Happy Birthday, Noah!

In a few minutes my oldest son Noah turns 13. Right now, he and his brother are in our basement with a half-dozen other boys watching a movie and playing gameboy. They were playing sword tag down there earlier and now it smells like a high school boy’s locker room. They’re at that age where they still care about Pokemon more than girls or clothes, but they’re starting to smell like men. A couple of his friend’s voices have changed and I’ve been startled more than once tonight by the sound of men talking coming up from the basement.

Tonight as I thought about my son’s entry into the teenage years, I realized that more than anything I feel amazed at where we are. At how well things have turned out. You see, 13 years ago, I was unmarried, essentially homeless, directionless and poor as all get out. I had really planned on placing him for adoption. After all, I knew the statistics. I knew that the odds of us living comfortably were lousy, of me ever getting married were worse, that the odds of him growing to manhood without falling into the traps which catch so many boys raised by single mother were not good. Everyone I knew told me this was the right thing to do. I thought it was the right thing to do.

Except one thing; I asked God and He said no. Specifically, He said, “I am giving this child to you to care for.” I remember exactly where I was: in my junk-packed little red Ford Escort on Roosevelt Road, turning left onto Lorraine on my way to meet with people who might give me a place to live. It was about 7 o’clock at night in November, dark and rainy. I had just said, “God, just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” And He did.

It took until about 2 weeks after Noah’s birth for me to accept and commit to God’s instructions to me. I asked over and over and over if I had understood Him correctly. But God was silent. He had said what He wanted and it was now up to me to do it or not. So, I did it. I told my family and friends that I was going to raise Noah myself. About half of my friends abandoned me pretty much immediately. The other half were gone within a year. My parents asked me not to come to the house because it was too upsetting for the family to deal with. I had little hope of ever making much of my life, or of ever being able to provide my son with all the things, materially and family-wise which I knew a child needed.

But I was doing what God had told me and I knew I couldn’t look back. I quickly realized that parenting this impossible, crabby, sleepless baby came so naturally to me that it almost felt like a spiritual gifting. Parenting him was the first thing I ever did that didn’t feel like I was just faking it. Up until then, everything I did felt like I was pretending to know what to do while hoping no one called me out.

I lived in voluntary poverty working as a nanny for a family who allowed me to bring him with so I didn’t have to leave him in daycare. His dad and I got back together and broke up and repeated the cycle a few times just to be sure. My parents gradually came around. I knew I was doing the right thing. Or at least doing the right thing the best way I knew how. But still, I thought of him getting older and needing more – good schools, a place to hang out with his friends, company and supervision after school – and I couldn’t fathom how I’d ever do right by him.

Fast forward little more than a decade and here we are. His dad and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary this year. We now have 3 more beautiful, smart, amazing children. We’ve had far more than our fair share of trouble, bad luck and drama, but we’ve managed to create a functioning family where there was none before. Every person in this house goes to bed and wakes up each day knowing that they are loved and valued by every other person in the house.

Noah is turning into a fine young man. He’s such a good kid that people don’t believe me when I tell them stories about him crying for hours on end, climbing walls and tearing up everything in sight. His dad has worked hard to provide him, and all of us, with many of the material comforts of life which I never thought he’d have. Now instead of worrying about good schools and supervision in the afternoons, we spend our days together and he learns from me.

Looking back at where we started, I never dared or hoped to dream we’d be this OK, this normal. But I guess that when God asks us to go somewhere, He sometimes has plans we don’t know about. Sometimes He just says, “leave your home and go to a place I will show you” and you just have to trust.

Happy Birthday, Noah! You are a blessing in ways you may never know.

7 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Noah!

  1. What a great story. It seems like you gave him an appropriate name! (As biblical Noah trusted God even in the face of uncertainty about the future.) Happy Birthday to him!

  2. Beautiful story! I, too, was bewildered and pregnant and unmarried and lost. I, too, married my baby’s daddy after the baby was born. I thought my life was ending when I found out I was pregnant, but in truth, it was just beginning.

  3. Wow, what an incredible story. I’m so glad everything worked out for you guys.

    My daughter (who will be four in June) was an unplanned pregnancy, and I got fired from my job when I was seven months pregnant. Fortunately I was married to a supportive husband, and we had supportive parents who would have helped us out financially if we had needed it. It was still a pretty scary time, though. I can’t imagine going through what you went through.

    I am very pro-life and would never have an abortion, but after having my daughter I don’t think I could ever give a child up for adoption either. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving a child up for adoption, and I think it may be the right choice for some people, but I also think, generally speaking, that mothers and babies belong together. Every effort should be made to keep mothers and babies together, except in cases of abuse. There was a time when unmarried mothers were forced to give up their babies, which I think is a horrible thing to do, almost as bad as forcing someone to have an abortion.

    I hope you don’t mind me asking, but do you have any contact with your parents now? While I hope my daughter never gets pregnant out of wedlock, if she did I would still be supportive of her, and would hope she kept her baby. That would be my grandchild, after all. Although if she freely chose to give it up for adoption, I would be supportive of that choice.

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