On August 22, 2007, I signed away my parental rights. On August 29, 2007, I was running desperately through Durham Regional Hospital trying to get them back.
A lot can happen in a week.
In order for me to totally explain the situation I found myself in when I realized that I was pregnant, I must give you a little background information. Although I was in denial for some time, I can now admit that I was depressed and that my depression stemmed from a failed relationship with a long-term boyfriend. We started dating in high school and continued to be an item throughout our college years. In total, we were together for six years. After he pledged a certain fraternity, our relationship went south. We broke up and he started seeing other women. Although we weren’t officially together, we kept seeing each other on and off for several years. No matter what I did or what new guy I started seeing, I couldn’t shake my ex. We had so much history. We were supposed to get married—at least in my mind.
He would flaunt his new woman in front of me, crushing my spirit. I’d try to play it off like I didn’t care, but I was hurting. Everyone would remark that his new girl was pretty and that bothered me. I often wondered if I wasn’t good enough for him now because I was on the bigger side. I’ve always been a big girl and he used to seem okay with that. His rejection was gut-wrenching. What’s wrong with me, I’d often wonder.
In late 2006, we got together one more time while back home in Baltimore during the Christmas break. He was seeing someone else, but it didn’t matter to me. I still loved him. I thought we rekindled what we had, but I was wrong. As soon as we got back to Durham, he started treating me the same way—flaunting his new woman in front of me and acting like there was nothing between us. I finally got the message and moved on as best as I could. The new guy I was started seeing was a hot mess. He was a hardened criminal. There would be times when I’d sit in the car with him and wonder how the hell I stooped this low. This guy had nothing going on for himself, but yet I settled. He didn’t treat me right either. I won’t go into too many details about it because it would take an entire chapter to recap. I figured a piece of a man was better than no man at all.
I had grown so depressed that it started affecting my job performance. Eventually I reached out to a therapist and was soon prescribed anti-depressants. The first half of 2007 was a blur. I was lonely and miserable. I wasn’t myself. I stopped eating and I stopped going out to socialize.
One day, in May, I noticed that I had an unusual menstrual cycle. I went to the doctor’s office and found out that I was pregnant—five months to be exact! I had no idea that I was pregnant because I still got a period each month. Although I’m a big girl, I wasn’t really showing either. When I did the calculation, I realized that I was pregnant by my ex. I considered having an abortion, but ti was way too late to do that. Plus, I couldn’t bear making that decision anyway. I couldn’t bear murdering the child I was carrying. Having an abortion would’ve sent me over the edge.
With all that was going on in my life, I was indifferent to being pregnant. Unlike other expectant mothers who paint their nurseries and pick out a theme, I didn’t bother to paint the walls of my bedroom. They remained bare. There were no baby magazines with dog ears on the pages of outfits I wanted to purchase for the baby sprawled across my kitchen table. I didn’t have a baby shower. I didn’t even bother to buy Pampers or a crib. There was no evidence that a new life would enter this world. This pregnancy only existed in my body, and in my apartment. I hid my pregnancy. I didn’t tell anyone about the pregnancy—including the child’s father— for what, I wasn’t keeping the baby anyway. I decided to put the baby up for adoption.
Although I tried my best to hide my pregnancy, a friend of my ex’s bumped into me in early August and couldn’t pry his eyes away from my round belly. By this time, I was big and pregnant. I acknowledged the friend and played it off like I didn’t have a huge belly sitting out in front of me. The next day, my ex called me and asked if I was pregnant. That was the first time he realized that I was expecting. We hadn’t seen each other in months so he didn’t get a chance to see my body change. Once he found out, he came to check on me and made sure I was ok. He was there for the big moment.
On August 20th, 2007—a few weeks before my actual due date—I felt a few painful cramps. These weren’t Braxton Hicks either. I called my OB/GYN and she told me to come in if I kept having these kinds of pains. I layed down for a few hours and hoped the pains would go away. But when I got up to go to the bathroom, a pain so strong hit me, sending me to the bathroom floor. I could hardly speak. I tried to call out for my ex in the living room, but he didn’t hear me. I felt a sudden urge to push, like a really strong bowel movement. Before I knew it, I could see the baby’s head. I gave another push and I was able to pull the shoulders and the rest of him out of me. I yelled out to my ex again and he came to check on me this time.
His eyes were wider than saucers. He stood there in shock for a few seconds as though he couldn’t believe what he was witnessing. He was a cop, so he sprang into action. He grabbed a few clean towels to wipe the baby off with.
“Is he alive?” he asked, dialing the paramedics.
“I don’t know,” I replied half dazed.
