The Little Girl Once Called Faith

Delta Winds cover 2011Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


The Little Girl Once Called Faith

Cara Rapphun

It was a cool, crisp day in late October, on the plains of Kansas. A baby girl had just been born, and she was perfect and healthy. Her mother sat weeping, not from joy, but from sorrow. The dreaded decision had quickly approached, and she didn't know what to do. She said a prayer and asked for guidance. She had a sick toddler at home, she was recovering from a divorce, and she was struggling with an eating disorder. Her own mother didn't even know she had been pregnant. She slowly got up from the bed, packed her belongings, and with a broken heart left the hospital, leaving her baby there. Several days later, a couple from Florida walked to the desk to pick up their newly adopted daughter. Those people were the ones I would always know as my parents.

I always knew I was adopted. My parents never hid it from me and always tried to make me feel special because of it. I was their gift. The desire to be parents burned inside them. Because they couldn't conceive another child, they decided to pursue adoption. The process took months, and at times the expectation of getting a baby seemed hopeless. Just when they were ready to give up, the man who would become my dad got a call from an adoption attorney, informing him that a baby girl had been born in Kansas and needed a family. I can't even imagine the joy he must have felt when he hung up the phone. He could tell his wife she was going to be a mom. Most expectant parents have months to prepare for their new arrival; my parents had a week. They flew to Kansas for the most precious gift they would ever receive-me.

From the outside looking in, I had a picture perfect childhood. My parents made sure I had everything I needed and most of what I wanted, and they always let me know that I was special. I knew my parents were hand-selected just for me, yet I was incomplete. On the inside I felt rejected and set apart from them. There was something missing.

I never told people I was adopted until my presentation during English class at Delta College. It was something I held inside; it was my secret. As a small child, I had noticed right away I was different. The biggest difference between my parents and me was the obvious physical one. Unlike my mom and dad, I had very blonde hair; they had dark brown. It made me feel like I didn't belong. I always wondered what made my mother walk away and leave me. I was desperate to know where I had come from, and I wrestled with these thoughts through most of my younger years.

When I was sixteen, I thought I had found the man of my dreams. After almost a year of dating him, I got pregnant. I wasn't upset; instead I was eager to have a family that shared my blood. Young girls at sixteen rarely have the ability to become the parents they should be, but I knew I could do it. The other people in my life, however, didn't share my feelings. They all assumed I would put the baby up for adoption. My friends from school, church, and even my parents all encouraged me in that direction. They thought it was the smart decision for a girl my age. I was torn between my baby and the rest of the people in my life. The turning point for me was as simple as answering a phone call. My best friend's mom had given my number to a couple who desperately wanted children. The woman who called said she wanted to meet me. She wanted me to choose her to be my baby's mom. She wanted to meet with me right away, so she would have enough time to schedule her maternity leave and paint the nursery. She told me she wanted my baby to be a boy, and she would name him Noah. It was then I realized how much I wanted to keep my baby. I knew what it was like growing up not knowing my mother; I didn't want to know what it was like not knowing my baby.

When I had my son, some of my closest friends were no longer allowed to associate with me, and I was kicked out of school. I had gone against what my parents had taught me, and I had tarnished their reputation. I was brought up in the church, so I knew what I had done was wrong, and I also knew it wasn't something that could easily be hidden. It was a mistake that couldn't be swept under the rug; it would be as hard to hide a baby as it was to hide a pregnant daughter. My decision was something they had to accept. The baby would be a part of my life. I had disappointed them, not only by having a baby, but also by compromising my education. I took the year off, but I was able go back to school when my son turned one. I had missed a lot, but I was determined to catch up and not allow being a mom to prevent me from continuing my education. My life drastically changed, but I have never regretted my decision to keep him.

Life as a teenage mom was difficult. Sleep deprived and irritable, I had to go to work at McDonalds, making four dollars and fifteen cents an hour for diaper money. The days of going to sleepovers and parties were over, traded in for runny noses and formula. My son was a good baby, but I had to learn what to do as I went along. My mom and dad taught me what I didn't know, and they took care of him while I was in school or at work. Life was hard, but it was still better than missing his first smile, his first word, his first step. There is nothing like hearing your baby say "mama" for the first time or giving you a slobbery kiss on the cheek to show you that he loves you.

