My daughter’s birth story will be unique from others because I am telling it, and I was not the one who delivered her. I won’t be able to share about the excruciating pain or the exhausting labor—but I can share the intense moments and emotions we as the adoptive parents experienced.
On Friday morning, January 16th (10 days before H’s actual due date), we received a surprising call from the social worker. H thought that her water had broken and was headed to the hospital to get checked out. We were advised to wait until labor was confirmed. Since we had NOTHING ready (seriously nothing–we had planned to get ready that weekend), we got off the phone and began scrambling. We had to pack, get our paperwork together, buy and install a car seat, and pull together a few baby items…which, again, we did not have.
We sent out a quick text to our family that H may be in labor. Robby began packing, and I called my wonderful, beautiful lifesaver friend Steph who informed me that she had already been working on getting a diaper bag ready for me. I could come over, pick it up, and not have to worry about a thing. I called my mom who was getting ready to take her lunch break and asked her to pick up the car seat from Target.
I headed over to Steph’s house. When I got there, we both screamed a little and then she showed me what she had packed. As I was getting ready to leave, my phone rang. It was the social worker, confirming that H had been admitted to the hospital. The baby was on her way! After a good tearful hug, I left, calling Robby on my way home. My mom was there soon after, bearing not only the car seat but also a few newborn outfits and basics. We did not have much, but we had what we needed!
Once in the car, the reality that H’s hospital was 3 ½ hours away sank in. We tried to calm our beating hearts and slow our rapid breathing. We focused on the landscape—the drive from can be quite beautiful with green foothills and open skies. But of course our conversation came back to what was happening. All of our years of waiting, all of our desperate prayers, and in a matter of hours, we would have our deepest desire met. It didn’t feel real. Even now, as I type this, it doesn’t feel real. Even the best words—which I don’t have—can’t explain such an experience.
We spoke with our social worker who gave us a number to use to reach H’s family. About an hour out from the hospital, I called the family. H was doing well, still in early labor. She had made a hospital plan, which she wanted communicated: She wanted us to be in her room with her, and she wanted me to be there during the delivery. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Never did I think I would be able to experience the birth of our baby, and yet I was finding out that not only could I be at the hospital, but I also could be in the room. I was overwhelmed, so honored to be given such an opportunity. I agreed to be there wholeheartedly.
Finally we reached the hospital. My whole body was shaking. I was anxious to see H and to hear how she was doing. I was nervous to meet the rest of the family. I was unsure of how exactly to proceed, what to say, how to act. I prayed constantly. In fact, I don’t think I ever really stopped praying the entire weekend. We parked, looked at each other for a moment, then headed in.
H was in her room, surrounded by a number of family members. She looked exhausted but managed to give us a smile and tell us she was doing good. We reintroduced ourselves to everyone, met a new family member, and asked how things were going. To be honest, I don’t really remember much from those first minutes. All I know is that we soon realized that we would be part of this in a big way, bigger than we had ever believed or hoped.
The day moved slowly, and soon the room was dark with the night. H’s mother, Robby, and I settled in for the long wait, somehow using the rocker and lounger to get a few minutes of rest here and there. I’ve never watched a woman labor before, but I have no doubt that H has got to be the toughest one out there. We often didn’t even know she was having a contraction because she would go through them without a sound. I would occasionally take her mom’s role of sitting by her and offering ice chips or a cool washcloth. As the labor intensified, she became increasingly more uncomfortable. Finally, early Saturday morning she had the epidural and was able to get some sleep, although not for long. By 8:00 that morning things were moving along. Robby got kicked out, and we got ready.
It was clear that H was incredibly exhausted. She had been laboring for close to 24 hours and hadn’t eaten anything since Thursday night. To make matters worse, she had a medication that made her lethargic. Even though it was time to push, she had no energy to do so, despite her desperate efforts. Finally, the nurse decided she needed to have a break. She left us, allowing H to rest for some time.
But rest doesn’t last long when a baby is on her way. The moment came, and came quickly. The doctor gave H the option to use forceps to guide the baby during delivery, and this seemed like the best plan. All of a sudden, it was time. Doctors were in place, nurses were ready, and there her mom and I were, part of it all. After at least ten really good pushes, the most precious baby we had ever seen made her way into this world. I couldn’t hold back my tears. She had a head full of dark hair and a good set of lungs, clear by her first cry. When the time came to cut her cord, our plan of H’s mom and I doing it together fell apart. She decided she couldn’t do it. With shaking hands I took the scissors, cut her cord, and then the pediatrician whisked her away.
