Caseworker calls on Christmas Eve 2011 - Surprise! You have a baby boy!
Caseworker calls on Noah's 1st birthday 2012 - Surprise! Another baby on the way!
So you can see how our little inside joke about surprise calls from the agency usually results in a baby coming home with us. Fast forward to August of 2014...I'm in the middle of putting the boys down for nap when my phone rings.
I know that number. My heart stops.
Rather than interrupt the process of nap, I get the boys in bed, take a deep breath and check my voice mail. Of course she won't leave any details on the phone; just a "Hope you're well. Hey, call me back. I have some news."
In the movies, there's always that line in the script, "Are you sitting down?" or "You need to sit down". I believe I experienced why characters feel the need to say such things. Since only a few minutes had passed, I called back hoping to catch her before lunch and she picks up right away.
"So...we heard from your birth mom. She's pregnant and wants to make an adoption plan."
I sat down mid-stairway. Hello, heart pounding!
What we came to find out was that our birth parents were expecting to do the adoption but they didn't necessarily want to ask us; they didn't want to assume that we would say yes. Gladney called us to get a feel for where we would stand on the matter and I am so thankful they did! We took a few days to pray and talk (even though the husband's answer was immediate) and called Gladney back with our intent to move forward with the adoption should our birth parents want to do so.
Almost in a reverse situation of when we first learned of Noah - that we had already been chosen before saying yes - we had said yes to baby #3 and our birth parents before they realized we were an option! We waited another two weeks to hear back and finally the call from Gladney came that they were sending paperwork our way and we were officially in the process. Our birth parents were thrilled that we wanted this baby.
Obviously by now, we're pros at adoption paperwork. It took us no time to collect everything and send it back off to the agency. The difficult part was the waiting. Noah's placement had been almost immediate and from the time we learned of Aaron to when he was born, it was only five weeks. Baby #3 wasn't due until January! Five months goes by achingly slow.
One other aspect was the sex of the baby. It felt like pulling teeth waiting and waiting to find out. Finally, we heard from our birth mom! She has never sent anything to us until this baby - her sonogram pictures! Since it was just a technician doing the sonogram, there wasn't an official doctor's stamp on whether boy or girl. But from what we were given and told, the technician was certain the baby was a boy. The photos even came with a blue card.
I think we felt like any parent in that we mostly were hoping that the baby was healthy. I love my two rascally guys and to add a third would have been smooth sailing. Besides, I love my momma's boys! But obviously, to have a girl was so strong a desire that my heart was bursting at the seams, waiting for the news, in hopes that this time around we would be so lucky.
Waiting for a baby to be born, that you yourself are not birthing, is such a strange position in and of itself. We go about our daily lives and really there isn't much to do to prepare. Honestly, there were days that I had to remind myself that there was a baby coming.
Finally, we got an official due date - January 22nd. Which coincidentally happens to be Aaron's birthday as well. We were also told that our birth mom was sending another package that would reveal the sex of the baby. She didn't want us to find out over the phone. She wanted it to be something a little more special. I tried not to speculate that that meant she was having a girl, but it was difficult not to read too much into it when some other friends and family thought the same thing.
A week went by...no letter. Another week...no letter.
I called the agency and found out that her letter had been returned. Something about the wrong zip code. So we waited again. At this point, the arrival of the letter on the second attempt would culminate while my mother-in-law and I went on our weekend cruise in November. (So now you see, the purpose of the cruise was to get some time off before baby #3 came!) No letter arrived before our trip and on our return, there was no letter waiting for me either. Once again, we found out that her package had been returned! Desperation was truly kicking in! If you've known me personally for a while, then you know that I like to plan and that I don't like suspense. Obviously, the lack of news was killing me.
A couple more weeks passed and I get a call from our caseworker. Our birth mom had given her permission to call us and tell us over the phone all the details of her last doctor appointment and the sex of the baby! The husband wasn't with me but I had her tell me anyhow. My plan was to go out and buy an outfit or something representative of the baby as a fun way to tell the husband. The following day was perfect! The husband ended up working from home and as a result I convinced him and I to get lunch together.
That is when I gave him this:
IT'S A GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
My first text to my closest friends was that "daddy was going to be so broke" along with the above picture. Unlike our other adoptions, we were more open with telling a small group of people outside of our family and closest friends with the typical instruction to keep the news off social media. Although we felt like this would be a for sure thing, it's always been my preference to wait. As a reminder, Texas law states that a birth parent cannot sign any adoption paperwork until the baby is 48 hours old. Nothing would be set in stone until then.
As for the fact that we were having a girl, I could go forever on what the news truly meant to me, but I think that's something I'll save just for Baby Girl to read about one day. In the meantime, I had literally sold all of our baby gear once Aaron grew out of it. So piece by piece, I began to buy some items back along with a steadily growing wardrobe full of pink.
