Saturday, December 06, 2008

Four Days

To begin the story of the four days that changed our life, I suppose I have to start with shopping.  At 5:30 am the day after Thanksgiving, the phone rang.  The alarm clock had gotten unplugged during the night and I had overslept.  Angie was calling to ask if I was still going Black Friday shopping with her and Shelly and Shelly's mom.  I needed a few things for Christian and the in-laws for Christmas, so I thought I'd go with them to the mall.  As I'm a shopping tard, I exhausted early and went home after seeing the line at Kohl's that went all the way through the store into the bathrooms and stock room.  

I went back to bed and didn't wake up until Christian came in to the bedroom to tell me that Anne was on the phone.  Anne is the mom of my dear friend Karen, and the social worker at a hospital south of Seattle.  I thought she was calling to check on the progress of our adoption paperwork, and asked Christian to take the call.  He came back in a few minutes later.  A young woman had come into the hospital in labor, Anne said, having previously been unaware of her pregnancy, and had given birth to a baby girl.  She felt that she would be unable to parent and wanted to find an adoptive family.  Did we want to come meet her?  I sat up in bed, and Christian and I looked at each other for what seemed like an eternity.  We jumped up then, and I ran to the shower, thinking what I wanted to wear to meet the birth mother.  I dressed up, even putting on makeup, and made Christian wear ironed pants.  

We drove as fast as we could to the hospital, slowing down due to an accident (not ours, fortunately) and got there around 2:30.  We were taken to a small waiting room where we were told that the birth mother didn't want to meet us and asked if we wanted to meet the baby.  This was not what I was expecting.  According to the usual practices, a birthmother who had not chosen an adoptive family would be presented with a variety of information packets provided by adoptive parents and then choose several with whom to meet before deciding on one.  And, our homestudy wasn't done, the social worker who had come to our house in September never wrote the report.  She emailed us on Halloween to tell us that she had been delayed by family health problems and would do the homestudy immediately. That was the last we heard from her.  

We agreed to meet the baby and were taken into the nursery.  There something that those who have never done an adoption have to understand.  From the moment you first begin reading your first book or your first website, you are told repeatedly that 50% of domestic adoptions fail. That's half.  We were also told that there are few babies available in Washington State and that the means of starting our family would be painful and arduous.  But here we were, in a nursery, holding a tiny, perfect baby to whom we really weren't supposed to get attached.  The hospital had a room for us to stay in, Anne said, so we could get to know the baby.  We pushed her hospital cradle down the hall to the empty room and looked at her for a while.  She was so calm.  We took turns holding her and started talking about what the hell we were going to do.  Anne had told us to call our lawyer right away, but she was out of town.  We couldn't get in touch with the social worker who never finished the homestudy, so we sat and held the baby and talked.  I was supposed to be in a dress rehearsal that night for Hansel and Gretel, but I called the company and begged to be released.  They had mercy on us, and we decided to stay the night, and called Shelly to ask her to bring us some clothes.  The birthmother, though, wanted to have the baby in her room that night, as they had some things to discuss, she said.  We went home, calling everyone we knew on both of our phones, trying to get an attorney.  We spent the next three hours rearranging our bedroom and the bird room to give us more space.  

We woke up early the next morning and saw that an attorney recommended to us had emailed us, asking us to call him.  We spoke, he knew exactly what to do, and so we hired him on the spot.  He gave us the number of two social workers who might be able to redo our home study for us that day.  One of them agreed to come over at 1.  We tore around the house, cleaning and organizing, wanting to get back down to the hospital to see the baby.  The birthmother asked for the baby to be taken back to the nursery early that morning, and the nurses told us to come at any time.  We drove the forty minutes each direction, seeing the baby for a half hour, before getting back to the house, where the social worker was in conversation with Chris and Angie, who we had asked to wait at our house for her.  They showed her around, talked about us and our marriage, and generally saved our bacon.  The social worker was incredibly gracious and we talked for almost four hours, until Christian left to go back to the hospital and I had to get ready for the first performance of Hansel.  I remember very, very little of that evening, other than the two blackouts we had on stage due to the light board overloading.  

