We live in a neighborhood with a misnamed street. You see, our neighborhood is Sherwood Forest, and the other streets are Castle Drive, Jester Court, Friar Road, etc. You get the idea. Our street however is called Miriam Place. That’s right, Miriam, not Marian, as in Maid Marian. I am not sure who developed this neighborhood, but they either got their literary items mixed up, or perhaps they had a wife, mother, or daughter named Miriam and thought, the heck with it…no one will ever notice anyway. For the longest time, we had to spell or over-pronounce M-I-R-I-A-M for friends who were coming to the Sherwood Forest subdivision for the first time. Sometimes they would correct us: You mean Marian don’t you? No, we mean Miriam. But the character was named Marian. We know. Sigh. When our son was getting married and lots of out-of-town folks were coming, we wrote to google maps and map quest to ask them to please correct the name of our street on their maps. For years they would suggest Marian Place, and had that listed instead of the correct name. And I must add, as both a lover of classic literature and an English teacher, it pained me to say that I lived on Miriam Place, (insert eye roll here) and explain that yes, we know it does not fit thematically with the rest of the neighborhood.
Then one day I got to thinking about Miriam, the sister of Moses. She and her mother, Jochebed, had the foresight to execute a plan to help Moses live, at a time when being a Hebrew male baby was a death sentence. These two women are a great example of having what we would call today, savvy. (I am thinking that chutzpah is the Hebrew word for being savvy.) Rather than accepting his imminent death they decided to make a bold move in an attempt to secure a future for Moses. Their plan was not without its downside; they and their family would not get to see Moses past the weaning period (Miriam arranged a nurse for Moses, who happened to be his own mother). But they would not have to experience his death; better for him to live somewhere than to be killed among his own people. That story always both fascinated and horrified me, and until I had children, I could not comprehend such sacrificial love.
And why do I write of it now? Birth mothers. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to birth mothers. Although giving up a child was probably the most painful thing that they ever had to do, they found the courage to do it, and I shall forever be grateful to them. In fact, when I am honest, I am not sure I could have done what we needed them to do for us. How’s that for irony?
In terms of the birth mother who changed her mind and took her baby back, I came to understand her point of view, even if I did not agree with it. Though the home she was taking him back to was not optimal, I do not blame her for saying that she could not live without her child. (We had that child for just one short week, and felt the same way). I realize now that my judgmental attitude toward her so many years ago, was wrong. Like all of us at times, she was caught in a battle of what her mind told her was best, and what her emotions told her she must have. And for whatever reason, God did not permit us to keep that particular baby. And unlike my previous thinking, I do not believe it is always best for a child be given up for adoption, which may surprise some (more on this later).
Happily for many of us who have adopted children (adopted is used as a verb here, not an adjective), many brave birth mothers, woman like Miriam and Jochebed, find the courage to give up their child so that he or she can have a stable, loving home. I know that Mother’s Day is a difficult day for those in the Infertility Club, but I imagine it is no picnic for those precious birth mothers who have given both a child, and an entire family the greatest gift a human being can give. Perhaps we should have a Birth Mother’s Day to honor these women for their courage and sacrificial love. Often they are in the shadows, and understandably, want or need to keep their distance from this painful chapter of their lives.
Our family is inextricably linked to two such brave mothers, and I have tried to express my gratitude to them in letters that were sent on approval by my children. In a strange way, they and we all live on Miriam Place, a place that seems a bit off-kilter, and in the beginning, a mistake, but a place where all of our own desires must give way to the overriding wish for each child to have all it needs to live a full and healthy life. Below is a poem for our brave two, and for all birth mothers; may you all receive blessing, honor and peace.
Loving hands that must let go
All for precious ones to thrive
Aching hearts that scream “Please, no!
I can keep this child alive.”
This opposed by clearer thought,
“My child’s in need of so much more,
I will love as mothers ought,
Even if it pains me sore.”
Therefore wisdom breaks the tie, along with sacrificial love.
I no more will see that face, but choose to live on Miriam Place.
Thoughts of precious ones delivered
Into arms that once were bare,
Helping them to fill their quiver
Lifting grief that lingered there.
This provides some joy in measure
To abate the grieving heart,
Knowing that you gave a treasure
Knowing God can see your part.
Bringing joy that knows no bounds to a pair of hopeful strangers,
This is how we treat each other when we live on Miriam Place.
And when our time on earth winds down
And before the throne we stand,
Heartfelt joy will then abound
But there will not be remand.
Only thanks from all the players
And a sharing of our lives
Seeing answers to our prayers
Giving celestial high-fives
For we each have done our part in helping precious ones to thrive,
And we’ll bask in His good grace for time well spent on Miriam Place.