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.

03 March 2012

She comes home...part 3

I don't understand how airplanes work.

Or how skyscrapers don't fall down (I generally do not go into tall buildings.) Or how parking garages can safely hold hundreds of thousands of pounds of vehicles and not collapse (this completely freaks me out and I attempt to park on the street whenever possible.) Or how bridges remain standing year after year after year so that drivers can get from Point A to Point B over large bodies of water (these I cannot avoid as I live in a state riddled with bridges that I must frequently drive across. Usually I turn up the music really loud. I don't know why I think that this will prevent the bridge from collapsing beneath my car as I drive over it, but somehow it soothes me.)

But mostly it's the airplanes that terrify me. I just don't understand how they stay aloft.

At all.

Unlike some people who get over their fears as they get older, my terror of flying has only grown exponentially. However, I don't let it stop me from traveling. I won't let myself not visit places because of my irrational fear. I get on planes when I have to.

And I sleep.

Sleep is my coping mechanism.

I always grab a window seat, roll up my favorite fleece jacket to use as a pillow and force myself to fall asleep for the duration of the flight.

But not on August 31, 2011.

On this day on my way to Orlando to meet the baby who might become part of our family, I am too keyed up to sleep. And too anxious up to read, to play a game on my phone, to make chit chat with the woman sharing the row with me, to eat, to do anything more than breathe shallow breaths.

And to wring my hands.

Yep, for the entire flight I wring my hands like a character out of some Regency period novel. I'm so filled with anxiety about what's going to happen or not happen and wondering if this adoption is going to fall through that it's all I can do.

Finally the pilot announces our arrival. What seems like a small eternity later the passengers deplane. Could they go any slower? Dear God! Don't they know that I have to get to the hospital???

Once on the ground, as instructed by E at the Florida adoption agency, I call the social worker who's waiting for me at the hospital. Despite being informed of my needing to catch a later flight, the social worker sounds incredibly perturbed that I am only just now at the airport. In a snippy tone she says, "You need to get here right away. It's the end of my day. I want to get out of here by 6:00."

Not kidding. She really says that to me. I've just hauled my ass more than 1,200 miles to get to Florida not knowing whether this adoption is going to happen...and she tells me to hurry it up because it's the end of her day?

Ummmm...aren't social workers supposed to be kind of compassionate and caring? Because, quite frankly, this one seems to be a major bitch.

I assure Ms. It's-The-End-of-My-Day that I am making every effort to get there ASAP. She reiterates that she's done and needs to leave. I try to politely sign off.

Thanks to the help of a nice sky cap, I am able dash off to rent a car while behind me he lugs my huge purple duffel bag, my big suitcase and the car seat.

I must look frantic because the young woman at the rental car counter asks, "Ma'am, are you OK?"

"Yes. Um. Well, no. It's just that -" and out tumbles a mess of words that include "adoption" and "not sure it's going to happen" and "social worker really upset" and "later flight" and ending with "I'm feeling a little overwhelmed."

The young woman gives me a very kind smile. And she also gives me an upgrade. Without asking all of those "would you like...?" and "can we offer you...?" questions car rental people usually ask. It appears that noting my frazzled state she just gets me set up with a car...no hassle and no fuss. I thank her profusely and then turn to dash to the garage, the sky cap huffing and puffing to keep up while pushing my huge luggage on a cart.

Finally I am in the car on the highway and that much closer to the pissed off social worker, to the young woman (K) who just gave birth yesterday, and to the baby girl who may or may not be coming home with me in a few short weeks.

Even though the air conditioning is blasting away, I am sweating.

At last, the hospital is in sight. Then I'm parked. And finally I'm standing in the hallway just outside the locked maternity ward waiting for the social worker to come to the door to let me in. I'm surprised when she actually greets me with a smile. I was expecting her to continue in It's-the-end-of-my-day bitch mode, but instead she chats amiably with me as we walk down the hall. Guess she's happy that I'm here. I hope that I am returning her amiable chat because all I can focus on is the fact that my stomach seems to have fallen uncomfortably to my feet. There is a distinct possibility that I might throw up I'm so nervous.

"What?" I hear myself asking.

"I'm going to take you to meet K and the baby."

"But, I um...isn't there papers and stuff for me to sign?" I stutter.

