Every night was the same: boys and drinks and going too far. Always waking up with heavy head and a sick stomach. My roommate and I stretching our tired bodies into the memory of the night's debauchery, smiling with satisfaction and licking our lips at the thought of the next daring night.

But then the phone rang one morning and the conversation ripped me into the present: Your sister is pregnant. She's decided not to keep the baby. He'll be born in two weeks, but she didn't want any of us to know. What are we going to do?

I promised to think about it and disconnected the call, letting the phone drop as I rolled over and went back to my life.


Quickly, every conversation turns to the baby. The baby she's not keeping. The baby she doesn't want.

I know from the edge in my mother's voice as she calls again and again that I'm supposed to fix this, to make it right -- for her, for my sister, for that unborn child who they say will be a girl. But I can't quite figure out how. I turn it over and over, run through theories with my roommate who is closer to me than family.

I am afraid to say aloud the only solution that seems right for everyone. Everyone except me, and possibly my sister.


Finally, I call my sister for the first time in more than a year. I cry and press against her resolve with lies and guilt: I cannot bear my own children. I've always wanted a child. If you do this for me, all the other stuff won't matter.

She tries to put up a wall. She talks about the family she's chosen for the child and that she never wants to see the baby again once its born, or she'll never be able to follow through. But I am a gale-force wind battering against her defenses. Please. Please give me this gift, I say through tears.

I don't know whether my sobs are from joy or sadness as I feel her giving in. An hour later I am booked on a flight home, knowing that there's no turning back.


My sister picks me up from the airport. I try to make small talk with her, but we are like skittish birds, flying close and then soaring away, never coming close enough for a real conversation.

The car ride to my mother's house is tense and music-filled. We move in wide circles for the next two weeks as her due date marches past us and I begin to believe the baby will never come.

The southern December air is both crisp and mild, yet my chest is always tight as I struggle for deep, cleansing breaths.


The call comes in the middle of the day. She's in labor and headed for the hospital. She says you can be in the delivery room if you want. She'll call you when the baby's born if you aren't there. 

One hand holds her leg up and out, the other holds her hand. She stops breathing and the nurses call out for oxygen. She fades in and out as pain washes over her. Hours pass. A new doctor comes in, reaches inside of her while saying something about sunny side up. I am focused on my pale sister, who is too weak to push.

Suddenly the baby is crowning. An eternity passes in a flash and they are whisking the baby to a heater. I hesitate, unsure of where I belong. The doctor exclaims, You have a boy! Disoriented, I look to my sister for guidance.

She yells out the name I'd chosen if the baby happened to be born a boy. I move slowly away from her and toward my son.


She leaves the hospital as soon as she's able. I build a nest in the waiting room so that I can stay with my baby boy for the two days he must remain in the hospital.

The daytime labor and delivery staff treat me like trash and make a point of making it uncomfortable for me to feed and care for my son. The nighttime staff reminds me that I am strong and that it's going to be okay. I take visitors, lighting up with pride each time someone exclaims over my boy's perfect body and smooshed face.

I feel something pure growing inside of me.


When we are discharged, my sister is there to drive us home.

She doesn't look at my son, the rage rolls off her in waves. I am afraid so I ride in the back with the car seat. She whips around curves and brakes too hard. She watches me from the rear view mirror.

In a too-quiet voice, she lets me know that if she drove off the road, she'd kill us all.


I mentally count down the days until our flight away from her.

She disappears for days at a time as I struggle to get my son to sleep and eat. I wonder why she's mad at me when she's the one who decided to give away her child.

When I leave, I make no contact with her. Six months later, I am back in the South -- this time for good.


The half-year's time has allowed the rage to mellow into a quiet seething. My sister tap dances around us, trying to never be alone with us. I need her help and finally ask for it. She comes to us slowly and I have the urge to hide.

She takes my sweet chunky boy into her arms. Nuzzles his cheek. Coos down at him as he reaches for her face. I am forgotten as she turns away and finds a quiet spot to sit with him. Fear bubbles up in me as I watch her bond with him, but I stamp it down and leave them alone.

The days turn into months and years. She becomes Nahnee instead of Auntie. She spends time alone with him, introduces him to her oldest son. We are with her when she delivers a third child only 14 months from the second. We give her cards and flowers on Mother's day, thank her for being brave and strong and selfless.


He is nine years old and knows that his Nahnee carried him in her tummy. He loves that he has two brothers, feels special to have so many families when most only have one.

But then it happens. She drags him into her destructive patterns. Looks him in the eyes and says You can never tell. This is our secret. Your parents will be mad at us if you tell. My son inevitably spills the secret he should never have been asked to keep.

My tiny family closes to her.


