25 June 2014

Transracial adoption: One of these things is not like the other...

An interesting incident from January 2012 when I was still a new mom...

We are in line at the grocery store, my five month-old daughter sound asleep in her baby carrier on the cart and me watching the woman in front of us unloading her cart's contents onto the belt.  The woman is blonde, blue-eyed, petite, and pretty. The little boy standing next to her - probably five years-old or so - has to be her son because he looks exactly like her. He is adorable. I can't help staring at him.

The little boy notices me gazing at him so I give him what I hope is my best "I really like little kids" smile. Thankfully he smiles back. Then he notices the baby carrier sitting on my cart and makes his way over to me.

"Can I see the baby?" he asks me in a raspy voice.

"Sure, Buddy," I say and move aside.

Grasping the cart handle he hoists himself up for a good look. Apparently this is a kid who really likes babies because he gets a goofy big smile on his face. At this moment his mom notices him missing from her side and looks around to see him standing on my cart.  She looks as though she's going to call him back so I give her my most "it's OK" smile with a little hand wave and she relaxes while the cashier continues to scan and bag her items. After another moment the boy's smile fades as he looks from Esme to me and back again several times. He steps down from the cart and with a serious expression says slowly and loudly, "S h e ' s   v e r y   b r o w n."

The petite blonde looks alarmed at this loud pronouncement from her son.

"Yes, she is," I reply.

"She's very brown," he repeats, "and you're NOT."

A look of sheer horror settles on the face of the little boy's mom, but I wave her off gently before she can interrupt.

"No,  I'm not," I say with a chuckle.

The little boy thinks about this for a moment and then asks, "So, is your husband brown?"

"Omigod," says the little boy's mom her face flushing in utter embarrassment.

Personally, I don't think she should be embarrassed at all. Her kid is a genius! How many five year-olds would make that leap?

"No, Buddy, my husband isn't brown."

He looks confused.

"My daughter is adopted."

"What does that mean?"

The boy's mother is now making quiet strangling noises with her face in her hands, "Honey, please!"

Ignoring his mother's near panic, I say, 'That means that my daughter grew in someone else's tummy, but that lady couldn't tale care of her when she was born. So my little girl came to live with me and my husband and now we're her parents."

"Oh, OK," he says cheerfully walking back to his mother's side.

"I am SO sorry," says the mom looking as if she'd rather be anywhere else.

"Please don't apologize. It's just fine. Really."

My daughter is brown.

Very brown.

And I am not.

23 June 2014

I'm Back (and Conversations with Esme...)

It's hard for me to believe that my amazing girl is almost three years old.

And that I haven't written on this blog for more than two years. What the heck happened???


That's what happened.

Diaper changes, sleep deprivation, walking circles around the kitchen island in the middle of the night trying to get her back to sleep, schlepping her in the car seat here and there, teething, barfing (her, not me), bottle feeding, baths, sleep deprivation, multiple daily clothing changes, getting barfed on, getting barfed on some more, getting barfed on again, sleep deprivation, crying in my car because I'm so tired, hearing her first laugh, seeing her first smile, watching her roll, then scoot, then crawl, then pull herself up, then take her first step, and more steps, then run, then say her first word and her second word, trips to the playground, more trips to the playground, etc. etc. etc.

Losing myself entirely for almost three years in this wonderful, terrible, fabulous, maddening and transformative thing called motherhood. When I started this blog back in 2009 to explore my husband's and my adoption journey, I had every intention of then writing about our family post-adoption and about my experience with motherhood. But somehow writing about motherhood just never materialized. I was just too busy. Too tired. Too much of a mom and not quite as much of the me I was before I became a mom.

But here I am again. Feeling the need to write. And what else would I write about? Being a mom is my full-time gig. It's what I do. It's what's in my brain. It's kind of all I know these days. So basically it's all I know to write.

So, to kick off the re-boot of this blog I am going stop making excuses for why I've been gone so long and instead get you up to speed on my girl via some of my favorite conversations with Esme who is, as I already mentioned, amazing.

Actually she is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Super smart, extremely independent, uber social, fearless, compassionate, charming, and has a great sense of humor.

February 8, 2014

Filed under "What Not to Say to Your Child":

ME: OK, Sweetie, it's time to get dressed.

