In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the fifth annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
By Tricia Sersland
I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, and friend. Today I am writing to you as a Birth Mom. This title does not define me, but it is a part of me. It is not what I am, but it has helped shape who I have become today.
My story is not finished. I still feel I have so many pages and chapters to fill. I am sharing this part of my journey in the hope to help another person in this world. We find strength in each other’s words and when we truly listen, that is when healing happens. I hope you find some healing in my words today.
I had an average upbringing. I didn’t want for anything as a child. I always had a roof over my head, food in my belly and I felt love. My life was good. Elementary, junior high and high school were some of the best memories I have of my life. I was brought up in a middle class home and I had a ton of friends and family who loved me and support me. I had best friends who I considered family and I would still do anything for to this day.
What I didn’t know then, that I know now is … the huge piece that was missing was my own self love and self-esteem. I was very much a people pleaser and kind to everyone I would meet. I know now, I was always out to help others, fix others and make others feel good because I didn’t know how to make myself feel good.
The result I got from pleasing people all around me and not focusing on me was amazing. People always wanted me to help them or try to fix them and I was super good at it. Many times I was told, “You should be a counselor or a psychologist.” It was exhausting at times. Some moments I would compare myself to all who were around me, and I never seemed to measure up.
When I was in seventh grade, I fell in love for the first time. He was an addict and came from a broken home. He needed me and that felt like LOVE in every aspect of my little world. I was consumed with him and every part of his life. Every moment I had, I would be talking to him, helping him, trying to make his world better. In our young minds, I do think we loved each other, as much as we knew how. We grew to be best friends and I still have a very soft spot in my heart for him today. This relationship lasted until ninth grade. I really can’t remember why we parted ways. It was possibly the most “normal” relationship I had until I met my husband.
I lost my virginity in the ninth grade to a boy I had just met for the first time. He was sexy, charming, funny and cute. He seemed perfect. I wanted him to like me. I had no idea we would have sex that day; it was not planned. It was not romantic, and I am sad to think that was my first time and I could never take it back. It was in the basement bedroom of his mother’s home. It was awful, and I didn’t tell anyone.
My cousin was in the living room right outside the bedroom. We never spoke about it (my cousin and I). I only tell this part of my story now, because ironically, my first later becomes a large part of my story, as he is the birthfather to my (our) child that I placed for adoption.
It was that moment, when I walked upstairs from his mother’s house, that I started stuffing all my “mistakes” and not talking about my “guilt and shame” and making sure I showed up for everyone else in my life … except for myself.
I graduated high school, and I was on top of the world. I moved on to a two-year college, playing volleyball on a scholarship. But that fall, I headed down a path of self-destruction with relationships, drinking and partying. My grades were awful; I skipped class and only did social activities to see where I would “fit in”. The only thing that kept me going to school was playing volleyball.
I attended a family bonfire/party over a weekend and I ran into my ninth grade crush, the boy who was my first. I thought this was meant to be. We were clearly attracted to each other, and in my mind that was “love.” I made sure I saw him as much as I could after that and attended some of his parties.
Our relationship was based on sex and lust; as a result, I ended up pregnant because of our careless choices. I did think that I loved him, and I did believe that one day he would fall in love with me. What I know now is, I loved the “idea” of him. He was exactly who I wanted to fall in love with. He was sexy, charming, everyone liked him and he was the life of the party. I loved watching him interact with other people, playing cards and talking and making people laugh. He never paid much attention to me, or interacted with me much, unless it was in the bedroom, but that didn’t seem to bother me, I kept going back.
When I found out I was pregnant, I had no idea what to do, how far along I was. I knew a friend on the volleyball team who had had three abortions, so I went to her for advice. I will never forget the words, “It’s easy and painless, but expensive.” She also said, “You should hurry; you don’t want it to be too late.” If I wanted to get it "taken care of" I needed to go in the first three months of pregnancy. I decided to go to the nurse on campus to get some answers. She confirmed my pregnancy and said I was about nine weeks along. She did not offer any advice. She looked at me with disappointment and disgust. A look I got very used to over the next several years. It was then I decided to make an appointment to get an abortion.
