Posts Tagged ‘Adoptive Parents’
With the papers signed and me on the mend there was no place to go but home, that afternoon Dr.A signed my discharge papers. I was given some prescriptions and some instructions (things to keep my eye out for to help me determine if I needed to seek medical attention or if it was normal healing stuff going on) and then it was time to pack my bag and get on my way. Moments before the wheel chair arrived to take me out (hospital policy, groan) – my cell phone rang.
One of my best and oldest friends Elizabeth had been at school in Montgomery through most of my pregnancy. She had been a wonderful long distance lifeline and she was calling to tell me she was headed home to see Michael. I didn’t know what to tell her, was she too late?
I knew that Michael wouldn’t be discharged until the next day, so I went down to the room next to the nursery where I knew Beth and John were spending their time. (You know I still don’t really know what that room is for, but it’s still very vivid in my mind with it’s neutral walls and warm dusty pink rocking chair.) I felt so awkward and uncomfortable to go them and ask if I could come back with Elizabeth to see Michael. The lines were still blurry between “birthparents” and “adopted” parents.
Beth and John were where I expected to find them, Michael was not. Apparently he had just been taken back to the nursery and they were trying to decide where to go for lunch. Beth’s face was a completely open book and I could see the concern in her eyes as soon as she saw me, but it was not concern for Michael, but concern for me because she could tell that I was agitated about something. I could tell because as I explained about Elizabeth driving her way to town, as we spoke, her expression changed from one of concern to one of happiness.
“Of course, that would be fine, we would love to meet your friend.” She said, and we chatted for a few minutes, ironing out the details.
“We’ll see you later,” John said with an encouraging smile and a pat on my shoulder.
I felt the tight ball of anxiety in my chest relax a little bit, and I called Elizabeth to go over the plans.
About half an hour later, I was wheeled out of the hospital. I was a bit of an emotional wreck again, I had walked through these doors just a couple of days ago, with a son, and I was leaving without one. My Mom had tears in her eyes as well, and I knew she was thinking of the grandson we were leaving behind. Though logically the adoption was done and over with, and I still believed I had done the best thing for Michael, I still felt the pang of his loss.
My Mom and I went to pick up my prescriptions, some odds and ends to keep me entertained while I was on the mend, and then to pick up Ben. My beautiful brindle boy was literally dancing with joy when he saw me, and it lifted my heart to run my fingers through his soft fur and look in his soulful eyes. Then we were home, back in the apartment, where everything was the same as I left it but still seemed a little bit different somehow.
While I waited for Elizabeth, I took a shower in my own bathroom, which was nice. I tried on an assortment of clothes and realized it was going to have to be maternity clothes or sweats, I was not ready for “pre-maternity clothes” yet. (I admit I had fantasies that the baby and most of the baby weight all came off at once.) I took Ben for a walk around the apartment complex, and I could tell how happy he was to have me home, and I had to admit that I was happy to be home too.
The problem that I was grappling with is that in some ways it was “finally over” – Michael was born, I had done what I knew I needed to do. The next step was that I needed to get my life together and move forward. In other ways it was far from over, I knew that I would mourn losing my son, because I had lost my son; I knew it was a choice I had made not something that happened to me, but it was still a very real loss nonetheless.
It’s hard to put into words all the thoughts I had and all the feelings I was feeling, but ultimately I decided what was best for me was to focus on the positives in this situation. I felt really good about Beth and John, I really believed that they cared about me as a person and that even though there wasn’t time for updates – I felt like I knew that they would follow through with their end. There was never any doubt that they would love Michael, but that adoptive parent and birth parent relationship sometimes seems a tentative relationship. I knew that Michael would not only be loved, but there would be nothing that he needed to help him achieve his dreams and goals that he wouldn’t have. I had loving friends and a good support system in place and while I knew that there were going to be bumps in the road ahead, I knew that I would get past them.
I was in pretty good head space by the time Elizabeth got there to pick me up, and I hugged her warmly and was glad at the easy shorthand that only good friends can share as we drove back to the hospital.
The only thing I know for certain that changed from the my stay in the hospital to my visit that afternoon was me, my personal revelations about the situation. I was happy when Beth and John welcomed me like a good friend into the room where Beth was just finishing feeding Michael. We all sat down and we talked, and in that moment, that visit with Beth and John is everything that I wished the earlier part of our hospital visit could’ve been. We passed Michael around, taking turns holding him and fussing over him. While we passed him around we talked, we really talked, about how we felt about the whole adoption process.
