The dog barked, the doorbell rang, and then I found myself eye to eye with an enormous bouquet of pink roses. After quickly scribbling my name, I stopped my three-year-old daughter from hugging the delivery man goodbye and gazed at the flowers, stupefied. My husband? I ripped open the Mother’s Day card, and found Bobbie’s name instead.
In two hours, our plane would land and I would finally meet the woman who would give birth to our child. My husband’s knee bounced into mine, his unspoken fears focused into a jittery leg. We repeated the few facts we knew about her — our mantra — holding them close, wanting to believe.
Name: Bobbie; red hair, hazel eyes, 23 years old, religious, already had one daughter, worked in a pet store.
Hobbies: poetry and painting.
Birth Father: a boyfriend who was out of the picture.
Her baby would be born by Caesarean section, which was why we were traveling on Mother’s Day to be at the hospital two days later, why I knew the precise moment when I would become a mother.
I’d had just over a month to prepare for parenthood, although the wait had stretched for seven grueling years. There had been two miscarriages, two failed infertility treatments, a potential egg donor obsessed with king snakes, a smooth-talking attorney, an agency that promised a one-year wait, which stretched into three, and, finally, a last gamble — a new attorney who found Bobbie in just three months.
Our attorney said it was a perfect match — Bobbie loved animals and my husband is a veterinarian. But there would have to be more than that for me. Was she a good person? Could she be trusted? With sweaty palms, I placed the first phone call. Her voice boomed out a hearty, warm, Texas “hello,” and I relaxed, feeling like a kid who had just won the first lap in a relay race. In the short month before the baby would be born, I called her every other day, stumbling over words, trying to get to know her as quickly as possible. And slowly, we made a connection.
One night, I could hear Bobbie’s labored breathing as she knelt over the bathtub, belly swollen, trying to shampoo her daughter Cori’s hair. I looked down at my own flat stomach, trying to imagine what it would feel like to have a baby inside. Bobbie’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “Y’all are my angel, did you know that?” Astonished, I almost dropped the phone. Didn’t she realize she was our angel?
When our feet were finally on Texas soil, our fear was almost palpable. We drove the rented Buick slowly toward Bobbie’s two-story apartment building. As it came into view, Ron and I grabbed each other’s hands. There was no turning back now. A door flew open and a woman appeared above us, red hair glistening in the sunlight, hand protectively cupping her belly. I thought my knees would buckle, but I made it up the stairs. Unexpectedly, her arms reached out for me and we embraced. Drawing back, I looked past her tears and saw my own scared reflection. And in that moment, I knew I couldn’t fly into this woman’s life and then cease to exist a few days later.
Mother’s Day, Four Years Later
A little hand reached out for a rose, and the motion pulled me back into the present. I drew Julianne into my arms and went to the computer. My redheaded toddler bounced on my lap as I typed out a thank-you note to Bobbie.
Our first correspondence had been about Julianne’s milk allergy, soon after we left Texas. Next, a letter came from Bobbie’s mother, thanking us for sending news and photos of Julianne. I sent e-mails to Bobbie about Julianne’s first tooth, her fast-as-lightning crawl, and the way she flung her sweet potatoes, with mischief in her eyes just before they hit the kitchen wall. Bobbie sent me back news about her relationship with a boyfriend, Cori’s new school, and the birth of kittens.
Through the last few years, Bobbie and I have become closer and more open. She knows our phone number, she knows our address, she knows her daughter is safe. Every letter tells us she is grateful for the miracle that we have given her: a happy, loving home for her child. In our daughter, we see Bobbie’s enormous eyelashes, hear Bobbie’s warm laughter as little legs race down the hall, and feel Bobbie’s generous spirit in Julianne’s loving embrace. I am keeping a notebook of e-mails and letters to and from our extended family. One day it will be my daughter’s notebook, her legacy of love from two mothers.