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Making a Life-Changing Decision

Even when nothing was certain, a birth mother found her path.

We landed in San Francisco, we rented a car and we’ve already crossed the Bay Bridge on the trip of a lifetime.  My nerves are a-twitter; in fact, I’m quaking.  Fortunately, Don is at my side.  He brings me calm.  He’s with me on every step of this incredible journey.

We’re almost newlyweds, Don and I.  I hadn’t found the love of my life til friends introduced us on a New Year’s Eve blind date.  I was fifty and had never married.  He’d been divorced for a few years.  We clicked immediately.  Within months we were married and soon found we were a poster couple for mid-life love and marriage.

We’d already explored together, investigating the back roads in Italy til we found his dad’s birth home.  But this trip, the one we’re on right now, is so much more than a trip.  Look!  We’re on her street!  With each passing house we are closer .... there it is! The woman who lives in that home is my daughter ... whom I’ve not seen since her infancy 32, almost 33 years ago.

Not one day passed in all those years, not one single day, when I didn’t pray for my daughter, send mental messages to my daughter, think and wonder where she was, what she looked like, what she was doing.  I wondered about her health.  I thought about her happiness.  I imagined her first everythings, her first steps, her first teeth.  I even wondered about her first words though I knew she would never hear her words.  So many prayers, so many mental messages of love; they started before she was born and continue right up to today.

Yes, as a college girl in the 1960's, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl - out of wedlock.  From the start, I knew that marriage to her father was not a long-term solution.  I knew my child would be a great blessing in a warm and loving two-parent home - something I could not then provide.   That perfect plan was soon stopped short with the mid-60's measles epidemic.  The second half of my pregnancy was endless worry for my child’s health.

How I wished for a manual on making adult choices.  Where were the instructions on how to think this through?  It was my first major adult decision and my child’s entire future rested in my hands.  What were the questions?  What choices should I make?  How would I ever know the right answers?  I was at a complete loss.  I was obsessed, trying to imagine every conceivable choice. 

Finally, I tried out a logic process I’d learned in a class.  I adapted a simple system and that system kept me focused on what I wanted to accomplish, on my goal -- and that helped me figure out the choices needed to reach my goal.  I thought of it as my circles of control

Circles of Control

You might find circles of control useful when making a big life choice.  To start, you decide on your desired outcome – what is it you want to happen?  Next, you figure out all the steps you need to take to get to that outcome.  Finally, figure out how much control you have over each step that needs to be taken.  Decide whether you have direct control, influential control or no control over each step that needs to happen.  Your success depends on correctly gauging how much control you have over each step to your goal.

Let’s try it out.  What is your goal?  What do you want for your outcome?  For me, the answer was simple, I wanted what would be best for my child.  For this process, I chose to ignore my preferred outcome and her father’s preferred outcome.  The outcome I envisioned was simply what was best for my child. 

First, you envision the outcome.

Now, wishing won’t get us to our goal.  In my circumstance, I knew I couldn’t wish this away.  This was far too real.  There’s a big difference between talking to God and wishing.  Praying is for guidance, for a path, for God’s blessings.  God wasn’t going to fix this for me; rather, he would be my guide.  So, no to wishing, yes to praying for guidance and blessings. 

The No Control Circle

Besides, I’d have no control over the outcome if all I did was wish.  Draw a circle and name it no control.  Into my no control circle, I placed the things I wished for but couldn’t actually make happen.  Along with wishes, I placed my feelings about my child’s father in the no control circle.  We liked each other a lot, we had fun together but our core values and goals were like night and day.  Those feelings I put into my no control circle

The Direct Control Circle

Draw a second circle and name it direct control. This is a great circle; it’s where you list all the steps to your outcome over which you have direct control. These are the things you can personally make happen.  For example, you have direct control over the way you do your hair and the clothes you wear, you have direct control over the words you choose and whether you smile or frown.  

