Thursday, September 23, 2010

Letter to Luke

To my darling boy,

It's like you knew. With all of the swirling craziness going on around you, you decided to just be awesome and remain calm. Four pounds. Six weeks early. The odds were stacked against you, but you decided to thrive. It's like you knew we needed some part of this journey to go right - and you could hardly wait to show us, "It was totally worth it". Just by being you - the precious, darling boy who sleeps for 5 hours straight and eats like a champ - you let peace and snuggles and kisses float in to this house like rays of sunshine. We have waited such a long time to hear your little squeaks and hold your little hand. Every expert in the world would tell me to lay you down when you fall asleep, but I just can't. I could hold you in my arms forever. It helps that you only weigh 6 pounds right now, but still - watching you yawn and smirk and dream just makes my heart happy. I've never held a baby so precious in all my life and I spend every minute of my day trying to capture the stillness and perfection of your darling, sleeping face.

I love that you already snore like a little old man. I love that your feet are 3 inches long. I love that you already know my voice. I love that your eyes flutter when I wash your hair. I love that you are instantly happy when we give you a bottle. I love the crazy, voracious way you eat. I love that your burps stink but your diapers don't. I love that you have an entire closet full of clothes that don't fit you yet. I love that your entire forehead wrinkles when you raise your eyebrows. I love that you attract attention everywhere you go. I love that you are gaining weight every single day. I love it when people comment about how tiny (and lucky) you are. I love that you didn't cry during your first doctor's visit, your first airplane ride, or your first Catholic wedding, but you cried at the sound of Carrie Underwood's voice on the radio. I love that you make squeaky chipmunk sounds when your mouth finds your pacifier. I love that your entire body shakes when you hiccup. I love your tiny little baby sneezes. I love telling people your adoption story. I love it even more when people already know your story and they know how much strength and courage and love it took to get you here.

You are a miracle, Luke.

And we've only just begun to show you how much we love you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

IT'S OFFICIAL!!!!

While our birthmother gave us quite a scare yesterday, in the end - she did NOT revoke consent. (hooray!) She sent us a text message at 6:08pm (our time) to say:

"this is [kelly]...no need to reply. i just wanted to thank yall for everything and im sorry about all the unpleasant things..i wish yall all the best."

Unpleasant things?  I wish you the best?

Are you kidding me?

Ryan said, "I feel like we were just mugged in the alley. Someone held a knife to our throats, took all of our money, then apologized for the 'unpleasant' situation and told us to have a nice day."

We didn't reply. There was nothing to say. It was impossible to form thoughts. Besides, anything that came out of my mouth (or itchy texting fingers) would have been ugly, unnecessary, and thoroughly regretable.

It doesn't mean I haven't thought about it all day or texted things and then deleted them without sending, but it's over and done. No need to reply.

LUKE IS OURS!!!!!!  

And that's all that matters.

Monday, September 20, 2010

a special place in hell

Well...it's actually happening. Kelly wants more money. She knows this is day 10 and she is using Luke as leverage. Mary called us to say she'd received no less than 100 texts this weekend from Kelly, threatening to revoke consent if she doesn't get some help. She told Mary, "If I can't have Sophie, then I might as well have [Luke]." Unbelievable.

Actually...I CAN believe it. At this point, I think it's what we all secretly expected, we just didn't want to believe she would really go through with it. We didn't want to believe there were people like this in the world. Our sweet, innocent boy could be ripped away from us out of spite. Kelly doesn't want him. She just wants money. And if she can't be happy, then she doesn't want us to be happy. She knows exactly what she's doing. She's not dumb. She's figured out how to survive on this earth for 37 years without a job, a home, a car, a family or a dime to feed herself, so we're not dealing with an amateur. We're just not willing to call her bluff when it comes to our son.

It's not like she's going to get custody of Luke - that's not the problem. Sophie has already been taken away and she's taking medication for depression (and going to therapy). No court in their right mind would grant her custody of a pre-mature newborn. But what they can say is that it was unethical of us not to financially support Kelly's efforts to go to therapy and get her life back together. Of course we want her to get treatment and we want her life to improve (especially if she's just going to keep getting pregnant and putting other couples through what we've been through). What is hard to stomach is the fact that (according to Kelly), we didn't show her enough compassion. We didn't treat her with enough respect. In short, we didn't send her a big bag of money after Luke was born and say, "thanks for the kid. Here's everything you'll need for the next 5 years. It's been a pleasure working with you." Incredibly illegal, but what does she care? She's an extortionist.

We have until midnight tonight for this nightmare to end. Kelly can send a letter in the mail to Ronnie, post-marked today, and that would be it. Luke would go to foster care and we'd have to fly back to Georgia and fight for him. Ronnie was going to work from home today but decided to be in the office all day in case it came back that she was "unavailable to her client". While I totally support birthmother rights and I don't want to seem callous, it is completely insane to me that we are all bending to the whims of a crazy person. She has all of the power and she knows it. And I'm sorry, but I just don't know if I have enough forgiveness in my heart for her. I can take pity on her and I can pray for her, but it's going to take a long time to forgive her for using innocent children as bargaining chips.

Besides, there's a NICE way to ask for money and then there's a shitty way to do it. She picked the only way that could make everyone simultaneously outraged. When it's all said and done, I don't know how Kelly can feel good about the way she handled herself. We're going to pretend we did the right thing because we have a conscience. We can't say the same for her.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

one more day

We have until midnight tomorrow for our birthmother to revoke consent. Not that we think she will...it's just on our minds. The last few weeks with Kelly have been rough. First, she threatened to leave town (on the night she was supposed to sign the papers to surrender her parental rights...the same papers she was supposed to sign after giving birth, but she couldn't because she was on too much pain medication). Then we got a call from Tony (from Kelly's phone) that Kelly was back in the hospital with high blood pressure (225/124)...no doubt the result of Tony's rational behavior and prudence. The next day, our attorney called to say, "I am meeting BOTH of them at the hospital at 3:30 to sign the papers." Ryan and I were in the process of filling out Luke's discharge papers when we got this text message (and please ignore the fact that I'm totally breaking my rule and exposing her real name):

A part of me still wants to hang this photo in Luke's room. It made both of us cry, which made the nurse cry.

It was official!  The papers were signed!!  And our 10-day wait (the Georgia revocation law) could begin. We were thrilled. We snapped this photo (and yes...that's a tear-filled kleenex in my hand):

As we sat in the NICU gathering up Luke's stuff, we caught a glimpse of Tony and Kelly walking out of the hospital. She was wearing a pair of pajama pants, the t-shirt Tony was wearing two days ago, and a pair of hospital slipper-socks. They did not appear to be getting along:

I took my phone in to the next room where our favorite nurse (Janice) was caring for a set of premie twins. I showed her the text message from Kelly. She hugged me and congratulated us on our beautiful baby boy. I thanked her for everything she'd done for Luke. As I walked back in to Luke's room I noticed it was pouring down rain. (as a side note: It rained on our wedding day. It rained on our honeymoon. It rained on the day we moved in to our first house. Rain was sort of our thing.) It hadn't rained in Georgia for 3 weeks, but it rained on the day we became parents!!!!  It rained for about 5 minutes. Just long enough for us to get the message "this was meant to be" from the heavens above.


We thanked the staff and got Luke all bundled up and ready to go. He looked ridiculously tiny in his car seat:


I'm not sure we've experienced a moment quite so fulfilling as taking our son out of the NICU with signed relinquishment papers from his birthparents:





We brought Luke back to Aunt Sarah's condo (my sister-in-law) and planned to stay there indefinitely. We were told that the ICPC process could take 5-7 days and we had to stay in town with Luke until we were cleared.

