To answer the question What Makes a Family, we invited one family to share their story. Judy wrote about becoming a mom through an open adoption. Damien wrote about meeting Judy and joining her family. This is part three, from the perspective of the birth mother, Diane, as told to Judy.
Can you tell me about your pregnancy and Damien’s birth?
When I had Damien, I had no intention of giving him up. The worker from CCS made sure that I knew I could change my mind; the remark felt almost insulting. It was hard to come to the realization that this was not about me, but about Damien, that he needed to be in a stable place and that’s what would be in his best interest.
Coming to that realization (and I think I started thinking about it long before I actually took action) took a while. It sat in the back of my mind, and I turned it over and over. Then a time came when I said to myself I “can’t go back on this”. Focusing on Damien meant to stay focused on his well-being, and waffling about his care would have been about me.
When I was pregnant, I waited until it was too late to have an abortion to tell my family. I didn’t know what they would say, and part of me wanted to own the decision. I felt like I was an adult, and in my twenties thought I knew everything (ha, ha). I didn’t want anyone to try to influence me. Later, my decision to keep my child or allow him to be adopted was the same way.
I wondered, what would my family think about letting someone adopt Damien? I had to get to a point of knowing that it didn’t matter what they thought or felt. It was truly my decision. I still didn’t tell them right away. I didn’t tell them because… actually I don’t know why. I do know that I didn’t want to hear negative things about my decision. I didn’t want to be talked out of it.
What happened next?
When Damien was about nine months old, I was sexually assaulted. The man threatened to kill Damien if I didn’t do what he wanted. That was the beginning of a downward spiral. How could I protect my son?
The event triggered flashbacks and brought PTSD to the surface. I’d never realized the intensity of the abuse of my early childhood, because I’d never even acknowledged that my early experiences had been abuse. I began to go back and forth into the hospital, and during this time Damien was in foster care.
My doctor suggested that I consider long term foster care. I responded that my son was my responsibility; he said that sometimes the responsible thing to do is to let other people help take care of the child’s well-being. That was the best thing he ever told me.
When Damien was about two and a half, he came to Judy and John’s. I remember telling my friend that if I could, I’d ask them to adopt him. During a conversation with a mutual friend, Judy mentioned that she would never keep Damien from me. That was reassuring.
I resumed care of Damien for a time, and he told me he missed Judy. I could only hold him; I wanted to take action but I was too shy. But then out of the blue, Judy called asking for “Damien time”. I was glad to see simple, caring gestures between Judy and Damien. They demonstrated a bond. This was a step along the way.
Shortly after, Damien was going back and forth between my home and Judy’s. I was suicidal, and told my sister that if anything ever happened to me, I’d want Judy and John to adopt. I knew my sister had a big mouth and would spread this around, and that’s what I wanted.
What happened then?
I took a deep breath, and asked Judy to have both of them to come to talk to me. The rest is history.
What has it been like for your son to have two moms?
When Judy first adopted Damien, I was told that I would be seeing my son less often…every 4 months, as I remember. It was really hard, but also a relief. There weren’t so many hard hello and goodbye times. It was also comforting that Judy was willing to have my mother and uncle stay in touch.
One Easter, I purchased a bunch of things for Damien. Judy asked that I not give the gifts to him because there was not enough for all of the kids. That made sense to me, the value was shared.
I was grateful for Judy. I didn’t always agree with her values, but it was okay because I respected her and the focus was Damien’s best interests. This was an area of personal growth for me.
Years later, Judy and I connected in West Seattle and she asked me to help make a plan for Damien. I was excited, but nervous. I also thought it was great that he got two mothers.
Judy and John eventually divorced and John remarried. I saw that Damien would get one more mom. Sometime later Judy married again, and it meant that there would be one more caring man in Damien’s life. They took to each other like two peas in a pod.
What a great thing for Damien to get so many worlds. He got to see me and the way I lived, and was exposed to lots of other ideas, values and opportunities.
Diane holds her diploma after graduating from Everest College