As a scared, pregnant and unmarried nineteen-year-old, I didn’t know much, but I did know love wasn’t enough. If I could have made my decision based on that sole factor, I would be telling a different story today. However, the wisest choice the teenage me made was to find a couple who would shower my baby not only with love but with a stable home, financial resources, and a maturity level I was years away from.
I don’t want to say my decision to place my son for adoption was an easy one, but it was the only one. Being raised in a loving, Christian home in which my parents were still together after 25 years, I wanted this baby to know the same. I wanted him to know no matter what, he was loved.
The first years of our open adoption agreement brought so much comfort. I was able to watch him grow, from a distance, through stories and photos. Seven months post adoption a big earthquake hit the area. It was the first time I experienced absolute fear and worry in my heart about another being’s safety. Stories of fallen bookshelves and cars going off the road had me nervous in a way I had never known. Within 24 hours I received a phone call from the adoption agency – my son’s family had reached out with the message that they were all just fine. I cried tears of relief and gratitude.
Despite the fact that my life continued on with college and a boyfriend, a piece of my heart was always outside of myself. It was hard to name and difficult to share with people, so I prayed. Nearly every day, often multiple times a day, I prayed for the child, the boy, the life I brought into this world. I prayed that he knew love, not just my love, but the love of Jesus. I prayed specifics and generalities, and for the first time in my life I prayed without ceasing.
Throughout the years communication with his family came in fits and starts. There were a couple years where I neither wrote letters nor received them. Changes in the adoption agency would often slow down the lines of correspondence. Regardless of this, my prayers continued. And every year on his birthday I celebrated. It wasn’t just a celebration of his life, it was an acknowledgement of the decision I made. I’d do something memorable; make dinner for friends, open a special bottle of wine (usually from his birth year), treat myself to a new piece of jewelry, or spend the day journaling at the beach. It was a day to honor his life and our short time together. Year after year I held space for him every March 10, regardless of where I was and what was happening in my life.
I was at work the day the phone call came from the agency telling me my son had put in a consent-to-contact form. He had turned 18 seven months prior and was ready to meet me. I was standing on my back porch during our first phone conversation. He shared with me his college plans, his interests in music and movies, and I listened in awe at the sound of this young man’s voice on the other end of the phone. His voice was not one of a stranger, as part of me somewhere had known it all along. His parting words of “I LOVE YOU” were as though someone had wrapped the softest, coziest, most peace-inducing blanket around my shoulders and squeezed. As I hung up the phone I quietly whispered a simple prayer. “Thank You.” And in response I heard a gentle, “I listen.” Yes, God does. He had been listening for eighteen years.
We began to forge a new relationship, not one of mother and child, and it was tricky and bumpy and delightful and enriching. Once again communication would come in fits and starts. We had several visits, him meeting my parents again after all these years later. We sat at an In ‘n Out when he met my infant son for the first time. My husband held the door open and welcomed him and his fiancé into our home. There was a bit of figuring out as we went along, and sometimes we did and other times we didn’t. I continued to pray. My prayers changed a bit, now knowing more details about his life and daily activities.
I was honored to be included at his wedding. I heard stories about him at the rehearsal dinner as friends and family shared memories. I soaked it all in and marveled at the highlight reel of an entire lifetime. The wedding was held at a gorgeous, sprawling ranch. As I made my way to my seat I came upon him and his wedding party. They were standing in a dusty field, the handsome groom in the middle, while his ten groomsmen and pastor circled around. Hands were placed upon him and they were praying over him about who they knew him to be, and the kind of friend and brother he was. They prayed hopes and dreams and gratitude and love. These young men were lifting him up in prayer in a way I had never witnessed, yet had prayed for every single day of his life. It literally took my breath away and took all of my strength to not fall to my knees. Through my tears I heard the gentle whisper again, “I listen.”
You see, my nineteen-year-old self was kind of right. Love wasn’t enough; not my love. But God’s love is, and He is so visible, so present in our story. He heard the cries of this scared birth mother’s heart and He listened. As He continues to do today.