Jill is my daughter’s birth mom, a good girl by all accounts, just shy of seventeen when she gave birth. Her story is a familiar tale, girl meets boy, girl gets pregnant, girl gives birth in her bathtub.
That could have been me, all those Saturday nights in the cab of Jason Lee’s Chevy. Nobody talked about protection back then, and I remained in a constant fret over pregnancy. What a waste. I know now what I never could have imagined, that my body is hell bent on rejecting what I want most in this world. A baby.
Twenty-eight days after my Lacy slid across the bottom of a slick bathtub, the most wonderful social worker put her in my arms. I put my nose to her check, inhaling her powdery scent. I unfolded her clinched fist, fascinated by her wrinkled knuckles and dew drop finger nails. I uncovered her feet, discovering more rumpled skin and a long second toe that stood tall like mine. I smoothed the peach fuzz growing on her ear, and as my finger continued to make its way across her puckered lips, she shivered. I shiver now with just the thought of her.
Jill requested an open adoption. My husband was against it.
“I won’t have it,” he said. “We’re Lacy’s parents now, and I have the cancelled check to prove it.”
His words were a waste of breath. He knew the deciding was up to me. Lord knows I wanted to say no too, but I would have shaved my head if somebody said it would better our chances. Besides, how could I deny this girl who had given birth to my miracle?
I sent pictures every month for a year before I heard from Jill. The day after Lacy’s first birthday, I got a call from Belinda, our social worker. Jill had requested a visit and my phone number. “Sure, I would love to hear from her,” I lied. Seventeen minutes later, she called.
“Hi, this is Jill.”
Her voice trembled, and I could hear her sniffles. I wanted to comfort her, but fear had a tight hold around my throat. Had she changed her mind like our last birth mother? Did she want my Lacy back?
“I’m sorry I haven’t asked for a meeting before now. I’ve tried to…”
She broke down, and I waited for her to calm. The line grew quiet. “Jill, are you there?”
She sucked in a deep breath and said, “I think I’m ready to see the baby.”
It’s two days after my Lacy’s first birthday, and we’re meeting Jill and her mother at a place called Pinson Park. We arrive at 2:00 p.m., right on time. My husband walks Lacy over to the playground. I walk over to a bench under a large tulip poplar. I rub my sweaty hands down the length of my skirt. I cross my legs this way and that, the bench vibrating from the stress of my nervous foot. If I could keep my legs still for one minute, I would kick myself for agreeing to any form of open adoption. For all I know, Jill’s planning to grab my baby girl and run off to Mexico. Or what if there’s some biological connection between Lacy and her birth mom that overrides all my love and devotion of the past year? Maybe my empty womb is a sign. Maybe I’m not supposed to be a mother. One thing is for sure, my heart can’t take losing another one.
My husband says, “Let’s get out of here.”
He picks up Lacy and turns toward the car. “There they are,” he says as he looks at his watch, “twenty minutes late.”
I look up and see our social worker and assume it’s Jill and her mother sitting with her in a black Thunderbird. I want to scoop up my baby and run, but I’m obligated to stay.
Jill’s mother gets out, rushes over to me and says, “Thanks for waiting. Jill’s had a rough morning. Made herself sick with worry.”
I know the feeling.
“Does she regret her decision about the adoption?” I ask.
“Shame is more like it. Since graduation, she barely comes out of her room, wore the same pajamas four days and nights last week.” As we wait for Jill to get out of the car, her mother whispers. “She’s scared to death.”
I look over at her as she opens the passenger side door and slowly lifts long, tanned legs out of the car. She raises her head, and I’m shocked to see a teenage version of my Lacy’s face. Her shoulders droop as she trudges forward, but she continues to look my way. I notice her tears tracking black trails through her heavy rose blush. Her chin is quivering. Without thought of it, I stretch out my arms. She takes two quick strides toward me, buries her head in my neck and sobs.
She finally lifts her head, and I say, “Come with me,” and I walk her over to where Lacy is playing. She stops about ten feet short, watching Lacy and wiping steady tears. Jill’s mother walks over to my baby girl and says, “Hi, there.”
She picks Lacy up and carries her to the swings. Jill watches as her mother sits Lacy in her lap and wraps her with a protective arm. She pushes off with her foot and gently swings Lacy, who kicks her feet and giggles for more speed. A soft, nervous chuckle escapes from Jill. I look her way, and she steps forward.
My husband walks over and puts an arm around me as Jill approaches the swing. She bends down and tickles Lacy’s feet with each upward motion. Lacy laughs and kicks for more.
“Can I swing her now?” Jill asks her mother. She takes Lacy in her arms, looks into her face and says, “Hi, Baby.”
As I take a step away from my husband to get a better view, I see Lacy reach up and wipe a tear from Jill’s check. I cover my mouth to keep from squalling out loud. They swing together as my baby playfully kicks. Jill wears a soft smile and leans her head against Lacy’s shiny black hair. They move to the slide, and I wonder if my baby will have her long legs and that slight under bite? Will she love Jill more than me? Will our bond be strong enough to see us through the tough times?
Jill and Lacy chuckle as an ominous black cloud approaches. The warm sun disappears behind the bruised cloud as a gust of wind pushes the swing slightly forward. A lightening strike followed by a thunderous bang makes both girls jump.
Lacy reaches out her arms and cries, “Mama!”
I run over, pick up her trembling body and say, “It’s okay. Mommy’s here.”
Jill stands and puts a hand on Lacy’s back. Her eyes look into mine, and it’s as if an unspoken truth passes between us. Jill looks down at Lacy as she says, “I want to be a mom like you someday.”