Author Archives: asdmamaruns08

That One Time…

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Yesterday I had an article PUBLISHED ON SCARY MOMMY’S WEBSITE!! (If it sounds like I’m screaming it’s because I AM! OMGOMGOMG!)

For a full day it appeared on the home screen. My name. At the top of Scary Mommy, y’all.

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My word for 2018 is VOICE. This is my voice, my story, my experiences. For someone who spent most of her life knowing when to just SHUT UP, this new voice feels effing amazing.

I want to share, I want to connect, I want to help someone else, even if it’s for one moment so that they feel like they ARE NOT ALONE.

Here is the link to the original post. Warning: I’m a bit of a PG-13 writer. Enjoy!

 

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My Adoption Portrait

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On November 24th, my adoption story was featured on a blog by Carrie Goldman for her “30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days” project. Below is the submission.

 

My adoption story is difficult to put into the permanency of written words, as it has changed over the last couple years and, I hopefully anticipate, it will evolve even more in the coming years. But as it stands today, this is the portrait of my adoption.

In November of 1993, when I was a junior in high school, I found out I was pregnant. I was the drum major of the marching band and the younger sister of the Valedictorian of that year’s graduating senior class. I went to a small school in the town of Goose Creek, SC. News of my pregnancy spread faster than a forest fire. Retrospectively, I joked that everyone else knew before even I did. I think the shock value of a “Band Nerd” getting pregnant added fuel to the flames.

My boyfriend (and the birth father) was my high school sweetheart. We had started dating my freshman year when he was a senior. After he graduated, he went to college about two hours away from our hometown. Over the course of the next couple years, we were on again off again—but mostly on. When I found out I was pregnant, we decided fairly quickly the best thing to do was to give the baby up for adoption. But first we needed to tell our parents.

I don’t really remember how his parents took it. They were going through their own stuff at the time, as we found out later when they filed for divorce. They didn’t get too involved with the messiness of my pregnancy. I was scared to death to tell my mom. A few years prior, she and my dad had gotten divorced. She bought a mobile home for us to live in while she worked full-time and put herself through nursing school. My dad had already rocked her world with his abusive and adulterous scandals, and I hated that I now had another bomb to drop on her.

To prevent my untimely death at the hands of my mother, I decided to tell her one night while we ate fried fish and hush puppies at Captain D’s. For added protection, my friend Adam was there too. He wasn’t aware of my pregnancy announcement either, so when I finally got the nerve to blurt it out between bites of tartar sauce covered halibut, his and my mom’s expressions of shock were almost comical.

“What makes you think you’re pregnant?” my mom asked in a panic.

“Welllll, I took a test. And it was positive.”

I let the news sink in as I continued to shovel fried goodness into my mouth. Finally, my mom said something I never expected.

“I’ll support you, whatever you decide.”

Now it was my turn to be blindsided. Despite my current “unwed mother” state, I had grown up in a somewhat religious household, and always considered myself to be a pro-lifer. In fact, just a couple months before, for an English assignment, I had written an entire paper supporting this belief. I had even gone to a women’s clinic to gather information and they had given me a gold-plated pin of a set of two tiny feet. It represented the size of a fetus’ feet at the time most abortions occur. I proudly wore that pin all the time.

Insulted, I looked my mom right in the eye.

“I’m giving it up for adoption,” I stated firmly. “There’s nothing else I would do.”

She nodded. There was pain and sadness in her eyes, but something like pride, too. She asked me if I’d want to go through the adoption services through our church. I felt strongly against this idea since, in my mind, the church had let me down. I didn’t want to predispose my child to that. She asked if I’d consider adopting within our family. I had an aunt who had been trying to have another child for years after she had had her son. That felt way too weird to me. When she later got sick and passed away from ALS in 2001, I felt even more grateful about my decision. I couldn’t imagine what I would have felt knowing my biological child watched a parent die.

My mom was a labor and delivery nurse at a hospital in Charleston. One night at work, she told a co-worker about my unexpected pregnancy. That co-worker mentioned a nurse who worked in post-partum who had been having infertility struggles for a while. My mom came home and asked me if my boyfriend and I would be willing to meet with them. I called him at his dorm and told him to plan on it for the following weekend.

Wouldn’t you know, that dumbass went to a party that week, got drunk, got in a fight, and got a black eye. When he came home for the weekend and I saw his face, I was mortified. What would this potential adoptive couple think of us? A trailer park trash hoe and her black-eyed boyfriend. I’m sure they would think they HAD to save this baby from whatever fate it may have with us.