ESME [goofs around in rocking chair]

ME: Guess you don't want to go to the mall today. Guess we won't replace your bracelet.

ESME [hopping off chair]: Go mall! Go mall!

ME [lifting Esme onto changing table]: Well, we have to get you dressed. Can't go to the mall in your pajamas. Well, you could, but then I'd be a crap mom.

ESME [laughing hysterically]: Crap mom! Crap mom! Crap mom!

March 19, 2014

At the library with La Munchipessa.

ESME [picking up a toy stuffed frog]: Frog is sad.

ME: The frog is sad? Why is he sad?

ESME: Has no friends.

ME: The frog has no friends?

ESME: Nooo.

ME: That is sad.

ESME [rolling a toy car with two Little People in it to the frog]: Frog has new friends!! [smiles]

May 5, 2014

ESME [pointing to her purple sock monkey doll]: This is baby.

ME: Purple Monkey is your baby today?

ESME [nodding, but also frowning]: The baby sick.

ME: She's sick? Oh no.

ESME: Need to go to doctor office. The baby sick. Need to go to doctor office.

ME: OK, we better call to see if we can get an appointment.

ESME [pointing to Purple Monkey's little leg]: The baby has cramp! Has cramp!

ME: Oh no.

ESME: [rubbing Purple Monkey's leg and smiling a huge smile]: Cramp all gone! Baby feels better!

May 11, 2014

I am in bed while my husband and daughter are busy in the kitchen making pancakes for me. (And I know this because La Munchipessa just ran to the bedroom door, announced, "We making pancakes for you!" and then dashed off again.)

Happy Mother's Day to me!!!

[addendum: In related news, La Munchipessa just reappeared in the doorway to announce, "We have syrup!"]

May 31, 2014

So, I'm fighting the spring/early summer crud [cough cough cough sniffle sniffle sniffle]. My daughter;s take on the crud...

ESME: Open you mouth.

ME [opening my mouth]

ESME: You have germs in you mouth.

ME: Yes, I have germs in my mouth.

ESME [pointing to herself]: I doctor. I make you feel better.

ME: You're the doctor and you're going to make me feel better?

ESME: [nodding enthusiastically] : I doctor.

ME: What do you recommend for me to feel better?

ESME [thinking]: Soup!! [runs to her covered water table where she busily combines dirt and grass in a bowl] I make you cake. You feel better.

ME: Well, thank you. I think cake will make me feel better.

08 April 2012

She comes home...part 8

It's difficult for me to describe witnessing my husband hold his daughter for the first time. I'm not sure that I can beyond including the above photo in this post...It's still my absolute favorite photo of the two of them together. The quiet wonder and joy of the moment.

Several hours or so before this photo is taken... I tuck Esme into her carrier and load her into the car to make the trek to the airport to pick up Chris, who is finally able to travel to Orlando to be with us for the weekend. According to the airline website his flight is on time so I expect to park the car, meet Chris at baggage claim and have some time to introduce him to his daughter. Imagine my surprise and dismay when I receive a text mid-way on my drive to the airport that his flight is 25 minutes early. 


So, now I'll be picking Chris up curbside.

A short time later I see him standing there with his backpack slung over his shoulder. Smiling. Looking a little tired and nervous.

I ease the car over to the curb, get out and walk around to greet my husband with a long hug and a kiss. Then wordlessly he opens the rear passenger door and leans in to get his first real look at our daughter. Tears immediately spring to his eyes. Happy tears. "She's so beautiful."

We have to get going before airport security shoos us away on this busy travel Friday.

"Do you want to ride in the back with her?" I ask.

He shakes his head.

And then we're off to the attorney's office so Chris can sign the papers.

We don't talk much on the way and laugh a little hysterically when I call up the wrong address on the GPS landing us at the pediatrician's office instead of the attorney's office. A quick panicked call to the attorney and we're off again.

Finally we arrive. Chris gently lifts the carrier out of the car. It is apparent that he is already mesmerized by his little girl.

Soon we are settled into a small conference room. The attorney leaves us to gather the papers. 

"Do you want to hold her?" I ask Chris, taking Esme out of her carrier.

"No, I'll wait until we're back at the hotel," he says wistfully. Then he looks at Esme in my arms. "Wait. Yes. I do."

