Life returned to normal after our close encounter with the twins.  Winter ended, spring began…T-man was growing stronger with every passing month, and I finally felt like I was hitting my stride as a mom.  When the calendar rolled over into May we were looking forward to T-man’s “Gotcha Day,” the one year anniversary of his coming home.  We were still a couple of weeks away when the agency called and once again, our lives jumped the tracks.

The agency contacted me on a Monday to let us know another birthmother had chosen our family. She felt a connection to us because there were a number of similarities between her family and BrightSide’s, and she wanted her daughter to have a biracial sibling.  The baby was due the following week.

BrightSide and I were thrilled.  A little girl to complete our family — it was a dream come true.  We finished discussing girls’ names that evening, which was excellent timing because the agency called back the next day asking if we knew what name we wanted to put on the birth certificate.

This seemed unusual, especially since they’d only called the day before to talk with us about the baby.  So I came straight out and asked the woman: is this happening for real?  Do you want the name for the birth certificate because the birthmother’s definitely chosen us?  She gave me a somewhat ambiguous yes, so I told her the names we’d chosen.

We found out later that Bear’s birthmother was at a loss for words when she learned the names we had picked.  Bear’s middle name was the same as her own mother’s, and Bear’s first name was the name of her mother’s best friend (a woman she described as being like a second mother to her growing up).  She felt God was sending her a sign that Bear was going to the right parents.

Things were starting to get very real awfully fast, and everything was different this time around. When we got the call about T-man it was just BrightSide and me, so plans were pretty straightforward.  With Bear, there were a lot more factors involved.  Her birthmother had said we were welcome to come to the hospital when she was born, but we had an almost-two-year-old and two dogs in our home — we couldn’t exactly disappear for a couple of days without making arrangements.  So while T-man was a surprise to our family and friends, we would need to ask for help with Bear.

It was around that time I made a quick call to my sister, too.  I started our very vague conversation by nonchalantly asking, “If by chance a newborn showed up in our home, what would I need that I don’t have?”  T-man came home at 10 months so I was pretty sure we didn’t have everything.  I didn’t go into any details about what was happening, but I could practically hear her grinning through the phone as she gave me advice about the supplies we would need right away.

On Wednesday I received another call from the agency.  A problem had developed with Bear — she had a small hole in her heart that had not yet closed.  This hole typically should have closed in utero by that time, and they were concerned there was a possibility that she would need to undergo heart surgery after she was born.  I was completely astounded at the agency’s first question: did we still want to go through with the adoption?  Of course we’re still going forward.  She’s going to be our daughter!  We talked at length about her condition, what the possible outcomes were, and learned that they planned to induce labor on Friday.

Well, that just kicked everything into high gear.  BrightSide’s parents agreed to come to North Carolina to watch T-man for us, and I got ready to leave town.  But this went all topsy-turvy when we learned on Thursday that Bear’s birthmother had gone into labor early.  My parents agreed to take care of T-man and our dogs until BrightSide’s folks arrived.  We packed him up and dropped him off then headed out of town ourselves, not knowing how long we would be gone.  (Have I mentioned that I am the “crazy girl with the plan?”  NOT the “hop in the car for an impromptu road trip” kind of gal? This whole experience was way out there for me.)

If I thought the ride to meet T-man was nerve-wracking, this one nearly drove me to distraction.  There were a million thoughts racing through my head — what if she’s born before we can get there?  What if something goes wrong?  I can’t believe we’re having a baby.  (My apologies to every woman who’s ever been through labor.  This was the only way I was able to phrase it in my head; I fully acknowledge how NOT true that sounds to women who have birthed a child.)

It was late by the time we got to the hospital, and we found the birthmother liaison in the waiting room.  We sat in uncomfortable chairs, making conversation while I tried to keep from fidgeting out of my skin.  Given the baby’s heart condition they were determined to do everything possible to let the labor proceed at its own pace, so after midnight the counselor recommended that we check into the hotel and get some sleep, saying that she’d call as soon as things got close.  We stumbled across the street and into a hotel room, and I remember thinking “she’s crazy, I’ll never be able to sleep” — but somehow, I did.

We got the call a few hours later and were back in the waiting room by 6:00am.  BrightSide had gone to the cafeteria to bring back coffee and breakfast when the agency’s counselor told me that Bear had been born and was doing well. I got to share the joyful news with BrightSide when he came back, and then we settled in to wait for whatever happened next.

