“I didn’t give you the gift of life, but in my heart I know. The love I feel is deep and real, as if it had been so. For us to have each other is like a dream come true. No, I didn’t give you the gift of life; life gave me the gift of you.”
I was given a heart for children very early in life and I knew that I never wanted my passion for children to go untouched. I wasn’t sure exactly all the ways my life would be impacted by this passion, but I was certain adoption was one of them.
Before I was ever in a position to become a mother, I knew that my life would be touched by adoption. For years, it was on the forefront of my mind to adopt a child internationally. I had researched international orphanages in high school and some of the conditions of orphanages would bring me to tears and ignited in me an unquenchable desire to speak up for the children that could not speak for themselves. So, I began praying that God would bless me with a child through adoption and every time I prayed that prayer, I always envisioned a child with exotic looks, dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin. This was often the appearance of the children that I saw in the photos.
Let’s fast forward to 2010. I was a single mother to my sweet princess, Grace. At the time she was 5 years old and I was on my way to law school, having just finished my Master’s Degree. Grace and I had a routine down that was beautiful and full of happiness. We would no more than get a foot in the kitchen of our new home and the music would be going and we were dancing, which often lead to cooking together and painting fingernails and cuddling until we fell asleep. We had this life together down to a science. Grace often asked me to give her a sister. She wanted so bad to become a big sister and neither of us knew that this would happen much sooner than we anticipated.
It was June of 2010 and my father gave me a call. He proceeded to tell me that he didn’t know what was wrong with my sister but she had been vomiting for two weeks. You see, my older sister, Pamela, suffered from a mental illness that rocked our world and not in a good way. Pam was diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder and personality disorder at the age of 18. Prior to her diagnosis, she was a straight A student, a phenomenal athlete with colleges beating down our door to offer her scholarships. She was the life of the party and made friends without an ounce of work. She was vibrant and full of life and she made entering my high school years so easy because I was “Pam’s sister.” Everyone loved Pam.
Our lives changed forever in 1998 when Pam’s grades began plummeting, she had no drive to go to school, she took up smoking, was severely angry and quickly turned to drugs. This was not my Pam. The Pam who taught me everything I know about sports. The Pam who spent hours challenging me on the basketball court. The Pam who taught me to be a leader, not a follower. The Pam who was goofy and quick witted.
Pam’s goals were to go to college on a full-ride athletic scholarship which she would conquer with ease accompanied by honors and a 4.0 GPA. She was going to go on to be a brain surgeon and make me an aunt and live a life chalked full of accomplishments. Pam was so determined to become a brain surgeon that one day as children we came across a dead cow in a pond, pulled it to shore and Pam dove into dissecting that cows brain as though she had studied it for years. Disturbing…maybe but she was determined. Unfortunately Pam’s life was robbed by this horrible illness and the drugs that would follow. She was suddenly faced with a mental illness that is impossible to escape.
Several months before her diagnosis, Pam dove deep into drug addiction. Her internal struggle was masked by drug abuse. We often thought that Pam’s behavior and actions were a result of the drugs, but what we quickly learned after her diagnosis was that people diagnosed with Bi-polar often turn to drugs to cover the pain of the emotional roller-coaster that they are unfamiliar with.
Pam’s drug abuse continued for 12 years which magnified the effects of Bi-polar and we soon realized that we had lost our fun loving, accomplished and vibrant Pamela to an illness and the drugs I hate so deeply. It was drugs that took my sister from me. The next 12 years left my sister’s mind and body abused and beaten by drugs; the illegal drugs that so often destroy families across our nation…across our world, as well as the drugs that filled her prescription medicine dispenser to help her function with her disorder. We slowly watched our girl’s life slipping from us.
For those who have never been affected by a mental illness or drug abuse, count your blessing. It is horrible and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. I could write a book about those 12 years and the pain and struggles that my sister and my family experienced and still experience and maybe someday I will, but until then I want to tell you how one tiny little girl took 12 years of pain from my family and turned it into a magical blessing. Her name is Allie.
During that call with my father, I told him that it didn’t sound like Pam was sick, but pregnant. My dad instantly disagreed because doctors had told us that Pam could never get pregnant as a result of some cysts that they found years prior. I listened to my dad try to convince himself that Pam couldn’t possibly be pregnant and when he finished, I quietly encouraged him to take her to the hospital to get tested and so he did.
A few hours later I received another call from my dad and the initial silence followed by his cracked and devastated voice was enough for me to confirm that my sister was in fact pregnant. The devastation that my dad and mom suddenly experienced was for good reason, because after 12 years of Bi-polar combined with extensive drug abuse, we knew that Pam could not physically or emotionally take care of her baby.
Pam could barely take care of herself. We would go months without hearing from Pam, we often worried that we would someday receive a call that Pam’s life had been permanently taken by the daemons we call drugs. My dad had no idea what was going to happen, but I did. I knew in that moment that I would adopt Allie. I was given this overwhelming peace that Allie would be healthy and perfect and she would be my daughter.
