Audrey pulled a T-shirt over her head and stretched it over her rounded belly. Then she put on a pair of shorts and stood before her full-length mirror, examining her reflection. From the back she could almost pass for any normal eighteen-year-old girl. But from the side, she looked like an eighteen-year-old girl who had swallowed a beach ball. Now eight months into the pregnancy, she didn’t see how her body could expand any more than it already had. And she still had a couple weeks to go.
The changes that had warped her body over the past few months had been terrifying. The skin over her abdomen was stretched so thin that it was taut, she suffered random nose bleeds, and constipation and heartburn plagued her day and night. There were days she felt angry and so depressed that her mom had to coerce her out of bed. But once in a while, she would have a day where she felt hopeful and even mesmerized at the idea of a baby growing inside of her. Today was one of those days.
The house was quiet as she padded downstairs. Her dad had left for work a few minutes earlier, and her mom was out buying flowers with Trevor’s mom at the local nursery. She plopped down on the chair in the entryway to put on her running shoes. Reaching around her belly to tie them was getting more difficult each day. Running in general was becoming more difficult each day. Her body felt heavy now, and the baby bounced on her bladder with each step. In spite of the discomfort, she was determined to run up until the day she delivered. Without running, she thought she might lose herself entirely. A moan escaped her lips as she pushed herself to a standing position and waddled out the door.
Warm May sunshine kissed her cheeks. She breathed in the scent of freshly cut grass. Closing her eyes momentarily, she relished the newness of spring. It had been a long, cold winter and this spring in particular was a welcome sight.
She set her Garmin watch, which reminded her how slow she was these days, and headed out. Passing by Trevor’s house, she said a prayer for him. It had been nearly five months since they’d talked up in her bedroom. He had honored her wish and hadn’t tried to contact her, but a perpetual ache in her heart didn’t allow one day’s passing without her thinking of him.
She prayed for him whenever he came to mind. She prayed that he was getting along fine without her, and she prayed that if God wanted them to be together one day that He would give each of them patience for when the time was right. She also boldly prayed that if it wasn’t in His plan for them to be together that she would be able to let him go.
Her talks with Pastor Mitchel had been helpful. He’d resumed calling her every Sunday night since discharging from the hospital. Only Pastor Mitchel would be thinking of others while recovering from a near death experience. He prayed with her and encouraged her that God had a plan in all of this. As well as a plan for him and Mrs. Mitchel.
The first few minutes of the run felt awkward as Audrey adjusted her gait to accommodate her growing body, but soon her legs found a natural rhythm as she ran through the neighborhood she had run through too many times to count. She had the sidewalks memorized, down to each crack. She could accurately anticipate the bark of each dog behind the fences. Her feet knew the route without her having to tell them where to go. Not a day had gone by without her running, with the exception of Sundays. Running was the one consistency in her life.
She loved being in the sunshine and fresh air, getting the exercise her body craved. But mostly she loved that running gave her time to think and to pray with no interruptions. And she’d had a lot of thinking to do lately. There were important decisions to be made and time was running out. She needed to decide what to do once the baby was born. She pondered the options.
The first option was that after giving birth, she and the baby would continue living with her parents. Her mom volunteered to watch the baby while Audrey worked. Audrey would do her best to save up money in hopes that one day she would be able to move out and be self-sufficient in raising the child. In addition, she would commute to school. But that was asking a lot of her mother.
Audrey leaned toward option number two. Adoption. This would allow Audrey not only to return to school but also to live on campus. Her mom and dad would be able to enjoy being empty nesters once Darcy would graduate. The baby would have mature, financially stable parents. It seemed to be the obvious choice, except for one thing. It would break her mom’s heart.
Not that placing her baby for adoption would be easy for Audrey either. The idea of handing over her baby to strangers was pretty scary, but not as much if Audrey was able to choose the family herself. Ally said that waiting couples put together an autobiography in scrapbook fashion. The scrapbook page would give Audrey a good picture of the home her baby would be raised in. Audrey would even get to meet the couple before the baby was born, so they really wouldn’t be strangers.
Even so, it would be difficult for Audrey to say goodbye to her child. What if, after the baby was born, she would fall in love with him or her—only to never see her baby again? She put a hand on her belly and was surprised at the gut wrenching tug on her heart. This baby was a part of her, after all. She couldn’t just give it away.
There was no good option.
