PAGE # 45
Late Afternoon

Dear Jennifer of December 2011,

I am writing from the future too late, but lost time is no excuse for further procrastination. And though this note cannot stop the events as they pertained to the adoption of Baby Lily, well then, perhaps it can prevent some other ignorant prospective adoptive parent from falling prey to similar grievances.


You will not believe what I am about to tell you:  After so much worry as to whether Kendra was getting coerced into an adoption plan, YOU will feel coerced into an adoption plan.

A few hours after Baby Lily's birth, Kendra will tell you alleged stories about the birth father and you will become frightened of him.  You will believe these stories without question, at least for some time, because they will help you reconcile your own ideas about motherhood (how could anyone give up her baby?) with Kendra's decision (giving up baby equals saving baby).  Without Kendra's tale of terror, it will be near impossible for you to fathom Kendra's choice of adoption for her newborn.    

Unfortunately, as the tale of terror convinces you that Kendra has a valid reason for choosing adoption, the tale of terror will also terrorize you.  You will feel manipulated and lied to, as the adoption attorney certainly did not depict the birth father to be quite as threatening as Kendra will describe.

You will feel bad for both Kendra and her baby and want to help them, but you will also feel some resentment toward the whole situation--you, who have worked so hard to overcome a family history of abuse, will find yourself thrown into the domestic violence drama of total strangers.  You will want to run away, but because you made a commitment to Kendra and her baby, you will feel trapped.  A potentially dangerous and definitely volatile situation will collide with your otherwise quiet domestic life, and you will feel obligated to accept it into your arms, your home, your very heart.

You will be blindsided because you will have focused too much on Kendra's well being.  You will fail to consider your own vulnerability.  No--you will consider it, but far too briefly.

You will feel like you must take care of Kendra's baby, even though the situation with the birth father scares you.  You will feel like it's too late to back out.  And you will want to protect Baby Lily from any danger.  

You will take Baby Lily home and you will love her.  And even after that, the adoption attorney will victimize your entire family with more lies, manipulation, and emotional blackmail.  You will have to make very hard decisions without ever knowing the truth.  You will be morally tested and it will hurt.

You will wish it never happened at all.  

But it will happen.

And though it will be too late for this letter, you will write it anyway.

In fact, it will be too late for all of you.  At least one person will become lost.  And at least one person will not survive.  Your own brush with grief will be minimal, relatively speaking.

It will happen.

You must write of it.

Jennifer of this very moment in time



PAGE # 44
Approximately 11:50 am 

Anna joined us in the hallway.  She told us we could go back inside, the nurse was finished.  Mike said goodbye--he'd be back later--and Anna decided to leave as well.  When Tom and I reentered Kendra's room, it was just the four of us:  Kendra, Johnny, Tom and I.  Plus the baby of course.

Tom noted the time and offered to buy lunch for everyone.  He invited Johnny to go with him, and then it was just me, Kendra, and the baby.

Just before he left, Tom gave me a peck on the cheek and a quick wink.  This was my chance to be alone with Kendra:  no attorney, no Johnny, neither of Kendra's parents.  This was my opportunity to make sure no one had coerced Kendra into this adoption plan.  The social worker had claimed she made sure of that--but I needed to know firsthand if Kendra still felt the same way now that the baby had arrived.

