The Final Goodbye
I woke up feeling angsty today. I am not quite sure why I would feel that way after a fun filled weekend with friends and family, but I did. I didn’t plan on writing this post today, but with my current mood, it just seemed right.
This morning, I quickly finished up a few things for work, picked up some Starbucks and now I am sitting in front of a beautiful lake and a blank page. I guess it is now or never…
This is my seventh post of eight in our adoption story blog series. As always, please get caught up and subscribe to my email list. If you wouldn’t mind, if this blog has meant something to you, would you consider sharing my blog on Facebook or on another social media outlet? I apologize for the shameless plea, but my hope is that this story will find its way to those out there that need to hear it. And that requires some sharing. Thanks guys!
To pick up where we left off, we had just gone to bed on day 19 of 20.
I certainly woke up feeling anxious that following morning. It was the weekend in between celebrating Jack’s birthday and Christmas. Every year, we celebrate Christmas over three days- starting on the 23rd. If we were going to be giving BabyG back to her birthmom, I wanted it to happen on one of these “in between” days. Since Jack’s party was over, we were now in that time pocket. The anxiety continued to escalate.
I spoke with our social worker that morning on the phone. She had been counseling our birthmom over the last few days. She told me that she still couldn’t give me an update on how things were going (confidential), but she expressed complete understanding about how hard this wait was for us. Little did I know, our birthmom had planned on making a decision the night before, but they had not heard from her yet.
I can’t really remember what happened that morning and early afternoon. I have vague memories of picking up the house and caring for BabyG. Jack was happy playing with his new birthday toys (namely a new cash register). I just remembering feeling like today was important- that our lives would never be the same after December 20, 2014.
It was Saturday. Justin was at church rehearsing for Christmas Eve and for the service that would happen at 5pm that night. Around 3pm, Jack laid down on the floor the BabyG, completely unprompted. He just stared at her and talked to her sweetly. My heart broke. I silently took a picture, clearly thinking that this may be the last time they would share this kind of moment.
I decided we needed to get out of the house. I hastily packed up and decided to head to church to be with Justin.
On the way over, BabyG started crying. In my frazzled state, I thought I had forgotten to pack bottles (I hadn’t). She wasn’t due to eat for a bit, but I decided to stop at the grocery store to pick up some formula.
I pulled off the freeway. And it was there- in that Albertsons parking lot that I still drive by every time I go to church- that my phone rang.
And I just knew it would be her. I didn’t even need to look at my phone. It was our facilitator calling to tell me the final decision.
We sat in the parking lot as she explained what had gone on that week. There had been many conversations between our birthmom, the social worker and facilitator. Many sounded as if they had been confusing and emotional. But in the end, our birthmom decided that she wanted to parent BabyG. This was completely within her legal right to do this within the first 30 days after birth.
Our facilitator asked us how I wanted the exchange to take place. I was surprised to find out that there weren’t any papers that needed to be signed. We just had to find a time to meet up for this emotional goodbye.
It was late afternoon and our birthmom was still 2.5 hours away. I told our facilitator that I wanted it to happen as soon as possible. I just wanted this to be over. And of course, Justin had to lead worship at our service that night. I told our facilitator that I would talk to him and let her know. Our facilitator agreed that our birthmom should get on the road as soon as possible though.
But of course, I still needed to buy the darn formula. I was reeling. So much so, that in slow motion, I got her out of her carseat and decided to carry her around in the store. Bad idea. Meanwhile, Jack was having a breakdown because he wanted to ride the blue car cart and I had no idea what he was saying.
So if you can imagine me in that parking lot, holding an infant in my arms and trying to navigate to the store entrance with a screaming almost-3-year- old. I got several strange looks and a few offers for help.
Finally, I got Jack in his car cart and I was still awkwardly holding BabyG. I could barely push the giant cart. I called Justin and told him in a complete frenzy what was happening. He told me to get to church as soon as I could.
I found the formula and naturally, it was LOCKED UP. There was a button to page someone to unlock it, which I promptly pushed one million times to no avail. I finagled the cart over to the pharmacy and asked someone to help me.
“You need to push the button.”
I started tearing up and asked them to please help me find someone. I think the associate saw the desperation in my face and found someone to unlock it.
