On May 17, 1993, at 9:00 a.m., a stranger I had never met taught me a lifetime of love.
On that day, at that exact hour, a committed 18-year old opened her heart as wide as the heavens themselves and all by herself, changed lives forever.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Julie and I were never destined to meet. I grew up 100 miles away from her, hometown, 21 years her senior. When she was in grade school, I was a young professional, working two jobs to support my shopping habit. Climbing the advertising agency ladder, dreaming of my prince charming, a picket fence and a yard of happy children.
And why wouldn’t I? My own mother was amazing, straight out of Ozzie and Harriet or the Brady Bunch (depending on your generation). She sent my brother and I out into the world each morning assuring us our days would be great. (I honestly thought everyone in my grade school was happy to see me every day because she told me they were. And sometimes you get exactly what you expect the world to give you.) My childhood was a happy time. When we got off the school bus, she was waiting at home with cookies or a snack ready to listen in rapt attention to our travails of the day. Sadly, she died of cancer when I was 17, but I had a world class mom-model up to that point and I was excited to carry on the motherhood tradition. We were Catholic after all, so kids weren’t a question of “if,” they were only a question of “when” and “how many.”
But a funny thing happened on the way to mommy-ville. I could not get pregnant. And the few times I did, it never lasted. Miscarriage #1– I learned the statistics and wondered how anyone actually gets pregnant at all. Miscarriage #2- Houston we have a problem.
But back to Julie, ….our two life paths intersected for the first time in January of 1993. Mine following 5+ years of aggressive fertility work, hormone shots, failed IVF procedures and more miscarriages. At that point, Julie was an 18-year old waitress at a local family restaurant, already mother of a two-year old, hoping for a college education, with another baby on the way.
Living at home, with the devoted support of her parents, Julie’s plan was to work for a year and then catch up with her friends that were already a year into their college educations. With her own savings and help from her parents she was planning to attend community college herself in the Fall of 1993. And after witnessing the total joy of adoption experienced by a family in her neighborhood, Julie made her own Adoption Plan.
With the guidance of her Adoption attorney, our relationship began when Julie selected my husband and I as prospective adoptive parents from the many profiles and dear-birth-mother letters the attorney provided.
I will never forget the feeling when I dialed her number for the first time. A working professional in my mid-30’s, I could stand fearless in front of a room of 150. Yet my fingers were shaking as I pressed the buttons on the phone. She said “hi, it’s Julie,” and my heart melted. From the first moment, I liked her entirely. We talked often via the confidential phone number we installed and provided only to her. She was bright and engaging…one minute quite reserved, and the next minute funny….but always with a quirky sense of humor that made me smile.
Over the months, and the many conversations, my respect and admiration for Julie continued to grow. With amazing grace and innocence, she was smart -well beyond her 18 years.
Julie loved her not-yet-born-child, taking care to get appropriate medical care and attending birthing classes with her mom’s best friend as labor coach.
They say that about half of birthmothers who make an adoption plan, change their mind. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but Julie never wavered.
Our phone conversations got longer and more frequent as the birth approached, We were good friends now, and she wanted to share everything. How she felt, when the baby kicked, her hopes and dreams for the baby and herself, and that her favorite color was purple.
Julie called me on Mother’s Day to say she had secretly planned to have the baby that day and was completely aggravated when her body didn’t cooperate. No labor. No baby that day.
She called the following Sunday afternoon and among her many other daily observations, told me she was “sure” this was the day. We talked about other random topics, and ended the conversation around 5:00 in the evening, with me wishing her a pleasant evening and telling her I loved her.
Around 11:00 p.m. Julie called again to let me know she was in fact in the delivery room. She then passed the phone to a nurse she had convinced to hold the phone to the baby monitor so that I could hear my baby’s heart beat. As tears streamed down my face, the nurse informed me they would need to hang up now as Julie was in the midst of delivering a healthy 6 lb, 7 oz baby girl.
At 9:15 the next day, May 17th, our adoption attorney called to let us know that Julie had signed the adoption consent forms at exactly 9:00 a.m., clearing the way for our adoption to go forward. Never a doubt. No hesitation. With pen-to-paper, she taught us real love.
Our life’s lesson in love was unexpected, unplanned, and from the most unlikely of circumstances. It did not come in the usual way. Nor did it come from specialists, as a result of elaborate plans, or through social or business connections. It was not about what we had or what we deserved. Love came to us as it often does, from life itself, in ways you don’t know how to expect.
Our baby girl is now 18 years old, and headed to college herself this Fall. And for all these 18 years not a single day goes by that I don’t think of Julie. I pray all her dreams have come true 100 times over. And as for us, my daughter is a beautiful girl, with a huge heart. One day reserved, and the next day quite funny. Everyone says she has a quirky sense of humor. And, oh yeah….her favorite color…is purple.