One of the hardest and best days of my life….august 13th,2011:
I have had so much to write about lately that I honestly have not known where to start…kind of like beholding the Grand Canyon and trying to figure out where to take the first step on your adventure–there are many paths left uncharted. So I feel the same in regards to my heart…a multitude of stories packed away in mind over the last 34 years, especially the last 3 months—I am not sure which one to unwrap first. This story for me has been like watching a puzzle come together, a puzzle in which I was a piece and didn’t even know it until june 6th.
Over the last month, I have decided I am going to write a book starting with my mom’s story interweaving it with Posey’s arrival and even including this last month as many other wild events have occurred. Though separated by four decades, they are knitted together with the same thread. These events are so beautiful and miraculous that if I weren’t to write them down I feel like I would be bottling up a huge carafe of hope only to drink out of it myself. And I just can’t do that—I have to pour it out for you to drink of as well. Because at the end of the day we all need to know that God is not some crutch when we have nothing left or a mean grandfather out to get us when we stray. He is bigger than our most piercing pain and our loudest doubt. God isn’t just some feel good, aloof character you read about in your storybook bible—He is real and most importantly though life hands us the cruelest of cruel events: He IS good.
There have been so many more marvels to occur even since Posey’s birth that I have literally carried a journal with me each day to write them down out of fear I will forget them. They are as astounding as they are numerous. Whenever I even begin to try to take them in I get paralyzed in wonderment…I just cannot believe what Jesus has done. So, these next months I may not be blogging as much because I will be trying to write this story…it’s the first time in my life that I have wanted to write something not because I wanted it published but because I feel so passionate about telling the full story that my heart might burst and my fingertips might explode if they don’t get to dance on the keyboard each day and type out what God has been up to since 1970, when my mom’s own painful journey started. In fact once a week I am sitting down with my mom…me ,her, Posey and my notepad. I am writing down ever doggone detail starting with 1969. Sometimes I think my eyes cry more than I write but somehow when the tears fall the stories get etched in my mind in a way that no pen or pencil could capture and no eraser can erase. At times it feels like I am listening to the soundtrack to some old epic drama that got lost in the pile, instead of my mom’s life.
But for now…
I want to share with you about the day after Posey was born. Rather that following evening. Probably one of the most emotionally intense days of my life. The whole adventure in the hospital was surreal, I felt like I was watching myself outside myself if that makes any sense at all. We were at the hospital on that hot, humid, glorious day Posey was born. We even hung out with the birth mother, Annie, before her c-section, then once she was prepped and ready to go we were whisked away to a waiting room to do what you do in a waiting room..wait,wait,and wait some more. I hated that degum waiting room. It was cold enough to hang meat in there and my adrenaline was in full gear so my knees were knocking due to the rush. Every second seemed to crawl by—it felt like God had put time on slow mo. I had never done this before, we had never done this before. My mind went north,south,east, and west. I tried to make some phone calls to take my mind off my anxiety but that seemed to just make me my anxiety quadruple. I tried to talk to Seth and talk out what I was feeling but even that made me even more riled up. Seth then tried to comfort me with a greasy egg and cheese bagel that looked delicious if I was hung over or trying to fulfill my daily fat count in one sitting, but even that much grease couldn’t absorb my bliss-anxiety-scared-happy-can’t-wait-to-meet-my-daughter emotions out of my mind moment. So I did what soothes me the most…I wrote. I wrote what the walls looked like, what the room smelled like, what Seth was wearing, what I was wearing, what we talked about in Annie’s prep room, and the temperature outside. If it was running through my head then my pen grabbed it and found it a place to sit on my journal pages. Anything to get my mind to calm down. I swear if I could’ve swiped a klonapin wafer off someone I would have eaten a dozen with no remorse. From about 10 a.m. to 11 :20 a.m., I wrote and waited. Wrote and waited. Seth and I both with quivering knees and, we said nothing at all while saying everything…this was the moment. We were about to meet our daughter.
Then SLAM. BAM.
The door slung open to our waiting room, a nurse with an elated look on her face peeked her head in and blurted out military style, “Jennings family…I need one of you NOW!” Huh? What? Then I peered out further beyond the door into the hallway and there was this tiny precious little baby all swaddled in one of those roll away cribs you find in hospital nurseries—she still had afterbirth on her—she was just seconds old. The nurse exclaimed, “meet your daughter!” my pen fell out of my right hand, my trembling knees ceased and every tear between here and Texas came flooding my eyes.
