Wednesday, February 16, 2011February 16th, 2011 at 3:08 pm by Deanna Dewberry under Deanna's Journey
It all started with a trip to the attic. My sweet neighbor babysits pre-school kiddos and needed an extra booster seat for a short car ride. We’ve saved most of our 8-year old son’s baby items in anticipation of his having one day having a sibling, so I offered to loan her our booster seat. I found it easily. It was tucked away along with a beloved t-ball set, high chair, and toddler car seat. I took the booster seat to my neighbor’s home and then went upstairs to the nursery – still filled with a white crib, chest, and bookcases long outgrown – echos of my baby boy who is a baby no more.
And then I did what I never should have done. I went to the guest room and opened the drawers stuffed full of adorable very pink baby clothes. These, of course, were not Ethan’s; they were to be his little sister’s. In December of 2009, our adoption agency had made the call every adoptive parent to be hopes to receive. And when we met the young woman still in her first trimester of pregnancy, we knew God had brought her into our lives. She was attending the university that had just awarded me an honorary doctorate. I felt a connection to this school that offers a second chance at an education to so many adult students. And immediately, I felt an even deeper connection to her. We talked for hours; she poured out her heart. And my husband and I knew immediately our family would grow not only by one - the child she carried whom we planned to adopt - but also by four more – this young mother and her three children who would be a part of our lives forever.
Months later we went to her doctor’s appointments and got a DVD of her sonogram that revealed the grainy, glorious image of our little girl, the child my mother and I planned to dress in a plethora of pink - jumpers, dresses, onsies, bonnets. My child would be born in June, but in April I got another call from the adoption agency – one that so many adoptive parents-to-be have gotten - one for which I should have been prepared. But I wasn’t. Our birth mother decided to keep the baby, and I was dumbstruck. Over the months we had invested thousands of dollars, but more importantly we had made a deep emotional investment in this woman and her unborn child. And I was unprepared. I read the birth announcement in the paper in mid-June. I smiled with the knowledge that the little girl who would never be mine was born healthy and whole. And I think about that baby’s mother often – how difficult that decision must have been – how heartrendingly painful for that mommy too.
Months later, my tears are at times overwhelming - choking away all available air - coming at the most unexpected moments – tv commercials, songs on the radio, discussions about children, and yes, trips to the attic. And I constantly ask God what he wants me to learn from that heartbreak. My prayer rarely changes, “Teach me. Show me. Guide me. I’m lost Father.”
Then on Thursday, November 10th, another call from my adoption counselor – another birth mother, another baby girl. And this time, the child was due in weeks. Two days earlier, I had just had the biopsy. But I wasn’t worried. The radiologist had told me it looked like a fibroadenoma – a harmless, not uncommon, benign breast tumor. I was beyond cautiously optimistic; I had already dismissed the possibility of cancer and was making lists of the things needed from Babies R Us. But as you know, two days later I got a phone call that gave me the news that would change our lives in the way I never expected – breast cancer, virulent, life-threatening. I was so angry with God I was spitting prayers through clinched teeth. “What about the baby?!?” I asked him. ”How could you bless me with this child two days before I learn I have cancer? That seems so very cruel. But you’re not cruel. Explain this to me! I don’t understand….”
The next day, another email from my adoption counselor. This mother had also changed her mind. I was suffocating with emotion - anger, grief, bewilderment, relief. I was, in part, relieved that the birth mother had changed her mind. After all, I knew my cancer battle would be grueling, but there is no way I would have been able to say no to the possibility of adopting a little girl. Imagine how difficult it would have been for my husband to care for a sick wife, run a household, shuttle our third grader to an abundance of after-school activities, and care for a newborn. Still I grieved for the child that might have been – grieved for the good health I knew I’d lost, and was angry with a Father who seemed to have left me. I’ve prayed for years for a daughter. Had He answered my prayer, and that answer is no?
I cried for hours Friday morning – hours. And yes, it was the ugly cry – loud, gut-wrenching, unrelenting. I paced around my empty house as Tipper, my collie, followed, her doggy demeanor reflecting complete and utter bewilderment. But I had to pull myself together. I had chemo that afternoon. And with a great deal of effort, I put on comfortable clothes and drove to the cancer center. Oncology nurses are extraordinarily observant. Everyone noticed the change in me, attributing it all to my disturbingly low red blood count. My red counts are so low, I’ll have to go back to the hospital later today for a blood transfusion. But that wasn’t the only reason the concealer - poorly named as it were - failed to conceal the dark circles under my eyes on Friday. And I didn’t elaborate. After all, my red counts have been low. I could feel it. Work took incredible effort this week.
