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Cindy Henning was only sixteen when she got the news.
The youngest daughter in a family where faith was everything, Cindy had been dating an older boy, someone her parents had warned her about. Though the boy had earned a bad reputation, he had promised things would be different with Cindy.
"We'll kiss, nothing more," he'd told her.
But six weeks earlier things had gotten out of hand. Now the boy had returned to college across the country, and Cindy was left with the shattering news. Just into her junior year of high school, she was pregnant.
A phone call to the boy proved useless.
"Get an abortion." His tone was clipped, the warmth gone. "Otherwise, don't call me again."
Cindy never did.
Instead, she had trouble eating and sleeping until she was four months pregnant. Then one night she made up her mind. She would keep the baby, drop out of school, and take correspondence courses at home. The life inside her was a child, her very own. Though adoption was a beautiful option for many people, Cindy couldn't imagine giving her baby to someone else.
Finally, well into her fifth month and unable to hide the truth any longer, she told her parents.
"You did the right thing," her father said as he put his arm around her. "Abortion would have scarred you forever."
"Right." Her mother's eyes were soft. "Now we need to find the right family for the baby."
Cindy's heart skipped a beat. "The right family?" She took a step back. "I'm keeping the baby. I already decided."
Her parents exchanged a look. "Honey"-her father lowered his brow-"you're not old enough to be a mother. You haven't learned how to take care of yourself, let alone a baby."
"It's not your decision." Tears blurred Cindy's vision, her voice loud and frightened. "I'm not giving my baby up."
Her mother took a step toward Cindy. "You will do what we say." She brushed a stray piece of hair off Cindy's forehead. "One day you'll thank us."
Cindy fought with her parents the rest of the weekend, but nothing she said changed their minds. Monday night she took a walk around her neighborhood and realized her situation. She was too young to move out on her own, too young to care for herself and a child. Without her parents' support, she could do nothing but follow their orders.
Halfway around the block the realization was clear as water. The baby growing inside her would never be her own. She would give birth, then hand her child to another woman, someone who would raise her child and offer the type of upbringing Cindy could not. The truth caused her to stop in her tracks and lean against the nearest tree. Arms wrapped around her tight midsection, she let the tears come. Waves of them.
That's when she uttered the only prayer she could muster.
"I don't want this, God. Please, whatever happens to my baby, help us find our way back together."
A week later her parents sent her to live with friends three states away. The months passed quickly and Cindy spent most days by herself, reading or taking walks, intimately aware of her baby's movements and sleep patterns. By her seven-month appointment the doctor confirmed what she had already guessed. The baby was a girl.
Cindy was tempted to name her, but she didn't. No use making the loss harder than it had to be. Instead, she called her daughter Baby Girl and often talked to her, sang to her. Prayed over her.
Although the days leading up to her delivery ran together, every moment of her daughter's birth happened in a strange sort of slow motion, the images sharp, pressing themselves into her mind in a way she would remember forever. March 13, 1983, a day Cindy would mark as long as she drew breath.
Some discussion had taken place about whether or not she should hold her baby.
"It'll only make the good-bye sadder," one of the nurses told her. The woman was black with a narrow frame and eyes that glowed even in the dimly lit hospital room.
Cindy hadn't been sure what she would do. But when the moment came, when her daughter was born and after her first cries filled Cindy's senses, the answer was obvious. Of course she would hold her baby girl. She would hold her until someone came and took her away.
The nurse cleaned her up and wrapped her in a white blanket, then she turned to Cindy. "Well ..."
Cindy didn't say a word because she couldn't. Instead, she held out her arms and nodded. The nurse crossed the room and gave the baby to her. Then, for the sweetest minutes she'd ever known, she cradled her child to her chest, looking at her, seeing past her eyes to the toddler and little girl and teenager her baby would one day become. A sensation swept over her, something she hadn't known before, and Cindy breathed it in.
So this was the feeling mothers everywhere understood. A sense that all time could stop, but life would go on as long as her precious daughter could stay that way forever, cradled in her arms.
