Dressed in a hospital gown and hooked up to monitors, Audrey rode out the contraction one painstaking breath at a time. This was it. The day her baby would be born. She’d planned a dinner for next week to introduce the adoptive parents to her mom and dad. Instead, the meeting would take place today in the hospital.
The door to her hospital room opened and her mom entered the room. “Mom, I’m so glad you’re here.”
Her mom came to her side and held her hand. “Sorry I didn’t come sooner. I forgot to turn my phone back on after Bible study. I went to the grocery store and when I was standing by the limes I remembered to turn my phone on, and then I saw all of your texts.”
“It’s okay, Mom. Trevor and Lucas drove me here so I wouldn’t be alone.” Truthfully, she hadn’t thought she’d last another minute without her mom.
Her mom brushed a loose curl off of Audrey’s forehead, tucking it behind her ear like she used to do when Audrey was little. “How are you doing?”
Audrey sighed. “Oh, I’m fine. But it hurts really bad.”
As if on cue, a contraction started. Audrey drew in deep breaths as the nurse had instructed, exhaling slowly through pursed lips. She trained her eyes on the machine at the bedside, watching the numbers climb as pain gripped her abdomen and back. Finally, the numbers steadily decreased again, and Audrey relaxed.
“Honey, you can get an epidural so it won’t hurt so much.”
“I already got an epidural. The nurse said that it shouldn’t take away all the pain. She said it will be easier to push if I can feel more. Plus, my labor is going really fast for a first-time mom. I guess that makes it hurt more.”
“So where is Trevor? I didn’t see him when I came up.”
“He and Lucas are in the waiting room. It was too awkward having them in here when the doctors and nurses keep doing stuff to me.”
“That makes sense.”
“Yeah, well Trevor probably couldn’t handle all the medical stuff anyway. He already fainted once.”
Her mom laughed. “That’s why women have the babies. Men couldn’t handle it.”
“That’s what the nurse said.” Audrey would laugh too if it weren’t for the constant ache in her lower abdomen.
“Is he okay?”
“Actually, he got a pretty big goose egg on the side of his head. They gave him an ice pack, a Tylenol, and a Sprite. They told Lucas to keep a close eye on him. I think he’ll be alright.” Talking took great effort at this point, but it helped to keep her mind off the pain.
“The poor guy.” Her mom stifled a laugh.
There was a light knock on the door and her dad and Darcy walked in. “What’s so funny?” Her dad kissed her mom lightly on the lips.
Her mom shook her head. “Absolutely nothing, dear.”
Her dad kissed Audrey’s cheek. “How are you, honey?”
“Don’t ask.” Another contraction was tightening her belly.
This contraction was longer and more intense than any other. It seemed it would never end. She looked to her dad for strength and saw tears welling in his eyes. He locked eyes with her until the pain let up.
“Well, honey, you sure did a number on Trevor.”
Her mom laughed. “So you heard about him fainting?”
He chuckled. “Yeah, and I also heard about Audrey slugging him.”
Her mom looked at Audrey quizzically.
“I forgot to mention that part.”
“I’ll fill you in later,” her dad told her mom. “I told Trevor and Lucas they could go, now that you’re mother and I are here.”
Audrey moaned, tightening her grip on her mother’s hand. “It hurts so bad, and I think I have to go to the bathroom.”
“I remember that feeling.” Her mom jumped to her feet. “Usually that’s the baby telling you it’s time to push. How dilated did they say you were?”
Audrey couldn’t answer right away. She bit the inside of her cheek and moaned. Through clenched teeth, she answered with all her strength, “like eight or something.”
Her mom pressed the nurse call button.
The pain was unbelievable. Just when she thought it couldn’t get any worse, the next contraction would make the previous one feel like a picnic. Pushing was hard. She didn’t know if she was doing it right. All she knew was that it hurt. Toughen up, she’d tell herself.
While she was incredibly thankful for her parents’ arrival, they were quite possibly making her more anxious. Her mom kept rubbing her temples between contractions. And then when the contractions came, she would squeeze Audrey’s hand so hard that it gave her a second reason to moan in pain.
