|Britta with Dawson at the hospital.|
Today we have the privileged of hearing from Britta Nelson. Her story is very touching and very unique. We appreciate her sharing it with us!
It was eight years ago this October that I stood in my bathroom staring at a little plastic divining rod, which read “pregnant”. I was shocked. This was not the plan. My boyfriend and I had just broken up, and I was plotting my escape from a small party resort town I’d gotten too caught up in. Instinctively I dropped to my knees to plead to whatever God that would hear me. I remember what I said as if it were yesterday: “I will do whatever it takes to provide the most loving, stable and consistent circumstances for this baby”.
I couldn’t have known then what a unique path “whatever it takes” would eventually take me down.
I began to consider my options, consulting with pregnancy support groups, friends, family. Abortion never crossed my mind; along with tenants from my religious background, I was 32 and healthy, had a job with health benefits, and figured I could at least get through 9 months of pregnancy. I quickly crossed off the idea of raising my son with his father. He was 10 years older than me, and a solid, kind guy. But after our break up our lives were going in different directions. I considered the various aspects of being a single mom, but it just didn’t match my ambitions for my baby’s life. I wanted him to have a family, with a mom and a dad.
From the beginning, I felt reserved in my joy and excitement about having a baby. For some reason, I never could picture him with me. In fact, I had dreams that I would go to find him in the house and he would be gone. From my dreams to my intuition and finally to my heart, I knew – I would not be raising this boy. This broke my heart. While I loved being pregnant physically, this intuition made my pregnancy emotionally tumultuous.
By month three, I felt strongly that adoption was the best option for my son, but not everyone agreed. My parents felt that raising a baby would be good to ground me, to get my life on track, but I felt uncomfortable with that being a reason to have a baby. And then I ran into the unexpected – my son’s dad was absolutely opposed to the idea, and informed me he would single parent our son. I learned that he could indeed exercise his parental rights this way, and I was devastated; it felt like what I wanted for my baby was being disregarded. So I began to reconsider, to explore a 50-50 custody split with his father. But this plan didn’t feel right either. From my perspective, raising a baby well requires a couple to be very hands-on, engaged and committed. It seems like work that involves trust, love and vulnerability…the stuff good marriages are made of. Without such a foundation and goal, the plans we were making felt fake, like we were not looking at the reality of our relationship and circumstances. They also would be logistically disruptive – definitely not the consistent, stable life I’d hoped for my son.
In the midst of this, my intuition began to speak again, telling me that a family would present itself – but in a unique way, and not on my timetable. I trusted this, and by eight months into the pregnancy, I reached a deep, serene peace about allowing his dad to take him. I didn’t know why, but after months of exploring ideas that never felt right, surprisingly, this one actually did.
One month later, Dawson Lars was born. I loved childbirth. It was the most powerful, womanly thing I’ve ever done to bring this beautiful little boy into the world. And in sharp contrast, the hardest thing I’ve ever done is walk away from him, trusting my heartfelt intuition by leaving Dawson with his father.
During Dawson’s first months, I saw him only a few times; I had moved to Utah to build a new life. I would ask mutual friends how his dad was doing in his new role. Unanimously, they said he was doing amazing, and that his family and the community were being totally supportive. This gave me some peace. When I did have visits, there was still a sense a family was coming and a nagging nudge that I shouldn’t get too connected, because it would thwart things.
At first I thought my intuition meant that his dad would meet and marry someone. What did happen none of us could have predicted. 9 months after Dawson was born, his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We knew we had only a brief time to make important decisions about how to provide our son the best life possible. I asked his dad if his experiences single parenting had assured him this was still the best option for our boy; he admitted no, that he wanted a family for him. It was at this point that our hearts mutually opened to a new solution – we would ask his sister and her husband if they would adopt our son into their family. Dawson was already in their home because his dad’s health was too compromised by cancer and radiation treatments to care for him, so when we asked, they didn’t even think twice.
It was 7 months later, when Dawson’s father died, that his sister’s family adopted Dawson permanently into their amazing family – one that is loving, stable and consistent, as well as full of relatives and friends, adventure and exploration. Dawson now has the mom and dad – and even sister – I had felt would come.
One of Dawson’s father’s last wishes was that we foster our relationships between his sister’s family – which now included Dawson – and me. Although Dawson’s dad and I had our challenges, we respected and enjoyed one another. He liked who I was – my values and interests – and was clear about wanting me to be a part of our son’s life.
Dawson lives in California, far enough for me to heal and move forward, but close enough to allow me to be more connected than I ever anticipated I would be. I make annual visits to their home, where I tuck him in, tell him stories, dance and build train sets with him. Between visits we Skype, I follow him and his family on Facebook, and they share photos via text.
It hasn’t always been easy. The first two years of visits to see Dawson were heart wrenching and awkward for me, despite all of our best efforts. But we have just continued to be open and united in our commitment to one another.
|Britta and Dawson|
And we are open with him too. At the advice of counselors his parents have worked with, since as early as Dawson could understand, they’ve talked openly about him coming from my tummy, and he knows his first daddy got sick and went to heaven. The relationship continues to evolve as he matures. Prior to my most recent visit he’s known me as “Auntie B”. But he’s eight now and asking lots of questions, of me and of them. Following an outing together at the Santa Monica Pier, to my surprise, he asked, “Auntie B, are you my real, real mom? Did I come from your tummy?” I was touched by what our new candor created; he was more vulnerable, more engaged and loving than he’s been on prior visits. It is evident he knows that somehow this makes our relationship unique.
At the same time that I feel such gratitude and delight in my growing relationship with Dawson, I’m also deeply sensitive to his parent’s needs and concerns. I want to be sure they I want to fully support them in their roles as mom and dad. They are giving him the life I’d hoped he would have, and I am forever grateful. We are working without much of a roadmap or template, just a willingness to be open, patient and trusting. I hope that with the foundation of trust and communication we are building and the love we share for Dawson will get us through whatever his future brings.
For reasons I could never have predicted, my adoption story didn’t end at my delivery date. Trusting my intuition to leave my son was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made. I waddled around our small Idaho town for nine months, facing some shocked looks and shaming statements from those surprised I’d gotten pregnant or choose to have my child adopted, and for years after having him, I felt deep pain and loss. But my heart, perhaps my mother’s intuition, knew that my son would be taken care of, that someone was waiting in the wings, and that I needed to trust the process. I am so glad I did. I truly have no regrets. Following my heart down unexpected paths brought my son to a family and me back to my son.