“These are special days.” It was almost two decades ago, but I vividly remember my friend’s words as she wrapped the receiving blanket around her newborn. She looked like any new mother sitting on a hospital bed lovingly stroking back nonexistent hair from her infant’s face.
There was a big difference though, between this mom and other new moms. There was no proud father standing at her side or family to support her. In three days she would sign papers that would make her child part of another couple’s life forever.
She was a birth mother on a three-day hiatus from reality. How could she call these special days? Her words haunted me in a bittersweet sort of way. I understood that she was doing what she needed to do. She couldn’t take care of herself, let alone a little one. Experiencing a crisis pregnancy, she said she had prayed and asked God to guide her. A short time later, she met a couple desperate for a baby and everything fell into place.
Watching her try to cram a lifetime into three days made me think back to the beginning of my own child’s life. I was more blessed than my friend. Even though I was a young single mom, I had support. My late ex-husband took our son for visits, and my grandmother insisted that I finish college. I was in my mid-twenties and had less than two years to complete a bachelors degree.
Gram firmly pointed out that if I made minimum wage for the rest of my life, it would be difficult to support a child alone, and being a professional would make our lives economically better. She even let us move in with her, until I could find an affordable apartment near the university.
I went to school, worked, and took care of my tiny charge. Often I studied into the wee hours of the night, while my baby slept. Stressed by my taxing schedule, I couldn’t enjoy my son.
Things weren’t easy, but we got by. The truth is that every bag of groceries and every month the rent was paid became a victory of divine provision. There are struggles that only a single parent knows about, but there are also miracles that belong to us alone.
Then one day as I put a spoonful of food into 8t-month-old Zachary’s mouth, it was as if time stood still. A warning voice deep inside told me to take a mental snapshot as these were special days. It was an eerie feeling realizing in that instant how fleeting his childhood would be. Knowing too, that despite my hectic schedule and the daunting task of single parenting, I needed to cherish the days.
In that defining moment, his tiny blue eyes remained steadfastly fixed on my face. The same vibrant blue eyes that now gaze back at me from his finely chiseled adult features. More than three decades have passed so quickly. The chubby little hands that used to offer themselves to me to put mittens on belong to a young man rapidly approaching middle-age himself. I wonder, “Where did the years go?”
Still, I was not nobler than the mother who placed her baby for adoption. It took great courage and unselfishness to relinquish the child she carried. I was present that long-ago afternoon she gave her baby to the eager adoptive couple. I stood there amazed as she prayed for them to be the kind of parents she could not.
The next day when I visited her, it felt the exact same way as it did when my other girlfriend’s 9-year-old son was fatally hit while riding his bicycle. There was death in that birth mom’s house. Not physical death, but the kind of bereavement a mother feels when she has to let go of her child.
It’s often said that children are simply, “on loan from God,” and that letting go is another sacrificial part of parenting. For me, this transition wasn’t the trauma of adoption or the finality of a fatal accident. Rather it was the progression of age and finding one’s wings like many other parents are experiencing, while saying goodbye as their children leave for college.
In the end, it’s part of our job to teach our children what the Latin phrase carpe diem is all about. “Seize the day!” For the day will soon be spent and we are not promised tomorrow; but we will always have those special days as precious memories.
Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com