Twenty-five years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, who I fell in love with at first sight — and immediately handed over to her adoptive parents. Her name is Alison, but to me, she has always been Ali or Ali Bird, the nickname I gave her (why, I don’t know) when she was a baby. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve read about Ali, the daughter I gave up for adoption, in previous posts.
Ali’s adoption was open — meaning, I knew the parents and we mutually agreed that I’d have an ongoing relationship with them and with Ali. In fact, I personally selected Ali’s adoptive parents, a lovely married couple who were successful professionals and upstanding members of the community. We developed a close relationship during my pregnancy, and they supported me not only financially but also emotionally. The bond we formed during those 8 months was much deeper and stronger than in most open adoptions. We spent quite a bit of time together both prior to and after Ali’s birth.
Now, in hindsight, I believe I was searching for loving, stable parents not only for my baby but also for myself. As crazy as that might sound, I felt like I had finally found a family who loved me and with whom I felt safe. I was especially close to Ali’s adoptive father, who is 16 years older than me. Even though Ali’s adoptive mother is only 12 years older, the connection we had was what I had always imagined a mother-daughter connection would feel like but had never experienced with my own mother.
A few months into the pregnancy, I started to feel anxious about the impending birth — not because I was afraid of delivering my baby but because I was afraid of the pain of giving her up and of being rejected by her adoptive parents. They were the closest thing to parents and our relationship was the closest thing to a family I had ever experienced. I feared that after Ali was born, my close relationship with my “new family” would wane or just end abruptly. In my dysfunctional mind, I began to brace myself for the grief of losing my child and her (and my) adoptive parents.
Ali’s adoptive parents and I agreed we would have an underwater birth. Trust me; there is no better way to give birth than to deliver a baby underwater. Ali was born in her adoptive parents’ downstairs hot tub, which had been sanitized and set up for the delivery. It was a very large hot tub in a beautiful room with dimmer lights, cedar walls, and relaxing background music playing. Of course, the water was chemical-free and warm but not hot. The jets were on low during labor, which helped tremendously with the pain, and the birth was very easy. Ali’s adoptive parents were with me during the entire time as was a doctor from the American Gentle Birthing Association. When Ali was born, she was held underwater for a few seconds while the umbilical cord was cut, and then she was gently lifted out of the water and welcomed to the world. The birth was amazing — calm, gentle, and beautiful.
Ali was as cute as a button, and I fell instantly in love with her. Although it was, as I’d feared, extremely painful to “give her up,” I also felt comforted in the knowledge that I was doing the best possible thing for Ali. Despite my fears and grief, I never wavered on my decision to go through with the adoption. Getting to really know and love Ali’s adoptive parents during those 8 months only confirmed I’d made the right decision. I knew they would provide Ali with what I could not: the safe, secure, happy home every child needs and deserves.
At the time, my life was very chaotic. I was attempting to remove myself from a very abusive relationship, and I was dealing with legal issues, which was where much of the financial support I received from Ali’s adoptive parents went. (That chapter of my life will be covered in my book.)
Over the next few years, my young son, Anthony, and I spent quite a bit of time with Ali and her adoptive parents. At one point, we even all lived together.
Unfortunately, I had developed some dysfunctional mindsets and behaviors during my childhood that eventually carried over into my relationship with Ali’s adoptive parents. In my past, so many people I loved and who were supposed to love me ended up abusing and/or abandoning me. So, as a child, I’d developed a pattern of driving away those who cared most about me. Since I started seeing a psychiatrist 8 months ago, I’ve learned a lot about how and why I would subconsciously sabotage my relationships with family members and close friends. In the twisted thinking of an abused and neglected child, I figured that if everyone I cared about and who was supposed to care about me was just going to hurt or leave me, anyway, I’d give them damn good reasons to. Because I felt undeserving of love, I’d create negative situations that would push the people I loved and who loved me out of my life. Once again, that is exactly what I did with Ali’s adoptive parents.
As a result, I had very little contact with Ali and her adoptive parents for many years
Then, in 2003, Ali had a friend hand-deliver a letter to my home. In it, she said wanted to reconnect. We attempted to build a relationship but failed. Since then, Ali and I have made several other unsuccessful attempts to bond and to develop a relationship. Every time, we end up butting heads, rubbing each other the wrong way, and getting angry, and then we both say hurtful things to one another. Sometimes, it gets darn-right vicious. We verbally attack each other, spewing out what we feel are indiscretions and character defects in one another, creating a very stressful environment for everyone around us. So we disconnect and go our separate ways again.
But I believe our biggest issue is that Ali and I don’t know what our roles should be in our relationship. Should we be friends? Should I try to parent?
Recently, however, Ali and I have identified two other factors that have caused friction between us and contributed to our failure to form a healthy relationship with one another. Those points of contention are Anthony and Amanda, my children and Ali’s siblings. One big difference between Ali’s relationship with Anthony and Amanda and their relationship with one another is that when Amanda and/or Anthony attack me, Ali usually does not participate. Like my son (her other sibling) Lance, Ali is not involved with Anthony and Amanda’s apparent plot to destroy me and my husband, Ronnie. Like Lance, Ali, too, has been adversely affected by their attacks against our family, and she herself has been directly targeted by Anthony and Amanda. During Ronnie’s and my past legal battles with Anthony and Amanda, Ali always defended and supported us in our quest to clear our names.
After 21 months of Ali and I being estranged again and having no communication, she stopped by on Thanksgiving Day a few weeks ago. She brought her five-year-old son, my grandson, who is also named Anthony. We had a nice visit and a long talk. We discussed and agreed how alike our personalities are and how that gets us into trouble when we get angry. Ali has a temper much like I had at her age. She gets hot with anger, and she’s quick to engage in battle at the drop of a dime. In the past when we’ve had disagreements, I’ve often felt like I am fighting a mirror image of myself at 25.
Ali is a lioness with a heart of gold. She is a beautiful, kind, intelligent, loving, and compassionate young woman. Like me, she helps and takes into her home people in need. When she was in high school, Ali used to bring home friends who had nowhere to live. In many ways, Ali has the best and worst of me. But of all my children, her heart is the biggest and most genuine.
I love her to death, and I think we have both matured and are in a better place emotionally than we’ve ever been. During our last separation, Ali also experienced a very traumatic situation that made her grow inside, better appreciate the traumatic experiences I’ve had, and value relationships more than so in the past.
So Ali and I have decided to try again. Realizing our past mistakes and our mutual tendency to rise up and roar in anger, we set some boundaries. I think we have a good chance of getting it right this time, and I pray that this “mother and child reunion” lasts forever this time and that our relationship grows stronger in the months and years to come.
As a bonus, I have the most handsome, loving, and intelligent 5-year-old grandson any grandmother could ever wish for. Yesterday, when he and Ali came to visit again, he brought me a special new Build-A-Bear that he made just for me and named Rose. I love Rose almost as much as I love my grandson, Anthony!
Please send lots of positive thoughts and well wishes that Ali and I can finally bond successfully and forever!