This was no ordinary adoption. The phrase ordinary adoption, in and of itself, is an oxymoron (what adoption is ordinary?) but this story – our story – really is a rare and precious miracle. The miracle did not lie just in receiving a new baby, although that, to me, was the sweetest part. There is so much more, so many layers to the miracle, that the full experience will likely be put into a book. I have a sweet little 2 ½ week-old baby to attend to, so for now, the book will have to wait.
Since 2007, I have seen and known that two more children would be joining our family. First a boy, then a girl. This blog has been replete with my longings for them both, my coming to terms with how to hold out faith when the promise was always being dangled, yet continuously – seemingly – ripped away. Read on this blog the topics, Loss and The Two Who Are Missing, both from early 2010.
This is the story of our boy, as his little sister has yet to find her way to our family circle, to this Earth. After seeing the hand of God in our baby boy’s arrival, I have no doubt baby girl will soon make her debut. The how or the why is less important to me as the knowing she is coming. They cannot be separated for long.
My biological children are Noah (16), Savannah (almost 14) and Sawyer, (11). I could fill volumes with the love I have for these children and the gratitude I feel daily for the opportunity to be their mom. However, we’ve known for some time this family is not complete…
For spiritual reasons I can’t adequately explain in the context of this post, I have felt the presence of a peaceful warrior – a noble male spirit – around me during a variety of personal struggles and losses over the past five years. Most notably, during a graphic and painful late-term miscarriage in 2010. In the immediate aftermath of that miscarriage, wherein I labored for hours and actually “delivered” the intact embryo, this gentle but strong guardian wanted me to know he was there, that he was grateful for my willingness to be a mother later in life, that he loved me, and that he was coming at a future time. It was a soft and subtle fleeting message, but strong and unmistakable. Had I not sensed this amazing spiritual exchange, I never would have continued to try to get pregnant again. I was 41 years old.
I went into “search-seek-surrender” mode for months, learning in sacred ways this protector of mine – this waiting son – wanted his name to be Elijah. What I’d read about Elijah of old seemed to be congruent with what I sensed my Elijah was like: strong-willed, resolute, kind, firm in faith. Elijah means Jehovah is God. The scriptures became my lifeline, granting clarity and validation on the crazy notion of continuing to try to get pregnant when my doctor and others close to me were against it. I was drawn to women of great faith who conceived in miraculous ways at older ages – namely Sarah, Elisabeth and Hannah. These women became mothers in their maturity (after a great testing period) to sons whose arrivals were somewhat heralded. Sons with very specific missions.
I’ve always been a big believer in, “If you can see it, you can create it.” I was so moved when I stumbled upon this piece called “Hannah’s Promise” that I just had to buy it. I love that she is sitting straight and tall, looking up to God and gathering strength – so very focused – as thoughts and emotions swell within and around her. Her son is ever present, loving her and honoring her. This poster became the central focus of my vision board or “Be Board” in 2010. My “BE” post in Jan 2010 on this blog details the creation of it (and also mentions Eli and Abbie).
Sarah Hinze’s pioneering research on unborn souls who announce themselves to their waiting parents spoke deeply to me at the time I was pondering upon my vision and feelings. She has gathered many beautiful accounts of unborn spirits who often act as guardian angels to their prospective parents. I was first introduced to this particular book of hers in 2007, shortly after my knowing about The Two Who Were Missing.
I invited Sarah to speak at a conference for women I organized in late 2007 and we ended up becoming dear friends. As I’ve traveled to Arizona over the years, I’ve often stayed in her home, talking to her for hours about my longings and feelings surrounding these two unborn children. Sarah’s books and the wisdom she shared in our deep discussions served as a solid witness to my feelings and impressions about Eli, and the little sister he’s so connected to, Abigael.
The quest to get pregnant continued, my being ever more sure and determined to bring these babies to the Earth. I was overjoyed to find myself expecting again at age 42… and then devastated beyond explanation to miscarry again that same year. To desire, then hope, then have faith, then know…and then have that taken away? I went into my ultrasound fully expecting it to show twins. The stress and strain with that pregnancy loss in 2011 became, in many respects, a personal faith crisis. I went spiritually numb into a dark wilderness of confusion. My husband Jeff was equally disillusioned, having gotten spiritual confirmation during our engagement that we would raise five children.
I had confirmation after confirmation after confirmation that this promised son was coming. But when you and your husband experience four miscarriages in a row, are well into your 40’s, and don’t feel compelled to register with an adoption agency, how do you reconcile? You kind of…don’t. You know that you emotionally cannot endure one more pregnancy loss. So, you get an IUD at your husband and doctor’s urging and move on with your life. You live with a background ache that won’t go away – part “Why would God give me this promise and not follow through?” – and part “How do I move on or trust myself again when I was just so sure?” You lift the not-knowing up to God and shelve the longings.
