Audrey took a seat in the waiting area of Zoe’s Place. The Christian music playing softly in the background helped to soothe her anxieties. The song was by Jamie Grace—one of Audrey’s favorites. But no distraction could disguise the fact that Audrey’s pregnancy was soon to be over, and she needed to come up with a plan.
Audrey’s long talks with Pastor Mitchel had sustained her through the second trimester of her pregnancy. Now as she entered the third trimester, she needed support more than ever. With Pastor Mitchel in a coma, Audrey turned to Ally at Zoe’s Place for advice.
“Audrey?” Ally’s voice rang out into the waiting area.
Audrey greeted her with a hug. They walked down a short hallway to a cozy room housing a loveseat, piled with cute decorative pillows, a coffee table, and a comfy chair. Audrey took the loveseat, settling into the nest of pillows and putting her feet up on the ottoman.
“Would you like a drink? Tea? Water? Coke?”
“Coke, please.” Audrey suddenly felt parched.
“Sure thing. I’ll be right back.”
Ally left the room, leaving Audrey alone with her thoughts. She looked around the room. It was decorated in a shabby chic sort of fashion with gauzy curtains filtering sunlight that shone through the corner window. A painted bookshelf held an assortment of items: books, a tissue box, plush blankets, and packages of saltine crackers. Audrey knew what the crackers were for—morning sickness. She was thankful that this room was pretty, comfortable, and welcoming. Unlike her obstetrician’s office that was decorated with pictures of pregnant women or mothers and babies. Even this far into her pregnancy, it was difficult for her to identify with images of mothers. Which was what brought her here today.
“Here you go.” Ally came through the door, popping open a can of Coke.
Audrey took a drink of the ice cold beverage, enjoying the refreshing fizz slide down her throat. “Thank you. I didn’t realize I was so thirsty.”
Ally relaxed in the comfy chair, crossing her legs. She held a steaming mug by the handle and took a sip. “Me either.”
Audrey braced herself for a barrage of questions. But none came. Ally appeared relaxed, as if she was just hanging out with Audrey as a friend.
“I heard about your pastor. I’m sorry.”
Audrey sighed. “Thanks. He’s still in a coma. I really think God will save him.” Audrey thought of Jake, crying at Pastor Mitchel’s bedside. “I don’t think God is finished with him yet.”
Ally smiled. “I hope you’re right. From what I’ve heard, he’s an amazing man.”
“He is.” Audrey set down her Coke. It was time to talk about what she came for. “I wanted to discuss something with you.”
Audrey placed her hands on her belly. She could feel gentle stirrings inside. “Zoe’s Place does adoptions, right?”
Ally nodded. “We do. We help match birth mothers with adoptive parents if that’s what they choose.”
Audrey took a deep breath, preparing to voice her most inner thoughts she’d been safely guarding in recent days. “I’d like to learn more about that.”
“Sure. You don’t need to be ashamed, Audrey. I see the guilt in your eyes. Giving your baby up for adoption is a selfless gift. You’d be giving your baby a chance to be raised by two loving parents whom you would choose. Parents who share your faith in the Lord.”
“That’s what I’ve been thinking about. I’m not a mom. I mean … I am, but … ” She struggled to put her thoughts into words. “I want this baby to have a mom and a dad. I want the baby to have its own room, all decorated with cutesy baby stuff. I can’t give the baby any of that.” She gained confidence as she spoke her heart. The most difficult part would come next. “I’m not excited about the baby. I mean … I love it. I know God has a purpose for it otherwise he wouldn’t have created it. But, I want someone else to be the mom.” A tear trickled down her face. She felt like a horrible person for saying that about her precious little baby. Ally would probably kick her out of the office.
Ally stood up.
Audrey held her breath.
The woman sat on the loveseat next to Audrey and hugged her.
“It’s brave of you to be honest. I can tell you’ve given this a lot of thought. Have you prayed about it?”
