On August 12, 1987, I sat down at the kitchen table (which doubled our "dining table" due to the size of our "starter home") to throw down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was around 11:30AM, and I had a big meeting at 1:00 with some Richardson ISD "higher ups" regarding a GT dog-and-pony entourage that would be presenting a huge workshop in Kansas City a few weeks later. I took one big bite of my sandwich, and before I could even wash it down with a swig of iced tea, the phone rang. Because caller ID did not exist in 1987, I had to pick up despite my growling stomach.
"Hello!" I mumbled through the peanut butter wad in my mouth.
"Good morning, Carolyn! This is Billie Shotts from Bucker!"
My heart and mind began to race. Buckner was the adoption agency we had chosen to place a baby in our home. Billie Shotts made the calls when the babies arrived. Billie had called me many times since January when we were accepted as adoptive-parents-in-waiting. Alan and I had volunteered to "shepherd" a birthmother (whose parents had disowned her) by welcoming her into our guest room for the last few weeks of her pregnancy. Her baby had been born in June, and, soon after, she moved back to her nearby hometown. Billie had asked me to speak at a birthmother support group in July. So, it was not unusual for her to call me, but, every time single time she called, my heart pounded thinking that it was "THE call" only to be stilled by the business at hand which generally was not in any way related to the birth of our child. Somehow, this call felt different. I felt a strange sense of overwhelming anticipation. My hands were shaking.
"Congratulations! You're a mommy!!! It's a boy! He's a healthy 8 pound 5 ounce little boy!!"
Struggling to swallow with a mouth gone totally dry, I was all but speechless. "Really! Today?!"
"He was born on the 10th, but he will be yours today! Can you and Alan come up to the Buckner office at around 1:00?"
"Yes! Of course!! Oh...Wait...NO! My mother will k-i-l-l kill me if she misses getting to be there! Can we make it around 3:00?" First, I had to hunt my mother down. She was visiting friends in Carthage, and I had no idea where she might be at that particular hour in time. I calculated the time that Alan's mom, Mary, would need to drive to Dallas from Salado, and added in the "hunt time" needed to find my mother so that she could speed to Buckner from East Texas. "I think that we can all be there by 3:00!!"
Once the plan was made, I called Alan at work to scream the news that we were at long last "PARENTS!!!" Over the next couple of hours, I made numerous phone calls and ran to a nearby party store to proudly purchase an "It's a Boy!" sign along with a bunch of blue and white balloons for our mailbox so that the neighbors could all share our joy as they began to trickle back to the neighborhood after a long day's work.
For the next three weeks, we celebrated with friends and family. After the baby showers, "new mommy" meals, and "look-see" visits calmed down, Jonathan and I began to fall into a sometimes predictable daily routine. Each morning, I woke up and got fully dressed with makeup, pearl earrings and a big 80's lace bow in my permed hair. Once my bangs had been teased to their proper apex, I was ready to strike out into my new world as a stay at home mom.
I spent most of my days simply rocking Jonathan and carefully studying his tiny features. His tiny hands with long fingers were those of a brain surgeon or concert pianist. His deep bellows of hunger were those of a Broadway star belting out the title song of his hit show. His silky golden skin was that of a movie star with gleaming teeth flashing from his bright smile. Oh, my little son. My precious little bright star child. Little did I know that soon two people whom I'd never met and would never meet would flood my heart with deep, whole-hearted gratitude as an adoptive mother. Those two people? Phil Donahue and Mary of Nazareth.
One afternoon, I laid little J-boy on my bed so that he could watch Phil Donahue with me while I folded a load of towels. As the show unfolded, I ended up sitting on the edge of the bed with my hand resting on his tiny tummy as tears rolled down my cheeks. Phil's guests that day were teenaged girls who had had abortions without their parents' knowledge or permission. For the most part, they were all very regretful of their decisions to abort. Tears were flowing both on screen and off. I looked down at sleeping Jonathan looking for traces of his birthmother's likeness in his tiny face. She had faced the same decision. With the support of her loving family, she boldly turned away from "quick" and "easy."
I did not even know her name. She was a high school senior when she got pregnant during Christmas break. She had graduated with her class in May, moved to live with her aunt in June, gave birth to Jonathan on August 10th, and then, headed off to college to get on with her life. I knew very little about her other than her health history and age. Carefully picking and choosing bits of non-identifying information from the birthmother's file, Billie exclaimed that she was very musically gifted. His birthfather was a marine who was tall and thin with skin that tanned to a deep, golden brown with the slightest touch of sunlight.
