“Are you done yet?” my best friend yelled at me through the bathroom door a few months ago. But I wasn’t – I was still staring at the dark pink line next to the light pink line and trying to figure out what it meant. Of course, I knew what it meant: I was pregnant. Nineteen and single and pregnant.
Keeping the baby and raising him alone was never an option. I work for a timeshare group and make $13 an hour. I live paycheck to paycheck, and share a three-room house with my aunt and her three kids. I’m not ready to be a mother; I struggle every day with taking care of myself. As selfish as it might sound, there’s too much that I want to accomplish to take care of a baby. Before I become a mother, I want to go to school, to be stable, and to be in a loving, mature relationship.
And I’m certainly not in one of those. I’ve always used protection, but apparently a condom failed somewhere along the line. The guy I thought was the father, D.J., is the tall, lanky, skater-badass stereotype. He was really nice when I told him I was pregnant, and even kept up with my BabyCenter email updates. Because they compared the size of the baby to fruit, he referred to the pregnancy as “fruit salad.”
But when I went in for my next midwife appointment, I was shocked to learn that I was twenty-six weeks along rather than nineteen. That meant the father was Brien, my ex-boyfriend, who I’d dated for a year and a half. He’s tall and skinny; he works on cars; he’s pretty self-reliant. And when I told him about the baby, he freaked out. He yelled at me, demanding a paternity test. He’d never liked D.J.
But whoever the father was, it didn’t ultimately matter: neither was prepared to raise a child. And I knew I wasn’t.
Still, I never considered abortion. (And after the appointment where I realized I was so far along, it wasn’t a choice I’d have anyway.) I’ve been pro-choice since I knew what abortion was. But when you’re in the situation, your views change, I guess. I thought for sure if I ever ended up in like this, that I’d just have an abortion and be done with it. And I’m still pro-choice; I think it’s important that women have options. I just realized that I couldn’t do it. I knew that there had to be someone out there who could take care of this baby, so I chose adoption.
I got lucky, because a coworker of mine knew a couple, Lisa and David, looking to expand their family. (Lisa has a seventeen-year-old son.) One phone call later, we had arranged to meet for dinner. Walking to the restaurant, I was nervous and hyper. In my head, all I could think was, “Holy-shit-what-am-I-doing?!” I’d met Lisa before, but never her partner or son. And yet, we sat down to dinner as if we were old friends getting reacquainted.
“How exciting, you’re pregnant!” Lisa said, as if it were a casual encounter. But soon into the meal, we “clicked,” and the conversation got very close and emotional. Before long, we were discussing the most intimate details of our family histories. I left dinner feeling happy that they were considering me. I never really thought of going through adoption as my “choosing” a family. I guess I thought that I’d be “chosen.” But with Lisa, it was more like we found each other.
The next morning I received an email from Lisa. She tried to be low-key, but it was clear that she very much wanted to adopt my baby: “Kayla, I’ve been sitting here for the last half hour or so trying to come up with something sort of poetic to say because just to say, “Hey – can we talk about adopting your baby?” seems a little crass. However, my beloved, David and I sat up until the wee hours this morning talking about just that. So, we would like very much to talk about adopting your baby.” Everything seemed perfect.
The next week, we had our first ultrasound, but it didn’t determine the sex of the baby, who was sitting cross-legged, almost as if in a hammock. (I do tend to refer to him as him, simply because I don’t like the thought of calling him “it.”) I’ve been lucky. Lisa and David are taking care of everything. I’ve never really thought of this baby as being mine. I’ve spent almost no money on my pregnancy at all. They take care of my bills, they buy me new clothes, and they’re handling the lawyer. Pretty much all I have to do is relax, be pregnant, have the baby, let them take him home, and then call them whenever I want to visit. We’re having a completely open adoption. I have full visitation rights. I can go visit and be “Aunt Kayla” pretty much whenever I want, as long as I call ahead. (Lisa and David live about two hours from me.) The baby will know that I’m his birth mother; he will know he’s been adopted.
When I told my little sister I was going to have a baby and give him up for adoption, she was almost in tears. “Are you sure, Kayla?” she said, over and over. “Are you really sure you want to give away your baby?”
The truth is, I am. I’ve never really thought of this baby as being mine. Even now, at thirty-four weeks, when I’m gigantic, I think of him as belonging to Lisa and David. Of course, I still love him, and my plan is to continue to love this baby, just as I have for the last eight months: as if he belongs to someone else. I’m sure that sounds crazy, or that I’m in denial. But it’s true, just as it’s true that I feel attached to him. How could I not? The baby’s growing inside me. It’s amazing when I go to the midwife and hear his quick little heartbeat. All I do is feel him kick. But from the beginning, I’ve known that I wouldn’t keep him. I’ve always felt that he was meant for someone else.
When I told my mom, she was very supportive. I’d already made my decision, and I think she was surprised that I was so prepared. Sometimes she looks sad about not being a grandmother yet, but she’ll be a part of the baby’s life, just as I will. And she knows that I’m not prepared to be a mother. And she’s ecstatic that I want to go to school. My aunt Tara, who I live with, has been great, and her kids love feeling the baby kick. They’re all excited to see him after he’s born. When she heard, my aunt Victoria wanted to adopt the baby, but I told her I thought it would be too hard to have the baby growing up in our family like that. I visited my dad a few weeks ago, and he told me that he’d like to sell all his worldly things, rent an apartment with me, and help raise the baby. I politely thanked him for his offer, but my mentality is that this baby isn’t mine. This baby is meant for Lisa and David.
At twenty-six-and-a-half weeks, I let my office know I was pregnant. This was good timing, because my belly popped out a few days later. My office called a team meeting, and I just told everyone, “I have an announcement. I’m pregnant, and I’m due in December.” Katie grinned; she’d just had her daughter. Jenni said, “Congratulations.” There were jokes about there being something in the water. It seems like every few months, someone else at the office turns up pregnant. In the meeting, I explained that I wouldn’t be keeping the baby, and they were surprisingly supportive, even though plenty of co-workers, a few of whom are mothers, still ask me if I’m sure, just as my sister did. They say, “You’re so brave. Knowing that I’ll still be able to love on this baby, and that the family already loves him, makes everything easier. I can’t imagine doing what you’re doing. Won’t it be hard to hand the baby over?”
Maybe. But I know I’ll also feel good about it. Lisa and David are so excited for their baby. Every time I see them, usually about once a week, all they do is smile and look at my belly. They surround me and their baby with a kind of love I don’t even understand yet. Seeing his new family just proves that I’m doing the right thing. Knowing that I’ll still be able to love on this baby, and that the family already loves him, makes everything easier.
I’m not saying that it’s not hard. I was recently put on antidepressants. Being pregnant has been emotionally hard, but I’m not depressed because I’m giving my baby away. I feel more like I’m giving a family someone who’s already theirs, who’s been theirs all along. Some days, it feels like I’m depressed because I can’t give this baby what he deserves, jealous that Lisa and David can. But almost immediately I’m reminded that I will be able to have my own baby one day. Right now just isn’t my time.