Claire DeBerg // Writer

I Was 22, Pregnant and Alone: Adoption Was The Way

In this piece I wrote which was published in this month’s issue of The Mennonite magazine, I took on the call to reflect on a favorite scripture from the Bible. My “Shaped by Scripture” reflection shares how one small part of a well-known story about Jesus plunged my life and plans into the best kind of tailspin.

Here’s how it starts:

The rowing moments: A reflection on Jesus calling the first disciples

Luke 5:1-11

 

“When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.” Luke 5:11

I love the pain found in the story of Jesus calling the first disciples in Luke because it takes me back to my unwanted pregnancy.

I first felt the baby when I was resting during my three-mile walk along the Cedar River in Iowa. The melting snow had caused the river to swell and edge over the banks, flooding the path at one point. The trail that cut around the Cedar River is a path I walked every morning with my sister during my pregnancy. We walked every day because every day I had to face the truth that I was growing a human I did not want. But the morning I felt the baby move I happened to be walking alone.

When I reached the shallows—the part of the river with frequent floods and bordered by houses built on stilts—the walking path was impassable. It lay nestled under water as though a large glassy tabletop had been rolled across the path. I tried skirting the water, but it seemed the river had not actually spilled over the bank but seeped up from the ground to form a lake of sorts.

So the arc I made through the woods was large and added time and lots of barriers for me to climb between, through, around. As I pushed myself over the trunk of a fallen tree and stepped down to the other side, my body front-heavy, I sat down and thought of Simon the fisher. I watched the ducks quake quietly and push around the glassy water tabletop. I heard the rush of the brown river swim with broad strokes. When my heart slowed and I settled into my repose, I felt my baby nudge my stomach as though tapping me awake from a dream. And suddenly there were two people sitting on the tree stump, and I looked around me but found no one else to corroborate that truth. Just me. And the baby.

That movement in my inner waters had me sit a bit straighter and lean my ear toward my core, hoping to hear an answer—the question every moment being, Should I keep you or give you? While I waited for the answer, the ducks seemed content in their new, still water. They didn’t pace around the edge like a cat on a ledge but just walked right in. Were they aware that the water that used to send them shooting downriver was now transformed, stilled and solemn yet the same?

So my baby and I sat at the edge of the floodwaters, and I wondered aloud with an aching anger about what had become of me and that river. Is this what abundant life is, God?

And here’s how it ends…read the full transcript over where it was published on The Mennonite.

 

Happy Birthday to Gloria, The One Who Has Made Me Cry Lately. Twice.

It feels wildly apt that I have begun writing this pseudo love letter to my daughter on the eve of her 15th birthday after driving home in the craziest rainstorm I’ve ever known.

It was less like rain and more like vats of water being dumped on us as we inched our way home. It was the kind of nighttime rainstorm that has you sit straighter while you drive and track that fog line like never before. No music. No distractions, just focus on the next hydroplane and feeling the car pass through it.

Indeed the drive home tonight was much like my labor 15 years ago on this date. My contractions had started in the morning—the same morning I’d scheduled a tour of the hospital’s maternity ward. I wobbled along on the tour with the other new expectant mothers and at one point we circled around a labor room door and shared our due dates. I was last to share and I said, “Actually I think I’ll be coming back here later tonight because my contractions have started.” All the eyes widened while the nurse stepped towards me and everyone else backed away.

After the tour I didn’t really know what to do. I drove home and felt the rush of my waters being churned up by my baby. I changed the sheets on my bed. I washed all my dishes. And dried them. And put them all away. I looked at myself in the mirror of my bathroom and shook my head. I lived alone in a church basement (I know, I know, it’s a story for another time) and there was no air conditioning and it was terribly hot in that mid-August 2002.

Once my sister and brother-in-law learned I was in labor they made me dinner and then drove me to the mall so I could walk around and labor in the cool. None of us knew what we were doing. This was the first baby in the family since I was born. I paced up and down the birth and parenting aisle of Barnes & Noble reading about labor while actually in labor. It was all very bizarre. But the best part is next. Read More

Enough with the TV Already, UGH!

Here’s why I’m kind of full of it (and “it” stands for “BS” which stands for “BALONEY SAUSAGE” which stands for “nonsense”). At least I was full of nonsense when it came to TV watching.

When I was a new mom to Gloria 15 years ago I was determined to ensure she had virgin eyes and didn’t stare at a TV for hours on-end. I wanted her to look at art, flowers, my face, beautiful blocks, leaves, snow, good food, etc. etc. But TV? Not my kid! At the time, I was annoyed that a close friend of mine was on a campaign to convince me that Baby Einstein videos were so important for new babies to watch because: Einstein. Who doesn’t want their baby to be as whip smart as good old Albert? (Yeah because babies watching TV will make that happen…and probably Albert spent a good deal of time in his crib watching movies. I mean, c’mon people…)

But I didn’t buy into it. I didn’t want to plop my baby in front of a TV so I could get stuff done. Although looking back I probably could have used the help because I spent many late nights awake at 2:00 am trying to get on top of everything as a Super Single Mama. In case you’re not quite sure what a Super Single Mama is, here’s the working definition: A Super Single Mama is a mother who does not have a partner, husband, boyfriend, ex-husband or anyone to help her carry the load of parenting. I did not have every other weekend off of parenting. There was no “dad” for Gloria. There were no child support checks coming in. It was me and me. And also me. I was the only parent every single day, every single hour, every single year. Year after year.

(Truth be told I bristle when friends complain about being a “single parent” because they’re not only getting every Thursday and every other weekend OFF of parenting  to get a break, but they’re also receiving money from their child’s other parent so I find it challenging to drum up a lot of sympathy for their situation.)

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Nipples: Let’s discuss.

I was taking a bath when I was like 8 and my dear sweet mother came in to check on me and saw me squeezing my poor little nipple buds so hard they were purpling. She said such a confusing thing, “Oh honey, milk won’t come from those until you have a baby.”

My girl brain answered in my head, “Um, I wasn’t trying to extract milk, I was doing a commercial in the tub (like everyone does for the bubble bath) and making my nipples really dark by squeezing them super hard and then submerging under the water, letting go of my death nipple grip to show home viewers how this particular bubble bath actually reduces nipple stress and helps your nipples return to their natural non-purpled state.”

Aloud I said, “Moooom!”

The next time I paid real close attention to my nipples (much like you are now) was during that strange winter of preteening when I seemed to only have exceptionally pointy nipples and extremely tardy breasts.

The breasts were very late.

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