Adoption Retrospective: Witnessing Another Mother Give Birth to Our Daughter

It has been ten years since we began our adoption journey.  In honor of the passing of time, I am publishing one post each month in 2013 that reflects on our lives in 2003

September 2003: Part One

There is a festive atmosphere in M’s room as the night unfolds.  Her cousins and aunts show up, bearing baby gifts for Andrew and me, balloons and stuffed animals, clothes and books.  We are overwhelmed by their kindness, by their acceptance of our presence.  M’s sister brings us four little baby outfits, each cuter than the last.  Someone orders pizza, and we all share slices of pepperoni.  It is – to my surprise -- fun.

M’s labor progresses slowly.  She says she needs a cigarette, so Andrew and I accompany her as she wheels her IV pole down the hall and out the front door of the hospital.  M is not the only young woman in labor who is out front for a cigarette break.  Watching her smoke during pregnancy no longer has the power to shock me as it once did.  Life is different for each of us; there is no room for judgment here, only acceptance and empathy.

Many of the pregnant girls we have met during our journey drink caffeine and smoke cigarettes.  They do not have the luxury of signing up for prenatal yoga when they are twelve weeks pregnant.  They do not measure the amount of mercury in their fish.  They do not register for twenty million unnecessary baby accessories at Target.  They just get through their days, often tending to other small children, mostly faithful that their babies will be okay.

Andrew and I help M roll her pole along.  We are on her territory now.

Thoughout the night, M slowly labors.  The morning dawns, sunny and clear.  M’s labor increases; her face clenched in pain.  She is no longer chatting with us; she is focused on the rise and fall of her contractions.  The nurse gives her some Demerol and it makes her instantly sick. Dr. Rob comes in.  It is time for M to push.

During the hours of M’s labor, I wonder about the little person who will soon be in the world.  I am prepared for a typical newborn, red, wizened, with puffy slits for eyes and matted dark hair.  I am ready to kiss the blotchy skin, the puckered little face.

And then she is here.

She slips from M’s body, blue and not breathing.  She isn’t crying.  My God. This can’t happen it cannot cannot cannot.  The delivery room is a bit chaotic; people are swarming around; I am begging, “What are her apgars, what are her apgars?”  Dr. Rob rushes K to an incubator calling over his shoulder to us, “I have to work on her.  She is reacting to the Demerol.”

He gives K a shot of Narcan and rubs her vigorously, a deep sternum massage.  All of this seems surreal.  Alongside the baby, I am not breathing.  If feels like an eternity, and then there is a wail.  Weak with relief, legs shaking, I remember, too, to breathe.  K pinks up, cries a bit, opens her eyes.  I have never seen a newborn so lovely.

K is not at all the squashed newborn I pictured.  She is, in a word, exquisite.  Her beauty is astonishing.  The nurses are enchanted by her.  K’s complexion is flawless, clear, all creamy milk and roses.  Her eyes are impossibly dark, a blue so deep as to appear black, and her little red mouth is the shape of a heart, a perfect rosebud.   Her hair is the softest bit of silk against my cheek.  My heart is full.  She is alive.  I am holding her, my tears dripping onto her fuzzy head, as she lays against my chest, her tiny body now pink except for her hands and feet, which remained blue for several more hours.

I cannot wait for my mom to see her.  Several minutes after K has pinked up and started breathing, I call my mom.  “Mommy, mommy it’s a girl I have a daughter!!!!” I scream into the phone, crying.  To this day, I cannot recall ever in my life calling my mom Mommy. I do not know what made me say that, some deep primal instinct; it was the strangest thing.

I know that K will be going to foster care upon her discharge from the hospital as we go through the process of trying to adopt her.  But for now, we are together.  I can’t even think about saying goodbye when I have just barely said hello.  So we nuzzle and snuggle and live in a bubble of joy.  I bring her, clean and wrapped, into M’s room, so that M can hold her.  I take a picture of the two of them, knowing how much it will mean to K to see herself cradled in M’s arms.  M is exhausted.  She carefully places K in Andrew’s arms, and she closes her eyes.  I sit on the edge of the bed, holding M's hand, watching her sleep.  The mother of the baby that I will mother.

Yes, yours, my love, is the right human face.

I in my mind had waited for this long,

Seeing the false and searching for the true,

            Then found you,

As a traveler finds a place

Of welcome suddenly amid the wrong

Valleys and rocks and twisting roads. 

But you, What shall I call you? 

A fountain in a waste,

A well of water in a country dry,

Or anything that’s honest and good, an eye

             That makes the whole world bright. 

                                    -Edwin Muir, The Confirmation

Here are the previous entries in the retrospective:

Jan 2003; Feb 2003; March 2003; April 2003; May 2003 June 2003 July 2003

August 2003

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