It was almost Christmas when we met them. We visited their home which was perfectly decorated with a beautiful tree. He was a Navy doctor, Irish background. She was a nurse with Italian roots. Their look was similar to ours, as I am half Filipino and my boyfriend was white. I figured if nothing else, our baby would look like it “belonged” to them. They were kind and excited. As we drove away from their house I told my boyfriend that they were meant to be the baby’s parents.

Over the course of my pregnancy, they would call me and ask what I was craving. Then they’d take me and my boyfriend out to dinner. I thought they were incredibly sophisticated. We went to Olive Garden one night and they had me try calamari. I grew to love them and was incredibly excited that they were going to be raising my child.

In the meantime, I was trying to keep my ever-growing belly unnoticed at school. In January, our marching band took its yearly trip to Disney World to march in a parade and frolic carefree in the park. As my friends excitedly headed to Space Mountain, I looked at the precautions on the sign at the entrance to the line. It read:

“WARNING! For safety, you should be in good health and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure. Expectant mothers should not ride.

I backed away, mumbling some excuse for not wanting to ride. I did that the entire trip.

Things continued to get worse. No matter how hard I tried, the baby was growing and I was a-showing. First, I used safety pins on my pants. Then I discovered I could loop a rubber band through and that would add a good three inches of stretch. Then I invested in a LOT of elastic waist shorts. Eventually my protrusion could no longer be denied. People knew I was pregnant.

One day in May, I ducked in to a bathroom stall for one of my many potty breaks. It wasn’t even one of the bathrooms I typically frequented, but for some reason on that day I ended up in that stall that had the following words scribbled in thick, black Sharpie:

“Stacey Ribino in an knocked up hoe.”

My jaw dropped. Tears stung my eyes. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. How insulting! They didn’t even spell my name right, or compose a grammatically correct sentence, yet I sat there stunned. This is what people thought of me? This is what people were saying? I angrily left the bathroom and made my way to the guidance counselor’s office.

“How many credits do I need to graduate?” I demanded, my chest heaving.

She thumbed through papers and found whatever she needed. I doubt she knew much about me, but I knew she knew my older sister, the Super Star Valedictorian.

“It looks like you need two credits. An English and a History.”

“Then I need information to register for summer school,” I told her.

“Now are you sure you want to do that?” she drawled. “Senior year is the time for you to apply to colleges and for financial aid. Your senior year is supposed to be fun. I mean, just look at everything your sister’s done. Do you really want to miss out on that?”

“I want to do whatever it takes to get the hell out of this place.”

A couple weeks later I attended my end-of-the-year band banquet. As a junior, I would have automatically been the drum major again during my senior year. Instead, I “crowned” one of my good friends as the one who would be replacing me. I stood at the mic and announced to my fellow band nerds that I was sorry for letting them all down, that I was giving my baby up for adoption, and I would be graduating later in the summer and would not be back for senior year.

I looked around the room and saw tears. My band director gave me a huge hug and told me she was proud of me. A couple days later I even got a letter from another teacher, one I had never had, who told me her son was adopted and she was so grateful for people like me. I felt a little less ashamed.

And then, my boyfriend, up to his usual shenanigans, gave me a huge hickey the day before the prom. Yes, at eight months pregnant I still went to my prom. I really didn’t want to but my mom talked me into it, persuading me that I needed to do it since I would never have another one. I had had a dress made specially for the occasion (by the same woman who made my band uniform, as fate would have it). A maternity prom dress and a huge hickey. Now that’s classy.

And then it was the end of the year; the worst, most hellish high school year ever. At graduation I listened to my sister’s Valedictorian speech and wondered: how did things end up going so sideways for me? She was so full of hope and positivity; she had a full paid scholarship to college. And I had no clue what was in store for me. All I knew was I had to get this baby out and to its parents.

I started summer school classes right after graduation. The attendance policy was very strict: no more than two absences, period. No exceptions. I knew this was going to be a challenge for me, what with having a baby and all. My due date was the beginning of July so I crossed my fingers the baby would come around the 4th and the holiday would give me some extra time.

