come True
But every now and then, something unexpectedly magical happens. Just as you say your goodbyes and turn to walk away, something grabs you by the hand and pulls you back. And you look to see God or ‘The Universe’ or ‘All That Is’ (or whatever represents the source of your higher power) standing before you. And taking your face into its hands, kissing your forehead, it says “You’re so brave for letting go. But actually, this was meant for you all along”. And it places the very thing you let go of right back into your hands. And you realize that sometimes dreams are meant to come true.
That’s how I felt the day I got his email. Out of the blue. Exactly 1 month and 2 days after his 18th birthday. Another day, another dozen email notifications pinging away. I picked up my phone, peeking apathetically at my lock screen. And there was his name in the subject. “A note from Isaac”
A Note from Isaac
I shot up in my seat, shaking as I opened it up. There it was in black and white. Sweet words from my sweet boy.
“Mom showed me the binder full of everything” —*gasp* he got the book! He went on to convey his emotions over everything he found in it—using words like ‘answered questions’ and ‘closure’ and how ‘the detail, and care’ I put into it made him feel. Words of excitement as he shared the ways he related to me in the talents and character traits we both possessed, no doubt passed on through our shared DNA. And the words that knocked the very breath out of me lie at the bottom of his email. “I would really like to meet the woman who birthed me”.
I Would Like to Meet You
My heart soared. I yelled for my husband. “I got a message from Isaac!” I wept as I read his words aloud. I laughed through tears. I called my family to share the amazing news, crying and rejoicing with them. And I began preparing my heart for what the near future would bring. Giving way to a reality where the son that I longed to know would soon know me back.
A month later, I would find myself heading south on 77. Heading for a hotel where I would see him in the flesh.
After a small lifetime of wondering and hoping; certainty was coming. A suppressed piece of my heart was about to give way to a rush of captive love, set free.
Am I enough?
I cried that entire morning. Confused ‘wtf’ tears of every emotion under the cold sky that day. Cried the whole way to the hotel, overcome by the magic of it all. Stunned by the realization that I was finally about to see him again. Overwhelmed with the magnitude of the situation and crushed by the weight of the anxiety over whether or not he would like me.
“Am I enough?” I was plagued with a tangible fear that I might not be. Would he truly see me? Would he think I was cool? Funny? Relatable? I can be so shy and awkward. How could I possibly rise above the nerves, show the best parts of myself in one afternoon, and shine as brilliantly as I knew I was capable of shining? It terrified me.
Right up until the moment I took a deep breath and finally knocked on that hotel room door.
His “Mother” Opened the Door
His Mother opened it, and immediately I remembered why I loved her so much. Why I knew the moment I met her that she would be the perfect woman to raise him. Her squeals of joy surrounded me and her embrace felt like home. I was immersed in love.
But the moment my eyes wandered past her shoulder and I spotted him, the rest of the room blurred over, fading into the background of my conscious mind. Second fiddle to the one who suddenly held my heart captive.
There, standing slightly behind the open door to the adjoining room, he stood. Wide-eyed. Looking equal parts awestruck and terrified.
Can I Hug You?
‘Oh good’ I thought. ‘He looks how I feel. It’s not just me.’ When our eyes met, everything else completely stopped existing. “Hi” I said softly, possibly with a wave, possibly with a giggle. I really couldn’t say for sure because my self-awareness disappeared. I just remember our eyes locked on one another’s as we slowly moved toward each other. I smiled shyly…He smiled shyly.
“Can I hug you?” I asked, as we grew closer. He replied with a sweet nod, and what seemed like stifled excitement. We leaned in and embraced. He hugged me tightly. I squeezed back. I could feel his heart racing. Pounding out of his chest. Just like my own racing, pounding heart.
There we stood, chest to chest, holding one another. Our hearts touching. Two hearts separated by distance, and so much time. Reunited once again. Beating in sync. In rapid, terrified, excited unison. I couldn’t pull myself up out of the surrealism of it all. The little heart that grew inside of me now stood before me, fully grown inside of a young man. I was holding him in my arms again.
This Is Real
“This is real.” I had to say out loud just to make sure. “Mmmhmm.” His voice quivered and he gently nodded.
When we pulled back I just couldn’t stop staring at him. In the face of this young man I saw so many things in an instant. Elements of the baby and childhood photos I’d seen of him over the years. I saw pieces of myself in his facial expressions, his golden eyelashes, and shy-at-first mannerisms. I saw the texture of my fathers hair and hints of him and my brothers in the way Isaac moved and talked.
Such intense familiarity in a virtual stranger.
I had watched him grow up from afar and now here he was. In my presence. It hardly made sense to my brain.
I wanted to cry but I was too happy. I wanted to speak but I was speechless. I wanted to say all the things I ever wanted to say but I was too terrified of overwhelming him. So I just stared. Trying not to stare too hard and come off as creepy.
