After Sarge was born a friend asked me out of pure curiosity how I bond with babies that are not born of my womb. I told her one day I would blog about it. Sarge is one, so I figured this would be as good a day as any to publish this.
Bonding with my son was very different from bonding with my daughters. His adoption was completely different than their adoptions and I think that had something to do with it.
I broke one of my Adoption Rules with my son.
It is a very, very odd situation to be in when you are at the hospital for your child’s birth….except they aren’t your child – yet.
The first time I had to dance this dance, I was extremely guarded. Little Bug, my firstborn baby, was finally here! I could see her; I could hold her. Her birth mother wanted me there for her birth. That is one of the greatest gifts anyone on this planet has ever given me. I saw her slip into this world by the skin of my teeth because I had this feeling she was coming – NOW! – and I was walking in the hospital hallway towards her birth mother’s birthing room and I just took off running even though the nurses were yelling at me to walk.
Ignoring the nurses, I kept right on running (because I was NOT going to miss her birth) and entered the delivery room at the precise time my daughter was entering this world.
I stood by the nurse as she cleaned Little Bug off. Little Bug wrapped her hand around my finger. The nurse asked me if I wanted to hold her. Of course I did, but I told her no, I could not hold her then because her birth mom wanted to hold her first and then she wanted to “hand her over to her Mama”. Tracy held Little Bug; Tracy’s mama held Little Bug and then, like Tracy wanted, Little Bug was then placed in her Mama’s arms, my arms.
Except I had no parental rights to her yet. For a moment, as I held that sweet, tiny 5 lb baby girl in my arms, I let myself get lost in the fact that I was finally, finally holding my daughter. Like any Mama who has just given birth, I admired her from head to toe.
But then, I had to snap back to reality. This was not my baby – yet. Sure her birth mother had chosen us to be her parents. But there were still 48 hours (that for us would morph into 81 hours) to go before her birth mother could put action to her words and actually terminate her rights, giving me those rights forever and ever.
Those 81 hours were pure agony.
Five years later I found myself at a hospital NICU two and a half hours away from home, standing beside the bedside of a little baby boy that was to become my son.
Besides the trauma that I experienced from seeing a baby in his condition (he nearly died at birth), I had another 48 hour wait ahead of me.
The day after his birth, his birth mother and I went to his bedside in the NICU together. Being there with her was already very special to me because I had not experienced anything like that when Little Bug was born.
Sarge was on a ventilator so his birth mom nor myself had held him yet. I was not expecting to be able to hold him any time soon because he was so sick.
The nurse surprised us and asked if we wanted to hold him. Of course we said yes!
Tracy looked at me at this point and said, “Elaine, I held Little Bug first. I want you to hold Sarge first.” I was blown away by this. She had carried this baby for 8 months and given birth to him; she had every right to hold him first, yet she wanted me to hold him first.
Then the nurse explained to us that only one of us would be able to hold him because moving him from person to person was too much for him at that time. It only felt right that Tracy be the one to hold him but she was adamant that I was going to hold him first.
Minutes later my son was placed in my arms, with his birth mother standing by, watching and snapping pictures.
I know Tracy. As much as it meant to me to be able to hold him in that moment, she was equally moved at being able to witness me holding her son for the very first time.
In that moment, I fell in love with that baby boy and Tracy watched it happen. There was still over 24 hours left until Tracy could sign her consent, but, in my heart, I had crossed the line already.
I had broken my #1 Adoption Rule. I had fallen in love with the baby before TPR (termination of parental rights).
I could literally feel the rush of whatever it was wash over me. Not only was I guarded because TPR had not been signed yet, but I was guarded because he was so sick and I didn’t know if he was going to make it. In that moment, though, he became my son and I was going to fight tooth and nail for his recovery.
I had never in my life seen a baby so sick. It scared me. At this point, we didn’t know what exactly his health concerns were. Because I had no legal rights to him, the nurses couldn’t tell me much of anything. All I had to go on was how he looked and….he looked horrible….and lifeless.
I remember standing over him as he lay in his hospital bed and I asked the nurse, “Is he going to be okay?” To this day I cannot for the life of me remember what she told me. I only know whatever she said gave me a glimmer of hope that he could pull through and be okay.
Even though a baby at this time in my life was the farthest thing on my mind, it was not lost on me that God had called me to come to this baby’s bedside.
And there I was. And NOTHING was going to keep me away from him now.
How God had called us to this place was mindboggling (a story I will eventually share when the time is right) and for a couple weeks, we sat by and watched God fight a battle before our eyes as we simply waited for His call to GO.
Two and a half days after Sarge’s birth Tracy signed over her parental rights to us and when we got the official news I sat in the car where we were waiting for the news and simply cried, in awe, at what God had done. After I had dried my tears, we snapped this photo:
It was an overwhelming experience to know that God had parted the Red Sea to place this baby boy in my arms. Where I had been exactly 7 months to the hour of Sarge’s birth (also another story for another time) and where I was now didn’t add up. It didn’t make sense, but with God’s redemption and power, all things are possible and there we were.
We had a third child; our first son!
When I look at my newborn babies, it doesn’t even cross my mind that I didn’t carry them in my womb or give birth to them.
They are simply my children as if I had given birth to them.
In an instant, I became Sarge’s advocate and I instinctively knew exactly what he needed. NAS babies are very scary to care for. I didn’t know if I had it in me to do this again, but God had clearly called me to his bedside and I had to trust He was going to give me what I needed to take care of him.