No such luck. On the night of June 22nd, I started having what I thought was a horrible stomach ache. It kept me up most of the night, and on the toilet a lot. When it finally dawned on me that I might be in labor, I called my mom who was finishing up her swing shift. She had me time the pain which was about every 10 minutes. She hurried home and we headed to the hospital.

The adoptive couple was there before we even got there. She fed me ice chips, rubbed my back, and put cool towels on my forehead. I was too far along for an epidural but I was given something else for the pain. A few more hours of contractions and then I was wheeled into the delivery room. I pushed for what felt like an eternity. And it must have been a long time because when my baby boy finally came, he had the funniest cone-shaped head. I had successfully, safely brought him into this world on June 23rd, 1994.

Everything else after that was kind of a blur. I was exhausted. The adoptive couple asked if there was anything I wanted to eat. ANYTHING, they said. Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie was the first thing that popped into my head. They ran out and bought it, I inhaled it, and then I threw it all back up, all over myself in my hospital bed. It was not my finest moment.

I was in and out of sleep the rest of the day. A couple people came to visit, some sent flowers, but mostly it was quiet. I guess people don’t know how to celebrate adoption. The next morning the attorney came with the papers for us to sign. I held my baby in the crook of my left arm and kissed and cried all over him as I signed away my parental rights to him with my free hand. Later that day I got in the car with my mom, and waved goodbye to him as his parents held him. My heart was shattered.

I had him on a Thursday. I was back in summer school the following Monday. A couple months later, I graduated high school.

I wish I could say I went on to do really great things. I did not. Not right away. I fell many times. I always picked myself up and dusted myself off. But it took me a long time to get my life together. When I finally did, I was so excited because it was also when my son would be turning 18. I was ready for him to find me and his other siblings. I was proud of my accomplishments and wanted to show him what I had done.

But his 18th birthday came and went, and nothing. Then his 19th. Then his 20th. The phone call never came. No letter, no email, nothing. The years ticked by with silence.

My daughter found him on Facebook. He never added her, presumably because he didn’t know who she was. I found him on Instagram and started following him. He followed me back. I was thrilled! I thought he would realize who I was and want to connect. In my head, I was planning our first meeting. What I would wear, what I would say. Months went by and still… nothing. I messaged him one day and apparently blindsided him. He told me he needed time. That was October 1, 2015. I’ve messaged him twice more since then, but he hasn’t replied.

I have three other children now. I’ve been happily married for four years, together for eight. I’ve accomplished some amazing things in the last few years, and have even more awesomeness on the horizon. I want to share all of it with this now 23-year-old man. It hurts me that he isn’t ready for that. But that is his decision, and his own story to write. I hope that soon he will want to be a part of my and my family’s life. I hope I will be able to re-write this story.

His birth father remained a big part of my life. In fact, we were even married for a brief time. Even after we divorced and moved thousands of miles away from each other, we continued to reconnect over the years. He was my first love and a true soulmate.

Last year I found out he was sick with cancer. In October, I flew from Utah to South Carolina to visit him in the hospital. He surprised me with his jokes, in his moments of clarity. But for the most part he was heavily drugged and in a lot of pain. When I left I told him I loved him. He said, “Do you think I’m dying?”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Why else would you come see me unless you thought I was dying?”

No, I told him. I was just in the neighborhood so I thought I’d stop by and say hi. Don’t mind that it was during a hurricane and Charleston was being evacuated. I told him I would come back a couple days later, before I flew back home. I ended up not being able to make it due to road closures after the storm had hit.

We chatted a couple times over the next few months. We caught up on each other’s lives. He told me he was proud of me. They were good talks. I sent him a text on Thanksgiving and didn’t hear back. Then again at Christmas. When I didn’t hear from him that time, I had one of our mutual friends check on him.

He had had a stroke and couldn’t speak. He was going downhill fast. On January 7, 2017, he passed away at age 42.

His death has weighed so heavy on my heart. Time. I’m so sad he ran out of time. I’m sad for how his story ended. When our son celebrated his Golden 23rd birthday on the 23rd of June this year, I felt the sadness that I know he always shared with me on that day, no matter how far apart we were. Knowing he wasn’t somewhere out there, commemorating the day in his heart, left me feeling disconnected. Like I was holding a string that used to be taut but is now dangling, no one on the other end.

This is my adoption portrait. It is beautiful and heart-wrenching. But it is fluid—and can be rewritten. My hope is my son will find me, sooner than later. He will find a family so loving and giving. We will never replace the family he grew up with, but we will welcome him and treat him as our own. This is the story I hope he wants to be written into. This is the story I wish for him to write for himself.

