Soon, Aiden was born and as we stayed in communication with our social worker, Tina felt sure that she wanted to go ahead with the adoption. So while she spent her precious 48 hours with her son, we began to make the preparations that we couldn't bring ourselves to do before. We went shopping and we made phone calls and we cleaned house. I will say again, that I was really quite certain that Tina would change her mind during these 48 hours. New Life did a good job of preparing us for that conclusion. Here, God was so very gracious to give us the ability in those 48 hours to prepare physically, but to hold our emotions steady. He gave us that grace and it did not go unnoticed.
Tuesday afternoon, Tina was very kind to let us come see Aiden at the hospital, a courtesy she was not required to extend. Gladly, we accepted, and Casey and I met our son. It was one of the strangest hours of my whole life: I'm looking at my son...although he's not really my son yet...in someone else's hospital room...someone else who endured many painful hours of labor...he's still hers...I want to respect that...but I want to see him as my son, too...I want to bond with him in these precious first hours...I want him to know MY voice...I don't know what to think or feel...this is weird.
And it was so weird. I vividly remember saying that over and over in the car after we left. It was wonderful to hold him and change his little diaper and hear about how he was eating, but it was so very weird. She seemed so happy to see us, and genuinely glad that we were there with her. She assured us one last time that she was not wavering in her decision, despite how much she loved Aiden. With only 24 hours left, we went home and started opening things. We washed onesies and put in the car seat and set up his bed and the rocker in our room. It was really happening. "IT'S REALLY HAPPENING!" I would think to myself. After 4 long, hard years of waiting I was actually going to have a new baby in my home. Finally! Our lives were about to be changed forever.
Wednesday. Adoption day. We heard from our social worker that Tina was having a much harder day, which goes without saying, but she was ready to sign her papers. She wanted what was best for Aiden and she felt that that was with us. Wednesday night, at around 9pm, we met our social worker in the lobby and we held her SIGNED relinquishment papers in our hands. With tears and knotted stomachs we signed our own set of papers and we made the dreadful walk to her hospital room. It was dreadful. This is no happy moment. Tina and her mom were there in tears. She was holding her son, dressed in clothes she had picked out for him. Nothing about this moment feels right. How she didn't order us out of that room that very second, I will never know. She held him until she was ready. She told him again and again how much she loved him and then she gave him to me. How do you muster up the courage to do it?! How do you will your arms to let go? I held him and her together. Everyone was crying and quiet and it was just horrible. There's no other way to describe it. Thankfully, our social worker took over at that point, and lovingly assured Tina that we would be back in touch with her in 6 months, and in the meantime she would receive pictures and updates via email. We said our last goodbyes, I guess...however you do that?...and Casey, Aiden and I were ushered out with the nurse to go over new born baby things. The urge to give Aiden to Casey and run into the bathroom and sob was so unbearably strong. All I wanted was to be alone, but there was no time...the nurse just took us to this little room like we were any other parents and like robots with this stranger baby we followed her.
We walked into the room that was much brighter than the hospital room and the hallway. And I looked at Aiden and I thought to myself, "This is your son now, Stephanie. You've got to pull yourself together and be his mother." And somehow, I did. I wiped away my tears and I held him and listen to instructions and I looked at him...and then it was like I couldn't look away.
A question every adoptive parent struggles with is, "Will I be able to bond with my baby?" If the family has biological children, the question gets a little more complicated with, "Will I be able to bond with my baby like I did with my biological babies?" I suppose the process is different for every parent, but I'll close with my experience, little as it may be. The first night we had Aiden I spent holding him, of course. But I realized I was holding him like I would hold a close friend's baby. Closer and more affectionate than a stranger's baby, but not as freely as I held Braelyn when she was born. I remember so clearly when Braelyn was born that I would put my face to hers and touch our noses together and there wasn't a spot on her face or hands or tummy that I was afraid to kiss. I just did it without thinking. And it hit me that I didn't naturally feel that freedom with Aiden. But I was his mom. And if I was going to bond with this baby I had better dive in and love him without hesitancy or reservation. So I intentionally kissed his little cheek and touched our noses together and showed him the affection that says, "You are mine." And it was over for me. I loved that little boy. I wasn't worried about the bonding anymore. I knew that God's spirit in me was going to make me capable of loving this baby that wasn't my own, AS MY OWN...because that is what HE does with us...His adopted...He makes us His own...come what may.
So our family of 3 was finally 4, with another baby on the way. For the first time in a very long time, I felt a smile start to grow in my soul. Caution and warning still lingered, for sure. But happiness was daring to creep out. It was a sweet time. And I will thank the Lord for it as long as I live.
(Photo by Lori McConnaugie)