Friday, May 18, 2007

Our Journey to Alex

The room is completely dark, only a sliver of light from the baby monitor shines on the side of her face. As she lay there in her crib so sweet, innocent, and pure, I can barely comprehend that she is mine, all mine. I lean in close to her to hear and feel the soft pattern of her breathing as she sleeps. I take in the fragrance of her recently shampooed head, something I have waited so long to smell. Her newly filled out fingers are wrapped tightly around a corner or her blanket, her other hand tucked beneath her chin. I question what I have done to become so incredibly blessed. Why, out of the millions of deserving women, have I been chosen to mother this child? Though I have prayed for this opportunity for so long, I suddenly find myself humbled with these questions. While standing in her nursery in the stillness of the night, I am given time to reflect on the events of the last several years. Only a few months earlier, this now beautifully adorned room was cold, bare, and empty; much like my soul. I remember sitting on the dusty hardwood floor wondering if motherhood would ever be mine. I yearned to experience the bond that only a mother and her child could have. The moment had come, and my love for her was immeasurable.

I take a step back and look at my beautiful baby. She is perfect in every way. I realize that my life will never again be the same. The lump now formed in my throat is followed by a single tear that slides down my cheek. The tear is partly of joy, partly of sorrow. My thoughts travel to a place far away, to a place where another woman sits alone, just her and her empty womb. Her hands smooth down her belly feeling only the shell that once held her baby. I think of the young man alone in his house, wishing there were something more he could have done. I imagine the heartache and loss that is sure to be theirs. It forces me to pick up my sleeping baby and hold her tight. She gives out a newborn grunt and I hold her closer than ever. I surround her with all the warmth and protection I can muster. Does she miss them? Can she remember the smell of her first mothers skin? Does she look up at us wishing it to be his eyes that stare back? Does she too wonder where they are and what they are doing? I hope that somehow I am able to transfer to her the deep love of her parents, all of her parents.

It was August of 1997 when Shawn and I decided to start our family. Though from my medical history I had assumed it might take awhile to become pregnant, I had no idea of the road that lay ahead. I cannot recall in detail the events of the next several years nor do I wish to. They are years that I try hard to bury and forget as the pain is someplace I never want to return. But each month I was hopeful that it would be more successful than the last. I found myself continually calculating the birth of my child. I would count ahead 40 weeks and figure when I would be due to deliver if I were to get pregnant that month. As each month passed, I was forced to recalculate all over again. Each time I attended a baby shower or learned of another’s pregnancy, the sting became that much more painful. Often, I was so “late” that I thought for sure, this is it. I even found myself analyzing how my clothes fit. If they were a little tight, I was sure it was due to the weight gain as a result of my pending pregnancy. If things were loose, I explained to myself that I had probably lost weight due to morning sickness or lack of appetite, though I honestly never suffered from either. Emotionally, I had hit rock bottom and was falling apart. I did not tolerate the medications well and felt I’d go insane if I stayed on them. Though I wanted a baby so bad, I needed a break. I was physically and emotional spent. I needed time to rest from the whole process. We decided to forgo treatments for the time being. We would concentrate on other things.

By July of 2002 I began to think about what I really wanted in life. Was my sole desire to become pregnant? No. My longing was to be a mother, and the method was not important. Until that point, I had never really thought too much about adoption. It was a world I knew nothing about. I imagined it would be a difficult and costly road. Realizing I knew so little about it, I searched for answers. I was suddenly consumed with the desire to adopt. I knew it might take some convincing to get Shawn on board but I was sure this was the path we were meant to take. I knew if I wanted to convince him, I was going to have to do my homework and prepare my case. I studied and thought long and hard and finally decided on domestic adoption. Shawn surprisingly welcomed the idea of adoption and we started looking into agencies. The first orientation we attended reaffirmed our decision, but we felt it just wasn’t the agency for us. We eventually found a wonderful agency in which we were very comfortable with. In October of 2002 we sent off our completed registration form and fee. Several weeks later, we were scheduled to begin our homestudy classes. The whole process was so different than that of which we’d previously gone through. It seemed as though every door was opened and things were falling right into place. We had complete peace that our child would be born to us through adoption.

The following months were filled with adoption classes and home study visits; with hopes that we would be chosen by birthparents and fears that we would not. By March of 2003, we were approved and officially waiting to be chosen. We received a call in May stating that we might be a good match for a young woman looking to place her baby boy. Though it was devastating when another couple was ultimately chosen, it was a realization at just how fast life could take this turn. We would think positive and know that our baby was out there somewhere and would soon find his or her way to us.