How to Make a Year Fly By

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Last November at our annual Ogden Pub Runners’ Pub Crawl, I bid on a silent auction item and won. The item was an entry into the Fall Classic 50k at Antelope Island. I blame this decision on the copious amount of wine I drank that night. Fortunately for me, I had two other friends who were also imbibing that night and they promised they would participate in the race with me. Another friend sweeps the race every year, so I knew that at least I wouldn’t be alone in this insanity.

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Bad decisions were made that night

When you have a year to get ready for a race, it seems like plenty of time, especially when you keep yourself busy with work, other races, and life in general. Which is exactly what I’ve done. I planned on making this a HUGE year since I turned 40 in January. But sheesh; I’m outdoing myself. To top it off, I’m starting my own business, ya know, since I didn’t have enough going on already.

And guess what? It is now the eve of the race; my first ever 50k; my first Ultra. I can’t believe it. I have known for just over a year that this was happening, and now it’s here. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t freaking out a little. I have had butterflies in my stomach for most of the week. I am also extremely excited. Tomorrow I become an Ultra Marathoner. Me. (And Alison, Brittany, Chuck and Dave aka My Tribe).

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One of our training runs on the Island

And that, my friends, is how you make a year fly by. I’m ready. Ready for the pain, the joy, the agony, the glory. Bring it on, Antelope Island. Bring. It. On.

The Thing About Autism…

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The thing about autism is that sometimes it downright sucks. You can smack on your smiley, happy face and post witty anecdotes on your social media. But what you really want to say, when your well-intentioned  friends and colleagues ask, is that it. freaking. sucks.

Autism will make you feel like you are both the BEST and WORST parent, all at the same time. It will pat you on the back, consoling you: “There, there. You’re doing fine. He’s doing fine.” Simultaneously, it will trip you and laugh at your surprised pain and bewilderment: “Ha! That’s what you get for trusting me!”

Autism is an asshole. It will drain you of every ounce of joy.

Autism is also beautiful and amazing, and will bring you to absolute tears.

Autism will make you feel like you are neglecting your “typical” kids because you’re so consumed and concerned with your Atypical child.

It will make you feel guilty; guilty for:

-failing your child

-exalting your child

-feeling resentful towards friends and their “perfect” children

-drowning in a few glasses of wine almost every night

-exploiting your child by blogging about him.

Autism will make you question the motivation for every decision you make. It will cause you and your spouse to fight. It will force you to be the referee between autistic big brother and non-autistic little brother.

Autism will sit across from you at the dinner table, eating corn kernels with fingers and not a fork. It will force you to PICK YOUR BATTLES, and you will decide the method of corn consumption is not one of those.

Autism will talk to you for 30+ minutes, in great detail and at a fast pace, about Minecraft; you will understand none of it.

Autism will make you wonder if your child will ever truly comprehend just how much you love them.

The thing about autism… is EVERYTHING.

 

The Power of Invisibility

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Last night I had my first meeting for the Board of Directors of the Weber State Alumni Association. It was held in a spacious conference room on campus. As soon as I walked into the room, I was greeted by the slender president of WSU, Chuck Wight, and his even more slender wife, Victoria. I inwardly geeked out a little as I chatted with them.

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A table by the entrance displayed purple folders and assorted WSU paraphernalia. I picked up the folder with my name on it and made my way to an empty table. Nancy, the Executive Director of Alumni Relations (and the only person in the room I knew), came over and hugged me. She looked at my stuff and asked, “Did you get your scarf?” I had not, so she grabbed one for me. It was silver and silky, with the WSU logo printed all over it. It was adorable and I was thrilled. There were even more WSU-branded items at my table, including an alumni pin and a deck of playing cards. And when I opened my purple folder I found the greatest treasure of all: a WSU ‘A’ lot parking pass, good until next August!! Y’all– that’s pure gold. I would have given my left arm for one of those when I was attending WSU!

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Not pictured: Adorable scarf!! 😦

The smell of chafing dishes filled with artichoke and spinach dip, Swedish meatballs, and bacon-wrapped chicken filled the air. I piled as much as I could fit on the tiny black plate (hey, I’m marathon training. Need to fuel up.) and sat at my empty table. I looked around the room at the others, most of whom seemed to know each other. Later, as we introduced ourselves, I realized they did indeed know each other. Oh, and also by this time, there were others sitting at my table so I wasn’t completely alone.

