I have started and deleted this post so many times I have lost count. Nothing seemed right. Nothing seemed to do it justice. One time it would be too detailed and too much information for the reader and other times it was so vague that it didn’t feel right either. So I will start this post again and see if I can find some middle ground.
When we were chosen by the birth mother at the end of May 2016. We were told she was due in September, but that she always went early so to be ready by August 1. We made our lists of things to do before we were to bring the baby home. We bought furniture and had it delivered to the house while we were at Montreat. We started to talk about paint colors for the nursery, and we started to discuss what we would need immediately vs what would be on our wish list for later. We had a plan pretty much for each week until August 1st.
We were chosen (officially) on June 1, 2016. We went to Montreat as planned and while we were there we got a call on June 14th that our birth mother was in the hospital and they were trying to decide if they were going to do strict bed rest of go on and induce and take the baby because both mom and baby were in danger. We were told to be on stand by. June 15th we got a call stating they were going to induce as mom was now 28 weeks and they couldn’t wait any longer. They were planning on starting the process at 5:00 pm. We decided Andy would stay at camp with the kids since he wasn’t going to be in the delivery room anyways. I made my way to the hospital and we waited. 5:00 came and went and nothing was started. It was around 9:00 that night that they actually got things started with the induction.
This is where I end up being way too detailed or not detailed enough. I remember every second (mostly) and detail about the time I spent in room 10 of the labor and delivery floor. It was an experience like no other and that words don’t completely capture the essence or the magnitude of the moments we spent together. Exactly 2 weeks after we were chosen, two weeks and a day after we met this amazing woman we were tossed into a whirlwind experience. We hadn’t had our next scheduled meeting because we thought there was time. We hadn’t had time to completely process the extent of our relationship and how connected we were because we knew the other existed for only 2 weeks. We thought there was time to get the furniture assembled in the nursery. We thought there was time to meet the birth father. We thought there was time, but what we didn’t have was time. It was here and now and all of my plans and lists were null and void.
I write about the timeline of events that happened in June 2016 and am thrust right back into the calm before the storm and then the absolute chaos. And while all of those elements are so important to Andy and I, they may not be as important to anyone else, and that is ok. Maybe in the moment those details would have been important to other people beyond Andy and myself, but this far out from that date, I just don’t know. It is hard sorting out what others might feel is important and what I think it is important for other people to hear. I can describe in detail the induction process and when things stalled or progressed. I can describe to you how truly amazing it was to listen to the heart beat on the monitor. How in the quiet of the night it would slam into me with so much emotion I would escape to the bathroom to gather myself. How the chairs were arranged in that room and each person had their spot, but when they rotated, where we all went and how often we moved around. How we took shifts to make phone calls, get drinks, ice chips, and eventually something to eat. How birth mom would wake up during the night and ask if her “baby mama” was still there. Those details are there and etched in my brain.
What is important regardless of how much time passes is the beauty that encompassed room 10 and OR room 1. Two families connected through adoption. The birth family and the adopted family supporting each other, barely knowing each other. We laughed together, we got choked up together, we sat in silence together.
The awkwardness I thought would be palpable wasn’t there. The conversation flowed between procedures and contractions. The smiles and tears were genuine. The concern was real. She apologized to me so many times for having to be induced and the magnitude of the situation didn’t elude me. She was saying sorry to me and yet she was about to give me my hopes and dreams for so many years. It didn’t seem quite right. I thanked her over and over. We held hands like old friends.
Around 2:15 in the morning of June 16th I found myself sitting alone in the cafeteria eating the first food I had in hours and reflecting on life. A terrible piece of pizza and a luke warm cranberry juice was all that was available at that time of morning. I sat in the booth staring off into space, tired from being awake and exhausted from trying to be supportive and remaining hopeful and calm. We were not delusional to think this delivery at 28 weeks would be without complications. I knew what we were up against. Andy did too. But we held onto the hope that things would be ok. The heart rate was perfect and I held onto that thought. For the first time in years I imagined our life as a family with a child. I grabbed onto that hope that it was really happening to us. I reached into the back of my mind where I stashed all of those thoughts and feelings and allowed them to resurface again.
Birth mom and most everyone else in the room fell asleep around 3. Myself and another lady stayed awake until about 4:20. We were awaken at 4:40 by total chaos. Birth mom was rushed to the OR to deliver there (as a precaution). I was told to wait by a door to see the baby as it went by the door on the way to the NICU. The friend that was in the OR with the birth mom was texting the pregnancy counselor and the pregnancy counselor was sending me the information and I was sending the information to Andy. It was a long line of cell phone communication. My favorite was when I got the text that she was here. Our little girl. She was 2 pounds 10 ounces. I got to see a video of them taking her to the incubator. They stopped by the door and I could see her. The NICU doctor was with her. I hadn’t been able to speak with her earlier so she stepped through the door and answered some of my questions. She said the good news was that they didn’t have to intubate right away that she was breathing on her own (she warned me that could change at any moment). She wanted to go to the NICU with her and told me I would be able to come see her and find out more information after their first assessment. I went back to room 10 and watched the sun rise.
