Losing Hope for A Time
I think that saddest thing about grief is losing hope. For example, when we have some physical problem, say a root canal, or a broken bone, we don’t go into that time of suffering thinking that it will never end, or that we will never be able to chew, smile, or walk again. We expect that things will indeed get better for us. And that knowledge is a big part of what keeps us smiling on the inside even as we are wailing on the outside. The this too shall pass attitude helps gets us through tough times. When we lost the baby, and continued to face our own infertility, we lost hope for a while, and those were dark days indeed.
As shared earlier, the fog began to lift for me when I came to see that God is indeed good (as I had previously thought, but lost sight of for a while). It seemed that as long as that was true, I would be ok. To be clear, that didn’t mean that I didn’t feel sad, or jealous, or angry. It just meant that once again, I had hope. If God is good, my thinking was, let’s wait and see what He does next. And until then, let’s hope for better days.
Better Days Indeed
In a most unexpected, but welcome turn of events, someone phoned us about a baby that was being put up for adoption. As is often the case, this baby would come through an established network of friends and acquaintances, but really, she came from God. Amazingly, He was able to get her to us without any trouble. And yes, I am being sarcastic, but I am actually revealing my too-often usual thinking about how God works.
During our time working as campus ministers at Georgia Tech, it was decided that I needed to go downtown to Georgia State to meet with a few young women who were interested in getting some training. I didn’t mind driving downtown back in 1982 because Atlanta was not as intimidating as it is today. In fact Rich’s Department Store still had their flagship store downtown, at the corner of Alabama and Broad. Many Georgia folks will recall the thrill of a shopping trip to Rich’s at Christmas time, complete with a ride on the Pink Pig. I don’t know if there is a Facebook group called Pink Pig Riders, but maybe there should be. (Of course a distinction would need to be made between the downtown Rich’s Pink Pig riders, and the Johnny Come Lately Macy’s at Lenox Pink Pig riders).
After my meetings, I would often stop in Rich’s and check out their shoe department. Too often perhaps, but it was a fun to go downtown. Moreover, the young women I met at Georgia State were just delightful. They were probably about eight years my junior, but they were kind, sensitive women who sympathized with our difficult journey to parenthood, even though none of them were married at the time. God bless each of these “girls”, who by now probably have grown children, like me.
One of the girls, Karen, ended up marrying a youth pastor, Ebbie, and when a young, and somewhat overwhelmed woman named Julie visited their church, Karen remembered me (bless her), even though it had been a few years since I had seen her. Julie was connected with some supposed Christian adoption agency, but was not satisfied with that situation. I am not sure what exactly it was, but something pushed her to be discontented enough to share her story with Karen and Ebbie, and when they mentioned us, she felt like God had found her a better situation. So we connected Julie with our lawyer, and then began corresponding with her. It became clear in a very short time that she felt that we would be the couple to adopt her baby, and we began to let ourselves hope a bit.
Julie had been informed of what had happened to us the last time we tried to adopt and assured us that it would not happen again. How we wanted to believe her! There was still a part of us that was terrified of being hurt again, but no warning signs surfaced. The only thing that Julie commented on in a negative way was my bad penmanship, which she joked about in one of her notes. How I hoped that she would overlook this character flaw (as described by the nuns). It is funny how perfect you feel you must be when being reviewed for an adoption, (although Julie was great and did not expect perfection from us). I have heard that this is often the case for those who must undergo home studies. For those who can get pregnant, they can have electric outlets hanging off the wall, burning candles within their children’s reach, scissors in low drawers, and no money in the bank, and that’s ok. But if you want to adopt, you cannot have these or any other less serious or obvious flaws. You have to convince someone that you are good/stable/responsible enough to become parents. It doesn’t seem fair, really, but in our case, we passed the test, and did not have to pretend. We were not rich, but we loved each other, had a nice apartment, a steady job, a home church, and a tiny bit of savings. And so we got Julie’s approval, without having to be perfect people. Sigh of relief.
