We returned home from Las Vegas to await the birth of our second baby and we were more resolved than ever to create a wonderful relationship with Sambo's birth mother. I had learned so much about Buddy from his birth mom -- how he got his charisma, his spirituality, his loyalty, and his energy -- he didn't get those from me. Those wonderful gifts were received in the womb and in the 5 days he spent in her arms. I wanted to know the same things about Sambo. But I knew the road would be long and hard. It was November 2007.
We had been working with Sambo's birth mom since July of that year, when she had first prayed to know if we were the right parents for her son. The circumstances surrounding his birth were very difficult. Some of which are too difficult to share on a public blog. His birth mom was very ill with her pregnancy for one thing. So ill that some of the best doctor's in this area advised her that she should strongly consider terminating the pregnancy. She has juvenile diabetes and her insulin levels were so out of control she had high risk of organ failure herself and serious birth defects for the baby. She spent a few weeks in the hospital early in her pregnancy and returned many, many more times before she finally delivered. It was a miracle that her home was a two-minute drive from the hospital, which allowed her to spend much of her time at home on bedrest rather than being confined to the hospital the entire pregnancy.
We didn't know her health history (and that was only the tip of the iceberg) when we started communicating with her. We did know she and her mom had tough questions for us. And we answered them honestly. We knew she desperately wanted a couple that would embrace an open adoption, so we tried mightily to convince her we were serious. She originally wanted a couple without children, but her caseworker expressed how loved her son would be by an older brother. Little did any of us know at the time how true that argument would be. I already had a name picked out for my next-born son and we shared that with her, as well as the very spiritual and emotional naming of Buddy. Buddy's birth mother had also named him before she chose adoption and it was a name with so much power and meaning, we decided to use that as his middle name. We told Sambo's birth mom we would love to do the same thing with her baby.
Over the next few weeks we emailed at least once -- but often several times a day. At our first meeting in person, we realized how hard this adoption would be. She was committed to placing her baby, but she required a lot more emotional support than Buddy's birth mom had. She shared her medical history and told us of her doctors' concerns. But she also told us that she knew that her baby deserved life and she believed that he would be born perfectly healthy.
A few weeks later, at 24 weeks, I went with her to a doctor's appointment. She had appointments often and an ultrasound at each appointment. I was almost too nervous to go because she hadn't officially told us she was placing her baby with us. I couldn't bare the thought of seeing him on ultrasound if he wasn't meant for me. I knew she hadn't been feeling well, so I was also nervous about bad news regarding the baby's health.
The weeks surrounding all of this were an extremely difficult time for our family. We received counsel from our bishop who came to our home often, advice from caseworkers, and support from family and friends. And it all helped.
At the appointment, the doctor determined she was in labor, which explained the way she had been feeling. She was having contractions every three minutes. They monitored her for a few hours while I was with her, then they admitted her to labor and delivery. Throughout the day we had a lot of time to talk, and she convinced me that she wasn't afraid. She knew, and the doctors admitted that her baby was completely fine. I trusted her -- and looking back, I was more calm that I should have been. She invited G and Buddy to the hospital that night and she told us officially that she had chosen us.
Those words are priceless to an infertile couple.
She was put on medication to stop the contractions and was sent home several days later. We were all hoping she'd make it to 30 weeks. Around that time contractions came again but after a few days in the hospital, she never progressed so they sent her home to endure until the baby came. By 35 weeks there was still no baby but she had developed pre-eclampsia, so she was admitted back to the hospital where they ran tests several times a day to determine the best time to deliver. I remember that night at 35 weeks. It was my friend's birthday and we went to a movie to pass the time. I thought for sure he'd be born that night.
The next day she was doing better than expected, so they tried to prolong her delivery as long as possible. Her contractions were frequent and hard, but the days ticked on without a baby. At 36 weeks they finally decided to induce her. Sambo's lungs were strong and her health was getting worse, but her body wasn't progressing. They started the drip Monday night at midnight. Tuesday nothing happened. She was in agony because her contractions were hard -- but still no baby. Three epidurals later, they finally took him by c-section with general anesthesia. Apparently whatever kept him in the womb at 24 weeks also kept him at 36 because her body was unable to deliver him.
He was born on Wednesday morning. December 5, 2007. He was perfectly healthy. He had no problems breathing, no jaundice, and his sugar levels were totally normal, which is remarkable considering how out-of-whack her sugar levels and oxygen levels were.
We realized her body took the entire toll to spare his.
She was too sick for us to visit that first day he was born, which was frustrating and devastating. Thursday afternoon, we finally got a call from her mom saying we could come to visit.
G and I were afraid and bitter that day, but when we entered the hospital room and saw him laying on the bed, I knew instantly that he was worth all our hard work. But most importantly, he was certainly worth all of his birth mother's efforts to bring him safely into the world.
I've never seen anything change G's attitude and demeanor more quickly than that sweet baby. We went from panic-stricken and angry to calm and madly in love.
He was darling and absolutely precious. Almost every day now people still remark about how precious he is.
The next few days were awful. She was released from the hospital and took him home to be with her for a few days. Apparently she never wavered in her commitment to place him for adoption during that time, but we had no way of knowing that for sure. All we knew was our baby was bonding with his birth mom. Six long days.
But placement did happen. And the days, weeks and months after that were very hard on her. Our idealistic plan for a loving open arrangement with each other blew up in all of our faces. Nothing was as we had hoped (and by we I mean her, her mom, G and I.)
But last week she had a birthday and the day of her birthday, Sambo turned 15 months. Buddy, Sambo and I took her out to dinner to celebrate (G was out of town, unfortunately). We've seen her frequently in those 15 months, but this time things were different. First of all, Sambo has grown so much since the last time she had seen him. He's walking/borderline running, getting into things, curious, and can now pack away as much food as his older brother, which is quite an impressive achievement for a child that barely weights 20 pounds.
But more has changed with her and I, I would have to say. Time and gratitude do an amazing job of healing hurt and resentment. As I sat across the table from her and saw the woman with the same face and expressions and gentleness as my beloved baby, I was overcome with gratitude. I've always been grateful, but to see them together and to see the way he looked at her... it's a priceless experience that is hard to articulate.
There was something missing before Sambo came to our family. He is a gift and he brings G, Buddy and I more joy than I even could have imagined. And I know that if I hadn't been committed to a positive and respectful relationship with his birth mother, I would have been missing something greater in my life.
It was worth the hard work. And it'll only get better.
Buddy was 17 months the first time we saw his birth mom after placement. Sambo was 15 months the first time we saw his birth mom since we put aside our pain and focused on her sacrifice.
For more inspiring adoption stories, click on the button to the right and hear several birth mothers share their stories in their own words.