To have an epidural or not. Delayed cord cutting. Skin to skin immediately or after the baby is cleaned up. Breast or bottle. These are just some of the decisions a woman has to make before she gives birth. When someone is considering adoption, these decisions can seem to hold much more weight and worry. A very high value is placed on the course of those few days in the hospital. People question whether they should take the time and spend it with the baby, possibly the only time they’ll get with them, or should they ask the adoptive family to be a part of the experience. Some worry that seeing their baby will make it too hard to make the decision they feel they need to and just want to be left alone. It’s a highly emotional time for all involved.
When I was pregnant with Liam, Mike and I had those same choices to make. At first, we were pretty dead set on spending the time in the hospital alone with him, experiencing some of his firsts, holding him, and trying to squeeze as much love as we could his way. As time went on and his birth loomed closer, I still wanted this, but I also wanted to share some of the time with Heather and Darren. My plan became that the day he was born would be just ours and that the next day they could come and meet him and spend time. You’ve heard the expression of what God thinks of your plans though, right?
Around 34 weeks of my pregnancy, I was a miserable individual; swollen from head to toe, nauseated, head-aches, blood pressure soaring ever higher. My doctor kept me overnight to do some lab work and found that my protein levels were dangerously high: I was pre-eclamptic. At the follow-up appointment the day after my hospital stay, another doctor suggested I start on maternity leave and bed-rest, and that I would be induced at 37 weeks. I argued, stating that I needed to work and I needed maternity leave to actually recover, but after discussing it with Mike, the decision was made to start on bed-rest.
The first evening of bed-rest started off nice enough, beginning the Sons of Anarchy series. By the time Mike came home from work, I had an awful head-ache. I really did not want to spend my night in the hospital, so I argued with him until I fell asleep. I woke up around 4 o’clock in the morning and left him sleeping to go to the hospital, where I assumed they would fill me with fluids and send me on my way.
Such was not the case though. My blood work came back that morning at troubling levels and my doctor called a Pittsburgh hospital to set up transport to. I couldn’t get ahold of Mike, because of him sleeping, and began to panic. I texted Heather, told her what was going on, and asked them to meet me up at the hospital. Upon arrival at the hospital in Pittsburgh, things seemed to move very quickly. At first, there was talk of monitoring me for a few days. The talk suddenly changed to “We’re taking you for an emergency c-section in 20 minutes.” Luckily, Mike arrived right before they took me back to the OR.
At 12:17 p.m. that day, I heard what sounded like the squawking of a baby bird coming from a tiny 4 pound baby boy. They showed us his head full of hair and quickly whisked him off to the NICU, amidst a bunch of tears on my part. Because of the medication I had to be on to reduce my blood pressure, I could not move out of bed for the first 24 hours. My nurse, one of the sweetest people I encountered in all of this, wheeled my bed to the NICU so I could hold his hand for 10 minutes. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Upon my return from the NICU, I found Heather and Darren waiting in my hospital room. I asked them to go down and see him, because I wanted them to see their newborn son. My aunt and cousin showed up and we all laid in my bed crying. After only seeing him for 10 minutes, Heather and Darren came back to see me before leaving. It was one of the nicest and most respectful things they could have done, and I will always be so thankful that they thought of my feelings at that time.
Throughout the night, I made Mike go down to the NICU multiple times to take pictures of that sleepy little boy. I was in awe of him. When they cleared me to get out of bed, I asked for a wheelchair and an escort to the NICU, where I sat with him until some visitors showed up. Later that day, when I went with my friend Maggie to see him, I was able to hold him for the first time. I’ll never forget how light he was and how he fit in the space between my elbow and wrist on my arm. Even better for me was seeing Mike hold him for the first time and how they made noises back and forth to each other.
I stayed in the hospital a total of three days, sneaking down to the NICU when I wasn’t being told to sleep or eat something. I wanted the experience I had dreamed up, this magical ideal of soaking in baby even through the sadness. That’s a hard thing to do when you’re surrounded by machines and nurses. I sobbed loudly and awfully when I was discharged from the hospital and had to leave him for the first time. Against doctor’s orders, I made the 45 minute trip to Pittsburgh every other day until he went home from the hospital, and then I really had to leave him, at least until we had a visit.
My hospital experience was not at all what I pictured it to be. There are times that I’m sad about that, because there’s still that fairy tale story in my head. But most of the time, I’m grateful for how it happened, that he made a healthy, albeit early, entrance into the world, and that Heather and Darren proved to me what a great family he was born into.
I think some of the most important advice I can give to an expecting mother is this: don’t be afraid to ask for what you think you want and it is okay if you change your mind about how things go. The thing that matters most in those first few days is that you and baby are healthy, happy, and well-taken care of. The hospital can be a sad, scary time and you are okay to feel whatever feelings you have. Just please speak up and let what you want known.
For hopeful adoptive parents, here is my advice to you: please follow the lead of the expectant mom, even if it’s scary. Let her take the time with baby if she wants, be there to step in if she doesn’t. Make sure she feels confident in her decisions and that she isn’t feeling pressured or worried that she’s going to disappoint you if something changes. Also, while it’s understandable to be excited in those first few days and want all the baby snuggles, remember that if you take that baby home, you will have so much time to do that later. Let the mama have her time.
I’m sorry for this post being so long, but those few days stick out so vividly in my mind, even almost two years later. It was an exciting, whirlwind of emotions. Thinking back to certain moments, I can still feel the intensity of feelings I was having then. Plans are great when they happen, but can be as equally special when they don’t. While planning for the hospital can seem like the most important thing on the to-do list, make it more of an open discussion and go with the flow. And remember, this too shall pass.
I am a wife, mother of two, and love anything and everything adoption. I am an avid adoption supporter and love to help others complete their family through adoption. If you love adoption too, Like and follow our blog! <3