Saturday, February 1st ,2020

My phone blinks in the dark of evening

A notification on Facebook says:

New Birthmother Situation

 

I click like I have done so many times before

Wondering,

Is this the one?

 

Kevin and I have been praying about fostering and adopting since early 2018

After years of an empty womb

After tears of confusion, dripping off my face

After research and conversations with respected friends and pastors

Nudging us toward welcoming home children not of our blood

 

But still, my heart ached

I begged God to give me the strength to release my infertility to Him

So that He could bring us

 

Our family

 

I open the file to see a short blurb posted by a case-worker at an attorney’s office

 

Baby girl due any day. Bi-racial. Please call Sue if interested.

 

I glance at the clock and walk toward Kevin lounging on the couch, head tucked on a small pillow

 

The phone glows and his eyes match mine as he reads

 

“Can you call her?” He asks

 

He is all in

He has thrust forth his chips, his finances, his future.

He eagerly waits for God to bring us our family

 

The bedroom light is wild, shining a spotlight on my shaking hands as I dial her number

Leave a message

Send an email

And then go to bed,

heart pounding

 

Sunday, February 2nd

 

Sue is in Colorado, flying back to Florida

“Call me at 2pm” She says

 

I watch the clock, text my family, bounce my leg up and down during church

And

Pray

Pray

Pray

 

We are at Sonny’s Barbecue for lunch and the food is slow as snails, not reaching our plates

Kevin and I stare at my phone

Then each other

Back and forth, our thoughts spinning around in our heads like hamster wheels

 

Is this the one?

Are we going to remember this moment forever?

Or is this another child dangled in front of us before being snatched away?

 

I had gotten used to letting go of plans

Of dreams

Of wishes

And even sometimes…

hope

 

My heart, once soft and open, was now steeled

Caged

Protected

 

To avoid rejection, I turned my back

Against the possibility of another dripping wave of disappointment

Of hurt

Of bone-breaking pain

 

But when Sue’s voice came on the phone before 2pm

My eyes were wide with expectancy

Possibility ballooned in my chest once again

 

Kevin saw me scrambling for a pen and unwrapped the silverware,

thrusting the restaurant’s paper napkin in front of me

He held the edges down securely while I took notes

 

Ashley’s due date is February 27th, but she has shown signs of early labor

All six ultrasounds show a very healthy child

Baby is expected to stay in the hospital for five days after birth for monitoring

I only have one other adoptive family profile to show to her on Wednesday.

 

I write to Kevin,

BETWEEN TWO

And circled it twice.

We have never

Ever

Ever

Ever

Been this close to being matched with a birthmother

 

We choke down half our food and box up the other half to let sit on the car floor while we run into Staples to print documents.

I mail the documents overnight to Sue

and then….

 

more waiting

 

Wednesday, February 5th

 

Kevin verifies the procedure before he leaves for work

 

“So you’ll call me if you hear anything?”

He is holding his lunchbox and water bottle, ready to go

 

“Yes.” I nod, still wondering if all this would be for nothing

Still thinking I might be left empty

Still expecting to be told, “no” once more

 

I am tired of holding my breath

 

“What time are they meeting?” He asks

 

“Uhhh afternoon. That’s all I know.” I say, and he puts his phone in his pocket

 

“K.” He says.

 

“K.” I say.

 

We have no other words

 

At 2:25pm

I have done my work for the day.

I have felt the jitters run through my veins like the sugar in a gallon bag of Skittles

I have used up every ounce of patience I can muster

And I am treading on thin ice, praying not to break through

 

Sue texts me.

 

.

.

.

.

.

 

“Do you have a name for this baby?”

 

The thumping in my chest is the only sound I hear

I type the few names Kevin and I had been talking about,

hoping Ashley won’t be detracted by our choices

 

I wait a minute and then couldn’t help but ask,

“Does this mean she chose us?”

The late afternoon sun split through my window, warming me as I read the answer

 

“Yes.”

 

Friday, February 7th

 

Kevin and I hop in our little red car for the hour long drive to meet Ashley for the first time

 

She is tall and strong in a black dress, her 37-week pregnant belly jutting low

Her eyes are deep and dark and her smile is wide

her skin is deeply tanned with Italian flavor

 

She is beautiful

 

At Outback Steakhouse, we scarf down bread with lots of butter

And talk about animals,

Baby names,

Her parents and siblings

 

She teases us and we tease her

She is blunt and sarcastic and makes me laugh

 

I instantly like her

 

She asks about our youth group and church,

And quotes her favorite Bible verse

 

When we leave, she waddles and comments about how big she feels,

How uncomfortable she is,

And how this baby is perfect, healthy, a miracle

 

We look into her eyes in wonder

At the possibility of this adoption actually going through,

My eyes can’t help but see through that belly to a curled up child

that doesn’t belong to me…

 

