Our hearts melted into one another’s in instant recognition throughout that first hug. Two bodies reunited after 36 years…two spirits that had never been separated. The gap of time was instantly filled during that one moment of reunion. The bond of mother and daughter cannot be broken. Only shame, guilt, and remorse fed the fire of apparent separation. Only forgiveness would dowse the flames and complete the circle of love.
Thirty-six years before, I’d given birth to my first daughter and then released her for adoption. Suffering from a center broken by the decision to honor my parents’ wishes that I not marry my first love, I emerged from as an “unwed mother” with emotional scars so great that my only defense was to bury them deeply, grab my life like nothing had happened, and go on. So successful was my denial of the gaping hole in my own heart that, as the years passed, I possibly could not remember my child’s birth date.
How was it possible then, some 30 years, four children and two marriages later, that I possibly could find myself in a class of spiritual counseling students that had six other women who shared the same closely held past that Used to do? We were all birth mothers acim podcasts. Our secret became our magnet, and we began to generally meet and vision a ministry at our church that may prayerfully support all individuals who are affected by adoption: adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents. It had been a noble idea, and one that will require that people do our personal healing work to be able to be available to others.
And so we began the excruciating journey of dredging up our pain. We individually faced our personal demons — guilt, shame, blame, anger and self-recrimination — at whatever pace we felt effective at moving, and collectively we prayed for each other and all those whose pain we share. We created the Adoption Triad Ministry at The Agape Center of Truth in Los Angeles and invited people touched by adoption in the future and tell their stories and join in prayer each month. We opened how you can allow each person in the triad — adoptee, adoptive parent and birth parent — to dialog with another, seeking an understanding of the initial emotional problems that each carries. And some of us searched to find our child and/or parent. My decision to look for my daughter exposed my personal Pandora’s box.
It had been because atmosphere of prayer and spiritual guidance that I felt safe enough to face my very own walls of defense and denial and try to bring them down. The procedure was agonizing. Not just was I delving to the shame and pain I’d caused my parents and siblings by being a pregnant teenager, I was allowing to surface the hatred I held for myself for not having fought for what I wanted…my mate and my baby. What I was inviting into conscious awareness – and ultimately acceptance – were the shame and guilt of experiencing sinned, according to the church of my childhood along with the mores of society in 1961. I was admitting that I was full of rage at my parents for interrupting my fantasy to have the perfect family, and at my boyfriend for not having fought harder to save me using this torturous sentence of a banished offender. During the search for my daughter, I was required on numerous occasions to recall those difficult circumstances surrounding her birth, and it was all I possibly could do to help keep from passing out. As I unleashed one tidal wave after another of suppressed feelings, I was constantly on the verge of emotional overwhelm. What kept me going was my deep, deep desire to find my daughter, to share with her just how much I loved her, to talk about with her that she was conceived in love, and to perform the circle that began with her birth.
And so I searched…and I prayed…and I began to forgive. As I progressed through the classes in spirituality that have been preparing me to be a spiritual counselor and prayer practitioner, I came to appreciate that without forgiveness I would struggle to free myself from the maze of negative self-judgment which I’d allowed to tarnish the wonder of the birth of my daughter. I understood that when I were to welcome her with true open arms now, I’d to get the good in my own being her birth mother. I knew that the healing miracle I so dearly sought was possible only if I released my guilt, shame and blame concerning the circumstances surrounding her coming into this world.
“Seventy times seven.” Jesus admonishes us that this is one way often we need to forgive to be able to be free — quite simply, as often because it takes. I was well on my way to completing my forgiveness of another actors in my own drama — my parents, my first love, my church, my society. Now it was time and energy to forgive myself. I’d held myself on the cross of self-blame and shame for so long that I wasn’t sure how exactly to let myself off.
I started by feeling great compassion for the teenager I was who was so in love and so passionate about life, and who only wanted to experience and express that love at all she knew how. I listened to that particular 19-year-old’s pain of profound loss and of feeling that she didn’t belong. That pain have been so severe that she had essentially shut herself removed from trusting her very own beautiful heart. I heard her, consoled her, informed her just how much I loved her and that I would not let that sort of pain eventually her again. The I AM of me (my God Self) forgave her for just about any belief she held about being truly a “bad girl,” a “sinner,” an “undesirable good-for-nothing,” and a “reason for pain to others.”
The months — and yes, years — that I have spent forgiving the layers of self-recrimination and loathing I felt for myself have truly unburdened me. Freeing myself from the shackles of this seemingly unforgivable and unforgiving past has truly given me a fresh life. The attitude I now hold toward myself, my children, my first love and my pregnancy is only gratitude, gratitude for among the greatest growth experiences of my life. By visiting terms with my past, the gift of compassion was ignited in me — a present I will and do readily share with all those I teach and counsel. The miracle experienced from my commitment to forgiveness may be the profound love I share with my first-born daughter, a love activated as soon as we hugged that has continued to enrich my life ever since.