Courage: “Mental or moral strength to face danger without fear.” This definition is very true, but in recent experiences I have witnessed that real courage is more than facing “danger without fear.”
Real courage is the strength to accept responsibility for your mistakes, without hiding or attempting to blame anyone other than yourself. It is the ability to remain steadfast in a decision affecting the greater good even when it would be easier to give in. But most of all, it is the ability to look fear right in the eye and overcome it to do what is right.
All of these things, and more, have become extremely evident as I have watched my younger sister mature in the past six months.
Learning She Was Pregnant
It seems so long ago, but just four months ago my family learned that my sister had another person growing inside of her body. This baby would be joining us sometime in January. The news shocked not only me and my family, but my sister who was carrying the child as well. She had attempted to make excuses for all the warning signs which pointed to what she felt happening within her body, to no avail.
What frustrated me the most was that the father of the baby had moved across the country to New York, abandoning his responsibilities. This left my sister feeling alone with the implications of whatever decision she made for her baby. So, she leaned heavily on the strength of my mother and the rest of our family. This brought us even closer together.
Seeing Her Courage
My sister showed tremendous courage in accepting that there was nothing she could do but move forward. Rather than dwelling on her situation and feeling sorry for herself, my sister began actively seeking input on what her choices were. She wanted to learn what options she had for the coming months. Ultimately, she was left with two choices. It was too late for an abortion, so she could either keep the child and drop out of school to take care of him (since that’s what she personally felt she’d need to do), or she could place him for adoption.
Courageously Choosing Adoption
My sister ended up contacting an adoption agency and began sifting through various families in search of the right one. I was tremendously impressed by my sister’s decision-making and steadfastness in this process. She had to decide who to entrust with the most important thing in her life. Her choice wasn’t based on the superficial things, like age or appearance. Instead, she based her decision on who would give her son the best life and home possible. Her maturity showed me how much she had grown up and how courageous she truly was as she moved forward in the process.
Meeting with a Hopeful Adoptive Family
I was able to attend a meeting with a family she was considering as the adoptive family for her son. During that meeting, I witnessed my sister muster the courage to ask the family all of the questions she needed answers to. I am not sure I personally would have been able to do that.
Owning Up to the Pregnany
As my sister’s pregnancy became increasingly noticeable as the baby grew larger. Instead of choosing to hide it and remain home from school to avoid embarrassment, my sister refused to be deterred. She continued to attend school and faced all questions without flinching or attempting to deceive anyone about what had occurred and what she was going to do in the future.
It was truly amazing to witness her conversing with her friends in the hallways as if nothing had ever happened, even with immature boys asking asinine questions in the background. Her actions demonstrated courage that many people can only wish they possessed. Her example taught me that real courage is standing proudly despite your mistakes, and doing so amid criticism and opposition.
Supporting Her Courageous Delivery
As her contractions began, it truly became real to me that another life had grown within her. My respect for her grew even more as she endured the pain of preparing for childbirth.
She went in for an appointment on a Wednesday afternoon and subsequently was induced into labor. Amazingly, she gave birth to a beautiful boy some eleven hours later at 12:48 in the morning.
I was worried I wouldn’t be able to see my nephew before he went home with his new family. I had basketball games both Thursday and Friday night, as well as school during the day. Fortunately, things worked out, and I was able to visit my newest family member the day after he was born.
Meeting My Nephew
My heart broke when I walked into my sister’s recovery room and saw the baby she held in her arms. She called him Joshua. While I cradled little Joshua in my arms, I thought about all the events that led to that moment. I found a new appreciation for life. So many things we worry about in our modern world are insignificant. My mother, girlfriend, sister, and I all shed tears over the joy and wonderful perfection of my sister’s tiny baby. We also shed tears for the impending decision my sister faced the following morning. We enjoyed the rest of our time there in the hospital, cooing over every movement and noise Joshua made.
Saturday morning, my stepdad, girlfriend, and I traveled back to Medford for the final time. My sister still had the option of keeping Joshua. The adoption agency required a 48-hour waiting period before a mother could sign anything that would make her decision final.
Finalizing the Adoption
When we arrived that morning, I was struck by the reality of it all. In the room, I noticed everything the flowers on the desk, the soda I had left the day before, and the pile of baby clothes on the counter. But the thing that dominated my mind the most was, of course, young Joshua. His spiky little hair and perfect little nose were more than enough to warm our hearts and bring smiles to our faces. I knew that if this was the way I felt about him, my sister’s feelings were infinitely greater.
As I thought about it, I realized that I didn’t believe she possessed the strength to place Joshua. Maybe he would have a better home and a traditional family, but how could she let something so perfect and wonderful be raised by someone else? Seeing the adoration in her eyes as she stared at him and the care with which she performed every task from burping him to changing his diaper, my belief that she wouldn’t be able to go through with it solidified.
The Adoptive Family Arrives
When the family arrived at the hospital to visit and ultimately leave with Joshua, my sister’s emotions overflowed and tears streamed down her face. Just minutes before their arrival, she signed the relinquishment documents. She did this without a sound. Yet, when they arrived, she realized the process was reaching its final stages and her walls came crashing down.
I could not believe the resolve and courage my sister was demonstrating in placing her only child for adoption. It would have been so incredibly easy for her to just say, “No, I want my baby,” and then move on from there. My mother had thoroughly adovocated for the adoption from the beginning. Now, even she admitted that she secretly wished my sister would change her mind. I was wishing the same thing.
But my sister had the courage and determination to do what she felt was in the best interests of Joshua. She placed him in the arms of a loving family, and we left the hospital.
The Courage to Move Forward
The days that followed were the hardest of her life. Nearly everything reminded her of the tiny life she had placed for adoption. Each reminder set off a new wave of tears and used-up Kleenex.
Nevertheless, as the days passed, her stinging loss and pain over Joshua’s absence began to ease. It was like watching an open wound heal. My sister began to smile and joke with the rest of my family again.
In my eyes, my little sister displayed courage far greater than anything found on any battlefield. She showed courage in carrying out a plan she had months to ponder and contemplate. There were no sudden actions. In fact, each step was a drawn-out and emotionally demanding process. And my sister made it through.
So, I believe real courage can be found outside of danger. It can be found in facing the consequences of our actions and accepting the responsibilities that follow. I think it can go without saying that my sister has learned many lessons from this experience, but I feel like I have learned some things too. Sometimes we need to have the courage to do what is right, no matter the pain and emotional wounds that may follow.