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.
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.