I told them everything I had held back, I told them about the horrible up’s and down’s with Rob and about our quick (albeit painful) standoff over who would get to adopt Michael. They told me about well meaning friends who kept telling them not to get their hopes up as I could still change my mind – “it happens all the time” people told them. We laughed even cried a little together, and there in that room and in that moment I knew I was really at peace with my decision and that in time my heart would heal and catch up.
Elizabeth gave me the greatest gift that afternoon, not just in making this magical moment happen, but after almost an hour and a half of talking before we left, she offered to take a picture of the four of us together – Beth, John, Michael, and Me. They let me hold Michael for the picture and we all leaned in close, we look so happy in that picture and I really believe in my heart it’s because in that moment we were.
This time when we hugged good-bye, there were no tears, and as I hugged John he told me – “this isn’t good bye, we’ll see you again” and I believe not only that he meant it but that it was absolutely true.
I’ve heard it said that women quickly forget the pain of childbirth, it’s what allows them to have more children. They are able to focus only the joys of the baby being placed in their arms, each perfect tiny finger, each tiny toe, and the sweet curve of tiny little eye lashes. I’ve found that to be true, the time I spent waiting and the pain of the actual birthing process melted away, it is overwhelmed completely by the joy I felt of holding Michael in my arms for the first time, and even the joy I felt in seeing Beth and John meeting their son for the first time. The pain I was totally unprepared for, the pain that still sometimes aches, came almost two days later.
I woke up after my second night in the hospital alone and feeling achy and frankly, a little bit crabby. There was no Uncle Jerry, no parents, no well wishing friends or coworkers, just me and a nurse taking my temperature. (I cannot begin to express my confusion at the process of being woken up to have my vitals taken all night after a delivery, but I guess that’s why I am not a health care professional.) She had a few pills to administer, though no pain meds, not even a Tylenol, since this morning is the day that the attorney would arrive and I would relinquish my parental rights, forever.
I had waited for Micheal’s arrival with eagerness and excitement, I waited for the attorney with dread. My Mom got there that morning before the attorney and just as we waited together for Michael to arrive now we waited to legally give him away. It was horrible, we both watched the TV and tried not to talk about anything, waiting for the sword swinging over our head to drop.
The attorney arrived before lunch with a court reporter in tow, this was unexpected. I thought I would be signing paperwork, I didn’t realize that I was going to have to give my testimony. I can’t tell you how surreal the whole thing felt to be sitting there with my Mom next to my bed, while the court reporter set up her little type writer thing. (Just like the ones you see on tv!)
If you recall, I had chosen the attorney I worked with carefully and I must tell you that I felt like I picked well because even as the court reporter was setting up, the attorney came over the explain what was going to happen. She was a very small woman with dark hair and warm dark eyes, she projected confidence, competence, and compassion. In retrospect, she knew what was coming – I really didn’t.
Just like if I was in court, I was “sworn in” and I had to answer questions about my mental state, if I felt coerced in any way, and then we got down the nitty gritty. The attorney read the adoption papers out loud and I had to answer questions about if I understood or if I agreed. During this process, my Mom started to cry and with tears running down my face I gently asked her to leave. I can’t stand for anyone to cry by themselves, and I knew that if I started crying now I would never be able to stop.
With tears in my eyes, I help up well through the rest of the process until the attorney asked me if I understood that I was terminating all of my parental rights to Michael. (Of course she said it more professionally than that.) With tears streaming down my face I said I understood, and I did understand, but the wording seemed so wrong. I felt like I was on record as saying – I didn’t want him, and I hated that. I hated the way it sounded and the heartache it caused because the truth was so much more complicated.
The truth is that even though I always felt like my adoption plans were part of a bigger plan, it still hurt to hear those words out loud. The truth is that even though I always felt like Michael was meant to be Beth and John’s son, he would also always be a part of me, I liked to think that he was the best part of me and Rob. The truth is that I loved him so much I wanted him to have more than I could give him and that wretched legal paperwork could never convey that.
