A couple weekends ago, I sat with tears flowing freely listening to a mama share her story of the day she gave birth to her first-born and subsequently relinquished him for adoption. The same day. That little conference room became a sanctuary while we listened to her pain and processed through our own. It brought me back to another conference room that I sat in, with a group of social workers, therapists, and administrators while they decided that the mama sitting across from me at the table would not be permitted to take her own baby home from the hospital when she was born. The mama’s flaws were enumerated for everyone in that room to evaluate, and she was deemed unworthy. She was judged, and she was found wanting. I remembered my own anticipation of the days when my children were born and felt the despair that surely that mama must feel thinking about the day she would labor in vain.
Fast forward to 10 days after that same baby was born, I’m with this mama in the waiting room before a team meeting at the agency when the person who had actually taken that baby home from the hospital to care for her entered with that baby in arms. The first time this sweet mama had seen her baby since the day she was born. I’ve never in my life seen the kind of grief on a face as that mama’s face right then. The rawness and holiness of that moment caused the rest of us in that room to literally have to look away. It felt obscene to watch. Witnessing a family in the middle of death like that still makes my stomach clench and my whole body shudder.
Something shifted inside me that day. I didn’t get that warm fuzzy feeling that you get when you help someone out. I came away from both of those days broken and grieving, for this woman I had grown to care for, for her children who were blameless in all of this, for a system that makes terrible decisions like this, and for this messed-up world where things are broken and sometimes never get put back together. This is a painful messy section of the world that our family has entered into.
My willingness to stand watch with this woman during the time when her family was being torn apart, my willingness to sit and weep with her while she tried to put things back together, those things are the very things that positioned me to be in a place where we’re now facebook friends – she and her extended family and me. I get to see happy status updates celebrating little kids’ milestones. I get to see pictures of birthdays and holidays and everything in between as they make their way together. This is the story I get to bear witness to now. It’s not just a story where all that there is is brokenness and death. I have plenty of those stories too, but this is a story that ends with this baby and her sibling back with their mama. That’s a story I want to tell again and again and again.