Into my direct control circle, I added the choice of the medical team; I wanted the best care for my baby.  I also added my decision to follow every ‘healthy pregnancy’ recommendation.  Into my direct control circle, I added my study of children born with rubella – that’s what it’s called when the mother has measles during pregnancy.  I learned a lot and what I learned scared me.  Most troubling, I learned that my child could be considered medically unadoptable if any of the measles outcomes actually occurred.  My choice of adoption might be compromised. 

Suddenly, adoption slid out of my control; it went from my influential control circle to my no control circle.  That's what makes big decisions so hard – levels of control can change unexpectedly.  It’s important you keep a very close eye on all the steps to your goal. 

The Influential Control Circle

Draw your third circle and call it influential control.  This is the last of the circles of control.  In this circle, list all the steps to your goal over which someone else has control.  To reach your goal, you will need to influence the person who has direct control.  For example, you may be able to influence your boss with the quality of your work, but it is your boss who will decide whether she is satisfied.  Your boss has direct control while you have influential control.

I had influential control over my child’s father agreeing to adoption.  He had direct control over his decision.  Because good medical care was crucial, I worked to gain influential control over my health care team by following all their guidelines.  At the start, I had influential control during my meetings with the adoption agency personnel; medical tests changed that.

At last, my precious daughter was born.  Immediately after her birth, medical tests were begun. The results?  She was in perfect health except for profound deafness.  Deafness.  She’ll never hear a loving word, never know the joy of music.  This was devastating.  The private adoption agencies would surely say no, they would not place her for adoption.  My daughter needed a home and a mom, a mom to be with her during the day, a mom to teach her to communicate.  How would I ever work to provide for her? 

Never defeated, I asked the state adoption agency if they knew of a family who would love to adopt a beautiful infant girl who happened to be deaf.  Their reply was an astounding yes.  Yes, they knew of a childless couple who taught deaf children.  Yes, this couple wanted to adopt a beautiful deaf daughter.  What a blessing.  A mom and a dad for my daughter, to teach her, to love her.  The goal I’d envisioned for my daughter, a loving home with loving parents was miraculously coming true.  My circles of control had helped with the logic of my plan.  My prayers for guidance, for a path to the best outcome for my daughter, were answered. 

Decision-Making 101

We don’t waken one morning knowing the English language; we don’t waken one morning able to run a marathon or even a 10K.  No, these things take time – it’s a process.  So, too, we don’t waken one morning with the “rule book” for adulthood.  In place of the wished-for adult decision-making manual, the circles of control helped me make choices, choices I could only pray were the right choices. 

Back to that momentous trip.  We knocked on her door and a man answered, her husband.  We could tell he was just as excited, welcoming us with his great, warm smile.  He invited us into their living room and soon my daughter entered, my child whom I’ve loved in my mind all these years.  I’m now holding her, patting her hair, looking into her eyes.  She’s a beauty, a loving beauty.  She’s all grown up!  She’s 32!  She’s even been married longer than I have. 

We sit close to each other.  I simply could not take my eyes off her.  We hold hands but that needed to stop because she was signing to her husband and he was signing back to her.  He’s a hearing man; he translated her words for Don and me; he translated in sign language for my daughter.  Sign language!  She can’t hear!  While I’d known that intellectually, now I knew it in fact.  This was real.  

A tiny woman - five foot tall with golden curly hair.  Oh, my, I’ve never had a curl in my life.  Still, I see my family's eyes and our smile.  I nod inside.  Yes, this is my daughter . . . my daughter!  I have a daughter, a son-in-law and two grandchildren! 

Never, oh, never say never.  Follow your inner voice.  Be honest with yourself.  Listen carefully. Never stop believing.  Believe in miracles.  Believe in surprises.  Believe in all the blessings of this bountiful world.  Believe in never-imagined gifts and graces.  Use your circles of control for life choices.  Then follow your path and believe.