Their time together was over almost as soon as it began. The adoption was closed, so Cindy wouldn't meet her baby's new mother. Still, the process was clear. The woman and her husband-a wonderful couple from everything the social worker had said-were waiting in a room down the hall, waiting for the moment when Cindy's baby would be theirs.
States had different laws about such things, but where Cindy lived, she would lose all rights to the baby as soon as the infant went home from the hospital with her new adopted parents. The social worker entered the room and gave Cindy a sad smile.
"How are you?"
Cindy wanted to scream at the woman, tell her to leave them alone because it hadn't been enough time, not nearly enough. She wanted to run with her baby down the stairs, out the front door of the hospital and far away where no one could find them. Instead, she swallowed hard and looked at her baby. The infant's eyes were open, and maybe it was Cindy's imagination but they seemed to be calling out to her, asking her the question that would haunt her all her days.
Why? Why would you give me away? Why didn't you fight harder to keep me?
"Cindy?" The social worker came a few steps closer. "It's time."
Cindy closed her eyes and drew in the faint sweet smell of her daughter, the warm weight of her against her chest. It wasn't the social worker's fault. This was part of the process-she'd been warned. If she chose to hold her daughter, the visit couldn't be long. Otherwise the risk was high that Cindy might change her mind.
She would have two days still, forty-eight hours when she could refuse the adoption, cancel the whole thing. After that, her daughter would go home with her new family. But if the social worker let her linger in this moment, the outcome would be marred by the emotions of new motherhood.
The social worker came closer still, and Cindy opened her eyes. Then, without drawing out the process another minute, she kissed her daughter's cheek, nuzzled her face, and whispered. "I love you, Baby Girl." Then she looked at the woman and out came the greatest lie she'd ever spoken: "I'm ready."
The ache was immediate and constant.
Long after Cindy returned home and found her way back into the stream of high school classes and football games, way past the days when people talked about her in hushed tones, wondering where she'd been, Cindy missed her daughter with an intensity that frightened her.
Five years later she fell in love with a business major, a man who built houses in the summer for extra money. The man was everything her first boyfriend hadn't been-honest, faithful, and driven to make a life for himself through both integrity and character. Cindy fell hard for him, and two years later they married.
From the beginning she told him about the child she'd given up and how badly she wanted to meet her someday.
"If it means that much to you, I'll pray about it." Her husband crooked his finger and used it to lift her chin a few inches. "Believe, Cindy. One day you'll find her if that's God's plan."
The years went by and Cindy and her husband had three daughters-each one a bittersweet reminder of all Cindy had lost with her first child. She and her parents reconciled, though Cindy could never quite forget what they'd done or how they'd thought it would work out for the best. Though her husband continued to pray for a miracle reunion, the adoption paperwork remained closed, and any time Cindy pursued the subject she was told the same thing.
Finding her daughter would be all but impossible.
More time passed and still Cindy never stopped believing that somehow, someway, God would answer her prayer. She marked the birthdays of the daughter she'd given up and, based on what she knew of her other three, tried to imagine how she might look, what she might be involved in.
One afternoon after a morning in which her firstborn girl was heavy on her heart, Cindy showered and headed for school. It was parent-teacher conference day, and she needed to meet with Mrs. Barnett, her youngest daughter's fifth-grade teacher. The meeting was halfway over when Mrs. Barnett paused.
"Oh, I didn't tell you." She smiled. "We have a new student teacher at the school. She'll be with us the rest of the year."
Cindy returned her attention to the notebook of her daughter's writing samples sitting on the desk between them. "That's nice."
"She'll be joining us in a minute. It's part of her training."
There were a million things left to do that afternoon, so Cindy was more concerned that the conference move along so she could be on her way. But at that moment the classroom door opened and a beautiful young woman walked in. Cindy looked at her, and everything seemed to freeze.
