Monday, August 24, 2015

A Special Thank You

A great big thank you to all our family and friends who have been so wonderful in reaching out to us in the last week.  We are so blessed to be surrounded by such loving and supportive people.

A special thank you to our friends Kate and Debbie who pitched in to help us when we got home from visiting family.

And a great big thank you to everyone who has been praying for us, and for those who contributed to the spiritual bouquet we found waiting for us at home.  It means a great deal to us and we are so grateful for you all.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Story of Ben

Benedict John Paul David, Born August 17, 2015
I wrote this Friday, August 21, 2015 about 36 hours after our sweet little boy left my arms.

My heart aches to hold him, our sweet Ben who was in our lives for 36 hours.

Here is the story of how he came to be ours for just a short time but will be in our hearts forever.

Monday

It was a typical Monday. I left work for lunch and went to visit a friend and bring her a Wendy’s frosty. When she didn’t seem to be home I decided to stop at our apartment and share the frosties with Mike. I glanced at my phone before driving home and saw that our social worker (sw) had called. When I walked in the door of our apartment Mike was on the phone with our sw and waving me to sit down. I could hear him talking to her about a baby being born.

A birthmom picked us to be the parents for her child!!!  She was heading to the hospital because of bleeding. Birthmom wanted a totally closed adoption and didn’t want to meet us or see baby. She felt it was just too hard for her. Birthmom was from Poland and hadn’t told anyone she was pregnant. Her grandmother and sister lived in the area, but even they didn’t know she was expecting. It made us sad that we wouldn’t get to meet her and that our child wouldn’t get to have birthmom in his or her life.

Thinking about our baby being born, we were overjoyed, shocked, excited, ecstatic, and totally amazed. I went back to work for the rest of the day but could hardly concentrate. I tried to organize things with the thought of being out for a while. The whole time I was thinking and praying for birthmom and the little baby waiting to be born. 

Our sw called at 6:00pm and told us birthmom’s water had broken and she had received an epidural. We called our parents and siblings to let them know. Our niece was so excited over the phone, it was beautiful. Mike and I were excited, but also quite in shock. It seemed surreal.

So many things to get ready! We had no baby stuff in the house at all.

We went to get a stroller, car seat, and pack 'n play. Mike got the book, “What to Expect During the First Year”. It was pouring rain as we went from store to store. While out and about we talked about ideas for baby names. We stopped at some dear friends who lent us their pack 'n play and some baby clothes.

At 10:00pm our sw called to let us know a little baby boy was born and ready to meet us in the morning! He was 7lbs, 3oz and 19.” Born at 37 weeks. We were overjoyed!

Mike and I made a list of our favorite boy baby names and settled on “Benedict John Paul.” We planned to call him Ben.

It was so hard to fall asleep knowing our little baby was all alone in the nursery at the hospital. I wanted him to be in my arms. I wanted him to know he was loved. It broke my heart thinking that our baby was waiting for us, but we couldn’t be there to hold him.  

While we were lying in bed Mike played the song, “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed. In the past it always made him sad, but finally, tonight, it had a happy meaning.

Tuesday

We started Tuesday with Mass. After Mass we told our pastor that we were going to meet our future son. He was so excited for us, having walked with us along the road of infertility for the past six years. He prayed a blessing over us in the sacristy.

Then we were on our way to the hospital! The drive was only 45 minutes but way too long in my opinion. I was so impatient. We got there around 10:00am.

At the hospital we waited for an hour or so before paperwork was signed allowing us to meet baby. 

We met the doctor and nurses who were taking care of him. When we met the nurse she said, “I have been taking care of Ben this morning.” That was the first time I heard someone else say Ben’s name and I choked up immediately.  

We walked into the nursery around 11:30am. It was a special care unit, kind of like a NICU, but less intensive. When I saw Ben for the first time my heart swelled. The nurses put him in my arms and I saw Ben’s beautiful, sweet, precious face for the first time. He was perfect. He had the most beautiful dark hair, chubby cheeks, and adorable “rosebud” lips. I couldn’t stop gazing and loving.

There were a few other babies and their parents in the unit. I was self-conscious about talking too loudly but I told Ben he was beautiful and that I loved him. Then I just held him. And Mike held him. And I held him some more. It was bliss.

