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Monday, May 9, 2011

I Opened the Basket

Mother's Day is a hard day for me, but it wasn't always that way. In my early to mid twenties, it wasn't such a big deal because I wasn't trying to have a family of my own. It came and went, and so did my birthday, always right there together. After I lost my first ectopic baby in 2005, I was surprised at the range of emotions that first Mother's day. Then the next couple of years were jumbled together with the drama of a dysfunctional, codependent marriage that was completely fractured by drugs and alcohol, and my desire to become a mother was put on the back burner. After I met the true love of my life and we married, I believed I would soon have that chance to know what it was like to carry a child. Already a dad, John was still supportive of the idea that we try to have children. Then in 2009, eleven months after we married, I was pregnant. This time, the second ectopic baby took with her a fallopian tube, and I lost even more hope that it would ever happen for me. My fertility doctor told me it wasn't "impossible", but "highly unlikely" I would ever conceive again without IVF. The hardest part about the second baby was that the due date for that pregnancy would have been around my birthday and Mother's Day, which happened to be the same day in 2010. Since that loss, we have added two small children to our family through temporary guardianship. They came like a gift from God, on June 22 of last year. They were four and seven when they came to us, loved from day one by me and John, my three amazing step kids, and our niece, Hannah. We were suddenly a family of eight. We needed a special vehicle to accommodate us, and we needed every available space for a bed in our home. Within a few months, the boys felt like mine. I rocked the little one, held him in my arms as much as he would let me. I read to them, spoiled them, got to know them, and I really felt like I was their mother. And it was a wonderful eleven months. Then came this weekend- the "dreaded" birthday and Mother's Day. I would be another year older, still not pregnant, feeling the possibilities drain away with time. But I had my little ones.
Thursday before the "weekend", I went to school for a Kindergarten Mother's Day breakfast. I was filled with anxiety walking down the hallway, afraid that Jeremiah would be disappointed to see me instead of his "real mom." Walking into his room, his face lit up when he saw me, and he took my hand and led me to his table where there was a drawing of a woman with a blue dress and shoulder-length hair. Across the top of the picture were the words "Jeremiah's mom" and in a small box at the bottom, it said: "Her name is Melissa. I love to go somewhere with her. She is as pretty as me. She loves to eat cheese. Her favorite color is purple and she likes to shop at Wal-Mart. She always tells me, "Good morning!" She tickles me and it makes me laugh. She is 16 years old." I tried to swallow the lump in my throat as I realized he was expecting me.
But Thursday night was another story . . .
I went to pick up the boys' natural mom so she could come for a visit with them. In the car she told me that she had decided she wanted to take the boys back. As I drove, she talked about "feeling better," "missing the boys so much," and "wanting to be their mother again." I couldn't speak, but warm tears streamed down my cheeks. She told me she wanted them to finish the school year (17 days) with us, and then move to Athens with her. There were a million things I wanted to say, but no words would come out. At one point she stopped talking and looked at me, before saying: "But you took them as a foster mom, you had to know that you couldn't keep them forever."
My heart was broken. I could only see the past eleven months flash before me like a stream of scenes in my memory. I saw the boys at the beach with us last summer, so afraid of the waves but so excited at the same time. I saw Jeremiah crawling up John's legs so he could hold him high above the surf. I saw Peniel riding high on Amanda's shoulders, digging up shells with Mitchell, and anxiously learning to trust us. I saw John spraying them with the water hose on hot days, and Pork Chop chasing them on their bikes down the driveway. I saw us together at the state park, having a picnic, stopping for boiled peanuts since they had never tried them before. I saw us picking out backpacks and school supplies, Jeremiah's first day of kindergarten, parent-teacher conferences, our big camping trip in the Fall, going on a Haunted Hayride at the state park, picking out Halloween costumes, going trick-or-treating on the square in Dahlonega. I remembered Peniel's birthday, when his eyes looked so surprised to see the PSP in the box and how he told us: "It's the best birthday ever!" Christmas with John's family, Christmas with my family, Christmas morning when they saw all that Santa had brought them during the night.  I saw the snow days when we took turns on the sled and threw snowball fights, when Cody helped them build a snowman, and when everyone kept losing their gloves. I saw us all together at the hospital when John's dad passed away, the mystery and awe in Jeremiah's eyes when he realized Grandpa was in Heaven with Jesus. I saw the boys dressed in their suits at the funeral home, being loved and tended to by relatives from all directions. I remember their excitement over climbing Stone Mountain with Uncle Carl. I saw Samuel and Mitchell teaching them things, helping with homework, playing with them. I saw Hannah drawing with them in the driveway with chalk, all of us decorating Easter eggs together, then the boys searching frantically for the "Golden Egg" the next day in the Easter Egg hunt. After Easter, Jeremiah was ring-bearer in Becky's wedding. He was listed in the wedding program as "nephew of the bride." They were in every detail of my life, so much that it seemed they had always been there.
