Happy Birthday Katie!

19 years ago today I gave birth to a little girl. 

I was 19 years old on that day, and today is her nineteenth birthday.  Time flies when your waiting.

I met David at a haunted house. I was working there as a monster.  A really scary monster, my job was to jump out from a  hidden hole in the wall and scream at the top of my lungs, scaring the shit out of  the thrill seekers.  I was a natural.  I can’t remember how much we got paid, but I do remember we gobbled up free hotdogs on our lunch breaks.  You build up quite an appetite making like a monster,  screaming,  jumping , and flailing your fuzzy arms around.  Monsters eat alot of hotdogs, because we weren’t allowed to eat the people.

I was seventeen,  and he was twenty one. Twenty one seemed very old, so I lied and said I was eighteen.  A teeny white lie, because I was mature for my age, and my birthday was in two months.  He was tall and lean, his head covered with dark brown hair tucked under a baseball cap he wore backwards , and his eyes were big, and round, and green.  I thought he was handsome. Tattooed from head to toe, he wore a black leather jacket, white t-shirt, levis, and requisite black Converse high tops. He drove a big black cadillac, circa 1960- something.  It had white wall tires, and plenty of space for skateboards.  My mother said it looked like a mafia staff car, and he looked just like my father,  who was a real life greaser.   She did not approve. I didn’t care.  He was from Santa Cruz, Ca., born and bred. I was in love. 

David Blade Clay, ( this translates to : Beloved Spirit of the Earth…. Italian/Jewish/Navajo/ Hare Krishna hippie parents…..TRUE.), had rolled into town to go to school.  he was enrolled at UTI.  Universal Technical Institute.  He was going to be a car mechanic.  This reinforced my inncorrect assumption that ALL men  know how to fix stuff.  My brother was my male role model growing up,  and he could fix anything.  David could fix anything too.  VCR’s, TV’s, clocks, cars, sinks, what’s broken?  I have since learned that not all men can fix stuff, it is a real blessing to find one that can.

After dating for about a year, my Mom decided it was time for me to move out. David was living with us,  and both of us were paying rent.  She wouldn’t tolerate this any longer.  My Mother was very liberal, but she couldn’t get over the David/Dad resemblance.  She said their feet even smelled the same.  When I came home from apartment hunting and showed her the floor plan for our new pad, she became enraged. I was so excited, I felt like a grown up and she was pissed.  We weren’t going to be able to move in for another 2 weeks, but she wanted us out NOW.  There was no reasoning with her, I’m sure I just screamed at her, called her crazy, we didn’t reason in our family.  She called the cops to have me “escorted” out of  the apartment.  It was a big scene, the cops were mean. My best friend came and got me, David and I stayed with her family for the two weeks until we could move.   I think my Mom was sad that I was leaving, I had called her bluff.  I had a sweet Himalayan kittie cat named Sebastian, ( a boy’s name, but I didn’t care. ) I couldn’t take her with me to Ria’s. My plan was to fetch her after we moved in.  When I did go to get her, she was gone.  My loving Mother had given her to the pound.   Sebastian was gone.  My Mother could be a spiteful bitch.

 I missed my period. It was 3  months before I really became interested why. I chalked it up to “stress”,  related to the move, my cat.  The nausea and vomiting?  Not to worry,  just “stress”.  I had read in Cosmo that stress can cause you to miss your period, I just went with it, sounds good to me.  I went to Cutters Hair beauty school, and worked at The Philidelphia Hoagie Shop. I was a  manager at the sandwich joint located inside of Metro Center mall, and I studied “nail technology” at school.  I was an awful nail tech.  A full set of bloody duck bills anyone?  My answer to the very popular acrylic nail. I didn’t have a car. I took the bus to school, and I walked to work.  Sounds stressful, right?

Finally, I confided in my friend Robin.  She dragged me to Planned Parenthood for a pregnancy test.  “I’m NOT PREGNANT!” ,  was my mantra on the ride to learn my fate. Robin said she heard my cry of,  “NOOOOOOOOO???????!!!!!!”, in the waiting room when I got my results.  I was pregnant, about 3 months worth of pregnant,  according to to my cycle.  I was shocked.  Really and truly.  It’s amazing how powerful denial can be.

David was excited, we would be parents!  I pretended to share his enthusiasm, we looked at baby clothes, we told our families. My Mother was, of course,  horrifed.  She offered no support, she was just devastated.  David’s Mom was ecstatic!  She was full of good wishes and offers to help.  Thank you Krishna!  I was full of terror.  While I was able to fool myself about the pregnancy, I was unable to fall back into happy denial about this.

