When the time came for our son’s birth mom to leave the hospital, she had asked to say goodbye before she left. As Laura stood there holding Will, the love she felt for him filled the room.
She looked at him as if to memorize every detail of his face, his hands and his feet. As time went on, I felt her pain and grief so strongly that I didn’t know if I could take it. There were no words to name this moment.
All at once, I felt grief at her loss. I felt anger that what should have been the happiest day of our lives — one that we had waited years to experience — was consumed by fear that maybe this was wrong and I had no right to take another woman’s child. How could this be right? She hurt so deeply. How could this be of God?
Just when I thought my heart would explode, Laura handed Will back to me. Looking into each other’s eyes, mother to mother, we held each other as we cried with our son in my arms. Over and over I said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
I worried that those words seemed insensitive, maybe even cruel. But somehow she smiled. It was as if she needed me to tell her how happy her sacrifice was making my husband and me.
It seems impossible to believe that she was 14 years old at the time. A child herself, she made a choice that required maturity far beyond her years. Because of this, when I looked at her, I did not see a teenage girl who got pregnant, I saw a mother who chose life for her son, a mother who sacrificed herself so her child could have what she could not provide, a mother whom I not only admired but who taught me what being a mother really is.
In a very real sense, she modeled the Paschal Mystery. She surrendered her child, not because she didn’t love him, but because she loved him. She died to her own wants and desires, set aside her own basic instincts, so that her child would not just live, but live abundantly. (John 10:10)
I have struggled so much with that. From my perspective that sounds so arrogant. How can I tell the story this way? The implication was that my husband and I would be the source of that abundant life. Laura chose us after all. That is how this worked. She looked at our profile, saw something that touched her more than any of the others and picked us to be her son’s parents. How could this be? We are only human. How could we ever meet her expectations?
We have an open adoption with Laura and her family. So in the visits that followed our adoption, I could not be myself. I felt that I had to do the right things, say the right things, model all the correct parenting techniques — all the while hiding the overwhelming struggles, worries and extreme sleep deprivation that all first-time parents experience.
How could I tell Laura that this was harder than I ever imagined and I wasn’t sure what to do from one minute to the next? So I didn’t. We talked about Will, his development and shared photos and stories. We absorbed her struggles and did what we could to help her heal.
Two years later, my husband and I are just beginning to get perspective on our journey to parenthood. Time, prayer and love have helped us to recognize God in all of this.
As for Laura, she plans to go to college and be a labor and delivery nurse because she wants to help others like the nurses who helped her through the scariest experience of her life. Gradually, her time with Will has become more joyous and less painful. I have come to understand that seeing the bond we have with Will confirms her decision and helps her move on.
I cannot speak for all adoptions. Each is as unique as the people involved. As for my experience, I will always struggle with the fact that Will has another mom. But that struggle is teaching me humility and opening my heart in ways I never thought possible. Laura is part of our family as we are hers.
And I now realize that Laura did not pick us, God did. Although I am in awe of that truth, my job is to honor it. Let go of my fears and trust that God has a plan for Will that includes me and my husband as his parents. Will does not belong to Laura or my husband and me, he belongs to God. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you ...” (Jeremiah 1:5)
Tara Little is the director of website and internet services for the Diocese of Little Rock. Her family attends Our Lady of the Lake Church in Branson, Mo. Nightlight Christian Adoptions, formerly known as Love Basket, a Christian adoption agency based in St. Louis, assisted with their adoption.
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