I mean how do you even respond to this kind of moment? It was the same white-knuckled excitement as the day Roman was born just in a totally different way. I felt like on both days someone pushed me out of an airplane 30,000 feet high in the air and said “FLY”. Only difference was this time I was afraid someone gave me a faulty parachute. The only place I wanted to land was on the ground of Posey knowing that we were beyond elated and thrilled that God had allowed us to be her parents and that she would feel that love each and every day of her life.
As I ran down the hallway with this nurse, Beth, she was the labor and delivery nurse. Beth was crying as we scurried down the hallway telling me that this baby was so special because every day she sees babies go home with families where they don’t stand a chance, which was peculiar because she had no clue to any details of the story. Seth was following suit since we could only be issued one bracelet and I was the one to receive it, since I was the mother to Posey. Beth handed me over to Lisa… this sweet, dainty, yet fiery woman who was now our pediatric nurse. Seth darted to the nursery to peek at us through copious glass windows. Windows that only divided us physically, because I could feel his heart overflow even with the thick glass between us. You could have put up a cement wall and I would have felt his anticipation ooze right through—the human heart truly cannot be contained by our greatest physical efforts. Love has a way of pushing you up off your feet without doing a thing. The human heart can truly escape time and space when the passion is enough. And the passion could not be contained.
All that to say, I was half crying, half talking to my nurse Lisa trying to explain this crazy story while she took Posey’s temperature, and gave her eye drops. And as my heart danced and twirled like a little girl who found out she was a real princess who was giving an immense treasure,–there was a part of me that was shushed by the thought of Annie, a woman who had become my friend, someone I loved dearly. My brightest moment was her darkest hour. Though I was on an emotional high, the tide of her pain would splash me in the face. Not that I could feel her loss, no…I could never dare say I felt the depths of her heartache…it’s just that I was aware of it. I was conscious that just yards away someone was in their emotional midnight hour as I was beholding light. All I could think of was my mom and that she had done the very same thing at the very same hospital forty years prior, with no one at her side, no friends, no family, no one…just as the birth mother, Annie, was doing that very moment. It hit close to home for me, rather, it knocked the front door off. And I spent most of that day one foot in the land of elation of my sweet baby girl and the other foot in the land of the past—sorting through memories, experiences that had lead me to this day…this moment in time. As if I was on top of the mountain and I could now see what I could not see for 34 years…I thought about the morning my mom revealed her secret to me, I thought about how I had always had a heart for young women in crisis due to my mom’s own journey and seemed to always struggle to understand what that meant in regards to my own life, I thought a lot about my mom and her being along as she gave birth. All those experiences weren’t just because. All those blunders were leading me right here to August 12,2011.
August 12th, 2011 was a day of jubilation and though we had no official room yet because the hospital was booked to capacity, we loved on our sweet baby girl in the hospital board room. It didn’t matter…the love for your child isn’t validated by a maternity suite; it is validated by the heart. And in those four sterile, curative walls I just stared at Posey…as did Seth. I didn’t even know she existed 8 weeks prior. And here I stood in love. After case worker visits and umpteen pieces of paper to fill out we got a bonified room. It was kind of bizarre/nice to be in a hospital room and set up hotel for a while as I didn’t need any real medical help. It was like a Hampton Inn that smelled and looked very medicinal. Though the physical part of Posey’s birth was easy, the emotional part rivaled that of a 48 hour labor. Here we were just feet away from Annie, me rejoicing, her shedding tears of loss. I couldn’t escape it even in my euphoria over Posey. I think my mom’s story just connected me to Annie like a magnet…I could just feel it’s force…my bond with her. As if I was linked to her despite those 10 rooms that separated us and the newfound silence that now felt like an iron curtain between us.
Though we had a healthy, loving relationship…Annie and I did not know what to expect our relationship to be after Posey was born. We knew the adoption would be closed in regards to Posey…but in regards to us it was not known yet- would she even be able to stand the sight of us? Those 36 hours after Posey’s birth kind of felt like waiting to hear if your loved ones name was going to be called off the list of those killed in combat. Had I lost our friendship? Will we resent me? Will she even see me the same..as just Lindsay? Will she want Posey back?
You see, each adoption journey is different and as unique as DNA. For Annie and me, I felt like I was losing someone I loved, someone that had sacrificially given me one of the greatest gifts of my life. I had never done this before, but back in June I sat on the phone with Boothe crying my eyes out asking God to give me the perfect boundaries with Annie as we had just become such good friends. That may seem weird but as I said before every journey as unique as we are as humans.
