F Is For Family

photo credit: https://www.almphotographic.com/

F is for family. When I was in elementary school, I thought, “when I grow up and get married, I want two kids.” I grew up with a brother, and I was one of two kids. In high school I thought, “I will probably get married right after college and start a family soon after that.” Many years later, after that didn’t happen, I made a deal with God. I thought, “I will go volunteer to work overseas for Habitat, and you will find me my future husband in Latin America.” God had a different plan, I met my husband of 18 years in small-town, Americus, Georgia working for Habitat in the United States.  We married in 2001 and moved to Maryland in 2003, where we started our family.

My pregnancy went well. I planned to deliver my baby at a birthing center with my midwife. I called my mom in California the night before my delivery to tell her my water broke. Within hours she was on a plane heading to Maryland. We ended up at a hospital, since my labor was so long, 22 hours. Amazingly my husband and my mom, were with me when our first daughter was born on November 30, 2004. She is a joy and she is off to high school soon.

At age 39 we did a genetic evaluation for having a second healthy baby. The results didn’t look great. At age 40 the chances for miscarriage jump dramatically and keep increasing over time. Downs syndrome becomes more common in babies born to moms over 40. Having a healthy child at age 40 or above is a gamble that we decided not to take.

We wanted to be a family of four though. My daughter really wanted a brother or sister and I wanted a sibling for her. We all wanted another child to love. We decided on domestic adoption. In 2012 it took us about 6 months to work through the process: 3 months to do paperwork and about 3 months to complete our home study. Part of the paperwork consisted of documenting our physicals, meeting the fire marshal at our home and submitting our tax returns. Adoptions Together made sure we were prepared, probably more prepared than your average first parents.

On a Friday in September, Adoptions Together called: “We have an African American baby in the NICU at Mt. Washington Hospital in Baltimore. She was premature and has no health problems and could be released at the end of next week. Are you interested in adopting her?” “Yes, we are interested!” I said. Then I asked my oldest daughter, “Do you want to go in the basement to see what things we can bring up for the baby, just in case they find us a baby soon.” “Ok, mom. Let’s get some blankets and clothes, and a stuffed animal. What else do we have?” she asked. I had saved lots of my daughter’s clothes and other baby necessities, in giant tubs in the basement. We collected our treasures and arranged them in my daughter’s room, where we had set up a new crib. This would be the room the new sisters would share.

We spoke to the doctor at Mt. Washington on a Monday and he informed us the baby girl was a healthy preemie. She was born at home and taken to John’s Hopkins, where she weighed in at 4 pounds 13 ounces. Now, three weeks later, she had been moved to Mt. Washington Hospital because she was doing so well. We were excited and we shared the news with our daughter and our moms. On Tuesday the doctor told us we could pick the baby up the next day, Wednesday. We met the NICU nurse on Wednesday morning at Mt. Washington. She said, “The first thing I need to tell you is, she is beautiful.” She was beautiful, her dainty, small, brown face framed by the white blanket that swaddled her. She had sparkly, bluish eyes. I held her warm, little, body and she felt so light and fragile. The nurse told us, “She is a messy eater” and showed us how to give her a bottle, something we would do about every 3 hours. In Addition to practicing to feed the tiny baby, the nurse had us watch videos on baby safety. We also practiced keeping the baby in her car seat, for an extended length of time, to make sure she would be ok, for the ride home. In the early afternoon we made our way to the front of the hospital, with our sweet baby in the stroller. Part of me thought someone might stop us and ask “where are you taking that baby?” No one did, and the nurse told us to have a good day as we signed out.

I felt a little strange walking into the hospital with my husband that morning, and walking out with my husband, and our new baby that afternoon. I felt like I was stealing her. I also felt healthy and energetic, since I hadn’t been pregnant, no recovery time necessary for me. I held my baby and I already felt attached. I had been waiting for her for many years. My oldest daughter was now 7 years old and we had been dreaming about adopting a baby since she was about 3 years old. The waiting was over and we would get to love and raise a second child. We held our little, snuggly, girl and gave thanks to God that she was finally home with us, our new family of four.  Now at age 6 she tells me, “I am so happy to be part of this family.” She also says to me, “Daisy is my best friend.” I say, “That’s nice.” She continues, “We’re sisters.” I say, “I know.” I can’t picture our family any other way.

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