June 23, 2003 was just an ordinary Monday and I was packing up my things to leave work for the day when my cell phone rang. Thinking it was probably Shawn calling to see if I had left yet, I reached in and opened the phone. To my surprise, the display read ADOPTION STAR. I got a sick feeling in my stomach. My mind raced with a thousand possibilities and I quickly answered with a calm “Hello”. I heard, “Hi Sue, it is Melissa from Adoption STAR. I am calling to let you know of a birthmother that is currently in our office”. Melissa went on to explain some of the details, “…she is not sure of her due date but guesses it to be sometime within the next three weeks or so.” It was all happening so quickly that I nervously searched for a pen in order to get down all the information she was giving. The conversation was brief and I agreed that we would love to be profiled.

After hanging up I was filled with so many emotions. I gathered my things and drove to my sister’s, as I was supposed to pick up my nephew to help me do some yard work. I tried not to get my hopes up and was quickly sickened with the thought of hearing back. I was sure that the next time she called it would be to inform me that another couple had been chosen, and once again, my heart would be broken. As I drove home, I began sobbing. I knew the disappointment that the next few hours might bring. I got angry and frustrated with the roller coaster of emotions that I was forced to ride. As I neared my sister’s home, I tried to gather my composure half knowing that it was a futile attempt. I walked into the house and was greeted by my six-year old niece. I did my best to put on a happy face. As I looked into the kitchen to find my sister, our eyes met. With one look she knew something was wrong. Sisters always know these things. With my sister’s simple, “What wrong” I was quickly reduced back to sobs. She was startled and worried and I couldn’t compose myself enough to explain. She must have thought something terrible had happened, and I didn’t want to worry her. By now her four children were gathered in the living room and seeing the fear on their faces, she rushed me off to her bedroom. I gathered myself together enough to explain that I had just received another call to be profiled. I told her how difficult it was to get these phone calls and then experience such disappointment. She calmed me down a bit and suggested we go let the kids know that everything was ok. After praying so hard for many months the kids had a good idea just how significant this moment was. Just then my phone rang. I again saw that it was Adoption STAR. I fell to pieces all over again and pushed the phone into my sister. As she answered she was told that they needed to speak to me. Somehow I was able to get out the word “Hello”. I had no idea that in the next 5 seconds my life would change in the most drastic way. It was Melissa and she immediately informed me that Shawn and I had been chosen by the prospective birthmother. By then I was crying so hard that I didn’t even try fighting it. Melissa asked if I was ok and I enthusiastically replied, “I am now!”

Everything was happening so quickly. It took years to get to this point and now things were moving at a record pace. I listened intently to all of the details she is giving. Everything sounded perfect, and *Lindsay and *Philip seemed like incredible people. She said that Lindsay was due for a doctor’s visit the next day and that we would be contacted with the results. Knowing that too much information at this point was going to be a bit overwhelming, she urged me to go tell Shawn and that she and I would be in contact over the coming days and weeks. I hung up and filled in the blanks for my sister. By then, she and I were crying as we hugged one another knowing life had suddenly changed forever.

I drove to Shawn’s work to tell him, not totally believing it myself. Thrilled at the news and the thought of being a father, he told his boss he was leaving for the day and why. I shared the events of the last hour with him and we planned out our evening. We would need to reach our parents, grandparents, and his two sisters. Though at that point, anything could happen, we were too excited not to tell our families. We called my in-laws and asked them to meet us for dinner. Shawn was like a little kid that knew a secret. He just couldn’t wait to tell the world. As soon as everyone sat down, we shared the news. It didn’t even register with anyone at first. Shock suddenly filled their faces and several of us began to cry. We could hardly believe what we were telling them and they could hardly believe what they were hearing. The remainder of the evening was filled with telephone calls and visits to friends and family. By the time we got home, we were exhausted but neither of us could sleep. We lay in bed chatting about the turn our lives had suddenly taken. We wondered what the sex of our child might be and tossed around some baby names. Soon, Shawn was sleeping and I lay awake with thousands of things racing through my head. I began to worry about the health of our son or daughter. What if something was wrong with the baby? Would we still adopt him or her? I quickly realized that it didn’t matter to me. Was I searching for a child with special needs? No, but like a biological child, in my heart this baby was now ours. As of that first phone call, this baby was mine and I loved it regardless. After what seemed like hours, I too, eventually drifted off.