Her dad remained calm, but he couldn’t hide the tears in his eyes. They were tears of love and concern but also of regret and sorrow. Audrey didn’t want to think about the bad thing that had happened to get her where she was today—laying in a hospital, painfully birthing a child she would have to say goodbye to. For now, she just needed to think positive thoughts so that she could survive each contraction. Her sister was a quiet source of comfort, mostly keeping to herself.
The best distraction from the pain was the anticipation of her family meeting the adoptive parents. It was disappointing that the dinner plans hadn’t work out, but it would possibly be more fun for the meeting to take place here in the hospital. Audrey had called Ally at the adoption agency as soon as she was in labor. Ally said she would contact the adoptive parents and tell them it was time to go to the hospital.
It was Audrey’s choice whether or not she would invite them into the birthing room. She decided to invite them in after she’d had a couple of minutes to hold the baby. Ally said that she would poke her head into the delivery room to let Audrey know when they had arrived. So when the pain wasn’t too consuming, Audrey fixed her eyes on the door, watching and waiting for Ally.
Finally, after pushing for an hour, Ally entered the room. But with her presence came something that took Audrey by surprise. Sadness. She had been so looking forward to Ally’s arrival, yet with it came the reminder that she would have to say goodbye to her baby, almost as soon as she said hello.
Audrey watched her mom go to the door and introduce herself. Her mom promised Ally that she would send a nurse to let her know when the adoptive parents were welcome in the room.
Half an hour later, the doctor told everyone to get their cameras ready. A shrill cry filled the room as the baby breathed for the first time. The sound roused emotions in Audrey she’d never felt before. Awe and wonder washed over her. Nothing could have prepared her for the overwhelming feelings of joy and love that consumed her with the sound of that first cry. Tears streamed down her face as she gave one last push, her chin to her chest and her eyes squeezed shut.
The doctor placed the squirming infant on Audrey’s abdomen. Audrey wanted to open her eyes to see her baby, but overcome by exhaustion, she laid her head back onto the pillow. Reaching a hand down, she felt the baby’s soft cheek. Slowly, she summoned the strength to lift her head and look at her baby.
“She’s beautiful,” the doctor said. “Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” Audrey whispered, overcome with emotion. The doctor was right. The baby girl was the most beautiful thing Audrey had ever laid eyes on.
A nurse stepped in and rubbed the baby vigorously with a blanket, causing her to cry louder. A protective instinct kicked in and Audrey wanted to order the nurse to be gentle. As if reading her mind, the nurse explained that crying helps to clear her lungs.
Audrey touched the baby’s miniature fingers, marveling at the perfection of each one. She cupped the baby’s delicate hand in hers. “Shh, baby Grace. You’re okay.”
The nurse placed a pink hat, topped with a pom-pom, on the baby’s head. Then she wrapped her in a dry blanket and placed her in Audrey’s arms. The baby instantly quieted and struggled to open her eyes. “Hi, sweet girl. Welcome to the world.”
Audrey’s family gathered around the bed, hugging, snapping pictures, and oohing and aahing. But no photo could capture the bittersweet emotion welling in Audrey’s soul. She had never experienced a greater love in all her life than at that moment, gazing into her daughter’s eyes. “I love you, Grace.” She kissed a downy cheek and breathed in the fresh newborn scent.
Darcy captured the moment with a click of her phone’s camera. “She’s so cute!” Darcy snapped a couple more pictures. “And I’m not just saying that because I’m her aunty. She is honestly cute.”
Audrey’s mom leaned in to get a closer look at the infant. “She looks just like her mother.” Nostalgia shone in her eyes.
The nurse offered to take a picture of the entire family gathered around the head of the bed. Everyone posed, soaking in the joy of the moment. Capturing it on photo as well as in their hearts. “One big, happy family.” The nurse handed the camera back to her dad.