“Every day. I pray that God will make me excited about the baby the same way that my mom is excited.”
Ally nodded, patiently listening.
Audrey grabbed a tissue from the box on the coffee table. “When I daydream about the baby growing up, I picture her or him in a different family. I see a mom kissing the kid goodbye before sending him onto the school bus. I see a mom and dad kneeling at the child’s bed at night, saying prayers, and then tucking her in for the night.” She looked into Ally’s eyes, craving her genuine reaction. “It’s like I forget that I am supposed to be the mom.”
Ally’s eyes remained compassionate. “What do you see when you look into your own future? Of course, no one truly knows our future, except for the Lord. But what do you envision?”
A smile came to Audrey’s face. “I see myself going back to college. I want to be a social worker. Like you.”
Ally’s eyes welled with tears and creased at the corners with a tender smile. She put a hand over her heart.
“I want to run on the cross-country team again, and I’m hoping my friend Becca decides to go to Bethel with me. That would be so fun.” A vision of Trevor came to mind. Someday, she saw herself marrying him. But she decided to keep that idea to herself. “I’m impatient for this pregnancy to be over, so I can resume my normal life. But then I remember. Oh yeah, I’m going to be a mom. I don’t know if I can go to school or run on a team ever again. I’ll have to keep working as a nanny. But then who will take care of my baby? My mom? She wants to be the type of grandma who spoils the grandkid, not be the one to raise and discipline it. I don’t want to do that to my mom.” Audrey covered her face with her hands. She took a moment to compose herself before continuing. “Somewhere there is a mom and a dad praying for a baby. Maybe this is their baby.”
“What?” Audrey had been expecting Ally to tell her that God gave her the baby because she was capable of raising the child, especially with the support of her parents. That she should stop being so selfish.
“I agree. Maybe God has been preparing you all along for giving the baby up for adoption. Maybe that’s his plan for this child. God will give you the desires of your heart. As long as you are praying about your decision, God will show you what to do.”
“I really do love this baby.” She wanted to make herself clear on that.
“I understand. It’s because you love the baby so much, that you want the very best life for him or her.”
“Yes.” Audrey’s heart seemed to burst with relief that Ally understood her point of view. “That’s exactly it. But what if the baby doesn’t get that? What if the baby feels that I rejected it some day?”
Ally shook her head. “If you feel God leading you to give the baby up for adoption, then you have to believe that his will is the best way. Entrust the child to his care. He loves this baby even more than you do. Keep praying throughout the child’s entire life. Ask God to help him or her to understand your decision.”
Audrey felt as though a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. “I’m pretty sure I want the baby to be adopted, but can I think about it for a while?”
“Of course. We, at Zoe’s Place, will support whatever decision you make. I can pray with you now if you’d like.”
Audrey folded her hands and bowed her head. She listened as Ally prayed a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving for the child in Audrey’s womb. She begged God to show Audrey what decision to make about raising the baby or giving him or her up for adoption. Then Audrey prayed, first thanking God for Ally, and then echoing Ally’s request to lead her to the right decision. “And please, God, show this baby that I love him or her. More importantly, help this baby to know your love. In Jesus name, Amen.”
Audrey left Zoe’s Place feeling light as a feather. She could sense the Holy Spirit walking with her. She was pretty sure that God had a plan for a different family to raise her baby. She could live with that decision, even though it would be difficult to say goodbye. But there was one person she feared would not be able to live with that decision.
The February sun beat down on the road, reflecting off the melting snow. At the first stop light, Audrey took her sunglasses from the front pocket of her purse. Her phone chimed, signaling a Facebook update.
She lifted her phone from her purse and saw the blue blinking light, affirming that there was a Facebook update. Possibly news about Pastor Mitchel’s condition. Or a maybe just a food picture from a distant relative. Or another picture of her fifth grade teacher’s sleeping cat. In a mere ten minutes, she would be home and could safely check her phone. She dropped it back in her purse just as the light turned green.
