The first time I held my daughter in my arms wasn’t supposed to happen. But it was meant to happen, I think.
Overhead lights in the hospital corridor had been dimmed for the night. A quietness fell over the floor as visiting hours had finished. My parents had left a half hour before the time for visits had ended. They’d only known I was pregnant for a week. They were still in shock. We didn’t have much to say to each other. We all agreed, however, that releasing my baby girl for adoption was the best future I could give her.
Doubts crept in with the shadows. I turned my back to the door because seeing other new moms carrying their babies was too much for me to bear. Each cry I heard from the nursery down the hall could be my daughter calling for me. I had to push those thoughts out of my head. I wasn’t meant to have her. I’d made a decision and I didn’t know how to go back.
Due to a mix up in the nursery, and a new nurse, my baby was brought to me for a night time feeding. I told the nurse I wasn’t supposed to see her . . . I wasn’t keeping her. She didn’t listen, or hadn’t heard me, either way . . . I held my daughter for the first time.
She was warm and solid in my arms. No longer a thought, she was a reality I could feel. I remember her smell, her soft skin, the way her tiny mouth opened with a yawn. Her hair was soft as I ran my fingers through it’s inch long length. It was the same color as mine. She belonged in my arms. We’d found home, together, sitting in the still hospital room. She was mine. I held her for hours.
The next day I told my counselor I had changed my mind. I wanted to keep her. The counselor told me that I could take my time to make my decision. They had a program in which my daughter could be placed in foster care so I had time to decide. I agreed. I knew I wasn’t going to release her but I didn’t feel strong enough to say no at that moment. In tears, I left the hospital without her. My mom pushed the wheelchair down to the car. Leaving the hospital without my daughter was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do.
That moment was the first time I felt the ache in my arms that could only be filled by holding my child. The month she was in foster care, I would fall asleep each night crying, my arms folded across my chest, rocking back and forth. I desperately needed to hold my baby. Nothing else could fill this void. The day I was brave enough to tell my parents I was keeping my daughter was the day my life truly began.
I never thought I would feel that ache again. The heaviness of empty arms. A weight you can not imagine . . . unless you’ve lost a child. The deep longing to feel their skin against yours, warm and soft. Your arms enveloping their body and pulling it in tightly. Holding our child is the most content most mothers ever feel. It’s completeness.
At Becca’s viewing, I kept rubbing her feet. She always complained her feet were cold, so I would pull them into my lap and rub them. I don’t think mothers ever grow tired of touching their children. The longing that is felt when this is no longer possible is wider than the universe.
It’s the heaviest emptiness I’ve ever felt. My arms ache with it ever single day.