Our adoption agency asked us to house a 19-year-old pregnant teen until her baby was born. Mary needed a place to live and I needed a distraction – something to keep my mind off the calendar as we waited for an adopted child. I watched Mary flip through pages of colorful profiles created by dozens of couples like us. She scattered the brochures across our kitchen table like a deck of cards, approaching her decision like a game of Crazy Eights – casting off some couples and picking up others until she had the right match. Somewhere between the bread and bananas, the brochures dwindled down to one, and Mary chose a couple to raise her baby.
Once, a birthmother chose us. We planned to name our son Jesse Hunter. We decorated his nursery in fairy-tale horses with a merry-go-round mural pasted over the crib. We waited for the phone to ring on the baby’s due date, ready to drive four states away to carry him home. The call never came. Once Jessie Hunter was born, his mother decided she would keep her baby.
A year later, we got a different call, this time at 6 a.m. on a frosty winter morning. The agency said the birthmother was willing to place the baby for adoption if we could be at the hospital before she and the child were discharged. In the dawn pre-coffee confusion, we shook ourselves awake and started packing for the nine-hour ride. My husband thought it sounded risky, like the mother might change her mind. I spread blame on him as smoothly as I lathered cream cheese on my bagel that morning, accusing him of not taking chances. Before we got in the car, the agency called to tell us the birthmother was no longer interested in adoption. I consoled myself by saying at least we hadn’t returned home empty-handed.
There were other starts-and-stops … the premature infant, born addicted to cocaine, whose grandparents decided to raise her … the twin girls whose father stopped the adoption … the seven-year-old whose mother called the agency, then reconsidered. Our case worker had warned us that adoption would be a roller coaster. So I buckled up my heart and braced my emotions for the uncontrollable ride.
And yet, when my husband rushed Mary to the hospital after her water broke, I felt the first wave of calm since our wait began. We comforted Mary when she delivered her baby after 12 hours. We congratulated the chosen couple as they burst through Mary’s hospital room, stopping first to thank us. In that moment, I realized my home was the womb that nurtured Mary and her baby and made this union possible. I am forever grateful that a pregnant teenager needed shelter under my roof. Mary allowed me to be the lifeline between a desperate pregnant girl and a loving couple ready for a baby. I may never be chosen to raise another’s child, but I have already made a family.
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