We made it over to the check stand. I was barely holding it together as my mind raced about what was about to happen to our family. All of a sudden, I hear a voice saying, “Oh, your daughter is beautiful!”
“Thank you,” I said holding back tears.
“When was she born?” I told her the date and acted like I was in a rush. With my strange behavior, I am sure she probably thought I was a kidnapper or something. I have never wanted to get out of a store as badly as I did in that moment. I just wanted to get to my husband and fast forward to the end of this terrible night.
I finally made it to church. As the three of us walked in, my eyes met Justin’s on the stage. He was in the middle of a song, but his eyes said it all. Is this really happening? It was a plea or a prayer…or something.
I fed BabyG the newly purchased formula (and noticed the bottles in the bag) and Jack happily ran around the room while Justin finished his rehearsal. After he finished, we hugged silently and then decided that we would just have our birthmom come to the church and do the exchange there. We didn’t want those memories in our home. I told our facilitator and she told me that she would come and meet us when our birthmom got closer.
I am not sure how Justin got through his set that night, but somehow he did.
From Justin: That night, I led the church in a song called, “Worth It All” by Ben Cantelon. One of the lyrics says, “Jesus, everything I’ve lost I have found in you.” I didn’t believe it that night. Jesus seemed so far away. Every time we sing that song now, I still struggle with those words. As I tell the congregation often, “If we can’t mean it right now, then let’s pray it together.”
Meanwhile, my pastor’s wife offered to hold BabyG. I took her up on it. I could barely function. She snuggled her and changed her diaper. This is the community of God at its best. When one of you falls, the one next to you offers to stay a while and hold the weight of it all. And if the two of you can’t hold it, more come along. That is what happened this night and the nights that followed.
Justin’s parents had arrived for church. We decided that they would take Jack home that evening before this all went down. I texted my siblings and told them what was happening. I called my parents in tears. They said they would be right over.
My sister was at her in-laws for a Christmas celebration (including my sweet niece I mentioned in my last post). Apparently, her three kids got wind of what was happening and immediately started wailing (that is how my sister described it). It was enough to shut the party down. My sister asked if they could come and say goodbye.
So there we were- church had just finished and the room was clearing out. The news had finally registered with Justin now that the responsibility of church was over. He was pacing around agitatedly.
We sat down with Jack and tried to explain to him what was happening. Thankfully, he didn’t seem to fully understand. He asked a few questions and then seemed to brush it off. We let him give her a kiss and he left with Justin’s parents.
My sister’s family came in. She wasn’t minimizing it- they were wailing. I remember seeing my sister’s pale face as she said, “We didn’t know what else to do. They want to say goodbye to her.”
Their goodbye was probably the worst part. They were doing in full scale what we all wanted so desperately to do- to cry and scream out that this didn’t feel fair or right. As kids, they don’t have the restraints in place that we have. They just feel and demonstrate it all at the same time. We all fell apart together as they each held her and cried while she slept. They said their goodbyes and their parents ushered them out of the room.
After they left and Justin and I had regained our composure, we sat in the lobby. My parents were there and my sister ended up coming back after getting the kids to bed. Our facilitator came and just sat with us. We walked for over an hour as we waited for our birthmom to get there. It was comforting to talk with her and we all prepared ourselves to say goodbye.
Soon, our birthmom arrived. She walked in and immediately the room was thick of deep emotion- such longing, sadness, love, despair, and grief. It was almost as if a fog had settled in silently.
She tried to speak. She tried to tell us how sorry she was and that she never meant to hurt us. She couldn’t finish through her tears. Her friend ended up trying to say what she was trying so hard to tell us. We nodded silently.
Justin handed BabyG her over to her mother.
I had sat silently in my seat with tears streaming down my face. I knew right then that I couldn’t let her walk out. I felt myself stand up and embrace our birthmom. I said, “We wish you all the best.”
After all, we had fallen in love with our birthmom too. As a little sister of sorts, I wanted her to know that despite my grief, I wanted her to be ok. I hope she did.
And if you are reading this, Birthmom- we still care so deeply for you and still wish the very best for you and BabyG. I know you had such an incredibly hard decision to make. We continue to pray that it was the right one for everyone involved.
We gave her the formula we had bought at Albertsons and sent her with the blanket and clothes BabyG was wrapped up in.
They drove away.
And in an instant, we were a family of three once again.