Last night I watched an episode of Call the Midwife that was really, a story about adoption. This woman was in her last month of pregnancy when suddenly, her husband died. She had two young children to care for. After her husband’s funeral, she decided to give the baby to her sister and her husband who were unable to have children. The pregnant woman went into a difficult labor. So much so that the midwife needed a doctor’s assistance to deliver the baby. The doctor used forceps to bring the baby boy into the world. The birth mother would not look at or hold the baby. She told the doctor to hand the baby to her sister who was standing there waiting to become a mother. The birth mother held the pain of the experience in her face. The baby had a head full of hair and bruises on his brow. The midwife stayed the with the birth mother and the baby to observe them both throughout the night. The promised mother went home to prepare for the baby’s intended arrival the next day. Morning came and the birth mother requested a priest to come and Christen the baby. This was the first time the birth mother held her baby. Afterward, she handed the baby to her sister who had come to take the baby home. The birth mother cried and her two little children wrapped their arms around her neck and showered her with love. The next day the birth mother went to the court house to get all the legal papers in order for the adoption. She stopped by the parish to tell the priest that it was when she put her pen to the document that she knew she wanted her baby. The priest went with her to her sister’s house so she could tell her sister that she had changed her mind. Her sister asked her what on earth she had to offer the baby. The priest took the baby and handed him to his mother. It was at this point in the story that I started to cry. Normally, any story on adoption reduces me to tears. It was the moment the baby was given back to its mother that tugged at my heart. She receives it with a grateful heart. The part of her heart that had been cut open suddenly filled up with love. I feel what she feels. I remember it all even after forty-one years.
When I was far along in my teenage pregnancy it was decided I would give my baby up for adoption. It seemed like every adult in my life advised me to give my baby up for adoption. My father lived in North Carolina. My mother, who was mentally ill and lived in Flint, MI, had her own issues to deal with. She wasn’t in any position to advise me or help me. I lived with my friend’s parents. I wasn’t their daughter and I wasn’t giving birth to their grandchild. I was in a desperate and sad situation. I cried for my unborn baby. I wanted my baby more than anything in the world. I wanted to be a mother. Because my family was so dispersed, I wanted to have someone to call my own; someone who was like me. I couldn’t tell anyone how I felt inside because I didn’t think anyone cared. Just give the baby up, I was told. It’s for the best.
My pregnancy progressed easily with no complications. When I was two weeks overdue I went to my doctor’s appointment. He told me if I didn’t go into labor by that night, that he would have to induce labor. I cried all the way home! I didn’t know what induce meant but, it sounded absolutely horrible. My friend’s mom had her hands full with me and I didn’t even realize it. Perhaps subconsciously, I believed that as long as I stayed pregnant I could keep my baby. Later that night I began to spot and my friend’s mom took me to the hospital. I soon started labor and she went home. I had contractions for sixteen hours. They grew harder and longer and although it was difficult to go through alone, I faced the pain. Finally, it was decided among the doctors to perform a cesarean-section. Gripped with fatigue and fear, I was given a spinal block and lay flat on the operating table. A guard was put up in front of my eyes to prevent me from seeing anything. I felt so alone as I listened to the murmurings until I heard a cry. My doctor bent down toward my ear and very sympathetically asked me if I wanted to see my baby. Of course I wanted to see my baby. I turned my head to the left and as the doctor held him up he told me it was a boy. I looked at my baby’s scrunched up little face and was surprised at how familiar he was. He looked like my dad. He looked like my brother. He looked like my people. He was mine and I wanted him. My heart broke in two.
