My second trimester came and went. The baby would be here in a few short weeks. I checked the paper frequently for information on Matthew. It looked as if the press had covered up my absence with an extravagant lie about me needing to return home to take care of my sickly aunt. I knew he was still searching for me and it was that thought gave me anxiety about leaving the shelter. I did my dishes in silence that morning wondering what the next chapter in life would hold.
Life at the shelter was great. I felt safe there. I did all of my required assignments and therapy. Art therapy was a particular favorite of mine. I painted abstract pictures of home. The outside world would see the paintings and not make the connection, but I could look at them at be reminded of my loved ones I couldn't make contact with yet. I still received regular e-mails from home but I didn't feel it was safe to respond yet. One afternoon, I got a call from Cassie asking me to meet her at a local diner for dinner. I agreed begrudgingly. Cassie was on a kick about me making a decision about the baby. I had two choices at this point. I could parent, or I could place my baby for adoption. The pros and cons of both weighed heavily on my heart.
I met Cassie that night outside of the diner. She looked excited and I knew she was up to something when she asked me to hear her out before I made a decision. Cassie started by telling me she would support whatever decision I made, and I truly believed she met that, but she needed me to understand my options. Cassie had also invited a couple who was looking to adopt. She wanted me to talk to them and ask questions about the adoption process. I couldn't make a decision if I wasn't informed so I agreed to go in and meet them.
Cassie put her and on my shoulder. "Whatever decision you make will be tough," she said with a smile, "but you are strong enough to handle it." I took a deep breath and thanked her.
Cassie and I walked inside. The couple waved to us from across the diner. They looked pleasant enough. I shook their hands and introduced myself. The wife told me her name was Jennifer and I almost thew up in my mouth when the husband introduced himself as Matthew. Still, I sat down and decided to hear them out. We talked for hours. The couple had been trying for years to have children. I fell in love with Jennifer and Matthew during the short time we spent together. I felt an instant connection with Jennifer. She was kind, patient, and had the touch of a mother. I felt her loss when she spoke about their infertility. These two were amazing people, and more importantly, they were ready to be parents. I thought of all the things they would be able to give my child that I wouldn't be able to. Emotional and financial stability, a great home environment, and a strong foundation. I was sad when our time together had ended and we went our separate ways.
Cassie and I stayed outside after dinner to talk for a while. "Now, there is no pressure Lily, but here is their portfolio so you can read a little more about them," she said as she handed me over the envelope. I was relived at the fact that I still had a little bit of time to make my decision. I went that home that night and poured over the information. The baby kept kicking as if he or she was trying to send me a message. Jennifer and I had so much in common. I really felt like I had gotten to know them. I loved this couple and that made my decision even harder.
Unfortunately, I had a lot less time then I thought I did. My water broke at the shelter about a month after I met Matthew and Jennifer. During that month, I kept in touch with Jennifer through e-mail but I still hadn't made my decision when the contractions started. I called Cassie and took a cab to the hospital. Cassie met me there.
My baby was born that night. She was a girl and she was the most beautiful baby I had ever laid eyes on. I held her and cried. She was so tiny and so perfect. I stayed at the hospital for a few days with baby girl before we were discharged. Cassie came to the hospital to pick me up. The moment I laid eyes on my perfect baby girl I knew what I was going to do. I had already called Cassie the night before to inform her that I had made my decision.
I got back to the shelter and held baby girl in my arms. I fed her a bottle and looked lovingly into her big, beautiful eyes.
I snuggled her tightly as tears ran down my face. "You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love you with all my heart. Please, never forget that," I whispered in her ear. Just then, I heard a knock on the door. I wiped my tears and went to greet Matthew and Jennifer.
With one last snuggle, I passed baby girl into Jennifer's waiting arms. All three of us were hurting for each other in that moment, each feeling the other's losses and gains that day. I didn't think it was possible to be so happy and so sad at the same time. Matthew reassured me we would be in touch and that I would get letters and pictures in the mail.
I knew I was making the right decision. Matthew and Jennifer were prepared to become parents. Could I have done it on my own? Absolutely. It wasn't about whether I could or couldn't, it was about what was right for me. This felt right.
Jennifer told me how grateful she was for me. All she ever wanted in this life was to be a mother. She told me I was making her dreams come true. I knew she would be a fantastic mother. I loved my child more than anything else in the world and I asked Jennifer to tell her that often. "I promise she will know how much you love her," Jennifer assured me. "Have you thought of a name?" I asked her. "Yes. We were thinking Leah," she tried to read my face, "I hope you like it." I looked at Leah. Her perfect little face, her large round eyes, and her pouty lips. "She looks like a Leah," I said looking up and Jennifer and smiling.
The sun went down and the lights came on in the garage. Jennifer squeezed my hand, a silent promise that everything would be okay. "Thank you," she whispered, her eyes filled with tears. Matthew went outside to start the car and Jennifer and I stood in silence, staring at our perfect little Leah.