November 30, 2015
I approached the ringing phone, knowing it could be Isaiah’s birthmom saying to come down to her hospital room to see him or —
— or it could be someone else calling on her behalf to say that she had realized over the course of the night that she couldn’t give him up. We were on the precipice of something. Like the sun rising on the horizon, answering this call would soon reveal the landscape before us.
I picked up the receiver and did my best to utter a calm, “Hello?”
It was her!
I breathed a sigh of relief and replied with a cheery, “good morning.” The peace I had felt the day before returned. This was the it! The day we brought our son home. If her night alone with him had not reversed her decision, I felt fairly confident that she was planning to follow through on her plan. Not that I could blame her one bit for changing her mind after seeing his sweet face and kissing his soft hair and holding his tiny hand. I had mentally prepared myself for that possibility; but I knew the reality of it would have been crushing.
We hurried to pack up our belongings and headed to her room to see them both. I fed him a bottle and we stared at each other, deep emotions mulling in both our hearts, I think.
Soon, a nurse and doctor came in to take his birthmom’s vitals and give her some meds. I had mostly tried to tune them out when they would come in. She said she didn’t mind, but I still didn’t want to be nosy. I was quite distracted by the lump of baby in my arms anyway.
It took me a second to realize that this time, they wanted to talk to us too.
It was about Isaiah. He was showing signs of a condition that — though not critical — would require him to stay in the hospital nursery for at least two more days…
…And up to a month. Or more even.
We were stunned at first. But the doctor assured us the important thing was that he would be okay, and they would do everything they could to get him home soon.
The optimist in me bounced back into planning-mode. It would be tricky, but we could figure this out. Tyler’s dad was coming later that afternoon with our daughter, Elise. He could bring more clothes for me, so that I could stay an additional two nights. Tyler could take Elise back home and go back to work until Wednesday, when I could bring Isaiah home too.
After making a few phone calls, everything was in order. Now it was time to focus on the present. And our time with his birthmom was dwindling, as her noon discharge-time quickly approached.
I asked her if I could take a few pictures of him with her, and she obliged. Our conversation started back up, and I tried to take a mental picture of these last moments together. As if by habit, she tugged his little yellow knit hat down over his ears over and over, talking to me all the while.
After a pause in conversation, the mood got more serious… more emotional. “I get why birthmoms change their mind,” she told me. “I thought it would be easier to just not have a relationship with him, but now I know I couldn’t have done that. I’m so glad you guys wanted to stay in touch.”
I couldn’t hold back the tears. She had no idea how much her words meant to me. Somehow over these past 24 hours, we had bonded as what I call, “sister-moms.” She knew the sincerity with which we offered a relationship, and now we knew the sincerity with which she offered her son to us. Though her role in his life would not be traditional, her meaning to all of us would be even more significant than she knew.
When her ride called, the next few minutes became a blur of activity over which I had no control. I wanted to slow time down, to cherish these final moments and make them memorable and meaningful. Instead, I watched her kiss his nose, then touch it to hers, kiss it, and touch it to hers, before being instructed by the nurses to place him in the crib. With one final kiss she laid him down. She grabbed her bag of belongings, gave us both a quick hug, and then quickly vacated the safe den where we had all four become a family.
No sooner did she leave the room than Isaiah’s cries began. It was like he knew that a part of him was being severed. Tears ran down my face, but I was given no time to grieve over the trauma I’d just witnessed… the trauma I felt I’d been a part of. Instead, we were instructed to grab our stuff and follow the nurse to the “Special Care Nursery” where they were wheeling Isaiah in his crib.
I had pictured this moment so differently. I imagined holding him and comforting him and whispering assurance of his mother’s love for him. Of all of our love for him. My feet followed the nurse, but my heart strained against the current trying to sweep me down-river as though I hadn’t just witnessed another heart battered by rock-ribbed rapids.