Elisa Ambrose Coulter had three goals in her life; one, to be a teacher and make a difference in the world of fellow deaf people, two was to be happy – and lastly, and more important than the other two, she wanted to be a mother. That was the one thing she counted on working out for her. She didn't care if her kids were hearing or deaf, blind or able to see – she wanted to be a mom. They didn't have to be brilliant students or gifted athletes, all she wanted, and indeed would be happy with – was one child to call her own. She knew that her husband, Michael, wanted to be a dad and his only hope for a child was healthy. That, he'd stated, would be the greatest blessing they could have.
Dreams of parenthood crashed down around Elisa in the early summer of 1983.
She had wanted to lunge across the desk and throttle the doctor when he told her that she was physically unable to have children. That seemed impossible to her. She was one of six children. Her three aunts had fifteen children between them. Her grandmother had nine in total. How could she, of all people, not be able to have children? There wasn't much medical science could do for her either. It was just some wretched malformation in her reproductive system that made her body unable to carry her own child the same way her perfect-looking ears couldn't hear.
It might have been easier of Michael had been able to be with her when the doctor told her the news. He was on his way back from Cincinnati, and his flight had been delayed. After the appointment, Elisa wasn't sure how she managed to return to their home, walk down the hallway and throw herself on the bed.
That's where Michael found her some four hours later, exhausted from crying. She turned when the weight on the bed shifted and she managed to sit up, just in time for him to pull her into his arms. This wasn't the sort of news she wanted to give him, not when he'd just come back from a crash site. She'd been watching the news – twenty three people were dead. Exactly half the number that had been on board. The plane had landed safely and had erupted into flames moments later. She sniffled as Michael brushed her cheeks with his thumbs, a look of concern on his face. He kissed her forehead and then pulled his hands back so he could speak to her.
“What's wrong? Has something happened? Is someone sick... are you sick...” His hands fluttered, the way they always did when he was nervous.
She shook her head, swallowed and told him the news she wished she didn't have to. “The doctor told me today – I can't have children.” Her face crumpled and she started to cry once more. Michael pulled her into his arms, rocking her gently. Over and over she kept thinking of how completely unfair this was. Women were having babies born addicted to crack, others left their babies in dumpsters and still others beat, starved and treated them abhorrently. Why on earth, when they were clearly going to be wicked to their children, could they have them – while she, who wanted a baby, a child – to love and cherish, could not?
It was so fucking unfair and it made her want to scream.
Michael had moved again, kissed her forehead and leaned back to talk once more. “We can still be parents, Elisa.” He smiled, tears forming in the corners of his eyes. “There are children in this world who need parents. Somewhere, there's a child who needs us.”
Elisa let out a silent laugh. “No judge in their right mind is going to give two deaf people a baby.”
“Then we'll look for someone who's a little older.” Michael reached out and smoothed her hair, a tear slipping down his cheek. “We'll start looking into how to adopt a child. It's most likely a ton of paperwork and proving we can provide a stable, safe and caring home. It might just take a while.”
She let out a shuddering breath. She hadn't considered adoption because she didn't think Michael would approve – some men didn't want to support another man's child. She should have known better than to think that about Michael. She nodded slightly. “Well, if there's one thing I know about the two of us, it's that we're patient.”
Michael chuckled and pulled her into a tight hug. Things would work out. They would just have to wait.
It took nearly five months just to get all the paperwork together.
Elisa thought of the stacks of paper on the dining room table, wondering just how long it would take to wade through it all. Family history information, financial information, background information and a host of other things – just to prove to the states of Virginia and Maryland that she and Michael were competent and capable human beings.
Michael hadn't been able to join her at church today – there was a formal hearing today on the crash of Air Florida Flight 90, which had fallen into the Potomac River almost two years ago. That had been a terrible day – she'd spent it in fear that Michael had been on the bridge when the plane struck it. She'd been at home due to a snow day.
As the last of the congregation filed out, Elisa made her way to the niche on the side of the church were the prayer candles flickered in their glass containers. She picked up one of the long tapered matches and lit it from one candle and stared at the dancing flame for a moment, and then set it against an unlit wick. After setting the now spent candle into the sand used to extinguish them, she folded her hands, bowed her head, closed her eyes and prayed. “Somewhere out in the world there is a little boy or girl who will someday need myself and Michael. I ask for the protection of the child and for all children. Shelter them from hate and harm.” Her head came up and she opened her eyes, frowning slightly.
For some strange reason, the air in the niche had the faintest scent of chocolate.
Elisa made the sign of the cross and left the church, telling herself she either imagined the scent, or it was leftover from yesterday's Halloween party in the basement. But oddly, the smell stayed with her all the way home.