Sevin sat down on the bed and covered his face. I couldn’t tell if he was crying. A part of me wanted to stop the story, but he needed to know everything. It wasn’t going to be any easier telling it another time.
I wiped my eyes. “She was searching with her little mouth for my breast. My milk had just started to come in. I knew feeding her was a huge no-no given the situation, but in that moment, all that mattered was comforting my baby. I ordered my mother to get out of the room. Then, I sat down, opened up my hospital gown, and she latched right on. The nurse came in and told me to stop feeding her, that it was a bad idea to get her used to breast milk when she needed to become accustomed to formula. But I just couldn’t stop. It was all I could give her…all I would ever give her. I never imagined how much I was going to fall in love with her so quickly. I loved her so much, not just because she was mine, but because she was yours.”
The next part of the story was the hardest for me to grapple with.
“She spit up a little, so I undid her blanket to clean her…” I closed my eyes. “That was when I noticed that…” I hesitated.
“She had a birth defect. No one had told me.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The bottom half of her left arm was missing.”
“None of the ultrasounds caught it. They said it was just a genetic blip, nothing specific that I did to cause it.”
His ears were turning red as he kept his head in his hands. Maybe I needed to stop.
He turned to me, his eyes swollen and red. “How could you give her away after that?”
The pain in my chest worsened as I forced myself to go on with the story.
“The adoptive family was told about her arm. They also found out that I was having doubts, and threatened to back out if I didn’t sign the papers soon. They said they weren’t going to wait forever only to have me change my mind. I was scared she wouldn’t have a good home. Mama kept pressuring me, reminding me of all the reasons I ran away in the first place and saying that it would be harder to find another family because of the baby’s imperfection.”
“So you did it…just…signed the papers,” he said incredulously.
“I didn’t even say goodbye to her because I couldn’t. How ironic is that? I gave up our baby in the same way I left you. So, see? All of this…it’s why I’m such a terrible person, why I deserved every bit of the type of life I’ve had since.”
“There’s no way to find out where she is?”
“Like I said, it was a closed adoption. I don’t even know the family’s last name.”
A long moment of silence ensued before he turned to me. “What did she look like?”
Telling him would be like pouring major salt in his wound, but there was no holding back anymore.
“She looked like you. Just like you.”
Sevin shot up from the bed. “I need some air.”
He walked out the door, slamming it behind him.
Feeling empty, I curled into the bed, wishing I had drugs to numb the pain.
After everything sunk in, a strange, almost calming fogginess came over me. It was similar to how you feel after a long run or after coming down from a panic attack. It was a feeling of relief at the same time, like the worst was over. It couldn’t get any worse than admitting to Sevin that I gave his child away.
An hour later when the door burst open, Sevin’s eyes were wide and frantic upon returning from his walk.
Alarmed, I straightened my back against the headboard. “What happened?”
He clutched his chest, trying to catch his breath. “I know where she is.”
“I’ve seen her…our daughter.”
“Your mother lied.”
“That’s not possible.”
“She lied! She knows where our daughter is.”
“How do you know that?”
“It all hit me just now on my walk.” The words were spilling out of me so fast. “I’ve been going to this church for a while in Spearville. I go there to clear my head a couple of Sundays a month. I always sit in the back row. There was this family that caught my attention a couple of times because one of their daughters was missing the bottom half of her arm. Her hair was darker than her sisters’. I remember thinking how much they reminded me of my half-brothers and me, three blondes and a dark-haired child that stuck out like a sore thumb.”
“But it could be a coincidence. That doesn’t mean it’s her, Sevin.”
“Let me finish. What also made me pay attention to this family was that the father always looked so damn familiar. The one or two times he’d turned around to hand the donation basket to the people behind him or offer a sign of peace, I swore I knew him from somewhere but could never figure it out. Well, one day I did. I remembered that he was the same guy who showed up at Sutton once. This guy was in the lobby. The receptionist handed him an envelope, and then he left.”
“I don’t get it.”
“It seemed a little suspicious to me at the time, so I asked Jeannie if she knew what was in the envelope. She said that it was cash and that Olga had come into the office and instructed her to give it to the guy. She must have not wanted her business done at home. I assumed it was some kind of charity donation, that maybe they were poor or something. I never gave it another thought again…until now.”