What came next was a very difficult 4-week NICU stay and witnessing an innocent baby go through the physical pain of drug withdrawal. My plan for August and September of last year was to get our homeschool year started. Sitting in a NICU 2.5 hours away from my daughters was a complete 180 from my plans for that Fall!
But when God calls, He also equips. I jumped into my new role as mother and advocate for this baby, my son, with my whole heart. Even to the point that I had to emotionally disconnect myself from my girls because thinking of being away from them for an indefinite amount of time was too painful. It was easier to just put my full attention on the here and now.
And the here and now was taking care of my new son. I knew my girls were being well taken care of back home by my parents and my place on this earth at that time was there in the NICU with this baby boy.
I wanted more than anything to give him a “safe womb” to dwell in. He was born at 36 weeks, so technically, he could have been in the womb another 4-6 weeks. His body was so bruised and battered from his traumatic entry into this world. I had an overwhelming desire to shelter him from any harm. If I could have found a way to put him in my womb, I would have. Obviously I couldn’t do that and I decided I was going to do Kangaroo Care with him as much as possible.
My daily routine became waking up and walking from the Ronald McDonald house to the NICU. I would pee right before going in (because there are no bathrooms for parents in NICUs) and then I would do Kangaroo Care with Sarge until it was time for me to go eat lunch. When I would have to leave him to go eat, I felt an emptiness and ached to have him back in my arms. After lunch, I was right back with him doing Kangaroo Care until dinner time. This was my routine for the first week or more. I couldn’t take his withdrawals away but I could hold him and keep him calm. I would breath a certain way with him laying on my chest and it would calm him to where he would fall asleep and stay there for hours.
The entire time I was in the NICU with Sarge was absolutely surreal. My whole life had suddenly changed in a matter of just a few short days. Even I was amazed at how my motherly instincts with Sarge just flipped on like a switch, from the very beginning. Sure, this was my 3rd time caring for an NAS baby, so I had some experience on my side, but ultimately, I know my instincts were of the Lord. It blows my mind how my mind went from being totally consumed with getting our homeschool year off the ground to being an advocate for this baby boy, all within just a few days!
Sarge was being fed 60cc’s every 3 hours, around the clock. He was not able to drink from a bottle at this point so he was being fed through an NG tube. There came a time when I knew he was being fed too much. After his feed, his stomach would be so full and he began to seem extremely uncomfortable after his feedings. I asked the nurses to stop feeding him that much but they could not change his feedings without doctor’s orders. So I got my speech ready for the next time the doctor made her rounds about why I felt like Sarge needed to be fed 45cc’s every 2-3 hours. After I spoke with the doctor, she told me that I know my baby best and she would just have to calculate that and make sure he was getting enough calories on that feeding schedule. She came back and told me she had changed his feeding orders to 45-60cc’s every 2-3 hours. After that change, his belly didn’t extend so big and he didn’t seem as uncomfortable as before.
At about a week old, Sarge began having morphine around the clock to help with the pain of withdrawal. When it came time to start weaning him from the morphine, I believe his morphine was weaned too quickly. He was inconsolable and in so much pain. It was heartbreaking to watch and even more heartbreaking to not be able to do anything to calm him down. Kangaroo Care couldn’t even calm him. I told the nurse I did not want him to be weaned that quickly again. I wanted at least 48 hours before morphine was decreased again. Sure, it delayed our discharge day, but the withdrawal process can not be hurried. Sarge needed 48 hours between decreased morphine dosages. Again, I prepared my speech to the doctor, and again, she listened to me, told me I know what is best for my son, and she agreed to put 48 hours between decreased morphine dosages. From that point on, the process of getting him off morphine was much smoother (although not a walk in the park because withdrawal is no walk in the park no matter how you go about it).
In both of these situations I was extremely frustrated because I just wanted to do what was best for Sarge. Each time I would ask the Lord what he needed and both times the Lord graciously made me feel strongly what needed to be done differently. He gave me the words to explain to the doctor what I wanted to see changed and both times I saw direct positive results from the changes I knew needed to happen.
That baby didn’t come from my womb, but I was as much his mother as if he had been born from me. Genetics don’t matter in bonding with a baby. What matters is God called me to adopt this baby and He gave me everything I needed to be his mother. I have no biological children but I can’t imagine taking care of Sarge any differently than I would have taken care of a biological child.
My bond with Sarge was immediate and extremely strong from the very beginning. I think part of it was knowing I was all he had in the world. He was so pitiful, innocent and so very sick. My instincts to love him and nurture him to health kicked in in overdrive. Another huge part was the Kangaroo Care I did with him constantly that first week or so.
I was once that woman wondering if an adopted child would feel like my own. If my heart loved my children any more, it would have to explode. The human heart is capable of loving more than we are aware. Opening your heart to someone who is “not your own” and taking them as your own is the greatest expression of love. God loves us so much that He has adopted us into His family. We are His children and we have access to all of His riches. Adopting a child is a picture of God’s adoption of us into His Kingdom!
When we set out to build our family, adoption was no where in our plans. Today, 8 years later, I wouldn’t be the person I am today if not for my journey through adoption. It is a journey that will rip your heart out a million times but it is a journey that I would not trade for anything in the entire world.
If God is calling you to adopt a child, just do it. You will never be financially ready but I can assure you if God is calling and you answer His call with a YES, your mind will be blown away at the way He provides and makes a way for you to bring your child home.