Holding Space for Adoption
by Linda Aileen Miller
“Just the facts ma’am!” was the order of the day.
In the ‘50’s & ‘60’s the world was pretty much black and white…literally!
From my memory…The medical person strapped me down when they couldn’t find my veins for the IV.
I was 5 years old with rheumatic fever. That was the beginning of me not trusting. In the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, there wasn’t any sex education in school except ‘the talk’ in 6th grade about menstruation.
We lived in Miami. I missed it. We moved to Jacksonville. I missed it there, too. There was zero sex education at home.
Certain I was dying, when I started my cycle in a downtown department store restroom, I frantically stuffed tissues in my blood-soaked underwear.
You don’t know what you don’t know. No blame…just the facts.
Raised in a strict Lutheran home, with a dad who was a part time police officer was a mixed blessing. He put ‘the fear of God’ into every guy I dated introducing them to his massive gun cabinet straight away.
Don’t do ‘it’ whatever ‘it’ was, of course, made ‘it’ more intriguing for them and for me. Kids always want to do what they’re told not to do. Pretty sure my generation didn’t invent that!
The summer of ‘68, I found myself pregnant.
Chronologically 21, and psychologically 15, still living at home and terrified of my dad, I panicked. Seriously, TERRIFIED knowing too well his abusive belt.
My boyfriend had no interest in participating in raising a child. Being a single mom was practically unheard of in those days. Pretty certain I couldn’t do it alone, even if I had the means, I knew my father would probably kill me first.
I did know abortion, which was backroom coat hanger illegal, was not an option for me and my soon to be child. I’m not even sure how I came to know that. I just knew. Maybe it was the fear of bleeding to death at the hands of strangers? I’d love to say it was for a higher purpose; mostly it was fear.
I went silent, and didn’t tell my parents, until January 1969 just before I left Florida.
Unconsciously unconscious. There was no conscious awareness on my part of any spiritual connection. There was no conscious awareness on my part of what was really happening.
I was in shock and completely unplugged from reality.
Denial is such a great tool.
Being a relatively attractive cheerleader/head majorette, popular, and entrenched, la-tee-da, in the pageant world my focus was on my appearance and my body. I was sponsored and scheduled to participate in a pageant in November ’68.
I was pregnant.
I know that sounds frivolous and when pageants were your ticket to a college education they became important. I had a pretty successful track record. You learn to work with the tools you have to survive. Mine were my physical appearance and my talent. This was a preliminary to Miss Florida with sizable scholarship money. I would be having a baby just about the same time. Holy crap! That couldn’t happen. I intentionally blew the interview because I knew what I knew, and there was no way I could win!
That was when the lies and the secrets began.
In truth, they really began with the backseat drive-in theater sex. Never for a moment did I think of the consequences, repercussions or long term results. Getting pregnant happened to other people. The reality of my choices rests squarely on my shoulders or in this case, in my belly.
The ‘60’s! Sex, drugs and rock roll! For me it was Peace, Love (what I equated sex to be) and Rock n Roll!
Life was fun. It was frivolous. It was easygoing, until it wasn’t.
Moving to Indianapolis where I had two Jacksonville friends was my choice. Moving and Adoption. I found part time jobs through a ‘temp’ employment agency, and part-time baby sitting for my friend’s children, earning enough to cover expenses.
We staged pictures at 5, 6 and 7 months pregnant (that didn’t look pregnant) to send home showing everyone what great fun my trip was, while my tiny body kept expanding.
As the questions from strangers increased about my ‘condition’ and my ‘husband’ I bought a fake wedding ring at a pawnshop. ‘He’s in the military’ was my easiest lie.
A friend found a doctor who was eager to setup the adoption for me. I had no idea of the particulars. Clueless and scared I signed on the dotted line. The family paid my hospital expenses. We never met.
No one. In all fairness, not one single person I knew, family, friend, doctor, or stranger asked: “Are you sure this is what you want to do?” Would it would have changed anything? Maybe…maybe not.
By mid-May ‘it’ would be done.
‘It’ would be over. I would no longer be single and pregnant. I would have given my child to strangers.
The morning of his birth my water breaking awakened me. Someone took me to the hospital. I was whisked away, and promised I wouldn’t remember any of it. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Nurses spoke to one another as if I were deaf. “She’ll be back” they said. “They always are!” they said laughing ~ as I felt my early labor pains intensifying. As the anesthesia began to carry me away I could hear a distant voice singing on a nearby radio…
When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark…
How many times had I heard those words during every Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon for years? In that moment in May, those words became my mantra for life in oh so many ways.
Unknown hours later ‘it’ was done.
I remember feeling my flat belly.
My friend stood beside my hospital bed. She was the only human I knew who saw my son and spoke of him. Nurses brought the newborn child of my roommate into our shared space. The new mother nursed him. I could hear everything: the crying, the nurturing, the love. Then they went home together.
That evening I heard the cart in the hallway with the babies stop outside the door. From a distance someone shouted, “No! No! No! She’s giving him away!” They were within inches of bringing my son to me. I still remember the sounds. I’ve often wondered…what if?
We lived together for nine months. I never saw his face or touched his body outside of mine. He is a part of me. He will always be a part of me. I will always be a part of him. That was the night when I finally cried, and began crawling deeper into my guilt.
Two weeks later I was back in Florida. Silent. Life resumed as if nothing was different. Everything was. No one spoke of my experience or my child. My own brother didn’t know until 1985. Sixteen years later! When I told him his response was, “I wouldn’t care if you were a whore on East Bay Street in Jacksonville, I will always love you.”
That was when a tiny piece of my wall of shame began to melt. That was what Unconditional Love felt like..
