Thursday, June 20, 2013

Nearing The End Of The Journey

The epidural finally kicked in and she rolled to her left side and clutched her stuffed, green elephant. From the hospital rocking chair, I sighed deeply. We'd been awake together for many painful hours already and I knew we were still in for a long haul. But the smell of disinfectant, the sounds of nurses bustling in the hallway, the rhythmic swishing of baby's heartbeat on the monitor all pointed to one realization: this journey was nearly complete.

I pulled the warm blanket Sarah, the midwife, had placed over me, up a little higher. I pressed my head into the back of the recliner in an attempt to sleep. My mind flooded with memories of  this brave girl and all she had brought to our lives. Julie had called me nine months earlier after receiving my number from a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who knew I'd help. She had just found out she was pregnant and was living far from home at a university in my area. Her parents had told her she must think of what's best for the family as a whole and abort the child or they'd cut off her school funding, as well as, her connection to them. I asked her if she wanted to meet with me and that was the beginning of our relationship.

The laboring woman in the next room yelled out in pain and my eyes flew open. It didn't last long and I readjusted myself in the chair. I remembered those early weeks when Julie struggled with extreme nausea, intense feelings of rejection, confusion over the decision she'd made to keep her baby and depression. She allowed me to share her story with the praying women of my Bible Study. They gave of their hearts, their prayers and their money for Julie and the other three girls at the maternity home I had moved her into. There, food, shelter and prenatal care was available. The women who ran the home truly loved the girls with their lives. But Julie was most at peace when she slept over at our place for a few days at a time. She ached to be with family and, as angry as she was with her own, she often spoke lovingly of her parents and how she desperately desired their approval of her choice.

Soon after the official amount of weeks for a legal abortion in Canada had passed, Julie's parents began the slow process of reconciliation with her. She chose adoption and told her parents she would not be keeping her baby, much to their relief. Although they were reconnecting, the pain of their daughter's choice to give her child life, still stung their hearts as they shared with her that knowing their flesh and blood would be growing up "somewhere out there" was a forever burden they would have to endure. But the decision was settled that they would have no part of this baby's life as they believed Julie would ultimately leave the child-rearing up to them. They were not prepared to live that stage all over again.

A door slammed in the hallway and I was jarred from my thoughts. Would I be able to get any sleep? At least Julie was motionless. She needed all the rest she could get for the monumental task she was about to endure. The monitor swished and the numbers flashed between 135 and 150. The baby's heartbeat soothed me as I pondered how this tiny life was going to look and how she would grow up. I allowed myself a moment to imagine she was going to be mine but I knew in my spirit she didn't belong to our family. For a few months though, she was almost ours. Julie had asked if we would adopt the baby. I drove her to midwife appointments and ultrasounds, quietly savouring the joy and beauty of viewing her precious life on the screen, finding out her gender and wondering if she'd be our new youngest. But it wasn't meant to be. My husband and I had fasted and prayed, waited on the Lord for an answer, and that day in the adoption agency we both knew she wasn't ours.

I was not feeling well the day my friend, Annie had taken Julie to her appointment to choose a couple with her wonderful adoption counselor. It was disappointing that I couldn't go but they texted me through the whole process and finally chose a Christian couple whose lifestyle appealed to Julie. Their profile photos of a home with two dogs and vacations and close extended family excited her. I smiled. It was for Julie that I sat in this chair but it was also for them. I knew I was acting as the surrogate momma for this little unborn girl, whom they couldn't yet touch and love. Just then, I remembered to keep the adoptive couple up on the news of the labour and so I reached for my phone. I shared with them that the epidural had allowed Julie to sleep and I'd let them know when the next dilation check took place. The anxiousness in the reply made me laugh out loud.

