I am the mother of four sons. That makes me blessed. At times it made me crazy. But I am, and have been for a very long time, convinced that God knew what he was doing when he gave me boys.
And he knew what he was doing when he took my daughter away.
By the time I was 22 I had been married, divorced, had two kids, two abortions, and was pregnant again.
I was a hot mess. Living in my mother's basement with my tiny sons, I would party every chance I got. I was going to church again, playing piano on the praise team even, sometimes hungover. I was making friends with a few believers, and I was pretty sure the guitar player liked me. But I still had this other life, other friends, other influences and addictions guiding my behavior.
There was a night at work that set a change in motion. It was right after my second abortion, and I was sick as a dog. The second abortion was not "normal." Things went wrong, I woke up. I became very, very ill. In a casual conversation with a coworker I said "I will never have another abortion. If I get pregnant again, I will give it up for adoption."
Months, maybe weeks later, I'm not really sure, I'm in the basement, pregnancy test in one hand, bible in the other, and my own words rattling around in my head. Here I am, unable to support my sons and me alone, and this child would have no father. If I abort again, no one would have to know. I could just "change" my life afterwards. If I adopt, everyone would know, but few would be happy about it. I knew my mother would not support the idea of adoption. I doubted anyone in my family would. The only place I knew I could garner support would be the church and the few friends I had there.
There never was a doubt about what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to place this child for adoption. It was never a decision I had to make; it was an answer placed in my heart before the question had been asked. And it came with peace. I knew it would be hard, but I also knew that it would work out for my good. Emily would save my life.
The months that followed were more down than up. I was absolutely correct about how my family would react. The church proper, aka board of elders, was supportive in the academic sense, but bless their hearts, they were dealing with something bigger than they'd ever expected, and frankly hurt me more than they helped me heal. People I worked with were confused and often attempted to talk me out of my decision. I was put in touch with an attorney who helped me choose an adoptive family. Unfortunately, she failed to get my medical expenses covered, and had left the country by the time I delivered. My mother evicted me in my 8th month. "You could have at least aborted," she said.
Ultrasounds were in their infancy at this time, but I insisted on finding out the baby's gender. I had desperately wanted my two boys to be girls, and I needed to know. I invited a friend to come with me to the ultrasound but at the last minute she had to back out. It was a beautiful, sunny, summer day. I can still feel the devastation when the tech announced "It's a girl." I walked to the car numb, unable to appreciate the warm sun on my shoulders. I sat in my car and sobbed.
Although I felt scared and alone, God was working. Church friends became my family. They stepped up and loved me in ways I could not have imagined before. They taught me how they lived the bible out every day; how the Word and prayer changed their lives. One friend, a single young woman, would have lunch with me and teach me how she overcame relationship issues. Another friend was also a single mom with addictions in her past. One elder in particular made a point to talk with me, counsel me, and pray with me every Wednesday night. The guitar player and I became good friends. He introduced me to Christian music, and we would have bible study by phone.
Emily's adoptive parents were also very supportive of me. They would call me weekly and we would talk for hours. I went across the country to visit them for a weekend in my 6th month of pregnancy. They hosted a BBQ and I met all the family and friends who would be in Emily's life. I received handwritten prayers and notes of encouragement from them. When I went to their church, the Sunday School class laid hands on me and prayed over me. I was invited to sing for worship. It was a stark contrast to what I experienced at home, and it was such a comfort.
It was Thanksgiving Day 1992. The adoptive parents and their moms had decided to fly to Louisville because they just "knew" that Emily, due the first week of December, was coming early. Another friend from church had procured a Thanksgiving food basket for me, and I hosted dinner for the adoptive family and a few friends. One of the menu requests was cornbread stuffing, simply because my new west coast family had never heard of it. Early in the morning I put the bird in the oven, and felt the first twinge. Labor had begun.
