Meeting your child is obviously an amazing thing. When it comes to newborn adoption, there are even more complex feelings that surround the child’s entrance into the world. Looking back three years later, I can still remember the whirlwind of emotions my husband and I felt when Joseph entered our lives. Hoping for a second adoption now, we feel more prepared, but we also know we may not be prepared at all because all adoption situations are different.
We were told that Joseph’s birth mother had gone to the hospital on a Sunday evening. I believe I was crafting a sign for his room, and my husband was doing fantasy football research when our social worker called with the news. We had met with his birth mother about three or four times before. At 11:51 a.m. on Monday, he was born. We weren’t there. That seems bad to write: we weren’t there for our son’s birth. The thing is, he wasn’t our son yet. Adoptive parents should not be in the habit of claiming a baby in utero as their own and making big announcements until it is, in fact, reality. We completely respected his birth mother’s birth plan she made with the social worker. Some of her family was there with her when she gave birth to her son. We were the fortunate recipients of a phone call that afternoon from the social worker telling us we were invited to meet him tomorrow. We were happy for our child’s birth mom and the baby’s health, and we were anxious. Sleeping was tough that night.
Tuesday morning we took I-95 south to the hospital. There is always some traffic on that interstate, and it wasn’t too bad; however, the backups that did happen seemed extremely ridiculous to me. What are you doing? Going to get a coffee? I’m going to meet my baby…maybe! Move! Move! We both wore blue (for a baby boy) and felt cautiously optimistic.
Once we got there, our social worker had specific instructions of what area to sit in and wait. As we tried to navigate through the hospital, we passed several people. I felt shy and scared because I didn’t know if they were part of the birth family. Was it obvious that we were young, new, adoptive-parent-looking types? Did we just pass birth mother’s mom in the hallway? Did we just see the birth mom’s grandma get on the elevator? I didn’t say hi to anyone in passing out of pure anxiety.
We kept getting texts with updates from the social worker, and one told us she was still working on paperwork. We assumed she meant relinquishment papers, but I’m not certain. That meant the birth mother would be in the process of signing the relinquishment of parental rights forms. That would mean the baby would be in our care legally unless she changed her mind over a seven-day period. This was really hard to know. As adoptive parents in our state, the child is not your son or daughter until that time has passed. With each step though, it gets more likely that the baby will be yours forever. The fact that we got invited to meet him was a good sign. The fact that we brought him home would be a next step towards forever.
I don’t know how long we sat in that waiting area. Most likely it was 20 minutes or less. It felt like an hour though. We were just about to burst, completely about to burst with emotions. We sat. We walked and paced. We didn’t talk. What’s there to say, after all? We got annoying texts from family asking what was going on. (Tip: Don’t tell your family what time you’re going to the hospital!) Every once in a while, someone would walk by, and we’d look up to see if it was the social worker. Finally, she came out to get us.
Immediately upon entering the private room, I burst into tears. He was real. The birth mom was sitting there, smiling and holding him up for us to see. As we set our things down and I finished releasing my anxiety tears, I switched gears. This was a time now for visiting with new family. Our child’s birth mom was family now. We asked how she was doing as we held Joseph and gave him his bottle. New, overwhelming feelings came when I realized we were responsible for this little life. The magnitude of that was bittersweet because of the birth mother’s loss. We wanted to be joyful and take pictures; however, I was acutely aware of the feeling in the room that I should not get carried away. I felt like a pompous jerk to be showing off my great fortune while our child’s birth mom sat there going through this deeply tough situation. We did take some pictures, of course, but knew we’d have time for that later if he came home with us. After maybe an hour or two, it was time to go back home. Our son’s birth mom would be discharged from the hospital that evening, and Joseph would stay with the nurses in the nursery overnight.
Wednesday morning, we drove back to the hospital. After more paperwork with the social worker, we left and drove him home. It felt completely surreal. When the week passed that Joseph’s birth mom had to change her mind, it felt more real. I think that was when I let all my grateful tears flow. He was our son. We had an open adoption and would always have contact with Joseph’s birth mom. Adoption isn’t something you go through and then finish. It’s a lifelong gift, choice, and blessing.
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