No expectations. When you start on your adoption journey, you have to take all your expectations and toss them out the window. No adoption story looks the same. Most of them are not easy or simple. They’re complicated and messy, and while there are moments of great beauty, there are ones of deep, deep sadness too. I want to be protective of Caleb and his birth mom (who I’ll call “M”) and not overshare a lot of private details. But since a lot of people have asked about Caleb’s birth and our adoption journey, I wanted to tell part of his birth story. It’s hard to believe he’s already half a year old, but since November is National Adoption Awareness Month, it seems like the perfect time to do it. So here it is: Caleb’s birth story.
In the weeks leading up to Caleb’s birth, there was a lot we didn’t know. His gender, for one. But all the logistics were completely up in the air. All we knew was that he would be arriving sometime in March or April and that we’d have to travel all the way to North Carolina when he was born. Jamie and I talked through many different scenarios of what this would look like. Would we take Liam? Could one of our parents come with us? Where would we stay? How much time could Jamie take off work? How long would it be until we could come home? There were just so many things we didn’t know.
Because of all the unknowns, it was hard to plan every detail. Some days it felt hard to even know where to start. Eventually, we decided that we would take Liam. We weren’t sure how long we’d have to stay in North Carolina and we didn’t want to be away from him for too long. Through an incredibly generous friend of a friend, we were able to secure a place to stay as long as we needed. We already owned the most important baby essentials from when Liam was a baby. So all we had to do was wait.
Friday early afternoon on April 14, Jamie got a call from our agency. M was experiencing some possible labor symptoms, so she went to the hospital to get everything checked out. The hospital decided they wanted to admit her and begin the induction process. Since everyone knew we had quite a distance to drive, they said they would wait a few hours if they could before inducing M. Of course, Jamie happened to be at work. Because Murphy’s law of firefighting states that every big thing must happen on a shift day. While he waited for someone to fill his spot at his station, Liam and I rushed around trying to pack the last of our bags and baby things.
We finally got on the road right around dinnertime. As we drove through the night, Liam slept and Jamie and I narrowed down our list of baby names and talked through different scenario options for the next day or so. We drove straight to the hospital. Exhausted by our 4 a.m. arrival, but excited with anticipation for the hours ahead, we learned that M was resting. Jamie took Liam out for an early morning breakfast. Around 6 a.m., a nurse called my cell phone. She told me that M was awake and ready to push. And then she asked:
“Are you ready to meet your baby?”
I should tell you that we never discussed with M about how things would go at the hospital. We wanted her to feel free to make any choices she wanted about her labor and delivery without our influence, so it’s something we never talked about. So it wasn’t until that moment where it even occurred to me that I might be able to see our baby being born.
Caleb’s delivery was super fast. He was born at 6:26 a.m. on April 15.
It was the most surreal thing – getting to know this teeny tiny little guy over the next several hours. It’s strange, feeling like you’re in this in-between state where this baby is not yet yours in a legal sense, but your heart is beginning to bond with him.
I’d like to tell you that the first 24 hours of Caleb’s life were pure bliss, but that just wouldn’t be true. We found out upon arrival to the hospital that Liam wasn’t allowed up onto any patient care floors (flu season). And since we were alone in a city we’d never been to before, Jamie and I had to take turns spending time with Caleb and occupying Liam. A family member of a friend here in Ohio just happened to live and work near the hospital. Even though we had never met, she offered to watch Liam for a couple hours so that Jamie and I could talk over some logistics with our agency and our lawyer.
The hospital where Caleb was born only handles a small number of adoption cases each year. We were really careful not to overstep during our hospital stay, since at this point, we were still only hopeful adoptive parents. But at the same time, there were a couple hospital policies that we made special requests about. One of Caleb’s nurses was incredibly kind and sweet. She talked to the charge nurse several times for us because of our special circumstances.
For instance, because I’d been at the hospital most of the day with Caleb, Jamie and I though we should swap places for the evening so that Liam could get some mommy time in. Since the hospital only issues two parent bracelets per baby (I had one and M had one), technically Jamie wasn’t allowed to stay with Caleb without me – let alone spend the night. This nurse was able to get us permission to have Jamie stay overnight in the hospital room.
The next day, this same nurse was able to set up a room for us – away from any patient care areas – for Liam to join us while we signed a stack of paperwork. Liam, who had been incredibly disappointed about not being able to meet Caleb the day before, was ecstatic to meet his baby brother.
Our whole hospital stay was kind of a whirlwind. Between figuring out all the paperwork logistics (on a holiday weekend especially), checking in on M and adjusting to caring for a newborn again, a lot of it feels like a blur. Less than 48 hours after Caleb’s birth, he was discharged and I was walking out the front door with him in my arms. The last time I left a hospital with a baby, I was in a wheelchair and recovering from surgery, so this was a very different experience for us.
We will always tell Caleb about his mother’s strength and how much, even on day one, he looks like her. We’ll tell him how we drove all night and hundreds of miles to meet him and how his big brother couldn’t wait to get there. And about all the people – strangers – who went out of their way to help. Caleb’s birth story isn’t at all what I thought it would be. But I couldn’t have written it any better, because it’s his birth story. The story of how he became part of our family.