The table right next to mine was filled with the Young Alumni Association members. The Emeriti Alumni Association members took up a few tables. And then there were members of the Student Alumni Association. Men and women, young and old; many of them (myself included) decked out in purple.

When I told some members I was new to the BOD, they exclaimed, “Well you look like you should be a Young Alumni!” Total stroke to my 40-year-old ego, right? Little do they know I actually could be on the YAA. They are a group whose members graduated within the last decade. I graduated as a non-traditional (aka OLD) student in 2013. In any case, I’m happy to have my spot at the BOD table.

We spent the next hour doing an orientation. At the end of the evening, the Emeriti members gathered around a piano in the corner of the room and the rest of us stood at our tables and joined them in singing the WSU song “Purple and White”. I’m not going to lie: I didn’t know the words AT ALL. Fortunately I know the WSU cheer “Great, Great, Great,” so when we got to that part I totally nailed it.

All in all, it was a great night. I hurried to my car (I had to get to back-to-school night for our kindergartner) and as I headed off campus, I felt tears stinging my eyes and a lump in the back of my throat. What the hell was wrong with me?? Why was I so emotional? And I had this epiphany:

I had been invisible for so long and now I finally felt SEEN. Sheryl Sandberg wrote “Lean In,” challenging women to “sit at the table”. I had spent so many years waiting on and serving the people at the tables- literally- that I never dreamed of anything much bigger than that. And I can tell you from my 15-plus years of serving and bartending, I was very invisible. At best I was objectified. On average I was ignored. At worst I was belittled. FIFTEEN years of this.

But now… now I’m sitting at the table. A part of me looked around the room last night and thought, “I don’t belong here. I’m not worthy.” And another part of me thought, “I worked damn hard. This is exactly where I belong.”

I’m on the WSUAA Board of Directors. I am at the table. I am leaning in. I am seen. Finally… finally.

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The Golden Birthday

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The Golden Birthday

June 23, 2017. There is no legitimate reason for me to celebrate this day. But if there was a reason, that reason would be my son’s Golden Birthday. The day Joseph turns 23 on the 23rd.

But, since he is the child I placed for adoption 23 years ago, I gave up my right to celebrate. Another family has had the privilege of these festivities every year. Even so, each year on this day I would take time to reflect on the memories of the day I gave birth to a beautiful boy.

It’s always been a bittersweet day for me, but even more so the past five years. Once he turned 18 I had hoped he would look for me. As the years passed and I didn’t hear from him, I had to accept that that wasn’t going to happen. A couple years ago I found him on Instagram. I made contact with him and he told me “it was a lot to take in”. I haven’t communicated with him since, nor has he with me.

This year his birthday sits even heavier in my heart. On January 7, my high school boyfriend, my first husband, the person who also had to sign away his rights to this baby boy passed away. I always knew, no matter how long it had been since I had talked to him or how many miles apart we were, that on this day, he also felt the same as me. That June 23rd was special to him as well. And now he’s gone, and the solitary, bittersweet sadness is mine alone.

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I still have hope that one day Joseph will want to know me. One day my kids might have a relationship with him. He might be willing to take on a whole entire family that will love him. But that is his decision to make, his story to write. Just as this story is mine.

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Happy Golden Birthday, Joseph. Thank you for choosing me to bring you to your family. I hope to know you someday.

The Other Mother

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The Other Mother

November 1993. When was my last period? Shit, I think it was September. Is that right? That can’t be. Shit shit shit.

Is that one line or two? That second line is pretty faint, maybe it’s not really… Oh yeah. Yep, that’s definitely two red lines. Wait, does two lines mean positive or negative? Positive. Wow. I’m pregnant. 

Twenty two years ago, a 16-year-old me started feeling nauseous and realized she had missed a period. She nervously bought a pregnancy test, sneaked it home to the single-wide trailer she shared with her mom and four siblings, and waited anxiously for the moment she would have enough time and privacy to pee on the stick and wait the required two minutes for the result without any other family members bugging for bathroom time.

She was a junior and the drum major of the marching band at Goose Creek High in South Carolina. She was smart, witty, and had a bright future ahead of her. She had spent the previous summer at the coveted Governor’s School for the Arts at Furman University. She was a survivor of sexual abuse and was helping her mom and older sister raise three younger siblings as a result of her parents’ recent painful, ugly divorce.