Or at least you try to.
One night, I felt Eli around me so strongly, and felt so confused as to why I couldn’t bring him here, that I grabbed a pen to get my feelings out. I wrote questions in my dominant hand, and then the response in my non-dominant hand, as I’ve learned this can be a powerful way to receive revelation or access your subconscious. This is the letter:
Elijah -aka Eli, 4/16/11 11:34 pm
What am I to think? I was so sure that you were coming this time…that you were real. Are you real? Are you my waiting son in heaven?
– I am real. Be patient with my arrival. Many shall rejoice at my birth. I love you. Thank you for your willingness to carry me.
-Will you come to me naturally, through pregnancy?
-Why did you back out?
-Is it too late?
-Who are you, if not my son?
Nothing came after my last four questions.
Hannah’s account in 1 Samuel was one I began to resonate with:
“…for he loved Hannah: but the Lord had shut up her womb.
And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb.
And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved?”
The adversary encouraged me to “fret” for loving and trusting my Lord but not seeing the promise of a son fulfilled. Seeds of mistrust and doubt began to creep into my core. I second-guessed my vision, my answers from On High, my mattering at all to the heavens. Day after day, year after year, just like Hannah , I went to the temple – the house of the Lord and the side of my bed – and I asked, I prayed, and I wept. Having these two children was my #1 consuming desire. My Elkanah, my Jeff, would ask why my heart so deeply grieved for the losses, why I longed for more when we had three beautiful children, and what could he do to make me feel better?
He couldn’t. The best way I could explain the gaping ache in my soul to my husband, or to anyone else, was found here, in Genesis 30:1: “And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, she said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.”
Back to Hannah:
“And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.
And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life…”
This was my longing, and eventually became my prayer. I wanted to bring another son into the world who could be “given” to the Lord all the days of his life. Not that my other two sons are not consecrated thus, but somehow I knew this future son’s birth would be granted under special circumstances, with a keen awareness of the workings of God…particularly as it relates to nobility and sacrifice. It would require a different maturity to acknowledge him, birth him, and raise him. Little did I know more than one mother would be involved in his arrival, in taking him to the altar and lifting him up to God.
Hannah had the promised son, Samuel, then followed through on her promise to raise him up to God. In the ultimate act of sacrifice, she weaned him and brought him to the priest Eli, leaving him there to be raised in the house of God.
For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him:
Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord…
Tracing the steps back, the rescue from my struggle – the fulfillment of the promise – was all being prepared in perfect divine order. Within the same time period I had the waking vision of my future son and daughter, I received a letter from a beautiful girl named Jessica. She wrote a thoughtful and detailed handwritten letter, sent to my post office box, thanking me for my book on depression and sharing with me her background. I was so touched by her letter that I invited her to come to a workshop I was teaching later that season.
The best way I can describe my connection with Jessica is that of a heavenly little sister. Fourteen years her senior, I felt an immediate sense of protection for her upon our meeting, and a heart-warming affection. I knew she was going through many sore trials, hellish in nature, but that she had an important mission on this Earth and many spiritual gifts. In 2010, she asked me to be her life coach. We worked together on a number of issues, including helping her process being first on the scene of the suicide of her college-aged next door neighbor, Rachel. Jessica has a pure, loving heart, but also the heart of a “warrioress.” I saw this strong side come out in her time and again. Yet, she struggled mightily with dark depression, with keeping her hold on the Light, her grasp on Truth. Recognizing her own authentic strength and beauty eluded her time and again. It was, however, clear as day to me. Still is.
We lost touch for about a year, the same year of my final pregnancy loss. I thought of her often, occasionally checking in on her via Facebook. She would reach out to me sporadically for spiritual advice. I sometimes said a prayer in my heart for her, just figuring she might need it. Late 2011, she began coming to my mind strongly. One winter night in Aspen, Colorado, having just taught a class, the prompting to contact Jessica would not leave. So I texted her. The timing was right, she was needing a voice and a shoulder, and we decided to pick back up with life coaching. We would work together over the phone, in that she was living with her parents in Las Vegas and I was in Utah. By the beginning of 2012, Jessica and I had drifted apart again, mostly due to the busy-ness of life.