So I hand her to him. For a few seconds he looks as if I've handed him a live grenade.

"It's OK," I say.

She looks so very tiny in his hands.

He gazes at her already full of love and adoration.

I take a few photos. He is lost in the moment, but finally looks up and I snap a few of him smiling, too. 

Then the attorney is back and Chris is signing papers while I change the baby's diaper and give her a bottle. 

And then it's done.

Chris and I are now Esme's legal guardians.

We return to the hotel to begin our first weekend together as a family. While we do many fun things including dinner out at a Thai restaurant, a trip to Babies-R-Us to buy a Snap-n-Go, and her first visit to an art museum, what I remember most about the weekend is Chris holding Esme. Singing to her. Dancing slowly with her around the hotel room. The way he gazes at her. It is obvious that he is completely smitten.

We joke now that we're doomed. That one day our daughter is going to look at Chris and ask sweetly, "Daddy, can I have a pony?"

And he's going to reply, "A pony? Of course! What color, Honey?"

You can see it all in this very first weekend. 

Sunday comes all too soon and I find myself driving Chris back to the airport so he can return to his last week of work at the job he is leaving. Neither of us wants him to go. But he'll be back in five days.

He kisses our daughter gently. He kisses me gently. And then he's gone.

21 March 2012

She comes home...part 7

"I don't know how you did that! Taking care of a newborn all by yourself in a hotel room! I couldn't have done it."

Numerous people express these sentiments to me upon our return home with Esme.

"Well...I didn't really have a choice," I reply.

I'm sure before all of this craziness happened if someone had told me that I'd be spending 10 days with an infant in a hotel room, the majority of those ten days alone with her, I probably would have fainted at the prospect.

Fainted dead away.

But the truth is that once we get to the hotel and it's just Esme and me...I'm more relaxed than I have been in almost three years.

After the insanity of our failed adoption in March, getting the news of Esme's birth on the heels of Hurricane Irene and the mad rush of getting myself to Florida, after the agonizing and waiting, making the final pact with K, nasty Nurse Stink Eye, the signing of the papers, the clueless attorney, and finally (painfully) saying goodbye to K...being alone with Esme in a clean, quiet hotel room seems comparatively easy.

Even relaxing.

"I didn't have a choice," I reply to the folks amazed by my ability to take care of a newborn alone in a hotel room. "But honestly, compared to the two and a half years of waiting and everything else that happened on our adoption journey...taking care of her turned out to be the easy part."

Esme is a quiet baby.

She sleeps most of the time wrapped up like a burrito. Over the course of two days at the hospital I have become adept at swaddling. She cries when she wets her diaper and when she's hungry. However, I am extremely grateful that she is apparently one of those babies who, when a need is addressed, immediately stops crying. She isn't one of those babies who gets herself all worked up.

Our room is spacious with two queen sized beds, a decent sized sitting area and a tiny kitchenette. Because we're in Orlando - Land of the Evil Empire Disney - hotel rooms are plentiful and cheap. A room this size and quality near where we live would be in the hundreds for just one  night. But here it's affordable. And conveniently the hotel is right across the street from Target. Anything I need is just one minute away.

Our first night together as mother and daughter is relatively quiet. Upon our arrival in our temporary home she sleeps in the portable bed-top sleeper while I get all of the various baby stuff set up in little stations around the room. Once that's done I sit next to her on the bed to watch her sleep. Wrapped up burrito-style she is very still, although from time to time she moves her little head in a circle and her mouth opens wide in a silent cry. And then she settles back down into deep sleep.

Do newborns dream?
"Hello, my little burrito," I whisper to her.

Some part of my brain thinks that I should be panicked about being here on my own with her, but I'm not. She's quiet and content. I'm quiet and content.

I send text messages and photos to Chris and our families. She sleeps, eats, makes wet diapers, and occasionally opens her dark-brown-almost-black eyes. I'd like to think she can see me, but I know from my reading that she sees virtually nothing at this point in her life. Her world is made up of sound, taste and other physical sensations. Like most newborns, she isn't crazy about being naked. Her skinny legs and arms flap manically when I change her. Her way of saying, "Holy crap it's cold in here!!!"