I said nothing. I cooked and served dinner as planned. Twelve of us piled into my tiny apartment and feasted on food I don't remember cooking. After we ate, as the men were cleaning up, one of the adoptive grandmas looked at me and asked, "So how long have you been in labor?"
There was a collective gasp as everyone stopped. Literally, the other 11 folks in the room stopped dead in their tracks and looked at me waiting for me to answer. "Oh, about 7 hours I guess." They all got excited, cleaned up, and insisted we go to the hospital.
This is the part I had been dreading. I didn't want to be in labor and have to explain to everyone, over and over again, that this child was being adopted. To my surprise, I didn't. I told one person, the assistant who helped me into bed, and from there everyone was on the same page. I think that was the only aspect of this whole experience that went according to plan.
I had delivered my first two naturally (36 hours and 20 hours), but I knew I needed an epidural for Emily. She came quickly, so quickly she beat the doctor and the nurse ended up delivering her.The adoptive parents stayed with me and helped me deliver, the dad even got to cut Emily's cord. They followed Emily to the nursery, and my friends came in to stay with me afterwards. One of them, a divorced dad himself, rubbed my feet as I laid in the bed shaking from the epidural. It was such a simple gesture, but spoke volumes to me. Here was a man who wanted nothing from me, doing something nice for me just because he cared for me. That is just one of the micro-lessons I learned about Jesus from my Christian friends.
Since my bills hadn't been paid, the hospital only kept me 12 hours. Just before I was discharged I asked to hold Emily. Her parents and grandparents were there, as was my friend the guitar player. They brought her into the room in a bassinet. Her name tag was purple; indicating she was to be adopted. I picked her up. I don't remember if I said anything, or just looked at her. She was so tiny; I only remember thinking, "You are not mine. You have never been mine. You were in my body, I love you. I was only the means for your arrival because God has something planned for you, but you do not belong to me." And I handed her to her mother.
The guitar player sat in the floor, head down. He took me home later and I asked him what was wrong. "They missed the miracle," he said. "All the people who didn't understand, who insulted you, who hurt you, they completely missed the miracle that I witnessed in that hospital room."
He was so right, but not for the reasons he thinks. I was out of control, on a downward spiral that was leading straight to death. With Emily, God stopped me dead in my tracks. It was an intervention. During the (almost) year I spent in turmoil with an unplanned pregnancy, God was healing me. The pregnancy became a hedge of protection to me, a physical boundary preventing me from engaging in my routine of self-destruction.
But not only was I forced to stop killing myself, I was taught love. Love that I hadn't seen at home, love that I truly did not understand at first. Individual people stood up and befriended me, intentionally, and they worked hard to make me feel valuable and worthy. They even defended me in a few situations, which had never happened before. They did for me what no preacher from a pulpit could do. They were Jesus in skin.
A few weeks before I delivered, I told a friend that a part of me didn't want the pregnancy to end. I was safe behind my belly, I didn't have to make choices or decisions because I was not faced with any temptations. I was afraid of what would happen once that barrier was gone. I was afraid of dating.
And the guitar player? Well, that is probably the most profound part of this testimony. I was right, he liked me. Had I not gotten pregnant when I did, we probably would have gone down the same path I had been down with every man I had ever dated. But fortunately Emily happened, and we were forced to become friends. Real friends. Friends who are transparent. Friends who love each other and want only good things for the other. Even though I was disappointed, I accepted that we were friends. I didn't know that he was waiting for me to heal. We began dating after the adoption was final and married in 1994. John has been the greatest (earthly) gift I have ever received, but left to my own devices, I am sure I would have destroyed any relationship we would have had.
Many missed the miracle, but the miracle wasn't giving a child to a childless couple. The miracle was the work done in my heart. The miracle was the life-saving love I found. I silently celebrate this every Thanksgiving.
There is so much left out of this story, and there is no way you will ever feel what I feel by simply reading text on a computer screen. But know, if you have ever been blessed by me, it is a direct result of what God did in me through Emily.