I want to keep the chronology going with respect to Jessica, but first have to interject an explanation. One thing about Eli – and this topic could be a whole chapter of a book – is that for about 4 years, he would use the number “2” to let me know he was around. The number two has many meanings, scripturally and symbolically as all numbers do, but it was his way of turning my heart to God when I wanted to give up on the idea of a son. Two is the number of opposition but it’s also linked to the concept of creation and Light (22). That last devastating miscarriage was on February 22. I had an ultrasound on 2-22 at 2 pm, which confirmed the loss. I somehow knew the links to all the “2’s” had something to do with a test. A sacred trial. Here is an excerpt from an email my sent a dear scriptorian friend, Jen Orten, right after the miscarriage:
“The strange coincidences with 2’s keep coming. Today I saw a book that my son Noah got at his jr. high library with “Eli B #2” scrawled in huge letters with a marker along the spine. Eli was to be the name of the boy – our last name starts with B – and the #2? -just WEIRD. I kinda feel like the Adversary is toying with me, and this has little to do with divine numerical communication. OR, does it… I honestly feel I have reached my limit and cannot take one more “hit” with a pregnancy loss. I really think I should give up on attempting pregnancy anymore and just follow my doctor’s advice. Is it a lack of faith on my part to give up on pregnancy because I’m too afraid to lose again? Should I be this regal, stalwart ‘Sarah’ or ‘Hannah’ type and go with what I felt were my original promises from heaven? Should I put myself in the position to risk a loss again because it is going to bring me to an even higher spiritual level? Here is the internal struggle, because I have not been told yay or nay.”
As I mentioned to my friend, when Noah brought this home I somehow knew it was something to pay attention to. It was another little heavenly message from Eli, letting us know he was around, that he was coming. I kept the book as a reminder:
The following year, Feburary 2nd, 2012 around 2 pm, I had been the first to discover my grandfather dead when I’d gone to visit him. To this day, I know it was no accident I was the first to find him; this was a man I adored, looked up to as a spiritual giant all my life. He could have gone at any time, as others were in and out that day to visit him. Still, the heavens continued to send me experiences in 2’s – and usually difficult ones.
And then, a bright spot with the 2’s. On February 22nd, 2012, my nephew Xander was born, being adopted by my sister Robin. I was in Japan. That same day, I’d gone to a group of women Japanese “healers” with my translator, Mako, teaching them how best to help their clientele with essential oils on the emotional level. All that day on trains and in crowded subways and in unfamiliar territory, there was a deep pain in my heart surrounding The Two Who Are Missing. I didn’t realize it was a year to the day since the last miscarriage, all I knew was that these children were suddenly on my mind again. I still had no physical, emotional or spiritual resolution to a very strong “knowing” over the previous 4 years. I felt the familiar grief coming back and was actually upset with myself for going to that place again. So mad and discouraged that I couldn’t get over this! One of the Japanese healer women picked up on it, somehow, and told me that I had guardians around me, from heaven. A male protector and a female, most strongly. It was beautiful, but I wasn’t sure where to place it. A tiny twist pierced my heart again, not knowing who, what, when, where, how or why this continued to keep surfacing. Where was God going with this? Or was God even involved at all?
This is Yuki, the Japanese healer who had the message for me. I love this gentle and powerful woman and have no doubt she partners with God in her little corner of the world. She came to Utah over the summer and we reunited at a celebration. When I shared with her what had transpired since our meeting, she was thrilled.
The night of Yuki’s message (2-22-12) in my tiny Japanese hotel room, I had a dream. I dreamed that I was in a large park with many families…a sunny, happy scene. I was sharing something with a group of people nearby, very casually. Many people looked down at the ground around me and smiled. I followed their gaze to find a pretty girl with long dark hair, dressed in white, leaning against my side. She was looking up at me with the sweetest expression. The strong feelings of love and adoration between us were amazing and familiar. We didn’t exchange words but the feeling I got from her was to continue talking to the people, and that she would just be there to listen. She was completely comfortable – perfectly content – just being there at my side, taking things in.
Upon waking, I knew the dream was significant, as I rarely remember dreams and they are not nearly that vivid. I remember asking the Lord as I got out of bed, “Who is she?”
“She” was Jessica, and I wouldn’t put it together for months afterward. Days after I returned from Japan, I received a text from her. The moment was significant, even though I was at a grocery store when it came. She had just taken a pregnancy test, it was positive, and she was positive she was going to place the baby for adoption. She had always told herself that if she were to get pregnant in the life station she was in, not being married, she would want the child to have more than she could give. I was the first to know of her pregnancy.
