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A Powerful Novel From Tracie Peterson
"A child of my Own. Flesh of my flesh..." That is the deep yearning that fills Tess's heart. Despite years spend under a doctor's care and advances in medical technology, she and her husband have discovered their options have been exhausted, leaving them with arms empty, long-held dreams shattered.
A unique opportunity arises in the form of a young pregnant teen desperate to free herself from her misguided decisions. Drawn together by their mutual needs, Tess and Sherry see a solution in what the other offers. But what appears to be an ideal agreement soon tests the fragile threads of Tess's fledgling faith....
The answer is very different from what they were expecting....
|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Tracie also teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects including inspirational romance and historical research. She and her family live in Montana.
Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 novels. Tracie also teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research. She and her family live in Montana. Learn more at www.traciepeterson.com.
Read an Excerpt
"Tess, I'm sorry. There's never an easy way to give a patient this kind of news."
Tess Holbrook stared at the bearded man in strained silence. It seemed like she'd been coming to the doctorthis doctorfor nearly all of her adult life. She sighed.
She'd been so hopeful, so positive that this time the news would be different. Hope now faded into resignation and then to a painful urgency that left Tess almost breathless. Thoreau had been so right when he'd penned that resignation was confirmed desperation. Tess and desperation were lifelong companions.
Tess gripped the arms of the chair. "So there's nothing to be done?" she finally asked, her voice strangely hollow. "This is the end of it?"
"We've pretty much exhausted all the known scientific possibilities," the man replied. "Medicine has its limitations."
Tess knew Dr. David Zeran was one of the best in his field. If he could no longer give her an answera hopewhat chance did she have of finding it elsewhere?
"Look, I know this is hard to hear," the doctor said as he leaned back against his immaculate mahogany desk. "You aren't the first one I've had to give this kind of news to, but it hurts no less each time I'm required to say the words."
"What am I supposed to tell Brad?" she asked, tears misting her vision. "We had so many plans...." her voice trailed off.
"Tess, I've known you and Brad now for some time. We're friends. We go to the same church and are grounded in the same spiritual beliefs. You can't give up; with God, all things are possible." He paused and eyed her. "I can tell by the expression on your face that you're letting go of hope."
"And why not?" Tess questioned with a bit of defiance in her tone. "You can't give me any."
"Maybe the scientific world has failed you."
"That's putting it mildly," Tess said, pushing back long brown ringlets. It was too late to have hope that she would ever conceive a child. She was infertile. Barren. The word echoed in her mind.
"I'm thirty-six and Brad and I have been trying to have a baby for the last ten years. The medical community from here to Kansas City has poked and prodded me, tested and medicated me, and infringed upon my privacy in ways I don't even want to discuss. Why should I have any hope? I can't get pregnant."
"Maybe not right now," Dr. Zeran agreed. "But maybe in the future. Tess, I've seen people totally give up on ever getting pregnant and then voilà! They find themselves expecting and suddenly their dreams are realized."
Tess stood up and shook her head. "That's not going to happen for me. I just know it. I wouldn't have spent all our spare money on in vitro and fertility drugs if I had believed it was possible to conceive on my own. Now, many thousands of dollars laterdollars we should have invested in a house or the businessyou chide me for having no hope. Well, you're right. I have no hope of ever getting pregnant." A bitterness borne out of years of disappointment seemed to take possession of her heart.
David Zeran put out his hand to stop her from leaving. "Tess, wait just a minute. Don't leave just yet. I know you're upset, and I don't want you out in traffic this way."
She sniffed back tears and tried to remain calm. "I'm fine. Truly. I'm disappointed, but I've been disappointed for years on end. This is no different." But it was. This was the end of the road. David had said as much. There was nothing left to try.
Tess had tried hard to be brave and strong. "Never let them see you down," one of her college business professors had told her. But that had been at least a hundred years ago and she had been a younger, more courageous soul back then.
David spoke compassionately. "But you're not fine. You don't need a degree in medicine to see that. You said it yourself. You see no reason to have hope. I've always seen a glint of anticipationa personal challenge, if you willthat demanded the odds work with you instead of against you. Now I just see defeat."
Tess shook her head. "I'm tired, David." She put aside his profession and the formalities and turned to him as a friend. "Brad is tired. We've spent most of our marriage trying to have a baby and it's taken all the romance and fun out of our relationship."
"Why not adopt, then? Put all of this behind you and call up an agency."
"We've been through all this before," Tess replied. "I'm adopted. And I don't want to put the idea downI'm so grateful that someone chose to adopt me and give me a home. But I have no one else in this world to whom I'm related, that I share that blood bond with. Don't you understand?" Tess knew her tone was pleading, but that was how she felt. She was begging for someone to comprehend her feelings. Even Brad failed to grasp them in full.