Shortly after the tears started flowing the i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed, and the attorney and court reporter packed up to leave. When they opened the door to leave, I saw John and Beth in the hallway with two beautiful dark haired little girls that I realized must be the attorney’s daughters. Beth and I locked eyes for just a moment and her eyes filled with tears, I smiled the very best, although slightly shaky, smile I could muster at her before the door was closed between us.
I was on the verge of starting to cry in earnest, when the door opened again, and John came in. I confess, I liked John but I hadn’t really gotten as close to him as I had to Beth. She was who I emailed with all this time. Since we didn’t have that bond, I could tell that John felt a little awkward.
“Is there anything we can do for you,” he asked in a quiet voice.
I cannot tell you how touched I was by this small gesture. The paperwork was signed, Michael was theirs, but clearly to Beth and John I was more than just the vessel that carried their child – I was a person, a person they knew was in pain.
“Could you see if I could have my pain meds now?” I asked him, “I’m a little sore and I didn’t sleep very well last night.”
“Sure,” he said.
John stood there for a moment and I knew that he wanted to say something. He searched for the magic words to comfort and ease the pain. However, there were no words, and so he left.
A few moments later I heard him at the nurse’s station and I couldn’t help but chuckle. John was a mild mannered and very polite man, but I heard as he was adamant that someone get down to my room and get those pain pills administered STAT! Apparently one of the nurses had the bad graces to bring up that they were waiting on the attorney and though John was quiet he was firm, that someone needed to come down to my room immediately. I believe he stood at that nurse’s station until he watched her walk down the hall towards my room.
I cried myself to sleep after the medicine had been administered. From the moment I had decided to place my son for adoption I had known that moment was coming, but there is no amount of preparation that can make it hurt less to say good bye to someone that you love
I felt a little bit like I was having an out of body experience in those first few moments after Beth and John arrived. They were holding Michael, looking at him, falling in love with him and my Mom and Ruth were telling the story of his arrival, the parts that they had missed. I am sure that I participated in the conversation but to be honest, at that point between the labor and all the emotions of the day, I was exhausted. I remember taking a little bit of teasing for going to work while I was in labor, but mostly I just remember feeling that there was very much a glow of warmth and love in the room. However it wasn’t long before nurses arrived, it was time for Michael to go to the nursery for some tests and for me to be moved out of a labor and delivery room and into another room. (It was at that point that they realized I was still pretty numb from the waist down.)
Beth and John left to go check in their hotel, my Mom had to leave to go check on my cousins, and Ruth disappeared as well so suddenly I was tucked into a room where I promptly fell asleep. I woke up from my nap to Ruth coming in my room with a big box! Inside was a beautiful and very modest night gown. (I guess my big comfy night shirt was probably not the best item for receiving visitors.) They brought Michael into my room around that time, and I held him and gave him a bottle while Ruth and I talked. She has known me since I was ten days old, and been there for all of my important milestones, but she said she had never been as proud of me or as afraid for me, as she was now. She was happy to meet Beth and John, and she knew I was doing the right thing, but she worried about the toll losing my son would take on me.I put on a brave face and tried my best to reassure her, but holding Michael in my arms I was aware that the deadline for saying goodbye to him was creeping closer. I knew that what was coming was not going to be easy, but I wasn’t sure when it would hit me.
That night and the next day passed in a blur. A delicate dance began as Beth and John tried very hard not to make me feel pushed off to the side, and to give me time with Michael, but they also wanted to be close to their new son. I was touched at the number of people who came up to the hospital to see me. I woke up early in the morning to Uncle Jerry sitting in the rocking chair beside my bed. He showed me a picture of his son, that he had relinquished his rights too, and advised me that until Rob and I made some sort of peace I would have a hard time moving forward. Cathy and Kay came up to see me and told me how beautiful (and how BIG) Michael was. Girlfriends buzzed in and out. Even Doctor A’s nurse Janet came up to see me.
The hardest visit was when my Dad came to the hospital. He had really struggled with my pregnancy, knowing what was coming. I think he had tried to hold Michael at a distance to keep from getting too attached. He was only there for a short time, long enough to hold Michael in his arms, and then he had to leave. He mumbled something about my cousins who was being discharged that day. When he left, I cried. For all the tears he had that he had been unable to shed, I cried for him, for the grandson he had said hello and goodbye to that day.
