But it’s time. I have to write about it now. Because it’s a very relevant part of my life.
What am I talking about?
Well, I am talking about my big secret. Although it’s never really been a secret. Just something I don’t talk about. Something I haven’t talked about. Many of my very close friends know what I am writing about. Many of my old friends were there. Several of you reading might be shocked. Some not.
Let me back up a bit.
About a year ago I was sitting at a girlfriend’s house drinking champagne and shooting the shit. Something I have become quite good at. This particular girlfriend is very inquisitive. Randomly, and off topic, she asked, “Joey, why are you so passionate about reproductive health?”
This is a question I have been asked many times, by many different people. And I have never delved in to it completely and have never honestly answered the question. Everyone I know just lives with the fact that I talk about abortion and birth control all the time.
Is this about abortion? Is that my big secret? No. That’s no secret and it’s not a big deal. Yes, I have had an abortion.
My passion for all things reproductive comes down to one thing. Choice.
When I was very young I had several choices taken away from me – choices that have to do with sexuality and intimacy. Sexual abuse and molestation to the most egregious degree. But that is something that is difficult for me to talk about and will have to wait for a while before I am ready to write about it. And that time may never come.
When I willingly became sexually active, at a very early age (maybe not by today’s standards), I had the choice of getting birth control. The Tulsa Health Department and Planned Parenthood made birth control options very available to me. I am thankful for that. I finally had choices that I could make on my own.
A few years after that, I met the first man I truly fell in love with. It was romantic. And dangerous. And foolish. And I loved every minute of it.
I was barely out of high school and headed to college as a young freshman. I was emotionally immature and as wild as wild gets.
This boy and I fell in love and I quickly dropped out of college after my first semester. We moved in together and lived a crazy (albeit fun) life. Not all of it was fun, however.
Here comes the point of this blog …
Soon after dropping out of college, I was pregnant. At 18. I chose to forget my pills for days at a time (maybe not wisely or even purposely). I thought I was in love. I didn’t have time for reason or sense.
I remember going to the doctor to confirm what we knew was fact. And we cried and cried and cried. We thought about all the crazy things we had done leading up to that point. Drugs, lots of drinking and tons of debauchery. We knew we weren’t ready to become parents. But at that moment in time, we chose to try.
Nothing in my past had led me to believe that abortion was not an option. But there was not one moment that I even considered it. Not because I thought it was wrong, but just because I didn’t want to have one.
I had never had a normal family life. I was raised primarily by my grandma, and had pretty much been on my own since I was 16. My mom was a drug addict and my father was absent and signed over all rights when I was an infant. In my young, immature mind, I wanted a family.
So we spent the next eight months preparing for a baby. The only thing that changed in our lifestyle was that I no longer abused my body with booze and drugs. However, nothing more changed. We still went out. My baby daddy was in a sometimes touring band at the time and we invited bands to play in Tulsa and stay with us. It was still a seemingly fun life, although I was growing plumper and rosier by the day.
My baby daddy (many of you reading this know his name, but since he isn’t choosing to write this, then I will keep it private) was amazing throughout my entire pregnancy.
I felt good and positive the entire time. My high school friends had a baby shower for me. We owned a night club/show venue for a short time (those adventures could be a blog all on its own) and our band friends threw us a baby shower, too. Everyone was excited for us.
On February 25, 1992, I went into labor. My contractions were tame at first. Many (MANY) friends came to the hospital. Our friends Mike and Liz visited early into my labor and delivered a beautiful bouquet of pink carnations to serve as my focal point. A focal point is something I needed, as I had chosen (there is that word again) to have my baby naturally.
The waiting rooms (yes, all of them in the maternity ward) were full of old friends, family and punk rockers. They were all excited to see what we had created. Would it be Satan’s spawn?
Early in the evening on 2/25/92, I pushed and pushed (never once yelled and screamed), and soon delivered a beautiful, perfectly healthy little girl. We named her Sidney Abigail — Sidney after Syd Barrett, although spelled differently, and Abigail after Abbey Road and also, Abby on Knots Landing. Not kidding. It was my favorite TV Show.
Baby Daddy and I didn’t want anyone seeing her until I was all cleaned up and in my room. This made his parents very angry. Apparently they threw a big fit in the waiting room. I only heard about it. This should have been a sign for what was to come.
The pain I felt for the week after giving birth was unlike any I had ever felt. I didn’t have an episiotomy, and trust me, I needed one. Mothers reading this might know what I am talking about. And truthfully, I don’t think my body was fully developed yet. The pain below was nearly unbearable. And I couldn’t nurse because it hurt so badly. My boobs got engorged and the pain was sick.
We stayed with my nana for a week after Abbey was born. Nana helped a lot.
Reality kicked in very quickly and the fact that I was still a teenager with a newborn was emotionally harsh.
I didn’t have a job, wasn’t in school and I was a hot mess. Still, I tried. We tried.
What transpired over the next year was rough. Lots of fighting. Lots of cheating (on both sides). Lots of madness. We were young, dumb and not at all ready to be raising a child. I can admit it now, but we were even a little bit selfish. We didn’t want to give up our crazy ways to properly care for a baby.
I was very emotional during this time. I had never experienced heartbreak of a failing relationship. It was nearly too much to bear.
I was madly in love with my child, but worried that I wasn’t ready to take care of her.
Soon, baby daddy’s parents offered to help. They did look after her a lot, and when Abbey wasn’t with them, she would stay with her great grandmother on her father’s side. Baby daddy’s parents offered to put Abbey on their insurance so she would have healthcare. But the catch was that they had to have legal guardianship. We agreed. Soon it became a situation where Abbey was with them more than she was with us.