"No, not tonight. The attorney will come tomorrow. C'mon, let's go meet K."

And before I can object she walks toward one of the rooms. I follow. Hardly able to breathe.

K is in bed. Her hair is pulled back into a high pony tail. No makeup, in a hospital gown and just a day after being in labor and giving birth yet she is absolutely beautiful. Dark chocolaty skin, almond shaped eyes, high cheek bones, small pointy chin, a small gap between her two front teeth. I knew she was pretty from the grainy photo we had received from the adoption agency. But the photo doesn't do her justice at all.

"Hi," I say.

"Hi," she says, sounding a little sleepy.

The social worker is introducing us and I'm sure she must be saying something important, but I'm not hearing any of it. I can't take my eyes off of K. And then I notice a tiny little bundle in white laying next to her on the bed.

A tiny little baby-shaped bundle. With a teeny blue and pink striped hat covering her little head. I can't see her face.

K, seeing my eyes stray says, "Do you want to hold her?"

Her voice is deep-ish, but very soft. Her speech lightly accented.

"Are you sure?" I ask, not reaching out for the little bundle. "Really?" I feel frozen to my spot.

"Yeah, it's OK," she says picking up the bundle and holding it out to me. I don't move. "It's OK," she says again.

And suddenly I am holding the baby.

27 February 2012

She comes home...part 2

 Tuesday, August 30, 2011. Late evening.

The extra-large purple LL Bean duffel bag on wheels is sitting in the nursery where it has remained  (fully packed with all things newborn baby....diapers, onesies, swaddling blankets, pacifiers, car seat base, etc.) since early March. Since our other adoption fell through.

Chris and I never had the heart to unpack the carefully packed duffel bag once we found out that we would not be going to Arizona on March 11 to meet the little baby we thought and hoped would be joining our family.

So there it sat. Waiting for another chance to be used.

And now we arrive home after the madness of this evening: desperate calls from T at our adoption agency...learning that we might be parents to a baby born today in FL...being told that we'd have to get to Orlando tomorrow...telling T at the adoption agency that I'll be heading down to FL...the scramble at my mother-in-law's to get me plane tickets, a rental car and hotel reservations (and having to explain to the hotel that we have no idea how long we'll be there - possibly two weeks or three)...telling our families.

It's all a blur.

Now Chris is unpacking, checking the contents and re-packing the extra-large purple duffel bag.

"I just want to make sure that we didn't forget anything when we packed this back in February."

My husband is a very smart man.

My tired brain is spinning as I try to get my own bag packed. Florida in August. It's going to be hotter than hell. Tank tops. Lots of tank tops. And shorts. And a short black skirt. I try to pack neatly and hope that I've made sensible choices, but figure that I'm not going to a wilderness and can just buy everything I need when I'm down there.

"This is so crazy," I think to myself and apparently I say this out loud as well because I hear Chis pipe up from the nursery, "Yeah, it is."

Soon we're in bed. Staring at the ceiling. Holding hands. Little bursts of slightly hysterical giggling erupt out of us from time to time. And just as many bursts of fear and doubt. What if I get down there and this falls through? How can we go through that again?

Somehow we fall asleep.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chris drives me to the airport. I know it's killing him that he can't go with me right now. He's finishing the last two weeks at his long-time job and preparing to start his new job at a new company. There's no way he can come with me. Assuming that the papers are signed tomorrow and this little baby becomes ours, Chris will fly down on Friday to spend the weekend. And then, depending upon how long I'll have to be in FL (because this is an inter-state adoption there are papers that have to be filed in courts in both RI and FL...it takes time for the various judges to sign off on these things. The adoption agency tells us I could be there up to three weeks.) he'll come back down the next weekend.

We say our goodbyes curbside with a long intense hug.

I head to the counter to check in and check the extra-large purple duffel bag and my big suitcase. Then it's off to the gate. My heart is racing. I'm sweating.

Finally I'm sitting in a chair at the gate with the other passengers waiting to board. Can't read because I'm too keyed up (I usually pass the time in an airport reading) to focus. Can't watch the tv because it's some moronic morning show and I'm too keyed up to focus. Can't do anything except worry about what's going to happen when I get to FL.

Will this all fall apart again?

