One year ago this weekend, things sucked for us.
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My wife Michelle is nearing the frantic finish of her busy period at work, meaning she is putting in 50, 60 hour weeks. That also meant that I am on full-time daddy duty with our 3 year old daughter Jamie. That makes for busy days, long nights, tired parents, and lots of stress.
We are also a little over two months removed from a failed adoption. We had a name picked out, a nursery for her to come home to, everything.
Our agency says we are at the top of the list for “stork calls” – their term for birth mothers who need to make an adoption plan at or after birth. They say we could get a call any day.
I don’t have my hopes up. We had closed the door to the nursery. When I walk down the hall of our house, my eyes go somewhere – anywhere – other than that door. I need to shut off the pain; at least until Michelle gets through her crazy stretch on March 15.
My wife isn’t so lucky. Michelle wears her heart and her emotions on her sleeve on a normal day. Working six days a week, 9-10 hours a day, building up to strict deadline, all while juggling the pain and guilt of not spending more time with Jamie isn’t helping.
Michelle sent me a couple of emails during the workday. In one, she said that she had been crying in the bathroom due in part to a baby shower for a co-worker. As anybody who has gone through fertility issues or failed adoptions (or both) can tell you: baby showers are the worst. You have to sit and smile and be happy for somebody who is getting the thing that you want.
A year later, I’ll find one of her emails from today in my Inbox. It reads:
“It’s been a long day already and it’s not looking to get any better. Can I cry? Can I walk out? What?
“Come back in a week?”
Today is Friday, March 9, 2012.
* * *
Our daughter Jamie is spending the weekend at Michelle’s mom’s house. It is kind of a pain to get her packed and drive 100 miles west to drop her off at the halfway point between our houses, but this is a good idea. Jamie loves spending time with Grandma and Papa.. Plus, I need the break, the chance to sit down prior to 8:30 pm, and to have some time with Michelle. I know she’s struggling. She cried Thursday night (although I usually chalk that up to Grey’s Anatomy), and she cried at work yesterday.
We got to sleep in. Holy crap was that nice. I love my daughter to death, but think it is physically impossible for her to sleep past 7:30 am on a weekend. I’ll spend the day doing some laundry and picking up the house. Michelle is going into the office again today, but I don’t think she’ll be there all day.
We’ll discuss doing a formal date night (a nice dinner and maybe even a movie), but we end up going out later in the evening to a neighborhood sports bar. This is a good opportunity to catch our breath and recharge.
Today is Saturday, March 10, 2012
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Another day of sleeping in? I could get used to this. Michelle is not going in to work today. We’re going to drive out and pick up Jamie, which is good. We miss her. Jamie has been our 30 pound, curly haired rock during the past few months. We know how blessed we are to have her as our daughter. As crushing as the failed adoption was, it would have devastating without her. She may never know how big of a role she is playing in getting us through this time.
We’re lucky that she’s young enough to not fully process what happened. She knew that she is going to be a big sister (or “stisster”, as she calls it), but she doesn’t yet have a deep concept of time, so she doesn’t question why it hasn’t happened yet. But I can tell that she’s ready to be a big sister.
After we pick up Jamie, we stop at a department store to do some shopping. Michelle has a 30% off coupon for our purchase, I think we both know that some retail therapy will help our mood. We load our purchases into the car, grab a bite, and head home to face another hectic work week.
Meanwhile, 1,500 miles away, a woman we’ve never met is being admitted to the hospital in Orlando.
Today is Sunday, March 11, 2012
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My alarm clock goes off. I hit the snooze button. Seven minutes later, it goes off again.
I drag myself out of bed and kick off the morning routine. I’m in charge of getting Jamie ready for daycare, so I get her clothes out, help her get dressed, get her teeth brushed, and try to do something cute with her super curly locks.
We give Michelle a kiss good-bye as we head out the door. It is the final week before her deadline, and I’m fully expecting not to see her again until after 9 pm, well after Jamie is asleep. I drop Jamie off at our daycare and head in to work.
Today is your basic, standard issue Monday. Nothing too exciting, just another forgettable day in the office. Late in the afternoon, I’m in the men’s room when my cell phone rings. It’s Michelle. I do not believe in answering a phone call on the toilet – even for my wife – so I shoot back an auto-response text message. I think it is slightly odd that she’s calling from her cell phone instead of the phone at her desk that she typically uses when she calls from work.