Over the next 48 hours, we hosted Ryan's brother, Chad:

Ryan's parents, Bev and Wayne:

And we began enduring hateful, strange, bi-polar text messages from Kelly:

If I would have known i would be sitting in a hotelwithout a dime to feed my child...i never would have done this...what hapened to after care? mary knows i have nothing...i thought provisions were gonna be made after for me and [sophie]. i cant believe.im having to plead for help 9:36pm 9/10/10


i have lost alot because of this...including probably my [sophie]...This week in the hospital was awful...i just thought everyone really cared about mine and [sophie]s well being...i shouldnt even have to ask for help now..i thought it was an automatic thing..i really feel used and discarded  9:39pm  9/10/10

I texted her immediately, "what happened? Is everything okay?"  I never heard back.

Saturday afternoon, we got the following text messages:

Is there any way someone can bring me something to feed [sophie] with...i hate to ask but mary said their accountant left early on friday and i have absolutely nothing to feed [sophie] with and we are in a hotel all alone and i have nothing to feed her...i also cant get my blood pressure medicine...i hate to ask but its what it is 11:01am  9/11/10

I responded:
Wait...what happened to the $50 we gave [Amanda] for [Sophie], the $50 we gave [Tony] for gas, the $90 in gift cards, the $100 Kroger cards, and the $100 worth of stuff we bought you at Rite-Aid?11:05am 9/11/10

U know...i never saw a dime of that money..i got 2 15 dollar kroger cards...the mistake was giving that stuff to [tony]...now me and [sophie] have nothing...i was in hospital and had no control of anything...i would think mary would have told u that [tony] claimed that for himself...  12:26pm  9/11/10


I wish yall would have given the cards to me because he spent them on his gas and things he needed...now [sophie] and i are going without even eating...do u think i would make this up?its degrading to even have to ask...you all knew how [tony] was...i just wish yall would have dealt with me 12:29pm  9/11/10


We decided to call Mary. We explained about all of the hateful, guilt-laden text messages. Mary said, "I talked to her for 3 hours yesterday!! I asked her if she needed anything for the weekend and she said she was all set!!!  She was all excited about a job interview on Sunday and she said everything was going great!" Mary sounded incredibly frustrated. From the very beginning, Kelly has always had a direct number to contact Mary whenever she needed her. And Mary assured us that she has always replied to Kelly every single time. Mary was supposed to be the one in control of the trust account for Kelly so there was no reason for Kelly to be contacting us about money. Especially when we'd just handed over about $400 worth of stuff on Monday. Mary could prove to us that she was on the phone with Kelly for 3 hours the day before - and that she made a special point of asking if she needed anything for the weekend. We told Mary we weren't sure how to respond to Kelly at this point. We didn't want to make her angry or argue with her, but this whole, "I don't have a dime to feed my child" stuff was getting old. We gave her money!  How was it our fault that Tony stole it?  We couldn't keep doing this with her.

Mary told us that Sophie was (for sure) being taken away by the state. She was going to live with Amanda on Monday, so Kelly was probably in a panic. She has to prove that she is "exercising proper parental care" before she can get her daughter back. Mary said she was sorry she wasn't in the office (it was a Saturday) but she would send money from the trust account first thing Monday morning. Meanwhile, I was still getting hateful text messages:

All [sophie] and i have been through and i cant even feed her...what a shame...this was poorly organized..sorry but this is what has happened  12:31pm  9/11/10


U know..im sorry [tony] took advantage of yall...i tried to warn everybody...hes all about himself...i dont know if yall even know this but i didnt even get all of my pain meds. the day yall bought my scripts..i have been taken advantage of by him and it breaks my heart to no end..especially for [sophie]...i cant believe he would do this to me either but at least im used to it 12:52pm 9/11/10

I decided to call Kelly. Enough was enough. It went right to voicemail (because she's too chicken to say this stuff directly to me...she has to send it in a text message). I told her that the hospital told us not to contact her, so we thought we were doing the right thing by going through Tony. We were sorry she didn't get any of the money we gave her. This is the first time we've ever done this and we were just doing what we thought was right.  Then I asked her to call me so we could figure out a way to get her something to eat. Maybe have something delivered.

sorry i missed your call...can u call me in this room? the number is [###] and im in room 161...this cell phone isnt working right 1:31pm 9/11/10


We called the room but it said it's not in service. Ryan is talking to the hotel manager now.


Sorry...but im done begging for a little help..its degrading and i shouldnt be having to do it..This whole process was unprofessional...there should have been arrangements made for me and [sophie]...but there wasnt...i even have 2 prescriptions i cant get...what i need is a card that i can use...nomore calling yall for each thing i may need...i will not embarrass myself again..i hjave been through too much 1:44pm 9/11/10


Where are you in the city? We can come meet you.


U know i dont even want to see yall again because evbery time i do i feel more and more like a piece of garbage..mentally i cant handle this anymore...i shouldnt have to deal with yall...mary should have taken care of all of this..im taking [sophie] to mcdonalds to play..she needs to get out 1:49pm 9/11/10


Do you know how frustrating it is to keep giving you money when [Tony] just steals it? We are trying to do the right thing, but we have no idea how to make you happy.


Do you know how hard itis to have to ask yall for money to eat and get prescriptions..mary should have settled everything..and do u know how hard it was to be nice to [tony] so he would sign papers to give u a child? I have been used and abiused...just so he wouldnt cause me a problem...now its over almost...hes out of the pic...and now i need help. everyone is pissed...what about my feelings  2:39pm 9/11/10


Im at mcdonalds letting [sophie] play..  2:45pm 9/11/10


Ryan is coming to meet you.


I am at the mcdonalds right near the hotel letting [sophie] play..i couldnt just make her sit there...so yall need to let me know what u want to do 3:03pm 9/11/10





Ryan is on his way.


Tell him im at the mcdonalds right near the hotel  3:05pm 9/11/10


He knows.


Ryan met Kelly at McDonald's and gave her a $50 gift card for groceries and a $20 McDonald's gift card to get her through the weekend. We didn't like it, but we didn't know what else to do. She still had the power to revoke consent and we didn't want to risk it. Minutes after he got home, Ryan got a text message from Kelly.

Thanks...sorry u had to deal with all of this. Thanks for thinking of [sophie] with the mcdonalds gift card. 

We didn't hear anything else from Kelly until Tuesday night - the night we flew home. I was in the back seat of my mom's car (having just been welcomed home by an army of hugs and smiling faces) when I got these text messages from Kelly:


Just to let you all know...i dont appreciate how yall spoke to me the other day..its not my fault yall gave [tony] stuff instead of me..why shoul me and [sophie] suffer for your mistake..i will be calling ronnie fishbine tomorrow because i dont appreciate being left out here alone to begfor help  5:35pm 9/14/10


This adoption was handled very unprofessional and i tried to make it easy but begging people to help pay for my second blood pressure meds and food to eat was degrading and uncalled for..im not as dumb a person as yall think i am...well see what happens  5:40pm  9/14/10

I didn't respond at all. I didn't even know what to say. What a horrible, ungrateful human being. Now she's threatening us?  After all we've been through with her - moving her from place to place - going out of our way to make sure she's comfortable and treated with respect - firing our lawyer in Topeka because she didn't like the way he talked to her and moving her in the middle of the night - meeting her crazy friend and insane boyfriend at Burger King on a random Sunday afternoon after they threatened to "make things difficult" for us - cleaning up the disaster of a room she left us in Kansas City - answering her every text and phonecall with kindness and generosity....now she's going to complain about the way this adoption was handled?  Like she had NOTHING to do with the fact that our plans changed 587 times over the course of 3 months because SHE couldn't stay in one place longer than 3 days?????  This was a wonderful, joyful, amazing day and she completely RUINED it with her spite and ugliness.

I tried my best not to let it bother me, but I just couldn't believe it. We'd done EVERYTHING for this woman. We weren't making her BEG for anything. We simply asked what happened to the money we gave her. It was a fair question. It made me so angry (it STILL makes me angry). I wanted this adoption to be a positive experience for everyone. I wanted Kelly to feel good about her decision. I wanted to feel good about the way we handled ourselves. It just wasn't fair.

