From my first breath to her last


sandyandI.1There are moments in our lives that define us–that push us, sometimes kicking and screaming, to be the person we are or to realize the person we could be. For some, it’s a series of life events, but for others, it’s a single, defining moment of clarity that hits you like lightning from the Heavens. For me, this single, defining moment was meeting my birth mother and discovering that I was a child conceived, not in love, but by a brutal act of violence.

I often wonder what my life would be like had I never went searching for her and never uncovered the truth of my birth. Would I still be attending church “some” Sundays and carving out exceptions for abortion if the child was conceived by rape?  My answer, happily, is no because, since I met my birth mother I have become a better person, a better daughter, and a better Christian.

When I got the call that my birth mother was in the hospital in Michigan and not doing well, I knew I needed to be there. At the age of 57, she had contracted a urinary tract infection that went septic. For seven days, she was on a ventilator fighting for her life, and for seven days, I was sitting beside her praying that God would give me more time with the woman who had given me life. Three years wasn’t long enough to get to know the woman who sacrificed so much for me.

On the 4th day of her hospitalization, the doctors reported improvements in her test results. Encouraged, I decided to head home and see my children. My husband and I had been at the hospital every day, and this night we felt she was strong enough for us to go home and see our kids. We lived three hours from the hospital and we were completely exhausted.  She was still on a ventilator and couldn’t talk. Before we left, I kissed her cheek and said, “Love ya girlfriend, you are my hero.”.A single tear trickled down her cheek.. Arriving at the hospital the next morning, I was met with the distressing news that she had slipped into a coma during the night.  At the time I had kissed her cheek and whispered in her ear, I didn’t realize those were going to be the last words I said to her or I would have said so much more.

My birth mother fought for three more days, but on the 7th day, the doctor delivered the devastating news: She was dying, and nothing could be done. My heart sank and all the hopes and dreams of a future with the woman who had given me life sank, too. That day I sat for hours watching the monitor and tracking every beat of her heart, every breath she took. Eventually, her heart beats slowed as did her breathing. My eyes were glued to the monitor. I was terrified that if I looked away, even for a second, the monitor would go silent and dark. The slower the beat of her heart, the more I fell apart. Then she took one last breath and her heart stopped. As I held my birth mother’s hand in those final moments, my husband held me. I could feel his arms tighten around my waist–his presence an anchor gifted by God during one of life’s stormy moments.

Although I tried to be strong for my birth mother’s husband, I completely fell apart! Tears flowed just thinking about what my  life would be without her presence, her courage, and her strength. This woman who had fought so hard for my life, carrying me to term, all the while knowing she couldn’t love me the way I needed to be loved, knowing that I needed a mother and a father, and giving my Mom and Dad the most precious of gifts, a baby daughter. The most selfless gift a mother can give is her child, and she gave me freely, with no reservations. How blessed I am to have been given a gift of such magnitude that it can never be repaid. She believed in me until the day she died, and I believed in her. She was with me when I took my first breath, and I was holding her hand when she took her last. How amazing is God to allow her to be there for me when I needed her the most and how awesome is it that God allowed me to be there for her when she needed me the most?

March 6th is the first anniversary of my birth mother’s death, and I find myself missing her more than ever. Looking back at that day, there was so much more I wanted to say to her, so many more questions that will go unanswered. Since the day I reconnected with her I have spoken nationally and internationally on her amazing story of sacrifice, selflessness, and forgiveness.  Blessed with loving parents, an amazing husband, and my children, my life is a testament to the courage and strength of a scared 17-year-old girl who put her fears aside to save the life of an innocent child. And God willing, I will use that gift to speak for those who have no voice and for the sanctity of life in every mother’s womb.

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