Our youngest child has Down Syndrome. We found out the day after he was born, when the pediatrician noticed several markers for T21. That day the nurses tried to draw blood so they could run a test to confirm the diagnosis. But the particular vein they needed to draw blood from was too tiny, and after seeing my son’s wrist full of needle holes, I asked them not to try again until he was older and his veins were bigger. My husband and I didn’t need immediate test results — T21 or not, he was our son and we loved him dearly.
Unbeknownst to my husband and I, the nurses drew blood for the test a week later. I didn’t know this until they told me that the test came back positive. I could have been upset that they drew blood without our permission, but I wasn’t. I could have been upset that the test came back positive, but I wasn’t. I was, however, tired and stressed because Junior wasn’t gaining weight, I wasn’t producing enough milk, and progress with his oxygen levels was painstakingly slow.
Later that afternoon, Junior’s nurse noticed that I was visibly upset. She thought it was because the test results had come back positive. “I’m sorry about the test results,” she said, sympathetically. Then she said something that shocked me: “Do you want to put him up for adoption?”
I was too exhausted to be indignant. Instead, I smiled at her sadly and just shook my head. But in my mind I thought, “How could you even think that I would put him up for adoption? Don’t you see me here ’round the clock pumping, nursing, and caring for him? Don’t you see how much I love him?”
It hadn’t occurred to me that perhaps her question was neither callused nor far-fetched.
For surely several mothers had come to that hospital and given birth to children that, for whatever reason, they were not able to raise. And after seeing their babies’ heartbeats, feeling their babies’ kicks in utero, and carrying their little ones for nine months, they had forged a bond of love for their babies, the way nature intended. Loving their babies as much as I loved mine, but without the support and resources they needed, these mothers had made a most heroic sacrifice: put their precious babies up for adoption. It was the most loving thing they could do.
I have always admired the heroism and selflessness of women in difficult circumstances who carry their unborn babies for nine long months and then give them up for adoption. But I never imagined the extent of their love and pain until I read The Lucky Few, by Heather Avis. In this autobiography, Avis details her struggles with infertility and how God led her to adopt three children, two with Down Syndrome. I think I read it in two days — it was that compelling.
But the chapter where she describes the day she met her youngest in the hospital had me in tears. Because the birth mother’s sorrow at leaving her baby was utterly heart-wrenching:
Sami’s bags were packed and waiting by the door. At the appointed time, Sami (the birth mother) went over to her sweet baby boy, clicked off the blue light, and gently picked him up.
She removed the mask and cradled him in her arms as she softly ran the back of her hand across his fresh cheeks. With tears streaming from her eyes, she whispered, “I love you” into his ear. Time stood still, and everyone in the room wept with her and poured out our love on this perfect baby boy. Lucy (Sami’s sister) handed her a fresh bottle, and we all watched as she sat on the bed to feed him one last time.
By the time he finished his bottle, it was almost time for him to go back under the blue light. Sami handed him to Lucy, and for the next few minutes he was passed around the room as aunties, grandma, and sister said good-bye. Then Sami held him close one more time, closing her eyes and pressing her face against his head. After one more “I love you,” he has back under the obnoxious blue light.
Everyone gave Josh (the adoptive father) a quick and teary hug, and he stayed with August (the baby) as I walked with them.
No one said a word. We did what had to be done and put one foot in front of the other as we headed to the elevator. One foot in front of the other into the elevator, tear-filled eyes glued to the floor. The door opened, and we put one foot in front of the other out of the hospital and into the cool evening air and all the way to their car.
Saying good-bye to Sami and her family was brutal. The loss they were experiencing weighed on me in a way I didn’t expect. I embraced her sisters and mom.
“Thank you for everything! For the gifts and the love. Thank you!” I said through tears.
“Take good care of him. We know you will,” Lucy said as she wept on my shoulder.
“I will. I promise I will.”
I gave Joy (Sami’s daughter) a long, tight hug, “You can see your brother any time you want. You just have your mommy call me, okay?”
She smiled and hugged me back, her youth offering her some protection from the gravity of the moment.
Then I made my way to Sami. We wrapped our arms around each other and sobbed. As I drenched her shoulder with my tears, I thought about how less than forty-eight hours ago, she had August in her womb, where she loved him and cared for him with all that she was. Now her womb and her arms were empty.
“I’m so sorry this is so hard,” I whispered. “I am so proud of you, Sami. I have never seen someone do such a selfless thing,”
“I love him so much, Heather.”
“I know you do.”
“Promise me you’ll take good care of him.” Her words came out broken and slurred between the sobs.
“I promise, Sami. The best care possible.”
Women like Sami are the unsung heroines of the pro-life movement. Difficult, messy, and painful as their own lives may be, they still choose life for their unborn babies. While the world tells them to make choices in their own best interests, they still choose what’s best for the babies in their wombs: life over death, adoption over abortion, hope over despair. These moms ought to be thanked and recognized for their heart-rending but life-giving sacrifices.
So today, when we usually would be Marching for Life in Washington D.C., I’ve been praying for all the moms who have given up a baby for adoption. Praying for the moms who are agonizing over what to do with an unplanned pregnancy or a baby with special needs. Praying that they will have all the love and support they need to make the loving choice and be honored for it.
May God bless these unsung heroines! May He heal their hearts and reward them for their selflessness. By their sacrifices and examples, we are one step closer to building a culture of life.
Republished with permission from Mary Cooney’s blog, Mercy for Marthas