Overwhelmed by the weight of her decision, Audrey stopped dead in her tracks. Her paralyzing emotions refused to let her body take another step. A young boy, who had been approaching on his bicycle, swerved onto the grass to avoid hitting her. “Hey, be careful, lady!”
She stood, unmoved.
Above her, a breeze rustled the leaves on a tree branch extending over the sidewalk. She looked up. Through the leaves, she saw a robin perched on the side of her nest. Audrey watched as the bird rose into the air and circled above her before landing on a nearby fence post.
If only I could be a bird, Audrey thought, without a care in the world. It reminded her of a Bible passage that talked about how God takes care of even the smallest sparrow. The point was that as God’s children, we shouldn’t worry. If He takes care of the birds, of course He will take care of His children. Something like that.
Staring into the bright blue sky she begged aloud, “God, show me what to do. Make your plan clear. I promise to be obedient, just show me what to do.” She stood still, her prayer resonating in the spring air.
She sucked in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Amazingly, as the air seeped from her lungs, a peace washed over her and settled her racing heart. She felt her shoulders rise as the load of her burdens miraculously lifted. She knew that God had taken the burden from her, and in time He would reveal His plan. She just needed to trust Him and His timing.
Feeling renewed, she began to move her feet again. For the first time since that awful night last fall, Audrey felt free. Free as a robin soaring through the sky. She experienced freedom from the guilt that had rested so heavily on her conscience, freedom from the responsibility of deciding how to handle her pregnancy, and freedom from the fear of her unknown future. It was all erased in a matter of seconds.
It was what Audrey called a “God moment.” It was the kind of moment she could never put into words because no words could do it justice. It was a moment where God spoke clearly and unmistakably to her heart. She still didn’t have the answer to her dilemma, but she knew that God did.
Her footsteps gradually quickened and soon she was bounding down the sidewalk, a smile spreading across her face. The vibrant colors of the tulips bordering the sidewalk seemed brighter than ever before, and the scent of lilacs had never seemed so lovely. For that moment, all seemed right with the world, all because God was in control.
She ran two more miles, enjoying the newness of spring and basking in the Lord’s palpable presence. With just a couple of blocks to go, a reference to a Bible verse came to mind: 2 Corinthians 12:9. Only she couldn’t remember the words. All she remembered was learning it at church camp years ago and feeling power in the words like she’d never experienced from the Bible before. It was her first God moment. She hadn’t experienced that same power since, until today.
What were the words to that verse? She’d never been good with memorizing scripture. Never retained them much more than a week. With the exception of the verse Pastor Mitchel had pounded into her head.
She raced home and ran up to her bedroom, out of breath, her heart pounding. Paging through her Bible, she finally found 2 Corinthians. Her anxious eyes scanned the pages until they fell on chapter twelve, verse nine. The words were highlighted in red, showing that they were words spoken by Jesus. It read, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Chills ran down her arms. He wanted her to be reminded of the verse again today, didn’t He?
His grace was sufficient.
That was where the peace had come from that she experienced standing under that tree. No matter how bad her mistakes, God would extend His grace to her, His forgiveness and His mercy. And at her weakest moment, when the weight of her problems became too much to bear, His power overcame her weakness.
In His power, she was able to move one foot in front of the other and continue her run. Not just finish her run, but run with her head held high and joy in her heart. In the same way, God would empower her to walk through this difficult time in her life.
Audrey closed her eyes and spoke to the Lord. “Thank you for your grace. Thank you for taking care of me.” She put her hand on her belly. “Thank you for taking care of this little one. I give this baby to You, Lord. I will do whatever you lead me to do for this child. You know what is best for her … or him. If you want me to be a mom, I will. And I will love this baby with all my heart. But if you have another family chosen for her … or him, please help me to find them. And please give me the strength to let my baby go.”
The infant squirmed under Audrey’s hand. She opened her eyes to see something that could’ve possibly been a miniature foot glide across her abdomen. She giggled, amazed by the truth that a little person, alive and well, was being formed inside of her. She rubbed her belly, where she guessed the baby’s back to be. And speaking straight from her heart, she quietly said, “I love you, baby.”
It was true. She did love this baby. She loved the baby so much that she was at peace with whatever God would want her to do. She had enough love to care for her child and to be the mother God would equip her to be. But if led in a different direction, she also had enough love to give the child to another loving home.
God promised to take care of the littlest sparrow. Likewise, He would take care of Audrey, and He would take care of her baby.
