It was a Tuesday afternoon at work like any other. The sun reached my office in the early afternoon so it was warm and bright and it relaxed me. I was feeling pretty good in general about work; the controller that I had worked with previously just started working with me again a week earlier and she was already making my life easier.
She was working on closing the month and all I had to do was review her work. Plus, I had done a complete, and I mean complete, ‘to do’ list and open item list the day before. The clutter at work was quickly being cleared and I imagined some of the new projects I could start working on to move the company forward.
The receptionist buzzed me and said, “Anne Barnes is on the line. Would you like to speak with her?” I did—she was our adoption attorney and I wondered what she was calling about.
Anne and I said our hellos and then she asked me if I was sitting down. I said yes, and couldn’t imagine what she was getting at. Then she said the words: “There’s a baby girl for you at Concord Hospital.” Silence. “Helen, are you there? Are you still breathing?” Somehow I managed to get my brain connected to my mouth and said, “I don’t know if I’m breathing, but I sure know that my heart is beating because I can feel it! What did you say again, Anne?”
“There’s a baby girl for you at Concord Hospital. She was born Friday night. The birth mother had selected another adoptive family but it fell through at the last minute because of the adoptive mother’s health. She’s actually already home and went through some profiles yesterday, and picked yours. She slept on her decision last night and is still comfortable today that you are the ones. She does want to see you with the baby, though, before her final decision.” Yikes, no pressure, I thought. What if we drop the baby or something?
We continued the call, reviewing health records and how this accelerated process would work. Then she suggested that I call my husband, Mike, and give him the news. Since I only comprehended about every fourth word she said, I agreed.
“Hi honey, what’s up?”
By now I was shaking. “Michael, you’re not going to believe this, but there’s a baby girl for us at Concord Animal Hospital!”
“Did you hear what you just said?”
“I know, I know, I can’t believe it either—there’s a baby girl for us at Concord Animal Hospital!”
Now is probably a good time to tell you that my husband is a veterinarian and I had much more contact with animal hospitals than human hospitals. Mike assumed that I meant there was a child at the Concord Hospital and we continued the call. It wasn’t until much later that he told me what I had said.
After we hung up, I went into my boss’s office and just sat down where I always did, although I was a bit more shell-shocked this time. I told him the news and after hearing what details I knew he said, “Who’s your pediatrician?” Pediatrician? My head screamed, what are you talking about? Amidst all the fertility procedures and then entering the adoption world, the thought of a pediatrician had never entered my mind. He used words like ‘bottles’, ‘formula’, ‘crib’, ‘diapers’; I left even more dazed than when I had entered.
Somehow Mike and I finished our workdays and met up at home. We jumped into the car and headed out to get what we might need. Hmmm . . . we were both the youngest in our families and neither of us had much experience with babies. What did we need? We decided to call our families and friends to share the good news as well as to gather their valuable advice.
I remember that my niece, Anna, told me exactly what brand and model stroller and car seat to get. Here I was at 36 getting baby advice from an 8-year-old! I remember Mike saying, “Call Ella, she’ll have a list of what we need color-coded and indexed from A to Z!” Sure enough, after much squealing she said she’d meet us at the store right after she got a hold of a babysitter for her three children.
Mike and I first stopped at a bookstore where we purchased What To Expect the First Year (by A. Eisenberg, H. Murkoff, and S. Hathaway). Over a quick and hardly-tasted dinner at McDonald’s, we studied a list of what we needed, sometimes not even sure what the items were.
Next stop, Toys R Us, where we met Ella. Mike described the scene as “Wilma and Betty take Fred shopping.” Betty (played by Ella) told us what we needed, the pros and cons of each brand, and then Wilma (played by me) tossed the item into the basket, sometimes literally over my shoulder. Fred caught the item in the basket as we raced through the store.
At times, Ella would stop and say to a stranger, “She’s having a baby on Friday,” pointing to me. They’d look perplexed and smile a confused smile; we’d laugh and laugh, more out of pure joy than the situation. Eventually the cashier told us the total due—we were a bit surprised and our dear and wise friend Ella said, “This is nothing; wait until Christmas.”
We got home around 10 PM, but being completely wired, decided to start putting things together. Our neighbor, Sandy, saw our lights on and ran down to help us assemble the stroller and laugh our giddy laugh with us. Kally and Taylor, our retrievers, sensed the excitement and ran around the dining room table with us as we proudly pushed the stroller around, practically walking on air.
The next morning, it was back to work as normal. Somehow we managed to get through appointments and meetings. Anne, our attorney, said that our meeting with the birth mother and the baby was on for that evening at the hospital chapel.
Everyone was nervous until the bassinet rolled in. I couldn’t believe my eyes, for there was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. She had a small amount of brown hair, “blueberry blue” eyes, and an adorable little pug nose—perfect on that cherub-like face. She was snug and content in her swaddled blanket; she didn’t cry at all but just looked at us with trust and wonder.
I remembered the advice a friend had given me to “just pretend that she’s a puppy,” and I picked her up. It wasn’t so hard to hold a baby after all. In fact, it felt just right. Through our tears, Mike and I knew in our hearts that she was ours. It wasn’t until the next morning that Anne told us that the birth mother was happy with her choice and we were the adoptive parents.
It was now Thursday morning, and we swung into high gear. After an early morning meeting at work, I announced that I was leaving for maternity leave that afternoon and that I was relying on the staff to pick up the pieces. I worked with a wonderful bunch of people and they put together the quickest baby shower I’ve ever seen! Presents galore and they had told everyone I worked with—bankers, suppliers, and business partners—everyone was thrilled! I left that afternoon excited, but also a little nervous, for I was about to become a mom without the benefit of nine months mental prep.
Straight to the hospital I went, where I was going to spend the night with my daughter. We shared a tiny room together (I think it had been a closet before) and spent much of our night in the nursery where I rocked her and learned to feed her. I listened to her gurgles and breathing through the night. At one point I heard a laboring woman scream in pain and I whispered, “Thank the Lord for how you arrived.”
Friday—the day things became final. The birth mother was scheduled to appear in court at 11 AM to sign off; after that we would be free to take the baby home as her guardians until our next court hearing six months later. My mom and dad were driving down from Maine to meet their newest granddaughter. Mike and I tried to pay attention through the paperwork, bathing lessons, and whatever else they told us, but our thoughts were in only one place: our little girl. She was waiting for us just a couple of rooms away, and we had been waiting for her for a very long time.
Just 68 hours after Anne’s first call, the social worker walked by and gave us the thumbs up—the court hearing was over and it had gone as planned. I felt weight fall off my shoulders and tears spring to my eyes. By then my parents had arrived and we were only waiting for the birth mother to come say good-bye. We met in the maternity floor waiting room. I asked her what she liked to do as a child, did she like animals, did she have hobbies; I wanted to know everything I could about this amazing, selfless woman who chose to give our mutual daughter a life she couldn’t give her.
It broke my heart when she said she didn’t want to hold her because she had a cold and didn’t want to pass it on. When I asked her if there was anything else that she wanted our daughter to know about her she said, “That I love her.” With that, she walked towards the elevator without looking back. My dad walked with her to her car. My dad is gone from this world and I wish I had thought to ask him what they talked about as they walked. She is a remarkable, courageous, generous woman; I hope to raise our daughter to have those same traits.
Lindsey is five and a half years old now and knows that “God put me in someone else’s tummy for Mommy and Daddy.” She is a precious combination of Mike and me. She now has a little brother, Zachary, who everyone says looks just like me, and they say that Lindsey looks just like Mike. I smile and say, “I know.” With every cell of my body I know that they are my children.