I asked the father of the baby for the money for the abortion. He was very confused as to why I was even talking to him about the subject. He said “You always said you would just take care of it, if you ever got pregnant and not tell me about it.” I told him I needed money. I wish I didn’t have to go to him, but it was really my only option at the time. Or, the only option I thought I had.
In the back of my mind, I had always wished he said all the things I wanted to hear, “everything is going to be okay” or “I am here for you” or my ultimate dream, “let’s start a family together.”
I will never forget how he gave me the money -- He came to my checkout line at the grocery store where I was working, and he handed me the cash. I don't know if I can put into words how I felt at that very moment, but I am sure it would be similar to the way a prostitute would feel when the money gets laid on the dresser when the man leaves. I went numb. My feelings for him, my feelings for me, my feelings for anyone.
My appointment was on a Friday. I am not sure if this goes for all abortion clinics, or just the one I was at, but I had to go through security. I had to give them my driver’s license. They called upstairs, and then I was buzzed in and escorted to the "waiting room". The patient (me), is then escorted to give payment immediately at the desk (cash only).
I paid the fee just like I was paying for a fair ride. The woman was in a protected little booth desk, much like what you see at a county fair. (or that is what I remember). I was then escorted to the counselor’s waiting room. I went back and spoke to a woman. I don’t remember her name, but I remember her voice; it was soft. She was kind. When she was done with the standard questions, she said “can I ask you one more thing?” I said “sure”, I was ready to tell her exactly what she wanted to hear. She said, “you just don’t seem like the kind of girl to do something like this, are you sure you want to?”
I was extremely offended at her questions. Why would she ask me this right before I needed to go into that room? Why would she make me FEEL? I answered, “of course I am sure; I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t,” and I got up from the chair and turned away and didn’t look back.
The next hour was very surreal. It was my turn to go into the room. I took my clothes off and put on an awful, smelly gown. The nurse was explaining everything that would be happening, from the sounds I would hear, to what the doctor would do and say, to what it would be like when I woke.
All of a sudden I knew I needed to get out of that room. Right at that moment. I started to hyperventilate. I was having lots of anxiety. I wanted to put my clothes on and I demanded them NOW. The nurse and the doctor had me get dressed, and I wanted me to settle down a bit and go to the waiting room. As soon as I got dressed I ran down the stairs and got out of that building.
I felt like if I stayed in there for one more minute, I would not be able to breathe. My heart was racing and felt as if it would jump right out of my chest. When I walked to the front of the building, the protesters were still there. A little girl threw her doll at me, and they were calling me a "killer". It was one of the worst moments of my entire life. I wanted to scream at them and tell them "I DIDN'T DO IT", but I couldn't. My spirit was broken; my heart was racing, and all I could do was run away. I had no idea what to do or where to go, but I knew I did not belong there, and I knew that that decision was not for me or my baby.
I quit school. I continued working at the local grocery store in my hometown. I thought my life was over; I was eighteen years old. But, what I know now is it was only the beginning.
The only explanation I can put on the next seven months is that God was working in my life. I never thought about adoption. I didn't know anyone who had placed a baby for adoption. Actually, when I heard of adoption, it made me think of people "giving a baby away" and I thought they were crazy.
Why the heck would you carry a baby for nine months of your life, for everyone to see and to ruin your body, your reputation and then give that baby to someone else? If you’re going to go through all that, you might as well keep it. How could anyone "give their own baby away?"
But I found myself looking in the phone book at adoption agencies. I would feel less alone if someone could just help me talk this all out. After speaking with Gloria, one of the caseworkers, I had made a decision, I was going to "place my baby for adoption". That sounded way better than "giving my baby away".
I was going to make and adoption plan and place my baby so she could have a chance in the world. Place her/him with two parents who were ready and waiting. I wanted to prove to everyone (and myself) that this was not hard, and I would do this 'perfectly". I saw my caseworker one time per week. She was preparing me for what was ahead. (Like you could really prepare anyone for what a birthmother goes through)
Picking out the parents was so hard. So many good people who were way better than me and could raise this baby. The pile of waiting parents was HUGE. This was the most important decision I would make. Who would be good enough?
Right when I saw the picture of them and read the bio I knew – Mr. and Mrs. L were the ones. They were going to be my baby’s parents and they were perfect.