"I'm sorry, my little burrito," I say and try to dress her quickly. The teeny tiny newborn clothes are simply gigantic on her. Every time I change her I can't help but be delighted by her big feet. Well, giant for her...they are tiny little feet, but look ginormous on her pencil skinny legs. She has long, slender toes.

When she is awake, I lay her the length of my thighs and just gaze at her. Every little movement is adorable. She makes soft smacking sounds. And sometimes she sighs deeply.

I touch her face, her hair, her hands and feet. I am certain that she is the most perfect baby ever and tell her so, "You are the most perfect baby. Ever."

She doesn't reply, but looks in my direction with wide unseeing eyes. And sighs deeply.

I'd like to think she understands that already after just a few days I adore her with every fiber of my being.

No matter how tightly I wrap her into her burrito blanket cocoon, her left hand inevitably makes its way up and out of the top of her swaddling blanket. She sleeps with her fingers pressed to her cheek. This just kills me it's so sweet.

"I think we should call her Houdini," I say to Chris. "Her left hand will not be contained. She gets it out of the swaddling every time I do her up!"

He laughs, but it is obvious that he is incredibly sad to be missing her first day away from the hospital. Her first day as part of our family.

"You'll be here tomorrow," I say trying to ease the ache, knowing it doesn't help.

07 March 2012

She comes home...part 6

My stomach is doing uncomfortable flip flops.

I sit on one of the couches in the airy third floor hospital lounge, but it's impossible to get comfortable. From time to time I get up and walk around just to be doing something. When I'm not walking or glancing at the door, I'm sending text messages to Chris.

10:50 AM [ME]: I signed all the papers. The attorney now in with K having her sign everything. OMG. This is really happening.

11:01 AM [CHRIS]: I'm at my desk. Having a bit of trouble breathing.

11:01 AM [ME]: me too

11:20 AM [CHRIS]: Anything?

11:20 AM [ME]: Still waiting

11:21 AM [CHRIS]: This is nerve-wracking.

11:21 AM [ME]: What about this entire experience hasn't been nerve-wracking???

11:22 AM [CHRIS]: Bonus wracks for being so close to it happening. I'm sorry I'm not there with you.

11:22 AM [ME] I'm sorry too. But you'll be here tomorrow and we will just get to hang out without anyone else around!

Two hours earlier I arrive at the hospital to find K watching television and the baby laying next to her asleep.

"You just missed her being awake," says K.

"That's OK," I reply. "I'm sure she'll be awake again soon."

K nods.

"Do you want to hold her?"

I nod as K hands her to me. The baby doesn't even stir during the hand-off. One little hand peeks out of the top of the swaddling blanket.

"How are you?" I ask K.

"I'm OK," she says looking at me and then back at the tv. "I'm OK."

Again, I wonder if she is trying to convince me or herself that she truly is OK.

"Are you sure?"

She nods her head.

I try one last time. One last time I'll say it and then there's no going back for either of us.

"There's still time to change your mind," I say.

The statement...a question really...hangs in the air between us for a minute before K says, "No. I'm OK. I'm OK."

She looks back at the tv. I look down at K's baby in my lap. Sleeping. Content. Unaware of the pact being made and confirmed by the two women who love her more than anyone else in the world will ever love her.

Finally the attorney arrives. A pretty woman with dark hair in her mid-thirties. She smiles broadly as she introduces herself to K and to me. She coos over the baby announcing that she has a 5 month-old at home. After a few minutes of chit-chat she turns to me and says, "So, have you and your husband chosen a name?"

"Esme Louisa," I reply.

'That's beautiful," says the attorney with another big smile.

"Unless you changed your mind and there's a name that you like," I say turning to K hoping, even though I love the name we've chosen, that K will tell me that she's changed her mind and would like to have a part in naming her baby.

She shakes her head, "No. I'm OK. That's pretty."

Esme Louisa it is.

And then the attorney is leading me out of the room explaining that I have to be in a different part of the hospital while K signs the papers. She leads me to the lounge, pulls out a huge packet of papers and proceeds to go over each one with me. I'm sure that I'm supposed to read each one thoroughly, but I can't seem to focus properly because I'm so nervous. So, I nod a lot. Finally, the attorney announces that she needs to go review all of the documents with K, which will take a while. I try my best to read everything per the attorney's instructions, but just end up locating all of the places I'm supposed to sign and, with shaking hand, do just that.