I knew this day would come and I had been preparing myself for it since I met Annie. In fact, I sat in my car, outside my house talking on the phone one evening with Boothe in late June, I just asked Boothe to pray for me…pray that the Lord would give me the perfect, healthy boundaries for Annie and me. Not boundaries that everyone would understand or approve or disprove, but boundaries that would pour forth peace when lived within them. Because where God wills He provides. So I knew whatever He wanted our relationship to be, He would provide the emotional energy and strength.
So I spent most of Friday and all Saturday with a heart that overflowed and a mind that could not rest. I felt like someone had given me steroids, I was just hyped up. Friday evening came and though the sun went to sleep I did not…there was too much on my mind. We were bombarded by family overjoyed to see Posey all Saturday evening, and during that time a hospital release tennis match began.
Not a real tennis match. But it felt like a hospital version of Wimbledon to me
Due to an unexpected surge in births, the rooms were at capacity and since I wasn’t using it for any medical reasons we were first on the list to get “cut”—even though we weren’t set to leave til Sunday. But there was some kind of gap in communication because for one minute there would be room for us and the next minute there would not. One nurse would come in and say, “you are released, then another you aren’t released. Back and forth. You are staying. You are going.” While I wanted to get out of that friggin’ place because it felt like an emotional prison, I also wanted Annie to have someone with her when she said her forever goodbye to Posey.
I finally took a nurse aside and just said, “hey, I don’t care if we have to spend the night in the hallway, we cannot let Annie say goodbye alone…she has no one here tonight. The one girl that she had become good friends who had also given a baby up for adoption couldn’t come til the morning and Pat, Boothe’s aunt was at a wedding. The nurse looked perplexed at my request, but I was kindly persistent. There was no way in hell I was leaving her to contend with saying goodbye to Posey alone. I may be easy going, but the tiger can come out of me when it has to and this was one of those times. We were staying if we had to sleep on cold tiles.
In the meanwhile they had told Annie we were released before they told us. So in essence it looked like we were trying to “escape” with no goodbye and from there the lack of communication just multiplied like rabbits. Those 2 hours after that initial miscommunication was intense. I could feel the tug and pull as if a rope was getting knottier and knottier all because intentions were getting mistranslated.
During all the rigmarole, my nurse, Mary, came in, she was sweet and gentle and in a soft tone she uttered, “ we told the birth mother you all were being released. She’s teary eyed but she’ll be fine…” She’ll be fine, I thought?? Yeah and if I get shot by a bullet in the brain I will be just fine too..what?!!!
I started to just shake as that is what I do when I get stressed, my body rattles as if it can’t contain the self-injected cortisone and adrenaline. I was trying to keep it all in since we still had company in our room. Then as I was so upset by the lack of communication and I looked over at my phone and saw that Annie had texted me saying she wanted to say “goodbye” and then another text asking to see me. It kind of felt like getting a note from the President saying he wanted to see you…summoned. Was I in good standing or being discharged? I read the text and just tried to process what this moment meant as everyone orbited around me cooing and awing over sweet Poesy. I sat there in our 10 x 10 sterile room, but I was a million miles away.
As our family left, I told Seth I had received the text and that I felt I really needed to go down there even though we had thought that we would not see one another again. I remember it like it was yesterday—if my brain had the ability to chew I would dare say I can still taste it. I had white shorts on with a black tank and a red and white funky pin striped cardigan to fight the frigid hospital temperatures. Very symbolic of how the whole weekend felt- darkness and light brought together by love.
I was shaking and whispering loudly to myself, “God don’t make me go down there. I can’t do this. I can’t face her. This is too much. It felt like I was about to bring a wedding feast into a funeral—that’s the only way I know to describe it. It was too much. God, this is why I didn’t want to walk this road. What if she changes her mind? What if both of our hearts are about to be shattered? What if?
I was mad a t God again. (yes,I have a pattern…)
As I walked down those reticent cemented wide hallways of the maternity floor towards Annie’s room, I remember the Lord saying to me in that same voice I heard at the grocery store, that voice like gentle thunder say, “I have been preparing you for this moment since you were 14…you GO in that room. I am with you.”
With cold, yet sweaty hands, I opened the door to find Annie balling her eyes out sitting Indian style on her bed alone and I then began to shiver and shake at the sight of it. I couldn’t get control of myself. I stood about 3 feet away as she sat in her bed. Standing there looking upon her, while I was convulsively crying—like the ugly cry where you can’t get control of your face gestures and half trying to talk I said this over and over again: “I don’t want to do this. I am so sorry. I am so sorry. I am sorry.”