The teacher was making introductions, but Cindy couldn't hear them. She stood slowly, her eyes locked on the young woman's. Everything about her was as familiar as the mirror, as familiar as the faces around her dinner table each night. The resemblance was so strong it blocked all sense of propriety or logic.
Cindy said the only thing she could think to say: "Were you ... were you adopted?"
The subtle confusion in the young woman's eyes cleared instantly. Her mouth hung open for a few seconds and slowly, in a way that told Cindy she wasn't alone in thinking the possibility existed, she nodded. "Yes. I was born March 13, 1983."
March 13, 1983?
A cry came from Cindy's mouth and she brought her fingers to her lips. "I think ... I think you're my daughter."
The young woman didn't speak. Certainty shone in her expression and rather than compare notes, she came to Cindy and the two fell into each other's arms. It was an embrace that erased the years in a single moment, one that convinced Cindy she was on holy ground because this was a miracle like no other.
"Baby Girl," Cindy whispered into her daughter's soft brown hair. "I prayed for you every day."
Mrs. Barnett was still in the room but she was silent, undoubtedly swept up in the drama unfolding before her.
The young woman drew back and looked at Cindy. "I'm Anna." Tears glistened in her eyes. "And I've had the most wonderful life." She smiled even as two tears fell to her cheeks. "I've prayed for this, too. So that I could thank you in person for what you did."
"Thank me?" All these years Cindy had dreamed of this moment and dreaded it at the same time, certain her daughter would say the thing she had seemed to say as a newborn. Why? Why had Cindy given her up? Instead, she was thanking her, and the miracle suddenly became bigger than Cindy could take in.
The conference forgotten, Cindy and Anna caught up on the twenty-two years they'd been apart. They compared notes to be absolutely certain of their relationship, and there was no doubt. Anna was her daughter, the one she'd prayed for. She explained that she had been raised by a loving family in which she had two sisters and a brother, a family that had given her far more than Cindy could have as a young single mother. Her family was aware that Anna wanted to meet her birth mother one day, and they, too, had prayed for the chance.
Anna took Cindy's hand. "I always believed that somehow we'd meet. Because I was afraid you might've regretted giving me up." She looked deeper into Cindy's eyes. "And I never wanted that. Not when God allowed me the greatest life with my adopted parents."
Cindy held her daughter again and allowed herself to cry, not for the years she'd lost, but for the perfect way God had worked everything out. Her parents had been wrong in many ways, wrong to not acknowledge her feelings, wrong to not listen more to her wishes. But in the long run, they'd been right.
And now she and Anna had come full circle.
"Can I ask you something?" Anna stepped back, her face full of a love that could be described only as complete.
"Yes." Cindy couldn't stop looking at her, marveling at the way she'd known the moment Anna walked into the room that she was her daughter. "Ask anything."
"Could you and your family come this Sunday for dinner?" Anna paused, a grin tugging at the corners of her mouth. "I'd like to meet my other sisters."
With that another certainty grew from the springtime soil in Cindy's heart. The certainty that for the rest of time, she would never again wonder about her daughter or where she was or how her life was going. Because forever more she would be a part of her life.
And that was the greatest miracle of all.
Excerpted from A Treasury of Adoption Miracles by Karen Kingsbury Copyright © 2005 by Karen Kingsbury. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted November 25, 2008
There are twelve stories within these 156 pages, each one telling about the miracle of adoption. It's Kingsbury at her best, especially when she tells her own true story of how she and her husband, with a family of three, came to adopt their three sons from Haiti. This book would make an excellent gift for any family opening up their home to an adoptee. Get out the tissues; this one's a tearjerker.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 14, 2005
If you have any experiences with adoptions. This book is a very great read, it was very emotional for me. This book deals with God working in mysterious ways for these children. The true life stories in this collection are real miracles straight from the heavens. People brought together over time, who have been separated for years, children who are unwanted by birth mothers, birth mothers who want their child to have a better life than what they can provide. Be prepared to some powerful emotions while reading this book. I know it touched my heart.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.