95. A Gift from Above

95. A Gift from Above

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters


A Gift from Above

A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.

~Carl Sandburg

On the day my daughter told me that she was pregnant, she also informed me, in the same breath, that she would not be keeping the child. Severe health issues forced her to face the fact that she could barely take care of herself, much less take on the challenge of caring for a demanding newborn. My heart sank as she debated her options—adoption and the other one that was too horrible to even consider.

My husband and I had been married for five years and thoroughly enjoyed our carefree lifestyle. Having already raised our own kids, we scoffed at friends with babysitting issues who cancelled plans at the last minute. We empathized with parents of teens who had become prisoners in their own home, unable to leave for fear that their home would be the next party venue. “Been there, done that, and happy to be done with that,” was our mantra. At forty-three, I was in the process of selling a lucrative insurance business that I had built over eighteen years and was anxiously anticipating a life of writing, traveling and sipping margaritas from every cruise ship deck and Caribbean beach that we could find.

But the universe had other plans.

I convinced my daughter to hold off on making a final decision at least long enough for me to figure out what to do. I needed time to think. For days, I walked around like a zombie, unaware of where I’d been or whom I’d seen. Nights were no better. I would stay awake until dawn, cradled in my husband’s arms. I would listen to his quiet breathing, the sounds of crickets, a train whistle in the distance, all while waiting and praying for answers that just wouldn’t come. When sleep would finally overtake me, there was still no escape, for even in my dreams I was visited by a little girl who would hold her arms up to me, pleading, “Grandma, help me!” Mornings, I did my crying in the shower, reasoning that red swollen eyes could easily be blamed on irritating shower gels and shampoos.

Nevertheless, after a couple of days, my husband grew wary of my abnormal behavior and asked me what was wrong. The previous month, my doctor had found a grapefruit-sized tumor in my uterus that had to be removed, so I skirted the baby issue and tried my best to convince him that the upcoming surgery was to blame for my tangled nerves. But he just shook his head, put his arms around me, sat me down and told me to give him my troubles so he could fix them. He knew me so well that he could detect every mood change and nuance long before I knew myself there was anything wrong. His strength was one of the things that had attracted me to him. I knew he was someone I could lean on without him tipping over.

After I’d blubbered out the whole story, he simply said, “Get her on the phone.” I quickly dialed my daughter’s number. When she answered, I nervously handed the phone to my husband and waited for his response. He listened for a while, and then he told her to eat healthy. When the baby was born, we would take it and raise it. She must have agreed because when he hung up the phone, he asked, “Anything else?”

I dissolved into tears, this time without any reservations. I let it all come out, all the pain, all the angst, the fear and the guilt. Although I had been thinking of taking the baby myself, I just hadn’t been able to ask the same of him. I couldn’t believe that a man who was not my daughter’s father would actually sacrifice his own future to raise someone else’s child. He was definitely a keeper!

A few months later, we were holding a little bundle of joy in our arms. She was a colicky baby, but we soon found out that as long as she was lying on Papa’s belly, she would stop fussing and crying, and immediately go to sleep. I had the hysterectomy two weeks after she was born, so I could only hold her with a stack of pillows on my lap and her on top. My mom was also a huge help, taking care of the baby and me while my husband worked.

As our new daughter grew and started school, we decided that I would homeschool her since her amazing thirst for knowledge was more than most teachers could handle. We found that she not only enjoyed studying French, Spanish, anthropology, geography, and religion from the texts that my professor husband brought home from the university, but she preferred them over the curriculum offered to children her age.

My daughter and the baby’s father have stayed together and maintained contact with her. Even though our child calls us Mom and Papa, she has grown up knowing her biological parents as well. When she started walking and talking, however, she began to ask questions, so I would tell her the story of how she came to be.

“Papa and I,” I would begin, “wanted a baby more than anything else in the world, so we asked God for a beautiful little girl. God then asked us, ‘Will you love her and feed her and clothe her and educate her and make sure she gets a good HMO or a quality health plan?’

“‘Oh, yes, yes, yes, and of course!’ we answered.

“‘Alright then,’ God said, ‘I have a smart, beautiful, and talented little girl you can have. I’ll send her down to you right away so she can start growing in your belly. In nine months, you can give birth to her.’

“‘But Lord,’ I explained, ‘I can’t have babies anymore.’

“‘Well, then, Nana will have to have the baby,’ he said.”

At this point, our little one would laugh hysterically at the thought of my seventy-seven-year-old mother having a baby, commenting on the fact that Nana couldn’t possibly have babies.

“That’s exactly what we said,” I’d tell her. “So God thought about it for awhile and then said, ‘Hey, why don’t I place the baby in your daughter’s belly? She’s young and perfectly able to have children. Then after she’s born, you can raise her.’

“What a great idea!” we’d all say, with her chiming in.

“And that’s how I came to be!” she would say, ending the story with a big, contented smile on her face.

~Mary Amelia

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