But you know what? I am honestly, genuinely happy for my friends when they have new babies. Not a hint of jealousy. Because I have known an equal joy. Maybe it's not exactly the same emotion, but I guarantee that the intensity is the same.
Gil and I returned last night from a whirlwind trip to Forever Angels, with the purpose of selecting our next son. The contradicting emotions of feeling both heartbroken and elated clashed against each other the entire time.
The 50+ children at Forever Angels are treasured. Their pictures and hand prints line the walls. They eat well. They each have their own bed. The staff truly love these children and it shows in the way they interact with them. There are scads of short-term volunteers who bring games, songs, face paint, and bubbles into the children's lives. They do everything they can to show the children they are valuable, loved, cherished.
But still, it is not okay. Because to live in an orphanage means a daily fight against invisibility, a daily fight to be seen.
The children engage in this battle in a variety of different ways. Some have figured out that if they are the smiliest, cheerfullest, and most affectionate, they will get the attention they crave. Others fight--and they fight hard. When a stranger enters the playground, they run to get first dibs on her lap. If they succeed, they fight off--physically--anyone else who dares enter their territory. And if the lap-giver stands up, or gives another child a turn--they scream bloody murder.
Others, I think, have just given up. One little toddler took a turn on my lap yesterday. When I moved her to give a turn to another, she cried a little, and then her expression filled with the most desperate despair. She sat with her back to me, motionless, for a long while.
I held a baby in the tiny baby room--she was just a few weeks old. I filled myself up with a baby fix and then looked around, on instinct, for someone to give her back to. It was a harsh moment to realize that there was no one to return her to. I just laid her gently back in bed.
Most children learn to say Mama or ball or no! as their first words. For these children, they learn first to say Me too! They yell it at the top of their lungs. These past two days, the children saw me as another lap to fight for, but they craved Gil even more. They rarely see men, so they were so excited to find a guy who would swing them around by their feet, wrestle them to the ground, and make them paper airplanes. Me too! Me too! Baba, Me too!
They are beautiful, but many times I could barely hold back the tears. This is not how it should be. Children should not have to fight for attention. Children should not have to fight for a Baba to see them. They should not have to worry about becoming invisible.
Yet our purpose there this weekend was to See One. To see the one who is supposed to be ours, to look up and say, You are the One. You are mine. I see you. Forever.
It was only one, but at least it was One. And it was incredibly obvious to us. The decision was impossible because of all the others who were not chosen, but the decision was easy because we had no question that he was the One.
All of a sudden, this One's life has completely changed. No longer will he need to fight. No longer will his future be full of uncertainly. He has been seen. He will become a Son. And he doesn't even know it yet.
So when a mother talks about giving birth as a pinnacle of joy, I believe her. Because I've felt it too.