We talked casually at first.  Mostly about how she was feeling physically from the labor and delivery.  I don't remember how I asked the question exactly.  I was very intimidated to do so (because I also did not want to upset or insult her; remember, the social worker had warned me to respect Kendra's decision), but I distinctly recall Kendra's reaction to whatever it was I specifically asked:
"I'm doing this to protect her from Bobby!"  Her arms flew up in the air as she referred to the biological father, then dropped back down to wipe the tears falling from her face.  "I'm doing this to protect her from him!"
I handed Kendra some tissues.
"Do you know that my dad has a restraining order against him too?  He bashed up my father's car windows!  My dad hates him!  My dad even bought a gun because of him."
Kendra sobbed into the tissues, blew her nose.  I listened to all this and began to feel utterly terrified.  If Bobby was so dangerous, why was it any safer for me to take his baby home?  I had been concerned about the birth father's potential for violence previously (when first learning that Kendra had a restraining order against him), and Shelley, the adoption attorney, had said the following:
"Oh, it's not like that.  I think she [Kendra] is the kind of woman who provokes men.  I mean, I think they provoke each other.  It was just that kind of relationship--very dramatic, very emotional.  He's not dangerous!  They both drove each other crazy!"
That had been the attorney's opinion on the matter.  Now, I was hearing a less benign account from Kendra herself:
"He wanted me to get an abortion!  I told him I was totally against that and he called me a cunt!  In front of his parents too.  They don't even know how to handle him.  I think they're afraid of him too.  They just sat there while he tore me apart."
"That must have been awful for you."
"And when I was 6 months pregnant, he punched me right in the stomach!  That's when I ended it.  He grabbed me by my hair and punched me straight into my stomach.  I had to go to the hospital and thank God the baby was okay.  But I called the police and I'm pressing charges and I got a restraining order against him.  I told his parents how he hit me and they didn't even believe me.  But I think they just don't know what to do with him.  He's a terrible, terrible man and I need to keep her [the baby] away from him."
"I'm so sorry that he hurt you like that, and Kendra, I hear you saying how scared you are of Bobby," I said.  "But Shelley told me that legally, Bobby has no right to the baby because you are married to Johnny.  So technically, you could keep her and Bobby has no say, right?"
At this question, Kendra seemed a little defensive and I thought maybe I had pushed too far.
"I want her to have a good life!  She deserves to have a good life!  She needs to be protected from him!"
I was beginning to feel a little scared myself.  No--I was downright horrified.  If this woman was giving away her own flesh and blood because of Bobby, then it seemed he must be truly life-threatening.  I began to think that Bobby might be capable of murder.  It was the only plausible explanation for why Kendra would choose to give away her baby girl--her sweet, beautiful, perfect baby girl.  She wanted to protect her newborn, as well as her other two children.  And herself.  It was making sense.  Miserable, dreadful, gut-wrenching sense.


What anxiety!

Bobby lived only about a half hour from us.  The attorney had accidentally let me see his name on one of the documents.  How could I be certain that Bobby would not find out our names?  I imagined him coming to get back his baby, and shooting my entire household in the process.  My imagination is vivid.  It was like a movie playing in my mind.  I couldn't hide my own panic from Kendra.
"What if he comes after us?  What if finds us and tries to hurt us?"
"He won't," Kendra insisted.  "He's not interested in the baby.  He just wants to mess up my life."
"But you said your dad bought a gun." I could feel my hands shaking.  I think I sat on them.
Kendra seemed calmer than me now.  
"He's all talk," Kendra said.  "He wouldn't hurt you or your family or the baby.  But I need to protect her from the things he does.  From the things he says," she emphasized that last word.  "Plus, he doesn't even want the baby.  Like I told you, he wanted me to get an abortion in the first place."
To be continued...



PAGE # 43
Approximately 11:35 am 

We waited in the hallway while Kendra was examined by the nurse.  I moved away from Kendra's room and walked down the corridor till I reached some windows.  Tom followed close behind me.  I think Anna stayed in the room with Kendra.  I can't remember where Johnny was at the time.  But Mike, Kendra's father, joined Tom and I.

Mike seemed eager to make conversation with us.  He brought up the adoption attorney:
"That Shelley is one good lady, don't you think?"
I did not agree, but contrary to my typical behavior in instances of differing opinion, I actually kept my mouth shut and let him keep talking.
"You know, I went to high school with her," Mike explained.  "She had been in an all girls' Catholic school but got herself kicked out of there.  So, she ended up in the same school with me."
"So that's how Kendra knows Shelley?  She's your friend?" I asked.
"Well, not exactly.  I did some investigative work for her some years back.  Prior to that, I don't think we'd spoken since high school."  Mike lowered his voice a little.  "I was lucky to know who to call when Kendra decided on the adoption.  Really, I'm very grateful for all her help with this and to you guys too.  You guys seem like real nice folks."
Mike went on to explain that him and Anna were no longer married.  I did not ask when they became divorced, but it sounded like the dissolution of their marriage happened many years earlier.
"Oh, I could not tell," I said.
"Yeah," Tom added.  "You guys don't seem divorced."
"Well, we're still good friends.  I'm remarried now."  Mike took out his wallet and showed us a picture of a very attractive blond woman.  "This is Lori.  She would've been here--she gets along with Anna and Kendra--it's just that this situation is triggering some personal stuff for her."
Mike seemed to want to share more, so I waited for him to explain.  I could sense that we were about to learn something that might make us feel uncomfortable.  And...I could sense that Tom felt it too and was moving away, slowing backing up, making himself very busy with text messages or emails or something.  I, on the other hand, was wide-eyed with curiosity.  Mike continued:
"Lori is real good to Kendra and she would've been here to support her and meet the baby, but, you see, she was forced to give up her baby when she was a teenager.  You know, it wasn't like this.  It wasn't her decision.  Her family made her do it."
"Oh my God!" 
"Yeah, it was a real tragedy for her.  She couldn't come here.  This whole adoption thing is just too triggering for her."
"Oh my God," I repeated.  "I've never heard of anyone being forced to give up her own baby.  How could that happen?"
Mike shrugged his shoulders, tilted his head a bit.  "Back then.  The shame.  The stigma."

