A Thank You Note

It’s funny how things are. You can suffer for so long with something that you think there will never be a solution or a different set of circumstances. When something stays a certain way for long enough, you forget how it was before, or how it will be after. On a small scale, that’s how I felt last week with my sick, sick family. Beloved was so ill that there was at least one day she never raised her head off the pillow of my bed. I could not get her to get up to use my bathroom. So we got her a Hello Kitty catheter and that worked out pretty nicely. Please tell me you didn’t fall for that. We don’t install catheters and Hello Kitty doesn’t endorse them. For five straight days, she was flat out, sick, without energy or personality. And toward the end of that week, I was out shopping one evening for essential groceries and I noticed her picture on my cell phone wallpaper. She was covered in chocolate ice cream and making a goofy face. I thought to myself, “I miss that kid. I don’t remember her.” I hadn’t seen her in days. She is back now and plenty energetic and goofy. And now I can hardly remember the flat-out Beloved of last week.

Ten years ago, I was infertile. Supposedly. And after all the findings and surgeries and speculations and pill poppings and tribal dances with our fingers crossed, there was nothing to say at the end of it all. The answer was “we don’t know why you aren’t pregnant.” There was no reason for it. Except that there was. There was a girl in a town 2 hours north of me who was pregnant but should not have been. She was in the middle of a mess she did not know how to clean up. She did not have the support of her family. She was not planning on marrying the man she’d been seeing. She had no money. No options. And certainly no stability to offer a brand new life. She wasn’t stable herself. How could she make a stable life for someone else? That baby was meant for us. And God knew it.

Those waiting years were long years for me. I cried a lot. I took up extra schooling to distract myself. It worked until the homework got on my nerves. Somehow, I never really got any smarter. I became an extreme mountain biker, sometimes going on 23-mile rides. I had the time. Why not? That worked during the 2 hours that I was actually biking. But at the end of the semester, there was no child in the extra 3 rooms upstairs. At the end of the bike ride, there was no baby in my flat stomach. And at the end of day, there was no crib to gaze into.

But there was a baby, almost ready, in a town not so far away. And there was a birth mom who did not want to let him go, but had to. There was a birth dad who had no means of supporting or raising this child, but his heart wanted to worse than anything he’d ever wanted in his life. They wanted to keep him. He was theirs. But they gave him to me, because that was best. And they wanted the best for their baby.

In the beginning, when we were making decisions and filling out questionnaires and paperwork, I thought I wanted no contact. Give me my baby and step out of the picture. That’s what I thought I wanted. Our caseworker advised differently. She taught us about the mindset of a birth mother. She opened up a storehouse of wisdom about things we didn’t understand. I didn’t believe her then. But I did trust her. And I did take her advice. I agreed to a certain amount of openness within our adoption, but in my heart, I still thought I didn’t want that.

And then one day I met my son. I walked into a  hospital room where the birth mother had given birth just 36 hours earlier. She was suffering with a migraine. She was heart broken and yet hopeful. She wanted to meet me. I’m so thankful. I’m so thankful that I was able to look into her eyes and search the heart of the woman who gave life to a boy I love so dearly. I’m so thankful I got to sit across a cafeteria table with a birth dad who babbled on about someday meeting this boy again, if the boy should ever desire that.

For awhile, I heard from both of these people through email, and from the birth dad’s mother. Each time I would see their names in my Inbox, I felt a joy I could not have imagined. Each time I wrote them back, I had to contain myself in describing how wonderful life was. And each time there was any contact, I thanked the Lord for showing us, through our caseworker, that we didn’t want to close these doors. I didn’t know then that these doors would eventually close on their own. As the years have passed, I’ve heard less and less from AG’s birth family. I don’t really know where to find them anymore. But as far as I know, they are safe and happy and made of their lives what they needed to.

But on this Mother’s Day, I feel compelled to somehow tell them thank you. Thank you for loving your boy more than you loved yourself. I cannot imagine what it took to hand him to me that day. Thank you for your courage. Every time anyone said anything to you about your due date or your future plans or your spouse, you knew the answers were hard ones. And you were brave enough to move forward. Thank you for pushing away the swirl of pain and complication to focus on what your boy needed. Thank you for trusting us. We are trying to grow him into the boy God intended when He set this whole process in motion. And thank you for picking us. Of all the letters you read and albums you looked at, you chose us. We were meant for each other. All of us. Thank you.

In those early days of praying for that baby to come to me, I could not imagine ever holding the reality in my arms. I could not imagine an end to the unexplained infertility. And now that I am 10 years past all of that, I often forget that I did not give birth to him myself. I really do forget. And as awesome as it is to feel that way, I don’t want to ever forget to say thank you. Though I do not hear from them much now or have much of an avenue for saying what’s on my mind, I can in one moment, with one thought or memory, go back to the day this all began. And the gratitude is just as fresh and raw and overwhelming as it was that May day in Gainesville.

I hope they know I will never forget. And I’m certain they won’t, either.

Happy Mother’s Day

They buy you hydrangea bushes and stackable storage and v-neck pink t-shirts. They draw your likeness on cards that they made just for you.

But the real gift is in the fact that when there is a hug to be given to only one person, it is given to you, the mother. When there is a problem to be solved by just one person, the little ones bring it to you, the mom. When there is a choice to be made, they choose you. When there is a secret to share, they share it with you. When there is a game to be played, they want to play it with you. It’s true that you also have to accept the other side of that coin. There are all of the horribly unacceptable things from my previous post. Things that ought not be discussed and certainly shouldn’t be blogged about. It is you holding the bowl under the chin, chiding the child for doing things even farm animals wouldn’t do, and cleaning the sheets in the middle of the night. But this is a price most mothers are willing to pay for the rewards that come alongside it.

Every day has moments that cause me to take a breath, consider who I am and what I’ve been given, and utter my thanks to the Father of Lights. Every day presents opportunities to savor parenthood and observe it for its gore and its glory. But this day is set aside for the public expression of all of that. It is a mom’s annual review from her company.  It is the day the world professes the thoughts that other days just remain in their heads.

Today was nice. Worship was warm and uplifting. Lunch was delicious in every way except for my unobstructed view of a man whose pants did not suffice, if you know what I mean.

I was thinking I might like some Botox, you know, to kind of buy back a few days from my early thirties or something.
I received, among other things, an iron (badly needed, I assure you).
But the real gift is not in any of this. It is in the milky white skin, the chipped toenail polish, the brown eyes that almost completely disappear during laughter, the sticky hand of the oldest child that reaches up in the middle of a department store and unexpectedly takes yours, and the note that is passed to you in the middle of a sermon that tells you you’re special. The real gift is fragmented into, but not diminished by,  every single moment of every single day…

And I think living in a shoe without the Botox is a small price to pay for all of that.
Happy Mother’s Day.