My dearest sweet Pamela,
I am so sorry for all the pain I have caused you. After reading your letter I wanted to answer a few of your questions.
I want you to know that as many times as you dreamed about me, I dreamed about you. Not one day or one hour went by that I didn’t have you in my mind. I always wondered what you looked like, who you looked like, and what your life was like. I always had you close in my heart, even if you were physically far away. I am so sorry for all the pain that being adopted has caused you. That was not in the plan or my intentions, not even for one minute.
I need you to know that I grew up in a very dysfunctional home. My mother and father were alcoholics, and my life was anything but a normal one. We were poor, and we didn’t have much. My mother was in mental institutes many times throughout my life. She did some very horrible things but I will just say we didn’t have it easy.
I married my first husband and had your half-sister. She was born in 1970. Her father and I started to have problems, and we soon ended up divorcing. He was the love of my life. I always drank alcohol to cope with things in my life and it always seemed to make things much easier to deal with. I never realized until it was too late how much alcohol took from my life and how much of an impact it had on my life. Now looking back I see it controlled everything. My life never would be the same after we divorced.
Even thoe I always had alcohol in my life and things just seemed to get worse after my divorce. My father began to get sick, and soon passed away in 1973. At this time I was a single mother of your older sister and alcohol was a big part of my life. There were pall barriers at my father’s funeral, and one of them was Jimmie Jones, whom was 10 years older than me. He was a close family friend, and he was close with my father, and my brothers. After the funeral he asked me if I wanted to go have a few drinks with him, and even when he was married at the time, I didn’t think there was any harm in having a few drinks. Alcohol seemed to make everything so much better and it helped ease the pain I was facing with my father’s passing. The night of my father’s funeral was the night you were conceived and after this night, my life would never be the same. Jimmie and I both were lonely and ended up getting a hotel room that night after we left the bar, and one thing led to another. After this night, I never saw him again. This was a very poor decision on my part, but there was nothing I could do to take this night away, and to take the pain away from my father passing away Jimmie consoled me, as he was 10 years older than me, he knew all the right things to say.
Soon after I found out I was pregnant with you. I did continue to drink during my pregnancy, and I am so sorry for that. It is one of the many regrets in my life I have. You see alcohol had a control over me, like nothing else ever did. It was all I knew to get by, and ease the pain I was about to endure. There is no way I could have made it through a pregnancy and know I was going to give my baby away, and not have alcohol to help me cope with those emotions. I am so sorry for what that has done to you. Please know I never wanted to hurt you. I could say I would do anything to take that night back, but if I did that you wouldn’t be where you are today with your beautiful children. What I can say is that I want to let you know I am so sorry for your pain and I hope someday you can forgive me so you can let go of the pain you have in your heart so you can truly be happy. I understand your anger towards me, and I am so sorry I have caused this. You have every right to be angry.
When I made the decision to give you up for adoption, I want you to know abortion just wasn’t an option. My mother tried to abort her first child in every way possible, and didn’t succeed. My oldest sister was born mentally retarded and lived in a nursing home her whole life until she passed away in her 60’s. Abortion never was an option for me, because this situation tore our family up on many levels. When I got pregnant with you, the reason I decided not to keep you was because your biological father was married and I didn’t want to bring you into the world under those circumstances. You see, if I would have kept you then you would have felt like a mistake, or a product of an affair and I didn’t want you to have to endure that type of pain. I felt like it would have ruined you, and I also was so ashamed of my behavior I just couldn’t deal with the pain. This is my reason in choosing adoption. Never did I ever mean for you to grow up harboring such pain that you have. I have carried the shame from my actions deep inside, and I never have forgiven myself for what I have done. Having an affair with a married man is just not in my character, and I have had to live with that my entire life. The only thing that seemed to ease my pain is to drink alcohol because no one ever taught me about healing, or God, or how to pray. We never grew up in church, nor did I have a church family to be close to. All I knew is alcohol took the pain away, but of course it was temporary. As soon as I got sober, I would begin to think of my past, my life, my guilt, and about you. The pain was unbearable.
