My son was born on Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 10:59pm. He was perfect. 7lb 5oz, 20in, and a full head of dark hair. I didn’t see him until almost an hour after he was born. You see, my husband and I adopted our son.
The journey to adoption is a story for another post. This will focus on those 72 hours after birth. The 72 hours that can change the life of a birth and adoptive family forever.
I’m certainly no expert on adoption law, but I do know different states have different laws about the time a birth mother must wait before signing surrender papers. They also differ on how much time, if any, the birth mother has after signing her surrender to change her mind. But, in Ohio it’s 72 hours after the birth. She can choose to parent her child any time during those 72 hours, but she cannot sign the papers surrendering her parental rights until 72 hour after the baby is born.
So, since baby Vincent was born late at night (and since the adoption laws were not read to his birth parents until the following morning) Husband and I had to wait slightly longer than 72 hours before we were allowed to take him home.
Husband and I were the first people (besides Vincent’s birth parents) to see him. I truly had never seen anything so perfectly beautiful. I instantly fell in love with him. I imagine it’s similar to the feeling moms get after giving birth and seeing their child for the first time, but I’ve never had that experience, so I’m not completely sure. I loved him. I thought of him as mine. But, right at that moment, he wasn’t mine. It’s a complicated emotion, and I’ve never been good at doing anything only half way. So, to borrow a popular phrase from the Cleveland Cavs, I was “ALL IN” love with my son. My son who technically belonged to another man and woman at this point.
The hospital was going to let K (birthmom), L (birthdad), Vincent, Husband, and myself stay until Saturday once the surrender and placement papers could be signed. Since we had the dogs (and my step son, Z) at home, Husband went home and I stayed overnight on Tuesday at the hospital…in the same room with K, L, and baby Vinny. It was slightly awkward. The whole situation was strange. I wanted to hold Vincent all of the time. I wanted to feed him, change him, know everything that was happening to him. I wanted to start the bonding process as soon as I could. I felt like his mom, and I wanted to do everything that moms do. However, his birth parents wanted to do the same with him, which makes sense thinking back on it, but in the heat of the moment when emotions are high and sleep is low, it was terrifying. Every time I saw K or L hold him, my thoughts immediately would go toward, “What if they change their mind and parent?” “What if they don’t change their mind, but they don’t want Husband and I as his parents anymore?” “What if we really aren’t what they thought they wanted for their child?” What if, what if, what if… You can really go crazy thinking all of those “what ifs”, and I nearly did.
The hospital gave Husband and I a room. I had planned to stay there until Saturday, but Wednesday was a really hard emotional day – for everyone. I called the social worker on the case crying and asking her if what I was feeling was normal – she reassured me that it was very normal. I called Husband and told him I wanted to go home. I asked him if we were doing the right thing. I asked him if we should just give up on this. Of course, he told me we were doing the right thing, on the right path, etc. But I couldn’t stay at the hospital any longer. The sterile environment/lack of natural light/missing my dogs and step son and husband combined with the emotions of the hospital was too much to handle. I was only at the hospital to bond with my baby, not because I needed to be there or wanted to be a watchdog to make sure his birth parents wouldn’t change their minds.
Going home was the best decision I made for myself. Laying in bed that night was the first time I truly felt relaxed all week. We went to visit baby Vinny the next day (showering that morning never felt better!). We could only stay a few hours, but we made plans for the following day. But I woke up to a text from K, asking us not to come to the hospital that day. Some of her family was coming, and she said it would be a very emotional day for her. I understood. I mean, if it was me, I’d want that time. I’d want to say goodbye. I’d want to explain to him why. I’d want to tell him I’d always love him, and that I’m doing this because I love him more than I love myself. Husband and I spent the day keeping ourselves plenty busy, doing some errands, getting hair cuts…we even went to see a movie that evening.
Then it was Saturday. The day. The day that eventually changed our lives forever. We got to the hospital at 2:00, signed all of the papers we could before K & L signed. Then we waited. And waited. I went to the chapel and prayed the rosary. I played about a million games of candy crush because I couldn’t do anything requiring focus. Then the social worker and lawyer came out, and the first thing I wanted to say was, “Did they sign???”
They signed. The 72 hours from hell was over. The happiest day of my life was the saddest of someone else’s.