That’s when we made the decision to do what was best for her. We would let his parents legally adopt her. Was this easiest for us? Perhaps. But it was also the right thing to do. We were in no position to raise a sweet little baby girl.
Giving a baby up for adoption has always been attached to a stigma. It still is.
(Slight interjection: In a moment, I will post photos of Abbey. You will pee your pants when you see them, because she and I are like twins. She’s way prettier, though.)
Her grandparents promised a open adoption (obviously), but what transpired was anything but. They moved out of town. I became estranged from baby daddy. I didn’t have a car and I barely had a place to live. I couldn’t exercise my rights to visit her. In reality, because we had legally given her up for adoption, I had no rights. And baby daddy’s parents were more strict as they had promised. I was hurt and angry. My family was devastated. There was nothing I could do after the decision had been made.
It wasn’t too long before I came out of my funk, got my shit together and went back to school. I secured several good paying jobs before settling on my first long term professional job in 1995. During this time I had lost contact with baby daddy, his parents and Abbey. It was a sad time.
Abbey’s new parents (her grandparents) sent me a letter (copied baby daddy, my family and Abbey’s extended family on her biological father’s side) asking me to stop trying to see her – stating that she was better off and could adjust better if my family and I just stepped back and let her be. It made little sense to me, but I obliged. They knew her better at that point. And I didn’t want to harm her.
I began journaling about my experience – hoping that she would someday want to read it. I sent cards and letters for every holiday and her birthday to her great grandmother, whom I remained friends with. To this day, even. She would save them in chronological order for Abbey to someday read. She had been given strict orders to not let me see Abbey, otherwise, her visitation would be permanently cut off. Very shitty, as I recall. And to this day it makes my blood boil.
So as each day, week, month and year passed, I became more stable. Birth control was something I was very diligent about. I didn’t want to give Abbey up for adoption, only to get pregnant soon after. How would she feel if I did that?
I consulted attorneys for the first few years to try to overturn the adoption. But I always stopped just before filing because I didn’t want to disrupt Abbey’s life.
I spent a lot of hours reasoning with myself. Keeping it inside. Keeping my feelings all my own. Over the years I came to terms with it all. But I never once stopped journaling and sending cards and letters.
When I met Harrison’s dad I sent photos in the cards and little notes.
Harrison was very much planned and there was a reason I waited until I was in my 30s to have another child. It was a choice — a very planned decision. When he was born I would send Abbey photos of her brother, in care of her great grandmother.
After Harrison’s dad and I divorced, I began dating. I would tell the story of Abbey to every man I dated. Most didn’t think it was a big deal. Not like I really dated that much, but still. It was important for me to be honest and tell them.
In early 2008 I received several calls from Abbey’s great-grandmother. I was in a new relationship, very busy as a single mother and work was demanding. She left many messages asking me to call her. Finally it occurred to me that it might be an emergency — Abbey could be in trouble.
When she picked up the phone and after announcing myself, all she said was, “Abbey knows. She found the letters and cards.” I was in my car. At a stoplight. I instantly started crying. I couldn’t speak. I had so many emotions rush to my head. This is what I had dreamed about. What I wanted for so many years. I had so many questions.
Abbey and I connected via Myspace and email. I shared it with my boyfriend at the time, a few very close friends and my mother (who had been drug free for many years, thankfully).
Still, our blossoming relationship was very private. At least to me, it was. I wanted to get to know her on her terms. I didn’t push her. She didn’t want to tell her parents.
Speaking of which, her parents had let her grow up thinking that her father and uncle were her brothers. She was smarter than that. Still, I think it a little odd, and slightly twisted. She still calls them her brothers. Since I am being honest, I will say that it makes me slightly uncomfortable.
(Note: As angry as I have been over the years at the people who adopted Abbey, I am forever grateful that they gave up their empty nest years to love and raise a wonderful, thoughtful, intelligent, smart, kind, giving child. I will be forever thankful to them.)
Eventually Abbey and I spoke on the phone. And in 2011 just before my brain surgery, her brother (um, her bio dad) brought her over to my house to meet me. I refrained from smothering her with hugs and kisses.
|Sidney Abigail - She's obviously mine.|
Still, she was keeping our relationship private and secret from her parents. I was not in favor of the deception. I mentioned it many times, but still let her go at her own pace. The ball has always been in her court.
|Sweet little baby child|
Over the past few years we have built a relationship. I keep telling her that I will blog about it, but I am slow moving. Which is funny, considering I’ve wanted a relationship with her for so long.
Also, her bio dad and I have built a friendship. Not a serious one, but a friendly one.
In October, Abbey texted me, and read me the riot act. Several pages of angry texts. She had told her parents. They were hurt and pissed. She was emotional and accused me of not being there for her. She was right. I wasn’t there for her. I had been very absent last year.
I am getting ahead of myself.
I’ve told the story, now. I am the mother to a nearly 21-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son. Shocking? Perhaps. But maybe not, after all, it’s 2013.
Abbey spells her name without the “e.” But I still spell it Abbey. She and I look so much alike, it’s weird. She is funny and smart. She loves her little brother. And he loves her. She goes to college.
|Abs and her little brother.|
I will stop here. I am starting to ramble.
I will continue writing about this subject, because there is so much to say and write about. I have always used journaling as a form of therapy. This will be no different. I need advice. I am still not used to having a daughter. I have lots of questions. I went from only raising a young son to also being the mother of a teenaged daughter. And now an adult daughter. So, there is much more to come. Much more to say.
The title of this blog will remain Ancora Imparo Girl, because I still live by that motto. I am definitely still learning.
Stayed tuned for the next blog: I Have a Lesbian Daughter