There was the day I walked up the stairs and saw him rocking, there in the pastel green nursery, holding the sleeping baby with the full Gerber cheeks. Water falling, a single tear sliding to his chin.
“I want to always be his daddy,” He whispered, one man- finger gently caressing the soft baby skin.
The words caught in my heart and twisted sore. It will be two years of calling him our own, two years of watching him grow up from that tiny seven pound baby into a curious toddler. Two years of first smiles, first giggles, first coos, and first steps.
When he jumped in my arms at the sight of his birth mother, right there in the visitation room of a stone building at a state prison, what was that ripping open in my soul? How can a 3 month old baby know his mother by sight when he’s been with her a total of five times? And I would lie to say there was no gut-wrenching, knife-stabbing pain in my innards, but I would also lie if I told you I felt no joy either.
It was a strange mixture of emotions that washed over me, when he wriggled his arms wild and bounced on my lap at the sight of his Mommy Jen. “Did you see that?” I whispered low to Ryan, and the words came out raspy and thick.
His eyes caught my gaze and he nodded slow, affirming what I’d thought I’d seen. And then she was there, the woman who’d birthed this chubby little love, and I hugged her and placed him in her arms. Sheer joy at their delight in each other mingled with tearing pain that squeezed.
It is easy to talk of loving the fatherless, but walking in those shoes, breathing in that skin – it’s a whole other story.
I’ve held him at nap time, watching his lip quiver uncontrollably in his sleep, soaking his blanket in my tears. How will I ever give him up?
When my sister-in-law Emily first talked with me about this wild Leo journey we were embarking on, her big eyes were bright with confident hope and she said, “It’s like Hannah!”
Hannah with her gift- of-God Samuel. Hannah, who gave her blessed son right back to the Father. Hannah who said:
“Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life.” 1. Samuel 1:11
Some women will push their children from their womb in a bloody gush and there are others who will birth babies in the ventricles of their heart, but every mother faces that lofty call from God – to relinquish their holdings on the soul of their child, to surrender the destiny of their offspring into the hands of our heavenly Father.
When the knees wobble feebly and my lip quivers with fear, when my heart gasps all out of breath because I don’t know how I’ll ever give him up, I remember Hannah’s promise to God.
I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life.
As imperfect mothers, as barren women who long to be mothers, we can live Hannah’s prayer because we can know that though the world waxes worse and worse, our God is and always will be the King of the universe.
And this is why I can sing to my boy, as his eyelids droop shut, “I love you forever, I love you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”
I touch his little beating heart with my hand and I whisper through my tears, “Wherever you go, Leo man, Mama Nae will love you. No matter what happens, Leo man, you will always be my little boy. Forever. For always. I’ll be right here.”
And his eyelids flutter open for just one minute, as if to give me a reassuring look. Then he sighs and his shoulders shudder and I lay him down to sleep.
When I lay him down and cover him gently with his green and white homemade blanket, I know that Leo man will not be the last little man or woman to be our child. I don’t know how or when, but God has used this tiny little soul to open our eyes to see His heart for His children, to show us the writing on the wall of our heart, unknown names of children inscribed with ink that cannot be erased.
And I know it, that this wild journey is really just beginning.