Today is September 18th. A day that for many years was so agonizing I just couldn’t face it. A day when I would clear my calendar because I knew I would be an emotional wreck. Most likely curled up in a ball somewhere. It was a day of unspeakable grief and pain. It was the day I said hello to my firstborn, only to say goodbye three days later.
I was 15. Way too young to experience any of the things I had been forced to endure in my short life. But this was the worst by far. I mentioned in a previous post (read it here) that I had become pregnant when I was raped. Through the mercy and grace of God, I never considered my child a rapist’s child. That would have been the most obvious human reaction, but I never thought of him that way. From the moment I first felt him flutter in my belly, he was my child. He was not a painful reminder of my traumatic experience. He was just my beautiful child.
On this day, 35 years ago, I went into labor. My oldest sister, who was my rock and my Lamaze partner, was driving me to the hospital. She was speeding and got pulled over but the policeman let her go when she told him why. We got to the hospital and I remember being scared. I did not want to do what i was about to do. I didn’t want to be in labor. i didn’t want to go through childbirth. I didn’t want to give my baby away.
I remember being in the labor room when it was time to push, and the doctor wanted me to relax my muscles. He told me to “let everything go loosy goosy”. I wonder if he said that to everyone or if it was just my young age that made him speak to me in nursery rhymes. I remember the nurse asking me if I wanted to see my baby when he was born. I told her I did. I had thought about this long and hard. I was going to spend as much time with him as I could. I would not sign the adoption papers until it was time to go home. People advised me against it. They thought it would only make it harder for me. But I knew that it was the only way. If I was to survive this, I had to have that time.
I remember the moment he was born. There are no words for the emotions I felt when I held him in my arms for the first time. My beautiful boy, all pink and wrinkly with a perfect body. His strong healthy cry sounded like music to my ears. He had a full head of black hair. It was so shiny and soft — softer than anything I’d ever felt in my life. And his face. His sweet little face. I looked at it and my heart leaped. It was the face of my beautiful baby boy.
I remember that the nurses didn’t want to bring my baby to me when I got to my postpartum room. I remember throwing a fit. I said I wouldn’t sign the adoption papers at all if I couldn’t have him while I was there. I meant it. I remember my obstetrician going to battle for me. It felt good. So few people had fought for me in my life. So for the next three days I kept my son with me. For three days I was his mother. For three days he was mine. I held him. I fed him. I changed his diapers. I stroked his precious head and told him I loved him. I kissed his little face, and every one of his fingers and toes at least a million times. My sister named him Charlie, just between us, so we would have a name to call him when we talked about him later.
And then the day came that I had been dreading. The hardest day of my life up to that point, and it remains the hardest day even still. I was going home. It was time to sign the papers. I wanted to change my mind. But I knew I couldn’t. I was still a child. I couldn’t be the kind of mother he deserved. He had a family waiting who already loved him too. Adults who were prepared to be parents. He was a lawyer and she was a teacher and they would give him a good life. I loved him enough that I had to let him go. With shaking hands that were still holding my baby, I picked up the pen and scribbled my name on the tear stained paper. I kissed my firstborn son’s face and handed him to the nurse for the very last time. I was crying. Charlie was crying. The nurse was crying too. I watched her walk away with my son in her arms and I wanted to run after her. As they wheeled me down the hall I felt like I was leaving a part of my soul behind. My heart broke into a million little pieces and I left a trail of them all over that hospital floor.
It was only by God’s grace that I survived that day and the many years of grief and pain that followed, but that’s not the only gift God gave me. On my 40th birthday, I held my son in my arms again. But that’s a story so beautiful it needs a post of it’s own. We’ll talk about it another day. For now, I’m going to call that boy and tell him Happy Birthday.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18