Meeting My Family
I introduced him to my husband and 5 year old son. His brother.
We exchanged gifts. Tokens of affection. We shared photos and videos, and spent the better part of the day getting to know each other in a hotel suite. Cozy. Intimate. Safe.
Someone Was Loving Me from Afar
We had some time alone, just the two of us to speak more intimately, and he said something that nearly made my heart burst. Something to the effect of: “All my life, I felt like someone was loving me from afar. I didn’t know what. I would tell my mom about it and she said it was God, but I knew it was something more than that. I just always felt like someone was out there sending me love.”
“That was me.’” I choked back tears. “I’ve been loving you from afar your whole life. Sending you love and prayers every day.”
Later, when we hugged goodbye, I said “I think you’re just amazing” into his ear. “I think you’re really great too.”
No Words to Describe Today
After gathering our things and preparing to leave. When I was finally walking out the door, chatting with his mom, I caught his gaze again. The same awestruck gaze we first shared. He smiled and waved at me slowly, as though half hypnotized and lost in thought. I stopped talking, sucked into his gaze again and threw him one last loving look. He broke the spell with a sudden sigh and smiled as he ran over to me in the doorway, throwing his arms around me one more time. One last squeeze. “I have no words to describe how amazing today was.” I said. “But as soon as I have them, I will let you know.”
Outside, as I approached the car, I caught him standing on the balcony with his mother, and we bid our last ‘good bye for now’ across the parking lot. My heart skipped so many beats that day.
I Was Enough
Turns out…I was enough.
I left on cloud nine. Absolutely elated. Unable to stop smiling. My husband asked me how it felt to live in a world where I’ve finally connected with my boy and I told him “It feels like a huge piece of my heart that has been held captive and suppressed for so long, has finally been set free and given permission to love.” I’d been sending him love for years but having that love finally be received on the other end…I still don’t have words for that. I don’t. Only tears. Happy tears.
Depression that Followed
I wish I could say that all I felt in the days and weeks that followed, were those dreamy over-the-moon feelings. But it didn’t play out that way at all. It was hard. I came to find, that now that this piece of my heart had been released, it had some grieving to do.
I cried love-sick tears over him more in the 3 days that followed our visit, than I had in the last 18 years.
I think it’s fair to say I was a bit of a wreck. I had a small lifetime of grieving to do and for the first time ever was faced with the full impact of the painful side of things. I felt it all…
Crying all those pent up tears of guilt and all the tears of regret. Crying for the loss and for the heartbreak of it. For all the times over the years I had imagined what it would be like to have him by my side, wishing he was there.
For bringing a human into the world and not being able to pour into them all the things I had learned that had helped me through life, made me a better person, and taught me how to love myself and others more.
Mourning the loss of his childhood and the fact that I wasn’t there to love him through every difficult thing he may have gone through.
Grieving the fact that I still don’t even know what those things are. Weeping for the distance between us, accepting the fact that it will take him time to get to know me, maybe even years. And maybe never to the degree that I would like him to.
Adapting to My New Normal
Once again I found myself facing new realities and adapting to new normals, figuring out how to let more things go. And once all the grief had been released, the void of it all was filled with something beautiful. Hope. And possibility.
I have never expected him to consider me a “mother” and I never will. He has a mother. He was meant to be hers. And I find the dynamic of their relationship to be almost overwhelmingly beautiful. But I have my own set of hopes and possibilities for He and I.
Hope that the two of us will come to develop our own unique relationship over time, is now possible. Hope that a day where he might come to love me in his own way and maybe even feel a fraction of the things I feel for him, is now possible. I was not a part of his past, but I now have the hope of being some part of his future. Even if it’s only a small part. And there’s so much beauty in all that possibility.
Adoption is an Impossible Choice
Adoption isn’t a tough choice. It’s an impossible choice. Impossible. I still have no idea how I was ever able to make it, let alone survive it. But I did. And somehow, all the bitter impossibilities have turned sweet.
Not all dark stories are laced with sweet elements of light, grace and hope; as mine has been. Some situations are dark and hopeless and they stay that way forever, and my heart breaks for the keepers of those stories.
Sometimes plots of grief sit cold and barren forever. But somehow, the mound of grief this story was built upon, bore radiant trees. And I actually get to watch them flower and become even more splendid. I’m lucky enough to get to witness the beauty of a garden. Walk through it. Bask in its aroma and eat of its fruit.
Underneath it all, it began as something dark and gritty. And I will always remember that. Honoring it as I walk upon its soil, sometimes still feeling its sting. But I’m just so grateful that it became a garden at all.
This is the second part of a two part story. The first part is about giving up her son for adoption. LaVonna talks about the whys, hows, love, and loss. The article is titled “A Story About Adoption.”