Tales from the Frontlines: Talitha
We sat in the conference room of my former agency as she carefully leafed through the profiles of adoptive families. The room was silent, save for the sound of the clock ticking above us. Finally, she spoke.
“Her.” Talitha*, the birthmother I had been working with, tapped the profile of a single woman with her forefinger. The woman she pointed to was a professor at a local college. “This one. I want her to raise my baby.”
She didn’t want a married couple, and it made sense. After all, she had been molested as a child, among other things, and had a fear of men. But I was curious.
Why did you pick Martha*?, I had asked. Why do you feel she’s the one?
She was quiet as she thought. “Because she’s smart,” she answered finally. “And she’ll teach my baby how to be smart, too.”
Weeks later, I sat in the hospital room as Talitha cradled her newborn baby in her arms. And I thought about her life, and what a struggle it had been. She had never graduated high school. She told me of being molested as a child, by multiple people, and one story in particular chilled me. Of a twelve year old Talitha walking to school, and a seemingly nice police officer who offered her a ride. That one ride to school turned into several rides, and eventually, when she ran away from home, led to an apartment he paid for, and then…other things. Sex. More rape.
“He was nice to me,” she said, her voice a whisper. “But yeah, he used me.”
And the voices. The voices, she said, had been with her since childhood. Voices that spoke to her constantly, throughout her childhood and beyond. Voices that eventually turned themselves into people, or animals, or talking chairs. Talitha was schizophrenic.
She readily admits to self-medicating. “I didn’t like the way the medicaton made me feel, so I would take other things. Marijuana. Methamphetamines. But doing those got me to lose my other kids (she had two boys, who lived with their father), so I had to find another way. Now I just tell myself that anything that seems weird is really a hallucination.”
Back in the hospital room, I had notified Martha that Talitha wanted some time with her baby, and that Talitha would tell me when it was okay for her to come. And so, I sat there in that hospital room, watching Talitha as she said goobye to her baby.
I had been in a hospital room with many birth mothers, but this woman in particular moved me. I watched as she undressed her, and carefully examined her tiny little body. Each finger, each toe. I sat there as she stared at her, and kissed her on the forehead, again and again. For hours. It was as if she was saying, “You are loved. You are loved.” It was a moving scene to witness, and even the hospital nurses were teary-eyed. Because you could almost feel it.
The whole room seemed to pulsate with love.
And I could see that in the end, love was what it was all about. Talitha knew she couldn’t care for her child. She was practically homeless, living on an uncle’s couch. Because of the drug use, her previous children has already been taken away. This newborn was born drug-exposed, and Talitha admitted that she would probably use again. She couldn’t care for her, but she could love her, the best way she knew how.
By giving her away.
I have a deep respect for all birth mothers, regardless of their circumstances. They have been brave, in a way that I don’t know if I could be. Each and every one I have met have acted out of love.
Talitha was blessed to have picked an adoptive mom who got it. Really got it, you know? She liked Talitha, as much as I did, and had a deep wisdom about the whole situation. The two mothers made plans for an open adoption. Before I left that agency, I was able to be present for a few of those visits, and it was nice, seeing everything come full circle. I don’t often get to do that. I was able to visit Talitha a few times before I left the agency, but when I left I have to admit I worried about her, wondered how she was coping, whether she stayed clean, was able to make her life better.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
This is one of my favorite quotes, which some have attributed to Plato, others Philo of Alexandria. Regardless of who said it, the words ring with truth. It’s easy to judge the poor, the drug addicts, the people who abuse their children. But how would we fare, given the exact same circumstances?
My solution, I have found, is ultimately freeing. When it comes to judging, I try not to. Period.
Instead of judging, I have found that the easiest solution is to simply love.
That’s what Talitha did.
*All names and identifying descriptions have been changed to protect privacy.