"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.