By Krisan Murphy
However motherhood comes to you, it's a miracle.
My friend Mandy fashioned her black hair into a lovely bun at the nape of her neck for the special day. After all, she'd been asked to present each mother of the congregation with a delicate rose. When she greeted the women entering the church, her cheeks flushed with pride — until she turned to me. The moment remains like a stubborn stain that cannot be removed. "Oh," she said with a glance, "you don't get a rose. You're not a mom."
Being childless for many is a respite, a relief from worry and responsibility, but for me it was an aching emptiness that could not be filled with anything material or spiritual. Infertility was a psychological mind-bender, a riddle of fate, or chance, or providence. At age thirty, after several years of marriage and infertile for no known reason, I never thought I'd be a mother.
When children didn't come into my marriage, I went back to finish my college degree. I threw myself into my studies and found a deep satisfaction in learning, but it was never a substitute for the ache of childlessness. I reasoned that with my husband in graduate school, me finishing a degree, and both of us working that it wasn't convenient to have children.
My community service in our neighborhood, however, threw cold water on my patience. The day I visited sixteen-year-old Gina, who was pregnant with her second child, I decided I'd had enough waiting and life was cruel like that.
A summer internship for my husband in another state became available, so we welcomed a change of surroundings. After three short months in the small town, one domino fell on the next until it changed my heart forever.
"I know an unwed mother who is willing to place her baby with you," a friend confided one day. Hopes, prayers, and arrangements ensued for the next seven months. She delivered early, so a blur of activity sent me on an airplane immediately, while my husband arranged to follow.
I wept in the hospital elevator after seeing the pink bundle through the maternity window. I wrapped her tiny fingers around mine in the back seat of the car while my friend drove us to her home. And in the morning, even before my husband arrived, the birth mother changed her mind.
To visit my older sister during a school break, I stepped over a bulging plastic lawn mower and nearly tripped on an array of balls, stuffed zoo animals, and a princess wand before tumbling into her sticky, cereal-laden kitchen. Kids. The footprints and fingerprints of her daily life was a cruel reminder that I was the sister who had none.
When I unbolted my door each day to go out, I realized that the only way to keep my sanity was to wear blinders to all the unwed teens and abusive parents who mauled and killed their children and the women who conceived as easily as breathing.
"You don't make enough money," the woman on the telephone at the adoption agency said. My mouth went dry and my brain numb, groping for a response. The list of adoption agencies that considered us worthy parents diminished with each phone call.
Finally, at our two-seater kitchen table in a dilapidated duplex on the east side of Dallas, my husband and I held hands and set a serious goal to bring children into our lives. We calculated the exorbitant cost of an adoption in light of our meager income and changed our perspective. After all, we were young and able, in a time when jobs could be had.
My husband worked from three in the morning to sun up delivering newspapers, attended graduate school in the daytime, built swimming pools until sundown and studied at night. In between those hours he washed windows on mansions at the far end of town. I added a secretarial job to my home-based calligraphy business while finishing my bachelor's degree.
Within four weeks, the phone rang. "You're invited to a baby shower for Jane!" the lady said. "Haven't you heard? They adopted a baby girl this week!" I slammed down the phone and refused to talk to anyone for days.
However, Jane's speedy adoption turned out to be the answer to our quest for an agency. Her agency told us, "We care more about your character than your income." I did a cartwheel in our cramped duplex.
My husband and I continued to work hard and resisted spending our hard-earned money on new wardrobes and excursions. We ate beans and rice, watched PBS movies with homemade popcorn and dreamed about the fruit of our labors. By the end of the summer we had saved enough to cover adoption fees.
The same phone that was wept over, slammed down, and cursed rang at the beginning of November. "It's a boy," Rhonda from the agency said. I repeated it over and over until I realized it wasn't a dream or a bad joke or a miscarriage, but the birth of our son.
Mandy peeked through the screen door to see me rocking a squirmy newborn and smiled. She brought me an offering of flowers from her garden to celebrate my new life — motherhood.
More than one well-meaning friend told me that as soon as we adopted, my womb would open and I would be pregnant. It was not to be. Instead, over the next ten years we were blessed with the adoption of another son and eventually twin daughters. Each adoption came to us through sacrifice and perseverance, the lessons I learned from wanting something outside my reach.