My ex followed the instructions he received from the paramedics and lightly slapped the baby on his rear. The baby let out one single cry. “He’s alive!” my ex proclaimed. “He’s looking me dead in the eyes.”
At exactly 4:20PM on August 20, 2007 my baby came into this cold and lonely world. He was born on the floor of my apartment, pulled out by me, a terrified 27-year-old who got a five- minute crash course in obstetrics and gynecology from watching a few baby shows on the discovery channel. The baby boy did not cry alot, he simply sighed with large, bright, brown eyes. I guess he figured “Of all the mommies in the world, I got this one. But she’s mine.” I think in the first few minutes of this little boy’s life, he learned to shrug—as if to say: “Whatever it is, I can handle it. No biggie.”
As I waited for the paramedics to arrive to take us to the hospital, I inspected the baby like an examiner with my thumb and index fingers. Although the baby was more like a foreign object that had just come out of my body, I couldn’t help notice his piercing brown eyes. In them, I saw a fighter—one more sure of himself in that moment than his mother had ever felt in her 27 years. “You are mine!” his brilliant brown eyes seemed to say to me. I could feel it—whatever “it” was. This little boy really loves me I thought, holding back tears. But how, I wondered. He claimed me before I even had the capacity to reciprocate. Although I had officially been a mother for less than ten minutes, I could feel the bond that had formed between us, but I was resistant. I wanted no parts of it. “I’m no mother”, “I am not equipped for this”, I reasoned to myself, fixing my mind to sign him away. “He does not have a name,” I further reasoned, “and a name would make him real.” If I gave him away with no name, I could pretend that he never existed. I could go on with my life knowing that he would be better off with anyone BUT me. I told my ex that the baby wasn’t his, trying to make it easier for me to sign away my rights.
NINE DAYS LATER
BABY BOY ANDERSON. That is what his Neonatal Intensive Care Unit bracelet read. Due to the circumstances of his birth, he had to stay there for the first few days of his life. While still at the hospital, I felt the urge to visit him. How weird. I had the strangest curiosity to see someone that I was set to give away. When I arrived at the nursery, I noted that the other babies had placards with their names and birthdays scribbled in big, colorful letters. The little boy I delivered had nothing. My heart sank to a level it had never felt before. The nurse said, “Name him, give him his rightful place in the world.” I looked at her and ran from the NICU back to my hospital room. She was right. I felt so ashamed. I prayed and prayed and thought the least I owed him was a name. I had a Bible in my hospital room and it was opened to Samuel. I’m thinking to myself a biblical name would be strong and would give him a good start. For some strange reason, I was reminded of the story of how David, a meager little shepherd boy slew the giant Goliath. I read the story and was moved by David’s strength, the kind of strength I saw in that little boy’s eyes. David is a perfect name, I thought. On that day he became David…..and he became mine.
The only person who knew about the baby was my ex. I still hadn’t told my family or friends, not even my mother. I was so embarrassed and ashamed of myself that I couldn’t bear my mother’s criticism. It seemed like that’s all she did of late. I would secretly visit David everyday for hours at a time after I was released from the hospital. I bought him little outfits to wear. I did not want him to be alone. The nurses knew my situation and gave knowing glances to each other whenever I came into the nursery. But they stayed silent and were never intrusive. I was scared to hold him, but I figured until his new parents were found I could love him in the meantime. But the more time I spent with him the harder it was to leave. He always opened his eyes for me. One bold nurse exclaimed, “That boy knows his mama.” His mama? Was that me? What did that mean?
David courted me those first few days. He opened his eyes and made contented cooing noises for me. Although the nurses had trouble getting him to drink formula, he always drank when I was there. His skin was so smooth. The smell of him was intoxicating. He was perfect, from his curly hair, to the plump toes that are definitely inherited from me. I held him close to my heart each day and I think that it soothed both of us. I daydreamed about him, I thought about him all day. I doodled his name in my notebooks or spare pads I had lying around my house. I rushed to the hospital to see him all hours of the day. I was falling in love with my son.
On August 29, 2007, I ran to Durham Regional to tear up those papers. That bold nurse, who already proclaimed that David knew I was his mother, met me at the door, knowing I had changed my mind. “Take your son home,” she said. And I did.
I did not know what direction my life was going before August 20th, 2007. It seems as if nothing in my life mattered before then. I cannot imagine how I spent my time without my little guy. What did I do before all the nose kisses, the “I love you Mommys” and the constant rubbing on my arm in order for him to go to sleep? My David awakened in me a ray of sunlight so bright and introduced me to love so unconditional that it is often overwhelming. He is my life’s greatest gift. I am just thankful that he chose me to be his mom. I LOVE MY SON.
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