Monday, February 20, 2017

On the Occasion of Your Fourth Birthday

For four years, I have tried to gather words for you. I have given up on trying to collect all of the right ones, so an incomplete list follows, but before history took away too many memories, I wanted to write these things down.
I will admit to you, my son, that four years ago, my heart was not completely given over to you. My nervous gut and my slightly realistic mind held strong to their own feelings. My heart was ready to let you in, but it was breaking too.
I was anxious and sad, weary and ecstatic, all at the same time. I’m not sure how I made it over that bridge from New Orleans to Slidell.
It was a sunny day, so the lake glistened along with my tears. It was just me in the car, and I have no idea if the radio was on or off.
I have absolutely no idea why everything was perfect, but it was. I have learned to be comfortable in most situations, but I had no idea how to act, what to say, when to cry or when to smile. I gave up quickly on conscious actions and just lived in each moment.
I walked into the labor and delivery room, greeted my friend with the beautiful sandy-blonde hair. The Pitocin drip became our clock and we waited—but not for long!
And those magical nurses kept their smiles and the Beauty and I held hands and breathed together and cried and then we heard you cry and you were here.
I nervously looked at you as you sat underneath the warmth of the lamp, trying to give report to the Beauty on your fingers and toes and I remember asking the nurses, “Can I touch him?” The Smiles nodded, “of course,” and I placed my finger in your hand and another on your blue face and I breathed out all of the emotion inside me.
I looked at your hair and thought, can it be?” No way, my eyes are messing with me. But then the Smile said quietly, “his hair looks red!”
Walking in to weigh you, another Smile said, “this little one is special! He has two mommies who love him very much.” And it was already so.
Those with whom you share common blood held you and whispered in your ear. I don’t remember much about that first afternoon, but I do know that while my stomach was still in knots, I felt peace in those hours. In that room, we were all connected by a bond that wasn’t created by blood, but instead by a love that only exists in certain time and spaces. It is a love that springs from a beginning gift of trust—that of the Divine to the Beauty, and then the Beauty to me. Trust grows as love grows, and everyone there took part in the forming of that bond. Son, you are loved far more than you know.

Leaving the hospital was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done, but in that same breath, I will also say that I was okay—the peace held. You had arrived and you were beautiful and healthy.
I returned to the hospital the next day, and the Beauty and I had more time together with you, but this time by ourselves. We were like young girls dressing up and playing with a doll. We took pictures and got you ready for your release from the hospital.
And the next moments are where my mind ceases to understand emotions as I know them. Any words that I can write are horribly insufficient for they all lack the abundance of description and feeling that was in that time. Taking you from the Beauty and feeling my heart grow with love for you and simultaneously break for her was the hardest thing that I’ve ever experienced. For all the silly things in which I have an egotistical amount of pride, I felt none in becoming your mother. I’ve never believed that your birth family would’ve ever lacked enough love for you, that somehow I deserved you because I had more, because we had more.
I tried. I tried to play the game of us vs. them. But I couldn’t. For a long time, and I suspect this will come up again, I had a hard time looking at all of those pictures because the overwhelming emotions were scary. I want to be the best for you; I want to give you all that you need; I want to believe that my desire to keep you protected is so strong that it would withstand all foes. But none of that is true, nor is any of that true for any parent. None of us has all the control we wish we had. Still, we make the choice anyway, I made the choice anyway, (‘twas an easy choice to make), to love you because I knew you were a gift. You are a gift for every day of my life.
I had to learn, and I often have to repeat the lesson often, that you are not wholly mine. Instead, you favor another woman, and with pride in her courage, I smile.
You and your sister are both children of God first, foremost, and with a long exhale, I give thanks that God holds you both in arms that are stronger, larger, more loving, and more welcoming that any of us will ever know.
Son, you are loved far more than you will ever know.

You and I went home, back across the bridge, and I criticized every driver that passed us by.
Your dad had turned the corner on the flu and was able to see you for the first time. I drove to the preschool to get your sister. It did not take long for us to get back to our apartment—the preschool was just three blocks away on campus—but in that time, I explained to her that the baby brother we talked about, just a couple of week prior, was now at our home and waiting to meet her. And despite any knowledge you have of her voicing anything to the contrary, she loved you in her very first curious look at your face.
Your grandmother and granddaddy arrived just a little bit later that day. After a time of snuggles and of course pictures, your granddaddy, always thinking ahead, went to purchase formula for you. He’s always good to have around when you’re overwhelmed!
You were well-clothed and diapered, and your daddy, sister, and I were well-fed because people from two congregations as well as from your Nana’s prayer group sent supplies and food to our house. I don’t think I bought you anything for 6 months!
Son, you are loved far more than you will ever know, and I pray,
Dear Lord, keep him close to you. Protect him and bless him. Give him wisdom and teach him how to love and share grace. Hold him in the palm of your hand.
Give us, his parents, ears that we might hear him and eyes that we might see him and words that we might guide him in your ways and in your truth.
Above all, let him know that he is loved by you.
Thank you, oh Creator, for our son. Even when I am overwhelmed, I thank you for this unexpected joy. I thank you for the paths you made so that two families were paired.
Thank you for leaving some of our emotions and experiences undefined by spoken description. Hear our songs of thanksgiving.