One of the days in my life I will never forget is the day I graduated from high school. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. My family thought that I would never go back and that I would compound their embarrassment by being a dropout. I had to overcome adversity and teenage parent statistics, but I received my diploma, with my son in the stroller watching me. He was two. He is almost seventeen now, older than I was when he was born. He is going to graduate from high school next year, and it will be my turn to watch him get his diploma. I like to think his determination came from knowing how hard I have worked to give him a life with me, his mom. I could have chosen to give him up for adoption as my mother had, as my friends and family thought I should, but even through the teenage stages of attitudes and mood swings, I have never regretted my decision to keep him.

My mother chose to give me up for adoption. She could have had an abortion or left me to die in a trashcan, but she chose to give me a chance at life. She didn't know who would raise me, or where I would end up, but she walked away. When I was twenty-one, I got my birth records from the hospital in Kansas, in hopes of finding something that could help me find her. It took several months to receive all of my records. When I finally got them, I ripped open the envelope, and the first words I read were my mother's name: Mary Jane. I can't describe the way it felt to finally hold this part of her in my hands after all the time I had spent wondering. I still didn't know anything else about her, but I had her name to hold onto.

I searched many weeks for her. Knowing the chances of finding her were slim, I never gave up. I called the information number for the town I was born in, and the operator gave me the names and numbers of the people who shared her maiden name. I called number after number, the need to find her growing with each one. One day a man called, and he knew the date of my birthday before I could tell him, and he also knew the reason I had left the message on his machine. He was married to my mother, and he was able to give me the answers I desired most. But he wouldn't. She had never told her mom and dad she had been pregnant. He wanted to give her some time to tell them, and he wanted her to answer my questions herself. The search was over. I had found my mother, but the wait to hear her voice wasn't. Waiting was worse than not knowing anything about her for all those years. She finally called, and we talked for several hours, and before we hung up, we planned a trip. I was going to Kansas!

When I looked into my mother's eyes for the first time, I saw both heartache and relief. The heartache was from the life that could have been, but the relief was from the life that was. I looked closely at her, trying to see a glimpse of myself in who she was. I had her blue eyes and her blonde hair. She reminded me of me. We enjoyed each other's company and stayed up late that night, talking about our lives and about how, in so many ways, they had been separate. We ended our visit by going to a Kansas City Royals baseball game. We had nosebleed seats, but we shared what would be our last night together laughing over foul balls and home runs. I will never forget the time we spent together; I treasure it to this day. I understand better now her choice, and I have an inner peace about what she had to do. I know I wasn't her discarded baby; I was the hardest decision she had ever had to make. One thing she said that was special to me was about the day I was born. She had chosen not to look at me, but she overheard a nurse talking in the hallway, and she heard I was a girl. That day, before she left the hospital, she named me Faith. She knew it was faith she needed to follow through with her decision to put me up for adoption. I was her daughter, I always would be, and we shared a blood bond that will never be broken. She will always be the woman who gave me life and who loved me enough to walk away. I never regretted my decision to keep my baby, but she has spent the last thirty-three years with regret over her decision to give me up. She will forever be my mother, but will never be my mom.

The family that was chosen to be mine has loved me, has cherished me, and has always been there for me. They made all the decisions about where I would grow up and what school I would go to, when I could wear make-up, and who I could date-the decisions my mother never had the chance to make for me. They are the ones who molded me, socially and emotionally, training me from birth, but it was the decision made by my mother to let go and walk away that ultimately shaped my life. If she had kept me, both of our lives would have been dramatically different. It was because she had given me up for adoption that I was able to make a different decision when I was faced with a similar situation. Rather than choose the life that my mom and dad wanted for me, I chose my own path. My decision to keep my son changed my life, and it also changed their lives as well. I have a deep love and appreciation for my adoptive parents because of what I have been through. I have been able to give closure to my past and rather than blaming my biological mother for her decision, I thank her for it.

I still keep in touch with my mother, but I haven't seen her since my trip to Kansas. I hope that one day I will be able to hear her voice again, but the letters we share are far more than I had ever hoped for, and I am grateful we had the opportunity to meet. She contributed to who I am biologically, but she chose to put what was best for me above all else. She knew she couldn't take care of me and wanted more for my life than she could provide. She will always be an important part of who I am. To her, I will always be the little girl she had once called Faith.