SO much has happened!
It's only been 1 week and I feel like I should have written all of this down somewhere (like...in a blog, for instance). I just kept thinking, "perspective will make me sound much less irritated and crazy" so I decided to wait for things to calm down. Rather than calming down, things went ahead and ramped themselves up to "1,000% bat-sh!t crazy" and I've been freaking out, crying, laughing, shaking my head and trying not to scream for the last 6 days.
It started on Thursday. We found out at noon that we were, in fact, having dinner with our attorney, his wife (Peggy), Kelly, and Sophie. At 6:00. In Topeka. So Ryan and I figured out a way to leave one car at his work and drive my car to Topeka (which is the reason it would have been nice to know that morning when we could have carpooled and left one car at home, but whatever...that's the least of our grievances). We figured it out. We left work early. We carpooled. We drove to Topeka. We took turns asking each other questions like, "what are you MOST nervous about" and "what do you think she looks like?"
Eventually, we were in Topeka where everyone looked unhappy and in need of a Jillian Michaels intervention. We went directly to the law office and sat down for an official meeting with Peggy and Allan. The law office was tiny and cluttered - not at all what I expected. It was also located behind a gas station and a taco place, so the parking lot was a dangerous combination of hungry patrons and gas-guzzling trucks (awww, Topeka!). We went over our contract, our questions, and our concerns. It took about 20 minutes. I told Allan I had gifts for Kelly and Sophie and he thought that was great. "The most common feedback we get from birthmoms is that the adopting couple doesn't seem to care enough about them...just the baby." Little does he know...I've got cards and gifts already lined up for the next 3 months!
So Peggy rode with us and Allan went to the apartment to pick up Kelly and Sophie. We waited at the restaurant like two freaks on a first date. I adjusted my posture and straightened my silverware every time someone walked past the table - smiling like a fool. We finally admitted we were SO nervous, to which Peggy responded, "don't be"!! Ummm...okay.
Finally, we saw Allan outside, holding a tiny little hand - followed by a (clearly) pregnant woman. "OH MY GOD! THEY'RE HERE!" whispered my freak-out brain to my freak-out heart, which responded by pounding even faster. I heard a "hello" from the hostess stand, followed by the voice I remembered from our phonecall. And the minute Kelly turned the corner, I thought, "am I supposed to hug her? shake her hand? smile politely? oh my god...why didn't I practice this?" but she didn't make any moves to hug or shake, so I just smiled. Then I saw darling little Sophie and about fell out of my chair. She was SUCH a doll!! Cute little dress, pretty brown hair, lovely dark eyes, sweet little smile.
Allan and Ryan helped Sophie in to her high-chair (Kelly admitted she could no longer lift her) and I could not stop smiling at her. I wanted to make polite conversation with the rest of the table, but it was more fun to draw happy faces and letters of the alphabet with Sophie.
Once we ordered dinner, I asked if I could give Sophie her gift. Kelly seemed shocked and a little embarrassed. "You didn't have to get her a gift. We should be giving you guys something! Oh my gosh! I could have baked you guys some cookies or something! Geez. This is too much." And once Sophie started opening her gift, I pulled out my camera and started snapping pictures. I wanted to remember this moment forever. Then I handed Kelly her gift and she was clearly touched. I told her she didn't have to open it now, but it was just a fun little "pamper yourself" gift - just for her. She repeated how embarrassed she was that they didn't have anything for us. I thought to myself...she's giving us the gift of a family. The gift of a dream come true. The gift of a sweet little life. I'm giving her some tummy lotion and some foot scrub. Hardly a fair trade.
