That weekend Laney happily answered our questions. She adored her hometown, and rarely left it, and she wanted to be a chef someday. She loved babies, but now just wasn’t the time. Laney still lived with her mom, and as soon as she told the baby’s birth father she was pregnant, he had made himself scarce.
We answered all her questions, too. Told her what our childhoods were like, how we met, how we married the weekend after September 11, and, of course, the details of our five years of infertility.
It was natural and at the same time surreal. We were relaxing and communing with someone who had, frankly, more of an emotional claim on the human being inside her than we did.
“Don’t worry,” Laney said, as we sat on the patio of a Mexican place, demolishing baskets of chips. “I’m not going to change my mind.”
We nodded and smiled, but we didn’t take her at her word. Not really. Birth moms change their mind all the time, we’d heard. They just can’t help it. And we weren’t the ones in control.
That Sunday, we sat with Laney and her mom Paty in a big, bright old house that had been converted to a restaurant. They brought photo albums of Laney as a baby, excited to show us the big-eared, freckly little girl she’d been, playing in the sands on Sullivan’s Island.
When we got home, I finally let myself buy a baby outfit.
* * *
On July 25, 2006, we spent the entire day and most of the evening in the waiting room of the labor and delivery unit with Laney’s mom, Laney’s cousin, her aunt, her other cousin, her other aunt, her step-mom, her grandmother, her dad, and her three closest friends. Everyone there seemed to have accepted us as the parents of the new person who would soon arrive.
At 10:22 p.m., Evangeline Virginia emerged into the world with a fever, jaundice, and the cord wrapped around her neck and shoulders. When she finally made it into Laney’s arms for the first time, Laney held fast to her. She looked up at us, apologized and said she just couldn’t. Not yet.
This felt like the whole thing beginning to unravel, and I myself came unraveled in the car on the way home from the hospital in the wee hours of the night.
But Laney must have made her final peace with the situation in those wee hours. The next morning, she called us, sounding cheery. “There’s a rocking chair here in the room for you,” she said. “Come see her. Come see your baby.”
And there it was. Our baby. As much as we want to believe a baby can be raised by a village, ultimately there are one or two parents who raise a child, and Laney had chosen us to parent Eve.
The morning after Eve was born, we rejoined Laney’s entire family and many friends lingering near her bedside. Laney handed us the beautiful, big-eyed soul that was Eve, in that instant making us a little nuclear family, but also creating a community that radiated outward from the baby in large concentric circles. We cradled our daughter for a time, then handed her to Laney’s cousin Casey. Then she was passed to Aunt Donna. Then Laney’s dad, Bruce. Then his wife, Lori. Then Uncle Doug. Then Mama K. Then to Paty. It felt like the way things were supposed to be.