At last the flight is boarding.

Just as I'm getting near the front of the line my cell phone rings. It's a FL extension. I fumble quickly to answer. It's E from the Florida adoption agency. I hop out of line to take the call.

"Hi Jennifer," says E, "I just need to tell you to not get on the plane."

My heart drops to my feet.

Oh, God. Not again.

"It turns out that your BCI check is expired."

An all too brief sigh of relief is replaced by utter panic.

"What???" I gasp. "I don't understand, we just had our finger prints and everything re-done for our home study renewal. Our social worker told us that everything was all up-to-date. I mean...I'm supposed to be getting on the plane right now."

"I'm sorry, but it looks like your BCI just expired. Without a current BCI we can't move forward."

"So," I say, trying to collect myself, "what exactly does that mean?"

"Well, it means that you need to go get your BCI check done today and then you can come down."

"Oh, God. OK. Honestly, I don't even remember what that is or how to do that," I say, hearing the panic in my voice. "Can you help me with this? Let me know where I'm supposed to go and what I'm supposed to do?"

"Sure, let me get the information and address for you and I'll call you back. Actually, I can text it to you."

I dash to the guy taking the plane tickets and say, "I have to get off this flight immediately. Where should I do that?"

He directs me to the other gate agent a few feet away standing at the counter.

She is very petite with short whitish hair. If I had to guess, I'd say she's in her early fifties.

"I have to get off this flight," I gasp. I must look pretty panicky because she - Carol according to her name badge - asks me if I'm OK.

The whole story quickly comes tumbling out of me - adoption, expired form, having to get to Providence and back, and still make it to Orlando today otherwise we might not be able to adopt this baby. She makes numerous sympathetic noises as I'm talking and emits a number of "omigods", but I can see that she's sincere and obviously concerned for me. Carol kindly checks every available flight to Orlando. Luckily there are seats on every flight.

"I'm just going to put a great big alert about your situation on your reservation. When you get back from Providence just go right to the ticket counter and they'll get you on the next available flight with no hassle. Your luggage is already on this one so it should be there when you get down there."

I thank her profusely and run though the airport to the taxi stand.

"Where are we going?" says the taxi driver, a woman about my age.

"Oh, God," I say fumbling with my phone trying to retrieve the address, "I have to go get this BCI thing in Providence and - "

Before I can even finish my sentence the driver says, "Oh, sure, I know right where that is."


"Yep. Have to get that done myself every year t drive the cab."

"Oh, thank God something is going right today."

She gives me a questioning look in the rearview mirror. So, of course, in my agitated state the whole story comes tumbling out.

"Don't worry," says the driver, "I'll get you there, drop you off and if there's no parking I'll just drive around the block a few times while you're in there. We'll get you back to the airport lickety split."

She really says "lickety split."

The driver chats amiably with me. I hope that I'm actually answering her coherently because all I can think is that I hope this doesn't go horribly south if there's a massive line at the BCI check place and I can't get down to Florida in time.

Miraculously, there is no line. I rush to the window, thrust my driver's license through the little slot and say desperately to the guy behind the glass, "Do you know how long this will take?"

"Bout 5 minutes," and walks away with my i.d. before I can say anything else.

"Oh, thank God!" I say when he returns 3 minutes later with the completed form,  "would it be possible for you to fax it to this number?" I thrust a piece of paper through the little slot in the window.

"Um, we really don't do that, ma'am."

"Sir, please! The thing is - " and I launch into the whole story about having to have the form  faxed or not being able to potentially adopt the little newborn girl waiting for me in FL.

I must look either very desperate or very crazy because he says, "Come on back" and buzzes me through the door.

He hands me off to a lady who hasn't yet heard my tale of woe so I repeat it while she's doing the faxing on an antiquated looking fax machine. Seems like it's taking forever, but finally a beep and a receipt slowly prints out from the machine. She hands me the receipt and the original form. I thank her profusely and dash out of the building praying that the taxi hasn't been driven off by the parking police, but there she is right outside the building with her blinkers on.

"All set?" the driver asks me.

"All set," I say and lean back to try to get my breathing to normalize.

When we arrive back at the airport the driver says, "Not bad - 36 minutes door to door."

"You are awesome," I reply and give her a ridiculously big tip. "Thank you!"

