May 9th wasn't quite a normal day. Justin had an early doctor's appointment so we were up and at 'em earlier than normal. Joci had awoken early on her own and climbed into bed with us. We snuggled for a few minutes as a family - a rare occurrence - before starting our day. I grabbed my cell phone from where it had been charging in the living room and saw I had a missed phone call and voice mail from our matched birth mother. She had never called before. She had called about 6:00 a.m. I told Justin but didn't have time to listen to it because we were in such a hurry. I would listen to it in the car.
Which is exactly what I did.
"Hello, Lara. Please call me. Thank you." Her accent was very thick, but she had a beautiful, lilting alto voice.
I would call her after I dropped Joci off at daycare and got settled into work.
I dropped Joci off. I realized a button had popped off my blouse. As soon as I went into my office I scrounged up a sewing kit and began stitching my button back on my blouse.
My phone rang. Our birth mom. "Hello?" I answered.
"Hi, Lara?" the accent was thick and the words were hesitant. English as a second language for sure. Those two words were about all I understood from the conversation. And something about "baby."
"I'm sorry," I apologized feeling like a total knob, "I can't understand you. Can you say it again?"
The phone passed to a male speaker (I would later find out it was the birth dad). His English was only a little better. But I did gather that he asked if I wanted a picture of the baby.
"Sure," I said, a little confused.
I had been trying for weeks to get a copy of the ultrasound and was trying to see if they would be willing to go get a 3D ultrasound. Maybe that's what he was referring to? Maybe he was asking if we would send pictures of the baby after the adoption?
More was said, but I couldn't understand with the thick accent and broken English. "I am so sorry. I can't understand you," I said.
The call ended.
I sent a quick text message: I am so sorry I had a hard time understanding you. We will get better at this!
A minute later, my phone rang again. I noticed it was an Arkansas area code. I answered it. A woman introduced herself as the translator to helped with the Marshallese adoptions. She told me that the baby had been born at four in the morning and if I could text her the name that would be great.
I was dumbfounded. My brain literally dropped out of my head. My coworkers around me got quite a show. I remember asking if I should go to Arkansas (duh!). Yes, I should, she said. I got off the phone and my mind was spinning. A moment later, I received a photo text with a picture of a baby.
Many of my coworkers in cubicle land had overheard the phone call and gathered around to hear the news. I had had a baby!
How big was she? How early was she? Was she healthy? Were there complications? I knew none of this. I texted the translator back and learned that the baby was "around 6 pounds" and that "mom and baby are fine." Still, the due date was June 19 which means the baby was six weeks early. That's a little worrisome. Not fatal or anything, but it could be problematic.
My coworkers rallied around me instantly. "What do you need?" I knew I needed to get to Arkansas but my brain couldn't wrap around details. My next-door cubicle buddy Amber immediately called the company concierge service to buy diapers, wipes, and formula. Tisa jumped on the computer to help me find a hotel and help me order flowers. Kristen P. asked if she could look up flights. Sarah told me to forward her the picture text of the baby and she could email it to me so I could forward it around. Tisa reminded me to call my husband. He was at the doctors and not answering. I texted him to call me ASAP - it was urgent. I called my mom. No answer. Amber began making a packing list and a to-do list for me. Kristen P. went over my work files with me. All I could think about was what work I needed to do that day. I couldn't think about onesies and car seats. Seriously, all I could think was, "I can't leave until I get this project to Matt."
Finally Justin called me. I told him the news. His response? "Oh sh*#." He said it loud enough that my nearby friends heard it. He instantly got excited and became as jazzed as I was. It was a funny reaction, though. :)
I have never felt more inefficient in my life. I had been through something similar with Jocelyn's early surprise birth. Still, I wasn't affected in this same way. Maybe it was because I had so much more to do - flying out of state for almost two weeks and leaving behind a daughter. If it weren't for my coworkers, I don't know how I would have gotten anything accomplished that day. They are the best.
When I was delivering my project to a coworker named Matt, I brought him up to speed on the fact that I would immediately be going on maternity leave. Now Matt is a supervisor over our travel department. Immediately he offered their services. I declined - I could do it. But then I thought better of it. Yes, I could do it, but why? Someone is offering help. And help would be nice right about now. Yes, I am capable, but help is good. So I said it would be great if someone on his team could help with finding a hotel. I told him the dates I need and what I wanted out of a hotel (a suite with a kitchen and a bedroom with a door). He was on it. In fact, he even offered to call a business partner who lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to ask if I could stay there - he knew this man would generously offer his lovely home to us. I declined, but was touched by the offer. At a time like this, I am lucky to belong to two very family/community oriented groups - the Mormons and Melaleuca. :)
Within an hour, Carrie from travel had booked me a sweet hotel (on University of Arkansas graduation weekend too when everything was booked) and a car using the company discount. So great to not worry about any of that.
I had to remind myself to eat. Once I ate lunch, I would leave for the day. Nothing sounded good. I didn't want to eat a thing. But I knew I needed to. So I ordered my standby favorite: chicken strips and onion rings. I had to force myself to eat a quarter of my meal. My coworkers flocked around me for news like I was some kind of celebrity. It was awesome. I am a bit of an attention hound so I loved every moment of it.
After lunch, I found my desk overflowing with diapers, formula, and wipes. So awesome. I left work and went shopping for preemie clothes, new luggage, new bottle nipples, binkies, etc.
Standing next to the onesies in the baby section at Walmart, all I could think of was a precious little baby and a courageous mother halfway across the country and I broke down sobbing. Why did I deserve to be so blessed? I still marvel at my blessings. God is good.
Later that day, Justin and I met up and shopped. We bought luggage at TJ Maxx and preemie clothes at Dillards (Walmart used to carry them - we couldn't find them there anymore. For the record, Dillards was the only place I found them). I also got a new pair of jeans - some thing I desperately needed. I normally take days to shop for jeans. Luckily, I did it in 30 minutes and found a great pair.
My parents were going to come up the next day for Mother's Day weekend. When they got the news, they hopped in their car a day early and drove the nine hours to get to our home so they could stay with Joci while we were gone. Very sweet and supportive.
I tried to spend a few special moments with Joci. We would be leaving her for longer than we ever had before. Longer than we were comfortable with. We took a picture as a family of three for the last time. As I tucked Joci in bed, she asked me to lay by her. I usually do while I sing her a song or two and then I leave. But I decided to stay and hold her in my arms until she was asleep. I had a six thousand and eight hundred things to do, but none of them seemed as important as snuggling with Joci for awhile. After all, it was the last night she would be my one and only baby.
We packed, washed underwear, and rushed around all night. My brother - who works in dispatch for Skywest Airlines - booked our flights for us. Thanks to him and Melaleuca's travel department, I never had to worry about any of travel arrangements.
Justin gave me my Mother's Day presents early - including a Kindle Touch. He told me he was paranoid about it arriving and had paid extra to get it shipped overnight even though we get free shipping with our Amazon Prime membership. Apparently he was inspired because I got to take the Kindle with me this way.
I finally got to bed around 3 a.m. My alarm was set for 5:00 so we could make our flight. I was so tired, emotionally and physically. When I finally closed my eyes in bed next to my snoring husband, neither my heart or head wanted to stop racing. It took me awhile but I eventually drifted off to sleep, excited for what the next day held in store.