Mother's day comes and I have to resist the urge to reach out to her. My heart is heavy as I explain to the son she gave me that we will not be seeing her or talking to her today.

His eyes are large and sad. I think back to her anger and hurt in the days after his birth and wonder how much time we'll need to heal this wound. I say a silent prayer of gratitude for her gift so many years ago and turn to comfort my son. I let the memory of her holding him for the first time wash over me.

I imagine I am holding him with both his mothers' hands as we sit quietly together, letting the time pass.


**This post is part of Five for Ten, where we're giving each other five minutes a day for ten days. Won't you join us?**


  • www.privilegeofparenting.com

    What a profound post, what a profound story. It makes me think that in some way we all have a "nighttime staff" and a "daytime staff" within us, just as our world has a confluence of opposites—confusing, vexing, mysterious and heartbreaking, soul-making opposites.

    Perhaps all our children, in some way or other, represent the integration of these opposites—and our task, those who choose to stand, at least virtually, together, is to be a vessel in which these children can be protected from the warring impulses.

    I would only hope that you would feel the love around you, supporting you to be your best Self, just as your child benefits from your understanding love.

  • Kelly Miller

    Thank you. I definitely think our little ones help us find a common middle ground -- both within our hearts and in our relationships with others. The polar opposites start to seem less worthy of our precious time.

    I have come such a long way from that hospital waiting room. While there was more fear and skepticism then, I am surrounded by support now. It's a beautiful thing.

  • TKW

    Whoa! Look what you just did! This is freaking amazing! I'm really proud of you for sharing this very hard, very complicated, very emotional story.

    You do what you have to do to protect your family. I know it's got to be painful.

    She has a lot of anger to work out. Hugs to you and your beautiful boy.

  • Alisha

    What an amazing story. And what an incredibly strong woman you are. Thank you for sharing.

  • KittyCat

    WOW. That was deep. What a crazy roller coaster you have been on. You are an amazing woman. You have much more forgiveness in your heart than I .

    Thanks for sharing something so personal.

  • postmommy

    I can't imagine the strength and conviction it took for you to do this. Amazing. I was nearly in tears as I read this, you pulled me right in to your story. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing. You are an amazing woman.

  • C (Kid Things)

    Wow, just wow. You, and your son, are so incredibly strong. He sounds like he's right where he should be, and you are a great mother.

  • Justine

    Wow - I can hardly breathe. What a profound story. I feel for you, and in some ways, I feel for her too although in the end, she will have to live with her decision, as hard as it is. Things happen for a reason - and this shows me that while he was not made by you, he was meant for you.

  • Unknown

    Praying for you. Thank you for sharing.

  • Rudri

    Profound post and very brave of you to share it. I think anything I say here would be trite and superficial. Just want to say thank you for revealing such a deep truth about your life.

  • The Drama Mama

    I am literally in tears reading this. I can feel your pain and your turmoil. I can feel how much this has hurt your heart. Kelly, you really are an amazing person. You opened your heart up to this little boy, took him in, made him yours. You even opened your heart and your home to his mom, disregarding your own fears, to do what is best for him, Out OF Love. It is blatantly apparent how much Javi is loved. That will never be questioned.

    Sometimes the decisions we have to make to protect our children are ones we know are going to hurt them. And sometimes, the hurt now is better then the hurt later, after more time has passed and it is harder to say goodbye or let go. It takes great bravery and courage to be able to do this.


  • becca

    Thank you Kelly for sharing this deeply personal story of heartache. Your son is so very lucky to have you as his mommy. You have given him so much and continue to amaze me.

    I'm so sorry that times are sometimes hard but just now you are an amazing woman.

    And this was a fantastic piece of writing.

  • amber_mtmc

    Well, you already know my poignant encounter with adoption. As you can imagine, I am sobbing. The memories fly past me as I think about my own sister's sacrifice. You have captured this so so well.

  • Leslie

    Kelly, I hardly know what to say. Between you and TKW, I've been blown away by sister stories this week. This is an incredible (and incredibly sad) story, and your storytelling is so skillful, so compelling.

  • Anonymous

    So many memories here: yours, his, hers, all mixing together into something so complex, tragic, tough, and yet ... so beautiful. Your words make clear he was meant for you and that all he needs are your hands holding and guiding his.

  • Cathy Reaves

    Wow! This is such a moving story and you've recounted it so well. It saddens me to hear about sisters who have such deep problems between them. My sister and I have had our differences but ultimately she is my closest connection. I hope someday you can get there too.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, this is a sad yet beautifully emotional loving and complicated and deeply personal story. Thanks you for allowing us into your heart today. I pray for your son's sake that your sister will reach a point that she can be a positive influence as an aunt in his life and a good sister to you. As sorry as I am to say, your sister sounds like one of those people who doesn't want something but she doesn't want someone else to have it either or maybe she has regrets that she doesn't know how to come to healthy terms with...she probably needs counseling. You are a good person, your son is fortunate to have such a loving mother as you.