My due date was way off. I was measuring to be due on May 27th; however, they let me go until June 24th. They decided to induce me at 7pm on June 24th. It was hell. I can’t even put into words how awful it was. I was alone (my choice). It was hard and painful.
I had a baby girl, Brook Ashley on June 25th 1992 @ 11:56pm. It was over 24 hours of labor. I never saw her. I never held her. I don't remember anything about her at the hospital. She was taken from me and put in the nursery (my choice). I still question that decision, but I think God knew that was the only way I would survive and be able to stick with the adoption plan. I continue to pray for clarity about that choice today.
One important part of my hospital stay that I do remember is the birth father came to the hospital after the delivery. He was with his mother. They asked to hold the baby, and I agreed. I am glad he had that moment and memory, but I was also hurt and jealous he was holding her. I felt sorry for him, hated him, and loved him all in that moment.
My miracle memory I have about the hospital stay is about a nurse who was on duty the night after my delivery. I was crying uncontrollably in my bed, alone; all I wanted was to die. I was praying to die. Praying for God to please take me. How could I have done this? What would my baby think of me? How could I have done this to my family? Would everyone hate me? I was praying and crying.
Then, this nurse came into my room, she held me and calmed me down, she held my hand and told me she "placed" a baby eighteen years ago that very day. She told me "time will heal". She made me feel like I was not alone. I felt calm. I didn't cry any more that night. I didn’t feel like my life was over. I just felt peace. I never saw that nurse again. I looked for her the next day, and no one could seem to figure out who I was talking about. I called her my angel, and still do. She helped me get through that night, when I didn't think I was going to live, when every ounce of my body just wanted to die. That nurse saved my life.
I left the hospital with a picture of my baby, instead of with my baby, two days after I delivered. I honestly do not remember walking out or any of those moments. I think I blocked it all out. I wish I could remember. I feel so much guilt and pain about it today.
What kind of person could leave her baby and not hold her? What kind of person could give her baby to someone else? Was I this horrible person? No one wanted me to choose adoption. My family, my friends, all told me I was wrong. Were they all right? I lost a piece of my heart that day. I left it back with my baby girl. I didn’t know if I would ever feel whole again.
I was reunited with my daughter on April 17th, 2006. I had received pictures and letters from her parents up until that point. The letters and the pictures were what got me though the hard times. The moment we met is indescribable. I didn't cry, she didn't cry. She was only fourteen years old, I was thirty-three. I felt so much gratitude to her parents for allowing the moment to happen and so much guilt for letting her go that I don't think I could "feel" anything else.
Today my birth daughter and I have an amazing and healthy relationship. I believe it is the great respect we ALL have for each other that makes it work. Her parents, my husband and my children -- together, we all make it work. It didn’t happen overnight. Slowly, with Christmas holidays spent together; birthdays spent together and other special days, we built a relationship.
She is the most special person. They have raised an exceptional young lady. I am sad I didn't get to be her mommy. I am sad for all the milestones I missed and I didn’t get to see in person as she grew up. I watched it all in pictures and read about it in letters. My sadness goes away when I know I gave her the gift of life, and her life is better than I could have ever imagined.
I am a Mother of three girls. One who was raised by two amazing people who I am proud to call my friends and family. And two girls my husband and I are raising and proud to call my own.
I feel blessed to be in my birth daughter’s life. Our relationship today is surreal. I never thought I would ever have the opportunity to be in her life, especially to build a relationship like we have. We like to hang out, watch movies, and visit till all hours of the night. She gets along well with my two girls, her half-sisters. I have to say, when all three girls are together, I feel complete and whole again.
I know I will have many more challenges ahead, with weddings, grandchildren...etc. I worry about the future and what it holds, but I try to live in the moment and thank God every day for what He has given me in my life to this point. I have so much healing to continue to do, but I am lucky to have come so far.
Tricia Sersland lives in North Dakota. She is 42 years old. She has been married for twenty-one years to Shannon Sersland. They have two beautiful daughters, Ashley (21) and Faith Sersland (16). Tricia works at Altru Health System as an Assistant to the Director of Patient Financial Services. She loves to laugh and be around high energy and positive people. She is not afraid of hard work and enjoys seeing the results of it. She gives 110% in everything she does. She is a work in progress, always trying to be better, do more, and seek positivity, to become the best version of herself.
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