Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Box

When I left the counselor in Miami, I wished I was leaving with the picture books of prospective parents in hand.  The agony of waiting for the box to arrive in the mail was daunting.  I was painfully aware that God's timeline and mine were grossly out of sync.  I was in a rush to be done, much like my grief with my husband, which was why I was in this position in the first place.  Over and over, I'd count down days, weeks, months.  I'd make milestone after milestone on the calendar, all in an effort to get through to my due date.  I had to see in ink that I would not be in this forever.

While I was waiting, I had to make a trip up to Miami to a genetics counseling clinic.  I was not too jazzed about the idea of an amniocentesis but given my age group of late thirties and the fact that this child would be raised by other parents, I thought it only fair for them to know if any health problems were on the horizon.  I also wanted to know the sex.  I didn't see the need for any holdouts or surprises and it would help me to keep things in a better perspective if I knew who was holding residence in my belly.  I had called the baby 'Alex' because it was unisex and I wanted to identify my multi-dimensional frame with a person instead of just feeling fat and clumsy.  Feeling a little nostalgic, I reached out to the baby's father to see if he'd like to come but alas, he was too busy.  I don't know what other response I expected but it made my blood boil anyway to be going through this completely without his support.  It solidified my decision.  This kind of involvement is what it would always be for us.  The baby deserved better.  I arrived the next day with Carli in tow and after much fanfare about tests, odds, statistics, paper signing and risks being related to me the procedure went much less painfully than I anticipated and it was fast.  The results on ultrasound were very conclusive.  I was having a girl.  The call came days later, no health risks were detected.  So now I knew that Alex, or rather, Alex Ruth was healthy.  That would be good news for her parents.  I also would have ultrasound pictures for them.

To me, it took so long to get them that I nearly forgot all about the box coming but just another sunny day on the island, I was returning to my second floor condo in the afternoon and was surprised by a FedEx box sitting on my welcome mat.  It was leaning lazily on the door, as if to say "where 've you been?  I've been sitting here waiting for you".  My heart skipped.  I picked up the box and looked at the return address label.  Sure enough, Bethany Christian Services of Orlando.  I gripped it in both hands and tried to slow my breathing.  My daughter was jumping up and down at the thought of a present arriving and gleefully chirped as I held on to it, "Mama, is it a present from Nana?  Is it a present from Nana?"

I didn't know what to do.  Open it now?  Wait until Carli went to bed?  As I was making up my mind to put the box away and wait until after my daughter's bed time, I sat down and ripped back the tab on the box. It zipped open readily.  I stared down at the opening as I contemplated whether or not this was a good idea.  Maybe just a peek.  Would it hurt to just see how many were in there?  I pried open the flaps like something would jump out at me.  Carli kept asking to see inside.  I shooed her away from the box at my feet and pushed her sidewalk chalk that I always kept next to my rattan chair in her direction to draw on the balcony's cement floor while I fixed my attention on what was inside the package.

My eyes zeroed in on two names neatly typed on a blue on blue picture book, Brett and Kayla.  I was overcome with emotion seeing their names on a spine in the middle of a stack of five picture books.  I pulled their book from the bunch and looked at the picture on the cover.  They were embracing each other, smiling at the camera. The background was a dewy mountain view.  Kayla looked like she could be any member of my family.  Her features were very similar to all the women on my mother's side.  We are all unmistakably related whenever we are together.  She would blend into a family photo as easily as any one of us.  Brett looked like a calm, gentle man with the kind of lines that looked like he smiled a lot.  Both young and attractive with warm faces and love in their eyes.

Tears poured as I read their letters about each other and the qualities they saw that they thought would make their mate a great parent and most importantly, what they loved so much about being together.  Brett had such a genuine appreciation and adoration for his wife. You could read the pain in his words about not being able to heal his wife's longing.  Kayla was head over heals for her husband. That was my opinion from her gushing letter of the man of her dreams.  They were both teachers.  This comforted me.  I felt that they had a natural inclination to want to be around children with Kayla having a position as a grade school teacher and Brett being a Physical Education teacher and a baseball coach. 

I fumbled amongst the overflow of emotion and found a personal letter they wrote, to me.  If ever there was a letter that had touched me so deeply, I can only think of the Valentine that my late husband made for me the first year we were together.  Their letter was one of the hope of a promise that they'd make to me to be the committed, loving parents that my baby deserved, wholly devoted to being raised to know The Lord.  I turned and studied every page of their book.  I noted their smiles, studied their words.  I liked knowing what they liked to do.  I admired how they looked at each other.  I fell in love with them from page one.

To be fair, I had to read the other four.  None of the other books struck me like Brett and Kayla's.  I tried to hush my sobbing as Carli had notice her mother crying and became quite concerned.  I assured her that Mama was just happy and that sometimes when Mamas are happy, they cry.  She wasn't convinced which is fine because I wasn't being a good actress.  My tears were mingled with relief, joy and sorrow.  I was starting to understand that the child I was carrying was going to belong to someone else. I had been so wrapped up in just wanting this to be over that I had distracted myself from fully comprehending what I was about to take on. 

I wanted to be sure that this couple was the one for me.  I took the stack over to a dear friend's house.  She was a fast friend that I made at the church I was attending.  We spent a lot of long conversations sharing deeply about each other's lives.  I trusted her impression implicitly.  I mixed up the books and asked her to read them all and tell me which couple she'd pick. She carefully studied each book and page, commenting on the faces, the lives and the stories.  I listened patiently and watched her face for tell signs. She really didn't give any.  After all the books were poured over, she sifted the pile and pulled out Brett and Kayla's.  I knew this was from God.  We both cried together and read their book again.  It felt right, but wanting a solid and unanimous opinion, my mother was coming for a visit so I did the same thing with her the day after she arrived.  I was not surprised that she too, had picked my parents.  The decision was final.  Unless Brett and Kayla turned out to be squirrely when I met them, they'd be meeting their birth mother within weeks.

I called up my counselor and gave her my names.  I wanted to meet them as soon as possible.  She said she'd make the arrangements.  They agreed and we made plans to meet at the same coffee shop that I'd met her at before in two weeks time.  Adrenaline raced through my veins when I thought of what it would be like to see them face-to-face.  I couldn't wait to give them a big smile and share the good news. 

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