That night I was told that I couldn’t take my pain medicine as I needed to be in a completely clear mental state for the paperwork I had to sign the next day. (At that time the baby had to be so many hours old before you could technically terminate your parental rights, I’m sure like all laws that varies from state to state as well.) I didn’t think that stopping to take my pain meds was going to be a big deal, after all I was taking Tylenol! However, I woke up in the middle of the night and realized that I had definitely had an 8.8 pound baby and that was going to be something that would not heal right away! (It’s a dull achy kind of pain but it was enough that I wished I had my prescription strength Tylenol.) However, I knew that the moment I dreaded the most was on the horizon, and even Tylenol couldn’t dull that pain for me, so there was nothing to do but rest and wait for the Attorney to arrive so the papers could be signed.
When my Mom arrived to pick me up I notice that she seemed pretty keyed up, even more than I would have expected. I was in the car for about fifteen minutes when I learned why. I had cousins in town (remember we had agreed to keep this pregnancy quiet so that my cousins struggling with infertility wouldn’t be hurt that I hadn’t chosen them) enjoying the beach for a week. My Mom had told them I was out of town for work, and late last night one of my cousins had been taken to the emergency room complaining of sharp pains. It would seem that Murphy’s Law was in full effect, fabulous!
I won’t get too off track with this whole cousin thing but my parents were spread pretty thin over the next few days trying to take care of me in the hospital and my adult cousins who were far from home and needing to be taken care of as well. I will say that it was a HUGE blessing that they were at a hospital near the beach, I was not. In the end it turned out my cousin had liver damage, the hospital here got him well enough to travel home and then later he ended up getting a liver transplant. I know that you are all caring and wonderful people and I wanted you to be completely in the loop!
I had a contraction checking Ben in at the vet, and it was amazing to see how much that expedited the process of getting him checked in! I felt a tug on my heart as they walked him away and I saw him look back at me with those big sad eyes. It was so hard to leave him because he didn’t understand what was happening, but I would be back soon. (The contraction hit just as I signed the last piece of paperwork and when I said I was in labor right then, I thought the very sweet girl that worked there was going to pass out!)
Once I got to the hospital, I was rather quickly put in a room where I changed into a gown and got hooked up to all the appropriate machinery, and now the waiting game began. My Mom’s best friend, Ruth, came to the hospital to wait with us. Occasionally a cell phone would ring, sometimes a nurse would come in and check on me to see how I was progressing, but other than that it was just a waiting game. We told stories, we laughed, but we were really just waiting. (Ruth, who I call my Aunt, had never had children so I don’t think any of us really knew what to expect.)
However these things happen in their own time. In time the dilation continued to occur, the contractions got to be more of what I expected. The Doctor came in that did my epidural and I made it a point not to look at the needle or move, even a tiny fraction of an inch, while he did what he had to do. What happened after the epidural is all kind of warm and fuzzy for me, I don’t remember feeling any pain but Dr.A was there urging me to push, while my Mom and Aunt Ruth stood on either side of me and encouraging as well! It wasn’t too long before I saw him for the first time, my almost nine pound son. He was whisked away and Ruth followed with the camera clicking away. (She had refrained from taking any labor pictures, something I am very grateful for.)
I am sure it was only moments later, but it seemed like an eternity, as I watched where the baby was and where Ruth was and waited for them to bring him to me. I was vaguely unaware of whatever mess had been made and whisked away by Dr.A and the nurses. I couldn’t tell you what my Mom was doing or saying, it seemed like everything else just fell away except for the squalling little boy that they cleaned up and then placed in my arms.
I don’t have the words to express what I felt in that moment, when he was in my arms for the first time. I checked and counted all of his fingers and his toes, and talked to him without really be aware of what I was saying. Mostly though I just held in my arms and thought he was absolutely the most beautiful perfect baby in the world. (Yes, I know all mothers think that but that’s because for all of us it’s 100% true.) I don’t know how long I held him but I was faintly aware of Aunt Ruth clicking away with the camera in the background. In time, the nurses brought me a bottle to try to feed him and I handed him off to my Mom for her to feed him. My arms and hands were shaking (I would later discover I had been given a little too much epidural as I couldn’t walk when it was time to change rooms!) but I watched like a hawk as my Mom fed, and held, and loved her beautiful grandson.
