From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

Honey, You’d Better Sit Down

If you ask me, life can be quite unpredictable. For example, on an ordinary day, one phone call can change everything.

My husband, Gary, views life a little differently than I do. A big, kind and quiet man, I’m sure he didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he proposed to me. For one thing, I was the mother of four children, now mostly grown; Gary was a lifelong bachelor. I’m a talker; he often feels more comfortable writing things down. (For example, his marriage proposal came in the form of a multiple-choice questionnaire with ring attached.) I like to “go with the flow.” He takes comfort in daily routine.

Our differences seemed to complement each other, and we settled happily into marriage. As great as he is with my grown kids, I occasionally wondered if he didn’t mind not raising a child himself. But he knew I was past childbearing age when he proposed to me, and he asked me anyway.

From the beginning of our marriage, every evening Gary would come home from work and ask me, “How was your day, dear?” He often seemed amused by my sometimes unexpected answer to that question. One day, two years after we were married, I replied, “Honey, you’d better sit down for this one.”

My oldest daughter, Mia, had recently been transferred by her company from near our home in Florida to Texas. Once there, she had hired four new trainees and accompanied them back to company headquarters in Tampa for 10 days of training. When she called me from the motel where they were staying, which was 40 minutes from our house, all trace of managerial calm was missing from her voice.

“Mom, you won’t believe what just happened! It’s like something you’d hear about on Oprah!

“What is it, Mia?” She’d certainly piqued my curiosity.

“One of the young women I hired was up all night with a severe stomachache. We finally called an ambulance. Well, the hospital just telephoned—and she had a baby! No one knew she was pregnant, including her!”

“Yes, right,” I said, amused but skeptical.

I’m telling you, I interviewed her and she didn’t look the least bit pregnant. And I’m sure if she knew, she wouldn’t have switched jobs, or come away for a 10-day training seminar when she was due. This is incredible! I’m going to the hospital.”

A veteran of four very noticeable pregnancies, I shook my head and laughed, and went about my day.

Around 4:00, Mia called again. “Mom, you’re not going to believe this. Since no one back in Texas knew Judy was pregnant, she’s going home tomorrow just like nothing happened!”

“Like nothing happened?” I asked, confused. “But what about the baby?”

“She’s going to leave it here. She’s sure social services will find someone who wants it.”

I was stunned. “But...you can’t just leave a child with no instructions. It could bounce from foster home to foster home for years! I’d take that child myself before I’d let that happen!”

“Mom,” Mia sputtered, “you’d do what?

“I’d—uh—well... well, you talk with the mother and see if she’d like to have a name and a phone number to leave the child with instead of losing her in the system for 18 years.” Even as I said it, I knew there was impulsive, and then there was impulsive . I added, “I guess I’d better talk to Gary when he gets home.”

That was the day when Gary came home at his usual time and asked his usual question and I replied, “Honey, you’d better sit down for this one.”

I told the story, and in disbelief Gary replied, “Yes, right, it’s gonna get left behind. Uh, huh, right, we’re going to adopt.”

Oddly, the more absurd it sounded, the more I was sure it was right. “Honey,” I said, “this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If Mia hadn’t been transferred, if she hadn’t hired that particular woman or brought her here for these 10 days.... Here’s a child on a golden platter. If you ever want a child of your own, this is the only way it’s gonna happen!”

Overwhelmed, he answered, “Well, you can’t make a life-changing decision like this in minutes!”

Knowing that he woke up in the mornings well before I did, and that writing about big decisions was more his style, I said, “Sleep on it, and leave me a note in the morning.”

The next morning Gary was gone early, as usual—but there was no note. I was disappointed because I was so sure this was right, was meant to be!

Promptly at 9 A.M. the phone rang. “Hi, Sherry! This is Sue. I’m a social worker from the hospital. I just talked to the mother and she said you can have the baby. Want to come and get her?”

What should I do? Here I was, ready to turn our world upside down, and Gary, it seemed, preferred to deal with the well-ordered life we already had.

But as I searched for words, I heard footsteps on the stairs. To my surprise, it was Gary, not at work at all.

He sat down on the bed and whispered, “Who are you talking to?”

I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote, “How would you like to pick up your baby daughter?”

He took the pen and scribbled on the paper, “What if she gets sick? Do we need an attorney? What’s it going to cost? What if the mother changes her mind?”

I read it and tore the paper in half, returning the original question: “How would you like to pick up your baby daughter?”

“Do you have an attorney?” Sue was asking.

“No,” I said. “About how much would all this cost?”

“Let me find you an attorney and check into it,” she said, and hung up.

Five minutes later came the return call. “I found an attorney and he said since no one was involved until now, it will cost about $2,000. Have you got that much handy?” Gee, I thought, $2,000 dollars. And just when I finally paid off my credit cards. Then—“That’s it! We can adopt her with a cash advance!”

Gary, who still seemed stunned, finally headed for work. I rushed to Wal-Mart for diapers and formula, then tried to go about my day as calmly as possible. The lawyers and agencies were beginning the legal proceedings, but it still seemed unreal. And if it seemed unreal to me, I still wasn’t sure whether Gary was ready to go along with this whole thing.

That night, Gary came with me to a book signing. Not exactly a party animal, he wore his usual calm (or was it bored?) look throughout. When it was over, I thought: Now or never.

“Honey,” I said, when it was over, “let’s go see her.”

“We can’t,” he answered pragmatically. “Visiting hours are over in 10 minutes, and it’s a 20-minute drive to the hospital.”

“Oh, come on,” I said, as I tugged him outside and into the car.

When we got to the hospital, a whispering hum followed us through the corridors. At the nurses’ station where we were directed, the nurses on duty explained, “This has been an unusual event for all of us. If the paramedics had suspected that girl was pregnant, they would have taken her to a birthing hospital down the street. We don’t even have a maternity ward here!” There were grins and giggles all around.

They gave us directions, and Gary and I walked down a long hall. My big, quiet husband hesitantly pulled down the handle of the door.

Beyond us was a huge, empty room. Empty, that is, except for one little crib standing in the middle of the floor.

Together we approached, and saw a tiny newborn. Gary leaned down to touch her. As he did, she reached out and wrapped her tiny fingers around his. I watched and heard Gary whisper in his deep voice, “Hi, honey! This is your daddy.”

As unexpected as it was, it was as if daddy and daughter had been waiting just for each other.

Some things, I guess, are meant to be.

It might be awhile, however, before Gary is completely relaxed when he asks, “How was your day, dear?”

Sheryl Nicholson

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