I told my dad that I would adopt Pam’s baby but that I wanted to wait for her to ask me. One month later my sister called me and told me she wanted to talk to me. I met her and my parents later that day at Long John Silver’s…Pam’s favorite fast food restaurant. We sat in a red booth tucked away in the back of the restaurant and I sat fidgeting as I knew the question my sister was about to ask. My sister asked me to adopt her baby. She proceeded to tell me that she wasn’t in the position to take care of a baby and I told her that not only would I adopt her baby, but I would love her unconditionally and provide her the life that I know Pam wanted for her.
That moment was bitter-sweet because I knew that Pam loved Allie…I knew that Pam desired with every ounce of her being to take care of Allie, but she couldn’t. What a selfless, courageous decision my sister made for Allie that day. I am forever grateful to Pam for choosing life for Allie.
The next 7 months were emotional and that is quite an understatement. In a nutshell, there were two potential birth fathers of which one didn’t want anything to do with Allie and the other father we had no information on (a white man and a black man), Pam changed her mind more than once and some family members thought that I was forcing Pam into this adoption which created some tension and hard feelings. I also received the same questions over and over again from family and friends. What if Allie was sick, what if Allie was negatively affected by the drug abuse, what if Allie grew up with the same mental illness my sister suffered? My answer was and will always remain, “Then I will love her all the same.” I never questioned for a moment the health of Allie. I knew that God chose me to be Allie’s mom and beyond that, God would get us through anything difficult that came from this.
One very cold and snowy Monday on January 17, 2011 we had the pleasure of meeting our sweet little blessing. Alexandria Kaye-Geneice was born. I had the pleasure of being in the delivery room with my sister. At this point, we were still uncertain who Allie’s birth father was. That question was answered the moment I saw this sweet 5 lb 15 oz baby girl in all of her exotic glory. The child that I always dreamed of adopting from an international orphanage, that exotic child with dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin was lying on the scale and I never imagined that this blessing would be given to me, not from a third world orphanage, but instead my own sister. I was overwhelmed with emotion; crying my eyes out with absolute joy. She was PERFECT! Perfect in every imaginable way.
I was so overcome with happiness that when I went into the waiting room to tell everyone how amazing Allie was, I broke down and sobbed. It was as though all these months of uncertainty and emotion came flooding out of me. I was so madly in love with this sweet bundle and not a day passes that I don’t thank God for choosing me to be her mommy. Pam took such amazing care of Allie while she was pregnant, refusing drugs throughout her pregnancy. God was with Pam and Allie and now we have the most amazing little girl because of it.
The next four days in the hospital were by far the most difficult and emotional days I have ever experienced. Some nurses referred to me as mom, others referred to Pam as mom. Pam loved Allie with that impossible love that mothers feel when seeing their child for the first time. I felt as though I was tearing Allie away from her. I didn’t leave the hospital; I didn’t leave Pam or Allie’s side. We were in the midst of a blizzard in Kansas City during our time at the hospital, so our visitors were few.
I felt guilty…guilt that Pam went through the pain of delivery and a c-section, guilt that Pam wasn’t going to get to raise the child she so deeply loved. Guilt that through this time nurses couldn’t comprehend that Pam was choosing adoption for Allie and guilt when the photographer brought in her laptop of the proofs of pictures of Allie’s first session and the song playing was about taking care of your baby and never leaving their side. It was an incredibly emotional moment for Pam. I had no appetite and got very little sleep. The four days felt like four years.
We left the hospital on the fourth day and I drove Pam home. I sobbed the entire 30 minute trip to my dad’s house. Sobbed uncontrollably, to the point that I couldn’t even see the road. I sobbed because Pam chose life for Allie. I sobbed because Pam wasn’t going to get to raise her baby. I sobbed because I felt as though Pam didn’t fully comprehend the depth of pain she would feel over the following years not getting to see Allie every day. At one point I felt selfish for crying and Pam looked at me and said, “Sis, why are you crying? Don’t be sad for me; be happy that Allie will have a great life.” Pam has been so selfless and strong through this and I will forever admire her strength. I will forever be indebted to Pam for the blessing that she gave to us.
My family has been so supportive with the adoption and even those who were initially skeptical now understand that this adoption was arranged beautifully by the God that chose to bring Allie into this world.
Pam and Allie have a very close relationship. The most special thing is how often Allie at the age of three-years old asks about her Aunt PK and she is always the first person Allie prays for at nighttime prayers. Allie doesn’t know the story of her life yet, but deep down she knows something is very special about her Aunt PK and I can’t wait for her to be old enough for us to tell her the whole story. I know that Allie is going to grow up to be the woman that Pam was never given the opportunity to be.
I want to end with this…my sister didn’t choose to live a life of drug abuse and mental illness. If Pam was given the choice she would have chosen the path of surgeon and mother. Pam is still the vibrant, fun-loving person that we have always known and we still get to see that part of her occasionally. The good in Pam is still a part of who she is; it’s just often suppressed by her illness and the mind that has been devastated by drugs.