We called Ronnie Fishbine (Georgia attorney) and told her to expect a call from Kelly. Ronnie assured us that she wasn't going to accept a revocation over the phone. "She's going to have to get a ride, find my office, walk in here and sign something to revoke consent." She also assured us that she's never dealt with anyone quite like Kelly. "In my 25 years of doing adoptions, I've never met anyone so hot and cold from one minute to the next. I'll be glad when this is done. For my sake and for yours."

The next day we called Mary. We told her about the weekend and the flight home and how Kelly texted us her "threat" to call Ronnie Fishbine. Mary said, "You guys...I've dealt with bi-polar birthmoms, birthmoms on drugs, and I've never...in 25 years...I have NEVER lost empathy for one of my birthmoms - until now.  She texts me one minute that I'm the only person who really cares about her, that she really appreciates all I've done for her - then she tells me that I don't care about her and how could I leave her out here to suffer on her own? I'm like...I don't even know how to respond. It just doesn't make any sense. I feel like she HAS to be taking something. She has to be on drugs. There is just no excuse. You guys...I swear to you...I talked to her for THREE HOURS on Friday. She said she was fine. She contacts me in the middle of the night that she has nothing to eat and how could I leave her in a hotel room without a dime to feed her child...what does she want me to do? The office is CLOSED!  She can't plan ahead. She can't give me a budget. I keep telling her '[Kelly] you need to give me a budget. You need to tell me how much you need.' and she can't do it. She has no idea. But I am not going to send her a check. I'm just not. Unfortunately, we're in a bit of a hostage situation until Monday, so my advice to you is to send in the check for the next 6 weeks of support and we'll just tide her over in small, continuous chunks. Then you're done. You can block her number. You can set up your phone to send back a message to her that she's been blocked. She'll get the message. You guys have done EVERYTHING that's been asked of you - and then some. You do not need to be getting anymore messages from her. You should just be relaxing and enjoying that sweet baby of yours."

Mary also told us that she's endured a lot of really hateful text messages from Kelly lately and she's done with her. After the adoption is final, she said, "I will return her messages, but not right away. I will talk to her, but mostly I want to focus on getting Sophie in to a better home. Amanda's house isn't any better. She's not any further from the sick relationship they've all got going on." Then Mary told us a story about another couple who adopted a baby last year from a couple who tested positive for drugs. They had their 2-year old taken away by the state so the adopting couple asked if they could keep the siblings together. They adopted both the baby and the 2-year old. Ryan and I looked at each other and (almost at the same time) said, if it came down to it, and the state wanted to find a more permanent solution for Sophie, that we would be interested in adopting her. Mary sounded shocked and excited. That's when we told her about the strange "I have a serious question to ask you" text from Kelly and how we'd already thought pretty seriously about it. We admitted, "At this point, we want nothing more to do with Kelly and Tony, but if it means giving Sophie a real chance at life (and getting her away from those sick, crazy people) we are totally willing to do whatever it takes." Mary wasn't sure what would happen next, but she'd keep the note in our file.

(and we're pretty sure she told us that story on purpose.)

We've held our little guy for 2 weeks now. We've fed him. We've changed his diapers. We've given him a name. We've created a room for him. We've introduced him to our friends. He even has a baby book full of stats and stories and photos. But if Kelly decides that she wants to be his mommy, she still can. She can walk in to that lawyer's office tomorrow and sign a piece of paper that says, "I changed my mind".  And there's absolutely nothing we can do about it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

homecoming

My incredibly talented cousin, Shannon (of baby day photography) took all of these photos and created this video for us. SO much easier than telling you how amazing it was to see all of our friends and family waiting there at the gate.

It feels SO good to be home!

Monday, September 13, 2010

party at the airport

We're coming home!  We got the word today that ICPC cleared and we are on a plane tomorrow!!!  There are so many blog entries that I haven't written (and I promise to put them in here eventually) but there's no way I can stay up and get them all done tonight. I've got a suitcase to pack full of tiny little onesies!!!

LUKE IS COMING HOME!!!!!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

kangaroo care = magic

September 6, 2010

The day began at 7am with a call from Tony (from Kelly's phone, of course). I suppose he felt like we'd really "bonded" the day before, so he felt completely comfortable calling me directly to ask for some gift cards and support for Kelly. "Ah wanna do right by her. An ah wanna make shur shees got food an munie fur close. Shees geddin out tuday. Docturs cumin tuh checker blud preshur rill soon." I told him we were happy to help, and as soon as Ryan gets back from the airport, we would go get some gift cards and meet them at the hospital. He called back 3 or 4 times in the next 30 minutes to confirm that we were going buy some gift cards and meet them at the hospital around noon. I wasn't sure what part of my message was confusing, but I tried really hard not to let him hear the frustration in my voice (we'd worked so hard to repair our relationship yesterday, I didn't want my "tone" to send him in to a rage).

After calling and confirming our plans with Ryan, I texted Kelly (knowing that it was probably Tony) that "we still have a trust account set up with Mary to get you through the next 6 weeks - whatever you will need to heal and be comfortable. We'll give her a call in a few hours (still 6am in california) to start paying your rent through the trust. We will also meet you at the hospital by noon to say good-bye and shower you with gifts! :) " 

Tony immediately called back and asked "did you just send that message?" to confirm (again) that we were going to support Kelly when she got out of the hospital and meet them at noon.  Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.  We are going to meet you at the hospital. We are going to bring gift cards. Calm DOWN! 

I texted Ryan (on his way to pick up Shannon at the airport) that I also wanted to give Kelly a bouquet of happy balloons since (Tony told us) she hates flowers. Ryan and Shannon picked up $200 in gift cards, a Get Well balloon for Kelly, and a Dora balloon for Sophie on their way back from the airport. When we got to the hospital, Luke was in the NICU. We weren't alarmed, but they explained that since his birthmom had checked herself out, the baby needed to be under strict supervision (not that she'd even seen him or held him since that first night, but I guess that's the hospital policy). The nurse walked us down the hall to the elevator and then up to the security doors on the 3rd floor. She explained that we were going to need to scrub in before we entered the NICU - and sure enough, there was a giant sink with individually packaged surgical scrub brushes and files to clean under our fingernails. We felt like we were going in to surgery.

The nurses in the NICU were incredibly protective (as well they should be) of the babies. Ryan and I explained that we were Luke's "adoptive parents" and one of the nurses looked at us like she might have to call someone to see if we were allowed to be there. We explained that we'd been visiting him in the mother/baby nursery for the last 3 days and the only reason he was up here was because his mom checked herself out early (and clearly we were the ones who cared since we were the ones visiting him). She pointed to Shannon and asked, "Who's this?" and we all replied at the same time, "This is Shannon/I'm the cousin/She's our photographer" which confused the nurse even further. I was reminded of what Kelly told us about people in the south just not understanding or supporting adoption. Mary thought maybe this wasn't an adoption-friendly hospital.

The nurse told Shannon that she was not allowed to stay very long because she wasn't an immediate family member, then she gave us the run-down of who WAS allowed in the NICU. We followed her back to a private little room in the corner where Luke was sleeping in an isolette. Seeing Luke in the NICU was not alarming because he wasn't hooked up to anything, but I imagined it might be difficult to say "NICU" to our families without freaking them out just a little.

Luke looked great. He was completely out of his blankets, so we could finally appreciate every little inch of him. His skinny arms, his giant feet, his slender fingers...he was pink and absolutely perfect. We all watched him breathe as Nurse Janice explained all of the numbers on his monitor. Then we explained to Janice that Shannon had just flown in from Kansas and she was only in town for 48 hours. We asked if there was any way to trade off - that one of us could go out to the waiting room so Shannon could stay and take pictures. Janice didn't actually seem to mind if Shannon was in there, but she wanted to check with Luke's doctor and the other nurse who was caring for Luke's "roommate" - an 11 lb baby named Ethan who was hooked up to a feeding tube...sleeping under bili lights...receiving medicine through an IV. Ethan currently had 3 visitors in his room, including two grandparents staring at him through the glass door and a little brother named Aiden who was running and jumping in to the curtain that separated us. Surely, tiny little Shannon with her camera was not going to upset the apple-cart.