At the time, I was not aware of this country's notorious adoption history known as the "Baby Scoop Era."  In just the 1960s alone, about 2 million mothers lost children to adoption.  And of that number, 80% were sent away to special maternity homes.  For more information, please see:




As for Mike's second wife, Lori, I never did meet her.  And as far as I was told, her biological daughter hasn't met her yet either.


At some point after starting this blog, I began to analyze the dynamics of Kendra's family as they pertained to adoption.  I've already pondered whether adoption runs in families.  And if Kendra's relinquishment were in any way "encouraged" by her own mother's adoptee status, I cannot ignore the interesting fact that Kendra's father is remarried to a birth mother.

Consider it:

Kendra's parents divorce.

Anna is now in close daily contact with her birth mother.

Mike is now remarried to birth mother.

If Kendra chose the adoption option, she would become, at least symbolically, just like these other two women.  The act of relinquishment would render her similar to the most important persons in each of her own parents' lives.  Anna had searched for her biological mother for 18 years!  Mike had married a birth mother!  The force was likely unconscious, but given the family history, it's plausible that Kendra was at least partly motivated by a desire to be loved by her parents.  Or at least to become somehow equal with her dad's second wife, as well as her mother's long sought after object figure.  A twisted psychology, for sure, but possible nonetheless.

While waiting in the hallway that day, I really didn't know what Kendra would choose to do.  And I personally hoped she would keep the little girl.  But now, it's hard for me to even use the word "choice" with any sense of real meaning.  Legally, Kendra was fully able to sign off on adoption papers.  But emotionally?  I don't know if Kendra and her baby ever stood a chance against the formidable adoption theme running through the family.  Certainly, Tom and I were ineffective to alter the course of events.

And we were waiting for the opportunity to make sure Kendra wasn't getting coerced into this.  How naive!  I'm not sure exactly when Tom and I decided we were powerful enough to make sure Kendra was okay.  Maybe our ability to balance out each other's superpowers caused us to carry a special arrogance, an over-confidence of some sort.  We thought our good intentions and carefulness would be enough.  

We would be wrong.



PAGE # 42
Approximately 11:30 am 

I was listening to Anna's story when TJ, our 16 year-old, called my cell phone.  I forgot to turn the ringer off, and the ring tone for my son sounds like a pulsating alarm.  It's truly an offending noise--one that throbs in your ears even after the phone has stopped ringing.  I knew TJ was feeling left out, but I quickly quieted the phone without answering his call.  I didn't want to interrupt Kendra and her family.
"That was our son calling," I explained.  "I'll call him back in a little bit.  He wanted to come here too, but we didn't think it would be appropriate."
As soon as these words were out of my mouth, I realized that not bringing my kids to meet Kendra seemed inappropriate as well.  If Kendra's baby was going to be a part of our family, it seemed strange for Kendra to not meet our kids.  But maybe she would feel too intruded upon?  I didn't know the correct course of action, because really, when the starting point is so unnatural--that point being the plan of separating an infant from her mother--all subsequent events are just bound to feel somehow off.
"What do you think, Kendra?" I asked.  "Should we bring TJ and Sara to the hospital so you guys can all meet each other?"
Kendra stated that it would be fine.
"And my little guy will love playing with your little girl," she added.
This plan had me feeling more at ease.  The idea of all our children together felt good--like it would help seal a connection between the two families.
"TJ is a great kid," I told Kendra.  "You should hear him sing...he's amazing...wait!  I have a video.  I'm terrible with making videos, but I do have this one from a couple of years ago."
Without thinking about the song's content, I pulled out my iPhone and located the video of TJ singing a song entitled, "Mama, A Rainbow."  But as soon as I pressed play and heard the opening lyrics, I felt like a total idiot.  Luckily, the nurse returned and I got to stop the recording after a brief moment.  
"Everybody out this time!" the nurse instructed.  "I've got an exam to do here."
We waited in the hallway.  I had only wanted to share one of TJ's performances, but that song!  That song was crazy to play given the circumstances.  It wasn't like I had a large selection of video recordings to choose from (this was the only one!); still, it felt as if it were a song scripted for Kendra (and not for some long ago Broadway musical).  And the lyrics, though fitting, seemed to mock the young woman.  I put my phone in my purse and kept it there for the remainder of our visit.

