Sunday, December 11, 2016
Four years ago today, I had no idea I was about to become a mom. A was born around 4pm on a Tuesday in Salt Lake City, Utah. It wouldn't be until Wednesday night at around 10:30pm that the agency finally reached us after having tried all day. To their credit, AT&T gave me a refund for one day of virtually non-existent phone service.
Peter was on a business trip in Virginia when we got the call that we had been chosen to parent our amazing little girl. Within twelve hours, I met Peter at Philadelphia International airport and we began our cross-country journey to Utah via Arizona.
We met A and her amazing first mom, M, at the hospital on Thursday evening. Both mom and baby were scheduled to be discharged on Friday morning, so Peter and I had breakfast, rushed to purchase a car seat, and arrived at the hospital only to discover that our baby (not yet legally ours) had been rushed for a CT scan after M had discovered an indentation (a ping-pong fracture) in her skull. She had so much hair even as an infant that it wasn’t initially visible.
The next several hours were spent listening to the team of residents tell us about possible skull surgery to reverse the indentation. In some ways it was overwhelming, but it was also strange because we had not yet signed any custody papers, so while the agency certainly wanted to follow our lead, the ultimate decision was legally theirs to make. M had relinquished her rights in Utah, but New Jersey required a longer waiting period, so for the interim our baby was in the custody of our agency. A strange feeling.
Mid-afternoon, the Chief of Neurology told us he thought the problem would fix itself and that surgery wasn’t necessary, so we agreed to follow up at CHOP in a few months.
Our baby spent her first week and a half outside the womb in a hotel room sleeping in a drawer because there were no available cribs. During our time away, one of our dogs managed to swallow a nylon stocking. He needed surgery (with 17 staples!) to remove it. We passed our days in Utah visiting with A’s first family, figuring out how to be parents in a strange city away from family, and waiting for the courts to approve us to travel home. We were finally cleared on Friday, December 21, and at around 3am on Saturday we boarded the Amtrak train for home. We finally arrived at 30th street station in Philadelphia around 5pm on Christmas Eve. It was a whirlwind of a time for us.
But amid all the excitement and extensive process, there are two moments seared into my memory. The first was the moment that we left the hospital. I will never forget the incredible juxtaposition of emotions as we sat in the coffee shop of the hospital with M and said our goodbyes. I cried as we left. There are few words for me to describe what an amazing woman she is to have loved so much. She is certainly braver than I.
The second is during a luncheon we had with A’s first family. Her first mom’s father held her, gazing at her little face as if to memorize each feature. He was a quiet man, but oh how I could see such love on his face.
Adoption is hard. Today, I rejoice with my little girl as she turns four. She is precocious, sensitive, full of love, determined, and she has an amazing sense of humor. I am eternally grateful that I get to spend every day loving life with her. But today underneath all the joy and excitement, my heart grieves for another mother who has missed all the precious milestones. My great joy comes at the expense of another woman’s great loss. She is the bravest woman I know.
"A child born to another woman calls me mom.
The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me."
- Jody Landers