Janice left the room and Shannon said, "I'm surprised. I really didn't think they'd let me in here. But maybe since Luke's not sick, they'll be a little more lenient?" Just then, Janice returned with a paper towel in her hand. She said, "Okay...I talked to Luke's doctor and she said, if we fill out this official form, we can call Shannon your approved support person while she's in town." We all looked at the paper towel and smiled at Janice. She was awesome. And she continued to be awesome - waving and smiling at us every time we walked through the doors - even if her patient was on the other side of the room. She made it possible for Shannon to be in there with us and she made our time in the NICU really special.

I looked at the clock and noticed it was almost noon. Time to meet Tony downstairs with our balloons and gift cards. I looked at my phone. I had 5 missed calls from Kelly. Ryan looked at his phone. He had 4 messages. They were ALL from Tony (from Kelly's phone). We went out to the lobby where Janice was telling us about Luke's feeding schedule and the blood work they were going to do. I answered a call from Brandon. He and Sarah were at the hospital. Ryan said he would go down there and meet them after he delivered Kelly's balloons and gifts. My phone rang. It was Tony. He and Kelly were waiting downstairs too. Kelly was checked out and ready to go. I said, "Okay...Ryan will be right down". I hung up and Ryan's phone immediately rang. It was Tony. "Okay, man...I'll be right down."  Good lord, dude. We're COMING!!!!

Shannon and I waited upstairs for Ryan to come back. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of silver outside and realized it was Ryan - running with the mylar balloons to greet Tony and Kelly in the circle drive. Shannon snapped some pictures and we watched from the window as Ryan hugged them good-bye. I suddenly became aware that this might be the last time I ever see them. "I wonder if I should have said good-bye" and then laughed at my attempt to sound genuine. As I watched them drive away, I saw Ryan walking in with Sarah and Brandon. We knew they wouldn't be allowed to see Luke in the NICU and it made us glad they'd been there to hold him and love him for the last 3 days.

They brought us Chick-fil-a and we sat in the lobby, talking about Tony and Kelly and how nice it will be to have them out of the hospital. We wanted a real chance to bond with Luke and it was causing way too much stress, knowing they could just walk around the corner any second. Brandon had to be at the airport by 3:00, so they decided to go to Target to buy some air mattresses and an abundance of pillows and comforters - then drop Brandon off. Ryan decided he'd go with them (and pay for the air mattresses) since we'd be hosting several waves of visitors in the next few days.  Shannon and I went back to the NICU in time to talk to Dr. Lipson, the pediatrician who saw Luke on the first day. Janice walked in at the same time and assured Dr. Lipson that all of the right papers were signed - she could finally disclose specific medical information to me. As I stood there listening to the doctor, I started to feel something I'd never felt before...something I'd waited my whole life to feel. The doctor was talking to me about Luke's blood work and his body temperature, and for the very first time, somebody was talking to me like a mom.

I'm a mom.

I'm Luke's mom.

A social worker named Yanni walked in and asked how things were going. I told her that everyone in the hospital had been amazing, minus the nurse from yesterday. I told her it really upset us that she felt the need to remind us that he was not "ours" for 10 days - that it was completely unnecessary. Yanni looked mortified. "Do you know her name?"

"It was Sarah. She was Kelly's nurse from yesterday and she went out of her way to find us on the 4th floor while we were holding Luke. She completely ruined our day."

(matter of factly) "You need to file a formal complaint with the hospital. This should be a magical time for you. Her comments were totally inappropriate and they certainly do not reflect the standards of this hospital."

I told her (again) that everyone else has been really wonderful and we were ready to write a letter to the staff, thanking them for their excellent care and sensitivity until that happened.

She asked me again to please file a formal complaint. "That's the only way this hospital can officially do anything about what happened and try to repair it.”

As she walked away, Shannon congratulated me on saying something - that I'd done the right thing and I'd gone through the proper channels. I felt good about everything that had happened that whole morning. We'd given Kelly and Tony everything they needed to get through the next few weeks, we'd finally been treated like Luke's parents by the staff at the hospital, we'd spoken up for ourselves about that horrible nurse, and now Janice was gathering hospital gowns and blankets so I could experience something called kangaroo care with my precious little bundle.

If you’ve never heard of kangaroo care, it’s the most magical thing to ever happen between a mommy and her baby. I was given the chance to hold my son using a hospital gown pulled around me with Luke laying directly on my chest. The benefits were immediate – Luke took 25 mL of formula after 30 minutes of skin-to-skin contact...the most we'd seen him eat at one time. My body temperature helped to regulate his body temperature so he didn't have to stay in the isolette (or the hospital) quite as long. It could have been the fact that Kelly and Tony checked themselves out of the hospital early (against doctor's orders), but our stress levels were down by about 195% that day. Shannon was there to take pictures and capture the whole thing, so (as much as I enjoy taking pictures and documenting our journey) it helped me just relax and enjoy the experience because I knew her photos would be AMAZING!!!

And they were.

Ryan returned from Target in time to see Luke curled up against me and we had a special little moment to take some family photos. I explained to Ryan what Dr. Lipson had explained to me (that Luke had to maintain his body temperature for 24 hours outside of the isolette before we could take him home). I also told him how amazing this kangaroo care thing was and how he HAD to do it. Shannon added, "the therapists at work talk about how the results have been proven just as effective with dads as it is with moms". Ryan seemed excited. It was pure bliss.

The three of us decided to go get lunch. There was a Mexican food place down the street and some chips and salsa sounded perfect. Maybe a margarita?  

We got back from lunch and scrubbed up:

Luke ate 40mL and gave us some huge (albeit) involuntary smiles. It was exactly what we needed.


Before we left the hospital, we stopped by the nurses' station on the 4th floor to file our formal complaint against the evil nurse, Sarah. Yanni told us that a nurse named Kim was expecting us, and sure enough, she took down our statement and assured us that Sarah was entirely out of line. The hospital would take our feedback very seriously.

We got back to Brandon and Sarah's around 8pm and decided we were in for the night. We fixed ourselves several glasses of wine and watched most of Glee (Season One) on DVD as Shannon loaded up her photos and created these videos:






Saturday, September 11, 2010

day three

We got to the hospital around 11 and went directly to the nursery. It was fun walking in this time because we were carrying Luke's car seat (for his "car seat test") and felt a little less like random visitors and a little more like Luke's parents. The nurse behind the front desk remembered us and smiled, “You’re back! I’ll go get your son!” We felt awesome. Our son.


As she wheeled him out in his little bassinet, the nurse gave me some updates that he could probably eat some more - and if we could just write down how much he drinks on the form, that would be great. Ryan handed the car seat to a different nurse and they started talking. I was done feeding Luke when I realized they were still talking, so I decided I wanted to be part of the conversation too. I heard the word “billirubin” and made my way over to the nursery door. The nurse looked at me and said, “We really don’t want you walking around with the baby. I understand we don’t have anywhere for you to go, but…”

“That’s fine” and I started to turn around.

I could hear her still talking about hospital policy and blah, blah, blah. (Fine. I hear you. I’m going back to my corner. With my adorable baby.)



When I looked up again, Ryan was sitting next to me and Kelly’s nurse from the day before was standing over us.

“I just wanted to let you both know that Kelly has a ‘no visitors’ sign on her door today. Basically, the two of you should never have been in her room yesterday. You should not have had any contact with her from the moment you arrived. I am in charge of her health at this hospital and I am here to tell you, she is not doing well. Your presence yesterday was really upsetting and inappropriate. Her blood pressure shot through the roof after you left because you were badgering her.”

“Well…we weren’t badgering her.” (Ryan said calmly)

“Well…I think you were. And I am here to tell you that she has some major medical issues. She’s not going home today if she can’t get her blood pressure under control and her bleeding stopped. I understand where you’re coming from, but I am here to protect my patient and part of that is keeping you away from her.”

“We’ve been in contact with her, supporting her financially and emotionally since July. This is an open adoption. And the only reason we were in her room is because she asked us to come talk to her.” (so why don't you mind your own business?)