Facebook could wait. The biggest thing on her mind was telling her mom she was considering placing her baby for adoption. As she continued the short drive home, she considered her mom’s possible reactions. There was a possibility that her mom would be happy that Audrey would be able to finish her education. Plus, her mom maybe felt too young to be a grandma. She didn’t even have gray hair yet.
Audrey was fooling herself. Her mom was excited to be a grandmother. To her, the baby was something positive that came from the experience. She talked about how the baby was proof of how God works through evil situations, making good come from them. To be honest, her mom would be heartbroken about placing the baby for adoption. She would consider it another loss.
How could Audrey do that to her?
She pulled into the driveway, and shut off the engine, no longer feeling light as a feather as she had back at Zoe’s Place. “God, please give me the words.” She grabbed her purse and made her way into the house.
“Audrey!” Her mom smiled, her eyes lighting up like a Christmas tree. She dropped a mug into the dishwasher she’d been loading and drew Audrey into a hug. “Did you hear the good news?”
Audrey plopped herself down on a stool at the island. She didn’t think she could take the wide swing of emotions she was going through today. “No. What is it?” She prayed it was good news about Pastor Mitchel.
“Maggie Mitchel sent out a post on Facebook. He’s awake. Pastor Mitchel is awake.” Her mom bounced on her toes, doing a little happy dance.
Audrey’s heart filled with relief. She checked her own phone, wanting to see proof with her own eyes. There was a picture of Pastor Mitchel, still looking horrible, but his eyes were open. He mouth was tipped into a sideways line. Quite possibly, he was trying to smile. “Are you sure he’s okay?”
Her mom settled down a bit and sat next to Audrey. “Did you read the post? He’s been coming-to slowly. It doesn’t happen all at once like in the movies. But he has said a few words, and he recognizes Maggie. He doesn’t remember the accident, but his memory is intact otherwise.”
“I’m so happy. Mom, I wasn’t sure if he was going to live.” It finally felt safe to openly acknowledge her concern to the contrary.
“We’ll keep praying for his full recovery.” Her mom jumped off the stool, too excited to stay seated. “I wonder if Victoria heard the news yet.” She went to another room to call Trevor’s mom, her best friend.
Audrey wondered if her best friend had heard the news. Under the Facebook post, there was a list of people who had reacted. There were many people from church, some names she didn’t recognize, and finally … the name she was searching for. Trevor Hayes.
She would love to call Trevor so they could rejoice together over the phone. There was so much she would say. She’d tell him how bad Pastor Mitchel had looked in the hospital. How she had feared he wouldn’t survive. She’d tell him about the unsettling conversation Mrs. Mitchel shared with her mom about their troubled marriage.
An ache filled her chest. A physical pain from missing her best friend. She needed him more now than ever before, but keeping her distance was imperative. Truly, she was keeping her distance for Trevor’s sake, even if he didn’t understand that. She was not girlfriend material at the moment. She may never be. Trevor would be better off finding someone else. A girl without all the baggage she now carried. She stood up and slid her phone into her back pocket.
It was lunch time so she opened the fridge and pulled out fixings for a lettuce salad. She wondered if Trevor had dated anyone this school year. The ache in her chest doubled. There had to be girls interested in him. He was undoubtedly good-looking. A gorgeous, modest, nice guy was a rare find. And Trevor possessed all of those qualities.
“Why do you have that dorky look on your face?” Darcy strode into the kitchen, catching Audrey by surprise.
“I don’t have any look on my face. Aren’t you supposed to be in school?”
“You look like you want to make out with that head of lettuce. And we have the day off. Teacher convention or something.”
Audrey had to admit she’d probably been starry-eyed when thoughts of Trevor had sashayed through her mind. “Whatever.” She ripped pieces of lettuce from the bunch, piling them onto a plate. She sprinkled shredded cheddar on the greens and drizzled ranch dressing on top. “Have you heard from Trevor lately?”