To view the video of TJ, please click here:



The Fantasy:
two mothers
at Lily's wedding
sharing tears of joy
not pain and loss

PAGE # 41
Still approximately 11:10 am 

Anna told us the story of how she searched for her own birth mother.  I don't remember the exact number of years involved--I think it was over a full decade--and I remember wondering if Anna's marrying Mike--he is a private investigator!--had anything to do with her adoptee status.  

When Anna finally discovered the whereabouts of her natural family, she learned that she also had a bunch of siblings and that she had been the only one placed for adoption.  Moreover, her entire natural family lived within a few miles of where she was raised by her adoptive parents.  
"I never, ever doubted that I was the luckiest out of all the kids," Anna stated.  "I knew after meeting all my siblings that I had the best childhood."
Anna did not elaborate why she thought this was so and I did not ask.  I wondered if Kendra felt bad hearing this.  When Anna said she was lucky to have been adopted out, did she mean to imply that Kendra's baby would be lucky too?  Was this supposed to reinforce Kendra's choice?  Was it meant as loving support of the adoption decision?  Kendra did not appear shaken by her mother's words; in fact, she participated in the storytelling.  Then again, the story of Anna's reunion with her natural family was no news to Kendra.  Perhaps the story was too familiar to cause Kendra any insult.
"And after all those years searching," Anna continued, "my mother would have nothing to do with me for another 18 years!"
Kendra nodded.  "It's all true," she said.
"But I never gave up hope," Anna explained.  "I was patient.  I understood it was hard for her."
"So what made her come around?" I asked.
"One of her sons died.  One of my biological siblings.  After that, I think she realized she wasn't going to chance losing another kid for the rest of her life."
"They talk on the phone every day," Kendra said.  "They're real close.  She's my grandma now."
"I need to tell this story to my best friend," I said, referring to Crystal.  "She found her birth mother a few years ago, and they met for lunch, but now, her birth mother wants nothing to do with her."
Anna was nodding.  "That's what happens sometimes.  People think it's the grown adopted person who is going to want nothing to do with his or her biological family, but it's often the other way around.  A lot of biological mothers think their kid is showing up for money or something.  Tell your friend not to lose hope.  Her mother may change her mind someday about having a relationship."
Anna was poised and collected.  Her manner seemed natural.  Comfortable.  Perhaps comforting.

It was as is she was saying:
See here...Adoption is the best for this baby, but don't worry Kendra.  You'll have a relationship with her again someday.  
And Kendra was clear about wanting a relationship again someday too.

And I wanted Kendra to never lose touch with her baby.  I couldn't imagine taking a baby away from her.  

Why was Baby Lily getting placed for adoption?  What sense did it make?  
"And Jennifer is not going to be threatened by you the way other adoptive mothers would be," Anna said.  "She already has two biological children.  She knows what it is to be a mother."
Anna was right about that.  And if it were meant to alleviate any of Kendra's anxiety, it also made me feel better.  I felt so bad for Kendra and the baby already.  At least, at the very least, I knew I would do right by Kendra and her baby.  If Kendra really decided not to parent, I was at least comforted by the fact that we were the adopters.  I knew in my heart that Tom and I would never disregard Kendra.  I knew Kendra was lucky to find us as opposed to some other couple--we would keep our word, be open, and be supportive of Lily's first family as much as possible.  Of this, I had no doubt.

Anna and I stood close to Kendra's bedside.  I felt myself start to tear up.
"If we adopt your baby, Kendra," I said, "then my dream is that this baby girl will have all of us, both sets of families, at her wedding someday.  If we all can make that happen, then we'll know we all did something right."
And in that moment, I thought that would be possible.  No.  Not possible.  I thought it would be.  I could picture us all, decades into the future, celebrating like one big family.  Kendra and I.  Two mothers.  Together.  

Why not?