While watching those girls weep about aborting their babies, I suddenly knew all I needed to know about Jonathan's birthmom. She chose not to abort my child. She chose the more challenging path. She chose to see the pregnancy and adoptive placement through until the very end of her time with Jonathan - August 12th. She was a fighter. She was brave. She did the right thing. My respect and love for her grew intense as I imagined the moment she declared her decision to give birth to this accidental child.
We spent that first Christmas Eve as parents in Waco at my mom's house so that we could attend the Christmas Eve service at First Methodist as was my family's long time tradition. How proud I was to triumphantly march into the foyer bearing, at long last, a son. Alan and I smiled like monkeys as our church friends fawned over our perfect, sleeping son dressed in the regalia of a firstborn. I must confess that showing off our newborn was the main reason I wanted to venture out into the dark, cold night leaving behind Mom's cozy Christmas home. Settling down onto a pew near the front of the church, we began to join in the singing of old, familiar carols. As the service unfolded, the story of Jesus' birth was re-enacted by church members dressed in homemade "Biblical" costumes.
Mary and Joseph entered the sanctuary down the long middle aisle and gently placed a real, live sleeping baby boy in the wooden manger lined with soft blankets. Then, came the shepherds and the wise men. Sitting there watching Mary sweetly tend to her gently stirring baby, Jesus, it hit me. Full in the heart. Tears began to stream down my face, and I had to gulp back sobs that were pushing up into my throat. Mary was Jesus' birthmother. The lady playing Mary's part in the service was a grown woman with children of her own. Mary of Nazareth was a very young teenager who had always lived in the shelter of her parent's home. She was naive. She was faithful. She was brave. She gave birth to the Son of Man. Sitting there from the wooden comfort of my pew, I began to look at her with new eyes. Wide eyes of respect and awe.
As the mother-to-be of the Son of God, she should have been coddled by all of Israel. They had waited so long for their Mighty Deliverer. I imagined how Jesus' birth would have been different if the priests and rabbis had known who He was to be. At the first pang of Mary's labor, they would have born her atop their shoulders into the Holy of Holies where she would have been tended by the most expert and trusted of all midwives. Her wrinkled brow would have been soothed with fragrant oils set aside for the arrival of the King. At the moment of Jesus' birth, shofars would have sung out across Israel as the heavy tapestry separating the people from the Most Holy Place was torn down so that baby Jesus could be seen by all the Israelites who would journey on foot for days for a glimpse of their mighty savior. Weeks of celebratory feasts would have followed. It would have been heralded as the birthday of a King.
Mary, did you know? The angel told her that she would bear God's son and that his name would be Jesus. Gazing into his solemn, brown eyes, was she able to wrap her brain around who she was holding in her arms? Or, did she look at his tiny fingers and see his future as a master carpenter? Did she hear his sweet, hungry cries and imagine him as a rabbi preaching in the temple in Jerusalem? Sitting there in the sanctuary, I gazed down at sleeping Jonathan who was softly sucking on his own lips. Carolyn, do you know? Who would this child become? Selfishly, I was relieved that I had not been called, like Mary, for some higher, noble purpose greater than simple motherhood. No, Mary was the birthmother chosen by God to bear his only begotten child. He had chosen me to raise up his child, Jonathan. From that point on, my new status as "mother" became my all.
I never made it to the meeting with the Richardson ISD "higher ups." I called to let them know that my child had been born which totally surprised them since they had never seen me pregnant. I told them that I wouldn't be able to make the meeting. I also quit my job that day. My life was forever changed.
Jonathan's story is still being told. Once God's plan for Jonathan's adoption was met, he was quickly joined by two brothers who sprang forth from my once useless womb. They are all three in college now seeking their destinies. Jonathan's long, tapered fingers will be working somewhere in the music industry on a giant soundboard recording music. Bryce's quiet, peaceful demeanor will be well-suited for his psychology degree. Reed's quick smile and wit will serve him well once he leaves the Baylor Business School.
I still stand amazed by Mary. She had no idea what was in store for her tiny newborn son. He was simply her precious baby boy. Precious. Baby. Boy.
I leave you with one of my all time favorite songs.