Reasons.  The obvious were:  We had no money, no education.  David had been in and out of  jail for petty stuff since I met him.  I wasn’t ready to be a Mother. I  knew nothing of families, babies, and my own family was fractured. David asked me to marry him, I said no.  I think I actually laughed.  I loved him, but my insides knew my mother was right about him.  He had a good heart, but he wasn’t going to be a good husband, a good provider, I couldn’t count on him. I knew this.  I made my decision.  I had made it the moment I found out I was pregnant, and two weeks later I shared my decision with everyone.  I don’t remember David’s reaction, it didn’t matter, it was my decision, and mine alone. Writing this I feel bad for not considering him, I really didn’t feel like he had any rights.  Strange.  I do know that he wanted to keep her, but he didn’t fight me.

I would put this unborn baby up for adoption.

We shopped for parents.  David’s mom offered to take her until we were” ready”, while I now see this as a tremendous gesture of love, back then I didn’t.  I didn’t want my baby to be a burden to anyone, I wanted her to be wanted. I would find a family that wanted her, I always knew she was a girl.   My own family offered nothing.  I don’t even remember where my Mother was the day Katie was born.  She was deeply disappointed in me. 

David worked as a telemarketer.  For reasons I can’t remember,  he had dropped out of school.  He mentioned our situation to his boss.  His boss just happened to know a great couple that were looking to adopt, they were his relatives.  I had found some ads in the paper,  ” loving couple seeks baby to complete our circle of love, ”  stuff like that.  I talked to a a few of these would be mothers, and none of them felt right. I wouldn’t commit.  We decided to meet the parents of Katie’s potential parents.  They had a home in Scottsdale, an escape from the cold Minnesotta winter.  They were snowbirds.  Tweet tweet.  We went to lunch at my favorite chinese restaraunt, I ordered the Amazing chicken,  spicy orange szechuan sauce smothering veggies and chicken. They studied me closely, commented on my beautiful skin, and teeth ( I thought they were assessing for signs of drug abuse),   and they told us about their son and daughter in law. This felt right.

I was getting LARGE, really big.  Super duper big. I ate large amounts of everything.  I weighed 189 lbs on my last doctors visit before I gave birth.  The doctor took me off all sodium, I obeyed.  My belly was itchy and full of new purple striations.  Stretch marks.  I was horrified.  I woke up in the middle of the night with incredibly painful cramps in my legs. I still remember flexing my foot would relieve this agony.  I acquired a puppy and a kitten while I was pregnant. Shonti, the pup, came from The Humane Society, and Penelope the kitten,  followed David home from work.  I made him spend his cigarette money on cat food.  I poured all of  my motherly instincts into these two.  I was a very responsible pet owner.

Katie’s grandparents took me to the doctor for my prenatal visits.  Katie’s grandmother taught me how to make a kick ass marinara sauce. I spent alot of time with them.  I loved them, they were my support system.  My pregnancy went along with out much drama.  people would ask me, “what are you going to name your baby?”, I would reply, ” I don’t know her name, I’m putting her up for adoption.”  I was disconnected from the experience, my emotions were  not on my radar. I didn’t feel a thing.  Not until later, much later.

My water broke at my friend Robin’s house, on her sofa, I think it was 2 or 3am. I was spending the night, she was my best friend.  We went to the hospital,  there was a huge storm that morning,  and the power was out. We had to climb stairs because the elevators weren’t working.  I was having contractions.  Ouch.  I remember telling anyone that would listen, ” people say they don’t remember the pain, they can’t describe it, but I can!  This feels like a vice grip squeezing my insides, REALLY HARD!  This is the worst pain I’ve ever felt!”   It was raining hard.  Like it is today.  The hospital was running on generators. 

I was screaming. Once in the “birthing room”,  hooked up to monitors,  I remember asking the nurse if you could pass out from pain, she looked at me and said, ” good thing your lying down.”  She was mean, the first nurse was really mean.  She told me to stop screaming, I was upsetting my friend.  I wanted to bite her face off.  The change of shift came at 7am, and my new nurse was nice. I had an epidural. Ahhhhhhhh.  Thank god. I still think about finding that first nurse and poking her in the eye.

Katie’s grandparents were with me.  Katie’s grandmother held my hand as I gave birth one hundred and fifty hours later. I heard Katie cry.  It was so sweet.  I still remember the sound, first from her throat, and then from her heart.  A BIG cry, this was a big life that moved from me.  The doctor asked if I wanted to hold her, I said no.  I was running on instinct.  if I held her, I might change my mind.  I couldn’t change my mind. I had them move me off of the maternity floor so I wouldn’t have to hear the babies crying.

The social worker came to visit me.  I sipped on a cranberry juice and Sprite cocktail, as he told me how much Katie’s new parents loved her, he told me that I should be so happy, because this baby was very loved.  He told me he could feel the love coming from them. He was crying. I wasn’t. I think this was when I learned that they named her in honor of me.  Where was my Mom?  I remember looking at my belly in the mirror at the hospital, my still swollen belly and  episiotomy reminding me of  the long, probably really painful journey that was now ending. 

