“Does this happen very often?” Karen asked curiously.
“Thankfully, no, but it has happened before and I dare say it will happen again…” Brenda informed. “Sometimes the birth mothers feel that by leaving their babies with us, they’ll find a new home and that they’ll be safe, but they sadly don’t take into account how dangerous it can be for the babies.”
“Oh that’s awful!” Karen inhaled, glancing over at Stevie and seeing that she was as pale as a sheet.
The sound of crying grew louder and louder until they were finally opening the door to the make-shift nursery. The blinds were drawn and the room was dimly lit by a just one lamp in the corner, but the air was not calm. The sobs emanating from the mobile crib on the far-side of the room were heart-wrenching, and Stevie suddenly experienced the same overwhelming need to comfort the child as she had that day on the beach.
Silently, Stevie stepped into the room towards the crib while Brenda and Karen watched from the doorway. As she approached the crib, her hands flew to her mouth to stifle a gasp at what she saw.
“Oh my goodness!” she breathed in utter shock and looked back over her shoulder at Brenda in astonishment. “How…? But – how old is she?”
“Our guess is a few weeks, four maybe.”
Without hesitation, Stevie leant down into the crib and slipped her hands underneath the baby’s soft, pale pink blanket, gently lifting her trembling body into the air and bringing her close to her chest.
“Oh baby girl, it’s okay sweetheart, it’s okay, sssshhh…” Stevie soothed, lightly bouncing the tiny baby against her chest and rubbing circles over her back.
She felt as fragile as a china doll in Stevie’s arms; she was petrified that she would break at any moment, but that did not stop her from holding onto her little body for dear life. Stevie didn’t even have to think about it, her reaction was just so natural that she was not surprised when she began singing softly to the baby.
“Beautiful child... beautiful child… you are a beautiful child…”
Karen’s heart melted at the sight in front of her. She had never doubted Stevie’s abilities to be a mother, not in the slightest, but it was so touching to see for herself just how ready she truly was for this next step.
“Sleepless child… there is so little time…”
Brenda could not deny that she had also had some preconceived concerns going into this process with Stevie, for she was just as aware of her colourful history as the next person. However, the longer she watched how wonderful Stevie was with this baby, the more insignificant those worries became.
And just like that, the room fell silent.
Stevie slowly turned around to look at Brenda and Karen with bright eyes.
“She – she’s stopped crying!” she whispered excitedly.
“I don’t believe it,” Brenda chuckled breathily. “You’re the only one who’s been able to do that, honey.”
So much love and pride swelled in Stevie’s heart in that very moment that she thought it might burst.
“Does she have a name yet?” Stevie asked quietly, rocking from side to side.
Brenda shook her head.
Leaning back slightly, Stevie looked down at the tiny bundle lying against her chest. Her little chubby cheeks and rosebud lips were squished together as her head rested heavily against Stevie’s chest deep in sleep. All of her tiny features reminded her so much of a china doll; her skin was as smooth as porcelain and her fair hair was as soft as silk. She had never laid eyes on a more perfect baby.
The warmth and weight of the baby in Stevie’s arms felt so right; it was almost as if she had been an unfinished jigsaw puzzle, and she had just found her missing piece.
She felt complete.
Stevie could have stayed there for hours, and so her heart sank when she saw Karen pointedly checking her watch and gesturing to her that they had to leave.
After taking a deep breath, Stevie turned around to face the crib again and leant down so that her lips were hovering just above the baby’s tiny ear. In a voice as quiet as a whisper and still rocking her slightly, she sang:
“I wish that you were mine… I wish that you were mine…”
As Stevie reluctantly leant forward to place the sleeping baby back in the crib, she suddenly felt the baby’s hand clutch tightly at the chiffon of her blouse, almost as if to say ‘please don’t go’.
Tears brimmed in Stevie’s eyes; she lifted the tiny baby up to her lips and placed a gentle kiss to the top of her head, before laying her back down in the crib and tucking her blanket in all around her.
The baby began to wriggle and whimper as soon as she left Stevie’s arms.
“Sssshhh, sweet angel, I’m still here…” she whispered, placing her hand on the baby’s tummy.
As Stevie saw her slipping back into a deep sleep, she unwillingly pulled herself away from the crib and crept out of the room, where Karen and Brenda were both waiting for her.
“You certainly have that special touch, Stephanie!” Brenda smiled broadly.
“Thank you, Brenda,” Stevie replied. “Today has been magical.”
“Well, here are all of your information booklets to take away with you today, and uh, well – I hope to hear from you both soon!”
Stevie shook Brenda’s hand and thanked her, before following Karen through the office.
Just as they reached the back door, the sound of those heart-wrenching sobs echoed through the corridor once again and stopped Stevie dead in her tracks. They were tearing her apart. Karen turned around to see Stevie just standing there, and she smiled at her sadly.
“Come on Stevie, it’s time to go.”
Stevie nodded and took a deep breath, before slipping out of the back door of the office and into their waiting car.
A/N: I hope you all enjoyed reading this chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it!