We believe that sharing our stories is one of the best ways to counteract the prevailing narrative that adoption is always good and to show instead that it is actually much more complex, with far more negative consequences, than is generally believed in American culture. We have shared adoptee stories and are so pleased today to be able to share a story from a first mother’s perspective. Irish-born Christine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction and non-fiction as well as a motivational speaker. Her writing and speaking career began with her non-fiction memoir Finding Sarah, Finding Me, which is the true-life story of her relinquishment and subsequent reunion with her first-born child. There is so much our readers will be able to relate to in Christine’s story. Everything from how her religion influenced her beliefs and decision to choose adoption to how her real life experiences turned out to be so much different from what she had been led to expect As she put it, “A lot of church-going people believe that adoption is the best thing since sliced bread, but I wrote my memoir to be a gentle but honest nudge to stir those people into rethinking those beliefs.” This message is one we wholeheartedly agree with, and one we are trying to get across, especially in the Christian community.
So we hope reading about Ms. Lindsay’s illuminating journey will provide much food for thought, and be sure to click on the links to learn more about her story and her work.
Losing my Baby, Losing Myself—by Christine Lindsay
If only I’d realized the magnitude of what it really meant to give up my baby girl at three days old. Not until Sarah was 20, after I’d searched for her and found her again, did I finally see the full picture. If only I could have turned the clock back. But even as late as 1979, it was appropriate for nice church-going girls, who were pregnant out of wedlock, to give up their babies to adoption.
I made that soul-breaking choice for three reasons.
1. I believed it was better for my child to be raised by a mother and a father. My mother raised us kids alone, but it was financially tough. We never went on vacations, and she sacrificed big time. And I felt the loss of an adoring dad in my life. I wanted more for my baby than I could give at the time.
2. I thought it would be better for me to start over with a fresh slate. That as a single, childless woman I could get the job I needed and be in a better place to provide for myself and any future children. And to be totally honest, I was lonely. I wanted a nice husband, and feared I’d never find that kind of man if I had a child.
3. I believed that my selfless act would rebound for me in the future, so that when my child and I met again—when she was a grown woman—that we would have a special, close relationship as birth-mother and birth-daughter. I believed there was enough love in the universe, so that her adoptive parents would welcome me into their life like that extended family member they’d been missing during all the years of our closed adoption.
What I didn’t know at the time I gave up Sarah, was I was assuming something that very few people in the world of adoption believed, and still don’t.
I thought it was understood by all that an adopted child has two sets of parents, and that the adoptive parents are no more the “real” parents than the natural parents.
I’ll admit I was lazy when it came to researching what the world of adoption believed in 1979. But then, I was only 21, and the trauma of making those hard decisions for me and my baby overwhelmed me. I also struggled with guilt, feelings of worthlessness, that many a church-going girl feels in that situation.
So I did the brave thing. In the years to come, as people learned of my secret child, they’d pat me on the back and applaud my self-less act. Meanwhile, I prayed every day, that when Sarah grew up, when our files were unsealed, that we would meet and take up our unique relationship—me as the mother who gave birth to her, and she as the child I didn’t get to raise.
I had no wish to take Sarah from her adoptive parents. I wanted them love her, raise her, to enjoy being her parents. I just figured they considered me part of the equation, and I was so willing to take what I thought was the lesser role. So willing to surrender to the title “Birth-Mother.” So willing to ensure that everyone called Sarah’s adoptive mother her “real” mom.
But only one year after giving Sarah up, I learned that two of my reasons for doing so were completely unfounded. A wonderful man walked into my life, and on the night he asked to marry me, I breathlessly told him about my baby girl I’d giving birth to only a year and a half before. David hushed me with wide eyes and a smile, and said, “Where is she?” My husband-to-be assumed Sarah was being cared for at my mother’s house, and he was fully willing to become her dad.
If only, I’d waited. Only one year, and I would have had that adoring dad to give to my daughter. I would have had the husband I wanted. As the years passed, my arms that literally ached with the loss of Sarah, were filled three times over with our children. As the years continued to pass, I kept praying for that reunion with Sarah and her parents, that would now include her half-siblings as well.
But I’ve also come to realize that I grew up just fine with my mum as my only parent. I’d made the adoption choice because of my own “daddy” issues.