“Well, I don’t know what the laws are in Kansas, but in Georgia – for the next ten days - that baby is not your baby, that is her baby.  I don’t care what she’s signed or how many papers you put in front of her, that is her baby, not yours.” (oh, hell no.)

I completely stopped listening to her. I just stared down at little Luke and focused on him so I wouldn't stand up and punch this woman in the teeth. I made a promise to get him out of this hospital as soon as possible – away from all of these crazy people for good.

The nurse said something else about how she adopted her son 37 years ago and she knows exactly how we feel right now (if her overwhelming compassion and this totally appropriate confrontation weren't strong enough indicators) and her son turned out "just fine". I wanted to ask her how long it took her to find us today, considering we hadn't seen Kelly since 2:00 yesterday and we were having this conversation on a completely different floor of the hospital as her "critical patient", but I decided it was best to just keep my mouth shut. I just wanted her to go away.

Ryan’s phone rang. It was Ronnie, our Georgia attorney. He walked away as the nurse walked away and I started to cry. I picked up my phone. I had a message. It was Tony. He wanted to know what we were going to do for them after they got out of the hospital because Kelly was getting released today.

See?  WE are not the ones badgering HER! 

I called my mom. I could hear organ music in the background as my mom whispered, “hello?”

“Where are you?”

(Duh. It’s Sunday. She was in church.)

“Are you okay?”

I took a deep breath.

“Kelly’s nurse just came down here and told us to stay away – that we were badgering her and upsetting her yesterday.”

“What?”

“Yeah…she went out of her way to find us on a different floor of the hospital to tell us that we needed to stay away from her patient and that our conversation with her yesterday was completely inappropriate. That we never should have had contact with her in the first place. Also, that this baby is not ours.”

“Oh my gosh. Why would she say that?”

Crying harder. Looking at my son. Heart breaking. “I have no idea.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw two black shoes that weren’t Ryan’s. I heard, “Hey, mama!” and as I looked up, I realized it was Tony, staring at me. He could see that I’d been crying. “Sorry. I won’t disturb you.” And he went around the corner to talk to Ryan.

I hung up with my mom and tried to eavesdrop on their conversation – knowing I would get yelled at (again) by the nurses for walking around with the baby (that wasn't mine). I could hear Ryan telling Tony that it was just “really upsetting” and “we didn’t mean to upset Kelly”. They talked for another 25 minutes and I could tell it was mostly Tony doing all of the talking.

We’d been at the hospital for 45 minutes and we were already in the middle of our third intense, emotional, conversation.  What the hell? Had things been going too SMOOTHLY? Was it time to wratchet up the crazy?

Ryan came back as Brandon and Sarah arrived. I gave the cliff’s notes version of our morning before they could even sit down. Ryan said, “Okay…well…Tony said Kelly was upset because I evidently indicated something yesterday that we wanted to get all of this paperwork done in the hospital because we didn’t want to have to track them down – like we were worried they were going to disappear, which they found incredibly insulting, so I apologized to him and said that’s not what we meant – that we were just aware of how badly Kelly wanted to leave so we were trying to help move the process along, so then he just bitched some more about Mary and told me all about his brittle bone disease again and how he’s a good father and he’s got his shit together. Also, he asked if I could give him five bucks to get out of the parking garage.”

“Good lord.” (deep breath)

The four of us sat there, trying to process all of this without passing our stress on to Luke, who was calmly sleeping like an angel. I said, “you wanna go see Aunt Sarah?” who was by far the most mellow of all of us.  Ryan had just read that morning about how babies could sense stress and if you are calm then they are calm. Sarah was calm. She held him and talked to him and bonded with him. The whole time, I just marveled at how perfectly this had all worked out. Brandon just happened to be coming to visit on the same weekend that Kelly gave birth. And Sarah's place just happened to be 10 miles from the hospital - with plenty of room for all of us, including our baby and all of his stuff.

I felt really glad that Sarah and Brandon could be there to bond with Luke. We hadn't seen either of them since Christmas and we don’t really know the next time we’ll see them, but they get to be here for the most important (stressful) event of our lives. They get to watch Luke's little face change every day and take turns with us – holding him and feeding him with the same tenderness and love we have for him. Thank God something was working out for us!

After we'd calmed down a little, Ryan decided to call Mary to let her know what was going on. We felt like Mary could reassure Kelly that we are all doing everything we could to make her comfortable (besides, that's what we were paying Mary for). Mary indicated to Ryan that she’d left Kelly a message but hadn’t heard anything back. Also, that she knew perfectly well that Tony hated her and she could care less.

When Ryan hung up, he had three texts in a row from Kelly:

“U know [Tony] doesnt even have money to get in and out of the gate…thats distressing in itself..much less gas to come and go..this is sad. I love [sophie]. “

“This is overwhelming for us too..we have nobody to help us in this world with [sophie] or anything..its really sad. I love [sophie]”

“I think Mary sucks to leave me out here to fend for myself…very unprofessional..im not impressed at all. I love [sophie]”

After reading those, Ryan immediately called the agency back and left a message for Mary to contact Kelly as soon as possible. He also texted Kelly back that we were here for her – whatever she needs. He told her we could run out and get her some food or some magazines? It seriously broke my heart that she suddenly felt like nobody cared about her, but we were JUST TOLD to stay away from her…that our presence upset her. Ryan asked to talk to Kelly’s nurse again and asked if we could (and how we could) go about paying for her prescriptions (and anything else she might need when she got released) because they were on Medicaid and couldn't afford it.   

As Ryan talked to the nurse, I could see Brandon getting all puffed up and protective, like he sort of wanted to go kick her ass for the way she’d talked to us earlier. Just then, another nurse walked out of the nursery to take Luke’s temperature. She asked if we knew how to do it, so we eagerly watched as she explained the buttons and the blinking and the perfect place in his armpit where skin touches skin. After a reading of 95.8, she asked if she could wheel him away to sit under some warm lights for a while. We figured it was a good time to get out of the hospital, get some food and clear our heads.

As we walked back up to the desk, a nurse said, “I just want you to know that she’s basically just gonna need a bunch of pads.” (realized she was talking about Kelly). “If you go buy the prescriptions and stuff...it’s just like she’s having a really heavy period. She'll need the really heavy, over-night pads and maybe some of those wee-wee pads you buy for a puppy? She can lay those down to protect her sheets, just in case.”

It finally occurred to me that she had overheard Ryan talking to Kelly’s nurse about buying her prescriptions and stuff. She was trying to be helpful, since Kelly’s nurse clearly hadn’t answered any of Ryan’s questions.

I decided to offer up some extra information – about how emotional the day had been for us and how hard it was for us to hear someone say that he wasn’t our son…that we’d been through so much with this birthmother and now she seemed to be sending a lot of negative messages to us – through bizarre text messages and evil nurse messengers – that it just made us feel bad. We’ve tried so hard to do the right thing and be there for her – and now we were hearing that our presence was upsetting her?  “We just want to do the right thing, you know? I mean, this process is hard enough as it is. We want her to feel good about it. We want to feel good about it. It’s nearly impossible to make everyone happy all at the same time, but that's been our goal from the beginning.” and that’s when I realized all four nurses behind the desk were completely captivated – learning more about this little guy in the nursery and the people who were making it nearly impossible to enjoy the process of adding him to our family.

One of the nurses suggested that we get social services involved – that they could be a huge help in guiding us through the process. As we stood there talking, I noticed that the nursery blinds were suddenly open. I got Brandon and Sarah's attention and we eagerly gathered around to see all of the babies. We didn’t see Luke, but we all laughed at how ENORMOUS those full-term babies looked, compared to our little guy. They were all meaty and fat. They had HAIR!  They looked like toddlers...like they might be cutting teeth soon.

As we walked outside, we ran in to Tony and Kelly coming out of the parking lot. (were they out there smoking? were they trying to escape?). Tony was pushing Kelly in a wheelchair. I felt instantly nervous - like somewhere her nurse would sense that we were talking to her and suddenly show up to yell at us. We had an incredibly brief conversation about how we were going to get some food and we would be back later…could we bring them anything? Some food? Some snacks? Some magazines?

