Recently, I dug my Dear Birthmother letter out of the back of the journal my mom got me after we left Summer at the hospital with Eric and Lisa. I keep it folded neatly with my hospital bands and discharge paperwork, the putative father announcement I cut out of the paper, and the unofficial “keepsake” birth certificate that lists my name as Summer’s mother and has her tiny footprints inked onto it. I cherish these small things that are proof that I am, in fact, a mother.
I have been thinking about the letter a lot lately. I remembered that it was typed, not handwritten, that it was written only by Lisa, not both Eric and Lisa, and that it was not actually a nice letter. It was a clear demonstration of the pain that was to come for me, and in my emotional, fearful, and impressionable state, I missed the glaring red flags throughout it.
By the time I received this letter, I had already been told about Lisa, the woman who worked with my boyfriend’s mom at their church bookstore. I knew that she and her husband had been married for ten years, were deacons at their church, and had been trying to have a baby naturally for a couple of years but hadn’t been successful and were considering fertility treatment options. I knew that my boyfriend’s mom thought highly of these people, or she wouldn’t have connected us. I didn’t know that adoption agencies were a thing, that I could hire an attorney for free to help me find other prospective adoptive parents, or that open adoptions were possible and healthier for all of us. I only knew that my unborn daughter and I were in a bad situation and that adoption had worked for me when I was young. I figured that Lisa and Eric were my only chance at “saving” Summer from the hardship we were facing. So I read this letter and saw only the good that might come from relinquishing my daughter to their stable care.
It’s okay to cringe.
April 24, 2007
My name is Lisa. I’m friends with Colin’s mom, Bernie. She mentioned your pregnancy to me. It’s very strange to be writing to a complete stranger about such intense personal matters, but I wanted to take the time to tell you something about my husband, Eric, and me. First of all, we hope you’re feeling well and that the baby is healthy and doing fine. We’re writing this letter because we would like to meet you and talk about possibly adopting your child.
Please know that we do not judge you for wanting to place your child with another family. We respect you a great deal for considering what must be a very hard decision, and it shows that you want what is best for the baby. My husband and I have been trying to have a child of our own for almost 2 years. My husband has even had surgery to try to help us, but it wasn’t successful. We have seen fertility specialists who give us no more than an 8% chance of conceiving a child. As you can see, the chances of us having a baby of our own are next to nothing, but we believe God will provide a way for this hole in our lives to be filled. It is very possible that you are the answer to our prayers. We want you to know that we will love the baby as if I had given birth to him/her myself. Our hearts’ desire is to have a family and give a child a loving and supportive home. We can provide all of the advantages in life this child could ever want: a mother and a father; a safe and protective home; caring friends and family; proper healthcare; food; clothes; toys; vacations; an education; but most importantly, our love. We have so much love in our hearts and long to be parents so we can give this love to a child.
This could also be a way for you to start your life over. You are so young, with your whole life ahead of you. A needy baby is an extra load that you may not be able to handle in your life for many, many years. Allowing us to adopt the baby would take away the constant pressure and worry of trying to provide for a child all by yourself. My own mother got pregnant when she was 16 and married the baby’s father. She got pregnant again a couple of years later. Even though she was married, the stress and responsibility was too great for her to handle at such a young age, and rather than thinking about what was best for her children, she took the “easy” way out, and she just left them and her husband. You have an opportunity to put your baby’s needs and well-being first, a chance to make plans for your future, as well as bless my husband and me with the opportunity to be parents and have a family of our own.
Please understand that we don’t want to pressure you about making a quick decision. The last thing either of us wants is for anyone to get hurt. We understand you are due in July, and we also need to make arrangements if we bring this baby into our lives, so the sooner we can talk about this with you, the better.
Here is our phone number: 555-5555. We hope to hear from you soon so we can get to know each other and talk about everything in person. We pray that you are filled with as much hope about the adoption as we are.
