Yes, there was a shadow between us, between my husband and me. It separated us for many years. It was not a shadow that could be lain down upon or even reached for, although we did try. The shadow was that of a baby, our baby. The baby I was forced to give up for adoption before we were married. Her birth date is engraved in my gold and emerald wedding ring. An emerald, they say, is divine. It is thought to possess phenomenal powers of healing, luck and love. I’d named her Aimee. I only saw her once. She was perfect in every way, ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes. She looked at me from five feet away when I told her I loved her and wished her a good life. When I turned and left, there was a tear in my heart that I knew would never mend.
It’s said that it is not until a mother actually gives up her child for adoption that she experiences the five stages of grief. According to Wikipedia:
Denial: The overwhelming nature of the mother’s emotions allow her to feel numb to the situation. Essentially, reality has not set in.
Anger: This emotion is a manifestation of reality, the understanding of how devastating an impact the mother’s decision has made on her and her understandable vulnerability. This may cause the mother to lash out to those closest to her or on herself.
Bargaining: The mother begins to rethink the decision she has made. She feels the need to regain control of her emotional state by attempting to bargain with a religious or psychological figure to rid her of her sense of guilt.
Depression: This is a more secretive emotional state, where the mother feels alone. She feels that she is the only one who knows what she is going through, and feels it is best to vent and reflect by herself.
Acceptance: There is no real timetable as to when or if a mother will ever be able to accept her decision, but at this stage she begins to feel at peace with her decision…The eventual acceptance of the loss of her child does not mean that a birth mother has forgotten the child, but instead means that she has integrated the loss into her life.
Although I did eventually begin to integrate the loss of my little Aimee into my life, I did struggle with great depression and guilt. Eventually I went to a therapist with whom I shared my extreme melancholy. But because my growing-up years had been so complicated and unstable, I came to think that my depression and despair were a result of the instability, and not about giving up Aimee. I had, I thought, dealt with her loss in my life.
For many years I was very, very happy and very, very sad. When I rose each morning, I never knew which I would be. I was afraid to open my eyes when the sun came up. Under the covers of my bed, my eyes still closed, I would listen to the sounds around me. The stirring of my husband as he got up and went to shower and shave; the movements of my two other children, a daughter and a son, whom I had given birth to after Aimee, and who gave me such joy. “Dear God,” I would pray, “let this day be free of despair so I can be a good wife and mother. Let me be a part of the light in their life.” But the decision of how I would be when I opened my eyes never seemed to be mine. It never appeared to be a choice I was able to make, no matter how hard I tried. It felt that the verdict of how I would feel that day was solely a throw of the dice. It was never anything I had control over.
I could sense immediately, if the day would be up or down for me, the second my feet hit the floor. Sometimes there would be a surge of such bliss that I would have to hold onto the bed to keep steady. My body would, it felt, take on a radiance and glow. My brain would whiz with delight and my heart would overflow with passion and the desire to be the best I could be that day. Other times though, I would rise with a gush of agony pouring through me that was so sharp and intense that I would have to catch my breath hard and hold it for as long as I could. I dreaded these days. I was so afraid of these days that some nights I didn’t sleep. I was so fearful of these days that I prayed sometimes never to wake up at all. When those days came, the first thing I would do was to step into the shower my husband had vacated, let the ice-cold water run over me until the pain was anesthetized out of me, and, for a while, was hidden.
No one knew. If you asked my husband, my children now, today, to look back at those days, far, far ago, they would most probably—at least I hope that they would— say that they never really knew. They had lives that they were living and I got so skilled at hiding my ecstasies, my suffering, that sometimes even I didn’t recognize them after a while.
As years passed and life went on, I learned to wrap myself in a protective shadow, but I always turned my face to the sun. I knew someday—maybe it was a fantasy, maybe an instinct, I don’t know— that a time would come, when the daughter that I had been forced to give up, would somehow be mine to see again. I never gave up hope. I always knew.
And I was right.