Audrey showered and lay down on her bed, sinking into the downy softness. Running took a lot more out of her these days. A nap would be nice, but her mind was wide awake. She brought Facebook up on her phone and scrolled through the entries. There were food pictures, snapshots of pets, vacation photos, and then a post that caught her attention. A middle-aged woman from church was posing with her elderly grandmother in a botanical garden. The caption read, Early Mother’s Day celebration.
This Sunday would be Mother’s Day. It was a tradition for Audrey and her sister to bring their mom breakfast in bed. Each year, they placed a corsage on the breakfast tray that their mom would wear the rest of the day. Something to make her mom feel special. Something to show everyone she came in contact with that day that she was someone special. That she was loved.
In that moment, a realization dawned. Mother’s Day was for her mom. It wasn’t for her. She wasn’t going to be a mom.
She’d felt all along that her baby belonged to someone else. Yes, she would always be the birth mother. She’d always have that connection to the child, and nothing could change that. But someone else would raise the child. Like Ally had said, God had been preparing her to place the baby for adoption. Now she recognized that beyond a shadow of a doubt. It was time to let her mom know.
Audrey’s mom was seated at the table, paging through her Bible. “Hi, Mom.”
Engrossed in her study, her mom didn’t answer. That’s okay. It allowed Audrey a few more minutes to prepare how to break the news.
Her stomach growled. She rummaged through the refrigerator and then the cabinets. It was difficult to make any decision with her mind preoccupied by her anticipated conversation with her mom. Empty-handed, she came over to the table and sat down next to her mother.
Her mom looked at her. “Couldn’t find anything good?”
“Actually, everything looks good. I need a minute to decide.” Audrey put her feet up on a chair and leaned back, lengthening her torso to make more room to breathe.
“I’ll heat up a cinnamon roll for you.” Her mom rose from her chair. She placed the roll on a pretty plate warmed it in the microwave. “Would you like butter?”
Soon the aroma of cinnamon and warm butter filled Audrey’s senses. Her mom placed the roll in front of Audrey, along with a tall glass of milk. “I’m happy to see you’ve got your appetite back. I have to admit I was worried about you not getting enough nutrients for a while.”
“It’s back with a vengeance.” Audrey took a bite and licked gooey cinnamon off her fingers.
Audrey had always loved when her mom made homemade rolls. As a little girl, Audrey would sit at the counter watching her mother knead the dough. Her mom would break off a piece of it so Audrey could mold it like Play-dough.
Her mom folded her Bible closed, tucking her worksheets neatly between the pages and set it aside. “It won’t be long before the baby will be here.”
“Funny you should mention it.” Audrey sighed, picking at crumbs on her plate. “I’ve been thinking about that.” She looked up from her plate and out the window facing the pond. “I don’t feel ready.”
“You don’t feel ready for the baby to come? There is a lot to do. We could go out and do some shopping today. We need an infant bathtub and baby shampoo—”
“That’s not what I mean.” She looked her mom in the eye. She had to just hurry up and say it before she’d chicken out. “I mean … I don’t feel ready to be a mom.”
“What are you trying to say?” Her mom’s fingers were trembling.
“I’ve decided to place the baby for adoption. I’ve prayed about it a lot.”
Her mom didn’t say anything, but the expression on her face told Audrey that she was deeply saddened. She placed her hand on Audrey’s belly and closed her eyes. Maybe she was praying for her grandchild. Or maybe she was memorizing the feel of the little kicks.
“Mom, I’ve always wanted to be a mother … and I still do. But not now.” She wanted her mom’s approval so badly. “Is that selfish of me?”
Her mom withdrew her hand from Audrey’s belly. She touched a strand of Audrey’s hair, still damp from her shower. “No. It’s not selfish.”
Audrey breathed a sigh of relief. “You have no idea how much I needed to hear you say that. I mean, I love this baby. But keeping it just doesn’t feel right. I want my baby to have a good life with a mom and a dad. I know we have a good home, but I want more for my baby. Know what I mean?”
“Yes. I’m sad, but I understand.” A tear slipped down her face.
“I’ve already talked to Ally at Zoe’s Place about adoption. She’ll walk me through every step.”
Her mom hugged her. “Honey, are you sure this is what God wants?”
Audrey didn’t have to hesitate. “I’m sure.”
Read a chapter a day from Bittersweet Goodbye right here on this blog, beginning September 1st, 2019.