I called my therapist. I was crying so hard that I could hardly speak. “I want to keep it,” I said.
“You have to listen to me, but you won’t like what I’m about to say,” she said. “To do the best and most enlightened, energetically and emotionally, is to hope and wish and pray” that the baby’s birth mother can bring her life together and take the baby back.
I had hoped and wished and prayed that she would go away.
“She shows a desire to raise this child, to change her life,” said my therapist. “For that we have to put down roots. If we don’t, we will harm another person. And we cannot harm another person to get what we want. This is not who we are. “
“But what if it’s me?” I asked.
“You have to take the main road or you will perish,” said my therapist. “You have to change your thinking. You have to start cheering for her, for this person who has suffered so much. Then, when she makes it, when she gets her child back, you will go away clean. Will you be sad yeah But you won’t be sad and mean. “
I could not speak
“Think about it like that,” she added. “This child could save this mother’s life, and you don’t need your life saved.”
Months before we brought the baby home, when I was still on a book tour for “Draw Your Weapons,” a book about art and war that asks how we should react to pictures of people in pain, I repeated with the audience Audience about the Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. His family was killed in the Holocaust, and Levinas devoted his life to developing an ethical system that would make another genocide impossible.
This was his suggestion: when you are in the presence of the other, a stranger, someone you do not understand, someone who scares you, someone who you think could kill you if you feel the other so different from you that his life may not even count as life, then that is the sign that you are in the presence of God. The life of the other must be protected at all costs, including your own.
When I became foster parents, I thought the stranger – the other – I had been asked for was the baby. But the stranger wasn’t the baby. The stranger was her mother.