I settled into the routine of my hospital stay. I held my baby and bottle fed him every day. I unwrapped his receiving blanket to look at his little feet and a mean-spirited nurse scolded me like he wasn’t my baby. He was still mine. My heart anxiously anticipated what was soon to come. I had taken my bible to the hospital with me. I knew that within its pages I would find a name for my son; a name I would always remember him by. I opened the bible to the New Testament and Paul’s many letters. In Second Timothy, I began to read about Timothy’s grandmother Lois, his mother Eunice and their sincere faith that Timothy himself possessed. I knew this was the perfect name for my son. I thought of my grandmother and how she taught her faith to my mother and how my mother had taught it to me. Yes, this was the perfect name for my son. I told my roommate about my situation and she tried to encourage me. She told me I didn’t have to give up my son and that someone would help me. She didn’t understand that I didn’t have someone. Finally, after six days I was discharged from the hospital. As the nurse wheeled me by the nursery I looked at my son for the last time. His face was turned away from me and I thought, This is the last time you’re ever going to see him. My heart was empty.
I went home with my friend’s mom and tried to heal from the inside out. I could still feel my baby at my bosom where I had held him close. My body reacted to the memory of him and my breast milk flowed which subsequently added to the pain. I went to bed at night thankful to be alone where I could cry. The next day my friend’s sister came to visit with her baby boy who was three months old. He had fallen asleep and when I heard him cry I picked him up and began to rock him. I felt so broken inside. I felt stripped of everything I’d ever wanted to be. My tears flowed like a river while I rocked that baby boy who wasn’t mine. His mother suddenly she appeared and offered to take him but, I begged her not to. She let me hold him and rock him. She let me cry.
Saturday morning my friend’s mom called me into her bedroom and told me to sit on her bed. She had never done that before so I knew that whatever she had to say was very serious. She asked me, “do you want to keep your baby?”. I began to cry. Yes, of course I wanted to keep my baby! She and her husband had decided to help me. I was too young and naive to have understood what that entailed but, I understood what she was saying. I understood that I was going to have my baby back in my arms! I had to wait until Monday to call the adoption agency. my friend’s mom called her many sisters and nieces and they all came together for a impromptu baby shower. They brought me everything I needed to take care of my baby. That was the longest two days of my life. Monday, I met with a social worker who said she would bring my baby to me later that day. I anxiously waited all day. I jumped up at every sound and ran to the front door. Finally, I heard a knock and when I opened the door, there stood the social worker with a bundle in her arms. She stepped inside and talked about formula and bottles. I reached out my arms in anticipation to see if my baby had changed in the four days I had gone without seeing him. I unwrapped his blanket like a gift and searched his face over. Oh, there he was, my baby, my boy, my Timothy. I held him close and said goodbye to the social worker. When she was gone, I turned to my friend’s mom. Through tears I told her I could never repay her for giving my son back to me. I held him for a very long time.
My son and I lived with my friend’s parents for two years. After I moved out and on my own, I tried to send my friend’s mom a birthday card every year with a picture of my son. I thanked her again and again. Every year on my son’s birthday the thought occurred that he could be celebrating with some other family. His name wouldn’t be Timothy and he wouldn’t be mine. This thought made me love him more. I was grateful to God to call him my son.
Many years later when my son was a senior in high school, I found out that he was skipping school. He struggled with missing his high school sweetheart who had gone off to college. He struggled with fitting in and having the things his friends had. I had to get his attention and make him realize that I had dreams for him. He had to graduate and that’s all there was to it. I had to make him understand how he had saved my life. Becoming his mother had given me hope and a future. We sat on the front porch of our old farm house on a warm spring day and I told him the story of his birth. Through tears he told me how glad he was to have been raised in my family and to have the aunts and uncles and grandparents that he had. Through my tears I told him perhaps if he had been adopted his family would have given him more than I could give him. He told me I had given him what he needed most. He went to his classes and graduated.
A couple of days ago, I had my son Tim over for a nice dinner to celebrate his birthday. I’ve seen him experience many highs and lows in his forty- one years. When I see his brown eyes fill with tears I want to mend his broken heart. When he laughs, I laugh, too, and hard. He’s the best gift I’ve ever received and I will never forget that. On his birthday, I didn’t think of anyone else being his mom or his name not being a Timothy. I thought of the forty-one years I have been blessed and honored and most of all privileged to call him my son.