The Moments I Became Her Mother
Moment 1: The Call + Decision
Ava was born on January 12, 2022. I don’t know what I was doing that day.
I do know I was being sentimental, reflecting how on this day 18 years earlier (Jan 12, 2004), Herb had asked me to be his girlfriend after sliding a paper across the table at Denny’s. On the paper? A list of my attributes and his shortcomings, a page of analysis about us dating.
But I know where I was the next day - January 13.
I was showing off my new puppy, Ginger, to a friend who said, “You finally got your little girl!” A quick laugh turned into a reflective (short-lived) time of grieving that I would never have a little girl whose hair needed to be braided before school. Grieving that the door had closed on our baby years and adoption stories, and while I was so blessed with two sons, I would never have a daughter.
Late that night (9:30 pm), a call came from our social worker. This was unexpected as our foster care license was set to expire and we had no intention to renew it.
“Sometimes we have babies who come through the domestic infant program who are harder to place because of medical needs. We are compiling a list of families who might be interested in being open to a situation like that.”
“You can put us on that list,” we replied.
“Ok great, because there was a baby born yesterday. Would you like to hear more?”
"Yes, go ahead," we answered nervously.
We proceeded to learn about a baby with severe hydrocephalus, who was actually doing quite well for the diagnosis. She spent time explaining everything she had learned about hydrocephalus and trying to explain all the unknowns about the disease and its effects on this child.
We asked a few questions, and finally a burning one - "Can you tell us the baby's gender?"
We were warned: “I will tell you, but it will be harder to think logically about this situation once you know the gender of the baby.”
"Ok. You can tell us."
We proceeded to learn that the baby was a girl. I buried my face in the covers on the bed where we sat. There was no way I was going to be able to say no. And to be fair, I have a feeling I would have thought that whether she said boy or girl. We ended the call with a request to let them know in the next couple of days if we would like to move forward.
Herb and I didn’t talk much that night. I sensed he was hesitant. I was overwhelmed with the what ifs and the question marks about the baby’s future health and what that would imply for our family.
For the next three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), I did what I could to not dwell on this baby girl with every waking thought, but I failed. I googled incessantly, learning EVERYTHING I could about hydrocephalus. I poured over her medical records and googled every term and code. I asked friends who worked in special ed about it. I talked to a someone who had a friend of a friend with hydrocephalus. It seemed like the more I researched, the less sure I was about this baby's potential outcomes. She could have trouble learning how to read all the way to she could be wheel chair bound and/or never be verbal. The spectrum was enormous.
Whenever I relied on my research I felt overwhelmed and nervous about the prognosis of the baby. How could we add such intensity to our lives, especially when Levi didn’t even want to have another kid in the family? And was it fair to ask Levi and Joey and our friends/family/community to be super flexible with hospital stays and support us in this?
But whenever I closed my computer and prayed, or listened to worship music and hymns, or sat in church, I felt PERFECT peace. It’s so obvious now that that was how the Lord was speaking to me and comforting me., However, it took me a few days to realize the perfect peace accompanied a resounding YES only when I was intentionally asking the Lord for an answer and dwelling in his presence. It’s quite beautiful, really.
On Sunday morning, the third day I knew Ava existed, Herb and I had yet to really discuss the situation and what our answer would be. We had house guests and jobs to do and were just so busy that weekend. So there I sat on Sunday morning, crying my way through church. Completely enveloped in the comfort of the Lord during worship and grateful for his peace. And it was there, during the sermon, that the pastor reminded us that in heaven all things are being made new. In my mind I thought “Even a baby with a severely injured brain will be made new in heaven. Because this earth and its troubles are not our home.” In that moment I knew two things to be true:
1. THIS WAS MY DAUGHTER.
2. I would wait for the Holy Spirit to convict Herb of the same thing and not try to convince him myself.
The Lord was faithful to do so. Monday morning we gave the adoption agency a yes.
The next two weeks were a flurry of paperwork. We quickly updated our home study. We renewed our clearances. We crammed in 10 hours of continuing adoption education. We loosely told friends that we may be adopting - but we were still waiting to meet and be approved by the birth family. Then came dinner with Ava’s birth family and when we saw Ava’s picture for the first time.
Moment 2: The Choosing
On Monday, January 24, Ava’s birthparents asked if we would adopt their daughter.
They were shocked and pleased that we were willing to have an open adoption with them. They were happy that we were willing to care for a child with medical needs and grateful that we felt comfortable in the hospital.
And then told us that Ava would be ready to come home that weekend! The last we knew, she would be in the NICU for about another month - not a mere matter of days! What a fabulous and perfect surprise.
Our parents had been in the dark about the baby - we didn't want to tell them anything until we knew for sure that we were getting a baby! I really wanted to surprise them with the baby already in our home, but that felt too tricky. We spent Monday night telling our kids and friends and family. The Lord also did a beautiful work in Levi's heart that made him ready for a new baby sibiling (we had kept the kids in the loop the whole time leading up to this - but that's a story for another day).
When we called Herb's mom she said, “We were praying that you’d have a little girl!”
“What? We were done with kids!” We said to them.
“Yes, that’s why we were praying,” she replied.
On Tuesday morning I bought a crib, quickly set it up, and surprised my mom. "Go check out Joey's room, he wants to show you something."
Moment 3: The Meeting
On Friday, January 28, we dropped off Levi at school, Joey at a friend’s house, and drove to CHOP. We took a picture of ourselves in the parking garage with masks on, about to go meet our daughter. We weaved through the hospital and finally reached her room. She was so tiny in the big cot with the sides up. She had a feeding tube and we quickly learned how to use it and how to handle her. She was in our arms within a few minutes and her five pounds felt like nothing on your chest.
She was ours.