The lounge is empty but for me. People come and go from the maternity ward, but no one stops here.

The minutes drag by.

Then at 11:32 the doors open and there is the attorney with a big smile on her face.

K signed the papers.

The attorney gives me a quick hug. I hand her my signed papers. We return to K's room. The moment I see K is so terribly, horribly bittersweet. She is crying. Big tears. I want to hold her, to tell her that it's all going to be OK. I want to adopt K along with her baby. She is so young and scared. She needs someone to take care of her. Seeing her cry and knowing what we've done...I am so heartbroken for her. So happy for me and Chris, but so heartbroken for her.

Part of me just wants to take it all back. To un-sign everything and go back in time to before we even knew about K and her baby.

I walk to her thinking that I will put my arms around her, but she thrusts Esme Louisa in my direction and turns away.

I can't blame her. I'd probably turn away from me, too, if I was her.

The attorney, oblivious to K's pain and only interested in my joy,  jumps in front of me with a camera and says, "Smile!'

So, I do. Then the attorney says, "Give me your phone and I'll take some pictures for you."

So, I do and she does.

"How about a picture with K?" says the oblivious attorney.

"Well, I think that's really up to K. I don't want to intrude on her privacy," I respond.

K is not crying anymore, but is still obviously shaken by what has just happened here.

"Oh, I guess I always think that everyone wants their pictures taken. It's such a happy occasion!"

Not for K.

This attorney really is clueless.

I look at K who says quietly, "I don't think I want my picture taken."

"I understand," I reply. "That's totally fine."

The attorney looks confused and disappointed. She puts her camera away. Finally, she announces that it's time for her to go. She congratulates me again, makes some vague noises in K's direction and leaves us.

I am wrung out and have no words left to text my husband so I simply send him this photo:

And then I sit on the low pink couch with my daughter and her mother. One of us is sleeping soundly while the other two contemplate the enormity of what we've just done.

05 March 2012

She comes home...part 5

"I can't get her to wake up to eat," I say quietly to the night nurse, B. "She is sleeping so deeply. I've tried everything, but she just won't wake up."

I'm very worried about this because the baby hasn't eaten in more than two hours. Nurse Stink Eye, upon returning the baby earlier in the evening after her tests are complete, looks at K and reminds her that because the baby is so small she needs to eat every two hours. No exceptions. She looks at me with the evil Stink Eye and says nothing before leaving the room to sign off from the day shift. I don't know if it's me personally that has her so up in arms or adoptive moms in general. Regardless, I'm relieved knowing that she won't be back this evening.

"Ahhh, give her to me," says Nurse B with a big smile. It's obvious that she loves babies.

It's late. 11 p.m. or so. K is sound asleep after taking a sleeping pill and I've been sitting with the baby for several hours now after a quick trip to my hotel room to freshen up and have a quick bite to eat (a frozen lean cuisine from the hotel snack shop. Yum. Not.)

Since arriving at the hospital five hours ago I've exchanged numerous texts and phone calls with Chris, who is kindly keeping everyone else in the family updated about events down here. It's too much for me to reach out to everyone. I'm pretty exhausted.

Every conversation I have with Chris involves me saying, "I wish you were here" and him replying, "I wish I was there, too" and both of us still uttering things like, "I can't believe this is happening" and "what if she won't sign the papers?" Still, we try to remain optimistic.

"I wish you'd send a picture of you and the baby together," Chris tells me.

"No, not yet. It wouldn't be right. Not until the papers are signed and she's ours."

"Mmm," he replies, "yeah, you're right."

We also spend time reviewing our list of names and narrowing them down to our final choice. If we're to sign papers tomorrow then the baby is going to need a name for the birth certificate. It doesn't take long, thankfully. It's a good choice. A sweet lovely name.

Earlier, long before my conversation with Chris, I ask K if she has a name picked out, "Is there a name that you like? Have you picked one out?"

"Ohhh, nooo," K replies, "no you should choose."

"Are you sure? If there's a name that's special to you, we'd certainly like to consider it."

"No," she says in her breathy voice, "there is no name."