The nurse’s words stung. If only it were true. If only Audrey could take baby Grace home. They could be one big, happy family. The nurse was well aware of the situation, and Audrey wished she had been more sensitive. Truthfully, the family was incomplete, so far. The other members were outside the room, praying and waiting for Grace’s arrival. It was only fair to include them in this beautiful moment.
But first, Audrey took a moment to memorize each detail of her daughter’s face, smoothing her delicate eyebrows, kissing her soft pink cheeks, and nuzzling her button nose. Then with eyes spilling over with tears, and a heart overflowing with a mingling of sorrow and joy, she nodded to the nurse. It was time to introduce the adoptive parents to their new baby girl.
“Are you sure about the adoption? You think you can say goodbye?” Worry creased her mom’s brow. Although she supported Audrey’s decision, she was unconvinced that it was God’s plan.
“Mom, I promise you that I found the perfect couple.”
Her mom nodded weakly.
“Would you like to hold her?”
“I’d love to.”
Carefully, Audrey handed the baby to her mom. Grace’s eyes were wide open, and she made gentle cooing sounds. Her mom smiled at the baby. “Hi, little girl. We love you so much. You’re mommy did a great job bringing you into this world.” She held the baby to her chest. “Jesus loves you, precious girl.”
The door creaked open. Audrey held her breath.
Pastor Mitchel and Mrs. Mitchel walked in.
Her mom greeted them, cradling Grace in her arms. “What a nice surprise. Audrey didn’t tell me you were coming.” She positioned Grace so they could see her face. “Meet my new grandbaby.”
The Mitchels stared at Grace in wide-eyed wonder. Then they looked at Audrey.
Audrey lifted her hand in a dainty wave, hoping the Mitchels would be as excited as she was about the arrangement.
Mrs. Mitchel clutched her chest as joyful sobs overtook her. Pastor Mitchel wrapped his wife in his arms, also crying like a baby. It was a better reaction than Audrey had even imagined.
Her mom struggled to put the pieces together. “What’s going on?”
Audrey giggled. “Mom, I would like you to meet Grace’s new mommy and daddy.”
Ally, from the adoption agency, stepped into the room behind the Mitchels, a sly smile curling her lips. She winked at Audrey, and Audrey winked back. They’d pulled off the surprise. Audrey sat back, watching it all play out.
“Yes!” Darcy ran to Pastor Mitchel and threw her arms around his neck. “This is so awesome!” She hugged Mrs. Mitchel next.
“Thank you, Darcy,” Mrs. Mitchel returned her hug. “We feel very blessed.”
“And incredibly grateful,” Pastor Mitchel added.
Audrey’s mom was speechless, her mouth agape. Her dad strode across the room and shook Pastor Mitchel’s hand, and then hugged Mrs. Mitchel. His eyes were glistening when he released her. “We are also blessed … and incredibly grateful.”
Finally, Audrey’s mom embraced each of the new parents separately, holding Grace in the crook of one arm. “My heart is bursting with joy.” She stood back, soaking in the site of the adoptive parents—her friends. “Audrey was right. This adoption truly has been orchestrated from Heaven above.”
Audrey smiled. “Now do you believe me, Mom? They’re the perfect parents, right?”
“Hold on a minute,” Pastor Mitchel chimed in. “Those are some pretty high expectations you’re placing on us first-timers.”
Audrey laughed. “I’m sure you’ll do great.” She had no doubts.
“Hold your daughter.” Her mom extended the little squirming bundle.
Mrs. Mitchel stepped gingerly around the doctor who was finishing her work at the foot of the bed. She sat down on the vinyl-covered hospital chair. Pastor Mitchel stood beside her, his hand on her shoulder. Her mom placed Grace into Mrs. Mitchel’s open arms.
Darcy took pictures as everyone else looked on, tears of joy streaming down the faces of all present, including the doctor and nurse.
All attention was on the family of three, united for the first time. Audrey knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had designed this family. She was grateful to have had a part in its formation.
Read a chapter a day from Bittersweet Goodbye right here on this blog, beginning September 1st, 2019.