We had lunch around 3:00pm and came back to hold Ben. The other babies had been discharged so we had the nursery to ourselves! At that point the sw told us that his birthmom wanted to come hold him. We were so glad to hear this! Initially when birthmom hadn’t wanted to see baby it made us so sad. We wanted her to meet her son, hold him, and see his sweet face. We wanted her heart to heal and have closure. At the same time we were also quite nervous that once she saw him she would change her mind.

We left the nursery and went to the lounge to wait. Our phones were dead so we sat there and waited and stared into space. It was the longest hour and fifteen minutes ever. Finally we got to go back to the nursery. We heard that birthmom’s visit was emotional but very good. Despite our nervousness we were very glad that birthmom had visited Ben. In Illinois a birthmom can sign papers 72 hours after baby is born. Since Ben was born at 8:00pm on Monday, she could sign at 8:00pm Thursday, allowing Ben to be ours.

We cuddled our sweet little boy for a few hours more. We talked to him. He got the hiccups and they were adorable. Mike blessed Ben on the forehead with the sign of the cross.

At 7:00pm we left to go buy blankets, bottles, and diapers. We also wanted to get a gift and card for birthmom. Mike found a precious necklace with two diamond stones (a big one and a little one) surrounded by a silver circle. The caption in the gift box said, “Whether we are near or far apart, we are always together in one heart.” It was perfect.

Friends and friends of friends offered to start pumping for us so our little boy could have breastmilk. Mike set up the pack 'n play and I cleaned out cupboard space for bottles.

Wednesday

Wednesday morning our sw called to say that birthmom wanted to meet us. Birthmom told our sw she was “100%” for adoption. We were excited and nervous to meet her. What a blessed opportunity. 

We wanted to thank her for giving her son life and for choosing us to be his parents. We wanted to invite her to be a part of Ben’s life. We got to the hospital at 10:00am and held Ben for 20 minutes. 

Then we had to leave the nursery so birthmom could have some time with him before she met us. Holding Ben for only 20 minutes that morning was way too short. I didn’t want to set him down. It was so hard to leave the nursery.

We went into the waiting room and waited to meet birthmom. I was out of my mind nervous. What would I say? How could I show my love and admiration for her? Would she like us? Would she change her mind after meeting us?

Our sw and birthmom finally came in. I saw birthmom, hugged her, and started bawling. She was crying. I was crying. We hugged each other and just bawled. We sat down and told birthmom how much we admired her. We told her that her son was beautiful. We asked her about her pregnancy. We told her how grateful we were. We told her that her love for her son was so beautiful. That we loved her son so much. That it was so hard to leave the hospital the night prior without him. We gave birthmom our email addresses and told her we wanted Ben to know her. She was so sweet and quiet. 

We could tell she loved her son so much. In between her tears and our tears we gave birthmom the necklace and card. She seemed so grateful and touched. She started crying even harder when she read the caption. We told her that we picked the middle name, “John Paul” because we heard she was Polish and Pope St. John Paul II was also Polish. We asked her if she had any ideas for a middle name, because we would love to include that. She said she would think about it. After about 20 minutes birthmom was ready to go. We took a quick picture with her and hugged and said goodbye.

What an emotional but incredible morning!

We went back to the nursery to hold our sweet baby. The nurse told us that while holding baby birthmom had commented that “He will have a good life,” [by being adopted by us]. That was encouraging to hear. Our sw called and said that birthmom seemed in a much lighter mood after meeting us, like a weight was lifted from her shoulders.  While walking out of the hospital she was joking and smiling. We felt so grateful and blessed.

We spent a few hours holding Ben, ate a quick lunch, and got back to the nursery to find out that Ben was ready to come home! We were overjoyed! The nurses gave us some instructions and basic supplies to get us through the first few days. We quickly set a pediatrician appointment for the next day and put Ben in a cute outfit borrowed from a friend.

Then we packed up our sweet little boy and were on our way around 4:00pm.

It was an amazing feeling to be taking our son home! On the drive home our sw called to tell us that birthmom had been calling baby “David” and wanted to suggest that as a middle name. Of course! The name David was high on our list from the start, so “Benedict David” was perfect.

We made a quick stop at Goodwill to look for a rocking chair and dresser. Our nephew met us there to see Ben and “pinch his cheeks.” What a sweet moment. While we were standing at Goodwill Mike commented, “Why aren’t there any strangers coming to tell us how adorable our baby is? Aren’t strangers supposed to come say hi?” 

