Having my daughter, I carried her a week past the typical forty-week term. I’m tall, so my belly never purged like a typical pregnant woman’s, my stomach looked relatively flat, and most people who saw me wouldn’t have realized I was pregnant, even at 41 weeks going into labor. I had been sitting at home with my family on a snow day in early January. South Carolina snow is more like ice, and the streets were covered in it. And on a snowy night, my daughter decided to come, January 9th , 2017. My mother and younger sister drove me ten miles downtown to the hospital, and when they took me through the Emergency Room exit, the attendants asked me why I was there, and I quietly stated that I was in labor. They looked at me, my flat belly, and had a puzzled look- then my younger sister, Jessica, told them, “Guys she’s really in labor”. I was quickly sat into a wheelchair and taken to a waiting room where I was observed until it was time for my epidural. Everything happened so fast, I didn’t feel like I had control of anything.
Since her arrival was pre-Covid, there was much more freedom with the number of people who were able to see my daughter be born. As I was waiting for my body to prepare itself for the birth of my first child, my mother and sister were calling my family and the adoptive family, telling them it was time and to meet us at the hospital. Literally, my mother, father, older sister, younger sister, and both my daughter’s adoptive parents were all present in the labor and delivery room. As I was in pain, they were all there to support me and to witness my daughter’s entrance into this world. Both of my sister’s and my daughter’s adoptive mother held my hands and my legs as I pushed. My daughter came into the world at 1:23 AM early in the morning, and within hours of being born, she would leave my arms for those of another woman. The hospital had her lay on my chest for about an hour to regulate her body temperature. Everyone was watching, and I burst into tears. I felt overwhelmed. As soon as that first hour of her life had passed, I became even more nervous. I was exhausted, but there was an expectation from the adoptive parents, that they would be greeting their newborn as well. I called my mom over to my bed, I told her, “I don’t think I can do this”.
She told me, “You don’t have to do this”.
I contemplated for a moment whether I could change my decision and keep her as all the worries I’d had all along seemed to dissipate when I finally saw her breathing in my arms. But I knew that I was making the best decision I could for her future. I broke down into tears and cried loudly, then I handed my daughter over to her new mother. In that moment, after my body had just been through the most traumatic physical experience of my life, I don’t think that I realized that my daughter was not placed yet, but she was still in my legal care. I let everyone around me get their opportunities to hold and meet her, but I was very distant and uncomfortable with my own daughter. I had no clue how to swaddle her, feed her, or even change her diaper, so I let her new mother do it. The head nurse at the hospital heard of my adoption situation that was playing out, and she rudely came into my room to tell me it would be best if I didn’t bond with her immediately, and if I kept her in the hospital’s nursery. Under pressure and immense fatigue, I just passively allowed the nurse to make the decision for me. For the first day of her life, her first night in this world, she slept and stayed in the nursery, while her soon to be adoptive mother fed and cared for her.
Other than the head nurse, most of the nurses were very kind to me. They heard of my decision too, and comforted me in the best ways they could, but nobody from the outside looking in truly knew how to act or respond to what I was choosing to do. Most of them seemed to have sorrow for me, telling me that I was so much stronger than them, because they probably couldn’t do what I was doing. This brought me little comfort, I felt that I wasn’t strong for choosing adoption, but incredibly weak. I had family and friends to console me, and the adoptive parents never left my side, but I still felt singular throughout the entire experience.
The day after I delivered my daughter was the day that I signed my rights over to being her mother. There were several women there, and they were quite serious people. I questioned what they thought of me, I felt as if they couldn’t understand why I was making this decision. I cried and cried, and when I was calm enough to see the legal documents through my teardrops, I signed every signature line, and the women left. After that, I wanted to be alone. I cried for a long time, as if my daughter had died. The pain was real, and the moment I’d been preparing for had finally come. As I had experienced one of the greatest losses of my life, I also witnessed another woman experience one of the greatest joys of her life. It was hard to share in the joy with the adoptive family, but I told myself that I did the right thing, especially when I saw how they were so prepared and excited for their new daughter.
On my last day in the hospital, an older woman named Jewell came into my room. She told me I had one more thing to do before I could be checked out. Jewell had brought the forms for my daughter’s birth certificate that I needed to sign. I told her that this must be a mistake, that I had already placed my daughter for adoption, she was in the waiting room with her new family. Ms. Jewell smiled and said, “That’s fine, but you still need to name your daughter”. I hadn’t thought of a name for her, but it didn’t take me long to decide upon one. My daughter’s father had a sister named Abby. He talked about her all the time, and even though we were not on good terms, I wanted him and his family to know that they were still included in her life if they wanted to be. I named my daughter Abigail Michelle Patterson, after Abby and myself. My mother had prayed with me as I named her, and she said that she heard God say that Abigail meant the father’s great joy. My daughter was not a product of pain or rejection, but she was my hope for restoration, and she is the God of the world’s greatest pleasure and joy.