I can't help wondering if there is, but don't pry any further. Her mind seems made up to let Chris and I name the baby. Part of me is relieved, but part of me is also sad because I had been hoping that K might want to participate in naming her little girl.

There have also been several calls with the FL adoption agency throughout the evening. The ladies there seem to be all at once excited for me to be spending time with the baby, but also nervous about me spending time with K (they encourage me to try to take the baby to another room, but I don't feel right about that and even if I did want to it certainly didn't feel like Nurse Stink Eye would let that happen.) I keep receiving warnings from the adoption agency folks to not share any personal information with K: "don't give her your phone number" and "under no circumstances let her know where you live" and my favorite (NOT) "And for God's sake don't give her or offer her any money." It's unnerving to have the adoption agency people display so much distrust for K. And it's the one completely sour note (aside from Nurse Stink Eye) in this whole experience.

"Newborns sleep a lot and sleep heavily. Sometimes it's hard to wake them up," Nurse B explains.

Nurse B is young - maybe 30. She is pretty with long, long brown and a friendly open smile. Additionally, it is obvious that she is confident with her little charges as she easily handles the baby. There is also the added bonus that Nurse B, unlike Nurse Stink Eye who looked at me as if I were some sort of mutant from another planet, acts kindly toward me. Even though I'm not the woman who gave birth to this baby, I am the adoptive mother and Nurse B treats me like she would any new mother.

I'm surprised to see her removing the swaddling blanket, the tiny onesie, the baby's hat and even her itty-bitty diaper (it's SO tiny...it looks like it should be for a baby doll!) The baby stirs in the chilly air, but sleeps on. I am startled to see just how teeny tiny she is out of the swaddling blanket. Her arms and legs are skinny and she has surprisingly huge feet. Nurse B and I both laugh at the sight of those huge feet on such a little person.

Nurse B flips the now naked baby over, pats her bottom hard, and then tickles her feet...also hard.

"Ummm," I say, "should you be doing that? She's so tiny."

Nurse B laughs.

"Oh, ya gotta be kind of mean to them at this age," she says with a happy grin, "or they won't wake up."

Finally after more bottom patting, tickling and flipping over the baby lets out a loud cry.

"Quick," says Nurse B with a chuckle, "stick the bottle in!"

I stick the nipple in the baby's mouth. She immediately starts to suck. Nurse B hands her to me. Feeding her for the first time makes my mouth go a little dry and throat tighten up, but in a good way. I can hardly breathe I am so happy.

The baby makes surprisingly quick work of one of the two ounces.

And promptly gets the hiccups.

I must look a little panicked because Nurse B says, "This is really normal. Newborns get hiccups a lot. Their tummies are not even the size of your thumb. They eat too fast and - boom! - hiccups. Just put her on your shoulder and pat her on the bum. She'll burp and eventually the hiccups will go away."

I carefully place the baby on my shoulder and gently pat her little behind.

"Oh, you can be a little more firm than that," says Nurse B, "she won't break."

So, I pat a little harder.

"That's it," says Nurse B. "You can go even a little harder. You're doing great."


And then she's sound asleep again.

Nurse B very kindly walks me through diapering and swaddling. The she gets up to leave saying, "I'm here all night and I'll be back in to check in on you."

'Thank you so much," I reply, "you've been really kind."

It's dim in K's room. I stretch out on the couch with the baby in my arms. I'd take more photos of her, but don't want to risk waking her with the flash. I've sent quite a few pictures already - a few even show her with her eyes open on those rare occasions when she would wake up. Her irises are so dark they appear black. She can't focus on anything when they're open.

"Yeah," I say to her the first time she opens her eyes, "this is kind of a big confusing world isn't it, huh?"

Throughout the evening K watches me with her baby. We talk a bit, but not as much as I though we would. At one point K says, "She's a good baby, just like my older daughter. She was quiet like this. Happy."

"How old is she now?"

"She's 4 years old."

"Omigosh," I reply. "That's such a fun age."

K doesn't respond with anything more than a sweet smile. I know from the adoption ladies that K's daughter is living in St. --- with K's mother. I don't know how long it's been since K has seen her daughter, but I don't have the nerve to ask nor do I think it's my place to ask if she isn't going to volunteer the information.