Kelly replied by mumbling, "They won’t let me out today.”

We'll take that as a "no"?

We said we'd be back in a little while and we asked again if we could bring them anything. They seemed irritated and not at all interested in talking to us, so we moved along. In hind-sight, I wish we'd taken a second to introduce my (giant, special-forces-trained) brother and my (heat-packing, FBI-trained) sister-in-law standing behind us, but we were trying hard not to intimidate and upset them.

We found somewhere called "Krystal" near the hospital and decided to try it. As we ordered our "pups" and "cheese krystal" burgers, Ryan's phone rang. It was Ronnie. She'd just been screamed at by Tony for the last 20 minutes. Evidently, he was SUPER PISSED about how we just left the hospital and he can't even afford to get out of the gate - he doesn't have any money for gas or to fill Kelly's prescriptions and we just left without offering to bring them anything. And now, evidently he's been waiting for us downstairs because that's what the nurse told him...that we were going to fill the prescriptions together.  

Ryan and I were in shock. What the hell?

How many times do we have to offer to bring them food? How many times does Ryan have to give Tony 5 bucks to get out of the parking garage? How many people were going to yell at us and make us feel like pieces of shit for not doing this right? 
  
My phone rang. It was Mary. She'd gotten Ryan's message and she wanted us to know that she'd just tried to call Kelly, but Tony answered her phone and he spouted some lie about how her blood pressure was too high - she couldn't possibly talk on the phone. Unbelievable. We called and left this woman an emergency message on Labor Day weekend and she went to the trouble of calling us back on a Sunday, and this idiot decided to make some kind of dickhead power-play to assert control. I told Mary the whole thing just got really out of control today and we'd offered no less than 5 times to bring them something while we were out. She said, "Just call him back and offer to bring them some lunch - whatever you guys are eating. Offer to pay their toll to get out of the garage. Just keep doing those little things because they seem to matter a lot to them." Ryan got on his phone to call Tony and I heard him say, "Hey, man...pardon my rudeness...I didn't even ask if you guys wanted us to bring you some lunch!" I couldn't tell if it was the chili cheese pups I was eating or the fact that we were placating total extortionists, but I felt sick to my stomach. I continued to talk to Mary for a while and express how unfair this all felt. "I don't understand what we're doing wrong.We've bent over backward for these people. How could they be feeling simultaneously stressed out by our presence and then neglected? How could they feel embarrassed by our generosity and still feel like we're lacking "common courtesy". How could they want our help but not our sympathy? Short of just handing them a big bag of cash (which is illegal), what did they want from us? 

Mary said we could always change lawyers or see if he’ll do Kansas adoption law so we don’t have to deal with this bullshit Georgia law for 10 more days. She also suggested that we just take Tony with us to the store. Buy Kelly's prescriptions and anything else she needs so they can see that we're trying. We are compassionate people. Maybe we could even buy some groceries for Sophie to get Amanda off their backs? Maybe that could reduce some of Kelly's stress and help her get out of the hospital faster? Mary also told us to explain to Tony that the hospital told us to leave Kelly alone, so we might not be around for a while...that we could get kicked out for not following hospital orders. (she said we needed to get some distance and this was just an excuse not to subject ourselves to the crazy anymore. Sounded good to us!)

Ryan called and left a message for David that we would like to switch from the Georgia law to the Kansas law, which makes the consent irrevocable. (no more 10 day window where they can change their minds and play this guilt card for 2 weeks). He called us back immediately. Ryan talked to David while I called Kelly's phone (wanted to tell her that we were on our way back to the hospital with food). Tony answered. I talked to him the whole way back to the hospital – assuring him that we just wanted to do the right thing and we were really sorry that Kelly was so upset. I told him I thought he'd been really strong and amazing through this whole process (because he was desperate for somebody to acknowledge him and stroke his ego) and our main goal was to help Kelly get better.

He said Amanda, her daughter, and Sophie were there to visit and they were all out in the garden. I told him we were out front if he wanted to come grab the food - then come back so we could take him to the store. I said, "Just make a list of everything you guys need. We'll go get it now." (again...trying not to disturb Kelly or stress her out with our presence)

He met me in front of the hospital with a flower from the garden. He apologized for the mean nurse and said it broke his heart to see me crying this morning. I thanked him and cried a little bit - emotions still raw from the implication that we didn't care about Kelly's feelings. I handed him Kelly's food and he said he'd be right back...he was going to take the food to her and get the list they were making for groceries.

Tony returned with a piece of notebook paper and 7 items on a list. We decided to go to Rite Aid across the street from the hospital to fill her prescriptions and buy the rest of her "necessary recovery supplies". Things like Super Absorbent Nighttime Large-sized Maxi Pads, deoderant, Midol, Ibuprofen, Juice (Cran-grape), snacks and drinks.

As we walked around, we joked that it was good I was with them because Tony didn't know how comfortable he felt buying feminine products. Then he told us that Kelly thought we'd changed since we got to the hospital...that I didn’t even make eye contact with her the first day (which totally made me cry). He told us every 3 minutes that he was "so embarrassed, you have no idea" and we ran out of ways to tell him not to be embarrassed, just tell us what Kelly needs. Shampoo? A toothbrush? A toy for Sophie? Tony went on and on about how Amanda's been on his case and taking every last dime in his pocket to take care of Sophie while Kelly's been in the hospital. "You don'unnerstand. She's taken everything I got! What kina fren tells you, (annoying voice) 'don worry bout yur dauder. Ahll take care a hur while yall go duh thu hospidul' then turns aroun an drains you for evrie sent you got?" and we actually started to feel empathy for the guy. We decided to call Amanda and ask for a grocery list. What could we do to help her take care of Sophie? Amanda was nice on the phone. She didn't seem at all surprised that we were calling, but she gave us a whole list of groceries...things Sophie liked. Then said, "but if you just wanna buy a gift card, thas fine too".  Ummm...no.  We're giving you groceries.

We picked up the prescriptions and paid for all of the stuff in our cart...$200 worth of stuff we'd thrown in the cart to make Kelly's stay in the hospital more pleasant. This HAD to be enough to make her feel loved and cared about. We got directions to the Kroger and I texted Kelly to tell her we would be back soon with groceries. I had three messages back to back. Please hurry back. Amanda needs to go. Sophie is driving her nuts. Please just get a gift card and hurry back. Amanda needs to take her daughter somewhere. A gift card will be fine.

Fine.

As we drove to the grocery story, we decided to total up the stuff on Amanda's list, guessing all of it would come to about $50. Surely that would be plenty of money to buy a week's worth of groceries for a 3-year old?  We all agreed that Amanda would be grateful for the gesture and Kelly would feel less stressed about Sophie. We also bought a $50 gift card for Tony so he could pay for gas - out of the kindness of our hearts (since Kelly and Tony appeared to be united on all fronts again and we were out to make Kelly feel appreciated and slightly spoiled).

As we stood in line, paying for the gift cards, Tony turned and expressed his gratitude for everything we were doing and everything we'd done up to that point. He knew it was an important time for us too and he was sorry (again) about that nurse. I decided to tell him the small detail about the nurse telling me it wasn’t our baby. He looked incredibly stunned and angry. Ryan said, "That’s why we didn’t tell you, man. Please don’t go yell at that nurse or make things any more stressful for Kelly".

He said, "But that’s your son! She had no right to say that to you."

"Thank you."

"I can't balleve that! Wow. No wonder you were so upset."

As we drove back to the hospital, Tony pointed out the place where they were living (he called it "the hotel") and told us (again) how horrible the place was in Topeka and how important it was to get her out of there...like he had absolutely no recollection of the fact that we picked her up in the middle of the night and put her in a brand new extended stay for 3 days before they drove up and took her back to Georgia for absolutely no reason. We talked about music and how much he wanted Luke to play the guitar ("promise me, man...you'll get him a guitar!") and when we got back to the hospital, we seriously felt like hugging him. We felt SO good about ourselves. We'd done the right thing. He seemed happy. We seemed happy. Everything was good. We'd given them enough supplies (and attention) to last the rest of our stay in Georgia. Tony could barely carry all of the stuff we'd bought for them. Surely he was going to return to Kelly and tell her all about how generous and wonderful we were.