That Friday was a very long day, filled with interminable waits and exciting updates and anxious experiences.  For me, it was a crazy mess of knowing my daughter (which is how I thought of her, even though I hadn’t yet met her) was right there in the same hospital, but so were all these other people tied up in loving this child who were stumbling around with their own joy and grief.

We spent the morning in the waiting room, getting occasional updates from the agency’s counselor about Bear’s medical status or what was happening with the birth family.  The birthmother’s parents were present and wanted to know if we could eat lunch together, so we had the chance to meet in the cafeteria and talk.  BrightSide really did have a lot in common with them, which I think made them happy, and we were able to find out more about Bear’s family history.

After lunch the liaison said that it would be quite a while before we’d be able to meet the baby, so BrightSide and I left the hospital to try to kill some time.  I know we saw a movie, though I can’t for the life of me remember what it was, and then grabbed some dinner.  I tried to eat through my butterflies, but all my hammering heart wanted was to go back to the hospital and meet this baby girl.

When we went back that evening the adoption counselor took us to a hospital room where we met Bear’s birthmother and birthfather.  I wish someone had recorded that meeting for me…I have an annoyingly faulty memory when I’m overly excited, and I was definitely wired that night.  BrightSide probably has a much clearer recollection of what we talked about; I simply remember meeting two incredible people and thinking how strong the woman in that hospital bed must be.

Besides Bear herself, the second greatest gift her birthmother gave us was nursery privileges at the hospital.  This meant we were free to visit the nursery anytime; they even had a “family room” set aside there for this sort of thing.  That small blue room is where we finally met our daughter about 14 hours after she was born.

We checked in with the nurses and were taken to this small room where I perched on the edge of my chair, anxiously waiting for the nurse to return.  The next thing I knew she was rolling in a bassinet with the tiniest bundle swaddled up tight, and I caught my breath.  She was so incredibly small, just six little pounds and change, with this teeny face poking out above her blanket.  She was quite possibly the most precious thing I’d ever seen.


Just in case this feels a bit too Hallmark moment for you, here’s a funny (but true) story.  Bear is biracial (a mix of black and white), and we’d just met her birthparents.  So there was a moment right after they brought her in when I swear I thought “Um, sorry, people, you’ve brought the wrong baby” because she was this tiny pink thing.  So then I’m busy scratching my head and double checking the name tag on her bassinet…my friend laughed at this later when she visited and schooled me with “Nope, she’s good.  She’ll darken up over time.”  Oh.  Okay.  White girl walking.

We gave her a bottle and had a (swift and silent) discussion over who should try to change the diaper on this toothpick of a kid.  I held her and rocked her and simply stared…I probably would have stayed there all night if a nurse hadn’t encouraged us to go get some sleep.  I didn’t want to leave Bear, but she insisted that there were plenty of sleepless nights coming our way so we should take advantage while we could.


The next morning we were back again, experiencing this amazing gift of time with our newborn daughter.  Eventually BrightSide went to get the car seat installed at a nearby fire station.  (I should probably mention that BrightSide felt MORE than capable of installing the car seat.  I may have been a bit nutty about getting it inspected by the firemen before we left the hospital, and he wisely accommodated this fixation of mine.)  It was while he was gone that an incredibly kind nurse showed me how to give Bear a bath; watching her was the only thing that convinced me that I wasn’t going to break this tiny baby simply by moving her itty-bitty limbs.

Sunday morning brought the final hurdle — the cardiologist examined Bear to see if the hole in her heart had closed on its own and, thank God, it had.  She received a clean bill of health and then we were released from the hospital, free to take our daughter home.

I’ve had very few experiences quite as terrifying as that moment in front of the hospital, when BrightSide pulled the car around and I was faced with buckling Bear into the baby carrier.  She was so small, dwarfed by the seat around here, and I was suddenly petrified.  What were they thinking, just letting us drive away with her like we had any clue what we were doing?  They must see that panicked look on a lot of parents’ faces because the nurse just patted my back encouragingly, said we’d be fine, and sent us on our way.

The drive home was a crash course in traveling with an infant.  She needed to eat, so I found myself mixing a bottle in a gas station parking lot.  She needed to be changed, too, so I found myself stripping her diaper off as she laid across the front seat.  Every little peep made me snap my head around, wondering what she needed that I hadn’t anticipated, clueless as to what those baby noises meant.

We settled her into a bassinet in our room for the night, and the next day BrightSide’s parents brought T-man home to meet his baby sister.  Our family was finally complete.