Only a few people knew.
Last year, it was all about asking. Every where I turned, my spirit kept whispering Just ask. Just ask. How will you know unless you ask?
And at first, I took to my art journal. I wanted to believe — wanted to hope that 2013 would end with that expectant hope being realized in our own life, but it felt like a precarious balance.
A balance I was willing to endure in silence.
My art journal has always been the place where my thoughts first see the light of day. And last December? It was full of hope. Expectancy. Shaky-yet-blissful belief.
After a few weeks, the burning inside grew wings and I couldn't not talk about it.
I posted on a Facebook page.
"I can't really explain it, y'all. It's just a feeling. I think — I think we're close. I think we're going to be placed by Christmas."
There were mentions of prayers and solidarity. A friend had a dream of Russ and I sitting in front of a Christmas tree holding a baby boy. The dates December 17 and December 20 settled in my bones.
And then there was the Sunday where I couldn't stop myself from asking for prayer at church. "Pray our baby home?" I said in between tears. "It's just been so long..." my voice cracked and I backed away from the mic, rushing back to my seat and gripping my husband's arm with one hand and my best friend with the other.
I felt maternal. It's the only description I can think to use. With a ferocity I never knew, I was so certain I could pray our baby home into my arms.
Every morning, I woke up expectant. I'd watch the time flicker and move to past-the-point-of-updates from our agency and attempted to resist the doubt.
I knew what I felt, right?
2013 wouldn't end with us still waiting, would it?
December 17 came, and it turns out my intuition was keyed in on something. I got an email.
"Hey. I saw this and wasn't going to send it to you because reasons, but now I can't stop thinking about it so maybe?"
There was a little boy waiting for a family in a hospital in a different state. He'd been born earlier that day. I called the agency, told them our story, and managed to get the cell phone number of the social worker.
It only took five minutes to know something wasn't adding up. We'd have to pay another 20k to adopt this baby. The money would be due at the time of placement, which would be December 20.
I blinked against the synchronicity and fought the tears as I hung up the phone.
"You weren't wrong," my spiritual director would tell me later. "There was a baby boy."
"...just not ours." I would reply.
Eventually, my hope faded and with it, my belief.
No one knows about the texts we got about various maybes. The little girl who's mom didn't want her anymore. The family who chose us but then decided to stay within their ethnicity. The almosts that filled our experience these past four years grew increasingly more difficult.
When we moved into our new apartment, I wouldn't let Russ bring the crib up from the garage. The changing table rests in our closet, unused and stuffed to the brim with baby clothes. We've given away almost every package of diapers we had stashed. Our friends are using the baby swing that collected dust for over a year. Part of me just wants to give it all away.
A few weeks ago, right before a Story 101 call, I got a notification on Facebook. A friend, the kind who storms the gates on my behalf, posted a request.
I want heaven and earth moved for them. I want a baby in their arms by Christmas.
My breath caught and the tears came immediately. The parallels between the last year and this year were not lost on me. But yet, so much was different. Namely, my belief. I'd grown comfortable not thinking about our continued wait. I set my roots down in the land of We Don't Have Kids and without even knowing, left my bags behind in the land of Motherhood. Leaving those bags behind meant not having to deal with the ticking clock. It meant not facing this growing grief inside.
I didn't want to hope.
I heard someone say the other day that cynicism is just a lazy form of grief. And isn't this true? Don't we all run from the heartache and into the waiting arms of Disbelief? We're safer that way.
These past few days, grief has chased me. My word for 2014 was soft. In so many ways, I thought this word endearing. What an incredible word to hold while I walk my first year of motherhood.
Now, 11 months behind me and still empty armed, I know this is the last area waiting to be softened. The year has bludgeoned me in all sorts of ways, demanding my rootedness and ownership of who I am in the deepest places. Yet, this place — motherhood — remains hard. Bedrock. I'm not sure when the concrete poured into the crevices of hope. Whenever it happened, it was slow and methodical, reaching some of my deepest beliefs.
But it can't stay that way. I know it can't. I've come too far and gained too much freedom in order to remain hardened in one of my most vulnerable places. So I welcome the Softening, shaky limbed and weepy eyed.
This morning, I started art journaling again. I woke with a brick in my gut, a sign that my intuition is pointing to something in the distance, and I'm wanting to run away.
Acknowledging the grief of our wait is excruciating, but holding the expectant hope that lands in your bones without warning is downright torture.
Last season, I asked others to believe with us.
This season, I'm asking for you to believe FOR us.
I don't know if we'll be placed by Christmas. There are a lot of things that would need to happen. I don't know when the day will come when we finally get the call we've been waiting to hear for over four years.
But what I do know is that we can't hold this hope anymore.
Our shaky limbs can't carry any more weight.