A few years ago, one Sunday in May, my husband, George, and I were leaving church when I said to him, “I don’t want to go to church next Sunday.” It was selfish, but I couldn’t help it. Each year, on Mother’s Day, the preacher asks all of the mothers to stand and be honored with a special token — usually, a piece of chocolate. The gift is trivial, of course, but it denotes something more, something I didn’t have and wanted so much: a child to love. For several years, my husband watched me quietly cry into my hands during this ritual. He didn’t protest when I told him I couldn’t bear it again.
But that day, our lives changed, suddenly and, it seemed, miraculously.
A friend called while George and I were at lunch. She told us to call another friend of ours, who is an OB/GYN. He’d delivered a baby the day before, and he wanted to talk with us, but didn’t have our cell numbers. We sped home in stunned silence as we realized what might be happening.
George and I dialed our friend’s number from the kitchen. We stood at opposite sides of the counter, staring at each other with wide eyes, as our friend told us that a young woman had delivered a healthy baby girl at his hospital the day before. During his follow-up rounds, she had asked him if he knew of a family that might adopt the baby.
The baby girl had black hair and olive skin, similar to mine. Our friend said she immediately reminded him of me. He asked if we were still trying to conceive. We told him about the emotional roller-coaster we’d been on, and about the most recent failed IVF.
We spoke about the baby’s health and the birth mother’s circumstances. I’ll never forget what came next. George asked, “How long do we have to think about this?” Our friend said, “The mother’s leaving the hospital in 40 minutes.”
George and I looked at each other, and each saw the answer on the other’s face. We didn’t even hang up the phone to talk it over.
“Yes!” we both exclaimed.
During the seven-hour drive, George and I fell into periods of contemplative silence interspersed with manic discussion — what names did we like? How would we manage our work schedules? What did we need to do to our house? How amazingly, unbelievably, wonderful was this?
We held hands as we walked into the hospital. It was late, and the halls were quiet. George and I felt so very small as we were led to the nursery, on our way to becoming adoptive parents. And from the moment we laid eyes on our little girl, we were in love.
The Sweetest Thing
We had to remain in our baby’s birthplace for two and a half weeks to complete paperwork. The next Sunday, George and my mother (who’d also driven a long way to be with her new granddaughter) slept in. I was feeding my daughter a bottle when my cellphone rang. It was George’s cousin, who lives in our town and goes to our church.
“Shelley,” she whispered. “I’m in church. They’re saying the Mother’s Day prayer.” She held the phone up, so I could hear our preacher’s words.
“He’s asking all the adoptive mothers to stand up,” she whispered. Then, losing control, she shouted into the phone, “Shelley, STAND UP!”
There I was, standing in the living room of our rented home-away-from-home, laughing and crying. George and my mom came in to see why I was making so much noise. But this time, I was crying the happiest tears I’d ever known. And in my arms, I held something sweeter than all the Mother’s Day chocolate in the world.