I dash into the airport and rush to the ticket counter. Again, miraculously, no line. And true to Carol's word there's no hassle with me getting on a later flight to Orlando.

An hour later I'm finally sitting on a mostly full flight bound for Orlando taking deep breaths and trying to stop my hands from shaking. We're just about to take off.

"If there's a Jennifer W--- on the plane, please press your call button," a female flight attendant's voice calls out over the intercom. 'Jennifer W---- if you're on the plane please press your call button."

Oh, God. What now?

My hand still shaking I press the call button. And there running down the aisle is little Carol, the lovely gate agent who listened to my story and made sure that I'd have no problem getting on this later flight. She reaches my row and says with a concerned look, "Did you get the form you needed???"

"Yes. Thank you so much!"

"And is it a little boy or girl that you're going to get?"


She gives me a huge hug. I hug her right back and give her a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you again."

"Good luck!!!" she says with a huge grin and then hustles off of the plane. The door closes immediately behind her.

We start for the runway. We head to Orlando.

25 February 2012

She comes home...part 1

It's 2:37 a.m. and before our 5 week-old daughter can wake up her daddy with more "I'm hungry!" cries, I scoop her up out of her bed-top co-sleeper and whisk her off to the nursery for a bottle.

Later, after I've laid my sleeping daughter back in her co-sleeper and I'm settling myself back to sleep next to her, it hits me that I am really a mom. This is the first time in these crazy first weeks of parenting that I scoop her teeny-tiny-not-quite-6-pounds-body out her co-sleeper without worrying about dropping her. Or worrying if I'm doing it "right." Or jostling her too much. Or thinking about how to cradle her head just right against my arm. I do it with absolutely no worries. Automatically. Effortlessly. It's like I've been doing this all of my life...scooping, holding, feeding, rocking, putting her back to bed - all just one continuous series of fluid, practiced, confident motions.

I am a mom.

And now here we are and she's almost 6 months old. She is no longer the tiny, fragile newborn who came to be part of our family right on the heels of Hurricane Irene. Instead, she is a sturdy little person who loves to stand up (still with assistance), bounce like crazy, blow exceedingly spitty raspberries, meet new people (our little girl is a social butterfly), look at everything, gnaw on my face, chew on her dad's fingers, smile, show off the one beautiful dimple she has on her right cheek, and laugh. Oh, how our little Munchie loves to laugh.

"Enjoy every minute. It goes SO fast," is what I heard from every mom I every met when we started the adoption process.

I didn't believe it.

But it's true.

So many times during these six months I think about writing this post. Telling the story of how Chris and I finally came to be parents to our remarkable, beautiful little girl, but somehow never get around to it...not wanting to miss any of my daughter's life.

And in just 5 days she'll be 6 months-old. Where did the time go?

* * *

Hurricane Irene.

We have no electricity. No phones. No hot water. And even our cell phones don't work well enough to place or receive calls because of damage to our town's lone cell tower. Occasional text messages make it through, but even this isn't reliable. Our neighbor has a big honkin' generator, use of which he kindly offers us because he has one extra line available. At least the stuff of the fridge and freezer might make it.

Despite the lack of electricity, phones, hot water and the like, Chris and I feel truly lucky that we did not experience any flooding (been there and done that...don't need to ever go through that again) nor did our house or neighborhood suffer much by way of physical damage. It is hard to get around the first day after the storm because of downed branches, but otherwise we are all safe and unharmed.

So life is inconvenient, but good.

August 30, 2011...Day 3 of no electricity/phones/hot water. Chris texts me with the brilliant suggestion of dinner at a favorite restaurant in the next town over, which has had power restored. I am overjoyed to be getting out of the house.

I arrive early at the restaurant and decide to take advantage of cell availability to check Facebook on my phone. When I turn on the phone I am startled to see multiple voice mail notifications on the screen. No one ever calls me on my phone (I'm a text junkie, but can't stand actually talking on my cell phone. Makes no sense, I know...) Checking my messages I am shocked to hear T from our adoption agency.

My brain goes into overdrive. The words wash over me..."been trying to reach you all day"...."need to speak with you"..."urgent"..."right away"

For a moment I am frozen.