In rereading this letter, now ten years later, ten years older, I am mortified that anyone would write such things to a young woman experiencing the hardship I was going through. Horrified that grown people (35 and 40 years years old) would think that this kind of manipulation is acceptable. Enraged that, emotional as I was, scared as I was, gullible as I was, I fell for this.
They were the adults, and they were basically the only adults I had in my life, at least nearby. Yes, I was 19 and an adult, and I must own my role as an adult in this situation. My young adult self was faced with numerous new and worrisome experiences with no support and no background in these issues. I was dealing with the physical fear of my ex, who had raped and beaten me and disregarded the order of protection I obtained against him; I was dealing with the financial and logistical fears of single parenthood; I was dealing with the emotional fear of raising this child – a child my ex and I had planned, a child that was dearly and fully wanted – alone or burdening my new boyfriend (and subsequent partners) with a child that wasn’t his. I needed a friend, a supporter, a lifeline – not manipulation, deceit, and patronization. Eric and Lisa fully and completely exploited my fears, realized them, and used them against me to “fill the hole in their lives”. And they said God was the one responsible, that he let me find my way to this situation so that they might have a family.
From the start, Lisa placed the burden of their infertility on my 19-year-old shoulders, like I was her surrogate uterus, given to her by God. Never mind that Lisa was already 40 years old and trying to conceive. Never mind that they chose infertility early in their relationship when they decided they didn’t like children and didn’t want to have any, and successfully completed a vasectomy. They said that God told them, after more than eight years of marriage, that they should have a baby, apparently at any cost.
She twisted that in her letter to gain my sympathy, and it worked.
She emphasized everything she had in order to sell herself to me so that I would see how much I was lacking and sell my baby to her. Point for point: I only had a mother for Summer, not a father; I felt unsafe because I had already learned how little the police and the court could realistically do to protect me from my ex (see Me Too – tldr: perfectly nice guy, then one night he beat and raped me while I was pregnant, then stalked and harassed me after I was granted an order of protection. And he wanted to be a dad, so I couldn’t trust that he wouldn’t try for custody); I didn’t have a large support system nearby; we would have been on public healthcare; and food, clothes, toys, vacations, and education would be limited to the basics with me because I was poor.
Lisa posited to know that having a baby at 19 would be life-shattering for me. This 40-year-old childless woman claimed to know that babies are needy and that I might be overwhelmed…as though she knew more about having a baby than I did…as though she somehow knew anything about being a mother…as though she had any idea how much I could handle.
And then she told me the story about her mother. Can anyone say RED FLAG!? At 19, this story touched me because my biological mother had abandoned me. Now I read this and feel so much judgement for a woman who gave up her kids. I don’t know how Lisa fit into this story – was she one of the children left behind or a child from a subsequent marriage? What does this story have to do with me or my situation? Why did she compare me to a mother who abandoned her children? What does her attempt at parallelism say about what she thought of me?
I would have a chance to make plans for my future. Ha! Something no one tells you about relinquishing a child: it doesn’t make you richer, and it doesn’t make your life easier or better. I still couldn’t afford college, baby or no baby. I still ended up building a career based on experience and hard work, baby or no baby. And on top of remaining poor, I ended up having severe depression and anxiety because I relinquished Summer. Absolutely nothing was made easier by giving her up. Every day of my life has been much, much harder without her.
There is nothing about an adoption plan that isn’t quick. Pregnancy goes quickly to begin with. For me, there were two months and four days between the day Lisa wrote this letter and the day I would end up giving birth to my daughter. Only two months that they would have to lie to me before I would “bless them with a baby of their own”.
Hopeless, helpless, gullible, alone, and poor, I met with them a few days later at a Panera Bread for lunch. They seemed great and we got along well. They were everything I wanted to be, or so I thought. It never occurred to me that they were lying to me, that they were using me, that I was nothing more than a breeder to them.
Two months later, I left Summer at the hospital with them, and within weeks, they canceled their email account, changed their phone number, left their church, and told my boyfriend’s mom that they were no longer friends. They got what they wanted, no matter the cost.
Have you been taken advantage of by someone you trusted? Share your story in the comments.
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