Later that night, we went back to the hospital to get our baby snuggles from Luke. There was another couple in the lobby with their baby, so the nurse asked if we wanted to sit in the break room with him. We told her we didn't care where we held him, we were just waiting for the day when we could take him home and hold him forever.


The same nurse came back 30 minutes later to say good night and tell us that her shift was over, but that our son was very lucky to get parents like us. She wanted to wish us luck and then she added, "I think what you're doing is amazing and you deserve to be treated with respect. I'm just gonna go home and cry now.”

What a wonderful way to end the night.

We found out later that Tony stole all of Kelly's prescription drugs that we'd purchased that afternoon and every last penny of the money we'd given them for groceries.

Every. Last. Penny.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

day two

We knew my brother (who lives in DC) arrived sometime in the middle of the night because Copper (Brandon and Sarah's Vizsla) was skittering around upstairs trying to run, jump, play and fetch to make up for lost time with him. They made eggs and hash browns while we finished up our cereal and discussed plans to meet them at the hospital later.


We decided to see Kelly first, and to our delight, Tony was there too. Kelly reminded us (again) that her epidural never kicked in and she was in a lot of pain (clicking her morphine button like the top of a ball-point pen). Tony was sitting comfortably on the guest bed, trying to assert how emotional he's been the last few days and how hard it's been for him to see Kelly this way (we found out later that Tony was having parties in Kelly's hotel room while she was in the hospital - the room we were paying for so she could get away from Amanda and Tony. Poetic.) They wanted us to know (again) that they both signed the consent forms to grant us complete access to the baby (we learned to thank them profusely for even the tiniest gesture, otherwise we'd hear about it later - that we were being incredibly rude and ungrateful). The critical consent forms couldn't be signed until Kelly was off the pain meds for at least 4 hours. We weren't going to rush her, but it was in our minds the whole time we spoke.

Around noon, I got a text that Brandon and Sarah were on their way, so we headed back down to the nursery to see our boy:









After lots of good snuggles (and the most wonderful moment of my life), Brandon and Sarah went to the pool for some beer and sunshine.

Ryan and I spent the rest of our time at the hospital answering phonecalls from our attorney and enduring emotional (heart-breaking) conversations with Kelly. Turns out, she was under investigation by child services – questioning whether she was fit to raise Sophie. She wanted to blame Mary for convincing her to talk to the social worker at the hospital, but she stopped herself from complaining too much and mumbled something about wanting to get out of the hospital as soon as possible. She didn't tell us any of this until Tony left the room to deal with Amanda (who was downstairs, demanding money for groceries) and she started to cry. It was super awkward and if I had a relationship with her where we hugged, I totally would have hugged her. But we don't. So I didn't.

After talking to our attorney, we also learned that Kelly was supposed to have filled out a birth certificate for Luke on Friday. She sent the woman away - telling her that "his parents" should fill that out, not her (and while it was a sweet gesture, it wasn't exactly accurate). We tried to explain that every adopted kid has two birth certificates. Luke will have one from the hospital, signed by his birth parents (where they can give him any name they want...Tony wanted to name him "Bishop"...totally not kidding). And then the courts will issue a second one on the day we finalize our adoption, saying that his name is Luke Adler Westhoff, and Ryan and I are his parents...a fact that makes me really happy). Our attorney needs the first birth certificate in order to get the paperwork started, so we were trying to explain to her, "if you see the birth certificate lady again, go ahead and fill it out". Since it was Labor Day weekend, we were pretty sure she wouldn't be around again until Tuesday. Suck.

We also tried to explain to Kelly that she had to be off of the pain meds for 4 solid hours before she could legally sign consent. In Georgia, both birthparents have 10 days to revoke consent from the day they sign, so we weren't trying to rush her, but (you know)...the sooner she got off pain meds, the sooner she could sign...and the sooner she could leave the hospital (which she was itching to do)...and the sooner we could get to that 10 day "hold your breath" window. According to the nurse who was unfortunately (awkwardly) present for this entire conversation, she didn't think Kelly would be off the pain meds anytime soon.

We found out later that Kelly was passing blood clots and in a pretty serious amount of pain during that entire conversation. Our attorney called her room directly (because Tony stole her cell phone) and learned that Kelly was going to be in the hospital for quite a while. Not sure if they were full-on transfusions, but Kelly was evidently given several units of blood over the next 24 hours. And it didn't matter how badly she wanted out of the hospital, she needed medical attention.

By 4:00, Ryan and I successfully navigated our way through the effed up streets of Marietta, Georgia to find a Babies R Us (thank you, iphone!). We wanted to buy a pack-n-play for Luke since we'd be spending about a week at Sarah's, waiting for ICPC to clear (the thing that allows us to take him across state lines) and we needed somewhere for him to sleep when we brought him "home" from the hospital. Ryan's parents and brother went together and bought us an on-line gift card to purchase whatever we needed (thank you Bev, Wayne and Chad!!!!) Finally, an employee identified us as "scared shitless new parents” and asked if we needed any help. We explained that we were adopting a baby – taking him back to Kansas at the end of the week, and in need of a place for him to sleep until we could conveniently pack it up and travel on an airplane.

“First of all, congratulations.”

“Thank you.” (huge, crazy grins)

“I would say, you should talk to Duff. He’s the voice you’re hearing right now in the next aisle. He’s about my height. Glasses. And he’s the expert on these things. I just transferred from the Charlotte store and there are some items over here I’ve never even seen before.” 

“Okay. That’s cool. We’ll talk to Duff. Thank you for your help.”

“No problem. Good luck.”

We decided that Babies R Us should just create a corner of the store called “New Parents” where you can buy one of every essential baby item. Because SERIOUSLY!!!!!  How many kinds of diapers and wipes and bottles and formula and car seats and blankets can there BE? We called Bev.

“Holy crap, Bev. We are overwhelmed.”

She listed a whole bunch of stuff we hadn’t thought about as we wandered the store – our eyes glazed over and our hearts just bursting.

“How cute would he look, wrapped up in these little blankets? Does he like dogs or bears? Does he even fit in these clothes? Where are the preemie outfits?”

With Duff's help, we successfully picked out the biggest, heaviest, most expensive pack-n-play in the entire store (Chicco is the best!). We picked out some preemie diapers (enough to get us through the week) and we picked out some wipes based on the fact that they were deemed "sensitive" - because our boy seemed like the kind of kid who might break out into a rash if we used the wrong wipes. We even started feeling proud of ourselves when we got to the formula section and identified the Similac (22 calorie) pre-mixed bottles they were feeding Luke in the hospital, but a brief conversation with my sister made me realize they don't sell the individually packaged rings and nipples we'd been using, so it wouldn't make any sense to buy the bottles if we couldn't buy the nipples. She also told us they'd probably send us home from the hospital with bags and bags of stuff to get us through the next several weeks, so don't buy too much of anything. We wandered around with our cart – the only people in the entire store without a baby in their cart, a baby in their belly, a registry in their hand, or enough grey hair to identify the proud grandparents of a baby coming to visit for Labor Day weekend.

Our loot:

We got home from Babies R Us and I watched Brandon and Ryan put the pack-n-play together in the living room. I couldn't help but smile at these two grown men, messing with bars and snaps and toggles to assemble this giant playpen for the tiniest new member of our family.




It was a family affair.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

major life decision

When we got to the hospital on Friday morning, a staff social worker was waiting for us. She’d confirmed that Kelly would like to see us and she mentioned that the baby was currently in her room – at Kelly’s request. All of the papers were signed that we could have complete access to the baby. And since Kelly knew we were on our way, she figured it would be easier if everyone was all together in one place. Walking in to that room was a little overwhelming. We wanted to see the baby, but we were also concerned about Kelly (…remembering Allan’s advice 3 months ago about showing an interest in our birthmom, not just her baby.)  