“Ha!” Darcy laughed. “I knew you had a dreamy look in your eyes.” She got a plate of her own and began shredding lettuce onto it.
Audrey shrugged, not denying it. “So? Have you heard from him?”
“No. Nothing other than an occasional Instagram post.”
Audrey hadn’t noticed him on Instagram lately, although she hadn’t been checking it much with everything else on her mind. She sat on a stool and stabbed a fork into her salad. While she chewed, she opened Instagram on her phone and viewed Trevor’s profile. There was a photo of a tree covered in ice crystals, the sun shining through it. Audrey giggled. Since when did Trevor become a nature photographer?
The next picture made Audrey’s stomach turn. “Who’s that?” She angled the phone for Darcy to see the selfie of Trevor and a college-age girl sporting matching U of M hats at a Gopher basketball game.
“Oh, that’s Esme. Some girl Trevor is friends with. I don’t think it’s a big deal. Her Facebook profile says she’s in a relationship. There are lots of pictures of her with a guy named Henri.” Darcy patted Audrey’s back. “I creeped on her Facebook page and Instagram to be sure. Her hometown is in Iowa. She’s an art history major. She five foot, eleven inches tall and plays intramural basketball. She has a cat named Cupcake, and she voted for Donald Trump.”
“Thank you for the extensive biography.” She’d expect nothing less from Darcy. But Audrey still wasn’t convinced there wasn’t something more going on. She breathed a sigh of relief nonetheless. “If you say so.”
“I warned you that other girls would be crushing on him.”
“He only has eyes for you.” Darcy smiled.
“Yeah, well, he hasn’t seen me like this.” Audrey patted her belly, puffing out her cheeks.
Darcy burst out in laughter. “All the more to love.”
Audrey laughed too. Something she hadn’t done in far too long. She and Darcy ate their salads, rinsed their dishes and put them in the dishwasher. “Darcy, are you excited about the baby?”
“Of course. I love babies. I can’t wait to be an aunty.”
Audrey had been hoping Darcy would say something along the lines of having a baby around would be a little weird, but that somehow they’d get used to it. However, she hadn’t sensed the least bit of trepidation from her sister.
But Darcy’s life wasn’t going to get turned upside down by becoming an aunty. She would just get a cute baby to play with and cuddle.
Darcy crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. “Are you excited to be a mommy?”
She hesitated. “Sure.” Her brief silence had said it all.
“That’s good because this baby is coming in a few months.”
Audrey looked around the corner, making sure her mom wasn’t in ear shot. “What if I’m not ready to be a mother?”
“I’m sure you’re not. But that’s not the point. This baby is coming whether you’re ready or not.” Darcy cupped her hands around her mouth and in a baby voice said, “Ready or not, here I come.” She laughed at her own joke.
“I’m thinking about placing the baby for adoption.”
Darcy’s jaw dropped.
“I’m still praying about it. Don’t tell Mom and Dad yet.”
Darcy rubbed her forehead. “Why do you always do this to me? I hate keeping secrets.”
“This is serious, Darcy. Don’t tell anyone. I wanted to run it by you before I bring it up to Mom. I know she’ll be sad. She’ll probably try to talk me out of it.”
Darcy nodded. “She’s been buying tons of baby stuff. She ordered a crib on Amazon this morning.”
Audrey’s heart dropped. “I don’t want to disappoint her again.” She toyed with her running watch. “I’ll let her enjoy the good news about Pastor Mitchel while I pray about this decision.”
Darcy crossed her arms. “I have to admit that Mom isn’t the only one who will be sad.” She turned her lips into an exaggerated frown. “I was super excited about being an aunty. But I get it.” Darcy made a zipping motion across her mouth. “I won’t tell anyone. Not even Trevor. Cross my heart.”
Read a chapter a day from Bittersweet Goodbye right here on this blog, beginning September 1st, 2019.