Two years ago, Magda learned she could not bear children.
She had only driven a few blocks from the hospital parking garage before she started to think of her ex-husband and how the news of her infertility devastated him. All the hours they spent dreaming of starting a family, debating baby names and thinking of where they’d like to buy a home big enough for the kids all suddenly seemed like an exercise in futility to him. The seemingly endless happiness they felt with each other seemed to disappear overnight. As second opinions from other physician colleagues came in confirming the initial findings, the distance between them grew. Having their own children and going through the experience of pregnancy was a dream they both shared, but it was one for which he could make no substitutions or exceptions. Blaming herself for the loss of their happiness, Magda did not raise an objection when he somberly asked her for a divorce during a Sunday morning breakfast a few months later. The love she thought was the stuff of legend had become the stuff memory in such a short time. It wasn’t until a few more months had passed that she had allowed herself to freely grieve and mourn the ending of her marriage. For a time, she went to sleep every night with the salty taste of her own tears on her lips. As she turned her car onto the street she now called home, Magda forced herself to remember the resolve she felt when she came out of that period of mourning. Enduring the pain of learning she could not birth a child of her own and of saying goodbye to the love she thought she would have forever had given her a new strength and determination. It allowed her to open herself to the idea of doing what her ex could never do – adopt a child.
Magda parked her car on the street in front of her apartment and shut the engine off. With her hands still on the steering wheel, Magda closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The act of filling her lungs with air and then emptying them allowed her to push away all of the negativity that was woven into her recent memories and to breathe in the feelings of hope she enjoyed during her meeting at the Catholic orphanage she visited last week.
Sister Moravec greeted her with a warm smile and a soothing voice that carried with it a Slavic accent that had been softened from years of working in the United States. The nun’s habit she wore looked old but was well maintained. The coif seemed as white as the day it was made, and the veil was without a single wrinkle. An ornate yet humble silver cross hung from a worn black cord and rested neatly against her bosom. She had dutifully managed the orphanage for the past 20 years, and knew the personalities and back stories of each of the children she looked after. She insisted upon meeting each prospective parent personally and matching each child with parents based on their personality and disposition. Magda and Sister Moravec spoke for over an hour, during which time Magda related the painful events of the past two years of her life and expressed her desire to be a mother to a child in need. When Magda had finished, Sister Moravec spent a few moments considering all that she had heard before she spoke.
“God sees our suffering, child,” she said calmly as she rose and turned to the file cabinet behind her. “In your voice and words I hear a sadness and a desire to love that is not unfamiliar, and I feel that one among my precious little ones here would be well-suited for you.”
Magda allowed herself to smile slightly in light of the nun’s words. She watched intently as Sister Moravec produced a folder from the cabinet, pulled a photograph of a child from it, and slid it across the desk between them towards her. She studied the face in the photograph closely. A beautiful dark haired girl with stunning blue eyes stared up at her from it. “She’s beautiful,” said Magda.
“This one came to me unexpectedly without explanation or name,” Sister Marovec went on. “For the past five years, I haven’t found anyone I felt right about entrusting her life to, and in the meantime she has become the apple of my eye.”
“No name?” Magda asked curiously.
“This is not the case anymore. On her first birthday, I decided to give her my mother’s name, Vera. It means ‘faith’.”
“That’s beautiful,” Magda said. “It suits her.”
The two spoke for a little while longer before Sister Moravec gave Magda an application and the photograph to take home to consider and fill out if she wanted to move forward with adoption.
Sitting in her car tonight with her eyes closed, Magda was happy that the photograph and completed application rested on Magda’s kitchen table ready to be turned in to the orphanage tomorrow. When she opened her eyes, she stepped out of her car, locked it and walked to her front door to enter her apartment. Once inside, she kicked off her shoes and headed straight for the kitchen table to look once more at the face of the child she hoped would become her daughter. Holding the photograph in her hands, she smiled again and let the hope of a brighter tomorrow wash over her. The application was just the first step, she knew, but the lines of Vera’s face made her believe that the hands of destiny were at work and that the child would soon look to her for a mother’s love. Being wrapped up in those pleasant thoughts it startled her all the more to hear her cellphone ringing in her handbag.
Magda put the photograph back on the table and reached inside her bag. She picked up the phone trepidatiously, wondering why someone would call her at this time of night. When she saw the name on the illuminated screen that rested in her hand, she became concerned. Nevertheless, she pressed the answer button and spoke into the phone. “Hello?” she asked. She listened to the voice on the other end of the line for the next few moments and realized that her trepidation was justified. She could not believe what was being described and asked of her. Though she was full of questions to what she had just heard, the urgency in the caller’s voice only allowed her to say, “OK. I’ll be there soon.”
With that, Magda hung up the phone, grabbed a different bag from her room, put her shoes back on and reached for her car keys once more. The only thing she knew for certain about what would happen next was that the late night drive she was about to take would not be one in which she reminisced about the past.