I lived most of my life in the shadows, and that was fine. I grew accustomed to it and didn’t expect anything more. I learned to keep my head down, do what I was told, and didn’t think to find my purpose in life. But that changed six years ago.
The journey started as a favor. A simple request that wasn’t even directed to me. “Can you watch my son while I go to the hospital to have my baby.”
I took him with no instructions, just a baby, a broken car seat, and the clothes on his back, a onesie and the wet diaper he wore. I have been around children all my life and I knew what to do. I went to the store, bought diapers, bottles, formula, clothes, and proceeded to bring a new baby home. He wasn’t really new, he was eleven and-a-half months old, but he was new for me. Most people have nine months to physically and mentally prepare for a baby, but I had a few minutes to get my mind and life in order.
I went from being a single, carefree woman to being responsible for another life. One question plagued me constantly, “Am I equipped to do this?” But the time I would give it once upon a time wasn’t mine anymore, it belonged to the baby that stared at me with a puzzled look in his eyes.
It was intended for a few days, but turned into weeks, then months, and finally a year and a half. When I least expected it, my bliss turned sour. Through a convoluted twist of fate, my baby’s mother took him back. Imagine the shock and pain I felt. I devoted my days, many sleepless nights, money, and life to this beautiful child, and in one fell swoop he was gone.
I lay in bed for weeks looking at his pictures, clothes, toys, and wondered how things could have turned so crazy. I felt like a part of me died, but he wasn’t dead. He was alive, crying for me, as I longed for him. I longed to hold him in my arms, feed him, play with him, and watch him grow, again. I felt his cries, they pierced a hole in my heart. The nightmare I never dared speak became my reality, and I was left to rebuild a life, without him.
I did just that. I found the strength to move on. I found a new place to live, a new job, and packed up his things and neatly hid them in the back of my closet. I couldn’t bring myself to give anything away. I sought solace in prayer, books, and family. I pretended that everything was alright, just to make everyone around me feel comfortable. But my life would never be the same again.
My best days were overshadowed by my tears and loneliness. The things I celebrated about him, like his birthday, became my undoing. But, five days after his third birthday, his mother called and asked me to come get him. My mind reeled. Was he finally coming home? Before I had a chance to grasp the meaning of her words, she dropped another bomb. “You have to take his little brother too.”
“What?!?” The word echoed silently in my head. But I said, alright, I’m on my way.
Driving home with two toddlers in car seats was overwhelming. It took me a while to wrap my mind around having just one, now there were two, and they relied on me to care for them. Adapting to a new environment, new rules, and a new lifestyle was hard for them at first, but children are resilient and they became better at their routine than me.
Life took on its own rhythm and the boys were thriving. The oldest loved electronics and the youngest loved music, especially the drums. My life revolved around them, around their needs and desires. But, that too came to a halt two years later. Their mother took them for a weekend, and they didn’t come back home.
I live with my memories and my regrets. At the end of every day, as I lay in my bed looking forward to another sleepless night, I look up at the darkness and whisper another silent prayer for my boys. This keeps me going. And just when the pain of losing them feels like it will envelope me and make the darkness my permanent home, I see a sliver of light make its way through my blinds and the promise of a new day with its myriad of possibilities gives me cause for hope once again.