I haven't thought much about the adoption in close to two months. My last blog post was in early July. In truth, I had just put thoughts of adoption away in the far recesses of my brain. After everything that happened in the spring and all of the sadness and doubt I just shut down that part of me...figuring that it was probably never going to happen.

I had given up.

And now T is leaving me desperate messages.

And I'm sitting in my car not calling her because I am stunned.

But finally I pull myself together enough to search the car for pen and paper. Then with shaking hands and a stomach that's doing uncomfortable flip flops I dial T's number. She answers right away.

These are the bits of the conversation I am able to grasp..."have a situation"...."young woman"..."far along in her pregnancy"..."due date September 10"..."no drugs or alcohol"..."she gave birth today"..."healthy baby girl"..."you need to be in Florida tomorrow."


My brain-in-overdrive stops momentarily.

"Omigod," I finally say with an hysterical laugh, "we just got hit by Hurricane Irene. Our house has no power, Internet or phones. We don't even have cell service! The only reason I'm talking to you is because I'm in the next town over and there's cell service here. I'm meeting Chris for dinner. He'll be here in a few minutes. Can we call you back?"

"Of course, but we do need to make a decision about this ASAP because we've showed the mother your profile and two others. If you guys want this then I really want to let her know more about you and everything that you went through this year and how gracefully you handled it."

"Yes, yes. Of course, thank you. Omigod. Ummm...we'll call you back in like twenty minutes."

Chris arrives and I can see by the look on his face that he has also talked to T.

"I couldn't reach you," he says with a slightly wild look in his eyes. I'm sure that I must look much the same.

We both stand outside the restaurant looking stunned. 

"Should we talk about this over dinner?"


And so we sit down in our favorite Mexican restaurant trying to grasp the reality of the situation. 

The timing just couldn't be worse. Aside from the fact that we currently have no power, phones, Internet or hot water, Chris is also just beginning the final two weeks at his long-time job. He's accepted a new position at a different company. There's no way he can go to Florida. Not tomorrow anyway.

We laugh a little hysterically about how awful the timing is.

And then we look at each other.

And we know that we have to do this. 

"We'd be crazy not to do this, right?" I ask Chris.

He nods. "Yeah. We'd be crazy...wouldn't we?"

A few seconds or maybe it's a few minutes pass by. Finally, Chris gets up to go outside to make the call to T. When he returns we somehow manage to get through dinner, although neither of us eats very much as we wait to hear back from T to learn our fate and the fate of the baby born this day. 

Will we be chosen?

We don't have to wait long before T calls with the news that one or both of us need to get on a plane to Orlando tomorrow.

Neither of us cry. We hug. We sit down again in stunned, happy silence. We laugh again at the awful, awful timing and keep saying things like, "This is exactly the way we DIDN'T want this to happen" and "Omigod" and "we don't even have any power at home!"

Then dinner is over and we're outside heading to our cars so we can race to my mother-in-law's house to utilize their Internet (although we haven't told her why) to get me plane tickets and a hotel room in Orlando. But as we make our way to our cars it all gets to be too much and my knees start to buckle.

"I need to sit down," I say to Chris who helps me to the curb. I lean into him and finally sob. The tears that I have been holding inside me for months. "I don't think I can go through it again if this falls through," I say through my sobs. "I can't do it again."

"I can't either."

After a few minutes we manage to pull ourselves together. The rest of the evening is a blur of making arrangements to get me to Florida. (Chris will fly down a few days later for the weekend assuming that everything goes through.) Chris is on his computer dealing with plane and hotel reservations. I'm on the phone with my bank notifying them of potential large charges on my credit cards because I'll be traveling and potentially adopting a baby. Then I call my immediate family to share our news. Needless to say, my family is surprised and delighted (and although they don't say it, I'm sure scared for us knowing what we went through earlier in the year.)

My dad says, "Anything you need. You just call us. Anything and anytime. OK? We love you."

Chris' mom and step-dad arrive home from doing work on their boat to find us ensconced in their kitchen. After a "what's going on?" from his mom Chris explains what's happening.

"What?" says my mother-in-law looking completely stunned, "say that again."

"Jenn is going down to Florida to meet our daughter."

"What?" is all my mother-in-law can say.

At this point...that's kind of how we feel.