So our son will soon be two and I was recently asked why I have never written about his birthday. Not the cake filled, balloon type of birthday, but his actual day of birth. Sure, I have written many pieces leading up to his birth – the meeting of the birth mom, learning to navigate our legal system, the fears and doubts that come hand in hand with private adoptions, the experiences of dealing with the not so healthy mind or body that was carrying our baby to be.
I looked back upon this blog, or as I choose to think of it as.. a living journal for my grown son to be, and it was quite clear that I had truly never written about that day. I asked myself why and of course I can up with the easy, “oh, it’s just too personal” thing, but that’s not entirely true. I also threw myself the, “you’re protecting your son’s privacy bone,” but that’s not it either. I have been completely authentic and transparent about every other aspect of his birth.
No, when I sit quietly with myself and dig deep for the truth I can only come up with the fact that the circumstances greatly embarrassed me. They are the painful, less then the perfect story, that I would have hoped to share.My son’s birth mom was an addict and that is an extremely difficult sentence to write, thought to express, and fact to share. I think at times I had hoped to keep that from my boy. I also knew that when the day came that we told him his story and gave him that big yellow folder full of his information, her information, that it would also have to be real and truthful. It would include medical reports and arrest records and all of the things that she was, all the things we learned to accept for those months that he lay within her, those months before he was ours.
He will have to one day learn that when that little 4 lbs 8 oz boy was born, he suffered greatly from the drugs flowing throughout his body, the same drugs that flowed through hers. This is something that till this day we have not shared with many people.
I still remember when the doctor came out of the NICU and told us that babies born addicted could have so many issues. He ran through a list of them and with each condition, disability, life threatening word he laid on our shoulders I just sank deeper in my chair, his voice drifted further and further away and all I could feel was such pain and sadness.
For a moment I thought to myself, she is still here in this hospital, just down the hall, that woman that gave birth to him. We could give him back, force her to deal with what she had done,tell her we had had a change of heart. That my friends was a fleeting thought, a cowardly thought and the silent cry of a terrified man.
It was also a thought that I have never told my husband I felt. He will hear it now for the first time with you. And to my grown son, I’m sorry, Daddy loves you, forever and always.
I still remember when they told us that they would have to begin to administer morphine to our little tiny boy in order to ease the pain of withdrawal. I remember thinking , how could this be, why is this happening. This is not how I expected to become a father.
Ah the crippling effects shame and fear can have on a man, even the strongest of men. I still remember how a few days before he arrived I was driving around on a sunny day off from work. I was feeling such a sense of relief because his bio mom had been court ordered, as part of her probation, into a program for pregnant women.
I was relieved because I knew that the professionals would watch over him now, make sure she ate properly, make sure my baby was safe. It was still a month before her due date and I just smiled thinking what good it would do him and us to not have to worry for a whole 30 days..
That happiness was fleeting for just moments later I received a call from the facility that during her intake exam they discovered that his heart rate was critically low and that her water had actually already broken sometime earlier before she arrived, apparently without her knowing. He needed to come out now.
I still remember how the first call this new dad-to-be made was not to my husband, nor to friends and family, but to our attorney to make sure the hospital had all our adoption forms sent over giving us access to our child. I also remember how when we got to her room and saw all the preparation underway for his birth that I wanted to be so angry with her.
How could you not know your water had broken?
How could you put that little life in danger?
I was then advised that we still needed her cooperation, she could still change her mind about the adoption. I had to be, needed to be, wanted to be, kind and understanding. All these giant emotions swirling around in my not so big mind…
What was I feeling? Happy? Excited? Hopeful? Joyous? No….I was scared to death and mortified by my less then wonderful walk into fatherhood.
He took well to the morphine. They started him on the tiniest of doses and with each day that he grew stronger and struggled less they cut the dose in half. Half of nearly nothing is nothing and so within a few days he was off the medication and thriving. What could have been months in the hospital was actually just over a week. He was and is the toughest little man. He has no lingering affects from his birth. Which I guess made it all the easier for me to avoid discussing or writing about.
For so long when I thought of his birthday all I could surface was fear and sadness, the embarrassment that had wrapped itself around my ego and made itself at home in my heart. I pretended that I was keeping that private for his sake. But alas it was sadly for my own.
Well now it has been replaced with my boy’s laughter, his charm and his ever growing whimsy and curiosity. Now it’s time to bring it to light for all the other families that were and are being created like ours. Now it’s time to let this last little bit of our story come to life. Perhaps it will serve as a reminder to others that they are not alone and that their babies can pull through from such things as these. Or perhaps it will simply serve as a reminder, to myself, that the truth does set you free.
Now It’s time to add my sons birthday story to this ever growing journal of his. He will read it and know that life is a journey. His started with rough seas and dark nights. There were scary creatures and moments where it looked like there was no hope, but there were also angels sent along the way, heavenly angels disguised as common lawyers and judges, doctors and nurses, and he will know that just when it appeared to be its darkest, that the darkness gave way to light and the clouds gave way to the sun and that at that very beautiful moment… he was born, and that all is right with the world.
Henry Amador is the author of the DADsquared blog, where he writes about his experiences as a Gay Dad. Along with his husband, Joel, he also runs the DADsquared Facebook page, where they are devoted to building a community of loving fathers: gay, straight, black, white, and everything in between.