The Birth Mother Myth

A teenage pregnancy led to an adoption I regretted years later

Denise Clemen
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readNov 5, 2019

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Photo: Kristina Flour/Unsplash

TThere were many things I was unprepared for when I relinquished my son for adoption. A naive 17-year-old, I believed the secret I carried would grow lighter, not heavier. I believed the pain of separation would fade. I believed the poster I saw in the adoption agency’s office, proclaiming, “Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life” was a harbinger for my new beginning. I would be a college girl, respectable, confident, and happy that my traumatic past was behind me. All of this turned out to be miles from the truth. Still, I plowed through life sometimes doing well, other times not so well, unaware that my biggest post-relinquishment challenge would begin more than a decade later.

When I fell in love with my college boyfriend, he seemed a perfect person to incorporate into my new life. He was undeterred by my confession of my scarlet past. He seemed almost relieved when I told him I didn’t want to have any more children. We were the perfect couple, mostly skipping through life, only occasionally plodding a bit. A dozen years into our marriage, when the ticking of my biological clock synched up with an uptick in our income, we reconsidered our childlessness and had a baby. I was 34 years old when our daughter was born. It had been 16 years since I’d placed my son in the arms of a social worker and walked into a sweltering Iowa summer without him.

I don’t remember anything untoward in the pregnancy with my daughter. I remember happiness, clear skin, and a craving for chocolate milkshakes, in which I regularly indulged. I don’t remember flashing back to my son’s birth as I labored with her. What I remember is that I couldn’t stop marveling about the comfortable hospital birthing center. It was furnished with a rocking chair and a bed instead of a delivery table. My doctor treated me like a human being. My husband was there every minute, and the two of us were served a steak breakfast before we were released the next morning. The birth was straightforward, and our baby was healthy and beautiful.

The Santa Ana winds were tearing through Los Angeles the day the three of us drove home. I’d crocheted a yellow sweater and hat for the baby, complete with a matching blanket. Minutes after I’d dressed her, the…

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Denise Clemen
Human Parts

Birth/first mother, recovering wife, retired caregiver, traveler, collage artist. Advocate of #adopteerights and #reproductiverights and other good things.