Adoption, loss by Libby Russell

ou were born into chaos, and I’m sorry for that. It was my fault, all of it, including the fact that I left it far too late in my labour to get myself to the hospital, and so you were very nearly born in a corridor. But you weren’t; we made it just in time, and you entered the world in a small private room – “We thought it would be best, given your situation.” – in a hospital somewhere in the east of England at 10.26am. Very convenient, apparently. 

Your fingers were impossibly small, that’s what I remember thinking first. Eight fingers, two thumbs, bafflingly tiny, and perfect. Everyone talks about their children holding their forefinger with their new little fist, but you didn’t, busy sleeping, burrowing yourself into enviable dreams. I didn’t mind. I wished I could have been sleeping too. Not wanting to wake you, I cradled you, your head resting on my collarbone, hoping the pain swelling in my chest wouldn’t extend to your fragile skin.

My love, my blood, my child, you are more precious than you will ever know. Never think you were unwanted. Never deign to think you were unloved. You are my breath, my pulse. I didn’t know pain like the kind I felt in your absence could be survived. You taught me what it was to feel love that made the world disappear beyond my periphery, and for that I will never be able to thank you enough. That is why I had to let you go.

Love was all I had to offer you, and an endless supply of it at that, but with the best will in the world, it isn’t enough to survive on. Aside from the sacred few minutes we spent, I was all alone. I was hungry, and I was tired, and afraid, and I would sooner have died that let these things be your inheritance. The best I could have given to you was already yours the moment you entered the world; good genetics, even if I do say so myself. You will have strong bones and healthy teeth, a good immune system and excellent eyesight. None of this pays rent, or buys toys or shoes. You, darling, deserved more than I could ever give you.

And we were lucky, if I can say that. I found an agency a few weeks before you were due that quickly found a couple who couldn’t have children of their own. I never got to meet them, but I was assured that they were kind and secure, and that you would want for nothing. She will be loved, the woman from the agency said, I can assure you of that.

The door opened with a groan and you whimpered in your sleep. My grip tightened involuntarily, dread pooling in my throat like rainwater in a gutter. The nurse who entered grimaced, her hands fidgeting apologetically.

“It’s time to say goodbye.” 

I nodded, hiding my tears away from you. I wished for memory foam for arms so I could remember what it felt like to hold the world in my arms, took frantic stock of the smell of your head, the sound of your breath. The nurse eased you away from me, and I watched her walk away, watching my heart leave the room without me.

Agony filled up the empty space you’d left, every nerve in my body fighting the horror. Hot, noxious tears scalded my skin, my nails pierced my palms as I wrestled with the howls, primal and raw, trying to escape my throat. This I can say with certainty; hell hath no fury like a mother grieving a living child. 

All bones heal, and acceptance would settle on me like dust. You find your feet quickly when there’s no other choice, when there’s no safety net to catch you when you fall. I comforted myself with thoughts of you, nestled in a clean bed in a house with hot water and central heating, with parents just a room away to hold you when you cried. I envied you a little. 

My love, my blood, my child, you are more precious than you will ever know. Never think you were unwanted. Never deign to think you were unloved.