There are two interesting, pertinent things related to Jessica’s texts to me that night at the grocery store. 1) I had a sort of knowing that she was carrying my child, even offering up a prayer of gratitude as I stood in the produce isle. 2) Jessica had reached out to me first because she knew I had been in the same situation. I found myself facing an unplanned pregnancy in my last year of college, before I met and married Jeff. After many sleepless, sad, even excruciatingly emotional weeks during my pregnancy, I chose a loving family who could provide my baby with more than I could. On May 11, 1994, I gave birth to a baby girl and on May 14, 1994, I placed her on the altar of God, signing away my rights to raise her. It was and always will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. If it was up to me – natural Cherie – I would have taken that baby home and raised her. But, it was God whom I let decide, and He wanted her to be with the Bird family. Blessedly, our adoption has been very open over the years. Her family named her Wendy Cherie, and we have continued to have a beautiful relationship.
This is cute Wendy today. Interestingly, the year that all this is happening is the year she turns 18.
Back to Jessica. She and I continued to text and talk to each other as she dealt with the “discovery shock.” I’d put the prospect of adopting her baby on the back burner and focused on helping her as much as I could. At the time, it was much more important to me that she receive strength and direction. In one conversation, I found myself offering to have her come live with us. Jeff and I discussed it afterward, and it seemed so very right. He, too, felt a sense of protection for her. I also found myself compelled to “put it out there” that we would be interested in adopting her baby. She seemed surprised, given that my children were older and Jeff and I were older. She said something like, “Oh, I thought you were done!” And then I directed her to this blog, so that all the years of yearning in my mother’s heart could be explained in better detail.
Jessica and I continued to have almost daily conversations and constant text exchanges. In early Spring 2012, Jessica came with her parents for a visit to Utah. She asked that Jeff and I meet her in Park City for lunch. The feeling, the Spirit, was incredibly strong during that meeting. Towards the end, she looked at Jeff and I across the table and said meekly, “Are you still interested in adopting my baby? I honestly can’t think of two people I’d want to raise my baby more than you two.” Tears, hugs, sweet feelings all around. Surreal.
I thought maybe Jessica was carrying a girl, since her pregnancy announcement had come so soon after my dream about the little girl in white. Yet, it wasn’t congruent with my feelings about Eli coming first and the strong messages he was sending. Jessica texted me from Vegas during her ultrasound with the news, “It’s a boy!” I had an electrical “surge” (is the best way I can describe it) course through me when I read her text, as the word “Eli” vibrated throughout my whole being. It was him!
Jessica sent me this email recently:
“I was looking through my pictures here on my iPod, creating separate albums for Eli, Pregnancy, and Burtons, and I wanted to share this picture. It was actually on your Facebook page and I stole it back in March right after I found out and told you of my pregnancy. I kept the picture because even though it’s Xander you’re holding, I envisioned you holding my baby, soon after I decided it was YOUR Eli :). I had, around that time, spoken with you on the phone when you shared you knew there were two more to come to your family. I felt the Spirit SO strongly during our conversation. Then after we talked, I said a prayer and asked Heavenly Father specifically, “Is Cherie the mother of my child?” I had the most beautiful, delicious, sweetest, peaceful heavenly feeling (yes all those descriptive words are necessary to explain the feeling) with the tender answer, “Yes.” I never told you because I thought it was too soon to know that already, analyzing, but it was probably March or beginning of April that I had this sweet experience. It was a profound one I wanted to share with you. Love, Jess”
She knew early, and I knew early, that she was carrying Eli. However, we kept so much hidden in our hearts, not really sharing too much, as it was such an emotionally charged situation. There was such volatility, such dark opposing forces that did not want this to happen. Yet, by the grace of God, I knew all along, with total peace, that Eli would be born and the adoption was destined – ordained – to happen. Jessica herself never waivered. She moved in with us in June, during her fifth month of pregnancy. From the second she stepped into our home, a great peace settled upon all of us. She stayed with us throughout the remaining four months of her pregnancy.
How can I describe what this has been like…? What it was like to go to her ultrasound appointment with her, see Eli on the screen and be so overcome with emotion that he was really coming? That it was really him! My phone beeped out of nowhere while I watched him wiggle on the screen and I glanced down at it on my lap. It was 2:22 pm. Just his way of saying, “Yep. Me!”
After moving in with us, Jessica got a caseworker and met with LDS Family Services, looked at other prospective adoptive families (at my urging and her own), even met with a family – but kept coming back to ours. I found, through divine intervention, an adoptive mom named Brita and a birthmother named Amber. They came to our home and shared their story, of how Amber had lived with them, placed her baby girl with them, and continues to have a wonderful relationship with both her baby and Brita. We knew, after meeting them, that we wanted something similar. We eventually did away with agency affiliation and decided in her seventh month that we’d do the adoption privately, with the same Provo attorney Brita and Amber used.