All the years that passed, not one single birthday did I not shed a tears for you. You were always on my mind, and in my heart. I had always wondered what your life was like, if you had children, or got married. I hoped you were happier than the life I could have provided for you. I know you feel like my decision in giving you up for adoption was a selfish one and I can understand this but please know that my decision was based on what I felt would have been best for you at the time. If I had it to do over, and times were different I would have loved to have an open adoption, where I could have watched you grow over the years, and we could have exchanged letters and pictures, but back in the 1970’s there was no such thing as an open adoption.
When I received the very first phone call from you in 1995, I am so sorry my first response was to hang up the phone. This is not anything you deserved, nor did you do anything wrong. I was just completely shocked, and I wasn’t sure what to say. I am so sorry I hung up on you. When you called back, I had a little time to get myself together. I decided to let you know that “YES, I am the person you are looking for”, because I felt like you deserved to know the truth. For me it was facing my fears, because I was still so very ashamed of the circumstances that brought you into this world. I never forgave myself. An enormous amount of guilt went with me for my entire life after you were born, and for you to call, it just hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt so sad deep down, but it had nothing to do with you personally. It was nothing I wanted you to feel. After hearing your voice for the first time, I was in complete shock, because after all those years, 21 at the time I always had you on my mind but I never knew what happened to you. I am so sorry I didn’t keep my word on sending you the letters and pictures I promised you. Again, the pain was so unbearable; I was doing well to get by day to day. I never mean to hurt you.
When I gave you up for adoption this created a lifelong pain deep in my heart that no one understood. I was not able to grieve because everyone I knew that knew about you kept saying, “You are doing the best thing for your baby, now it’s time to move on with your life”. The pain was so deep, the only way to escape was by drinking alcohol, and it would get me by day to day. This was all I knew. Deep down I had a piece of my heart missing, and that piece was you.
When I spoke to you for the first time on the phone, and I promised to call you and send letters and pictures, I began to feel very overwhelmed and it was like a sense of darkness from my past came over me. This darkness wasn’t you, it was me and my poor decisions in bring you into this world under the circumstances you were conceived under. I felt such an incredible sense of guilt and shame; I just didn’t know what to say to you. This is the only reason I didn’t keep my word. I am so sorry because you didn’t deserve that. I don’t blame you for searching for your half-sister, and finding her and contacting her. I think I would have done the same if I was you. She knew nothing about you, but I am glad you all are building a relationship because you deserve to have her in your life, and she deserves to have you in hers. I really wanted to be the one to tell her about you, but you beat me to it, and that is okay.
When I got the phone call from her, saying you found her my heart sank. Now the secret was out, and I couldn’t back out of it or deny it. I know some might have just lied, but I didn’t. I confessed to her, “Yes, I had a child and gave her up for adoption”. Her first response was that she wanted us to both meet you. She told me she was flying to Kentucky to meet you, and I just told her I wasn’t quite ready yet. She didn’t understand why, but I didn’t feel I had to explain it to her. I was never good with my emotions, and I was never good at expressing myself. I just wasn’t ready yet. I needed some more time. I knew why, it was because I was still feeling such guilt and such a huge amount of shame that I just wasn’t ready yet.
When I became ready to meet you, and your sister set up the meeting I was a nervous wreck, but I came to a point where I knew I needed to meet you, not only for you, but for me too. I am so sorry when I saw you for the first time I didn’t reach out and hug you right away, I was so nervous and I didn’t know what to do. I wish now, I would have reached out and hugged you and never let you go, because after all that was what you deserved. This was such a painful time for me, as I know it was for you too. When we sat at my dining room table and you told me your adoptive parents divorced a year after you were born, it just crushed me. The overwhelming sense of sadness this brought to me was devastating. This was not what I had planned on for you. I gave you up for adoption so you could be raised in a two parent home, by a loving family that wanted to adopt a baby. Not for them to divorce a year later, and for you to have a very hard life as you mentioned. This just added to my pain and guilt. I just couldn’t stand the fact that you had a hard life. When I gave you up for adoption I wanted you to have a better one. After you left from our visit when we met the first time, the sadness came back and it was overwhelming. It added to the already sense of guilt and shame I had from the beginning. Now I had to face the fact that I gave a baby up for adoption, and she didn’t have a wonderful life like I planned. This was the reason I never saw you again. It was just too much for me to bear. The guilt and shame was just too much.