"I want a child of my own. A baby who is flesh of my flesh. I want to know there are other human beings out there who carry my blood. I feel so isolated." She allowed her tears to fall. "I feel there is no one in the entire universe who is a part of me in that way."
"But why should that be so important, Tess? Can't you love an adopted child? You loved adopted parents."
An exasperated sigh escaped her lips. "Yes, I loved them. I would have done anything for them. I loved my adopted sister, Elaine, as well. We were as close a family as any in the neighborhood, but Elaine and I always felt the need for something more."
"Elaine was also adopted?"
Tess nodded. "She was even younger than me when she came to our folks. She has no memories of her childhood, but I do. I was nearly six. I remember." The painful truth of those words hung in the air for a moment before Tess dissolved them with her next statement. "I don't want to seem ungrateful, David. I know the benefits as well as the downside of adoption. I just want my own baby."
"I know, Tess. I wish there was something more I could do."
She turned away from him and picked up her purse. "Well, that's that. I guess we just go home and suffer through the truth of the matter." She looked back at David's sympathetic expression. "I'm sorry for taking this out on you."
"You don't need to apologize. I completely understand."
Tess nodded, but she doubted he could ever fully understand her misery. He was a man and the father of two beautiful children. How could he possibly grasp her pain?
Intent on composing herself, Tess decided to concentrate only on her business and the tasks she had yet to complete before evening. Work was the way she'd always bolstered herself and forced herself to move forward. Concluding there would be no real chance for productivity, Tess buried her emotions and arranged her day on mental note pads. With any luck she'd be able to beat the rush-hour traffic and get home well ahead of Brad.
Unlocking her car door, Tess kept thinking at least two steps ahead. I'll take the Palmetto, swing by the country club, and pick up that packet for the Caraway couple in Minneapolis. Then I'll drive by the bank and pick up the papers for the Davidsons.
As a Senior Relocation Coordinator, Tess dealt with elderly people all over the nation. It was her primary responsibility to give them a safe and easy transition from their old locations to their new retirement homes in Florida. Tess had dreamed up the business after seeing a television special on the needs of retiring senior citizens. She'd still been in college then, safely living back home in Kansas City and making the commute to the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
"I didn't have a clue back then," she muttered and started the car. It wasn't until she checked her reflection in the visor mirror that Tess's willpower left her. Staring at her reflection, Tess recognized the unmistakable devastation in her expression. Her eyes welled with tears.
The emptiness in her heart threatened to blot out every other point of reality. There would be no baby. Her flat abdomen would never bulge full with a growing infant. The gift she so longed to give her beloved husband would never take formnever be born.
"It's not fair," she told her reflection. Refusing the pain, she allowed anger to rise up within her. "It's not fair!"
She slammed her fists against the steering wheel and let her tears wreak havoc with her mascara. Her mind warned her to stopto think of something else. But this time her heart pushed logical thinking aside.
"Teenagers get pregnant every day. Inconveniently pregnant women select abortion as if they were choosing party dresses. Everybody can get pregnant at the drop of a hat except for me!"
The flames of bitterness grew as Tess fueled the fire with her thoughts. Confirmed desperation. It permeated her very soul. After years of disappointment and heartache, it was the only emotion left to her. The only emotion that didn't completely rob her of the will to go on.
She threw the car into gear and pulled out of the parking lot with much less discretion than Miami traffic usually demanded. Her anger kept her edgy and tense as she darted from lane to lane. Yet soon her anger dissipated and her fears and sorrows overwhelmed her until she was reduced to a sobbing mass of emotionally raw nerves.
Knowing the danger she posed, Tess attempted to compose herself. She tried to force her mind to go over a detailed list of what she needed from the store, but it didn't work. Finally giving up, Tess pulled into the parking lot of a fast-food burger place and parked the car once more. She didn't bother to turn the engine off. Nor did she make any pretense of hiding the fact that she was having a breakdown. She simply put her head against the steering wheel and cried.
Oh, God, I'm so ashamed, she struggled to pray. I have a good life here in Miami. I have a wonderful, loving husband. Thoughts of Brad only made her cry harder. He deserved a wife who could bear him a child. He deserved the children he so much desired. Hadn't he been the first one to bring up having a baby?
They had hardly been married a week when he brought up the subject one morning over breakfast. Tess had been thrilled. She knew before marrying him that Brad wanted children, but she hadn't realized he'd be quite this eager.
"I've ... ruined ... everything, God." Her voice came in ragged little spurts. "I feel ... so ... useless."