I will be completely honest and say I was not immediately in love. Ryan and I have visited about 750 babies in the hospital (most of them in the last year) and it felt a lot like we were visiting a friend in the hospital. Plus, he looked A LOT like Tony and it seriously freaked me out. He was itty bitty, but miraculously not hooked to anything. I picked him up (with permission from Kelly) and tried my best not to cry or gush in front of her. It was SO awkward!!  She called the nurse to ask if we could have our own room to bond and be with our son. The hospital just didn’t have any rooms available, and we’d told the social worker that we didn’t require a room to stay overnight at the hospital since we had family in town. (She told me, “that’s good, because I’ll be really honest and tell you that our rooms are expensive! If you have family in town, I would advise you not to waste your money on a room here.”)  So as much as we would have liked our own, private room – and as much as Kelly would have liked us to be somewhere else for our entire bonding experience, the hospital just wasn’t going to give us a place to hang out without paying for it.

We made small talk with Kelly and took tons of pictures of each other holding the baby. Kelly mentioned no less than 6 times that her epidural didn’t take (a fact she also mentioned when I talked to her at 3am). She barely completed her sentences before falling in to a morphine coma, so we sort of tried to let her sleep without disturbing her too much (or completely ignoring her.) 

Every time I looked at the baby, I had instant anxiety, “What in the world are we going to name you?” It’s a lot of responsibility, naming a child! If he was a girl, no problem...we had a name all picked out. But a boy?  A boy needs a strong name. He needs a name that’s going to give him confidence in school and life in general. A boy needs a name that won’t get him beat up on the playground. A name that isn’t too trendy, too hard to pronounce, or totally normal but spelled all jacked up to make it seem exotic. Ryan really wanted his initials to spell something (Ryan Anthony Westhoff spells RAW) and we both agreed that we weren't going to name him something, then instantly give him a nick-name. If we wanted to call him Billy, we weren’t going to name him William – his name on his birth certificate would be Billy Westhoff. We had “Hank” sort of picked out, but he truly didn’t look like a Hank. He looked more like an Oliver or an Elliot, (but hello...total ass-kicking on the first day of school...sorry REVILO). After a few hours, the baby’s doctor came in for a check-up. She wasn’t allowed to tell us anything specifically about him (hospital policy since this was an adoption and the birthmother’s rights had not been officially terminated) but she could speak in general about small babies and what they tend to need.

Shortly after, another nurse came in with our baby’s “low jack” – the device designed to prevent random visitors from stealing him right out of the hospital. Evidently, they were “out” of these devices on the night he was born, so he’d gone 10+ hours without a way to alert the hospital that somebody was taking him. (gulp) He’d been undressed for a good 10 minutes during his exam, so when the other nurse realized he also hadn’t eaten since 8 that morning, it made sense that he was screaming his head off. She asked if we wanted to feed him.  “Ummm…yes, please!”

Kelly was showing signs of extreme fatigue and awkwardness, so we asked if we could leave her alone and go somewhere. The nurse took us out to the lobby where there were several little chairs and a wall-mounted TV. She talked to us about techniques for getting him to eat and the importance of keeping him bundled. He took the bottle like a voracious bear cub and quickly sucked down 20 mL. He burped like a champ. As we held him and contemplated names for him, we sent out a few text messages – soliciting suggestions. Just then, Tony walked by. He was on his way to see Kelly. He quickly recognized us and stopped. “How’s it feel, mommy?” shaking our hands and smiling like this was totally a normal, cool, groovy situation. He sat down and talked about how difficult the birth was for him…how he got to hold the baby in the operating room…how they had no idea it was a boy and how shocked the whole staff was when he finally came out…”Can you believe they got that wrong? I mean…how strange is that?”

“It’s pretty crazy!” Ryan answered

Tony went on and on about how difficult the entire situation has been for him, how much he hates Mary and how sad he was for Sophie when he heard it was another girl. Not that he didn’t want a boy, but “when it was a gurl…that was jus…man…it blew mah mahnd. Ya no?”  Then he stared at Ryan with the intensity of a lunatic.

“Ryan, I want you to PROMISE me something.”

(Oh, God…what?)

“Okay…” (seriously shitting his pants)

“Promise me that you’ll get this boy a guitar.”

(huge sigh of relief)

“Oh! Absolutely! We already have one at home!”
“Do you play?”
“No…Ashley does. I mean, I took lessons, but I just don’t have a gift for music. Ashley is the musician in the family.”

He looked at me with a light in his eyes, like we were kindred spirits.We spoke the same language. Then he went on and on about how “Sophie is just a nat’ral musician. She can watch anything with music…ah mean…if she hears sumthin’…she can remember it…you no that kahmershul with the dogs? That one where Share-ul Maglofflin is singin’? Sophie comes up to me just bawlin’ an ahm like ‘whassa madder baybee?’ an she’s like…’its jus suh sad’…ah mean…she feels it inner soal. This kiddlebe jus like Sophie, ya no? Ah got tah holdim whenny first came out an he was cryin’ up a storm. Ah jus holdim an start singin’ an he jus…he stopped. Is jus amayzin’. He’s gonna be a musishun. Ah jus no it.”

We talked a while longer and I snapped some pictures of him for reasons I can’t explain. I supposed some day, our son will want to know more about his birthparents and it will be good to have pictures, but I have no idea what to do with them until that moment. The sight of the guy makes my stomach turn, but I knew this was my chance. Of course, he’s done nothing but terrorize our birthmom and take us on endless roller-coaster rides to crazy town, but it was hard not to shake his hand and thank him for stopping by. He was a total gentleman. Completely charismatic. We could see how Kelly would believe every single word that came out of his mouth. We could see how he probably had the power to really manipulate her too.

After sitting there for a while, we decided it might be time to get some food. Neither of us had eaten anything since lunch the day before and we were becoming delirious from a lack of sleep.

Since Chick-fil-A was like invented in Georgia, we decided to stop there for lunch. It’s a little treat back home, but for whatever reason, it didn’t taste good to me at all. Something about my empty stomach and the greasy breading made me instantly nauseous and very uncomfortable. But over greasy Chick-fil-a and waffle fries, we decided on a name.

Luke Adler Westhoff.

It was official, and we had followed all of our rules. Luke was a nod to my maiden name, Lucas but we had no intentions of calling him Lucas, so his name would be Luke. Plain and simple. Easy to spell with special meaning (also…who doesn’t love Luke Skywalker?). His middle name would be Adler as a nod to two of my favorite designers, Jonathan Adler (who’s LA store was recently the highlight of my summer) and the incredibly talented Harold Adler (who worked with Saul Bass to create some of the best title designs in Hollywood history). His initials spelled “LAW” which Ryan loved, and as hard as we tried, we could not come up with any horrifying nick-names if Luke happened to be the weird kid on the playground.  We still didn’t have an official weight or height, but we sent out the texts before we left Chick-fil-a.  

Instead of heading back to the hospital, we decided to contact Sarah and get directions to her place. We were exhausted and thought it might be a good idea to get a nap in – which totally did not happen. The minute we got to Sarah’s, we sat down and started calling everyone we knew. The news was just too exciting, but a lack of internet at Sarah’s place made it impossible to send out a simple facebook or blog update. We would have to share the news the old-fashioned way. Sarah walked in the door around 5:30 and we squealed and hugged and told her everything we could about the flight, our birthparents, and her new nephew. We all hopped in the car and followed her iphone directions back to the hospital.

The nurses at the desk were thrilled to see us back so soon and remembered us from earlier. They brought Luke out to the lobby where we snuggled and played with him for several hours. Sarah was instantly smitten with Luke and it felt slightly more real once we introduced the two family members to one another.  Plus, we were on a different floor now, so there was no chance of Tony just walking by on his way to torture/control/manipulate Kelly. It was just us. And it felt amazing.