This I Believe

Marilyn - Conshohocken, Pennsylvania
Entered on November 22, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: family, setbacks
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This I believe…

I believe that it is possible to heal from a painful loss by being willing to face it head on and not hide.

In July of 1967, I was 17 and pregnant. The father was a freshman pre-med student whose parents were determined there’d be no shotgun wedding. My parents offered to help me raise the child on my own. But, my childhood had not been one that I’d wish on anyone, especially not my own baby. Plans were hastily made to send me away to live with my sister and her family in Florida.

In 1967, if you had a child out of wedlock, you were a bad girl. My feelings of shame were overwhelming. Then there was the denial. This couldn’t be happening to me. I was a good girl, a good student; never in any trouble. I never told my friends. I left without saying goodbye.

The next 5 months were like an out-of-body experience. Then, it was time for the baby to be born. I insisted on being put under anesthesia for the delivery, not wanting to know if the baby was a boy or a girl. Before leaving the hospital, there was one last hurdle, one that no anesthesia could be taken for escape. I had to sign the adoption papers. There will never be a moment more impossibly wrong. As my sister drove home, there was a silence, a palpable emptiness, a gnawing pain in my stomach. There was no way I could live with the memory. So, I locked it away, harnessing the power of the mind to bury extreme emotional pain.

Without skipping a beat, I entered college, graduated, got a job, got married, had 2 children, and got divorced. The unraveling of the marriage was the beginning of the unraveling of many unaddressed life issues. Like an onion, the layers began to peel away. As they did, thoughts of the child I’d surrendered began surfacing. My mind did its usual work and buried them. But the thoughts persisted and with greater and greater frequency. Finally, after nearly 30 years, the old habit was defeated. I was ready to face what had been kept secret from everyone for so long, even from myself. I had a child out there somewhere, a child that I’d surrendered for adoption, a child that was mine by birth.

With the help of an amazing organization and one amazing woman, my search was successful. I found my son. His name is Phil. We have been reunited for 10 years and it has been wonderful. I believe that the years we lost can never be reclaimed. I believe that all we can do is cherish everyday we share, our lives no longer separated. I believe that every time someone asks me how many children I have and I say, “I have three,” a little bit more of the loss is released, and a little bit more of us becomes whole.