I step into the break room and call her back. I can hear the bubbly excitement in her voice for the first time in weeks. She tells me that the agency just called and they wanted to let us know about a “situation”, which is their term for a possible placement.
“So,” Michelle asks me, “how would you feel about a son?”
My mind is racing. Is it really happening? The agency wants to talk to us soon to give us more information so we quickly arrange a conference call. As our caseworker is talking, I’m trying to listen, take notes, and comprehend that right now, in Orlando, Florida, a birth mom and birth dad want to place their newborn son with two complete strangers halfway across the country. We ask a ton of questions, and the agency tells us everything they know. After our last experience, our guard is up searching for red flags. We do not find any. The agency wants us to talk it over, let them know what we decide, and if we are going to accept placement they’d like us at the hospital tomorrow so they can discharge him directly to us.
I walk back to my desk, grab my stuff and walk towards the door in a giddy daze. Across town, Michelle is telling her boss that she’ll probably be out for the next 12 weeks, starting tomorrow.
We meet at home and discuss the situation over dinner. Our discussion takes about two minutes. This is our son. This is our family.
Today is Monday, March 12, 2012.
* * *
It’s 6 pm on a Monday, and we’ve just made a major life decision. What comes next? Planning (and packing for) a week long trip to Florida, departing the next day.
We spend the rest of today (and the first two hours of Tuesday) buzzing around the house with our heads cut off. Booking a flight out the next morning. Going through all of the newborn girl stuff we had purchased, finding what is gender neutral enough for a boy. Finding a hotel with enough space to hold our expanding family for a week. Trying to remember all of the baby things we’ll need to take. Packing, packing, packing. It is chaotic, but is surprisingly stress free.
I’m at the sink washing up some bottles that we’ll be taking. Michelle is bringing things out of the nursery to the dining room table to get organized. She asks about a name. This little guy currently has a name, but we can change it if we wish. We had two solid girls names picked, but we never had decided anything for a boy. I know that his middle name will be Edward. After his father, Grandpa, and Great-Grandpa.
We toss out one of our previous favorites, and we agree that it doesn’t seem right. Pulling my hands from the warm, soapy water, I ask “What about Cameron?”
Michelle likes Cameron. I like Cameron. Our son has a name.
Now we just need to go get him.
* * *
Michelle and I are not morning people.
So when the alarm goes off at 6 am, the first thought is to shut it off and go back to sleep – especially since we were up well after 2 am getting everything ready. But this is no ordinary day. We’re meeting our son today.
We get dressed, pack the last few things, and load it all into the car. Jamie isn’t really sure what’s going on, but she’s always up for an adventure – especially one where she can take her “pack-pack”. She’s wearing the hot pink “Big Sister” shirt that we bought last year when we announced our last match to my family.
As we pull out of the driveway, Michelle calls the agency. This morning is the first legal opportunity for the birth parents to sign the paperwork terminating their parental rights. We do not want to get on the plane until these papers were signed. The smile on Michelle’s face tells me the news. They have signed. This is our son.
Now comes the fun part…calling our parents. They are all shocked and thrilled and so happy for us. We reduce Michelle’s mom to a happy, sobbing mess at her work.
This is going to be a good day.
* * *
The bulk of our day is spent travelling. Driving from our home in Lincoln to the airport in Omaha. Flying from Omaha to Chicago, and from Chicago to Orlando. Jamie is an amazing traveler, and we power through the long day. We leave the airport with our rental car and luggage and head towards the hospital.
We meet our caseworker, and sit in the hospital’s lobby to go over a big stack of papers. I understand that all of these papers serve a purpose, but all I can think about is that my son is somewhere in this massive building. I’d sign anything they put in front of me to go see him. The 12 hours of travelling is starting to take its toll on Jamie. She’s getting understandably squirrelly sitting in this chair.
Thankfully, we get everything signed and we’re ready to head up to the delivery ward (or whatever they call the floor with all the babies in 2012). Once we get up there, we need to wait just a little longer – something about the hospital’s social worker needs to do paperwork with our agency. The three of us sit in a little lobby between the elevators and the secured doors to the hospital floor.
It is damn tough to accurately describe the feeling of knowing that any minute these doors will open and your child will be wheeled out for the first time, but it is very surreal. We knew these would be the last few moments where it would just be the three of us – our original little family. The car seat we would put Cameron in sitting on the floor beside us; a tiny void ready to be filled.
At last the door opens and our caseworker comes out. Its time to meet our Cameron.
Today is Tuesday, March 13, 2012.
Life has improved greatly.