Jessica and I grew close during her stay with our family. She changed. I changed. My family changed. We talked, we laughed, we cried, we hugged, we marveled. Always there were expressions of love and respect between Jess and I. It was hard for her, as her belly grew and as she grew more attached to her baby boy. I was in awe of her bravery and her focus throughout those four months in our home. We took a wonderful hypnobirthing class together, so she could overcome her fear of giving birth. She wanted to do it all natural. She wore pregnancy beautifully, and everyone told her so.
I was able to meet Eli’s birthfather while I was on a teaching trip to Vegas in Jessica’s eighth month of pregnancy. We met at a place with a notary so that he could sign the legal papers our attorney drew up to relinquish his paternal rights. Knowing beforehand he was 6’3″, muscular and a body builder, I was little unsure of what to expect. It was a wonderful meeting and we connected very peacefully. He had kind eyes, a generous heart, was easy to talk to, and was very respectful and empathetic. I told him Eli would be raised with faith and the best opportunities, wanting for nothing. I told him that he could see Eli if he wanted, and so could his mother and sister, who knew of the pregnancy. I then thanked him for giving my son life, we hugged, and parted. I’m so glad I got to meet him.
Having been through the process of preparing to give my baby “away” those 18 years ago, I felt like I could share so much with Jessica as Eli’s birth approached. There were times I had so much empathy for her that I thought my heart would burst on her behalf. The bond that developed between us when we shopped for pregnancy clothes, honored her food cravings (and my sympathy ones!), when she would reach out for my hand as Eli kicked and place it on her belly, when we stayed up late at night and talked about the possibilities for her future, when we laughed at the funny things my children said and did, nearly capsized in our family boat, knelt in a circle in family prayer, holding hands… I know divine help was at the ready whenever she needed anything, whenever I did. I felt strongly prompted to tell her that having her in our home ushered in many more angels, given the sacred nature of the trial she was enduring. After leaving us, Jessica wrote, “The Spirit is abundant in your home. It literally feels like heaven.” Would that we as a family could take the full credit for that…she brought a lot of that heaven with her.
On Monday, October 22nd (no surprise OR coincidence with the 2’s), I woke at 5:00 am for no particular reason. 20 minutes later, Jessica texted me from her room downstairs, telling me her contractions were 3 minutes apart. She felt we should go to the hospital. She gathered her things, I woke Jeff. Before leaving, the three of us knelt in prayer together in the living room as she breathed through her surges, now 2 minutes apart. While it was still early-morning dark, Jessica and I walked to the doors of American Fork Hospital with our arms around each other. This was the day.
Upon check-in at 6:30 am, Jess was already dilated to a 6 ½. I was shocked, as were the nurses. Jessica’s prayer throughout pregnancy, along with that of her loving family, was that she would be spared a long and arduous labor. I have never seen a labor go more smoothly or quickly. She got into the tub within an hour, almost dilated to an 8 with no epidural, while her nurse and I had a spiritual conversation. Jessica chimed in from the bathroom with her own spiritual insights, bearing her testimony of staying on the path, not in any pain. (All of the nurses, on all of the shifts over the next 2 days would learn of our story. Jessica was very open with all the hospital staff about how we met, how close we were, how she knew this was mine and Jeff’s son. It touched us deeply.)
Jessica did the entire birth naturally. It wasn’t easy, any of it, but her warrioress nature shone through. As the surges grew more intense, as she threw up, as she rocked and moaned, well – that’s when I started to become really emotional. I wanted to take her pain away. I was in complete awe that she was doing this for Eli, for our family. Her sister Christie and I stayed at her side as she pushed. She showed so much strength, so much courage! Jessica’s mother Sherri had hoped to be there but didn’t make it in time from Vegas, as Jessica only labored at the hospital three and a half hours. We kept Sherri and Jessica’s father Randy updated via texting.
Elijah Austen Burton was born on October 22, 2012 at 9:58 am weighing 7 lbs, 8 oz, 19” long. It was the first birth I’ve ever witnessed up close and firsthand, live. I was never able to see the births of my biological children in this way. I saw my Eli crown, I saw his entry into life, his entire birth. I cut the cord, saw him take his first mortal breath, heard his first cry, walked with the nurses to weigh him, bathe him, and welcome him to Earth. A blessed and beautiful miracle. Jessica requested in her detailed birth plan that she be able to do skin-to-skin contact with Eli shortly after birth, then requested that I be allowed to do the same with him right after.
