It's May 31st. This day is so special to me because it's the day I became a mother. This day is celebrated as what our family affectionately calls "Gotcha Day." It's the day a tiny baby boy, just 3 weeks old and still in preemie clothes, was placed in my arms by the girl who gave him life.
She was just 15, yet somehow she seemed braver than me. I was trying to be aware of everything. Up until the moment I walked into that lawyer's office in Ohio, I had only seen a glimpse of him in a small, blurry photo. I will never forget the memory as long as I live. I was so nervous, so worried I wouldn't know what to do, so scared about the reality that was sinking in. I hoped she wouldn't see my fear and say I was unfit. I looked at her first. She sat calmly as she held him. She seemed void of emotion, yet I knew the impact of it all would forever etch this moment in her mind for different reasons. I looked down at him. I was trying not to burst into tears but I was so overwhelmed with emotions. So many emotions. So aware of this moment that would serve as an altar to forever remind me of God's faithfulness and answer to prayer.
This was my delivery room. This was where my son would be placed in my arms after years of laboring. This was the culmination of a nearly three year journey that represented my stretch marks, labor and delivery. They weren't physical. They were emotional. Marks that represented growth, lines to serve as reminders of month after month of heartache. Scars to remind me of the tears I cried to The Lord, the prayers of a fervent heart. "However motherhood comes, Lord, please make me a mother." There were even deeper prayers, prayers I wasn't sure I was willing to have Him answer. "God, take away this desire if it's not Your will." He didn't take it away. He answered a different way. His way. I'm so thankful He did.
I always swore I'd get the epidural, but make no mistake I felt every single labor pain in this process of becoming a mother. Every contraction, every twisted contortion of my heart as God was shaping and molding me, stripping away the chaff, breaking down barriers I didn't even know I had, growing me and stretching me in ways I wasn't prepared for and not really asking for either. I'd always heard young mothers say with glowing smiles, "As soon as you hold your baby in your arms, it's all worth it." I wondered if this would be true for me too. It was. Every single tear. Every single prayer. Every journal entry. Every morning, noon and night I lay in the floor of my prayer room, praying to God to make it a baby's nursery, my baby's nursery. He did.
Gotcha Day is the day we celebrate the way God chose to put a tiny little premature baby into this family. He was the answer to more than just my prayer. He was the answer to everyone who would ask, "Have you heard anything yet." Not yet, I'd say, expecting without a due date.
Some people thought waiting for this adoption was like waiting for an organ donor - eventually you get to the top of the list. It was more complicated than organ donation, but make no mistake, I got a heart transplant in the process. I felt as though I was waiting for a missing part of my heart. Everything must be a perfect match. There was a huge risk of rejection. There was no waiting until your name was at the top of the list, but there was a process of elimination. After interviews with birthmothers, acceptance checklists and waiting, there was more waiting, then a birthmother changing her mind, another one choosing someone else, then more waiting.
I would wait until May 31st, this day, our Gotcha Day. My heart transplant day. The day I would watch God orchestrate together a miracle. My miracle. The day He unfolded part of a plan He knew about all along. He knew when I was being knit together in my own mother's womb. He knew as this tiny baby boy was being created in His own image, even when I couldn't feel him kick, even when I wasn't aware of anything other than my empty arms. I watched God let me labor, but it was not in vain. I felt God holding me, even when I was longing to hold my own child.
This is my very own Memorial Day. A day that represents God's faithfulness, even when conventional wisdom seemed dim. A day that serves as a reminder of His answer to prayers, even when the answers come differently than expected. Today is Gotcha Day, the day God showed me He had me all along and He had a perfect plan. Happy Gotcha Day, Eli!