A new mother through adoption tells of the heartbreak at not being able to conceive, the spiritual confusion of childlessness, and the joy when the adoption caseworker finally called with their baby. She also expresses gratitude for the courage and love of the birth mother.
Shortly after Joshua Steven Kavanaugh entered my life, a stranger who was an expectant mother gazed at my newborn son and turned to me for reassurance. “How was the delivery?” she asked. “Was it as bad as everyone says?”
I paused, considered my options and responded. “It’s not so bad,” I said. “There’s pain for a while, but as soon as it’s over, you start to forget.”
Those who know my family realize just how bold a statement that was for me to make, since the most remarkable thing about the birth of my son is that I wasn’t there. A baby boy was born earlier this year, and a short time later he became our Joshua when we were blessed with his adoption.
I wasn’t really lying when I talked to that woman about his arrival. In fact, I realized later that truer words were never spoken. In a way, I had been in labor for years!
When my husband and I were married a little more than six years ago, we had it all figured out. I knelt before Mary and prayed for a family, but that was merely a technicality; we knew how it would all go. We would have about two years to ourselves before we were blessed with our first child. Then a second, third and fourth child would follow every 25 months. Now, according to that schedule, baby number three–Kevin, I believe it was–would be due any minute.
Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned. At least not as we planned.
I like to voice a philosophy that I’m certain is not original: True wisdom is the realization that one really knows nothing. Of course, the fact that I claim to know that much means I have a way to go, but I’ve made some progress since those “planning” days.
It took some time for us to get past the loss we felt when we realized the futility of our plans, to mourn those children we would never have and truly to trust. God called upon us to believe what we could not see and what we could not know. God’s plan asked us to have faith.
He asked us to trust, even in the most difficult times. Those times, for instance, when our family and friends were having children and more children, we were challenged to balance our joy for them with our own disappointment. This had to be done even on days like the Sunday several years ago when I inadvertently found myself at a Mass for expectant mothers. I’d gotten pretty good at avoiding that sort of thing, but I must have been remiss in reading the parish bulletin the week before. My husband and I laughed about it on the way in, talking about the Mass for showoffs, as we liked to call those fortunate enough to conceive. I had almost forgotten about it when the call came for all those expecting a child to stand for the blessing. Bam! The hurt took me by surprise, and I had what we like to refer to now as “my little breakdown.” There I sat, consumed by my own sorrow, trying desperately not to look as though I was crying, and consequently crying all the harder–feeling very sad, very empty.
In time, though, it got easier. We had always known, but slowly came to accept the truth that God was with us. Maybe we’d have children some day, or maybe it would be just the two of us. Either way, we knew there was a reason for the challenges we faced. Then one day, the reason became clear with a simple phone call. “It’s a go,” our caseworker told us; and in that moment, we had a son. Within 24 hours we saw our baby for the first time, and six years of struggle and longing began to evaporate. Just as I told that expectant mother, there was pain for a while; but as soon as I saw his face, I started to forget.
At Mass the next weekend, I was tongue-tied in prayer. This time, instead of tears I was giddy, and all I could hope to offer to my God was, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.” Miraculously, I had become a mother. I was immediately awed by the thought of my own mother and all who had been down this road before me. I was humbled by the immensity of the experience, and grateful beyond measure for the opportunity to claim it and to the brave young woman who made it possible.
The faith that brought Joshua into our lives was not only ours. There was another person called upon to trust and to understand that her difficulty and sorrow were purposeful–to recognize the life within her and to put her child’s well-being first. The young woman who became pregnant undoubtedly had fears. Perhaps her first instinct was just to make the issue go away, but she did not.
She took the opportunity, instead, to bring a beautiful, loved and welcomed child into the world. Then she loved him enough to let him go. My faith tells me that this remarkable young woman learned during her pregnancy some important things about the gift of life and love and about her own faith.
I believe she thinks of this child, wonders about him, worries about him, misses him. We in turn think of her every day, and my child will be told about her and the gift she gave all of us.
For my growing family and me, old habits die hard. At night, as I rock my glorious little man to sleep, I can’t help but make plans. I know just where he’ll go to school; I know what he’ll do for a living, and I know he’ll marry a charming young woman and create our four beautiful grandchildren. But I’ve learned that the real adventure lies in finding out just how wrong one’s plan can be. I’ve also learned that being Joshua’s mother will be my greatest joy. We in our family put our faith in God and explore together the journey on which only he can lead us.