I opened the door to what had become known in my house as the baby’s room. Placing the newborn-sized pants in the plastic attic-bound bin, I noticed that the throw pillows on the bed were still arranged like the perfect fortress, one I had built myself to protect my little baby Hopper.
Though he was not flesh of my flesh, I had nursed him to health. With abandon, he was clothed in luxury layette, knowing full well he would eventually be going home to his birth Mom once she was able to care for him.
I knew my heart was in real trouble, as the innate bonds of motherhood strengthened. God was unfolding the task of what he was calling me to do, but nobody in my life, including myself, could have fully understood the sacrifice. I endured endless inquisitions from well-meaning friends about how and why he came to live with me, while I readily poured out my life to keep him safe.
It was a Tuesday when my phone rang and I received the news that Hopper was going home. His birth Mom had paid her debt to society and completed everything that was asked of her. Thus began a final week together when I cherished every last thing we did as we made our final memories inside the cocoon that had been our existence. When we finally got down to things like the last bath, last diaper change, and last bottle, I started to feel God giving me permission to move forward with my life.
Because he was a little fussy on the morning he was set to go home, likely cueing from my grief, I tried to quiet him with my love by holding him close. When that didn’t do the trick, I cradled him in my left arm and covered the side of his face with his special blankie. He fell fast asleep in my arms while gazing at me with a look that called me Mama, since I was the only Mama he had ever really known. I began to pray the 91st Psalm over him. Minutes later, the knock at the door told me that the time I had borrowed with this precious one was no more.
I was greeted with patience until I gained enough strength to break the seal of physical closeness. My hands trembled as I loaded him into the car seat in an impromptu, yet solemn, fashion. With the click of the buckle, he was fully awake and beginning to giggle and coo. Kissing his cheeks, while covering my sobs, I mourned the innocence of his being unaware that everything he had ever known was about to be taken away from him, including me.
As the van drove away, I could see the little leather shoes I bought him kicking away in the car seat. He was gone. My head knew that because of what I had done for Hopper he would have the ability to trust others, possess a sound mind, and feel secure about himself. The deposit I made in him would be an everlasting one that had helped him to work through the early trauma he had experienced. Because I attached to him, Hopper would now be able to attach to his birth mom, but, believe me when I say, all those noble things didn’t soothe the grief I felt. I just had to have faith that God’s strong arms of comfort in Hopper’s life were mightier than my own.
So it took a while after he went home, but when I was ready, I opened the door to Hopper’s room, breathed deeply, and started to take down the little throw pillow fort I had made for him. With the pillows now neatly arranged on the bed, I stored away the last of the clothes he had outgrown, then folded up the two receiving blankets where I had brushed his hair after his final bath.
I will never consider myself as a failure for having invested my emotions into a child who was not my own. When he first came into my world, people I knew were shocked, having no recollection of a pregnancy. I didn’t know exactly how to explain my role without exposing his birth Mom, but finally, I just learned the best way to avert another dreaded interrogation was by simply saying the words I will always hold dear, “This is my son. His name is Hopper.”
Read Brandi’s column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.