This week my 6th grandchild was born. It's an amazing feeling to have 6 grandchildren and an even greater feeling to be able to tell the world that I have that many grandkids because there was a time when I wasn't even allowed to admit to having 3 children, let alone having so many grandbabies.
Before my open, out there, truthy days, when I was pregnant with my second child, I would cringe every time someone asked me how many children I had. If a nurse, during a check up, asked me about the number of pregnancies I had experienced, I went through the usual struggle in my head. Do I tell her about my first baby, the one I surrendered to adoption, or do I pretend that this is my first go around this block? Of course, because I was dealing with the medical profession and there was a reason they were asking me this, not just nosiness - I fessed up to it being my second time with this particular experience. Ok, the stretch marks were going to be a clue anyway so there really wasn't any getting away with a deception when dealing with people who are going to see you naked so might as well tell the truth. Even then, it wasn't easy. There was shame. There was the quiet moment when you shared the information and waited for the judgement. Am I turning red? Please don't let me cry in front of these people. I just want to get out of here!
So what brought me to thinking about all this? When I was in the hospital, walking the corridor on the maternity ward, excited about seeing my new granddaughter, I was passed by a woman in a wheelchair being escorted out of the area. At first glance, I thought - oh, a new mom leaving the hospital with her baby and getting ready to set out on her new life with her child. The reality was, there was a woman being escorted out of the maternity ward by deputies. There was no child in her arms. There were no congratulatory balloons, no flowers. She was sitting with her head hung low and her tear stained cheeks told a different story. Where was her baby? Did she die? Was she leaving her behind for a family member to raise? Did she surrender her child to adoption? Was she leaving the hospital in the same state I was in 33 years ago? This woman, leaving the maternity floor was obviously in the custody of the state. I don't know what her crime was but I felt for her. 33 years ago I was in the custody of the adoption industry and the church. My only crime was being pregnant and single yet there we were. She and I. Two women separated from our children.
When I saw her my heart hurt. I was immediately taken back to the day that I was pushed out of the hospital, sitting in the wheelchair, arms empty, a voice in the distance, to this day clear as a bell, asking me - "where's your baby?". Me, unable to answer. All I could do was sit with my head hanging low, just like she was, quiet, desperately trying to hold it together, tears pouring and throat closing, not able to beg or plead for my child. I was transported back to that young woman who was dying inside.
No matter what that woman's crime was, I hurt for her. Whatever was causing her to leave the maternity floor with empty arms was causing her a pain like no other. I wanted to put my arms around her because I know that look. I've lived that look. She had that haunted look, the look in her eyes that said she was lost. It was a look that said - my life will never be the same again.
In the middle of the joy of a new grandbaby, I was reminded. I remembered that there are mothers leaving hospitals without their babies. With each new grandchild I'm reminded that there are grandmothers who won't get to see their grandchildren, mothers who won't get to hold their babies and families who won't be together - ever. This is what infant adoption does.