Friday, April 18, 2008

Birth Story


Dear Baby Girl,

I've been saying for some time now that I would write down your birth story. I still remember every moment like it just happened, but no doubt my memory will become less sharp over time.

You were due on April 26, 2005. We first met your birthmother, J, in early February, which meant that we only had three months to prepare for your arrival. There was quite a flurry of painting and shopping and planning. During those three months, I talked with J regularly, and we had a couple of lunch dates. I got to know her and her son, who was four years old at that time. Your dad and I were so excited - we could not wait to meet you!

April 26th came and went. J and I stayed in touch regularly. She had been one centimeter dilated for quite some time and wasn't progressing beyond that. Her doctor decided that he would admit her to the hospital and induce labor on Tuesday, May 3rd. We asked J if it would be okay if your dad and I went to the hospital that day and she said that we were welcome to come. During that week between the 26th and the 3rd I kept my cell phone in my hand at all times just in case you decided to come before the induction date. But, you were in no hurry. Come to think of it, you're just really not the type to hurry - ever. In the mornings you stroll into my bathroom and announce that you have to put your "lips" (chapstick) on. Even when your dad is standing there with your jacket in hand, telling you that you and he are already running late and that you have to GO RIGHT NOW, you still stand there, applying coat after coat of chapstick. I mean, you don't speed up even the tiniest iota.

My last day at work was on Monday the 2nd. I was so excited about the next day that I could hardly do my job. The next morning, we got up early and headed to the hospital. We weren't sure exactly what to do once we got there. We went to the labor and delivery wing and asked a nurse to tell your birthmother that we were there. We had brought along some books and stuff and planned to wait in the lobby. However, J invited us into her room so we were happy to go in and hang out with her. Her mom was there, too.

We spent the morning chatting with J and her mom. I was happy to get a chance to get to know her mom, who is a very nice lady. Each time a doctor would come in to perform an exam, your dad and I would step out into the hallway in order to give J some privacy. We just weren't sure of the protocol for these things. Then we would return and chat some more. Your dad asked, "So, did you have any cravings during your pregnancy?" Later, when he was out of the room, I told J that your dad isn't very chatty and that he had probably worked on that question for two days. We all got a good laugh out of that.

Throughout the day, we got to hear your heartbeat through the monitor. Everything progressed as normal, which was reassuring. At lunchtime we went down to the lobby and got some sandwiches and hung out there for a while. Throughout the rest of the afternoon we continued to drift in and out of J's room.

At around 5:00 p.m. I asked a nurse if she was taking bets on how soon you would arrive. "I have a twenty in my pocket," I told her. She laughed and said it would be quite a while. She made it sound like we would be there all night, so your dad and I headed downstairs to grab some dinner at the hospital cafeteria. About 15 minutes later, we were sitting at a table poking at our unremarkable cafeteria food. Just then, J's mom came running in. She said that J was ready to push and that we should hurry back upstairs. It seemed the nurse had been way off in her prediction. Ack! I think we all felt like the Three Stooges for a minute there. As we rode up in the elevator, I told J's mom that we would wait outside in the hallway. "No," she said. "She wants you in the room."

I cannot begin to tell you what an amazing and unexpected gift this was. To be in the room! We entered the hospital room to find that it was abuzz with activity. The ordinary hospital bed had morphed into something completely different - I kept thinking of those old Transformers toys from the 80s. There were nurses, a doctor, and a student of some sort who was there to observe.

Your dad and I stood near J's head. We were trying to be respectful and didn't know what to do with ourselves. Tearfully, I leaned down and gave her a kiss on the cheek and thanked her for allowing us to be there. Your dad did the same. The doctor was in position at the foot of the bed and you were on your way. We could see your dark hair! Two pushes later, there you were. And you were a girl! For some reason, we had guessed beforehand that you might be a boy.

You were born at 5:56 p.m. on Tuesday, May 3rd. You weighed 7 pounds 10 ounces and were 19 3/4 inches long.

The doctor handed your dad a pair of scissors so that he could cut the umbilical cord. Another unexpected, but thrilling invitation! Well, I guess the cord was thicker and more sinewy than he thought it would be. It took a little more effort than he had anticipated.

