Maggie Vink: I couldn't help but think about my son's birth mother recently.
Apropos of nothing, a rambling farmhouse sat on a busy corner of a busy street in a busy town. White paint chipped and peeled from the ancient wooden siding as if it were trying to escape and somehow adhere itself to an edifice more worthy of its crisp, clean color. Overgrown bushes, trees and plants wound across the property like a ball of yarn dragged and hopelessly tangled by a cat. Inside, only hints of the grand house it once was remained ... the wooden frame of what must have been a circular fireplace, original glass doorknobs and an iron claw-foot tub.
Twelve years ago, that old farmhouse was my home. Despite its rundown state, I loved it there. I spent hours tending to the yard. During the years I lived there, I revived countless climbing rose bushes, huge stands of lilac and a gnarled old wisteria that looked half-dead but sang with beauty in time.
There's no way I could have known that as I was sprucing up that old farmhouse, out on the West Coast, my son was being born.
Was it sunny that morning when my son's teenage birth mom went to the hospital? Was she alone, or did her teenage boyfriend go with her? Did she have her own mother there to hold her hand? I assume she was scared, but that she also looked to the future with the bravado of youth. She hadn't come from a life filled with sunshine and roses. Her bedroom probably wasn't lovingly decorated in white and yellow (as mine had been at her age). Her family probably didn't sit around playing board games and laughing on Sunday nights. She didn't go to school dances and cheer at Friday night football games.
Instead, her life was filled with far too much responsibility, abuse, drugs, drinking, instability, poverty and violence. Did she have an inkling of what was to come in the years ahead? Or was she as unaware of me and the need for me in her son's life as I was of her and the need for her son in my life?
At 1:43 PM, a 5 pound, 1 ounce miniature of my lanky boy was born. Did she kiss his tiny feet, checking each perfect little toe? Did she cuddle him in her arms and cry with exhaustion and happiness? As I do now, did she watch him rest and wonder why he always bends his right index finger when he sleeps? Did she comment on how his low forehead is an exact replica of his dad's? Did she notice that his eyes have his dad's shape but her color?
Did any little piece of her heart guess that, years later, another mother would cuddle her son, read him bedtime stories and kiss him goodnight? Did she ever wonder who would finish writing this beautiful chapter she'd started?
I respect her for the brave things she did for my son. I'm grateful to her for this beautiful child who brightens up my home with his laughter. But I'm also angry with her for not being able to shake her addictions and care for her child. I'm saddened by all the inappropriate people, places and things my son was exposed to while in her care. I'm sympathetic because I know enough of her background to know that the task of parenting was nearly impossible for her.
I know so much about her past, and details of why her parental rights were terminated. I know about her childhood and the difficulties she had. Yet she knows nothing about me. I have no idea how often she thinks of my son ... her son ... OUR son. Does she long for him? Does she worry? Maybe she takes the opposite stance and she's grateful he's no longer in her life. There's no way for me to know.
She and I are the bookends of our son's youth. Though are lives are connected by mishap, trial and happenstance, she and I are two sides of the very same coin. And one day, when he says he's really ready for it, my son and I will be looking forward to finding her again.