Breakfast with my family. We sent this pic to R to tell her we were celebrating her.
That night I couldn't sleep. This time because I was so excited and nervous. The next morning I was up super early before anyone else (first time that's ever happened). My brother suggested we go to breakfast as a family to celebrate. While at breakfast, I talked to R's caseworker several times working out details of how the next 24 hours would go. R wanted to do placement that night, only 24 hours after baby's birth. We were uncomfortable with that plan because the caseworker was traveling home from a business trip that afternoon, so placement would be late and rushed. Plus I thought R should take her time making her decision and holding her baby. R wanted us to come to the hospital to see her baby that day, so we made plans to quickly get a Christmas tree, then drop our kids off at my parent's house so we could spend some time at the hospital.
We still hadn't done a single thing to get ready for the baby to come home, which for a planner like me, was weighing really, really heavy. But because everything was still up in the air that week prior, we couldn't possibly put things like birthday parties and getting a Christmas tree on hold.
Putting the tree ahead of the baby that day was a bad idea, however. We got to to the tree lot and it was cold and pouring down rain. The saw G brought wasn't strong enough to cut the tree down. Eventually he borrowed a hack saw and after a lot of frustration, finally got it cut down and roped to the top of the car. The clock was ticking. We were supposed to be at the hospital in two hours and we still needed to do the following: drive home and set up the tree, get dressed and be presentable, drop our kids off at my parents' house, drive one hour to the hospital. On our way home R texted me that the hospital staff reserved us a room at the hospital so we could stay the night with the baby. I was terribly uncomfortable taking her precious time with him. Plus there wasn't enough minutes in the day to prepare for an overnight stay, which would include packing everything we would need for placement (gifts for birthmom, camera, etc) and everything we would need for baby (carseat, clothes, blankets, formula, bottles, diapers, etc), plus our overnight stuff, plus overnight clothes for our other two kids. Earlier that day we had discovered our bottles -- an entire large tub full -- were missing. The clothes were unwashed. And our carseat was still in the box it arrived in. We had no diapers. We had nothing ready.
Within the next hour there was a lot of yelling and crying and absolute mayhem and panic. We were going to arrive late to meet the baby we had prayed for for years! The chaos seemed so inconsistent with how things should be. And on top of everything else, the tree we just spent an hour cutting down was way too big for our tree stand. We tried and tried to get it to work, each minute ticking by as we wrestled with it. We considered putting it in the yard debris recycling bin and giving up on the tree that Christmas season. Sometimes you have to know when to hold them and when to fold them. The tree was not worth losing our baby or marriage over... It all sounds so dramatic, and trust me, it was. Finally we decided to put it in a bucket and lean it against the wall in our living room. We figured it could stay like that for a few days until we got everything else in our lives situated. But in the meantime it fell over multiple times and lost most of it's needles all over our carpet. We are still enjoying, a year later, looking at the sap stains on the wall from where it rested that weekend.
The blasted tree. The carnage actually was much, much worse than it looks.
Eventually we were in the car and headed for grandma's house. On route we decided we wouldn't stay the night. It seemed like a selfish decision from every angle. Plus logistics played a role in that decision.
We don't have a lot of feelings or memories from that first visit. We were nervous as we arrived. And we thought he was so beautiful when we saw him. He was fat (9 lbs, 1 oz) and looked like a 6-week old baby. He had a full head of dark hair with a slight red tint. His skin was perfect and his head was round like a much older baby. He had enormous hands and feet and the most pronounced elf ears. He was our first full-term baby, which made a big difference in his size and how developed he looked.
Each of our experiences meeting our baby's for the first time are all very different. God gave me what I needed for each individual situation. I just needed to cope in that moment. I didn't have any amazing spiritual experiences. I didn't feel bonded in that instant. I felt "fine." I felt like everything was as it should be and he was ours, but otherwise, I was keeping a safe emotional distance.
G holding his boy for the first time.
I felt regret that week that when he gets older and we tell him his story, we won't be telling a story of excitement and bliss leading up to his birth. But as I've thought about it, we were clueless about R's pregnancy, and once we learned of him, we were busy and scared. We were worried and terrified of not getting him more than anything.
I thought I wanted any baby, but as soon as I got to know him, I realized I wanted him. So while this baby didn't get a nursery and his parents weren't full of joy and anticipation on the day of his birth, he will grow up knowing we wanted him so badly it physically hurt. And he will grow up knowing he healed that pain. It wasn't the anticipation of his arrival that was exciting. But it was the reality of what he brought to our family that was exciting.
Rudy's birthfather didn't go to the hospital as feared and his birthmom was still very resolved and unemotional about everything. This was both a relief and a serious worry. She was very generous and was willing to let us hold him as much as we wanted. She was still open to us staying the night with him. She said he was our baby. All the details were coming together as we hoped, but it was unusual that she was so detached from the situation. All birthmoms are different, but we hoped she was OK and was giving herself permission to feel the joys of having a baby, and the deepest lows a person can experience. She was very stoic during that first visit.