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And now she was a knocked up hoe. It’s true. When word got out at good ol’ GCHS, she walked into a bathroom stall one day to those words scribbled on the door in thick dark Sharpie. “Stacey Ribino in an knocked up hoe.” (I guess spelling my name correctly and using any sort of grammar is not a prerequisite for vandalizing bathroom doors.)

She blinked back tears. Kids were cruel. That’s what they thought of her? Would they have thought the same mean, hurtful things if they had known that she wasn’t keeping the baby? Would they have been kind or even a little sympathetic if they knew she was giving the baby up for adoption?

She knew, the instant that damn pee stick was positive, that adoption was her only choice. This life she was incubating, this baby she was growing, was not meant for her. Her family was barely getting by as her mom was finishing nursing school. How could they have added another baby to the mix?

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A few days after taking the pregnancy test, she gathered the courage to tell her mom. They were at Captain D’s, eating her mom’s favorite fried fish (the ONLY fish she’d ever eat) and hush puppies with gobs of tartar sauce, so she figured she was in a safe zone. Plus her friend Adam was there, so she felt relatively certain that her mom wouldn’t murder her.

“Mom… I think I may be pregnant.”

“Why? Why do you think that?”

“Because I took a test. And it was positive.”

Mom and Adam both stared wide-eyed back at her. Adam’s jaw dropped. After a few minutes of letting the news sink in, her mom said, “I will support whatever you decide.”

She set her jaw, almost offended by the underlying meaning of that sentence. “I have to give it up for adoption. That’s the only thing I can do. I can’t keep it and you know I would never have an abortion.”

She tried to keep her secret as long as possible. The marching band went to Disney World in January to march in a parade. She worried about what she would tell friends when they wanted to go on rides that cautioned against pregnant women. She felt tired and frumpy and very, very alone.IMG_1034

Her mom worked as a labor and delivery nurse at a hospital in Charleston. One night she mentioned to a co-worker what was going on with her daughter. That co-worker told her she should talk to another nurse in the postpartum wing named Kathryn. Kathryn and her husband Jeff had been trying to get pregnant for a while without success.

So that’s how 16 (almost 17)-year-old Stacy found the parents for her baby. Kathryn was a nurse and Jeff was a doctor in the Navy. They had a lovely home, a beautiful Golden Retriever, were Catholic, and wanted a baby more than anything. They were perfect. Once they knew they were getting a baby, they were very involved. They called and checked on Stacy and the baby, and took her out to eat several times.

Getting through the rest of that year of high school, trying to conceal a continually growing belly, was a daunting task. There were a lot of safety pins, elastic waistbands and baggy shirts. She had to have a prom dress specially made to accommodate her eight-months-prego eggo. It was a pretty humiliating affair.

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Toward the end of that hellish junior year, she decided she could not and absolutely did not want to return to GCHS for her senior year (see above story about bathroom stall). She met with a guidance counselor and figured out that she could take the credits she needed at summer school and could graduate at the end of the summer. Meanwhile, her older sister was the valedictorian of the graduating class that year. Stacy was flailing miserably in her “perfect” sister’s shadow. She knew by not having a senior year that she would miss out on a lot of fun experiences and opportunities.

The baby’s due date was the beginning of July. Stacy could only miss two days of classes and still be able to graduate from summer school, so she had to be very careful toward the end of her pregnancy. On the night of June 22, she started having really bad cramps, but attributed it to eating too much food. She went to bed early and set her alarm to get up to go to school the next morning.

Thursday June 23, 1994. Owwwww. My stomach hurts so bad. I need water. <glug glug glug>

Oh God. I’m gonna throw up. I am dying. I am seriously going to die. Maybe I can walk it off. Breathe. Breathe. Lie down. No, get back up. Walk walk walk. Run to the bathroom! <barf>

Nope. That didn’t help. Maybe if I poop… 

Ahh. The pain stopped. I’m okay. I’m okay. <eight minutes later> Pain’s back.

I had Joseph on a Thursday morning. I had to wait for my mom to get home from her night shift so she could drive me to the hospital. By the time we got there I was 7 centimeters dilated. I got some pain meds, did some breathing, and next thing I knew I was being wheeled into the delivery room. After pushing for what felt like forever, a cone-headed beautiful boy came quietly into this world.