I want you to know that it was nothing that you did to deserve this situation you were dealt. You didn’t ask to be born, and you most certainly didn’t ask to be given up for adoption. I always hoped you had the best life out there, which was more than what I could give. I never realized until now the pain that being adopted has brought you. I am so very sorry you have felt that you were abandoned. This is not what I planned for you. Please my sweet daughter; know that deep in my heart I just wanted what was better for you.
Sometimes in life things don’t go as planned, and when your adoptive parents divorced that was not in the plan. I know you never had a bond with your adoptive mom as you mentioned, and I am so sorry for that. I hoped she would be a wonderful mother, and love you with her whole heart. That is what I had planned for you. I am so sorry you have always felt like you didn’t fit in, or that you were alone in this world. That breaks my heart, and that is not what I want for you. Please remember you were always in my heart, and you have never left it. Not even for a minute.
You said you wondered if I knew if you were at my bedside when I was in the ICU, after I fell down the steps. Yes, I knew you were there. I never contacted you to tell you, but I knew you came to Iowa to see me. They thought I was going to die, but I made it. I never intended for that to be the last time you saw me alive. I wish I could have told you “I love you”, but I was in a coma and I couldn’t say a word. I don’t even remember falling down the steps, because alcohol had such a hold on me, I was in a deep black out when this happened. I want to say “Thank You” for coming to the hospital, because I never got to tell you before.
17 years passed, and you reached out to me, and I never reached back. I got your letters, and pictures and cards in the mail, but I could never get up enough courage to respond. This is nothing you did, I just felt so guilty about the situation, and I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. You didn’t deserve this, and you deserved more than what I allowed myself to give. I am so sorry for that.
At the end of my life, in 2010 I hadn’t spoken to your sister in over 3 years. I had developed COPD, and I became very sick. I was on oxygen 24/7, I was less than 100lbs, I smoked and I was all alone in my home. I was unable to care for myself, or my home, and I became someone that was just alone and I didn’t even let those that wanted to help me come inside. I was too embarrassed of my home, as over years it developed such a sense of darkness, and sadness I never wanted anyone to see what my life was really like. My home didn’t have any running water, I had holes in my windows with plastic and tape to cover the holes, and I hadn’t had anything new in my home sense the 1970’s. I kept it completely dark, with all the curtains drawn, because this way I couldn’t see how filthy and dirty it was. At the end of my life, I had no energy to tend to it, so the dust and filth became unbearable. I didn’t want anyone to see that, so I shut everyone out, even those that tried to help me. The only comfort I had at the end of my life was alcohol. I kept it close at hand, and it got me through each day of sadness I felt.
I want you to know that I didn’t mean for your feelings to get hurt when you weren’t listed in my obituary. I am so sorry they did. I had my funeral planned out to a tee, and I didn’t list you as my daughter or your children as my grandchildren because so many people didn’t know about that painful part of my life. I did my best to hide it, because I was afraid of what people might think. You see Pamela; I took that pain to my grave. Never once did I forgive myself for the events that happened to bring you into this world. I was so filled with shame and guilt but it was nothing to do with you. It was the decisions I made before you were even born and I have never forgiven myself for that. I know you drove 10 hours to be at my funeral, and even if I wasn’t ready to accept you in my life, you were always in my heart.
As I close this letter, I would really like you to know that I’m so very sorry that you didn’t have the chance to know your biological father because of my irresponsible decisions. I am so sorry you didn’t get to know your biological siblings growing up, and I am so very sorry you felt such a loss your whole life. From the bottom of my heart I would like to ask for you to forgive me for my decision in placing you up for adoption. I would like for you to try to understand where I was coming from, and please understand that I never have or never will stop thinking about you. You are in my heart, and always have and always will be.
I also want to tell you how very proud I am of you that you made the decision to stop drinking alcohol and start a 12 step program. I know this is the best thing you could ever do for yourself, and your kids, and grandkids. I might still be alive right now if alcohol wasn’t such a big part of my life.
No one deserves to carry the pain you have been carrying. As I learn to forgive myself I would like to ask you if you have it in your heart to forgive me?
I love you, always have and always will.
Your First Mom, Arlene
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