While the boys' mom talked on and on about her pain and suffering over the last year, my lip trembled as I realized I may soon lose my little companions. At night when I tuck in Jeremiah, we laugh and talk quietly. And just before he falls asleep, I tell him, "Jeremiah, I always wanted to have a little boy to take care of. God sent me one..." and he asks "Who?" and I say, "You!" and he grins and throws an arm across me, whispering, "I yuv you, Melissa." In the other bedroom, Peniel always crawls into bed with Mitchell because he is afraid of noises in the yard at night. After Jeremiah drifts off, I go into their room and look at them huddled together with coon-skin hats on, little pioneers. If Peniel is still awake when I go into their room, he says, "Melissa, will you pray to us?" and we pray together. If I forget to pray for someone, Peniel will interrupt the prayer to say "Don't forget . . . Grandma!" or, "don't forget . . . Mrs. Karen." So I know he is really listening.
All at once, on the Thursday before Mother's Day, I was again overwhelmed with sorrow and grief. I knew there would be conversations, decisions to be made, a possible court battle. I knew there was so much ahead to do in order to discover the "best interests" of my two little ones. But what it felt like initially was that I had been given two children, and then they had been taken away, just as my two angels in Heaven had been years before.
I have been battling with God over my infertility for many years now. It has been the subject of many prayers and late-night chats in the car between me and the Lord. I have begged God, pleaded with God to show me someone in the Bible that I could relate to.  It felt as though every single story of infertility in the Bible ends with God blessing the infertile woman with a baby! Sometimes in old age, sometimes in the middle of a wacky polygamous family of first-cousins, and always out of the clear blue when they least expected a miracle.  I still have hope that this might happen for me, but my experiences with life have taught me to "hope for the best, prepare for the worst." I step out of my doctor's office feeling my hope has been cut off completely. It takes all the faith I have ever had in 34 years to "believe" it might still happen for me.  But I have begged (literally pleaded) with God to show me someone in the Bible who walked in my shoes. There has to be someone- there had to be a woman who was part of God's plan who wasn't granted her miracle baby because she prayed all night and cried like a drunk person, or felt into a heap of ashes and tore her clothing. There has to be someone, somewhere in those sixty-six books who didn't get her "wish" granted. WHERE IS SHE?
On Friday after my emotional Thursday night, it came to me. Maybe "it" didn't come to me, but God spoke to me. He spoke to me in the bathtub. This is where I cry the most. When you have children in your home you can't fall apart at the dinner table or sob uncontrollably while folding the laundry. You have to be discreet so you don't freak them out. So I do my best crying in the tub while the water is running loudly. So there I was, crying in the tub, my heart ripped out of my chest, staring at the bathtub toys all around me, Jeremiah's squid, Toy Story bath scrubber, and crayola soaps. I guess it's only natural this should come to me in the water. It came to me so clearly I almost fell back under the water.
It was Pharaoh's daughter. I am Pharaoh's daughter . . .
I opened the basket.
Little Baby Moses- chosen from the start to lead God's people. So loved by his natural mother, kept safely hidden so he wouldn't be harmed. She kept him for three months. She loved him for three months. She sang to him, rocked him, fed him, and prayed over him for three months. And then she did the only thing she knew to do. She made him a waterproof basket. She put him in the little vessell and placed him in the River. How could she do it? How could she give him up? She didn't know what the future held for him, but somehow she trusted in an invisible God enough to put that baby into His hands and believe that his future was secure without her in it?
Somewhere farther down the river, with his sister watching from the bank, the basket made it's way to where Pharoah's daughter was just minding her own business - bathing. I don't know if she had children, I don't know if she was married. I just know that she was living her life, and someone else's child came drifting into her bathtub. What did she think when she saw that basket? Was it common for people to send little basket boats rolling down the river with an infant inside? Regardless, she opened the basket. She opened the basket and she saw the beautiful baby inside. There could have been a poisonous snake inside, there could have been a severed head. Who knows what passed through her mind, but she opened the basket. And once she opened that basket, there was no turning back.
I am sure there were days when Pharoah's daughter felt she was incapable of being a good mother. I am sure there were days when the burden of slavery upon the Hebrew people made it difficult to raise a child who was a member of another race. I am certain that watching Moses grow and eventually return to his biological family was heartbreaking.  But I am also sure that she never, ever regretted her decision to save him, and raise him as her own.