As K watches me hold her baby earlier in the evening, I wonder what she must be thinking and feeling. Her face appears placid and reveals nothing of her thoughts or emotions.

And now K is sleeping deeply while I get to know the little person who she brought into the world. The maternity ward is finally quiet. I'm exhausted, but not quiet ready to leave this little one to the care of the nurses for the night.

I touch her tiny face and feet and hands, marvelling at how perfect she is.

04 March 2012

She comes home...part 4

"Wow..." I say softly to the bundle in my lap, "you are a very tiny little person,"

The very first thing I ever say to my daughter.

I'm sitting on the low, pink couch next to K's bed. The baby lays along the length of my thighs. One of my hands gently cups the back of her head (her little head barely filling the palm of my hand at all) while my other hand rests gently on her tummy. My hand covers her entire body she is so little (I learn later that she is 5 pounds 9 ounces...pretty much the smallest a newborn baby can be without needing to spend some time in the NICU.)

A teeny face peeks out from between a pale blue/pink striped hat and the swaddling blanket. The face has dark skin (I'm surprised that her skin is more pale than I had expected) no discernible eyebrows yet, barely visible eyelashes, a broad-ish nose, and a sweet heart-shaped mouth.

She is sound asleep.

I look up to see K watching me with her daughter. Her face is unreadable. I have no idea what she must be thinking as she watches me hold her baby. Of what she thinks of me. Of knowing that tomorrow may be the day that she gives her daughter to me forever.

"She is so beautiful."

"Yeah," K replies in her deep yet breathy voice.

I look back down at the tiniest person I have ever held. She sleeps deeply. I imagine coming into the world is a fairly exhausting process.

"Is it OK if I take a picture of her?" I ask K.

She nods.

And so I pull out my phone, click one picture and send it to Chris. And then one more as the little bundle stirs.

I finally notice that the social worker is taking her leave of us, but not before she introduces me ("And this is the adoptive mother") to the day nurse who has come to check on K and the baby.

The day nurse nods at me, but says nothing seeing me holding the baby. She, in fact, looks at me with an expression like she smells something bad. If I weren't so mesmerized by the baby, I'd probably be really upset by this woman's obvious dislike of me or perhaps her discomfort, but at the moment I can't let myself get upset. The social worker and K don't seem to notice me getting The Stink Eye from the nurse.

Soon the social worker makes her escape and Nurse Stink Eye makes several more visits over the next 30 minutes to check on her patients and, no doubt, to make sure I haven't dropped her little charge. Before she signs off from her shift, Nurse Stink Eye announces that they have some tests to run on the baby, transfers her from my arms into a waiting hospital bassinet, and whisks her from the room.

I look at K.

Now is the time.

I have to talk to her and say what's been in my head since the moment I found out that I was coming to Florida to meet her and the baby.  So I get up and sit on the edge of her bed.

'This is weird, isn't it?" I ask her.

"Yeah," she answers solemnly.

We look at each other for a minute saying nothing and then I hear myself saying the thing that I've been dreading saying, but knowing that I can never move forward with any of this if I don't, "You know...you can still change your mind. We haven't signed any papers."

She stares at me for half a minute.

"No, I wouldn't do that," she says in her strangely deep yet breathy voice. "I wouldn't ask you to come all the way down here and then back out. I'm not that kind of person."

I look away, not able to speak. This is so hard. I can't even imagine how hard it must be for K. What she must be thinking or feeling.

Finally, I look back and say, "I know. But you can still change your mind. Chris and I will be OK if you do. We'll be fine."

"No," she says, "I'm OK. I'm OK."

But I don't know if she's saying it to convince me or to convince herself.

"OK," I nod, echoing her. "OK."

And again we look at each other in the awkward silence following what is the real agreement between us. No adoption agency people, no papers, no attorney, no social worker.

Just the two of us. Here in this room together.

Making a pact that she will give her baby to me and I will take care of her baby for the rest of my life.

We are OK.

"So," I say breaking the silence, "do you have any questions for me? Anything you want to know?"

"No, not really," she says, "they told me a lot about you."

I nod.

But before I can say anything else, Nurse Stink Eye returns with the baby and hands her to K giving me another withering stink eye look, which I choose to ignore. Instead, I look at mother and daughter. They look perfect together. She looks right holding this little baby.

This is so hard.