Her mind wandered back in time to one of her last memories of her birth mother. Severely addicted to alcohol and cocaine, the woman often had Tess run the streets for her well into the night. Tess knew the local pushers like other children knew their extended family members. J.J. could make her the best deal on coke. Slick Boy had the best weed, and Big Daddy carried a large assortment of amphetamines.
The life she'd come from was harsh and cold, a dismal beginning for a child.
But Tess's memory had to do with something entirely different. This memory had started out good. She had been allowed to go to kindergarten after turning five years old that August. School had been a wonderful alternative from the life-style she'd known with her mother.
At school the shades were left up to let the light pour into the room and chase away the shadows. The teacher smelled good and dressed in beautiful clothes that had no holes in them. Tess could envision her teacher standing at the front of the room, smiling, instructing, and always caring. And on this day, she had praised Tess's accomplishments and sent her home feeling that nothing in the world could be as wonderful as school.
Upon arriving home that day, Tess had called out excitedly, "Mommy! Mommy! Look what I made you!"
The kindergarten class of Grant Elementary had labored since Thanksgiving to create Christmas gifts for their mothers. They had been required to bring a plastic jar or container to school in order to make a vase for flowers. Tess couldn't find a jar to bring, so her teacher had found a spare glass jar in the janitor's closet. They weren't supposed to use glass, but the teacher had sized up Tess and remarked on how mature she was and how she was certain Tess would be careful with the glass. And Tess had carried that jar around as if it contained the very essence of life. And in some ways, for her, it did.
They took yarn and saturated it with glue, then wrapped it round and round the jars until they were covered from top to bottom. Once dried, the yarn caused the jar to look like a coiled, colorful rope. The appearance and feel fascinated Tess. And she had brought it home as a Christmas presenther very first chance to give something to her mother.
"What are you yelling about?" her mother asked, stumbling into the living room wearing torn sweat pants and a T-shirt advertising her favorite beer.
"I made you this for Christmas," Tess declared proudly. "Teacher said mine was the prettiest." She presented the vase to her mother and waited. Surely this would cause her mother to smile, to approve of her. Oh, how she wanted to please her mother. More than anything in the world, she just wanted her mother to love her and be proud of her.
Tess waited eagerly, her tiny arms outstretched, the vase teetering in her hands.
"What's that ugly thing?" her mother questioned, her contempt quite clear.
"It's a vase for flowers. You put flowers inside."
Her mother stared in disbelief for a moment. "Do you see any flowers around here?"
"No, but we could get some," Tess suggested, certain that this made perfect sense.
"I can't afford to buy food," her mother said angrily. "Where do you suppose I could come up with the money to buy flowers? You are, by far, the stupidest child ever born to this earth. What ever made you think I could use a vase?"
The anticipation of approval faded quickly in light of her mother's condemnation. Tess's lips began to quiver as she fought to keep from crying.
"We made them in school," she tried again. Hope faded from her voice. "Teacher said mine was the best."
Her mother swept the vase from her hands in one fluid motion. For a brief moment, the vase seemed to be suspended in midair, and then it slammed against the wall. The dried yarn kept the glass from shattering all over the room, but it broke into pieces nevertheless.
"There!" her mother declared. "That's what I think of your teacher. Now clean up the mess while I go find some cigarettes. You are the most useless, good-for-nothing brat." Her mother stormed off into the kitchen, muttering expletives all the way.
Tess crept to the place where the broken peanut butter jar lay mingled with the glue-matted yarn. What once had been lovely and purposeful now lay as ugly trash. Her mother had a talent for turning beauty into rubble.
"Lady, are you okay?"
Tess tried to place the voice and quickly realized it was coming from one of the fast-food employees as he tapped on her window. The present was little better than the past, yet she let the images of her mother fade away.
Rolling down the window a fraction, Tess nodded. "I'm fine."
The kid eyed her suspiciously. "You sure you don't want me to call someone? The police? An ambulance?"
"No," Tess reassured him, reaching into her purse for a tissue. "I'm fine. I just had some bad news."
The kid shrugged and went back to picking up trash in the parking lot. Tess dried her eyes and watched him work. He was a sweet kid. Hispanic in looks, tall and slender. He couldn't have been any more than sixteen or seventeen. His mother had obviously raised him to have manners and concern for other people.
Looking heavenward with heartfelt imploring, Tess whispered, "I would teach my child to be just as good. I swear I would. I wouldn't be like my mother. I wouldn't destroy and maimI would love and cherish. I would never let my child feel anything but love. You have to know that, God. You know everythingyou must know that."
The Long-Awaited Child
Copyright © 2001, Tracie Peterson
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.