May had taken on new meaning this year as Julie made me aware that Birth Mother's Day was on the  second Saturday. She asked if we could do something special with the adoptive mom and that led to the Mother's Day Tea I prepared for the two of them. The relationship between these new mothers-to-be flowed easily and it was obvious Julie had made the right choice for her daughter. It was to be an "Open Adoption" and the wide arms of the couple that spread toward Julie blew me away. I loved them immediately and we shared visits in their home so Julie could feel comforted about what her child's nursery looked like. Much care had been taken for every little detail of the room, right down to a frame awaiting a photo of birth-mom. My children romped with their two English Setter dogs and Julie was thankful to be able to envision her little girl growing up at their place.
The woman in the next room yelled again, Julie shifted in the bed, opened her eyes and closed them again. Peace flooded the hospital room like a warm blanket and I was certain that peace had finally settled in her heart at the time she had made her decision about the adoption. She consistently told me her daughter was "God's child" and He would find her the family she deserved. With this couple's love for her and for the baby on the horizon, He indeed had begun a good work that He'd be faithful to complete. The learning process was, at times, a roller coaster ride--we, as a family, had witnessed it all as Julie moved in with us a few weeks before this day. But with the end of the pregnancy in sight, I prayed for the character growth to be embraced--by both of us. I praised the Giver of Life for this experience that was creating something new in me too. I finally faded off to sleep.
Not long after, Sarah came in to check on Julie. It was time to push. Julie was surprised! Her body had moved itself to readiness while she slept. After all that difficulty breathing through contractions and crying out in pain while we attempted to watch a movie the night before, we now laughed together. It was show time, we joked. The midwives, who had become our friends, hurried about in preparation for the big moment. Annie, who stopped by to bring us something to eat, was assigned to hold a leg for support. She happily obliged. Julie had decided earlier that she did not desire to have the baby placed on her after birth and so the privilege was granted to me. She also appealed to all present in the room to contain their emotions so that the event could be as simple and as easy as possible. I did my utmost to hide the surging feelings that were already overtaking me. I was like a boiling pot just about to bubble over--trying to keep a lid on the rush of sentiment I had concerning the profound beauty of a little human entering the world. How could I experience it four times myself and not express my heart? I tucked my arm under Julie's shoulders as the midwife requested, and I resigned myself to display no emotion--for Julie's sake.
That young woman, sacrificing her body, pushed the baby for an hour. The epidural began to wear off and the reality of all those months of hardship, laughter, rejection, confusion, and gratitude welled up into a big gush of crying out in desperation one last time. Julie wailed, "Why? Why? I can't do this! Take her out now. Get the forceps! No more!" She slapped her legs in exhaustion. I held her tightly and pushed up on her back when commanded to do so and turned my head to hide my tears. I locked eyes with Annie, who was brimming too. Julie relaxed in my arms for a moment. I glanced at Sarah, whose sympathetic, furrowed brow caused my emotions to flow freely. I shook my head. So much pain and struggle to bring a life into the world for someone else. It seemed so wrong and yet so perfectly wonderful at the same time. Then, with one final lurch forward, at 7:59 p.m. a nine and a half pound baby girl emerged into the room.
Julie collapsed back onto the pillow with a heavy sigh. Sarah rubbed the baby on the bed with some linens and she began to cry. I carefully scooped up the warm, wet, little body, still attached to her life-giving umbilical cord. Sarah handed me the scissors and I cut the flow from the one who had given nine months of her life for the life of one who would not be hers. Balancing her in my arms, I swaddled the hospital wrap around the wriggling, snuffling child and lowered myself into the rocking chair. "She's perfect, Julie," I whispered, "She has your nose."
Julie smiled and leaned my direction. "I know," she replied weakly, "it's the first thing I noticed."
I rocked back and forth and stroked the precious, dark-skinned cheek of the one I'd prayed over for so long. The one who's ultrasound photo I touched as I passed my fridge each day. Then, the song began to well up inside of me and I quietly sang to her, "Jesus loves me, this I know..." Oh, how I desired for her to know how much she was loved and wanted!

