Emily Dickinson writes “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all”
My hand shakes as I take the pen and look down at the papers before my eyes. My mind rebels as I draw them closer and begin to read the black print. I flash back to the day in the doctor’s office when she confirmed that I was pregnant. I had taken two pregnancy tests, one positive and one negative, so I wanted a definitive answer. It was a bittersweet moment for me. I had always wanted to be a mom, but this was not how I saw it happening. Not without a loving husband and the joy I would see on my parents’ faces when I told them. They had already lived through the difficult news and recovery of my rape a couple years prior and now this. I looked at my friend who had come with me and began to cry.
The words on the papers blur in front of me as I remember how it felt to feel him grow inside me. To feel his first kick, and watch my belly grow large with life. I carried all outside so by nine months I looked like I was carrying a small elephant. I remember going to Babies-R-Us and buying the first, and only, baby toy for my son: a small, fuzzy duck rattle that he could hold. I remember I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I walked t the register. But those days are over.
Last night I couldn’t sleep as my body wrestled with the decision I am making. At midnight I finally asked the nurse if I could see him. She said she wasn’t sure since the family had been to see him and given him a name, but she would check and see. After a while she came back and said that I could go and see him. We walked slowly down the long hallway. My gown hung loosely about my knees, and the hospital socks felt weird as I shuffled down the quiet corridor. As she opened the door two nurses look up as we enter the nursery. She led me to a small anti-room where I could be alone, and brought me my son. His pink face and blue hat stuck up from the soft hospital blanket. I held him in my arms and smelled that sweet smell that belongs solely to babies. I watched him as he slept. I told him how much I loved him and always would love him. I sang to him my favorite lullaby “All Through the Night” “Sleep my child and peace attend thee, all through the night. Guardian angels God will send thee, all through the night. Softly the drowsy hours are creeping hill and vail in slumber sleeping, I my loving vigil keeping, all through the night” All too soon for me the nurse returned to place him back in his crib and we began the longer walk back to my cold, empty room. My nurse was kind and gave me something to help me sleep.
I know what I am doing is right. The man who got me pregnant was a Marine suffering from PTSD just like I was. We were two broken people who fed each other’s’ needs. But he was physically abusive, and I didn’t want him to someday come to me and try to get custody of my son. I’d seen it happen. That didn’t make this any easier.
I look at the last page of the documents where it asks for my signature and silent tears run down my face. As I sign, I feel my hear cleave in two. He may no longer legally be my son, but he will always be my son in my heart and mind. It is a bitter pill to swallow giving my son up for adoption. A piece of my heart rips out of me as I continue to sign and initial the paperwork I’ve read. My mind repeats “This is the right thing to do for him” while my heart cries out “No! Don’t do this!” I take a shuddering breath as I turn to the social worker and hand her the papers. She takes them and tells me that what I’ve done is brave. I don’t feel brave. I feel like a failure as a woman and as a mother. This was not how I saw my life turning out, I had always wanted a large family.
As I get ready to go home, the hospital bracelet catching on my clothes, I am ashamed, alone and empty. As if my life is ending. The social worker directs the orderly wheeling me out in the wheelchair to take me out the ER entrance. I am thankful. People sit in the other area with balloons and teddy bears waiting to greet the new mothers going home with their babies. I feel a fresh wave of depression wash over me. We get to the curb and my dad helps me into the car. I’m glad it’s just him and I, he understands and doesn’t say anything. But when he puts his warm hand on my cold leg, all the pent-up emotion inside spills out. I begin to weep. I didn’t know what that word meant, really, until today. My loss is so great it feels like the death of my son. My arms feel empty and heavy. My heart is stone in my chest, cold and broken. I don’t know if I will ever see my son again. But I did an open adoption, so he will know about me from the beginning… who knows… maybe…
It is ten years ago this month that I gave birth and signed those papers giving my son up for adoption. People are always asking “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” and believe me, this is definitely not it. I had grand plans for my life: a large family, a business, a house, the works. But as it says in Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thought are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” And God works in ways I never would have expected. About four or five years ago my parents got very ill, with one of them ending up in the hospital. I made the bold choice to contact the adoptive family and ask if my parents could see their grandson. I purposefully left myself out not wanting to over step. But God is faithful. My son’s mother graciously told me to come as well, and we get together between his birthday in May and mine in June each year to celebrate together. It is always good to see him, hard to leave, but there is always this thought: next year.