In response to a writing prompt provided by “Production Not Reproduction,” a blog started by a mother who calls herself a “caretaker of open adoption bloggers,” http://www.productionnotreproduction.com/2011/07/open-adoption-roundtable-27.html, I share this piece of my own story from my book, Everything In Its Own Time. Our first meeting with our first child…
Michelle’s doctor decided to induce labor on July 7, 1994. Michelle went into the hospital early, but her dilation proceeded slowly. As I recall, she was calm and reassuring to me. Although I was the older one, I relied on Michelle’s experience with childbirth to guide me through this exciting but emotionally volatile time. As evening approached, Michelle decided to stand in a warm shower. This seemed to relax her body enough that her labor began to intensify. With her aunt on one side and Kaitlyn [the birth father’s sister] on the other, Michelle pushed baby Emily into the world at 5:45 p.m. as I watched in wonder.
“It’s okay, Rebecca. You can cry,” declared Michelle, turning the attention of everyone else in the room toward me. Michelle’s words brought me out of a dreamlike state and released the tears trapped in the corners of my eyes. I ran down the hall to get John to meet his new eight pound, three ounce, healthy baby girl. The pictures taken of us at the time, holding baby Emily, reveal our complete happiness and amazement.
Michelle and her baby spent two days in the hospital and received many visitors. She and the nurses taught us how to feed, burp, change, and bathe the baby. Michelle told us that at 2 a.m., on the second night, she asked the nurse to bring the baby to her. She spent several hours talking to Destinie [Emily’s original name] about why she made her plan for adoption.
The most bittersweet moment came when Michelle and Destinie checked out of the hospital, and Michelle helped John put the baby in the car seat. As she turned away after saying goodbye, her tears began to fall. I wanted to run to her, but knew I couldn’t. At this moment, we had different roles to play. She needed to return to her family, and John and I needed to begin parenting this beautiful gift of a child. We would meet again soon, but this was a moment none of us would ever forget.
We were in Nebraska for a few more days, living at our motel, while the requirements of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (“ICPC”) were complied with. The Nebraska attorney drove to Columbus and brought documents for Michelle and Dan [Michelle’s husband] to sign that would relinquish their parental rights to the baby. We all met at our motel room. Michelle signed; but Dan refused to do so – claiming he was not the baby’s father. He worried that if the adoption fell through, he would become responsible for the child. Michelle was clearly upset. She begged him to sign. Though he was not the biological father of the baby, the law deemed him to be the legal father because he was married to Michelle when she conceived. It was a tense few moments. But, in the end, Dan signed the documents. The interests of the actual father, Jason, would be terminated involuntarily over the next months. The ICPC office in Nebraska had to review the Surrender(s) of Parental Rights, our home study, the baby’s medical papers, and other documents prepared by the attorney before giving its approval and sending the package to the California ICPC office. Once California gave its approval, we could return home.
We had borrowed a bassinet, electric cooler, and microwave oven for the motel room. We jumped at every sound the baby made. We checked her breathing every few minutes. But, mostly, we stared and marveled at the mystery and magnificence of her, our daughter.
Before we left Nebraska, Michelle’s daughters each had the opportunity to hold the baby. I captured those moments on film. The pictures hung over Emily’s crib and were given in a photo album to Michelle. On the day we left town, Michelle gave us a letter that read, in part:
“I know deep down inside this is all for the best, but still it is very hard for all of us. I could not have chosen a better couple to love and care for Destinie. You will be great parents I see that a whole lot and so do the rest of my family. I love you two wonderful people for loving my little girl. Well, our little girl. I have no fear of your not keeping our openness open…”