It was the goodbye—the whole transistion. I didn’t want to have to see her do it. I couldn’t let my mind go there much less physically partake in it. She was literally laying her life down for Posey’s good and I was going to have to watch it. As the nails were being put in her heart. They were being pulled out of mine. There was so much contrast in that room that black and white would have blended in. Me now gaining a daughter, her losing one. Me surrounded by all those I love. Her alone. Me as joyous as ever. Her in utter despair and grief. It was so intense it made the most dramatic scene of any Oscar winning drama feel like an episode of Mickey Mouse.
Once we could get a leash on our tears that had run wild, I sat down and we began to just talk. As in a no bull, straight from the heart kind of banter. There was no dancing around the fact that this was awkward at the least, heart wrenching at the most. Our emotions ran as high as our love for Posey.
Annie began to tell me she never held Posey as she was recommended to do in counseling in order to grieve and “move on”. She went on to tell me that she had beaten herself up about it because she wanted to hold her, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t let that wall down. And she feared one day if she met Posey she would have to tell her “ I never held you.” She was letting this thought torment her as she sat alone in her room. You know how it is when you are by yourself with your thoughts for much too long—all the “what if’s” literally take over any brain cells that have an ounce of sanity. Just watch Tom Hanks in “Castaway” if it hasn’t happened to you.
It just tore at my heart. No, it ripped it out and stomped on it. But as emotionally difficult as that night was it was equally liberating as I knew we needed that time, just us. As friends. She needed to know that I loved her not because she was giving me Posey, but because I genuinely loved her. And I needed to know she still loved me for me—that she did not resent me or want Posey back. That this was real. The pain. The joy. The sacrifice. The gift. All of it was being felt.
I tell you about this night because it was a night etched forever in my heart. Like an etch-a-sketch when it gets broken…nothing can undo what has been imprinted. As I walked down that hospital hallway at ten o’clock at night on the way to Annie’s room I realized that God really had been preparing me for this moment since I was 14 years old sitting on my Laura Ashley bedspread with my mom. I remember back to my journal when I was in eighth grade, where I wrote that there was something about that morning in 1991 when my mom told me of her secret, her shameful, drama filled journey that beckoned me to pay attention— it was that same gentle, yet thunderous voice that I heard in the grocery store when Boothe told me about Annie. It seems looking back that God has used his spirit in the same way, over and over to get my attention at the major crossroads of my life even when I had no idea they were crossroads, I just thought I was aimlessly walking. With each major event, whether my mom sitting on my bed unloading her past or walking down to Annie’s room the night of August 13th, God speaks in that same cryptic, yet crystal clear voice, crying out softly: “This is one more piece of the puzzle.”
You know, truth is, God does this with all of us. Our experiences shape who we are—they affect what we do with our lives and who we choose to become. And they either make us free or chained. Bitter or grateful . We either use them as wings to lift us up and help others. Or we can let them weigh us down and tether us—allowing whatever has happened to us to tie our own souls in knots and let our hearts stay in bondage.
That Saturday evening wasn’t about walking down a hallway scared out of my mind, fearing the worst. That night was like the middle piece in a puzzle being put into place—all the other pieces revolved around it. In those few, short steps down to her room, I felt like my soul ran a marathon spiritually. But between my room and hers, my soul finally crossed the finish line- “I got it”.
I was being prepared for this encounter all my life. God had equipped with me with everything I needed to walk in that room and meet her where she was. There was no need to fear.
What I want you to know from that night is that whatever you are going through, a lot or a little. It’s not just because. God’s not bored and using your pain as entertainment. Nor has he overlooked your heartache. He sees it. All of it. This was not His plan. Nope. Not at all.
But He takes what is meant to break us, destroy us and uses it as the very thing that makes us fly. One catch though: It’s only IF we allow Him.
I am in no way saying I have walked your shoes or know your journey. I would never be as audacious as to even pretend I know what you have gone through or are going through. But I will say, we are not on this earth to get by. We are here to share our stories. To help one another. To love one another. God LOVES using us to love on one another.
So whatever it is, don’t live aimlessly and get by in this life. There are too many hopeless people silently dying. Take whatever has been your story and make it the lifeline that reaches out to someone drowning it the same waters you have treaded in yourself.
That’s when life goes from existing to living.