By: Stacey Ellis
8:42 PM. I will never forget that moment. The entire day was uneventful until that very second. We spent the day hanging out with friends, and in the evening, going to Home Depot to pick out paint colors for the baby room. We had decided that we wanted to have one accent wall, which would be a soft green, the rest –lavender. I was holding a paintbrush and putting swatches of paint on the wall. This seemed like the most important decision at that moment. And then, my husband’s cell phone rang. He answered and asked, “Should I put this on speaker phone?” At that moment I knew. I knew exactly what had happened and I knew our lives were about to change even quicker than what we thought was quick!
Our social worker said, “Okay, so the plans have changed a little.” The last we heard on Friday was the birthmother and birthfather were supposed to come to Los Angeles to give birth. They planned to fly out on Sunday –the very next day, and we planned to go to the birthmother’s doctor’s appointment on Monday. She planned to stay here until she gave birth – which could have been as early as the end of the week. But the well-orchestrated plan failed.
Our social worker said, “Her water broke and she went into labor and she gave birth ten minutes later. They still want to move forward with the adoption, so we need you on the next plane out.” My husband froze. Not a little bit frozen –I mean, all the color drained from his face. He didn’t move. I thanked the social worker and climbed off the step stool. I calmly put the paintbrush down and took the phone from my husband’s still frozen hand. Then I grabbed a piece of paper, drew a line down the middle, put Steve on one side, Stacy on the other and wrote – Hotel, Car, Airfare on Steve’s side. I literally said, “Go!” He went and started working on making travel plans. I knew he could handle this. He wasn’t going to be shopping for the best fare – he just had to book the first one. And as for the hotel and rental car – he’s our travel guru – I knew he could do this on autopilot. I had other things to do:
1. Call my friend and tell her I was not coming over the next day to pick up the baby stuff she was collecting for me. Graciously, she said, “I’ll be right over with all of it.”
2. Get a dog sitter. My assistant at work usually dog sits. One phone call to her and that was done.
3. Figure out where the hospital is and maquest it. Done.
4. Figure out where the nearest Babies R Us, Walmart and Target are in relation to the hospital. Mapquest. Done.
5. Call another friend to come get our house key. Oh, and ask them to stop at the local grocery store and pick up Dreft to wash baby clothes my friend is bringing over. Done.
By 10:00 PM, all the major plans were done. My friend came over with the Dreft. She is an interior designer – a darn good one. She looked at the swatches of paint on the wall and asked which one I liked. I still had five yet to put up. She said, don’t worry about it. It’ll be done when you get back. I was so overwhelmed, I’m not sure those words registered, but apparently they registered enough because I walked out of the room and didn’t think about it again. My friend with all the baby stuff came over – and gave us a moses basket bassinet, an infant carseat, and two boxes of 0-3month clothing. In there we found onesies with feet, bath towels with hoods, baby wash cloths, clothes. I felt great. We had everything. And then it happened.
I started crying, “How do you feed a baby?” Tears flowed down my face. “We don’t even know how to care for a baby!” She looked at me and said, “You’ll be fine. Trust me. Ask the nurses in the hospital and they’ll help you or you call me and I’ll help you.” I quickly composed myself. I don’t think the crying had anything to do with how to feed or change the baby. Every emotion was running through my soul.
In less than 24 hours we could meet our daughter. OUR DAUGHTER. A baby. OUR BABY. I couldn’t grasp that I would be a mother. I could grasp that we would be caring for a baby. But I couldn’t quite grasp the magnitude. Most people have 9 months to grasp this concept. I had 9 months of infertility treatments in which doctors told me I would NEVER be a mother (at least not the natural way). And now, just 26 days from the time we handed in our adoption paperwork, we were going to become parents. Our adoption agency told us it would take six months to a year. Ha!
We went to “sleep” at 2AM, knowing we had to get up at 3AM to head to the airport by 4AM. I didn’t sleep one second. We got up, packed up, said goodbye to our two dogs and left. It was foggy on the way to the airport. The kind of deep fog which barely lets you see one car ahead. Then the Chris Daughtry song came on, “I’m coming home” and those tears started welling in my eyes again. Especially on the parts, “Be careful what you wish for, ‘Cause you just might get it all. You just might get it all…” I couldn’t believe we were heading to meet our daughter, not just on a vacation. Then, “I’m going home, Back to the place where I belong, And where your love has always been enough for me.” We were going to take our baby home. It was a scene from a movie.
In the airport people stared at us wondering why we were carrying an empty car seat and bassinet and no baby. Over and over people joked, “Where’s the baby?” At first we joked back, “We checked her in!” and then we let it out, “We’re heading to meet our daughter. We’re adopting her.” You would have thought we said we won the lottery because every person –from those on the security line to those at the gate, to the stewardesses, to the car rental company representative –was beaming and congratulating us and in some cases, hugging us! We felt like celebrities. And all we were doing was adopting a baby.
On the plane, we read the Dr. Sears book, “The Baby Book.” And that’s where we learned how often to feed a newborn and how much. How to change a diaper. How to give a baby massage. How to give a sponge bath. How to care for the cord. How much babies sleep. And what newborns can and can’t see. We learned all the basic care. We felt okay.
It would take us an hour to get to the hospital from the airport. We drove and counted down the miles. 52 miles. 34 miles. 26 miles. 13 miles. 5 miles. We had to stop. It was 2PM and we had been awake for nearly 30 hours and had nothing to eat for nearly 24 of that. We stopped at a Walmart and ate at McDonalds. We couldn’t wait to get to the hospital but we needed to compose ourselves. So we sat for a few minutes, and ate. Then we were on our way. We called our social worker and she told us the birthmother did not want the baby in her room. We actually felt even better knowing that. We didn’t want her to change her mind. We didn’t want her to become emotionally attached. The social worker also asked us to call the birthmother just before going up to her room. We did and she said she was happy we were there and to come up.
This was the moment we had been waiting for. We acted calm, but we weren’t. As we walked down the hallway before getting on the elevator we realized that we had forgotten to buy flowers at the Walmart. That was the reason we stopped at Walmart! The McDonalds was secondary! Oh my God. Our social worker told us to bring flowers. We forgot. It’s Sunday. The gift shop at the hospital is closed. Do we leave? Stay? We just called. She’s expecting us in minutes. We stayed. We had a piece of jewelry for the birthmother, a piece I owned and never wore. And we had an airport-bought Dodgers jersey and chocolate for the birthfather. We figured we could wing it today and get flowers for tomorrow.
We checked in at the nurse’s station on the maternity ward and asked for the birthmother’s room. The nurse told us her room number and pointed the way. We asked if we could see the baby in the window of the nursery and we were told, “The baby is in her room.” We didn’t know what to think…was she bonding with the baby? Did she want to tell us herself that she had changed her mind?