  • Corinne Cunningham

    I was hooked from the beginning. What an absolutely amazing, heart wrenching, story of motherhood. And of protecting our own and of letting our heart get broken for the good of our family.
    Sending hugs your way, as this could not have been easy to write. Or to sit with at any point.

  • ck

    Kelly - I'm stuck without adequate words. This post was so very moving. I'm really glad to have found your blog.

  • Unknown

    Kelly, this post is a gift. Thank you.

  • Unknown

    First of all, you are an amazing person. Secondly, you are also an amazing writer.
    Also, I'm nosy. I want more! What was the awful secret she asked him to keep? What the heck possessed her to keep a child born 14 months after him- but not HIM? Either way he's better off, but I want the juicy details... :) Maybe one day?

  • Anonymous

    As I started to read I was ready for a story about college adventures and remembering those mornings with roommates going over the events of the night before. I am truly amazed that you made the choice you did. Now that is selfless love for a child. not only that you took him in as your own child and did all the hard work but you have tried to support him having a relationship with his own mother. The decisions your making now are hard and will be a while before he understands fully but some day he will and he will thank you for protecting him!

  • BigLittleWolf

    What an incredible, painful, generous story. I know a little something about carrying the burden of family pain as well as its gifts, trying to balance the two - or at least survive them despite their seeming head-on collisions.

    It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job of it. And how fortunate your son is to have you.

  • Tiffany

    Wow. What an amazing story...you are one brave woman. How lucky he is to have you and you him.

  • Anonymous

    Sweet Kelly, thank you for your strength and courage in telling this bittersweet story. I know from reading your blog regularly what a wonderful mother you are; your son clearly blossoms under the light of your love.

    I am grateful for having the chance to read these remarkable words today. Thank you, Kelly.

  • Shell

    This is so beautifully written. I can't imagine the rollercoaster of emotions that you have gone through.

    Thanks for visiting me on my SITS day last week. I'm so glad to have found your blog through that. You are an amazing storyteller.

  • Linda Pressman

    This is so beautifully written and perfectly conveys both not being ready for motherhood and suddenly being ready. What a great act of love that was and how difficult to be connected in that way to a sister who is not all you would want her to be.

  • Jen

    Your writing just keeps getting better and better. The richness of your words. The way you crafted this in bits, blurbs, short "scenes." This post is equal parts courage, happiness and memory. And, I think probably, lust and yes, too. Thank you, Kelly.

  • Cheryl

    Beautiful. Profound. The emotional confusion you felt/feel were portrayed so well. Thank you for sharing.

  • VKT


    This post moved me to tears. What a beautiful story. It is obvious that it came from your heart as you explored a wide range of emotions. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderfully touching story.

    Blessings sweet lady

  • Dalia (Generation X Mom)

    You are an amazing person and how lucky your son is to have you. You are his mom and his angel.

  • Doug


    I just found you from Momalom, and I'm really glad I did. I'm trying, hard, to get to everyone's blog, but WOW there is a big turnout!

    Not only did your post move me to tears, it made me go back and read much more of your blog than the one post. When I read this the first time, I had no idea the hurt was so recent.

    While I haven't adopted, I am both a Stepfather and a Foster father on top of a biological father, so I have dealt with a lot of the "Don't Tell" issues. They are heartwrenching and lifechanging at times. I just thought I'd leave you a comment to tell you you're handling it very well!

    Remember ... Javi did, eventually, come out and talk about it. He is the wonderful young man you have raised and never, ever stop trusting that. Or him. If it's anything like what my boys have gone through, that must have been one of the hardest things he's ever done! I hope you're proud of him.

    I've never had the option of cutting the biological parents out of the picture, so I can't comment there. I think you're making the right decision, and it is one I have often prayed I could make, but it is outside my experience. It's horrible to put a child in a position where every choice brings pain ... I think you're handling it well!

    Both of your children seem to be warm caring reflections of you. You'll all be in my prayers through these painful times.

  • Unknown

    Oh, so sad.
    Adoption is a very painful thing. Very, very painful. There is always intense pain. To the people that think there is not, the are fools.
    I am sorry for these experiences you have had.

  • ShannonL

    This is amazing and beautiful and courageous. What a story! I have tears and was on the edge of my seat, eating up your every word. So many emotions. I'm glad I read. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • RN Mama

    Wow. What an amazing story, and beautifully written post. Your son is very lucky to have you!

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