The Next Family

By: Stacie Ellis

We walked to the nurses’ station with trepidation. Had the birth parents changed their minds? Were we going to be told so by the nurse and not even get to say goodbye to the little girl we already desperately loved? I had an instant knot in my stomach. My husband took the lead. Steve approached the nurses cautiously, “Hi, we are the adoptive parents of baby X. There’s a sign on the birthmother’s door that says to stop here before entering…?” The nurse looked up at us and said, “Yes, um, let me check with her.” The nurse walked to the birthmother’s room and entered. We waiting for what felt like an incredibly long time. It was probably a minute. The nurse came back to us and said, “Go right in.” We looked at each other, almost in shock, grabbed each other’s hands and walked down the hall to her room, not knowing what to expect.

My first thought was – huh, this is odd. We entered to find the baby sleeping in her little hospital crib. The birthmother was sitting up in bed. The birthfather wasn’t there. “Hi!” the birthmother said. We tried to pretend nothing was wrong, approaching the little baby and telling her how much we missed her overnight. Finally, the birthmother said, “Sorry about the sign.” She explained that the birthfather’s mother showed up the day before and tried to intimidate her into keeping the baby, calling her names and telling her what a horrible person she was for giving up her daughter. “It’s a hate hate relationship,” she explained, “Of course they waited until I was alone to come here.” I didn’t know how to respond. I kind of wanted to say, “I’m so sorry” and “You’re not a bad person!” But I wanted her child. The other part of me wanted to say, “It didn’t work, did it?” Clearly it hadn’t and we were still on course, but I wanted to be reassured even though I knew reassurance would not come in words.

That is what is so interesting and scary about this process. We were petrified the birthparents would change their minds. They were petrified we would. That nerve-wracking feeling doesn’t end until the surrender papers are signed. Surrenders are irrevocable the second they are signed. In the state we were in, which I won’t disclose for their privacy, the laws required that 72 hours pass after the birth before surrenders could be signed. The bad news is, the state also required 24 hours to pass between the first social worker visit to the birthparents and the second, in which the surrenders were signed. The birthparents had not made a plan until very late in the process – and they were supposed to fly to us to give birth, so none of this would have applied. So, the social worker didn’t have her first visit with them until two days after the birth. Then, 24 hours had to pass, and the social worker could come back. We had to wait a total of five days, instead of just 72 hours.

Yet, even with the surrenders not signed, custody was to be turned over to us on this day. The birthmother would be released in a few hours and our baby still needed one more day in the hospital on the Bili-blanket to make sure the jaundice was gone. So we were going to be alone with our baby girl in the hospital as her parents, with no one else there, in a matter of hours. In fact, our little girl would be discharged from the hospital to us the day before the surrenders were signed. At any time while we were solely caring for her, the birthparents could change their minds.

While we only had three weeks between the time we turned in our adoption paperwork and the time we received the call about being chosen as adoptive parents, we had discussed one very important aspect of adoption: what happens if we were chosen by birthparents and after being with the baby, we came home empty handed? We knew of personal stories in which the birth parents changed their minds. How would we feel? Cope? We knew that if a birthmother changed her mind, then that child was not meant to be ours. That’s the logical side. The emotional side would be so much harder to deal with. I had gone through a year of infertility disappointments; I constantly went home empty-handed. I wasn’t sure I could handle coming home alone after actually holding and snuggling with the baby. Now, we would be caring for her for two days as our own before she would be legally ours. That thought excited me and terrified me.

The birthfather brought their son to the hospital to pick up the birthmother. For the first time, we met the cute little 2-year-old biological brother of our daughter. He was blonde-haired, green-eyed, with olive skin. He was gorgeous. And he was adorable. All he wanted to do was eat his mom’s uneaten chocolate cake on her food tray and push a wheelchair around the hall. I stared at him and tried to take it in. My daughter will no doubt someday want to meet her brother. I wanted to remember this moment.

It was time. The birthmother was being discharged. She stood up and before we even reached for each other to hug goodbye, the waterworks started flowing from my eyes. She hugged me hard and whispered in my ear, “Take care of her. Spoil her rotten, but in a good way.” The birthfather hugged Steve just as hard, whispering in my husband’s ear, “We are blessed because we know you will love her and take of her.” We were both balling…tears running down our eyes. From that moment, it was like the happy ending of a movie…we watched the birthfather push the wheelchair carrying the birthmother and their son, who was sitting on her lap, down the hallway. His hand reached to her shoulder and she reached back to put her hand on his – the perfect little family of three. A turn down the hall and they were gone. And with that, we were alone with our daughter.

Our daughter. Our daughter. Our daughter. It still had not sunk in. Our daughter. We had two days to wait for surrenders to be signed and then we had to jump through the state and interstate laws. All in all, we were told to anticipate staying in a hotel for nearly two weeks before we could take her home. That is, if the birthparents sign the surrenders.

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