Gel Jamlang for Reader's Digest
When my best friend, Colleen, was 38 weeks pregnant, she asked me to go with her to Babies “R” Us, one of the only children’s shops in Anchorage, Alaska.
She found out she was expecting around the time I found out I would never give birth. I was only 29, but doctors said that I had too many medical challenges to conceive, let alone carry a child to term. Find out the signs of infertility every couple should know.
Focusing on Colleen’s good fortune helped distract me from my own grief. I hosted her baby shower and sewed bedding and curtains for her son’s nursery. Now the only thing she needed was a changing table, which was what we had come to buy.
As we headed to the furniture section, a gray-and-white-striped onesie caught my eye. The red crab sewn on the backside smiled with bright eyes, suggesting it had a secret. Maybe it triggered memories from my childhood: digging for crabs in the Gulf of Mexico’s sands, eating them on the docks in Baltimore with my family, pretending I was Ariel from The Little Mermaid. If things were different, that crab onesie would have made me laugh.
Instead I said, “If I ever have a son, I’d want him to have that.”
Colleen stopped, grasping my wrist so I would stop too. “Sarah, you have to get it,” she said.
I shook my head no. I didn’t want a reminder of what I couldn’t have. Of course, my husband, John, and I had talked about adoption. But I worried that the process would only lead to more rejection.
That night, I told John about the outfit. “Maybe you should’ve gotten it,” he said, pulling me close.
I told him no.
The next Sunday, John and I went to church for the second time in more than a decade. In a city where people tend to come and go, we ached for connection and figured that this church, which had a reputation for being accepting, might offer that.
As we walked in, I noticed a tiny baby nestled in the arms of a woman with white hair tied back in a bun. His head rested on her shoulder, and on his backside was the same red crab I’d seen just eight days before. My breath caught. Read some more inspiring stories that prove it’s never too late to change your life.
I turned to John and whispered, “That’s the outfit I was telling you about.”
He cocked his eyebrows. Throughout the service, I was transfixed by the infant with fine blond hair sticking straight up from his head. I longed to hold him. I tried to distract myself by looking at the bright horizon over the snowy mountains.
At the end of the service, the reverend stood to make announcements. The white-haired woman walked up beside him, holding the infant.
“Most of you know this woman, and many of you know her daughter’s situation,” he said. “But what you may not know is that this baby needs a home, and he needs it by Thursday.”
I was afraid to make a sound.
The reverend continued, “If you or anyone you know is thinking about adoption, please see us after the service.”
I felt a hand on my lap and looked at John. He had tears in his eyes too.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” he whispered.
We picked up our coats and, with our fingers interlaced, walked to the area where a group of people had congregated around the woman and the baby.
The grandmother beckoned us forward, and I saw the child’s face for the first time—round with almond-shaped eyes and full lips. John was brave enough to hold him, but I was not. She took our phone numbers, saying the family would follow up.
That evening, they came to our home. The grandmother entered with an air of confident grace, but the young mother, carrying her baby, struggled to look us in our eyes. I didn’t know her, but I wanted to hug her. We sat in our living room with a plate of cookies and cups of coffee.
Before we sat down, the mother asked whether I would like to hold her baby. This time I said yes. He fit perfectly in my arms.
Over the next hour, we learned that he was four weeks old and that twelve families had volunteered to adopt him. The mother shared that she had many challenges that prevented her from parenting. Rather than letting her son became a ward of the state, she was choosing to relinquish her parental rights to the best family. If she picked us, all she asked was that we let her be involved in his life in some way. We agreed wholeheartedly.
I never mentioned the crab onesie. I wanted her to make her decision without being influenced by that coincidence.
When they stood to leave, I passed her baby back to her, and John and I waved goodbye as they walked to their car. Then we turned toward each other, embracing silently.
The next morning as I brushed my teeth, my phone rang.
“We picked you” was all I heard.
Two days later, the baby moved into our home. After six months, our adoption was finalized. Our six-year-old son continues to be the best unexpected thing that will ever happen to me. And that crab onesie remains neatly folded in one of my dresser drawers, where I plan to hold on to it—forever. Read some more touching adoption stories that will melt your heart.