She asked us to come to her room right away. When we walked in, the room was filled with peace and love. Her friends from church were still there. Everyone was calm and quiet. We talked casually for a little while, then her caseworker arrived. We talked for a long time more. Maybe even a couple hours. Mostly we watched R holding him, rubbing his tummy, nursing him, and doing all the things a new mother does with her brand new baby.
Eventually we left so she could take pictures. We left our nice camera with her, which turned out to be really cool because we got all the pictures she took. After she took pictures, she read through all her paperwork, then relinquished her parental rights. Her caseworker later told us that she was very thorough and read through every word, making she she understood everything. The language in those legal documents is harsh and final. Meanwhile, we sat and waited about an hour in the lactation room there in the hospital. We were so excited and so nervous.
After awhile, another caseworker came to get us. We stood waiting outside the door for a little while while R said goodbye to her baby. We made small talk because we hadn't met that particular caseworker before, then shared with her the miracles of us getting to this point. She shared some of her trials in life. Even though we had done placement two other times, nothing prepares you for that experience. And actually, since we had done it twice before, I think we stood there with extra trepidation. We knew exactly what was happening behind that closed door, just ten feet from where we stood. And we knew what was about to take place as soon as they opened the door to say they were ready. It is a humbling experience to watch a mother muster that much courage. It is excruciating to watch a mother suffer so much grief and fear. We felt so much guilt, so much fear, so much excitement, so much awe, and so much peace all at once as we stood there.
Just then we saw Santa and several firefighters from the local fire department come out of the hospital room next door. It wasn't our place to suggest they skip R's room, but on the other hand, she was kissing her baby goodbye at that precise moment and certainly the last thing she wanted to do was get interrupted to take pictures with Jolly St. Nick. And see us standing there waiting for her. But as luck would have it, her caseworker opened the door right then and said she was ready. The firefighters said they were coming around to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and to take baby's first picture with Santa. Surprisingly, R welcomed them readily into her room. She said she wanted us in the picture, so G and I gathered around her hospital bed. I was shaking like crazy and was so overwhelmed. The irony of the good cheer those firemen brought was overwhelming and I couldn't contain my tears any longer when Santa said, "What a wonderful gift you've received this Christmas!" Immediately R sprung from her bed and came and gave me and G a tight hug. I could physically feel her strength and confidence. I knew she was broken-hearted, but she trusted us. I knew that she was doing this for her baby, and she could handle it.
Santa Claus was obviously very confused at the sudden tears from everyone in the room and made his way out in a hurry. Later her caseworker told me that she had gone out in the hall to explain to them that the baby's mother was moments away from placing her baby into our arms. I wonder if those firemen went back to the station and talked about the service they performed that day. I wonder if those firemen went home and told their families about the love they saw that day. I hope so and I hope they continue visiting new babies at the hospital. That memory means a lot to our family.
The next part is almost a blur. It's surreal. It's so difficult to watch someone grieve like that. All her friends and the caseworkers left and we gave her gifts. She said her goodbyes and rocked him and wept.
After a little while she told the caseworkers and friends we were ready She wrapped him in a blanket and handed him to me.
It was time for us to leave the room, leaving her alone. I was shaking so badly I couldn't push him in the bassinet out of the room. It seemed cruel to be the one to walk away from her with her baby.
We were taken back to the lactation room so we could sign our papers. We were so nervous and overwhelmed we could hardly even look at him. G held him. I was still a little to shaken up. The caseworkers read through all the paperwork, we signed everything. We took a picture there in that tiny room, then out in the hall in front of the Christmas tree. By then I had taken enough deep breaths that I had relaxed quite a bit. Then the nurse watched us change his diaper and put him in his carseat. A different nurse escorted us out to the car and watched us put him in.
Our first photo right after our papers were signed. Still a little shaky and overwhelmed.
Our second photo in front of the Christmas tree on the maternity floor.
We drove home. When we got home we facetimed with G's parents and re-learned how to mix formula. Our boys and parents and brother arrived an hour or so after we did. We were so excited to have our older boys come home to meet him. They had suffered so much too, waiting and hoping and nearly giving up hope they'd ever get their baby. Shortly after they arrived with my parents, my brother and his family came, bringing chili, and then a friend visited that night. It was all so unbelievable. Just two short weeks before, I had fasted to know what to do because we didn't have it in us to hope for a miracle that might not happen.
We spent the next week in pure bliss, still very tender though. My favorite thing in the whole world is to snuggle a newborn baby on the couch for hours and days and weeks on end. I loved every minute with him. And he was perfect. He was snugly and warm and peaceful.
We loved him so much. Wow, it was love from my dreams, honestly. I just can't articulate how much love I felt for him and how much my love for my other two boys grew, watching how much they adored him too.
Some of the details and emotion of this story probably seem exaggerated. But it feels good to have it completely written out, even after two years have passed. Especially because it is a reminder that God is good and loves all of his children. Despite five long posts detailing how it all unfolded, there are still sacred details to this story that make it even more remarkable. I hope I never forget. I hope I never forget that fear and hopeless feeling. I hope I never forget how nuzzling his cheeks (that still smell like sugar) fills me with joy equal to the despair we all once felt. And I also hope I never forget that it doesn't take much to get ready for a baby. We didn't have strong feelings on his name and it worked out. We started washing bottles and clothes 12 hours before we brought him home and it all worked out. His room is still not decorated -- 2 years later. And it doesn't matter. All that mattered was love. That's so cliche, but it's true.
We are so thankful God didn't rush, but brought him to us on the right day. He was born one day after G's "deadline." Had he been born any sooner and his birth father would likely have intervened and not allowed placement. Had he been born any later and our family wouldn't have been available.
Neal A. Maxwell said, "The cavity which suffering carves into our souls will one day also be the receptacle of joy."
Next I'll have to write about what a delight he has been these past two years. Andrew=Best Baby Ever.