Not until our adoption reunion did I come to see that my third reason for giving up Sarah were also unfounded. This excerpt takes place immediately after our reunion. My sacrifice did not pay me the dividend I’d expected.
All these years, have I truly understood the magnitude of my loss, understood what I did in giving up my child?
My kids hear me sobbing, the three of them stay in the living room out of the maelstrom of my unleashed emotions. David pulls me into the kitchen and holds me close. I’ve kept a lock on my disappointment all day, having hoped for so much more closeness than Sarah has been able to offer. Now it unleashes, a wounded tiger uncaged.
“I’ve prayed for twenty years,” I yell at David as I pull away, “prayed for twenty years that God would prepare their hearts so that no one would feel hurt. And this is the best he could do! This… this is the biggest disappointment of my life!” I cry out, “and God knows I’ve had enough of them.”
David takes hold of me again. I resist, but he holds tight while my mind fights to sift through the avalanche of my emotions. I want to get to know my beautiful birth daughter, but my dream lies at my feet like shattered glass. She is my daughter, but not my daughter. I’m not a part of her family, nor have Sarah or her parents ever considered such a thing.
Her mom and dad don’t even want to meet me.
As a woman of faith, my beliefs and emotions were shattered. Our reunion was so hard for both Sarah and myself. Her heart was torn, loving her adoptive mother and father as her real parents, making it almost impossible for her and me to develop even a friendship. For a long while afterward, I tried to forget that I was Sarah’s birth-mother.
But I couldn’t. I still loved her as my child. Another excerpt from my memoir:
For the thousandth time I ask myself if, on the night of Sarah’s birth, I would have kept her if I’d known the full extent of my emotional pain. On this night of our reunion, my soul screams out, “Yes! Yes!” If only I could turn the clock back. The fact that Sarah is no longer nineteen inches long, weighing six pounds fifteen ounces, doesn’t matter to me. The fact that she’s six inches taller than me and on the threshold of marriage makes no difference. Every atom in my body cries out that she is my child.
It took years of professional counselling, and a lot of love from my husband, family, and friends to help me regain my equilibrium.
Gradually, my gentle persistence and love paid off. Seventeen years after our reunion Sarah and I have a special relationship. I never can keep up on the politically correct terms. All I can say is she treats me like the mother who gave birth to her. Her feelings for me have grown to resemble that of a favorite aunt. To my face, she addresses me as Mum. She has her children call me Nanny Chris, and my husband, Papa Dave.
I’m happy these days. But whenever a young woman asks me about giving up her baby, I tell her to do that only if she has no other options, because even with our good friendship, I know I will never get over the loss of my firstborn. It will hurt till the day I die.
A lot of church-going people believe that adoption is the best thing since sliced bread, but I wrote my memoir to be a gentle but honest nudge to stir those people into rethinking those beliefs. Like the old saying: You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
This excerpt shows my philosophy as a woman of faith about adoption.
A long time ago, I thought that Sarah, her (adoptive) mom, and I would be the poster girls for adoption. Well, maybe it’s just me who’s meant to be the poster girl for birth mothers. Should I rummage through the closet of my mind, drag out the old metaphoric placard for the rights of birth mothers? Should I march around bleating out my agenda—what I believe is the injustice of giving up one’s child because you’re poor in finances, lacking a husband, or just plain poor in spirit like I am? Even though I have so much and live in a wealthy country, I identify with that poor, pitiable woman in a third-world land. My heart aches for that deprived mother sitting in the dust, raising up a desperate face gaunt from hunger, flies assaulting her—because in this one thing we share—she too holds out her child for someone to save.
As much as I wish I could, I cannot turn the clock back to 1979 and keep my baby. All I can do is use my past heartache to gently bring insight to others, and to help other women and orphans in developing countries around the world. Not to take those women’s children from them, but to relieve their poverty, their suffering, to help them care for their offspring within the country of their birth.
For that reason 100 % of author royalties from my memoir will be donated to Global Aid Network Women and Children’s Initiative.
Extra: Please leave a comment and include if you would be interested in receiving a copy of Christine’s Christian faith-based memoir. She has kindly agreed to send a complimentary copy to one of our readers.
Read Chapter One of Finding Sarah, Finding Me by clicking HERE.