Because white cell boosting shots have kept those counts high, I was able to have chemotherapy. And during the hours I sat in that chair, my mood lifted. My nurses are so amazing; it takes absolutely extraordinary human beings to do that job. And by the end of my treatment, I was laughing and sharing funny stories from my childhood.
On my trip home, my mind shifted to Latasha, the 13-year old with osteosarcoma I met in the lobby on my first visit to my oncologist. You’ll remember I wrote about her on December 23rd. I texted her foster mother and learned cancer metastasis to her lymph nodes is worse than we feared; she’s in the hospital and understandably devastated. “When can I call her?” I wrote. ”Could you wait until morning?” she answered. ”We’re all trying to calm her down.” I spent the evening praying for this beautiful little girl I’d encountered in a chance meeting about three months ago – a child who has already lost her arm and shoulder to cancer, a child facing the disease at a time when no one should have to contemplate matters of mortality. I was preoccupied with thinking about the days ahead – wondering when I could make a trip to Fort Wayne to see her - when I slipped off to sleep.
And then at 2:00 o’clock in the morning God woke me – again. He showed me the many girls who have come into my life, allowing me to mentor, teach and yes, in some ways parent. There is of course, Latasha. And then there’s a college student who shadowed me at work years ago. On the way to cover a news story, she told me about her years spent in foster care during her mother’s lengthy illness, and finally that horrible day in high school when she was forced – as the closest living relative – to make the decision to remove her only parent from life support. Since that day four years ago, this student has become my pseudo adopted child, calling my husband and me mom and dad, enjoying dinners and trips to Starbucks with us, exchanging gifts at Christmas and birthdays, making our lives richer with her presence. And then there’s the college student who called me for help with a class assignment last month who came to chemo treatment with me. What a wonderful girl. And I’ll always adore the high school girl who I judged in a scholarship competition years ago. I was so impressed with this bright young woman I invited her to shadow me at the TV station, spoke at her Kokomo High school, and have watched her blossom into this extraordinary college leader who now serves as president of her journalism organization at IU.
I serve on the board of a non-profit organization called A Girl’s Gift that provides an intensive 10-week series of sessions on everything from math and science exploration, to self image improvement, to finding the artist within. On Saturday, the other women on the board will meet me at the hospital as I get my blood transfusion so we can finish plans for our upcoming session series. And I so look forward to the program this year because it has special meaning for me. As I wrote in a recent publication, “We will emphasize bullying and tapping the resources within. Tapping the resources within is a skill refined during a cancer battle, and I hope to teach our young women through word and deed – showing them their worth is borne not of the length of their hair, nor the shape of their bodies, but the depth of their souls, the strength of their character, the courage of their convictions, and the firmness of their faith. I hope that if they can see the value in a bald mentor who soon will be without breasts, they will realize their own worth can never be measured by the image in a mirror.”
I can’t wait to meet our youngtsers in A Girl’s Gift, ages 10-14, little girls standing on the cusp of womanhood, who hopefully will be guided to a more full, more complete sense of self. And as I lay in bed this morning – it hit me. Perhaps God’s answer to my prayer for a daughter has been yes – again and again and again. Every child, every high school kid, every college student he’s brought into my life has given me the privilege to love, mentor, and yes, in some small ways, parent. Perhaps he has given me a wealth of daughters – none of whom could fill the baby clothes in my guest room – but all of whom have filled my heart with love and gratitude. Is that your answer to my prayer, Father?
I’m crying again. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. My tears are tears of grief and gratitude – grief for the baby I may never know, and gratitude for the many girls – other women’s children – who I’ve had the privilege of parenting in some small, but hopefully significant way.
And so it is. I pray Father for a spirit of acceptance, standing peacefully in the knowlege of the truth of Romans 8:28. ”All things work together for good for those who love God and work according to His purposes…” I pray that when the answer to our prayers is yes – we can accept Your yes in all its glorious forms, knowing that You are always working for our good. You are my God, my Father, my Peace, my Joy. Amen.
For information about A Girl’s Gift, visit www.agirlsgift.org or call 317-863-1330.