Dinner went great. Conversation was easy. Kelly was clearly nervous (and flustered) but our attorney reminded us that we didn't need an agenda or a list of topics, this was just to get to know each other. At one point, Kelly asked if we wanted to see a picture of "the father" which sort of threw us off...like none of us wanted to mention the huge elephant in the room in front of Sophie (who still has no idea why she's in Topeka or who any of these strange people are. She just thinks they're on a "big adventure" and she can't wait to see what happens next.) It was obvious by the photo that Sophie takes after her dad. And since our baby shares the same biological parents as Sophie, we looked at the photo with some scrutiny and relief. (sorry, but it's true.) Sophie was a gorgeous baby.
As dinner ended, Allan explained that he wanted us to take Kelly back to her apartment. And if we wanted to go for ice cream, there were a couple of places along the way. We looked at each other and the huge cup of GRAVY we ordered for our fries and we all agreed we were too full for ice cream. But maybe another time. We walked out to the car and that's when everything started getting weird.
We asked Kelly how she felt so far and she started describing how stressed she's been for the last 3 days - that she broke down when she saw her apartment - how she doesn't feel totally comfortable around Allan and Peggy. They picked her up at the airport with a broken child's seat..."just look at this thing...it's like half a seat. If I'd known, I would have just brought my own. And do you know, they didn't even buckle her in? We were halfway down the highway and I realized they didn't buckle her seatbelt or anything. Y'all, I don't mean to complain but I've been crying for 3 days. Just wait until you see this apartment they've got me in. And that building...the whole building just needs to be condemned. It's a pit. I don't have clean towels, clean sheets, nice pillows. The pillows are all flat and stained and the blankets have cigarette burns in em. It's disgusting. My eyes are all puffy - look at my eyes! I've been a wreck. The first night, Sophie scratched herself on the only chair in the apartment - some rusty nail sticking out of it, I thought we were gonna have to go to the emergency room!" and the whole time I listened, my heart just sank. Here I thought everything was going so great and she was in a nice place, sleeping in a great furnished apartment with cable and phone and central air conditioning. And Allan and Peggy were doing such an amazing job, getting her situated and treating her with the same respect and admiration we have for her. We couldn't believe what we were hearing.
We got to the apartment and decided to see it for ourselves. She pointed out the broken-down car in the parking lot, the dirty couch sitting out by the dumpster, and the broken glass all over the ground. "This is no place for children, y'all." And I have to say, I totally agreed. We walked up to the entrance where Kelly explained "they lock the doors at night so I don't know if we can get in". (Ummm...) So we walked around to the other side and pulled on the handle. It opened. "Oh...I guess it's unlocked." We got in the elevator which smelled like smoke and Sophie hit the button to the 3rd floor.
The hallway was depressing. The room was depressing. The gross queen (or maybe full sized) bed in the corner was depressing. The carpet was horrifying - stained and dirty. The kitchen was tiny but I didn't inspect it very thoroughly. Kelly told us that she hasn't been able to get anybody to bring her a full-sized towel. And she's been sleeping with a t-shirt over her pillow because she's so grossed out by it. Then she said, "I am not scared of this process. I really like you guys and I am not worried about where this baby is going, but I just want a clean pillow to sleep on."
And you deserve a clean pillow, Kelly.
Everyone deserves a clean pillow!
Ryan and I left that apartment and immediately called Allan. He was in bed. So we talked to Peggy. We told her how gross and horrible it was and how disappointed we were in this living situation. "We want to bring her some clean sheets and pillows and towels from our house. We have so much. We don't want her to be sad or depressed for the next 3 months." And Peggy said, "we prefer you not." We asked if there was any way to move her out of that room and in to a nicer one, and Peggy said, "yes. On Saturday. She's moving in to Stacy's old room...the birthmom who went in to labor on Monday night." Alright...well...at least that's something. She only has to wait 2 more days. Peggy assured us that the other room is bigger and cleaner and they're going to take her shopping tomorrow for towels and sheets. Also, they don't usually rent this room out because it's so bad. Peggy admitted "we know it's bad, but she's been sleeping on her friend's couch for the last 2 weeks so this has to be a step up." (well...I think that's unfair to assume. There are some really nice couches out there. Have you BEEN to Nebraska Furniture Mart? Peggy?)