She had amazing friends from church there in the hospital with her. We were so impressed by their love and friendship. They all had children at home and here it was a week before Christmas, but they were there with her around the clock. The staff at the hospital was warm and supportive of her and us. It was a little awkward feeling like we were intruding on such sacred space, but the staff seemed to go with the flow, which was so nice.
We loved watching R nurture her baby. She was so soft with him. Rudy was her second baby, so nursing and changing diapers came naturally to her. She was very at ease caring for him.
We didn't spend a lot of time there that afternoon. Nobody really had much to say. And we wanted to give her as much time as possible to be his mommy.
Does he look like a baby that is less than 24-hours old? His hair was amazing and still is. I could tell already he would be a sweetheart.
We spent the drive back texting with our caseworker and hers, working out details for placement the next day. We planned to arrive at the hospital around 10:00. There was a lot to do in the meantime. The caseworkers needed to prepare the mountains of paperwork to be signed by her and us. And in order to do that, they needed his name. They had been asking us for a few days, as had R. We had been casually considering names and had a short list, but nothing felt right. Mostly because I just couldn't bring myself to choose a name for a hypothetical baby. Now that we had seen him and held him and now that we were 14 hours away from placement, it was time to make a commitment.
The weight of that decision seemed overwhelming. The task was impossible. We decided to discuss it over dinner. As we walked into the restaurant, we saw two of my good friends from highschool, and conveniently, they were also fellow adoptive parents. It was another huge comfort to have their support, understanding, and listening ear.
We talked and talked and talked about possible names. R had chosen his middle name a few hours before he was born. It was a unique Hawaiian name meaning "a cool breeze blowing over a mountain." She loved it because she wanted him to be a strong person who gave people peace during their difficult times. It was also a fitting name, considering he was born on a day of tragedy and was such a source of peace for her and for our family.
We considered Edward as a first name, a family name on both sides. We both loved it and that was R's top choice for him. (That name would have suited him perfectly, now that we know him. Darn!) But it just didn't feel right. We had a few other options and they didn't seem right either. G liked one name in particular, but although I liked it, it didn't have any significance to me. It was just a random nice name. I needed to feel a connection, enough to trump the family name we were considering. We agonized over this. Our phones were blowing up with friends and family and caseworkers begging for more details... and a name.
I thought hard about why I cared about his name. I had cared so deeply for Sambo's name that I traded naming rights for lasik eye surgery. I got to pick his name, G got surgery to fix his eyes. Seemed like a fair trade and I am still so happy with that negotiation six years later. Anyway, as I soul-searched while eating chips and salsa, I realized I didn't care what Rudy's name was. I just wanted HIM. For years I hadn't cared which baby I got. I was even willing to do foster care and share parenting someone else's baby, as long as I got to have a baby. I sat there in the restaurant and realized I didn't need a powerful connection right away with him when I first saw him. I knew I'd love him no matter who he was or what his name was. It's an interesting thing. When so much is at stake, a baby or not a baby, names just don't matter. So I let G choose.
I did, however, want to make sure the name he chose was associated with good strong men. Interestingly enough, the two people we could think of right then with that name were amazingly strong men that we admired from church. One of the men had lost an infant daughter to a heart defect only three months prior. We had watched him and his wife handle the experience and their grief with so much faith and grace. It seemed like a honor to give a son a name that reminded us of somebody so strong and courageous. The decision was made. The name was formal for a baby, so G texted our friend and asked him what nicknames he had a kid. He replied right away with some good ones, including Roo-Roo. As soon as I heard the name Roo-Roo, my heart was full. I knew that Roo-Roo was my baby. Quickly, we thought of the nickname Rudy and then Rooster. And all three names have stuck. Now a year later, I don't even think Rudy knows what his real name is.
We left the restaurant, returned to my parent's house to tuck our kids into bed there. We then made an 11:00pm stop at Target to buy a bouncy seat (I sleep train from day one and needed one for that purpose), some diapers, formula, and a bottle since we weren't sure where our stash was. We came home and while G spent an hour (literally) vacuuming up needles that had fallen all over the carpet, I started washing baby clothes. We eventually found the bottles, thank goodness, hidden in a strange spot in a garage cupboard. G put together the carseat and we straightened the house. We organized our gifts for R, charged our camera, chose some outfits for him to come home in -- all hand-me-downs from his brothers. But we had some darling Christmas outfit options at least! Eventually we went to bed at dawn. The stress of the week was over. We were exhausted but energized yet also very serene. We had chosen a name. Our bottles were washed. We had clothes and all the necessities. We were beyond ready and it was happening.