I was a selfish teenager. Actually, most teenagers are pretty selfish, self absorbed. Maybe I was no different to any other. I was busy wallowing in deep, dark, gothic misery, contemplating the relevance of my existence and wishing away my teen years. So when I was told that my birth mother, Gabrielle, was losing her sight due to Multiple Sclerosis and wanted to meet me, I said no. Fuck that. She gave ME away. Why should I? At 17 years of age, with an attitude as big as Ben-Hur, why would I give a shit? She made her choice, it’s too late… The following year, she died.
Gabrielle, taken only a couple of weeks after my birth. And an excerpt from the article.
Today I gratefully received some photos from my aunt, Gabrielle’s sister, as well as an old newspaper article about her from the Sunday Observer, dated October 20, 1985. The article read ‘In her wallet, Gae has a poem written to her by actress Helen Morse and a note from singer Jon English, and a baby photograph of a daughter she had adopted out when she was 18 — all testimonies to a brave woman.’ She carried a photo of me, for all those years, and perhaps until the day she died, aged 36. I never knew. How could I know? I wish I had known.
I’m sitting here, with tears pouring down my cheeks. I have often regretted my decision never to meet Gabrielle, but tried to move on with life with the attitude that I did what was best for me, at that time. For me. Not for her. For me, a selfish fucking 17 year old. Despite Gabrielle’s family reassuring me that it was probably best I didn’t meet her when she was so very sick as it wouldn’t have been an accurate reflection on who she really was, I regret it.
It wasn’t until I gave birth to my son in 2008 that I really started to think about just how incredibly difficult, — actually, difficult doesn’t even come close — HORRENDOUS, it would have been to give away your baby, especially when you had wanted to keep it. It wasn’t until I held my son in my arms that I could even remotely imagine the pain and anguish that she must have felt, having her baby taken from her, only hours after giving birth, never to be seen again.
In 2012 when I gave birth to my daughter, these emotions erupted. My daughter was eerily like me as a baby and I couldn’t help but look at her and think of Gabrielle. I know she got to hold me once, something that wasn’t the done thing back then, but one of my aunts worked at the hospital, so she did. Looking into my daughter’s face, I was consumed with thoughts of Gabrielle, the pain and suffering she had gone through, the emotional torture she would have endured, walking out of that hospital, without me in her arms. In retrospect, this played a big part in my post natal depression.
As I have written before and will reiterate now, my life was blessed. I was adopted by the two most amazing humans in this Universe and have been gifted with every opportunity and drowned in love. This, these feelings, they are separate. These are feelings that are unique to me and not a reflection on the incredible life I have had. These feelings of sadness, of regret, of loss — they are mine and will live within me until the day I die.
Today, I sit here ruminating on those words, ‘in her wallet… a baby photo of a daughter…’ That was me, a daughter. She carried me with her, always. A photo that my Mum and Dad would have sent to her, as they kept her updated on my life each year (as I said, amazing humans). Every time she opened that wallet, she would have seen me, that baby that she carried for 9 months, that baby who she held only briefly and was then taken from her, forever. I imagine that every time she opened her wallet and saw my photo, her heart hurt. I can’t imagine how it couldn’t? I can’t imagine having to give my child away, not now, not at birth, not ever. No mother’s heart could EVER heal from that pain. As I sit here and write, the lump in my throat grows bigger and the tears flow freely. As I sit here today, aged 43, nearly 26 years since Gabrielle died, my heart hurts. For her, for me, for us.
I try not to carry regrets in my life, and believe that the long and rocky journey I have travelled and the choices I have made, have shaped who I am today. But this, this is different. And this time, I sit here with a clear and sober mind, trying to allow these feelings to just be…