The midwives worked hard to stop Julie's heavy bleeding while she lay on the bed beaming with pride. Annie, being a nurse, hung out close to the new mom, trying to help her get comfortable. Julie asked me to call the baby's new parents and let them know they could come and see her. My eyes widened. "Are you sure you're feeling up to it?" I knew the adoption agency had told them it was likely they'd get to arrive the day after the birth.
She grinned, "I want to show her off! I want them to meet her."
I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and proceeded to tell a very anxious woman on the other end of the phone that I was holding her baby girl in my arms and that she and her husband were given permission to come that very night. Her words gushed with elation. Could she bring anything for Julie? "Anything at all?" she asked. A big, blue freezie was all the patient wanted. The adoptive mom laughed. She was sure they could handle that.
They arrived with a camera, tiny, newborn clothes for their daughter and yes, a big, blue freezie. "Baby" became part of a family that night and was named, Alexandria Julie Danielle. Mom and Dad fed a bottle to their little girl, who would soon be too big for the soft, cozy sleeper they'd brought. Birth-mom, with a burst of adrenalin, chattered about the experience but soon began to tire. A kiss to Alexandria and a hug goodbye for the night to all in the room, and the new parents went home. An exhausted girl gazed up at me from her bed and remarked, "This all feels really good. It's meant to be. I just gave birth to their daughter." I squeezed her hand with mine, while my other held Alexandria. It had been a bitter-sweet journey together and the full plan of God was unfolding as an elegant rose, just like this little girl.
Since that day, we shared in an Entrustment Ceremony that was overwhelmingly lovely and unforgettable. It was for the adoptive parents and the birth-mom to promise to do their best to keep communication open for the sake of Alexandria and to raise her in a Christ-centred home. There were letters read to Julie and one to the parents by her, as well as, to the baby. There was not a dry eye in the tiny hospital room as we gathered around her bed before walking away and leaving the baby in the couple's arms.

At present, Julie is at home with her parents, rebuilding a relationship with them. She is looking forward to the end of the 29 day wait when she can officially congratulate the couple that she has not changed her mind! She's excited for them and also for the prospect of a bright future for herself (as well as, visiting her daughter when she is able).

Thank you to Lois, her pregnancy counselor, who gave me personal support, to Nancy and Lisa from the maternity home, to her amazing midwives, to my girlfriends who bought clothing and other special gifts, to Annie, who gave us both a break, to Bonnie and Kerry from Beginnings Adoption Agency, to Yvonne for the prayer blankets, to the adoptive parents, who've been fabulous, to Michele for bringing us together in the first place, and to all who prayed her through this journey. God bless you.


Karen said...

Wow . . . what a brave girl! I'm so proud of her for making the decision she did - despite the fact that those closest to her were opposed. Thank you for supporting her through the entire journey and continuing to do so. I'm emotional just reading this . . . can't imagine what you've been through in the last several months!


Julia said...

Wow...oh my! what a beautiful story of surrender and blessing!

jeana said...

Well this is just so touching and brought tears to my eyes! You wrote it out so perfectly, and how wonderful for that little girl to be surrounded by so many that love her. I went through this bittersweet process when I was a teenager with my best friend and her baby. I'm so glad she's with her family again. Will be praying!

Wanting What I Have said...

Oh Heather-what timing! I'm
So glad you left a comment, which brought me back to your corner of the blogosphere and what a blessing!!! You may not know we are in the process of adopting...and we are expecting. It was sweet to read this post. Wow. Precious. Lots of tears over here...and prayers for Julie's heart. What a courageous woman!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story of adoption! Prayers for Julie and to you and yours.

Heather@Cultivated Lives said...

wow. Crying and standing in awe. so thankful that Julie found you. What a brave woman who has such a big heart for that little girl of hers...

Anna said...

My eyes are watering. I am so thankful for moms who choose an adoption plan for their children. I can't imagine how difficult that must be, but I do know how beautiful it is! What a wonderful woman Julie is and how blessed she is to have you in her life!

Yvonne Prentice said...

So beautiful, the journey was certainly the most difficult but I think this lovely young woman will always be glad she chose to give life to this little child and who knows what little Alexandra will accomplish! She has a wonderful destiny and such an amazing and brave Mom! So many wonders all came together to ensure she has that opportunity..... What a blessing! This story is so well told Heather thank you so very much
Love U Yvonne