When Julie seemed to be in labor on Thursday night, we got the phone call to be ready, and wait for the next phone call. I can remember our apartment in Georgetown of Atlanta, and how it was probably cleaner than when it was brand new. Everything was ready for the baby’s arrival. The nursery was dusted, cleaned, and re-opened, ready for business. I recall it feeling like a tiny, peaceful, happy hideaway, as I sat in the old rocker now, instead of an empty crypt, as it had a few months earlier.
When I could clean no more, and pace no more, and the baby had not yet arrived by Saturday morning, I did what any sensible woman would do: I went to get my hair done to pass the time. It is important to note that there were no cell phones back then, so we would have to ask to use the business phone if we were out, and this would only be requested in the case of true emergencies. We did not dare ask to use the phone to check the score, request that toilet paper be purchased, or find out what time dinner would be ready. As odd as it may seem to today’s younger generation, we were not in constant communication as we are today (and sometimes we liked it that way).
I was almost finished getting my hair highlighted at the Beauty College of Georgia, when one of the gals brought the phone over to me. I had already told everyone that my daughter was going to arrive that day, and that I could not stand waiting at home any longer with nothing to do, so I came to get my hair done. They all knew to expect a phone call, and when the old heavy black desktop model was brought over to my chair, with its long, thick, black cord, they all alerted each other that this was it! On the other end of the line was my better half, who informed me that just a few minutes ago, our beautiful daughter had arrived, healthy, and whole, at 8 lbs. 9 oz., and 21 inches long. I could hardly speak as I smiled into the phone, and softly hung up, sort of in a daze. Sitting there in my plastic cape with my hair in a frosting cap, and misty-eyed as I looked up into the tacky flourescent lights above, I said softly, but as exuberantly as my shy-in-public nature, and overwhelmed state would permit, I just had a baby girl! The stylist of course passed this on to the other hairdressers and customers, who all cheered and congratulated me.
I can still recall that day as if it was yesterday, but I didn’t yet know that they ten day waiting period would come and go without a hitch, but God did. Nor did I know that this precious baby girl whose arrival would be announced in a cosmetology school would grow up to be a hair dresser herself, and one day I would be sitting in her chair getting my hair highlighted, but God did. I wonder if she knows that each time I sit in her chair, I think of that happy day, the day Natalie Love became part of our family, but more importantly, part of our hearts forever.
Why We Don’t Get Ahead of Time Instructions
I often think back to those days, and imagine what it would have been like if God told us everything ahead of time. I can see how it would sort of ruin things, because instead of walking with Him by faith, I would be trying to control each set of circumstances, and make an utter fool of myself, and probably annoy each person involved to the point where they would be asking God, Are you sure that Liz would be a good mom? Because she seems kind of nuts.
I picture such a silly scenario much like a secret agent message:
So, here’s the plan. Try to pay attention. You will lose a baby, and be very sad for a while, and even wish to die, but I will not let you do that because I have great plans for you and Joe. Once you feel better, and go back to work, for reasons not all known to you, I will send you to Georgia State to work with some people you don’t yet know. A few months ago, they requested that I send someone to train them, and so I am going to send you. This way, as you will see, I can kill two birds with one stone, which is something I do a lot more than people realize, FYI.
You will be distracted a bit by worries about the future, (and by the shoe department at Rich’s), but the whole time I will be at work behind the scenes on your behalf. One of these young women will marry a youth pastor, and one day I will bring a restless birth mother to their church for reasons unknown to her. This birth mother wants to find her baby a good home, and has asked Me to work things out for her (again with the multi-tasking that people don’t seem to realize I do all the time).
The young pastor and his wife will remember you, even though it will have been a few years since you saw Karen, and you never even met Ebbie. I will use them to bring this young birth mother to you and Joe, and I have all the details worked out, even if you cannot see it. That is My plan for getting you and Joe a daughter. Are we clear?
Next time I will describe our baby’s homecoming; it will take some time to figure out how to put that much happiness into a tiny black and white block of text. Actually, it cannot be done, but I will do my best to share a mere shadow of those happy days.