Looking back it seems like it happened really fast, like I checked into the hospital and moments later – there he was. However, I realize now it must’ve taken longer because sometime after that first bottle, when he had been passed around and hugged and loved by everyone in the room several times over, there was a knock at the door and there were Beth and John. (Enough time had passed for her to get an email and a phone call, get in touch with John, rearrange their travel plans and travel from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast!)
They entered the room tentatively, if ever there were people literally walking on eggshells, it was them! I smiled as big and brightly, as I was capable of and I held out the baby to them and said -
“I would like for you to meet your son, Michael.”
Beth immediately burst into tears as she reached her arms out to the baby with John peeking over her shoulder and Ruth, still vigilantly snapping pictures.
My heart is pounding, my head is reeling – I am being induced in two weeks, a week early.
At my doctor’s appointment, Dr.A made that concerned face and since I knew I had been staying away from the watermelon I didn’t think I had done anything to cause the concerned face. (Especially since moments earlier he was laughing at my explanation of why I smelled like peppermint.)
“Well Joy, here’s the situation,” he said, still looking serious, (have I mentioned that I’m not really a fan of the serious face?) “you aren’t dilated at all and that baby boy seems to be doing some serious growing in there. I’m concerned that the longer the wait, the less realistic it will be for you to have a vaginal delivery.”
“Ok,” I said, and I knew my voice sounded small and scared because in that moment I felt small and scared. His nurse stepped closer and patted my shoulder reassuringly.
“I think we should schedule you to be induced.”
“Ok.” I said, and he looked relieved.
What I should probably explain is that I have since learned from watching my girlfriends go through several pregnancies, is that apparently most people have a “birth plan” – I did not. Most women have strong opinions about the drugs used when they induce labor or just about the general induction process – I did not. I suppose with so much experience with women who have plans and strong opinions, Dr.A was braced for the storm and so what he got instead was probably a bit of a let down.
So Dr.A went about the business of getting me scheduled to be induced and when I left I went about the business of getting ready to go to the hospital and have a baby.
For weeks, I have had my bag and Ben’s, packed and ready to go. Ben would be staying at the vet while I was in the hospital. Knowing that Ben was prone to separation anxiety I had talked to the vet and packed a bag for Ben that included a blanket that I had on the sofa for a few weeks so I knew it smelled like me and him, so that would be comforting for him. I packed his food and a soft snuggly toy, and then on top I wrote a letter to the vet techs that would be taking care of him while I was in the hospital. I explained that while lots of pets were in their care Ben was especially important, because I was going to the hospital to have a baby and coming home without one, Ben would be the only baby I had left. I admit I know I was playing on their sympathies a little but I was worried about Ben and I knew I was going to have my hands full of emotion and worry so I was trying to lessen the worries on my plate.
I had packed my bag haphazardly, I had some things that Beth and John sent me – a book to pass the time, sugar free hard candy, etc. I also had packed a comfy sleep shirt, basic toiletries. While I’m confessing things I should probably admit that even now, mere weeks away from having the baby, I hadn’t read any books, watched anything labor and delivery related, or taken any child birth classes. I somehow missed the window on the classes and I seemed to purposefully avoid the other two for fear of, well, fear! I didn’t want to see anything terrifying or think about all the things that COULD go wrong, so I was kind of flying by the seat of my pants as I pulled my bag together.
I learned that apparently I do have some Type-A tendencies as I lined up the proposals that I had to work on between now and induction day. I told everyone in the office what was going on and I planned to be out for two weeks after the baby was born. (Obviously I didn’t need a full maternity leave.) All of my work ducks were in a row.
I emailed Beth and together we squealed in excitement across cyberspace. She made the plans that needed to be made on her end, and I knew I would see her soon!
The last duck was the hardest to get to line up, Rob. I didn’t know what to say or do about him. We hadn’t spoken since we said goodbye at the barbecue restaurant. I wondered if he wanted to know or didn’t want to know. He had already said that he didn’t plan on coming back, so should I even bother? I flipped and flopped on the issue but ultimately I cast a message out across cyberspace and across the miles, one day if my Son asks why Rob wasn’t there when he was born I wanted that to be a question Rob had to answer, I didn’t want to shoulder the guilt. I sent the email and said a prayer, and knew that really there was nothing else I could do.