A labor full of love, and a bit of faith
“Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you’re not really losing it. You’re just passing it on to someone else.” — Mitch Albom
Gail’s e-mail popped up in late February. “Laura is in labor,” it said. A few hours later, she excitedly announced the birth and flew off to New Jersey to meet her first grandchild.
Gail was my high-school best friend and college roommate. We spent our teenage years walking each other halfway home, halfway back and halfway back again. We went to church camp together, slept over at each other’s houses and kissed my dad on New Year’s Eve when neither of us had dates. We even dated the same boy, although at different times. She is smart, funny and has the largest heart of anyone I know. Our sisterly connection has remained strong in spite of time and distance.
In 1972, during the fall semester of my senior year in college, Gail and I were living in a funny-smelling apartment facing the 57 Freeway near Cal-State Fullerton. We ate lots of Campbell’s Soup and refrigerator biscuits and hoped our boyfriends would buy us a meal now and then.
Gail was working at Disneyland and dating a big, handsome football player. I was dating a cute guy from the Earth Sciences department. Gail got pregnant; I got engaged.
When Gail learned she was pregnant, the first person she called was her mother. Lois was on the next plane. Together they would decide what to do. Gail’s parents made it clear that whatever Gail’s decision was, they would support it. At a time when many of our generation were disowned by their parents over haircuts or the draft, Lois and Merle showed me what unconditional love looks like. No matter what, they would stand by their child.
Gail decided to have the baby. And because her boyfriend, who for all practical purposes refused to be the dad, she decided on adoption. Her Uncle Jim was a doctor in a small town in California’s Central Valley. She could live with him until the baby was born. And Uncle Jim could arrange a private adoption.
Gail moved away to wait for the baby. While she waited, she wrote the baby a letter and crocheted a blanket.
The baby girl was born in the spring of 1973. Gail named her Sabrina. While waiting for the adoptive parents, Rich and Kay, to arrive from New Jersey, Gail counted Sabrina’s fingers and toes repeatedly. Sabrina was an extraordinary gift; Gail wanted to be sure that she was perfect. Then Gail lovingly and unselfishly entrusted Sabrina to strangers to love and raise. Rich and Kay more than lived up to Gail’s hopes.
Gail returned to Orange County and was my maid of honor in July, with few people knowing what had happened. Within a few years, Gail got married and I moved to Nevada.
We saw each other only occasionally in the years that followed. But whenever I did see Gail or talk with her on the phone, she’d fill me in on the latest news of Sabrina. Because the adoption had been private, she heard about Sabrina and even received pictures from time to time through her Uncle Jim. We were both struck by the coincidence that Sabrina’s parents had named her Laura, a name so close to mine. Although Gail had promised herself not to seek out Laura, she told her three children that they had a sister. If ever Laura wanted to be part of their lives, she would be welcome.
About 10 years ago, through a series of phone calls and letters, Gail and Laura met. In fact, Laura and her mother flew out from New Jersey. Since then, Laura has been included in family trips and pictures. Three years ago, at her 50th birthday party, Gail introduced me to the lovely Laura. “This is your fairy godmother,” she said. Last year, Gail and her other children watched Laura marry her long-time sweetheart. A few months later Gail shared the news of Laura’s pregnancy.
You can imagine the happy tears when Gail’s message popped up to inform me that Laura had had a baby girl. And had named her Sabrina. Later that evening the first pictures and a joyful announcement arrived via e-mail from Gail’s parents. Thirty years ago, Sabrina had been their first grandchild and now Sabrina was their first great-grandchild.
Little Sabrina’s birth demonstrates that frequently we cannot see the “grand plan” the universe has for us. Rich and Kay desperately wanted a baby. Laura needed parents. They all needed Gail to make them a family. As Gail herself says, the story is a tribute to “blind faith and happy resolution.”
The lesson for me is that unconditionally loving our children is not a burden, but a blessing. Always a blessing.
Lorie Schaefer teaches at Seeliger School.