And now for the thrilling Part II of our adoption tale!
When we left off, Katherine’s birth mom-to-be was in labor, and the plan was for Cory, me, and the adoption coordinator to visit her in the hospital once the baby was born. I got a call while we were having lunch from the adoption coordinator. She said that Katherine’s birth mom was requesting that I be in the delivery room with her and her mother. This was definitely a change of plans since for the weeks we had been communicating, she stated that she really just wanted her mom with her. And who could blame her? But she said that she thought it was important that I be with Katherine from the very beginning, so of course I accepted the invitation. I told the adoption coordinator that I would be honored to be there, and that I would also be completely open to leaving if Katherine’s birth mom wanted to kick me out at any point. Although we were part of the adoption plan she created, first and foremost this was a young woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and facing a situation that was both emotionally and physically difficult. Anything she wanted me to do was fine with me.
Now, those who know me understand that I don’t do so well with needles, blood, thinking about the fact that there are skeletons within all of us, etc. When completing our adoption home study and updates, I drove all around the county and ended up getting our mandatory HIV tests at methadone clinics because they were the only places that offered the cheek swab test rather than one that requires a blood draw. (That was actually pretty great because I got to spend half an hour each time talking with nurses so passionate about their jobs helping folks through addiction.) And now I had just a few hours to prepare for being in a real, live delivery room. The up-side about this particular type of medical situation is that I’ve worked for several reproductive health and rights organizations, so I was much better prepared for witnessing childbirth than, say, open heart surgery. I texted a former labor and delivery nurse friend for tips on not vomiting or passing out and was told “don’t lock your knees.”
We headed to the hospital around 4pm and got to spend time with Katherine’s birth mom-to-be, her mother, and her grandmother. Cory stayed with us until the contractions got strong and nurses began checking on Katherine’s birth mom more frequently. I won’t go into all the details, but will say that Katherine’s birth mom was AMAZING as she went through the tough process of giving birth to a surprisingly large baby. I got to be part of her support team and was right in the middle of things–not just standing on the sidelines. It wasn’t until she was pushing that we all found out she had only seen people give birth on TV, where an actress pushes once or twice and then her doctor holds up a magically clean and alert baby. Things got even more dramatic once the doctor could see that Katherine was larger than expected and NICU nurses were called in just in case the baby sustained any injuries (like a dislocated shoulder) while making her way into the world. Katherine’s birth mom powered through the pain and Katherine was born–shoulders intact–just before 10:00 that night. I managed not to lock my knees (thanks, Sarah!) and the only time I thought I might pass out was when the doctor asked who was cutting the cord and I heard Katherine’s birth mom say, “Rebecca is!” And then the doctor handed me blood-covered scissors, and then this vegetarian was cutting through an umbilical cord. (It seems odd that that particular medical procedure is an “honor” given to the untrained.)
Things moved pretty quickly after that point. Nurses whisked Katherine away to check her vital signs. They called me over to the baby warmer and handed Katherine to me. Aside from the medical staff, I was the first person to hold her. The adoption coordinator called Cory in soon after Katherine was born and he got to hold her, as well. Although I’d like to say it was the most beautiful, tear-filled moment of my life, the truth is there was so much going on that it was hard to get too emotional at that point. Our concern for Katherine’s birth mother was equal to our love for this new baby. How could we shift our focus so quickly to Katherine when the doctor and nurses were still working on her birth mom across the room? It was surreal to her, as well. Soon after the doctor left, Katherine’s birth mom was already saying, “Did all of that really happen???” Additionally, at this point Cory and I were legally nothing more than family friends to Katherine. The earliest her birth mom could sign relinquishment paperwork was 48 hours after her birth, or once she got a discharge order from her doctor. All births are emotional, but these circumstances added a few more layers. Cory and I stayed with Katherine and her birth mom for another hour or so, then stumbled out to the parking garage and headed back to our rental home.
We headed back to the hospital the next day. After a few hours’ sleep, we were all in a better position to enjoy spending time together and learn more about this new baby! The highlight of that day was when Cory and I got to spend time with just Katherine and her birth mom. Katherine’s birth grandmother had to work that evening, so it was just the four of us. While Katherine slept, the “grownups” talked about favorite books, movies, holidays, and just generally got to know one another better. Katherine’s birth mom told us more about how she came to make an adoption plan. She approached it with such maturity and selflessness. She looked into all of her options and found that adoption was the best choice for her and for her baby-to-be. Seriously, people with ten and twenty years more life experience than this young woman don’t possess the same amount of self-awareness and goal-setting abilities for themselves as she does. Katherine is so lucky to have the birth mom and adoption story that she does, and we’re so looking forward to telling her about the conversations we all had that evening.
The following day, Katherine’s birth mom signed all the necessary paperwork to move her from a “mom” to a “birth mom” and Katherine came into the care of the adoption agency. Later that day, Cory and I went to the adoption agency office and signed our own paperwork to have her placed with us. In the coming months the Florida courts will formally terminate the rights of Katherine’s birth parents, and then finalize our adoption. Until then, we operate pretty much as any other parents do. We had to stay an extra couple of weeks in Florida while FL and NC okayed Katherine’s placement with us, then were free to come home near the end of July.
We’re so grateful for open adoption because it alleviates much of the fear that parents in closed adoptions may feel during this legal waiting period. We’re in ongoing contact with Katherine’s birth mom and can continually assure her–through photos and answering questions about the baby–that she made a great choice. We also get to hear how she is doing (currently excited that she can once again fit into her “skinny jeans” and looking forward to starting back at a new school!). We’re so honored that she chose us for Katherine, and thrilled that our relationship with her gets to continue into the future.
So that’s the short version, folks! We’re back home, our family and friends have been so excited to welcome Katherine with open arms, and even the cats seem happy to have her. (Until she gets to the tail-pulling phase, at least.)