Ryan and I talked for a while, but the more I said it all out loud, the angrier I got. I felt horrible. I felt responsible. And now I felt helpless. This woman brought her 3 year-old daughter to live in this dump for 3 months and we couldn't bring her a clean pillow? I didn't understand. She's giving us her baby. I can't give her a towel? Worse than that, she has to use money out of her trust (money we put in there) to buy the things we have in abundance. It didn't make any sense. Why were we paying for her to stay in a crack den with a rusty chair? How was this the only apartment in Topeka?
We called both of our moms (I think we called Bev first) and we told them all about the dinner and how great it went - then we quickly moved on to the topic of the apartment and how horrible it was - and about how we thought we'd found a solution but Peggy told us not to get involved. Bev suggested we call Mary in the morning (our agent in California) and see if she could offer a solution. My mom offered to bring her carpet steamer over and clean the carpets herself. Bev said she would do all of the worrying for us, we should just calm down and get some rest. My mom said she had tons of sheets and towels and blankets that she could donate to the apartment complex - maybe Kelly would never know it was from us? Bev said, "Nothing is permanent. Nothing is broken. Nothing is un-fixable." My mom said, "She can come live in our basement!" And that right there is why we love, love, LOVE our families. A brilliant mixture of compassion, wisdom, comfort and love.
45 minutes later, we were home and I immediately grabbed my phone and my laptop. I started google searching apartments in Topeka and I called my brilliant friend Lindsay for some real estate advice. She has connections to management companies in Lawrence and Topeka so I explained our situation. "We have to get her out of there. She doesn't deserve to live in that place. I don't care where she was sleeping before. She's still a human being and she's carrying our child. I don't want her stressed or freaked out or breathing in second-hand smoke for 3 months!" Lindsay agreed and promised to tap every resource she could. "A lot of my realtors get up early, so I'll draft an email tonight and get back to you first thing in the morning." Perfect. Awesome. Thank you.
While we brushed our teeth and got ready for bed, I begged Ryan to call Allan first thing in the morning and tell him we didn't care if we were being manipulated (as he'd previously warned). We didn't care if we were out some sheets and blankets and towels. We didn't care if we had to go over there ourselves and clean that apartment. We weren't just going to sit around and do nothing. It wasn't right.
Ryan's silence told me that he either disagreed with me or he was so stressed that he was no longer forming words. Turns out, it was the second thing. Rather than BOTH of us freaking out at the same time, he tends to wait until I'm "good" so he can thoroughly lose it. He was being quiet, cautious and rational, which meant he probably had a stomach ulcer. He wanted to talk to Allan, but he also thought we should wait to see what this other apartment looked like. Then I asked if I could call Allan tomorrow, because "I know exactly what I want to say to him."
"Sure...I mean...I see both sides. Allan told us not to let her manipulate us and that's exactly what's happening. We're going to him on her behalf and that's exactly what he warned us about. He's been doing this for 20 years. I feel like we need to trust him. He came highly recommended and he's been great so far." And I agreed. He's been great. And we didn't know what the other apartment looked like. Maybe it's fine. But we also didn't know anything about Kelly. She left out quite a few important details on her fact sheet (like she's placed a child for adoption before) and for all we knew, she was expecting an all-expense paid vacation for 3 months in a luxury apartment. She never directly asked us for anything (which is what the agency said to watch out for) but everything she said totally worked on me! She mentioned how Sophie had to walk around in socks and shoes on that carpet or her feet would get all black. She talked about the ripped towels in her bathroom that didn't even fit around her daughter. I was ready to respond to her every need!
So Ryan and I fell asleep weighing facts, feelings and serious questions of morality. What could we do? Who could we trust? And what ever happened to Topeka to make it SUCK so bad?
At this point, I have to call it a night. So much more to share, I will pick it up tomorrow. Meanwhile, ask yourself the same questions...what would you do?