The next morning, we slept in a bit and then went to the hospital. We probably arrived close to 10 a.m. We were told to bring breakfast. We brought a dozen mixed donuts, hot breakfast sandwiches from Burger King, some Bartlett pears, and orange juice.
Before arriving, the translator texted me to say something came up and she wasn't going to be there when we arrived, but she would be there later. So we were prepared for an interesting morning with halted communication.
Anyway, we got to the hospital, knocked on the door of the birth mother's room and entered with our arms full of goodies. The sadness of the day was palpable. The mother was in the corner, her backs to us, keeping busy by folding baby clothes into piles. Try as she might, she couldn't disguise the sounds of her quiet crying. The father greeted us and handed us the baby. We awkwardly sat on the couch, listening to the mother cry. I asked the father if we should leave. He told us no, we should stay. Then he took a donut and excused himself to look after some administrative business at the front desk.
Justin and I exchanged pained looks as we sat there in silence on the couch, holding a beautiful sweet baby that I just wanted to snuggle and kiss and coo over, yet shocked into silence by the sounds of crying coming from her mother.
More than anything, I just wanted to pull this woman aside and ask her what she needed from us. Had she changed her mind? I would understand. Listening to her cry, part of me wanted her to change her mind. Did she want to be alone? Did she need to soak up her last few hours with the baby? Did she need to have a heart to heart with me, mother to mother, so I could promise her I would always love and cherish her baby and give her everything in my power?
It felt like we were frozen in that uncomfortable moment forever, though it was maybe ten minutes. K (the birth mother) got on her phone and was speaking Marshallese. Then she handed the phone to us. It was the translator. "K wants me to tell you not to worry about her crying and the noise she is making. She wants you to know everything is okay and you have nothing to worry about."
Oh my goodness. My heart just fell into my toes. Here is this woman mourning over the imminent loss of her precious child with only a few hours left as her mother, and she is worried about how we feel? Talk about true love, true charity. I was humbled.
The birth father, G, returned. K stopped crying and we tried to eat some breakfast and talk a little. Conversation was hard with a lot of awkward laughing and smiling filling in the gaps.
I wore this shirt on Jocelyn's placement day, too.
The translator called me and told me that she wouldn't be able to come at all. She was too busy with something else. That threw a wrench into things a little bit. We had found a local lawyer who would finalize and we had all the papers that needed to be signed, but the birth parents needed to sign them in front of a notary and they needed a translator to go over all the documents with them to ensure an understanding of what they were signing. The hospital employs a notary and we were planning on doing all the signing there. Suddenly I didn't know what to do. It was a bigger pickle than just not being able to communicate. The clock for birth parents changing their minds and the clock for finalization begins at signing. This was Friday. If they didn't sign that day, we wouldn't be able to sign until Monday, tacking an extra three days into our wait (not to mention an extra three days car rental and hotel rental).
The translator just told me to have the birth parents sign the papers without her. I wasn't comfortable with that. I didn't want any kind of loopholes that would cause problems down the road - "We didn't know what we were signing. It was in our second language." Not that I felt the birth parents had any intentions like that, but it's not worth the risk.
I told her that she had to be there at signing. She asked if I could ask the lawyer he hired if he would come in on a Saturday for the signing. I was pretty sure that scenario would never fly so I didn't even toy with the idea. I insisted that she come and we do it today. She said if we all me at the lawyer's office, that would work.
The birth parents were ready to go. They were all packed, all dressed, and it seemed like they were ready to rip the band-aid off. But their ride hadn't arrived yet and the baby still had a computer chip on her umbilical cord.
I really didn't know what was going on. We were told the translator would take care of everything, but we quickly learned that we had to be in charge - not her. With Jocelyn, the entire hospital staff knew who we were. Doctors and nurses spoke to us and gave us instructions. Of course we had case workers there too. We were flying blind this time. Since K and G were ready to go and they were looking to us for guidance. So I walked out to the nurses' station and introduced myself and asked what needed to happen for us to be discharged with the baby.
Surprise, surprise - no one at the hospital knew this baby was being placed for adoption. One of the nurses apologetically admitted that she had convinced K to breastfeed. The nurses weren't sure what to do either. They copied the relinquishment paperwork. Discharge took a little longer and K and G were really ready to go, especially once G's sister showed up (she was their ride). Finally a nurse came in to do the official discharge. She was extremely kind and accommodating to us. She went over all the health and safety stuff. When she learned we would be in a hotel for awhile, she loaded us up with ready-to-use bottles and nipples. Close to $100 of formula. So generous. She removed the chip from Noelle's cord and we were free to go.
There wasn't a lot of tears or fanfare leaving the hospital. I guess because we were going to head straight to the lawyer's. With Jocelyn, leaving the hospital was the hard part. So we went straight to the lawyer's office. We had the baby in our car and K, G, and G's sister P followed us. The translator met us there. I figured the tears and heart-wrenching goodbyes would happen at the law office. No. Not at all. Things went really smoothly. We lingered, making sure K and G had time to say goodbye. We invited them to go out for dinner later. G had to work so they declined.
We returned to our hotel. It felt so strange to suddenly have a baby in the backseat. That whole - we're going in as two and coming out as three thing. So weird. I wonder if the feeling is as weird for biological children. In a way, with a pregnant woman and husband you go in as three and come out as three - it's just that the location of the third one is a little bit different. :)
We finally had the space fully feel the happiness that had been waiting in the wings. Without an audience, we adored Noelle. We counted her toes. We smelled her head. We snuggled her and kissed every inch of her cheeks. We called our parents. We took pictures. She was ours and our hearts were free to fall in love with her. And we did.
We unwrapped her and got a good look at her.
First diaper change.
Changed her clothes.
Said goodbye to our hearts.