My tender feelings toward Jessica intensified the second Eli was born. The young girl in my dream with long dark hair, standing by my side, looking up at me…had just given birth to my son. Her bravery, her beauty, her strength…nearly brought me to my knees. I tried to prepare Jess in every way I could for Eli’s arrival, but nothing prepares a birthmother for the feeling she gets when she holds her firstborn in her arms, knowing that baby won’t be there for long, knowing another mother will be taking your place. It feels like the baby’s all yours one moment, and not yours at all the next.
As I settled into my bed at home the night of Eli’s birth, I got a text from Jessica at the hospital. All it said was, “I love you so much.” This was her mindset throughout. Love. She stayed with Eli in the hospital on Monday and Tuesday, and mothered him with tenderness and the greatest affection. Lots of talking to him, singing church songs to him, snapping pictures, taking little videos – all of which she has shared with me. A nurse came into the room at one point and said, “There is a very special feeling in here. It’s different from the other rooms. You can feel it, and all the nurses are talking about it.” Jessica’s dad and brother Alex gave her a priesthood blessing of comfort on the second day in the hospital. Her maternal protective instincts and nurturing feelings were in full gear, falling completely in love with her baby.
Jessica’s wonderful parents, Randy and Sherri
Jessica and Eli and Jessica’s mother came home with us Wednesday from the hospital. My mother Merrilyn and sister Taunia, both of whom grew close to Jessica, came to love on her and give her gifts. My sister Robin would have loved to be there, as she also became close to Jessica, but she was in – of all places – Japan.
Jessica and my mom, Merrilyn
We put the bassinet in Jessica’s room downstairs so that she’d have as much time with Eli as she could her final night with us. That evening, she sat our family down and while holding Eli, shared with us why she had chosen us to adopt him. She singled each of my children out – Noah for his wisdom and humor, Savannah for her sense of fun and adventure, Sawyer for his kind and caring heart. She told them why she wanted them to be Eli’s siblings and how much she loved each of them. She told Jeff and I what she loved about us, our home, and our marriage. Our hearts swelled a mile wide. My children listened as she shared with them her beliefs about living a life close to God, about mistakes and forgiveness and second chances. About staying strong. Many tears were shed, and a family prayer was offered. We knelt in a circle, with Jessica carrying Eli, holding each other’s hands and thanking our Father for this heavenly opportunity…for this beautiful new baby and this beautiful new sister we were so going to miss.
The day after Jessica and Eli’s hospital release was the day we were to go to court for Jessica to relinquish her maternal rights. It was emotional. I came downstairs to find her in a state of resigned sadness, emptying her room in preparation to leave us. I went to hug her as she said amidst tears, “You saved my life.” A flood of emotion coursed through me as I remembered how far she had come, how our friendship had deepened. How like the girl with the long dark hair in my dream, she had been so close to me these last four months, learning, taking things in, content to be at my side.
This was a difficult day, only 3 days after Jessica had given birth. She was teary as she placed Eli in his car seat and lovingly put his blanket around him. I could feel the pull she was feeling, but also the pure love and determination. The doorbell rang as we got our things together to leave. It was my thoughtful neighbor Kim with a gift for Eli and flowers for Jessica. We both knew those tulips weren’t just from Kim, but from the Lord. She was about to do the hardest thing any loving mother could ever do, and He wanted her to know He was with her, that He loved her. So He sent her flowers.
I will never forget watching Jessica courageously face the judge on the witness stand, answering in the affirmative with each question our attorney asked about giving up her rights. Such hard questions, with such finality. At one point she was asked, “Do you believe that Jeff and Cherie Burton will provide this child with the environment he needs, that they are fit parents for this child?” She nodded her head and said, “Absolutely.” Tissues and sniffles could be heard throughout the courtroom as Jeff and I sat near our attorney, Jessica’s sister, her mother, her sister-in-law and her little niece Xandrie behind us. And Eli slept on.