Fast forward through the holidays and seeing that January 22nd was around the corner, I felt like three weeks was plenty of time to still get things done around the house and whatnot. I had had my mom-cation, we upgraded to a minivan to be able to seat three kids in car seats, the husband and I took our CPR class and other educational courses, we bought beds for the boys in anticipation of them sharing a room, we bought a swing set for the backyard to keep them entertained, and we were taking advantage of all that we could do as a family of four.
Just shy of New Years, our caseworker calls with an update: our birth mom's due date was moved up to Jan 15th. Huh?! Suddenly, three weeks became two and anxiety set in. My other mom friends said I was just nesting, but isn't all nesting just wanting to get stuff done before you can't anymore? At least not as easily as before.
One week and a few days later we get another call that our birth mom was being induced on the 14th. It's one thing to hang around and wait for the call that your birth mom went into labor and had the baby (as was the case with Aaron). It's another thing to know the day and time.
I did not let my phone out of sight on the 14th. I even held back and didn't check in until sometime after lunch to ask for an update. Finally, that afternoon we learned of the birth of a baby girl! (Yes, even until then I had my fingers crossed) Born 6lbs 8oz and 18 1/2 inches long. Healthy baby and healthy mom!
Our plan was to drive the next day to Kerrville, which is where all our babies were born, stay the night, and the expectation was that papers would be signed right at 48 hours and we would then head home. We brought the boys with us (which in hindsight, I'm still not sure whether I'm glad we did or not) but what was different about this trip compared to when we went to pick Aaron up from the hospital, was that Gladney and the local social worker offered to let me stay at the hospital that second night with the baby. It's a risk that I thought about and decided I was willing to take. The underlying difficulty would be if our birth parents changed their minds and wanted to parent the baby, I would risk getting attached and make myself emotionally vulnerable should that situation arise. To me it was worth it. Worth it just to be able to meet her and love on Noah and Aaron's little sister for one night.
The husband dropped me off at the hospital that night and right away they wheeled her into our own little room. She looked just like Noah at first sight until I caught a glimpse of that gorgeous jet black hair. I've never stayed at a hospital before so the experience was interesting but definitely not something I'd care to repeat. And just like a newborn, the baby decided to party until 3:00am. Once I'd had enough, the nursing staff came and took her to the nursery so I could get a couple hours of sleep. Everything comes back to you very quickly with caring for a baby but I was thankful for that first night to have a refresher all on my own.
The next day was spent coming in and out of the hospital. Since the baby couldn't leave, someone representing the baby had to be there at all times so either myself or our birth parent's caseworker would be at the hospital. When I got the text that our birth parents had signed their papers, the husband brought the boys up and we started the long process of taking some pictures and then signing our own book of papers, all while corralling two boys who had cabin fever. Then at about 3:30pm, just like that, we were a family of five packing up and heading home.
We didn't quite make it home in one sitting. For all our sanity's sake, we stopped overnight and then continued home the following day. Since coming home, it's been a whirlwind of emotions and finding a new routine and pace to what will be every day life. I look at her and am amazed that she is ours. I have a daughter! I also want to soak in every moment because I believe that she will be our last and I don't want to lose track of this stage. I already know how quickly it goes.
As for her name, we had Charlotte picked out at the time when Aaron was born and it has carried over in our hearts for two years as we waited for her to arrive. The boys call her Charlee and it's a nickname we had planned for as well. Her middle name is Michelle Jeanette. While I've never been a huge fan of additional names, in her case, this was important to us. For each of our children, we have kept the middle name that their birth mother gave them: all names that start with J. So Jeanette was her given middle name. However, we will never be able express how indebted we are to our birth mom so it made all the sense in the world to gift our daughter with a part of who her first mommy was...and that is her name, Michelle.
So here we are with three amazingly beautiful children, all gifted to us from the same birth mom. It means everything to know that they are biological siblings and that they will have each other as they grow older. As in the past, we did not get a chance to meet our birth parents, but more specifically, our birth mom. We love her and she knows that we are willing and waiting to meet her when she is ready. Since announcing to friends and family and even talking to strangers in passing, I've heard so many comments (from strangers mostly) regarding why our birth mom was pregnant again for the third time so close to the other two. Comments about her ability to not get pregnant or whether she's going to have more. Even comments about if she'd heard of Planned Parenthood. While I am not easily offended and I love to tell our adoption story, I can tell you this: I am extremely protective of our birth mom and without her I would not have the family I have today. She is a part of us. When people hear of our story, I don't ever want the focus to be on why our birth mom this, or why our birth mom that. I want our story to reflect on the fact that this mom made the most selfless decision a woman can make. Not once but three times! She is stronger than I will ever know and because of her, I am a mommy to my sons and now to my beautiful daughter, Charlotte.