Moments later, you were in a clear plastic bassinet on wheels and a nurse was checking you over to make sure you had all the right parts and that everything was in working order. She turned to me and asked if we had chosen a name. I looked over at J and her mom. "We have two names in mind," I told them. "A_______ and Estelle."

J's mom replied, "I think both names are very pretty."

So, we gave you a first name and then used my sister's first name as your middle name. Since we were honoring one sister by using her name, we knew we would honor my youngest sister (the one you call Aunt Craggy, even though that's nowhere close to her actual name) by making her your Godmother.

Apparently still reeling from the umbilical cord adventure, your dad announced that he felt woozy and that he needed to go and sit down. He went into the bathroom that was attached to the hospital and sat down in there. As you are growing up . . . if you ever break a bone or split your chin open or something . . . be sure to call me first.

Soon, you were wheeled off to the nursery. Eventually we went to the nursery and a nurse showed us how to give you a bath. We thought you were the most beautiful child we had ever seen. You had lots of hair, blue eyes and - your most distinctive feature - a pouty lip that jutted right out.

Cell phones weren't allowed in that part of the hospital, so I had to go downstairs to make some calls. First, I called your Meemaw. She was so happy she could barely speak. Next, I called both of my sisters. And finally, I called my friend B, whose son was born exactly three weeks before you were.

Before long, it was time to go home and let everyone get some rest. That night I was so excited I could barely sleep. The next morning we were up early so that we could head back to the hospital, which is about 30 miles away from our home. We spent the morning going back and forth between visiting you in the nursery and visiting J in her hospital room. She seemed to doing pretty well. She was nervous about seeing you, but the social worker and nurses were gently suggesting to her that she should spend some time with you. I took a little time out and drove to a Carter's store to buy a "coming home" outfit for you. I had been hesitant to buy it ahead of time because we didn't know if you would be a girl or a boy. I chose a pink outfit with a matching hat.
The day flew by quickly. Your dad and I felt giddy. We held you and took pictures. A feeding nurse came to the nursery and helped me with all the ins and outs of bottle feeding. Finally, it was time to go home again. You needed to spend one more night at the hospital and then you would be released.

When we arrived the next morning, a nurse told me that your birthmom had gotten up very early that morning and held you in the nursery. I was told that she cradled you in her arms and told you that she loves you very, very much. She was worried that you would be angry with her someday. I vowed right then to make sure that you always know and remember that even though she was in a rough period in her life and couldn't take care of you, she will always love you.

The nurses got you ready to be discharged. Your dad and I worked on getting you into the carseat. We had read the manual ahead of time, but it turned out that all the settings and straps were basically . . . wrong. We had to put you in the seat and then take you out again several times. After the first couple of tries, you ran out of patience and got mad. I fed you and then we tried again.

One of the nurses walked downstairs with us, so that she could confirm that we had a proper carseat for you. Your dad lifted you up and attempted to attach your carrier seat to the base that was already installed in the car. However, he was trying to attach the seat so that you would be forward-facing, which is practically a mortal sin (in addition to being highly illegal). The nurse and I gasped simultaneously. For a moment I feared we had failed the first test and that we wouldn't be permitted to take you home.

We headed home with you, our beautiful daughter. Our seven-year journey to become parents was finally over, all the loss and heartache growing less sharp with each passing day. Over the next few weeks, you came to the realization that we had no idea what we were doing and voiced your objections loudly.

And, as you remind us daily, we're still learning . . .

5 comments:

Arthur and Robin said...

A beautiful story...I don't have any words...sniff sniff...

Beth said...

Absolutely wonderful! It brought memories and tears to me, too. A treasure for your daughter!

Owen's Mom said...

Claudia, A's birth story made me well up with tears! What a wonderful story!!!!

Mary said...

Well for the sake of not looking like a idiot sitting at the computer bawling my eyes out I held it to sniffles... but what a wonderful and beautiful story! I can feel your love and anticipation of bringing home your little girl. I'm so glad adoption worked out so well for you all.

Mainegirl/Pauline said...

OH my word, how beautiful!!!