The drive back to our home with Jessica and Eli, after the relinquishment, was sacred. Quiet. Talking didn’t seem appropriate and I was at a loss for words, anyway. We listened to Christian songs on the radio, and of course because of God’s grace, the perfect songs with the perfect lyrics happened to come on. One in particular, “Not For A Moment” seemed to capture Jessica’s journey and sacrifice:
You were singing in the dark
whispering Your promise
even when I could not hear
I was held in Your arms
carried for a thousand miles to show
Not for a moment did You forsake me
and every step every breath you are there
every tear every cry every prayer
in my hurt at my worst
when my world falls down
not for a moment will You forsake me
even in the dark
even when it’s hard
you will never leave me
not for a moment will You forsake me
On that same trip home, my husband Jeff, the closest person to me – the one who’s witnessed the after-effects of my sacrifice those 18 years ago with more depth and compassion than any other – asked me if seeing Jessica relinquish Eli brought up old wounds from my relinquishing Wendy. The beautiful thing was, no. It didn’t. I only felt for Jessica, my tears were only for her. I praised God for Eli, for this miracle. My experience as a birthmother was separate and complete, which made me want to lift my hands and voice to heaven in more gratitude. I felt healed that day, no more wounds. It became a full circle experience from my own relinquishment on May 14, 1994. It was a great testifier, down deep in my mother’s heart, that God really does know us completely, designing our life experiences for our highest potentiality. He really does remember – and honor – our heart’s longings.
Jessica came back with us to the house to gather an overnight bag after the court appearance. The plan was to leave with her mother to stay at her brother’s, then return the next morning to say her goodbyes. I tried to take that night to get acquainted with precious Eli. From that first night on, the little guy has slept in the middle of mine and Jeff’s bed, just as his brothers and sister before him. Hospital personnel weren’t especially keen on the idea, but it’s important to Jeff and I for bonding purposes (and our other kids survived – no thrived – being raised this way). Why break tradition? 😉 He seemed to snuggle right in, familiar with our voices, familiar with our home.
That first night alone with him, I reflected on the miracle of his birth and arrival. This tiny infant was at one time my great protector. As I held him then, and continue to now, I feel of his spiritual stature, his angel-warrior heart, his desire to be here. I feel his strength of will and allegiance to Christ. I speak to him often, as I did the night before his birthmom said goodbye, reassuring him he is loved by two mothers. I believe he knows I will make sure that the sacred connection to his birth mother remains honored.
The day after the court hearing, Jessica came to our home with her mother. I handed Eli over so that she could have her final moments with him, alone. Jeff helped Jessica’s mother pack up her things and load her car in preparation for their return to Vegas. After about an hour and a half, Jessica let Jeff know it was time. She was ready. He came into to my room to tell me, and my heart sank. There is nothing harder.
Jessica’s final goodbyes to her baby son in our living room left an indelible impression upon me. It was agonizing and heart wrenching, but there was so much peace. She was full of resolve and full of pain. As we held on to each other and encircled baby Eli, I sensed there were others in that room, many others who were part of our circle – bearing us up, strengthening our feeble knees, including the Savior Himself. Jessica’s tears fell on Eli’s face and on me.
Before she left, she handed me Eli and kissed me on the cheek. I have never been more in awe of another human being’s selfless strength in my entire life.
There isn’t much more to say when you are on the receiving end of that kind of sacrifice. I’m still in awe of it, still reeling, two weeks later. I suppose I will be for awhile.
Though she is at complete peace with her choice, Jessica’s grief has, at times, been unbearable. In the two weeks since she parted with Eli, we have remained in close touch, mostly via texting. I remember what a treasure it was to see pictures and hear updates in those initial days following the placement of Wendy. My grief was so torturous during that raw emotional time that all I could think of was getting back to my baby. I actually showed up on Alan and Susan Bird’s doorstep in tears, about 3 weeks after I relinquished my firstborn to their care. Susan, looking shocked to see me in such a state unannounced, quickly hugged me and directed me to Wendy’s nursery. She ushered me in, handed me a bottle, pointed out the rocking chair, and quietly closed the door. This touched me so much. I was able to hold Wendy, feed her and rock her – and in doing so, was filled, and able to move on in many ways.
Jessica just came back to visit Eli and her “second family” at this same stage of her own grief. She has explained that part of her sadness is losing our family, not being able to live here and have regular association. She grew very close to all of us. Her visit was for 2 days, and in fact, she just left yesterday. The reunion was peaceful and beautiful. It calmed everyone’s hearts, including Eli’s.
Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.
I think this is such a sweet passage of scripture, the part where Hannah, Samuel’s birthmother, makes him a “little coat” and brings it to him. Like Hannah did with Samuel and I’ve done with Wendy, Jessica will bring things for Eli “from year to year.” It wasn’t a “little coat” she made at this last visit, but a scrapbook she lovingly created for our family. The 20-page scrapbook offers a very detailed and beautiful explanation, in her talented, artistic way, of why she is so at peace that Eli is in our home. She created it during the days of her hardest grief, which makes it a dearly cherished treasure.