After a few minutes a lady came over by us to see our baby. She told us how sweet and cute he was. Mike gave her a hug and told her that she was officially the first stranger to tell us how cute our baby was. We made one more stop to pick up some donated breastmilk and made it home by 5:45pm.

We couldn’t believe it. We were home with our baby.

Our pastor sent us a lovely “It’s a Boy” flower bouquet.

I sat on the couch and just held Ben skin-to-skin with a blanket around the two of us. I was in love. Mike came to bless Ben with special holy water from Epiphany Sunday. So proud that Ben had such a good father.

Mike cleaned the house and organized the baby stuff. Then we switched places. Mike held Ben. I organized and emailed to set up newborn photos.

I loved hearing Mike cuddle and sing to baby. The only thing he could think of to sing was “The River” by Garth Brooks. My heart melted. Mike told Ben all about the dissertation they were going to write together. He promised to teach Ben MLA citation style and how to footnote.

A friend stopped by to bring us headache medicine (hello no sleep!) and hand sanitizer. She also gave Ben his first baby gift, a super cute outfit and diapers. We told her Ben would wear the outfit on his first outing to the pediatrician.

Around 10:30pm I started getting ready for bed. We made plans for who would take the “night shifts.” My phone was charging and I checked it before going to bed.

I had the following text from our agency director:

“Mike and Mary Beth, if you get this message tonight would you call me? Don’t worry about what time it is. Birthmom has been texting sw since about 6:00pm, has hold her grandmother about the baby and does not feel she can move forward with signing papers. We don’t want you to go on through the night without knowing this. I am so sorry to tell you this in a text. Feel free to call me.”

Our hearts sank. 

We were crushed.

The sweet little boy that we fell in love with was being taken away from us.

I called the agency director. She said we could keep Ben until morning or they would come get him tonight. I told her to come now.

I hung up the phone and completely lost it. I was a hysterical blubbering mess. Over and over, through the tears, I kept saying, “I don’t want to give him back, I don’t want to give him back.” And to Mike over and over, “I don’t want you to go through this.” It broke my heart to think of Mike hurting as much as I was. Mike was holding Ben and I was standing crying with my arms around them both. Then I collapsed to the ground and cried and yelled and cried and screamed.

Then I took Ben from Mike and held him and gazed at him and cried and told him we loved him. Mike lost it as soon as I calmed down a bit and started sobbing too. We were a mess.

I gathered up all of the stuff the hospital gave us: formula, diapers, wipes, pacifiers, footprints of Ben, etc. and put it in the bag. My. heart. was. breaking.

We waited two hours for the social workers to get there. They arrived at 12:30am and needed to borrow our car seat to take Ben to his mom. When they walked in the door I started sobbing again. It was awful. I didn’t want to give them Ben, so I just stood there. We all stood there. Me crying and holding Ben. Them looking at me. I couldn’t just offer him to them. I didn’t want him out of my arms. After an awkward silence I knew they weren’t going to take Ben from me, so I put him in the car seat. It was so hard to do. We buckled him in. Our agency director said a prayer for everyone and they left with our baby.

A piece of my heart walked out the door.

I never knew it was possible to fall in love so hard, so quickly. I always thought I wasn’t a “newborn” person. I always thought it would take me awhile to get attached. Not true. I was smitten and in love. 

Ben will always hold a piece of my heart. As much as I understand and respect birthmom's decision, my heart still hurts.

Exhausted we went to sleep.

Thursday

In the morning we knew we couldn’t look at our four walls with all the baby stuff around us. We got in the car and went to Wisconsin to be near family. We cried and talked on the drive. We realized that Ben had only been in our life for a short 36 hours. It was enough time to win our hearts.

We spent the next few days grieving with family. Being in Wisconsin was healing. We have the best family and friends. I am so amazed at the outpouring of love and support and prayers from people near and far.

Friday

We stayed at Mike’s sister and brother-in-law’s home on the lake. They are so generous. I sat in the chair facing the water all day until 3:00pm. Praying. Journaling. Writing Ben’s story.

Mike’s mom told us that “Love is never wasted.” I know she is right. As hard as it was to love and let go, I know it was worth it. We got to hold our sweet boy for just a short time, but we were there for him when his birthmom couldn’t be. He touched our lives in a way we could never imagine. For that I am grateful.