Tuesday seemed to fly by. I was busy at work coordinating time off and tidying up loose ends. I made lists of things to do before the baby came and lists of things we must buy. I spent some time in the nursery looking through all of the drawers imagining what it would be like once we brought the baby home. I was so happy and still in a bit of shock. It would certainly be an eventful few weeks. That night we decide to really concentrate on choosing names. We were successful in making our choice for a boy, he would be Myles David. For a girl, it was between Elizabeth and Alexandra but we just couldn’t make up our mind. I was leaning toward Elizabeth since I liked the nickname “Ella” and Shawn was pushing hard for Alexandra. I figured that I was about to become a mother to the baby of my dreams and that is all that mattered. The name was far less important and Alexandra was beautiful as well. It was decided. If we had a girl, her name would be Alexandra Jennifer~Grace, Jennifer after my dear cousin who passed away only three months earlier and Grace after my grandmother.

The next day we received word regarding Lindsay’s appointment. The baby was perfectly healthy and an estimated 6lb 6oz. They had done an ultrasound and determined it was a girl! We would have our Alexandra. I think that is when it all really started to sink in. Once I knew the sex, I felt like I could identify with the baby so much more. And all anyone needed to hear was the word GIRL and that meant shopping, shopping, shopping. We continued our telephone calls through Thursday morning providing the agency with medical insurance numbers and other information. I was in a meeting at around 2:30 Thursday afternoon and my cell phone rang again. It was Adoption STAR and I excused myself from the meeting. Melissa said they had just admitted Lindsay into the hospital and would soon be inducing her labor. She went on to explain that they didn’t expect her to deliver until the next morning or so, but that they would call us tomorrow. I gathered up my things and left work for the day.

By the time we got home I was beat. I had hardly slept in days and things were catching up. I knew that soon I would have a newborn to care for and needed to get my rest. In bed, I lay there thinking about what might be happening 90 miles away. How was Lindsay doing? Who was helping her through it? Had Alex already been born? I prayed for Lindsay and Alexandra. I think I fell asleep praying. I woke up a 5am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I had no idea what the night had brought. While I was sleeping, what had Lindsay gone through? I was sure that by now our baby had been born. We would have to wait until 9:00 to call the agency. It killed me to watch the clock move so slowly. I wondered if Philip had seen the baby yet and who had been there for Lindsay. I arrived at work at around 8:00am. It would be my last day of work before going out on Leave. At 9:00, Melissa called and announced the birth of our daughter. Alexandra was born at 3:35am. She was 6lb 9.4oz, 19 inches long, and perfectly healthy. Tears began to flow down my face. It had really happened, I was a mother. I quickly inquired about Lindsay. My heart broke for what she must be going through. Melissa said that Lindsay was doing remarkably well and was so happy for us and for Alexandra. I admired her courage and selflessness. Though we wanted so badly to go and meet our daughter, we realized that this time was special for Lindsay and Alex. We would not meet our daughter until Sunday.

Saturday night was like Christmas Eve to a child. I just couldn’t wait to get to sleep so that in the morning I could meet my baby. Surprisingly I fell right to sleep. Sunday morning was so surreal. Family all gathered together to make the 90-mile trip to bring Alex home. Everyone was unusually quieted by nerves. The morning seemed to drag as our arrival time kept getting pushed back further and further. By 3pm in the afternoon, we worried that things were not going as planned. We were around the corner in a limo-bus waiting to get the call that we could come meet her and bring her home. At about 3:30 we were finally told to come get our daughter. Upon arriving at the agency I expected to be greeted immediately by the long awaited sight of our child, but unfortunately piles of paperwork would need tending to first. After all the papers had been signed, it was time.

Shawn and I were escorted to a nursery and I sat nervously in a rocking chair waiting to meet my baby. Moments later I laid eyes on my child for the first time. She was absolutely beautiful. With perfect timing, she woke up and looked into the eyes of her new parents. It was, by far, the greatest moment of our lives. We were completely in love. The struggles and injustices of the last 6 years were suddenly erased. Everything we’d been through over the years was all worth this very moment. Eventually, the remaining family members were invited to meet the newest member. There was not one dry eye in the room. Everyone took turns holding, kissing, and bonding with Alex. Our journey to Alexandra was one that brought a whole family together and one that will never be taken for granted.

Several months later, a friend called very excited about sharing the video of her recently performed ultrasound. When the short video was over, she looked at me with sorrow. She quickly apologized for being insensitive if the video of her growing baby was hurtful to me in any way. It hadn’t even occurred to me. My response to her was… “Yes, it is true. I will probably never know what it is like to be pregnant. I will never experience carrying my own child. I won’t know the hardships and delights of pregnancy. But likewise, you will probably never know what it is like to adopt. You will never feel the exhilaration of getting “the call”. You will never know the honor of having someone choose YOU to parent their precious child. You will never truly know the pure joy that adoption has brought to me”. So you see, families are created in very different ways each unique and special in their own right. I wouldn’t trade our journey for anything, it was our journey to Alex.