 But it wasn’t ending. it wasn’t even close to being over.  It was just beginning.

I named her Zoe. The state sends you papers in the mail to fill out,  your name, babies name,  fathers name, etc. This was before I signed the official adoption papers. Zoe is Greek for LIFE.  The day I got those papers, I cried.  I think for the first time.  I cried like a banshee.  I punched a hole in the bathroom wall, and I cried some more.  My eyes were swollen little slits allowing  for enough vision to keep me from walking into walls.  I tore these papers up and threw them away.  Zoe.

I went  to court to sign the adoption papers. The judge asked me a question, something like, “do you understand what you are doing by signing these papers?”  Did he think I was an idiot?  I didn’t respond to his question the way he wanted me to.  I said, ” I need to have photographs, and I need to know where she is, and that she is okay.”   This was agreed upon. This was to be an “open” adoption.  He asked me again, I must have satisfied him with my answer.  I must have said yes.  I don’t remember saying yes.  I must have signed the papers.  I don’t remember. 

David and I broke up about a year later. I keep in touch with his Mom via facebook.  I want Katie to be able to know him and his family if she chooses.

I received cards, letters, and photographs.    The letters were  so full of gratitude,  chock full of  love.  My baby was so beautiful.  Katie’s Mom was generous with her letters, with her tales of Miss Katie.  Eventually I started to get little notes and pictures from the princess herself.  One that I especially cherish is written in purple crayon on a yellow post- it note.  It says, ” I love you.  I miss you.  You are the best birth mom ever.”   The letters and photos  never stopped coming, Katie took the reigns when she was about 15.

Fast forward to the present. Katie is a freshman at The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.  She earned a 3.7 gpa her first semester.  I’m very proud.  We haven’t met yet.  I leave that up to her.  She has a great family, a little brother and sister too, both adopted.  She is well loved. She has everything I never had.  For that  I am eternally grateful to her parents.  They did such a good job, way better than I could have.  Thank you Karen and Joe. 

There is so much more to say, but I’m spent. 

Katie!!!!  Happy Birthday Doll!  You are the best thing I’ve ever done.  I love you.

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7 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Katie!

    1. Little Sister,

      I’m not exactly sure what hell I was putting myself through 19 years ago, but I would imagine that it encapsulated me completely so that I, as well, failed you during your journey through pregnancy. We have never spoken of that time, nor have I even given it much thought….until this very moment. I cannot imagine how alone you must have felt and I, from the bottom of my heart, am so very sorry for not being there with you and for you. As I read Head Full of Glitter, it felt as if I had just lived in a moment I had missed. You are an amazing writer with the uncanny ability to connect through painted words. I love you so very much and I’m proud to call you Sister. We are so lucky to have you gracing this Earth.

      Jimmie

  1. Thanks Kate. I know that this was Katie’s gift. We have talked many, many times about the magical child, but not until today, did you share with me her birth story in such a raw and beautiful way.
    Your recounting of old pain took me back, way back to places that I’d rather not visit unless I must. It doesn’t suck so much when holding your hand. In so many ways, our unenviable, unaccountable and irresponsible parents gave us gifts. You, my darling, are an incredible light being and had one thing been easier or different, you would be different as well. There would be no Katie, either. You both were meant to be!
    You know how very much and how deeply you are loved by your sister.

  2. Dear Kate,
    I am Katies Aunt and I thank you so very much for making the tough decision you had to to want a better life for your beautiful little girl. She is very much loved!! I remember when Joe and Karen would not ever let her out of their arms!! Oh and I babysat her at times and let me tell you she was use to being held and loved 24/7 🙂 You did an excellent job as a teen mom in making such a responsible unselfish decision. I too was a teen mom 17 when I gave birth, and had I not had the support of my family (Katie’s grandparents ) I would not have been able to keep my daughter and would have had to probably make that same very hard decision (not sure I would have been that strong though) I know it is a long scary road to travel. You should be so proud of this unselfish act for the sake of your child!! I hope some day we meet and I have to tell you I can tell where Katie gets her SPUNK from!! 🙂 She is a funny, beautiful, caring woman like her birth mom and adopted mom!! She is blessed!

    1. Laurie,
      Thank you so much for writing! I am so happy my feelings were right, she has been cherished, and loved to the MAX! YAY!

      I appreciate your sharing such cool stuff with me, and I, of course would love to meet you some day too!

      This made me really happy. Thanks Laurie.
      Kate

  3. Kate,
    Thank you for making the difficult decisions that you had to make. We love Katie, and cannot imagine our lives without her. She has given us so much joy and laughs throughout the years! We are blessed to have her. My children always loved to go and visit Katie when they were little. Katie always had so much energy, and the kids loved to play with her. She has a kind heart and worries about other people’s happiness. She is a real gem… Thank you!!
    Katie’s Aunt Sue (Karen’s Sister)

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