I am sitting across from a young woman in Village Inn, arriving after she phoned me earlier in sobs. She sat quickly and I immediately notice her swollen eyes. “What will being a birth mother be like?” the young, expecting woman asks me carefully
“Like nothing you could ever expect,” I say, hoping my voice provides a calmness she can draw from.
“I know,” she says, “I will miss him so much.”
But that is not what I mean at all. I look at this young woman, who is so very much a reflection of my own self years ago when I too was faced with a crisis pregnancy, and I try to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes.
I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, “What if that is my child?” and that every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her.
I look at her sitting there so afraid and so overwhelmed and I want to tell her that no matter how unbearable her feelings are now, once she’s a birth mother, she will have no choice but to be strong.
I feel I should tell her that the stylish clothes she wears and the accessories she owns will soon no longer compare to the name-brand tag reading “birth mother” that society will see all over her.
I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, or the goals she has to do so, she will be able to do them with or without raising her baby. She might return to work after relinquishment only to be disoriented by the lingering smell of her precious newborn. She may overhear her coworkers talking about the great childcare they found, or the first steps of their children and suddenly realize that even her career was not worth it.
I also want to show her the face of a birth mother’s pride when she succeeds in life, despite the loss, and as she accepts her raise, her promotion, or her diploma, I want her to see the moment a birth mother closes her eyes, drowns everyone else out and whispers to her baby in thought, “I’m going to make you proud.”
I want her to know that everyday activities will no longer be routine. That simply passing children playing on the street will choke her throat with a longing to hear the laughter of her own child. That even going to the store and watching a five-year-old boy throw a fit in the candy aisle will cause her to forget what she came for and she will go running for the seclusion of her car, only to sit and cry for hours.
Looking at this precious reflection of my own self, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That she will begin to hope for more years—not only to accomplish her own dreams, but to one day watch her child accomplish his.
I want her to know that a cesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor. While she may hide them from the public, when alone, she will look if only to remind her of time spent with her child.
I wish she could understand the powerful emotion that comes when she last holds her baby in her arms before handing him over forever. And I want to place in her hands the infinite spiritual connection that will keep her tied to him.
I think she should know that she will fall in love again for reasons she would now find very unimportant and the lifestyle she led before pregnancy will never again return, nor will she desire it to. And That now she will sit down to write letters and journal entries, hoping for the right man, the right friend, to come along and be trustworthy of the story of her birth motherhood.
I wish this precious girl could sense the bond she will feel with others throughout history that have made these same decisions. I want to tell her how desperately she will need to seek them out for refuge. I want to tell her of the sisterhood that she will join—the millions of others who, without words, can hear the beating of her own heart.
I hope she will understand the silent honor she will keep as she begins this journey that so few have the courage to take. How can I tell her that she will become someone she never knew possible?
I want to describe to this frightened young woman the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts. And I want to tell her that she will witness these things as a full-fledged mother, even if only in dreams, or in visits and pictures.
I ache to share with her just a small bit of what she will feel the first time she says, “I am a birth mother,” so that she might know how freeing it is to release the burden and respect her choice, regardless of how others react.
I should tell her of the pride that will swell within her when she sees small children praying in church, when she realizes that because of her choice her baby is alive and loved.
I should try to tell her about the hope and the promise of reunion, and how she will spend years and months preparing to meet her baby as an adult. How nearly every decision she will make from this moment on will be based on making her child happy and proud.
Perhaps I should warn her that she will be asked to continue to sacrifice again and again, if she chooses to be involved in her child’s family, that as she hears her child call out, “Mommy!” the urge to drop everything and run towards her child will be stopped suddenly as his other mother runs by and into his arms.
I should tell her that being a birth mother is a life choice, made at every birthday, every Christmas, every holiday, and even during simple moments when she is suddenly remembering and yet, at the same time, knowing she must continue on.
And I feel I should show her the true spirit of what it is to be a birth mother; the blessings that will follow her life for the choice she will make and the strength and the wisdom she will be granted. She has made the greatest sacrifice any woman could ever make: she has done what was best for her child.
The young woman’s quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes. “You’ll never be the same.” I finally say.