But it was really that night when I finally let the mess envelop me. The day had been predictably tense and had fallen away, my wish to have an abortion established, plans to see a doctor and to at least look into adoption agreed upon, the full scope of my predicament still only hovering through dinnertime and into the evening when all had gone quiet.
I sat in the living room late with the hum of summer bugs outside open windows, my sophomore year of high school nearing, the rest of my family off in their own rooms, my mess cracking open.
The sobs heaved my chest, and my head pounded with tears as I finally took in the disappointment and uncertainty, the inertia, the trajectory, the impossibility of ever going back to some other reality. I was getting to know my mess and my place in it, and I was taking a beating from within.
As if I were a little girl shaken by a nightmare, my mom found her own place in the mess. I don't remember the words she said. They didn't matter as much as her leaving her bed and just coming to me, hearing me and joining me on the couch, knowing it was time to love me through this.
With that support in the coming days, I was able to envision not just enduring, not just surviving. Ultimately I felt a peace come over me when I imagined an open adoption, a new direction for my own life and hope for some others.
Sixteen years after that moment of peace, I found myself on the phone with my mom, crying again about uncertainty, a new reality, and needing some support as I imagined yet another new direction, one that included not one baby on the way...but two.
Michael and Sophie don't know these stories yet, of course, or the countless others that have unfolded over the last twenty years since my birth daughter was born. They remember a few breakfasts with some family friends, but visits with my birth daughter have become fewer as her young adult life (a college sophomore) has become fuller.
Being a presence in my birth daughter's life has been beyond a pleasure, but making an open adoption plan, showing up for events, and requesting visits has always been driven not just by my love for her but by a desire to keep the truth near her and approachable, to spare her the experience of learning The Big Story one day. The truth would just be in her.
I want to spare Sophie and Michael the same. They turn four next week, and I have committed myself to starting some preschool-appropriate conversations with them in this new year of their lives. (I am open to advice on this, by the way. If anyone reading this has tips, please share!)
Over the coming months I intend to bring out pictures, to be open to Michael and Sophie's questions, to begin easing them into this aspect of their mother, of their family. I am not certain how far these conversations will go, but I know it's time to nudge that door open a bit.
Beyond sharing my truth, our truth, is a bigger point. When the days come when I am by Sophie and Michael's sides, loving them through their messes, I want them to believe me. I'll tell them that within every mess is a greater beauty than they can imagine. That truth will be in them as well.
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!