Yet

 

Monday, February 10th

 

Ashley wants an ultrasound

And we offer to take her

 

She climbs on the table,

Stretches her arm over her head

And looks up to one of the many screens in the room

 

The gel is rubbed gently on her belly

The transducer kisses her skin

And suddenly,

 

Baby girl is everywhere

 

The technician clicks photos and types measurements,

Her keyboard taps filling up the dark room

She points out baby’s fuzzy hair on top of her little head

And quietly mentions that baby is over 6 pounds

 

We are mesmerized, frozen in the juxtaposition of Life

Adoption

Humanity And Ashley’s unspeakable pain as she breathes in sadness and breathes out a cough of heartbreak

Gulping air and spilling tears

 

They roll down her face

And I am there,

Rubbing her arm,

Patting her in reassurance

And whispering,

 

“I know, honey. I know. It’s okay.”

 

She chokes out the words,

“I’m happy but I’m sad

She’s so perfect.”

 

I see baby girl,

Hand tucked under chin

 

My heart isn’t open wide enough for both of them

I hold Ashley first

 

I want to believe baby is ready for us, 

But so many things could happen and my doubt gets in the way

It’s too hard to open up and accept a beautiful gift that isn’t here yet

 

So I hold back

And focus on Ashley

 

Baby has to stay warm and cozy for a little while longer

Before I have the freedom to call her

Mine

Mine

Mine

 

Friday, February 14th

 

My friend texts me, begging to help with preparation for baby

 

I am busy working on the registry,

Collecting diapers and wipes,

Researching pregnancy, labor, adoption and local hospitals

 

My phone is constantly plugged in to retain power

 

She is desperate to help

But doesn’t know what to do

 

I am overwhelmed and worried about one big thing:

 

How do I feed the baby?

 

The milk banks do not have extra supply for adoptive mothers,

only preemie babies in the NICU

 

But then through online Facebook groups

Mamas are stretching out their arms, offering me frozen breastmilk

from their bodies

from their freezers

 

A wealth of generosity that measures far deeper and wider than I could have imagined

 

So my friend flies into action, driving all over town,

communicating with the donor mothers

picking up bags of frozen milk

 

Her freezer fills up

But she is willing to get more and finds someone else to help store it

 

I am humbled by her kindness

and relieved to know I am not alone

Before I am a mama, 

I am seen as a mama

 

Friday, February 21st 1:30am

 

The darkness peels from my eyes as a melody floats into our room

My phone is ringing

It is Ashley

 

“We’re going to the hospital” she says,

Her voice faltering, like a ball slowly falling down the stairs

 

My legs slide to the floor and I nod along, cutting through brain fog to focus on her words

 

“I can’t stand the pain anymore” she croaks

and I can hear the strain in her voice

I soothe her as much as I can before she hangs up to finish out in strength

the final moments of her pregnancy 

 

Kevin is moving toward his hospital bag that he packed days before

And I am zombie-ing around the house to make sure I have everything I need

Then we are gone,

Into the chilly night air

Under a twilight sky

 

We walk arm in arm to Labor and Delivery

and knock on the large wooden door

On the right lay a small wrapped bundle in a bassinet,

On the left, a bundle of blankets stretched out and exhausted on the hospital bed

 

I walk gingerly up to Ashley,

Set my bag down,

And give her the joy bursting from the waterfall within me

 

“You did it, honey! I am so proud of you!”

Her hair is wild and free, her face filled with relief and then tears.

She has brought life into the world, and as I clasped her hand

I tell her it is no small thing.

 

She knows

 

She smiles because we are here

and her great physical pain is over

 

Her eyes float to the baby, and she tells me to go see her

 

Kevin is standing over the bassinet, gazing at the tiny package of 6lbs, 14 ounces.

I watch the nurse put a thermometer in her armpit

And marvel at the tiny squeal that baby girl makes,

Her virgin skin turning even more pink.

 

Ashley says she labored without pain medication,

Giving birth nearly in the hallway

But making it to a bed at the last minute

 

“Stop and drop”

The nurse says as she checks Ashley’s blood pressure

 

Ashley is wagging her head back and forth,

rubbing her tired eyes,

Bragging about how perfect the baby is

 

How healthy

How strong

How absolutely beautiful

 

Kevin and I slide the little tiny pink and blue hat off baby’s head

And stare at the thick, black hair that sprouts mere inches above her eyebrows

 

Before Ashley asks me to dim the lights so she can rest,

We take a picture all together

Birthmother, baby, adoptive parents

 

Ashley beams with pride,

then looks toward us and hands us sleeping baby

 

“What is her name?”

 

I let Kevin answer 

It is a first and middle name rich with meaning,

a thousand stories living behind the letters and cadence

 

“Eden Renee”

 

And suddenly,

She feels like ours