I grew up with the assumption that I would birth children and I wanted four or five; a blend of boys and girls. Coming from a family of seven kids, infertility never crossed my mind.
So when after nine years of marriage, including four years of trying to get pregnant with no success, my husband Kevin and I weighed our three options. We could continue doctor visits and begin fertility treatments, do foster care, or adopt from foster care.
I didn’t want fertility treatment with no guaranteed outcome. Though Kevin was open to fostering, I craved permanence. So together, we turned our hearts toward adoption. Grieving the pain of infertility was a necessary step toward embracing God’s plan for our family.
We talked with agencies, case-workers, and in the fall of 2019, we completed our home study. Months later, my prayer for a child came true.
Our daughter’s birthmother had chosen us to be the adoptive parents within minutes of seeing our profile. She loved Kevin’s pets because she was also an animal lover. We met Ashley in a hotel lobby when she was 37 weeks pregnant, her black dress swinging around a baby bump. She was tall, with beautiful thick short hair and a wide smile. I fell in love with her snarky sense of humor and throaty laugh.
Our daughter Eden Renee was born two weeks later on February 21st at 2:30am. We spent a few days in and out of the hospital caring for our sweet birthmother, and gorgeous newborn with tufts of dark hair underneath her striped hat.
Once home, the first few weeks overwhelmed me. We had only known about the adoption for three weeks and hadn’t had a baby shower yet. The stress of birth and adoption weekend caught up with me, and I struggled, as all new parents do, with a lack of sleep. I pushed through as best I could, and a few trusted friends stopped by to help.
Finally, when Eden was three weeks old, I caught my breath. I was feeling better and motivated to tackle motherhood head on. I looked at the calendar. Our shower was in two weeks, so I would finally get the items I’d been waiting for. Kevin’s parents would come in town from Georgia to help that weekend.
Two special friends offered to come by each week to help, and I was thrilled for an extra set of hands. The pregnancy center offered free counseling and diapers each week, and I chose Tuesday morning for my schedule.
With the help of my community, I was confident that I could handle the transition to motherhood.
But suddenly quarantine hit, and my plans vanished into the chilly air one by one. My friends cancelled. Kevin’s parents stayed home. Our church postponed the baby shower indefinitely. The pregnancy center closed.
Shock rippled through me as I felt utterly alone with a newborn baby.
Nights blurred into mornings. The overwhelming responsibility of taking care of Eden pressed into me. Her cries pierced though the nights long; endless like a thread at the edge of a worn sweater. I waddled around the house, shoulders slumped, wracked with exhaustion and frustration that the quarantine had ruined everything.
My husband worked full time, and I didn’t feel grateful that he had a job and we didn’t have to worry about loss of income. I was struggling. I selfishly wanted help and couldn’t look past my most pressing needs.
Now, months later, I have compassion for myself because quarantine shoved me into the role of motherhood with a little more force than I would have chosen for myself. But God’s grace weaved through it all.
I realize that the time at home helped me to bond with my sweet Eden Renee. As an extrovert, I would have been out socializing quicker than is advisable. But because of the quarantine, we couldn’t do much.
So we went to the park. A lot.
I strapped Eden safely to my chest in a carrier, or nestled her in the stroller. We walked lap after lap on the quiet sidewalk, looking for hawks, squirrels, geckos.
I longed to interact with others and hated the loneliness of an empty park. I begged for it to teem with life again; baseball players, tennis clubs, squealing kids climbing on the playground. But the weight of a sleeping child clinging to me made my love for her bloom as we melded together with each step I took.
Even though I didn’t feel like a mama yet except for feeling bone-tired, I spent a lot of hours staring at her tiny face and fluffy lips. My heart was slowly opening up to all it meant to be her mother, as I stared, getting used to the idea of our growing family.
I also had a front-row seat to watching my husband morph into a dad. He worked hard all day as a teacher, and then we took care of Eden together in the evenings. He changed diapers, fed her, and walked laps during long stretches of fussy time. His days were full, but he never complained.
Even more, I realize God provided everything we needed right to our door.
My friend Ana bought bottles and nipples when the sizes we had were too big. A friend-of-a-friend and her mom from a local church brought over bags of diapers, clothes, even a bouncy seat and feeding pillow that I used for months.
Our church was especially kind to provide plenty of diapers and wipes to get us through before our baby shower, which we had in June. The ladies rallied and brought over onesies, burp rags and home-cooked meals. A few moms from the church answered my texts at 9pm, 12am, and sometimes even as early as 4am. They helped me around the clock as I learned about cluster feeding, swaddling, gas issues and colic.
Another generous community of mothers online offered to supply us with donated breast milk, and our freezer filled up. My friend Jen graciously offered to pick up the bags from donors and store them in her freezer.
Even though things were different than expected, God’s provision was a balm to my heart.
Most of all, I was thankful for my daughter leaning into me as her primary caretaker. Her skin warmed to my touch; her eyes eager to look into mine. She wasn’t easy to care for, but she was a solid ground amid chaos. Her diapers constantly needed changing and her belly needed food. In focusing on her, my hands were moving to the rhythm of love instead of twisting around in agony and impatience.
Becoming a mother was a dream come true, but the tornado of emotions mixed with a pandemic threw me off balance. Looking back, the slow pace helped me be learn gratitude little by little.
The pandemic might have been a gift to this rookie mama. The precious bond I now have with my daughter is proof enough.