I barely slept the night before the baby we were trying to adopt was scheduled for surgery. This poor little girl, only two days old, was going to get her Duodenal Atresia fixed, meaning doctors were going to attach the part of the stomach that was separated from her intestines. Without the surgery, she would die, but it was still very difficult to imagine such a fragile, tiny little thing undergoing major surgery.
The surgery would also let us know whether the baby had any other underlying medical conditions. Furthermore, the recovery time for such a surgery would take several weeks. The baby would have to stay at the NICU the whole time, until she could process food by herself. These were all things we knew before agreeing to the adoption, but now, face-to-face with reality, I was a nervous wreck.
The morning of the surgery, we headed out to the hospital right after breakfast. I wanted to make sure I’d have some time to visit and hold the baby, as the NICU nurses had told me we would be unable to hold her for a significant amount of time after the surgery. When I arrived at the NICU, the nurse at the front desk started and blinked at seeing me at the door. I thought this was rather strange, but proceeded with the check-in process anyway. As I was headed towards the baby’s crib, the nurse said that there was a hospital social worker that was coming to talk to me in a few minutes. I was a little confused by this, but as the baby had been born on a Saturday, I knew there had been no social workers available during the weekend, so I thought maybe this was just a routine meet-and-greet.
The baby did not look good. When I approached her crib, I noticed she had bandages covering her eyes and she had been placed under what looked like a big heat lamp. Was she jaundiced? I wondered. What was going on? I looked around for a nurse, but there seemed to be none around, so I just stood by the baby’s crib and stroked her little arm for a while. Her breathing was very shallow. Something just seemed wrong, and I wondered whether she would still undergo the surgery that day. I decided to head back to the front desk and find someone to answer my questions.
When I arrived, the hospital social worker was just walking through the door. She greeted me and asked if there was anyone from my agency present at the moment. I explained that there was a social worker with the birth mother right at that moment, but that we hadn’t yet gone down to the maternity ward to visit. What she said next took the breath right out of my chest.
Apparently, sometime during the past night, “A” had called the social worker and informed her that she was thinking about parenting the child herself. Then she changed her mind again and said she would be placing after all. Then she again said she thought she wanted to parent. By the time we arrived at the hospital, she was still undecided, but had said that we could visit the baby if we wanted. Because she might decide to parent, however, the hospital could not give us any medical information on the child. They would not tell us what was wrong with her and what the reason for the heat-lamp thing was. They wouldn’t even tell us if she was for sure going into surgery that day or not.
In a daze, I walked out of the NICU and called Bill, who was walking along the hospital hallway with Dylan. Hearing Bill’s voice took the last bit of strength I had left in me, and I started crying so hard I couldn’t formulate any words. Bill hurried down the hall to where I stood and held me tightly until I could calm down enough to utter the words every adoptive parent dreads: She might be changing her mind…
(Continues next week…)