Kathryn and Jeff were with me the entire time. (She actually got to the hospital before we did). Immediately after giving birth, she tearfully, gleefully asked me what I wanted to eat. I requested Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie, which I proceeded to inhale and then vomit all over myself.

The lawyer brought the papers for me to sign on Friday morning. I held Joseph in the crook of my left arm, sobbing and kissing him, inhaling his sweet baby smell for the final time. With my right hand, I signed him away.

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The next few days and weeks were a blur. I managed to get myself back to school on Monday, only missing the two days I was allowed. I would sit in class, silently turning in on myself, tears streaming down my face, trying to make myself as tiny and invisible as possible, lest I implode or explode from the pain.

Somehow I survived. I made forward motion movements. I lived. I managed to graduate from summer school. I started drinking– I discovered that it numbed the pain. I remember the first time I drank a six-pack of Zima (because beer was disgusting), and the resulting euphoria and giggles soothed my soul for a moment.

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I spiraled out of control a bit. My mom kicked me out of the house. I lived with my friend Adam and his dad for a few months. Then my older sister came home from her first semester at BYU and somehow convinced me to move to Utah with her.

I moved into an apartment in Provo, started going back to church, and (wait for it) got PREGNANT again. The relationship was pretty toxic, so I packed up and went back to South Carolina. I started going to a tech school there, thinking I’d become a nurse. Then I remembered I don’t do needles. Or blood. Or anything that has to do with nursing.

I had my beautiful daughter on February 9, 1996, just 19 months from giving up Joseph. My forward motion movements were sometimes backwards. I got married, I got divorced. I gained weight, I lost weight. I moved back to Utah. I got married again, I got divorced again. I went back to school, I dropped out of school. I was a bit of a train wreck.

It really wasn’t until 2010 that I started to get it together. I went back to school. This time I finished. I was a runner. I ran marathons. I had an autistic son who taught me so much about patience and resilience. I could do anything. Very hard things. IMPOSSIBLE things.

June 23, 2012. Today Joseph is 18. Maybe he’ll look for me…

Joseph’s 18th birthday came and went. I never heard anything from him. A year ago I found his mom on Facebook. I sent her a message, but never heard anything back. A few months later I found Joseph on Instagram. I started following him and, to my pleasant surprise, he followed me back. I assumed if he checked out my pictures, he would figure out who I was. At this point he was 21.

On September 30, 2015, I sent him the following message:

“Hi Joseph. I hope you are well. Thanks for connecting with me here. Hopefully you don’t think I’m a creepy stalker. I would love to be a part of your life, if you’re willing to let me. I have thought about you so much and hoped when you turned 18 you’d contact me. But I respect whatever decision you’ve made. My whole family would love to know you, especially my other kids. Anyway, I will leave it to you. Feel free to call or text me any time.”

He replied:

“I’m sorry I think you may have me confused with someone. I’m not familiar with anyone from Utah. I’m sorry to say I don’t recognize you. I must have accidentally ‘followed’ you however as I sometimes add people back who follow me.”

“Well I’m from SC. Joseph, June 23, 1994? If that’s not you then I apologize for the confusion. I gave a son up for adoption… I thought it was you.”

He replied that “this is quite a bit to take in at once.”

I felt like I had dropped a huge bomb on this poor kid. I was so confused. We had an open adoption and Jeff and Kathryn had promised he would always know about me. Why did he not realize who I was when I sent him that message?

I messaged his mom again on Facebook.

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So he knows I exist. He knows I am the person who carried him and gave him to his parents.

And he doesn’t want to know me. His heart that I have carried in mine for 22 years. I don’t know what to do with this reality.

When Joseph turned 18, my then-boyfriend (now husband) asked me why I didn’t try to get in touch with him then. And the honest truth was that I didn’t feel like I was “good enough”. I didn’t want to be a disappointment to him. I was embarrassed that I hadn’t made more of myself.

Last year was a particularly good year. We bought an amazing home in a great neighborhood. I got a new job that I love. I became a face for Weber State University as part of their “Finish at Weber” campaign. I’m in a commercial that plays in movie theaters. I won a big contest, gaining some attention in the running community. My friends joke that they should rub my shoulder and then head to Vegas since my good luck will rub off on them.

All these accomplishments. All these things that make me proud. Now I’m finally ready. He’ll be 22 in three and a half months. But he may never be ready for me to be his other mother.

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