Words by Elora Nicole Ramirez
I held her when the nurse prepped her for the needle, her breath labored and puffing out in large gasps. I could feel the way her fingers curled in and out, in and out, pacing out an internal rhythm only she knew against my shoulders.
“You’re doing great.”
“Imagine everyone rooting for you — breathe in their strength and courage and love. You know they’re here.”
Her breath escaped in a small laugh, a tear edging out of the corner of her eye. She knew I was talking about the women who circled around the proverbial fire for us more times than we could count, and here they were, doing it again. We could feel them as if they were a breath away.
I swallowed and rested my forehead against her, closing my eyes and praying for the millionth time for words when I needed them and silence when I didn’t.
We vibrated in tandem, full of energy that comes with loss and hope and love and family, we prepped ourselves the only way we knew how for grief and celebration and wonder.
We had no idea what to expect, but the moon glowed iridescent against the window and my husband was waiting outside in the hall and our son — the little lion man who was ushered in by thousands waiting for his arrival — was about to be born.
I think about that moment often. Two mothers, desperately waiting to see the face they’ve been dreaming about for months. It’s a built-in bokeh effect in my memory, a snapshot of magic filled with whispers of our tribe — the women who introduced us years ago, secret rebels who believed in the wildness of femininity and connection, waiting on opposite sides of the country like vigilant guards. It was just the two of us in the room with the nurse, but it felt like we were breathing in an army.
This story starts five years ago. I stumbled into a group of women who inspired me with their bravery and pursuit of healing and creativity. One of them, still in college and my soul sister in so many ways, sent me a onesie that came days after one of our matches didn’t work out because the birth mother chose to parent. I sent her a message thanking her for her gift and she responded worriedly. “I sent it before I knew, I’m so sorry. I know your little lion is out there,” she said. And I believed her. My husband and I waited so long that sometimes, we just let others wait on our behalf because we were just too tired to believe anymore. This group of women, my secret rebel society, showed me how to say yes to this wild belief again and again and again.
The call came on a Thursday in August.
“There’s a birth mom....” our social worker said on the message. I rolled my eyes. We’d already been through this. Twice. They knew we only wanted hospital calls— babies already born and mothers long gone, papers signed, no questions asked.
I walked out into the hallway to return her call. “Listen,” I started the conversation. “Russ and I aren’t really interested in being matched with a birth mother.”
“She called and asked specifically for y’all, Elora.”
“Yeah. Said she read your blog or something.”
I paused, placing my hand on the window in front of me, pieces of a puzzle falling into place.
“What’s her name?” I whispered, knowing the answer. There had been a Facebook message — an innocuous question I thought nothing of at the time. Now, it felt monumental. Time circled complete and I nearly fell to my knees.
I thought about the time I pulled her name for a Christmas gift and gave her membership to my writing community.
Or the conversations we had via Facebook Messenger about boys and writing and oceans and mermaids.
Or the time I sent her a found poem I made for her graduation gift.
Or the many times she posted about one of my books releasing, encouraging others to read my words.
Or the onesie still sitting in storage, sent from her.
“Your little lion is out there,” she said.
And she was right.
She had been through everything with us: the preparation, the waiting, the false hopes, and heartbreak twice over, and now — she was here again, birthing our son.
When it was time to push, I cradled her foot in my hand and pushed with everything I had against her strength, helping her provide resistance. I saw his head, and then his eyes pinched shut, and then his arms and legs and toes as the doctor lifted him toward the light, our little lion roaring into the world. We snapped pictures and shared with the crowd of people waiting for news, mutual friends surrounding us like a cloud of witnesses. She touched his cheek once, twice, three times — a small smile on her lips. I wiped the tears with my sleeve, my hands shaking from emotion and disbelief. Soon it would be my turn, and I wouldn’t be able to let him go despite the way my entire body vibrated with exhaustion and knowing.
Our wait was over. Our little lion man arrived on the brightest night of November, birthed by my friend, a fellow rebel in my tribe of women.
Elora has been telling stories her entire life. She believes in their purest form, stories are the best currencies we have for human connection. She loves peonies, coffee, Beyoncé, and the perfect shade of lipstick and lives with her little lion man and chef-husband in Austin. If there is anything she wants you to know about adoption, it’s that it is hard and beautiful and full of grief and wonder and love and — if you’re doing it right — family.