Long before earned the title Mama, I was a nine-month-old baby unable to sit up by myself. Long before I could become The Frenzied Fashionista, I was so undernourished that I wore 3-6 month clothing as an almost-year-old infant. I was born Kayla Dawn Horne on December 18, 1987.
I became Ashley Marie MacInnis on September 29, 1988– ten months after my birth.
Like many adoptees, I grew up feeling “different.” I always knew I was adopted: I knew I had a birth mother and father out there somewhere, and it haunted me. I knew enough about the circumstances surrounding my adoption to be angry – enough to feel hurt and abandoned and betrayed by someone I’d never met. I also knew, and still know, how incredibly blessed I am to have been adopted. But the pain was still there, even after many hugs from the best parents a girl could ever ask for.
I felt inadequate, so I became a perfectionist. I felt damaged, and I beat myself up for every misstep and mistake. What had I -a newborn – done wrong? Why hadn’t she loved me enough to take care of me – to take care of herself? The questions crippled and consumed me. Where was she? Where was my father? Were they alive? Were they happy? Did they ever wonder about me?
Don’t get me wrong – I have a beautiful family who love and support me without question, and I had an incredible childhood. They did nothing wrong, and my Mom and Dad answered my questions when I had them, reading books about my adoption and sharing what information they had to help me understand.
My many negative feelings about my adoption have affected every aspect of my life, and while I’ve come to terms with and released those negative feelings, I’m not blind to the way they’ve shaped my life.
They are, after all, the reason why I answer to Mama today.
At 21, I was a university dropout working two minimum-wage jobs, and I was pregnant. I was terrified. Barely able to support ourselves, my now-ex and I felt hopeless. We booked an appointment for an abortion, which I cancelled 12 hours later. We bought What To Expect When You’re Expecting and we told my parents, but not his. We sat through two false miscarriages – both times, I refused the D&C, arguing that if I was losing the pregnancy, I wanted to lose it naturally. It would mean it wasn’t meant to be. But it was.
But it was.
Countless people urged me to consider adoption – and I don’t blame them for a second. What could I possibly offer a child? Young, stupid and single – I couldn’t support him. What kind of life would he have? My ex and I broke up, getting back together a few months later. I moved home. I carried a pregnancy to term and beyond – but adoption was never an option for me. I couldn’t live wondering where another part of me was. I couldn’t face the thought of that.
Was it selfish? Absolutely. I can admit that I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to be a mother, but I was damn sure I didn’t want to live with another what if haunting my thoughts. After 43 weeks of being pregnant, I became a mother on January 14, 2010 at 7:55 pm. Twenty-two years old, and frightened. But determined.
Nearly seven years later, I still feel the weight of Finley when they first placed him in my arms.
I know women – including close friends – who’ve chosen to put children up for adoption, and I applaud them for making the right choice for them. Some have open adoptions, some don’t. And they’re happy. They travel, date, and do things that I know I’ll never get to do and that’s OK. I love being a mum – even when I feel like we’re never going to get past that next obstacle (which we totally crush, by the way).
Would F have a better life – a better chance – if he had been adopted? That’s subjective, at best. F has what any child needs – love, support, and guidance. He has the amazing, incredibly loving, open and supportive family that raised me cheering him on – and he also happens to have a lot of what kids don’t really need: stuff. He’s spoiled in every sense of the word.
Growing up, I fantasised about raising a child as a stay at home mum – or, at the very least, in collaboration with my partner. I envisioned my family sitting around the table, talking about our days. Five years ago, I dreamed of F playing ball with his Dad. I don’t know what F’s life would look like if I had put him up for adoption, and perhaps my life would have been “easier” in some measure, but I can’t really say.
What I can say is this: As an adoptee, I couldn’t bring myself to put my child up for adoption and it was the best decision I ever made.
Had I not become Mama to that little boy, I sure as hell wouldn’t be writing this post. I wouldn’t have gone into Human Services, and then Public Relations. I wouldn’t have the drive or the spirit that I have today. It might mean that our life isn’t quite as I’d once imagined it would be, but I wouldn’t change it for all the money in the world.
*Please know that this is simply my experience, and my story. I applaud the hundreds of thousands of women who make the heart-wrenching decision to put their children up for adoption – including my biological mother, with whom I have a positive relationship.
I applaud the families who open their homes and their hearts to kids who, like me, needed a family. I urge fellow adoptees who are experiencing negative feelings associated with their adoptions to seek help: it is out there. We must all make different choices and can only choose the paths that are most right for us. ~ Ashley, xoxo
** A version of this blog post was originally published at YummyMummyClub.ca