When I tried keeping a journal what came out was either a daily dose of woe-is-me or perfunctory notes about the books I was reading. Instead I wrote a long letter to my baby, typing it out at my small wooden desk. It was a real antique I’d picked up cheap in Saginaw and moved cross country. Now it sat beneath a western window where the sun went down through fragments of colored glass hanging there.
…You kick me, you cause hard bulges in my stomach, you do not let me sleep for more than a few hours at a time. Sometimes I think you are standing on your hands kicking your feet against the wall of my stomach….Now that you have announced your presence, I cannot help but love you, because you are me and you are him….You’ll look around sometimes and you’ll see that other lives seem easier, a little gentler on the mind: Why am I adopted? You’ll ask. Try to think only that you have got to learn more than others because you have more to do passing through. Don’t ask why. Such things just are.
But I have to admit that being philosophical doesn’t help much when you’re hurting. I guess I am trying to say that since we can not do anything about the pain, we might as well try to make some good of it.
Our separation is not going to be easy on either of us. I have to give you away and you have to be given away. Oh, baby I wish it didn’t have to be that way. Afterward, both of us will always be different from most of the rest. There will be a mark deep inside that only you and I know about. Only you and I will know how it feels. I know you didn’t ask to be born a bastard, and if I could have chosen, I wouldn’t have been born female. All we can do is make do.
…there is so much I want to tell you, so much love I want to encircle you with, so much I can not do for you, so much that must go unsaid. I tried to kill you, but do not hate me. I love you. I love you. I love you.
I did not dwell anymore about wishing I had been born a man; those thoughts fled as my body and mind were flooded by female hormones overwhelming all earlier considerations. Nonetheless, yin/yang conversations played in my head.
The part of me that leaned male, XY: Someday, when this is over, you’ll see, you’ll have your career back. It’s the only way. The only way.
XX: But will that be worth it? I will have lost my baby. I want my baby. I want to be with Brian and our baby.
XY: Grow up. You got yourself into this mess. If that’s what you thought, that you wanted a baby to keep, your timing is off. By the way, why didn’t you use some kind of contraception, sweetie?
XX: That’s a long story, and you don’t have to be condescending, hon. Brian—he was impotent at first, and then he wasn’t—
XX: So that’s how it happened. Come on, don’t you have any pity—
XY: I am not interested in that anymore. That’s done. Now you must buck up and give away this baby. Tomorrow is another day.
XX: But my baby, don't you see, my baby, not someone else’s. I want to keep him, nurse him, watch him grow up, be his mother….
XY: Too effin’ bad. You made your bed, now lie in it.
Every three weeks or so, I went to see the social worker at Northaven Terrace, the adoption agency. Mrs. Mura, who had become a confident, friend, therapist. Until the day everything changed.
“But we’ll be able to—find each other when he’s eighteen, right—or twenty-one?” I said matter-of-factly one afternoon. It’s half a statement, half a question. She is already looking at me with a kind of shock on her face. “Right?” I add. “Right?”
“NO.” Mrs. Mura shakes her head back and forth slowly.
“What do you mean?” Surely she does not mean what I already know she must mean. Yet she can not mean that. That is unbearable, cruel and unusual, nobody would make that kind of law, nobody with a heart…. A quick hot layer of sweat swept over me.
“But that’s inhumane—that can’t be right, that we never—” I could not even raise my voice, I did not have the strength to do that. She was The Man. She was in charge. I was—nothing. A baby bearer, the woman shamed, someone without rights. Of any sort.
“Lorraine, I thought you knew, once you sign the papers it’s over. I mean, for good. The records are sealed. For good. You can’t find him and he—”
“That is the most horrible thing I ever heard of, what would be the harm? I mean when—when he’s older. Surely that’s what this secrecy is about—why I can’t meet the parents—so that I don't interfere when he’s growing up.” My voice has taken on a plaintive whining tone, tears are welling up.
But she did not send any mitigating signal. She is trying to be kind, I can tell that, but that’s like offering me a smoke on the way to the gallows. Yet I could not give up.
“Can’t we do this another way? Can’t we have an agreement that when he is older, that at least he can find out, and me too? There has to be another way, there must be some parents who….”
“I know you can’t see it now, but you will make another life for yourself. The pain will lessen in time.”
I stared at her blankly, so this is how this will end, my life in an abyss of not knowing. Who dreamt up this vile law? Who was the monster?
“You’ll see, you will make a new life for yourself,” she repeated.
I looked out the window, it is high up and all I can see is the sky—the better to keep away prying eyes from the parking lot—it was a sunny day and a patch of clear bright blue filled the window. How can it be sunny today? How can today be a sunny day? I want to scream and rail against this injustice, I want to roll on the floor and moan in misery.
“What about if we—ask the adoptive parents? Or can’t we find a couple who—”
“Lorraine, if you won’t agree to this, we can’t help you. There is no other way.”
We can’t help you. There is no other way.
“This is the law. Once you sign the papers, you have to walk away. You will never forget her, but there is no going back. The records are sealed for good. It’s best for everyone this way. For you, for her…. ”
Are you out of your mind? Best for me? This will never be best for me. I want to grab my purse and run. To where? I can not go home to my family. Brian hasn’t made a move.
And I have no Plan B.
I slunk down into my chair, inspected the tiled floor, the pale green of vomit. This is so much worse than I thought it would be. This is going to be a living death. I have no say so about how this happens. I am a woman without rights. Of any sort. They think I am garbage, to be disposed of, once I hand over the baby.
This is not right. This is wrong. Every part of my being is screaming: this is wrong.
I remembered what the Chinese palmist said the time she read my hand: You have one child but something is wrong. Like he's adopted.
I did not know what she meant at the time. Yet I may have been already pregnant. I just did not know it. --lorraine