The day our daughter was born I saw the beauty in the creation of not just her life, but in the world around me. In my tired state I marveled over the colors dancing in the sky. It didn’t matter that it was coming up over construction and dirty machinery. It was the most beautiful sunrise I ever saw.
I waited for what seemed like hours and was finally able to go to the NICU and be with our girl. I was educated on how to scrub in and went through the dragonfly covered door to her little incubator. I will admit in full honesty that I was glad Andy wasn’t there for my first meeting with her. Biological mothers get to have that bonding time for 9 months (or so) while the baby is growing in them. I hadn’t had that and was so happy that we could have a few minutes to bond alone. I know that is selfish, but hey at least I willingly admit that. The nurse was amazing. She walked me through everything about the NICU. I knew what to expect in the coming hours and what to hope for with the first 72 hours (what we were told would be the biggest challenge). We were guarded but so far everything was ok. She had a PDA (hole in the heart) and they were starting to treat that. She would have cranial US to check on bleeding on the brain. I was able to open the little door on the incubator and she grasped my finger and in that instant, my heart. I talked to her and sat in silence staring at her. Taking in her tiny little fingers and toes. Watching her chest rise and fall. Listening to the beeps and looking at the machines she was hooked up to.
With stories from the NICU. I have a hard time knowing what to share. Things happened quickly some days and other days not so quickly. The omission of the massive amounts of details of what went on in the dragonfly wing of the NICU isn’t due to be uncaring or flippant about all that happened. But rather I still can’t grasp what to say about it. I almost feel callous in not writing more. Most days were similar to the days before. I would get to the hospital and go see the birth mom (she remained hospitalized after birth due to complications), then I would go to the NICU and scrub in. I found a chair and would roll over to the incubator. I would normally be met by the nurse and updated on progress or set backs. I would then climb in my chair and talk to our sweet girl. I would hold her hand. Stroke the side of her face. Tickle her tiny little toes. It was just amazing and the images still come so vividly to me.
After the first doses of medications she still had a PDA and they were going to try another dose of medicine before they considered surgery. Her oxygen was still good. She had some help from ventilator, but wasn’t intubated. She passed her cranial US with no bleeding. She was a rock star. She did have some episodes of Brady’s (forget to breathe), but I was assured that was normal with NICU patients.
One day I was at the incubator and the birth mom came in and we stood on each side of her and semi held her up for a family photo. It was a moment I will never forget. We marveled over how tiny she was and how dark her hair was. There was a silence among us and looks of understanding, appreciation, and love between us. A relationship that was so new and yet very deep.
Andy coming to meet her before he went on his next trip made me almost weep. He couldn’t believe how tiny she was. I told him, but he said seeing it for himself was surreal.
She passed the 72 hour mark with very little complications (except the PDA). All of her cranial US came back normal and her blood work was great. She was doing wonderful on the ventilator, but still wasn’t intubated and was breathing on her own too.
Day four is where things changed. I got to the hospital and the nurse said she seemed a bit off the night before and now. They were waiting on lab reports to come back, but thought she had an infection. She was fussy and not comfortable. The nurse showed me how to tuck her arms and legs into my palm and hold her securely in the incubator. That seemed to help calm her. Otherwise she would flail her arms and legs and cry (he tiny cry sounded like a kitten). I sat with her for hours holding her arms and legs in the palm of my hand so she would be comfortable. You could see the distress on her face and in her actions. You could see it in her vitals and on the monitors. It broke my heart. There was nothing I could do to really help. Touch seemed to help and I just wish that I could have held her. I was informed that if she continued to have problems they would intubate to help relieve some of the stress on her body. I asked them to call and let me know if they did that.
Results came back and she did have an infection and they started antibiotics. They did intubate.
Wednesday morning I got a call asking me to come to the hospital because the doctors wanted to meet with us. They informed us that she had a massive brain bleed likely caused by the severe infection. We were all devastated. Andy drove over from camp to talk with me and the doctor and to visit with our sick little girl. Things changed so quickly it was hard to breathe.
Friday morning 8 days after her birth I got a call that the birth mom changed her mind and wanted to back out of the adoption plan. I feel like there were so many factors in that decision and we will never know the extent of why she changed her mind, but she did. That was her choice to make and we respect that decision. Her decision kept us from having to make the decision to continue with the adoption verses backing out with such a poor prognosis. A decision that neither of us wanted to make. After the call I climbed in bed and grabbed onto Otis and cried. For 8 days I had a little girl that I loved so much. For 8 days I was a mother, not legally or biologically, but I loved that sweet baby with everything I had. She was mine and I was hers. It was an experience that showed me without a shadow of a doubt that shared DNA didn’t mean love.
It is important, I think, to note that we had a name picked out for our child. Ever since we did infertility treatments we had a name. The birth mother had chosen a different name and we planned on changing that at finalization to the name we fell in love with. While I was alone I called the baby the name we intended to change it to. But while others were around I respected the birth mother and called her Addy. Since the birth mother changed her mind we have taken to remembering our time with her as Addy. That is who she will always be to us. Addy our little twitter-bird.
We were notified on Monday by our adoption agency that hours after the birth mother changed her mind. Just 8 days into her life, Addy passed away.