Earlier this week, Wendy came to see Eli. I am so blessed to have such an open, wonderful relationship with Wendy and her adoptive mother, Susan. Wendy has grown up knowing who I am, and there is a special bond we share. Not necessarily a mother/daughter one, but a sister/sister one. God really does know how to turn pain into growth, steer us to higher paths in our anguish. He knows how sacred struggles ultimately brings us to greater wisdom and joy.
Seeing the daughter I placed for adoption holding the son I just adopted puts so much of my life into perspective. I now know where God has been taking me the past 18 years, and especially the last five.
The Law of Divine Compensation is real.
Eli is really here. What a miracle that I could be connected to him from the very moment his birthmother discovered she was carrying him. What a blessing that Jessica could be in our home, so Eli could become familiar with our voices and environment. At times when I look upon him, I feel such a physical connection that it’s almost like I carried him. With his light sandy hair and blue eyes, he looks like my newborn babies did. He cuddles into me and responds to my voice they way they did. If only he could talk, I am sure he’d share so much of the story of his adoption – so much more about heavenly plans – than Jessica and I have scarcely considered.
This beautiful child is a glorious gift to our home. To see your husband weep with love and gratitude, stroking tenderly the face of this promised little one as he lay between you… To watch your nearly six-foot-tall sixteen-year-old hold a baby close to him, looking down with tenderness – with the same expression you had holding him – is a heart melter. To see your teenage daughter and her friends look on your new addition, squealing with delight and adoration, your 11 year-old son talking softly and cooing gently to the baby brother he has prayed for since he was six…is beautifully priceless.
Jessica will be eternally blessed for her Abrahamic sacrifice. She has been preserved to raise a righteous lineage, as she has been promised. As Hannah was promised. One of Jessica’s greatest desires is to help others climb out of pain, embrace life fully, and turn to God. She is a natural leader – an influencer – and will help many because of her life experiences. She has given permission for me to share a link to her blog. Clickhere to read her inspiring climb from darkness to Light. Her July 2012 entry was posted during her pregnancy with Eli, as she stayed in our home and came to terms with her decision. I am sure she will be writing our story from her own perspective.
And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The Lord give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the Lord…
And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord.
I can’t help but draw the parallel between Hannah being blessed with “three sons and two daughters” after relinquishing Samuel, and the hope I have of the same (after relinquishing Wendy). Our family is nearly complete, with three sons and one daughter. We await the arrival of our second daughter when the hand of the Almighty decrees it, in whatever way He has planned. I know that Abbie will join us soon, because as I said at the beginning, she and Eli cannot be separated for long. Abigail of the Old Testament happens to now be front and center on my vision board.
Shortly after Eli came to stay, I asked Susan how she felt when she first brought Wendy home. How was it, after the birthmother exchange, to raise a child she didn’t birth? Did Wendy feel like hers? She wisely responded, “You know, I have always felt like my children have come to me on loan. They are on loan from God. There is no ownership I can claim.”
As the scriptural passage explains above, our precious babies are “the loan which is lent to the Lord.” We’re all adopted, if you think about it. All of us left God, our first Father, came to earthly parents – who technically are not our “real” parents – and get to be raised in very imperfect circumstances. Circumstances, however, that are perfect for each one of us.
Eli has been mine and Jessica’s greatest teacher in God’s tender mercies. While Jessica was still in the hospital, she shared with me how strongly she’d been filled with the realization of the deep love her Father in Heaven has for her…that He cherishes her, misses holding her. After having her own baby and preparing to place him in the care of others, she came to understand how God must feel when He sent her to Earth to be raised in another home.
I’ll close with the simple scriptural phrase in 1 Samuel 1:19 that encapsulates it all…every moment of this journey of loss, birth, rebirth, pain and joy. It is directed to Hannah, but it is also directed to Cherie. And to Jessica. And to you.
“…And the Lord remembered her.”
For The Two Who Are Missing: My daughter and son, not yet conceived
Cherie Burton, September 1, 2008
I see you, brave son, standing behind your sister
Noble in your resolute desire to strengthen and protect
The sacred bond which cannot endure separation
In either estate.
And you, determined daughter, reaching forward
In beautiful feminine splendor and swirling clouds of joy
Waiting to join a mortal stage compatible with
The majesty of your mission.
It has been a year since my mind’s eye received you both
Since this mother’s heart knew there were two spots missing
In the joyful family portrait which hangs in her hallway
And graces her soul.
So my feet continue walking with the wondrous gift of knowing
That the stars are moving in alignment and purpose
While elements of body and earth combine with the miracle
Of your perfect creation.
May you see with infinite clarity the purity of my intent
To embrace our Father’s design for this glorious family circle
Accepting –daughter and son of the light– my most humble offering
To be your mother forever.