There are certain times in our lives, defining events, that have a before and after. Our circumstances and how we perceive ourselves can all change and be impacted by that singular moment or event.

Recently, I have been reminded of how the surrender of my son is the defining event of my life. There is before his loss and after. Prior to being a pregnant teen mother, I would have told you the defining moment of my life was being the surviving sibling of a brother who died of leukemia when I was 8. As a child and teenager, I couldn’t fathom anything worse than losing my only sibling to death.

For me, there was something worse – surrendering my role as my son’s everyday mother. I remember the agency counselor telling me I would grieve for a while but I was smart and strong and I would “move on”. I would go to college and live my life while my son would be happy, raised in a stable two parent home. She said I would get married and have other children. I have been fortunate enough to do most of those things – I did graduate college, I did get married and I did had more children. I have lived my life, but I wouldn’t call it “moving on” from the loss. The loss has always been there. It left a permanent hole in my heart and maybe even my soul.

The grief didn’t go away. It dulled at times and then returned sharply. I even buried it occasionally, but not for long. As soon as I went away to college, I looked for people to “mother”. If I couldn’t mother my beautiful son, then I was going to nurture anyone else I could. I watched out for roommates and friends, everyone around me. Every date was evaluated on whether he’d make an excellent father. As I neared graduation, the question of what career path to follow became a true dilemma. After months of agonizing, I made a choice to walk away from becoming a physician and pursued a different graduate degree in a less demanding profession. I’d lost the chance to raise my first sweet boy and there was no way my subsequent children would be partially raised by nannies or day care.

Losing my son affected everything. Making any significant choices became difficult as I couldn’t trust my own judgement and instincts anymore. I had done the unthinkable and I wasn’t truly at peace with it. Even today, seemingly innocuous decisions can be difficult for me. The adoption has certainly impacted the way I parent my subsequent children (which will be the subject of a future blog post).

There is who I was before I surrendered my son and who I became after.  It all comes back to him….