My amazing second son, Brian, was born in 1980. People asked “How many children do you have?” Smiling sweetly I would lie and reply “Just one.” Underneath a little voice in my head screamed “Liar, Liar!”
When Brian was 12-13 yrs old we had a long talk. All his friends had brothers and/or sisters. He wanted that. I could hardly bear his sadness. I felt like he needed to know the truth. He did have a brother. Unfortunately, knowing that he might never know him didn’t help very much, and probably wasn’t my best choice.
He never mentioned ‘him’ or the subject again. It reminds me of the way many do not speak of the dead.
For nearly thirty years, my first born was unnamed. How is that possible? Without a name it was easier, that’s how! He was less real. “It” was all less real.
It was past time. Michael seemed fitting. I loved being able to say Michael instead of ‘him.’ He became more real. I did lots of therapy around ‘him’. It all helped. ‘Michael’ helped me begin to heal deeper. I learned the value of ceremony and ritual to celebrate Michael’s life and mine.
In 1991, Christmas Eve, in my home in a rage my father chose to remind me “how bitterly I had disappointed them in 1969.” He then shouted at my mom to pack their things.
My mother found her voice. She simply said, “No, Harold. It’s Christmas Eve. You! Stop!”
Calmly, I reminded him that in ‘my’ home we played by my rules and that ‘This conversation is over for good.’ He taught me that! I, too, had found my voice.
Early in 2004, at a Myofascial Release workshop in Sedona, I met a woman from Indianapolis who knew the doctor that delivered Michael. She suggested I contact him. The Dr. had cancer. I hesitated.
Feeling like I gave up the right to know Michael, didn’t stop the aching part of my heart, the part of me that will always be a part of him wanted to know. Against my better judgment, I called and the office manager said she would ask about my son. She later left me a harsh ice-cold voicemail which said: “Dr. B has no recollection of that adoption!” Click.
In 2009, while having inter-vaginal pelvic floor Myofascial treatment for some painful internal restrictions my therapist said, “I’m on your episiotomy scar.” The work was gentle. As my body tensed and then softened I replied, “I had an episiotomy with my first birth in Indianapolis in 1969. She very respectfully asked, “Who was your OB/GYN?”
When I shared his name she quietly said, “He passed recently. I did research with Dr. B for years.” In moments like these I found clear divine pieces of the puzzle. As the tears poured, the pain softened physically and in my emotional heart as well. I felt certain with Dr.B’s passing more than likely any hope of me ever knowing my first born son had passed with him.
Years of wondering where he was, who he was, was he happy, single, married, with children? Do I have grandchildren I don’t know too? The flood of questions were always just beneath the surface. On that September day 40 years after his birth, in a safe space with a fellow therapist, another layer of that long ago loss shrouded in lies and secrecy let go.
I believe Michael led me to becoming a doula. No one should birth or die alone.
In 2013, when I did my birth doula training, with Rae Davies, CD(DONA) she suggested I might want to say “gifted my son” rather than “gave up or surrendered for adoption.” I’m grateful for her wisdom. It feels less painful.
At my first birth as a doula, after a lengthy difficult labor the new parents asked me, “ Would you like to hold him?”
It took every drop of everything I ever knew about being grounded to not fall apart. For a brief moment in time, it was 1969 all over, and their child was the son I birthed and never held.
The last year of my mom’s life, 2016, wrapped in late-stage dementia and sporadically in/out of reality, one day out of nowhere she said to me, “What’s your son’s name?”
Surprised, I replied, “Brian.” He was the light of her life, especially after my own brother passed in 2005. Clearly frustrated she said, “No! The other one.”
I Was Totally Blindsided!
What ensued was the only conversation we ever had around Michael almost 48 years after his birth. She said, “Did I ever know him?” When we talked more she sadly hung her head and said, “I should have been there with you. I’m sorry you were alone. Your dad…” trailing off, pausing and then silently letting her own tears fall.
I held her and reminded her times were different then. We all did the best we could.
Adoption is never an easy choice.
I felt like it was my only choice.
At the time, it was…
Some pain takes a lifetime to heal. The ability to hold space for that healing shows up in so many amazing ways. When our hearts are open and ready, I believe anything is possible.
Thank you to those who held space for me then and every day since. And to Michael, I pray your life has been rich, fulfilling and filled with joy; and that you know my decision was made with love, unconditional love.
Do you think the day will ever come when I will stop looking at every man around your age, especially the ones from Indiana, and wondering…?
At the end of the storm is a golden sky…and the sweet silver song of a lark. Walk on. Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone…you’ll never walk alone!
Listen to Linda Aileen Miller read her story for the January 2021 Institute Webinar here.
Webinars are made available each month to members of the Institute.
Membership is lifelong and involves a single tuition payment.
All called to hold space for life’s sacred thresholds of birth, breath, and death are welcome to join.
A scholarship rate is also available.
Linda Aileen Miller, LMT, CD(DONA), is a Level 2 Reiki Master, and Expert Level Myofascial Release Therapist who has spent twenty-four years supporting those healing the body-mind effects of PTSD. As a Certified Birth Doula, she holds space for both birth and loss in pregnancy and life. In 1969, as an ‘unwed mother-to-be’ Linda left her home, family and friends and moved to Indianapolis. She believed in her heart secretly offering her child for adoption was her only choice ~ at the time it was. Recently this four-time published author/poet, is honored to have reached Amazon’s #1 Best Seller status in collaboration with 24 other authors for “The Ultimate Guide to Self-Healing, Volume 4.” Part of Linda’s mission and purpose is helping others embrace authentic healing, living a life filled with peace, love, and balance. Learn more.