After the show, I drove down to the hospital and spent the night with the baby we now thought might possibly be ours.  We were still reserved, though.  Anne and our attorney met with both of the birth parents that day and had them sign all of the paperwork, but there was always the chance of one or both of them changing their minds before their 48 hour window had passed.  She was so sweet and easy and alert that we couldn't help falling painfully for her, but the idea that this whole thing might not work made me withdraw somewhat.  Both social workers told us that this wasn't uncommon, though, and that it could take a while to allow our emotions to take ahold.

The next morning, we waited to hear from all of our people about our progress.  We had so much to gather, our fingerprints we had submitted six weeks before to the FBI, our medical reports for the homestudy which had been sent to the first social worker and which we would have to redo the next day, the DSHS report which we had faxed in, all of which couldn't be gotten until Monday.  So, we waited, getting to know the baby we now tentatively called Viv, as that would be her name if she was ours.  I had to sing Hansel again, one more time, and there was no new news upon my return to the hospital.  

The next morning saw us up very early on the phone to the adoption agency in Texas with whom we thought we were going to do our adoption, as they were supposed to have received the fingerprint reports.  They hadn't gotten it yet, but called the processing office and got a copy to fax to our attorney.  We each then had to go see our respective doctors to get the medical reports, which I then had to fly home to scan in and send for our homestudy.  I brought the scanner back to the hospital for Christian's medical form and waited for 3:30 pm, the 48 mark after which no one could change their minds.  Our attorney wanted to make absolutely certain that the birthmother, who still hadn't wanted to meet us, was protected, so he arranged for her to meet with her own attorney when she returned to the hospital for her post-partum visit.  She and the attorney met right outside the doors to the ward, and when I went to the cafeteria that evening, caught a glimpse of the baby's birthmother as she was counseled.  I wish we could have met.  The day passed beyond the time we could make it to court, so we settled in for another night at the hospital, hoping that DSHS would come through first thing so we could make everything final.  We did manage to make dashes to the store to buy a stroller and car seat, however, and made it to the home of a couple selling a bed on Craigslist, so at least we'd have a place for her to sleep and a means to get her home.  

DSHS didn't come through that morning.  We had to resend all of our forms as they claimed to have never received them.  Christian drove to meet the social worker to pick up the notarized homestudy to give to our attorney.  We waited extremely impatiently, me at the hospital and Christian at home, for our attorney to call when we had been approved by DSHS and Christian and the attorney could get to court before it closed at 4.  At 3 pm, just in time, the form came through.  We were legally made parents at 4:45 pm on Tuesday, December 2nd.

We had nothing at home.  No crib, no clothes, no diapers, absolutely nothing.  It's said that, in times of trial, those who are your real friends will reveal themselves.  Ours did with a vengeance.  Everything we could need, all washed and ready for little Viv's arrival home.  

It's Saturday, a week and a day after we first met our little daughter.  I still feel bewildered, as though I suddenly grew another arm and have no idea what to do with it.  It won't fit in any of my shirts, after all.  Everyone told us that this would happen, as the whirl of those four days gave us little time to prepare in any way, and that, once we were home for a while, we would stop feeling as though we were babysitting, and start feeling like parents.  I've only had 10 or 11 hysterical breakdowns, which has to be a record for me.  

My parents have now met her, as I begged Mom to come over the day we brought her home, as I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, and Dad drove over today to meet his first granddaughter.  We're anxiously awaiting the visit of Christian's parents, who want to come down when the dust has settled.  She's to be their one grandchild, so I hope they approve.  I don't see how they couldn't, as she's perfect.  

We've already made some rookie mistakes.  The bed we bought her was not rigid, so we'll have to resell it.  A bassinet was purchased instead.  I got drenched bathing her as I've never bathed a newborn before, but she didn't seem to mind.  However, her disposition is so sweet that she forgives us as soon as we make a mistake.  

I want to do what's right and best for her.  We are now a racially diverse family, even more so than usual, so we have to find the means to show her that she's not the only one whose family looks like ours.  I'm already worrying about what schools she'll go to and what friends she'll make, and whether or not she'll struggle with her identity.  Will we be good parents?  Will we meet her needs, emotional and physical?  Is our house too small?  The list goes on.  

I'm waiting for the moment when I finally realize that she's ours.  Tiny Viv, the four day baby.  I know it will come soon.


shellswick said...

We are so excited for you and are more than delighted to have played a small part in all that wonderful craziness. We love you and know that Viv does too. How could she not? She has two of the most amazing parents ever!

that chick said...

that story made me all happy inside. yay, happy beginnings!