She and I had never met.
One day she just called. Out of the blue. Said her name was Gail. Said she had heard about us from a friend of a friend and that she liked what she heard, had liked what she read about us in the letter I so painstakingly composed and typed all those months ago then mailed, along with a wish and a prayer, to every single person I could think of.
Somehow, she got one. Read it. Liked it. Then she called us.
Then she chose us.
After that, she would call every few weeks or so to keep me up-to-date, to tell me that she had been to the doctor and that everything was progressing fine. No worries. No problems.
I would ask about her little daughter and the rest of the family, about her job, mundane things. I tried. But the conversations were stilted, forced. As one would expect between total strangers. Then we would hang up and she would go back to her life and I would go back to mine.
Sometimes I would breathe a little easier, slightly reassured that she had taken the time to call at all. Most of the times I would not, knowing that things could change at any second. That one day, she could just not call at all. Or ever again.
Towards the end, we talked a little more. About how things would go. How we wanted them to go. How we hoped it would go. She did her best to reassure me.
She was one of the first people I called after the other woman, the one who had asked for money and food and clothes and time and energy and called all the time, reunited with her shithead of a boyfriend so they could raise their baby girl together. The state had taken their other three children, after all. This was the only one they had left.
And she was going to be born healthy because I had spent months skipping work and disappearing to take her mother to my own doctor for regular examinations. He had dumped her and left her for six months, so somebody had to do it.
I would have no say so in whether she stayed healthy after her birth, however.
“I’m not changing my mind,” she promised. Over and over and over again.
Gail said that too.
Then one Sunday afternoon she called and said she was going to the hospital. She thought her baby was on its way. Her water had broken.
Holy shit, we said.
Thrilled, terrified, excited, terrified, worried, panicked, terrified, amazed, hopeful, prayerful (and did I mention terrified?) we jumped in the car and drove bat-out-of-hell into the night and into uncertainty. An hour later, we crept around a corner and gently, nervously knocked on a door to meet a stranger for the first time. Gail, a mother and a mother-to-be.
She was sitting up in bed, alone and maybe terrified herself, wondering what was happening and who are these people?
We introduced ourselves. We tried to make chit chat. We tried to act as though the most natural thing for people to do is introduce themselves when they’re about to have a baby. Together.
And then there was no baby. God, ever the practical joker when it comes to me and my life, wasn’t done with me yet. Yes, her water had broken, but she had not gone into labor. We had to wait.
For five days.
Gail stayed in the hospital, hooked up to an IV, and waited to see if she would go into labor on her own. If not, they would induce labor on Friday.
So, we went home, then back to the hospital the next day. But there was still no baby. So we went home again, then back to work. Marty went back to school, back to coaching. I went back to interviewing and updating basketball standings. And tried not to worry.
We failed at that too.
On Friday, January 26, 2001, she called us again. She was much louder this time. She was in the throes of labor and wanted to know where in the hell were we. We were on the way, I promised. Don’t let anything happen until we get there.
Please God, don’t let anything happen until we get there. Or after. Or the next day. Please.
Finally, shortly after 10 a.m., a little baby girl the color of boiled shrimp was born, hand first, with a hair full of black curls and a temper. Marty and I were waiting in the hallway, clutching each other. Waiting to breathe. Waiting to be told. Waiting to be called into the room. And praying that we would.
We were. And then we were nervously knocking on a door and creeping around a corner, hoping we would not be told to go away.
And there was Gail, now a mother of two.
“Are you ready to meet your daughter?” she asked.
Oh how I was.
And before I knew it, Gail was filling the hole in my heart and making my every dream come true, just by handing me this tiny little shrimp-colored bundle wrapped in a blanket and letting me keep her. Forever.
And just like that, we were all a family.
About the Author
Lori Lyons is a veteran reporter for The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans. Over a 25-year career she has been both an award-winning sports writer and a general assignment reporter. An avid blogger, she shares her continuing adventures as the suburban wife of a high school baseball coach, the mother of a fast-growing tween, the stepmother to two young adults and a soon-to-be step-grandmother at www.thelyonsdin.com