Though I had wanted an open adoption, I didn't hear from the family and the lawyer refused to help.
It’s November 1995 and the pre-abortion paperwork is sitting on a clipboard in my lap. When I had found out I was pregnant, I felt shame, anger, and terror.
So here I am. I start writing in the details for the paperwork. I am due sometime in April … my birth date is …
I drop my pen mid-word and I start to cry. I cannot do this. This isn't for me. I tell my friend, “Let’s go.” And we bolt.
Within a week, I packed my bags and moved for a job more than 1,000 miles away so my family wouldn't find out about the pregnancy. I knew I could take care of myself economically, but not emotionally. I realize I am not ready to raise a baby. It wouldn’t be good for either of us.
The only option left is adoption.
Not knowing what to do or where to turn, I start looking in the yellow pages for adoption attorneys. I see one with a big ad and just pick her. Scared and embarrassed, I walk into her office and sit down with her.
Not really knowing what questions to ask, I just do as I'm told. Soon, I have the daunting task of picking whom I want to raise my child. I know I want an open adoption so I can see the baby grow up and at least know she's safe, healthy, and happy. After hours of pouring through adoption albums, I decide on a family. From their photo and brief synopsis, they fulfill my requirements—well-established and Jewish.
A day or so later, I meet the family. It’s very awkward for both of us, but my decision is made. Over the next few months, we meet and attempt to get to know one another—although we don't exchange contact information. Overall, it's good—but I still worry.
On March 22, 1996 around 8 p.m., I go into labor—alone and scared, I enter the hospital with the attorney’s social worker. My family still doesn’t know. Seven hours later, my baby girl is born—six weeks early. She's tiny—only a little over four pounds—but otherwise, very healthy. I hold her in my arms, talk to her, and try to explain why I'm letting her go. I hand her over to the nurse and off to the NICU she goes. I never see her again at the hospital.
A few days later, I return to the attorney’s office to sign away my parental rights. And with that, there was no more attorney and no more support at all from anyone in the office.
At that very point, my life went into a downward spiral.
I had no advocate and no one to help me move forward with my life. I was stuck with all the problems I had before—plus the loss. Though I had wanted an open adoption, I didn't hear from the family and the lawyer refused to help me. No pictures, no calls—nothing. Without an advocate, I didn’t have any means to reach the family.
My journey forward wasn’t easy, but it did eventually get better. Within two years, I entered—and then left—an abusive marriage and had another baby girl. As a new single mother, I returned home to live with my family in Pennsylvania. My parents were loving and caring. I found my true love and amazing husband, Michael. I created a successful career and family life.
But still, I struggled with my choice to place my first baby up for adoption. I yearned to know that my little girl was OK. I know that I did what I did because I loved her and that I will always love her—I wanted so much for her to know that, too. As much as it hurt to be far apart from her, I never wish that I had ended the pregnancy.
And then—on November 6, 2014—I received a note that started, “We first met on March 23 …”—it was my daughter, April, wanting to get to know me.
After texting and Skyping, we did finally meet. She was just as I imagined—a spitting image of me. She was 18 and a freshman in college. My first question was, “Do you hate me?”—of course, she didn’t. She just wanted to know me. Our love was mutual.
When I eventually met with her parents, we discovered the lawyer lied to both of us—telling them that I didn’t want to hear from them after the first three months.
Being reunited with April has been both scary and hard at times, but also very beautiful. It’s hard to describe the emotions I feel.
I don’t want to overstep my bounds with her adoptive family, but at the same time, she is my daughter and a part of my family. It’s a fine line that I walk. We text or talk every single day. I’ve met her whole adopted family who's given her the amazing life I wanted for her.
The ending of my story is definitely unique in the Jewish community—but the beginning isn't. Every day, there are Jewish women who find themselves pregnant and vulnerable for a whole variety of reasons.
Along with many Jews, I am proud of being pro-choice. I didn’t need anyone to make my choice for me, nor do I want to make another’s choice for them. However, I did need people to walk alongside me on my journey. For me—and many others—that support just wasn't there. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Jewish women deserve to know that they can count on our community during pregnancy and afterwards. They need support whatever choice they make—especially amid the challenges they'll face if they raise their children or after they place them up for adoption. I am glad now to be part of the only American Jewish organization that is offering the support I wish I could have had.
It’s a love story worth writing about.
This article was originally published at Kveller. Reprinted with permission from the author.