I read this beautiful post today along with many of you, which brought back memories for me of the time when we "lost" our first baby through a failed adoption. My experience is a bit different from Diane's, but certainly the same on many grounds. For me the trial was, in an instant, the most painful I had ever endured, yet one of the most beautiful at the same time. It was my first experience with true joy in suffering, and my first realization of the miracle of loving God so much that it pleases you to offer Him your greatest treasure, your child.
We had been trying to conceive for six years, which seems like an eternity to an infertile couple. After having gone through years of infertility testing, various Church-approved treatments and much prayer without success, we began to walk the path of adoption. It was a hope-filled road, every step taken with excitement, joy and anticipation. And then it happened. We were linked with a birth-mother.
She was a young girl who simply found herself in an unfortunate situation, but her openness to life gave her the courage to bring her baby into this beautiful world. And she chose us. To bring her baby into our home, to love him, educate him and raise him in every way we would see fit. Yes, he was a boy. She had four months left in her pregnancy at the time we were chosen, and in that time we grew to love him as any parent loves his child. We gave him the name "Gabriel", prepared for his arrival with much prayer and excitement, two baby showers, Grandmas knitting blankets for him, thinking about him every waking moment of every day, and in the last days before his birth, "nesting"- cleaning the house top to bottom, inside ovens and cabinets. Friends knew that I wanted Gabriel to have the nutrition of breast milk, and they gave until our freezer was full. They scheduled dinners to be brought to us for weeks after his birth. And then, he was born.
We got the phone call early on Sunday morning, packed our belongings, a take-home outfit, diapers, wipes, bottles, and everything we would need to bring our baby home safely. He was born on the other side of the state, so we drove almost three hours to the hospital. When we arrived we were cautioned by the social worker that the mother seemed emotional. So we proceeded with caution, but optimism and hope. When we arrived in the hospital room, Michelle placed baby Gabriel in my arms for the first time. Words cannot describe the love and joy I felt as I held this precious infant in my arms. It was profound, and something I had never experienced before. I waited six years for this beautiful boy, sometimes patiently, sometimes not. And at that first moment when I looked at him, his face only inches away from mine, I realized this present joy was worth every minute of longing.
A lot happened during that first visit in the hospital room, Gabriel's extended family meeting us for the first time, asking us questions which need not be divulged here, but suffice it to say we remained cautious. But in my mind I truly believed that we would bring our baby home the next morning. So we checked into a local hotel, and prayed without cease. Just after midnight, the phone rang. The case worker told us that Michelle had changed her mind. She decided to keep her baby. We both fell to our knees on the floor, holding each other, and wept. A powerful image I will never forget. I vaguely remember being up all night, rocking back and forth in the fetal position, rosary clutched in hand, "Hail Mary, full of grace.....Hail Mary, full of grace.....Remember, oh most gracious Virgin Mary......" and on and on.
I will never be able to describe what it was like to drive that long road home with an empty car seat. But in the next few weeks I would move with God's grace from sorrow to joy, realizing for the first time that my "Gabriel" wasn't really mine at all. He belonged to the Father, Who allowed me to love him just enough to hold him twice, but to remain his "spiritual" mother for the rest of my life. I still pray for Gabriel, and his mother, though not as often as I should.
That sad loss four years ago is now but a faint memory - the pain is gone, but the spiritual joy and goodness gained remain. It taught me some of the most valuable truths in life: That the most profound joy one will experience in this life is indeed accompanied by great suffering. That these little ones of ours are entrusted to us, but they are in fact God's babies, whether we are allowed to hold them for five minutes, for eighteen years, or not at all. I learned the courage and compassion of my husband, and the strength of our marriage. The love of family, friends and many, many strangers who took up this cross with us. I don't ever take my girls for granted. I love every moment of mothering - the diaper changes, the temper tantrums, the nights I stay awake tending to a sick daughter, as well as the plethora of joyful moments. And I learned more fully than ever before, how quickly this world is passing and how the things we might cherish most in life will be gone sooner than we think. But the True Good for which we ultimately strive is Eternal, and will never fail us. +++