Brave Part II

Brave (adj.)-having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty: having or showing courage.

For a time I worked on a hospital unit that primarily took care of patients that had had OB/GYN surgeries. One of our functions was to care for patients that had had “poor maternal outcomes” as it was put, or otherwise needed to be on a unit where they wouldn’t have to listen to someone else’s baby crying.

During my time there I cared for several of those women. Obviously, that usually meant that they had lost their babies and had stillborn infants, but there was one other circumstance where they came to us, and that was when the Mother was putting the baby up for adoption.

She was 18, a freshman in college, the boy involved long gone. I don’t know if she didn’t have family or they didn’t know, but she was utterly alone. It was a private adoption and the couple adopting her baby had been kind to her. They were there when the baby was born. She held the baby girl once and then came to us. The couple came to see her once after and cried and thanked her. After an awkward goodbye they left, radiant, delirious with happiness, trailing joy in their wake. She sat there with a very blank look on her face and then picked up her book and began to read.

The next day as I walked down the hall, the door to the small conference room on our unit opened and a woman stepped out. She stopped me and said she was a Social Worker and they needed a witness for the consent for adoption. I walked in and she was at the table surrounded by official looking people. She looked very small and very young and very alone, her narrow shoulders drawn in. The Social Worker had kind eyes and gently explained the form and process to her. Then she said:

“Do you understand that once you sign this it’s permanent? You cannot change your mind in an hour or a week or a year?”

She said:

“Yes, I understand.”

Then she picked up the pen and signed her name, and as she did a single tear slid down her cheek.

I walked back to her room with her and helped her back into bed. I couldn’t think of a single thing to say and she said nothing. She asked for something for pain, took it from me and then turned her face to the wall. When I came back on shift the next day she was gone.

I’ve thought about her so many times through the years, and that baby girl would be a grown woman herself by now. I thought about her when they placed my own babies in my arms and I got to see every milestone of their lives. It was only then that I could understand what she gave up, what she missed and what courage she had.

I hope she has had a wonderful life. A life that included meaningful work, and a man that would stay when the going got tough. I hope she had children, and got to know the joy of that, and maybe got to reunite with the one she so bravely let go of to have a better life than she could give her.

I hope time has healed or at least a scar that she could live with, and I’m grateful for what she taught me about love and about what it means to be brave.

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