I followed closely behind, taking it all in. I had just experienced the birth of my adoptive daughter. Not being able to be pregnant and deliver my baby was a loss I had grieved and moved on from some time ago; and yet, here I was, having without a doubt the most incredible experience of my lifetime. I watched the pediatrician check her as she wiggled on the table. Ten fingers, ten toes, bright alert eyes. Long arms and legs, which did not want to be stretched at all. Sweet little lips, shaped like a heart. Absolutely perfect. She wrapped her and put a white beanie on her head—complete with a bow of course.
Someone had gotten H’s dad and Robby, and they stood by the door with a perfect view of the baby. The baby looked like her grandpa, and I told him so. We hugged, and I sobbed. We all did, actually.
They handed the baby to H who held her gently on her chest. It was beautiful and heart-wrenching, watching this woman we had come to love in so short a time hold the tiny being she treasured more than anything. After a few moments, Robby and I left, allowing the family to have their time together without our presence.
We stood in the hallway and cried, then walked to the waiting room. Sometime later the family invited us back in, and we got to hold the perfect baby who had already stolen every single heart in the room.
The next 48 hours were about one thing, and one thing only—the baby. We held her, fed her, changed her, talked about her, smiled at her, stroked her, and kissed her. At this point, we were calling her by the name her birth mother had chosen, which we ended up using as our baby’s middle name. It seemed every hour another nurse or doctor was coming in with a test or quick check, all to make sure baby and H were doing well. Except for a small heart murmur that went away in a day, baby was in perfect health.
The entire hospital staff was very aware of our situation, amazingly so. People knew we were the adoptive parents, and people were incredibly sensitive to the whole situation. A number of them expressed that they wished Robby and I could have had a room in the ward to be more comfortable, but unfortunately there was no space. All of us—Robby and I, along with the birth family—had only positive things to say about the staff.
I got to spend that first night with H, her mom, and baby, while Robby checked into a hotel to get some real sleep. Because H was still recovering, I also got to care for the babe for a good amount of time, allowing H’s mom to focus her attention on H. We did not sleep much that night, but holding our baby, feeding her, and rocking her to sleep was worth every waking minute.
The next morning I walked down to the cafeteria to get a little breakfast and pick up coffee for myself and H’s mom. I called my own mother at that point and had the first real conversation I had had with anyone. It was all still so incredible that except for the fact that I had experienced it, I wouldn’t believe it had happened.
Robby came back to the hospital early afternoon, and again we spent a great amount of time together with baby and H and her family. Because I had a parent band, I could be the second person who went with baby if she needed to leave the room. Robby and I took her into the nursery for her first bath and vitals check, and we first heard those wails that we have now become quite accustomed to.
That day Robby and I stole away by ourselves for awhile. We picked up a small gift for H and took the time to write her a letter. We knew we wouldn’t be able to say what we wanted to say when the time came, so it needed to be written beforehand. We gave her a stuffed Minnie Mouse with a pink bow, representing one of the things that drew H to us in the first place—our love for Disney! We hoped that it would remind her of us and baby and our promise to her.
By that evening, I was ready to crumble because I was so exhausted and drained. I hadn’t really slept since Thursday night, so we decided it would be best if I joined Robby at the hotel, allowing H and her mother to have a night together with baby. I am so glad we did that, not only because it gave me my last good night’s sleep (ever!), but because that was an important time for them.
The Last Morning
We joined H and her mother late Monday morning, but our hearts were already heavy. Within seconds of me waking up that morning, I was crying, heartbroken over the goodbyes that were to come. Yes, we were receiving the most precious and amazing gift we had been and would ever be given, but that gift would come with grief. I didn’t want the grief just yet.
When we arrived, baby was having photos taken, wearing the sweetest outfit that H had picked out: a light pink and grey flowery dress with a little pink cardigan. She looked adorable, and of course we had to buy photos, no matter the cost.
H knew how she wanted this last day to go. She presented me with the items they had been buying for baby over the last months. She spent time alone with her. And then when it came time for discharge, she held her while we all walked out together. We had prolonged it as long as we could, but it was time to say goodbye. She handed her to me, and I buckled her in her brand new car seat. We gave hugs and kisses and promised to text the moment we got home. Robby—who had been keeping it together amazingly all weekend—finally broke down, reminding H that everything he wanted to say was in the note we had given her the day before. Then we got in our car and drove away.
I wish I could adequately explain what being in the hospital with H and her family was like those days. It was hard, of course. There was grief and tears, on their part and ours, and it wasn’t always easy to hide. But it was wonderful, if you can believe that. We really came as strangers and left as close to family as we could be. We have only the deepest love and gratitude for H and her family, and they will forever be part of our lives and our baby girl’s life.