Nobody could have initially fathomed the sacrifice of caring for a newborn infant of the woman who has become known to my friends and family as birth mom. This emotional investment both enriched my life and called me to willingly bear a wound of loss that would heal only at its own determined pace.
Though our relationship began out of the most adverse circumstances, I developed a close friendship with birth mom Christal. Through the glass, I saw her—a natural beauty even without a stitch of makeup, the long-limbed blue-eyed vision looked haggard from sorrow, her eyes filled with tears.
We connected instantly, recalling similar recollections of a rural agricultural upbringing. We compared our favorite methods for frying chicken and debated what kind of bait is best for catching white perch. We stood in agreement that without a man around to clean the fish, why there is absolutely no point in fishing at all. Whenever it was time to part ways, Christal’s body always wracked with tears as I witnessed the raw pain of her little baby Hopper being left behind yet again.
I wish I could report being some all-wise Mother SugarPoppins that had it all together with my perfect house, folded laundry, and never ending smile; but it was quite the opposite. Sometimes, it was me, not the baby who was awakened belly down in the middle of the living room floor, drool dripping down my cheek. My exhaustion was overcome by a drive to empower both birth mom and baby for a renewed chance at life.
When Hopper came to me, birth mom provided a few minimal items, but sadly, there were neither any subsequent baby showers by my people to honor the baby’s life, nor empathy for my new assignment of staying awake around the clock. Even the most well-intentioned people made an assumption that I had brought this upon myself so why bother. I received an occasional how’s it going text, but very few wanted to be involved any further.
Unlike the experience of biological child-bearing that makes a patient out of Mama, too, nobody in my life truly understood enough about my calling to pay a visit or deliver meals. Without the fresh physical scars of motherhood, my friends and family were blind to “the baby”. I received everyday requests during my most difficult sleepless nights to be just the regular old me, once being asked to prepare a meal for a young lady in the community who had just come home with her newborn, because she was going to need all the help she could get with that baby.
Another generally sweet lady pointed out without hesitation what she perceived as my shortcoming of loving Hopper too much. I endured endless scornful inquisitions on behalf of the birth parents, while my heart only knew that at the present time I was THE parent and I would love with abandon, even though he was only going to be with me for some unknown timeframe. In spite of the lack of understanding from good people, I kept my focus and had his routine down like some kind of baby whisperer.
In exchange for the dignity I had shown Christal as a woman, she offered me enough grace to cry right along with me at the thought of the eventual severing of ties. As two loving mothers, we agreed that the baby’s emotions, not our own, were going to be our main concern during his transition. The triumphant sister to my grief was birth Mom’s victory in becoming the kind of survivor who could provide a safe and nurturing environment.
His going home was a good thing, but my void was not met with any visits. The mail came daily as usual, but did not include any sympathy cards. There were no flowers in his memory and no meals provided for my family through our time of deep loss, yet the grief of saying goodbye to both of them was real as we struggled to find a new normal.
In time would we see them again? We had no idea. Though I was not ready to file these two dear ones away in the place where people are but a memory, there was no other choice. I returned to the old life I had abandoned, confident that I had effectively stood in for not only Christal, but for Christ, giving everything I had with an expectation of nothing in return. I was thankful I hadn’t listened to all the naysayers, for I understood a little more than ever before what love truly is.
To read the first part of Brandi’s article Borrowed Time, click here.
Read Brandi’s column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.