An Absence Explained. A Light Rekindled.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but not for lack of ideas, thoughts and questions running through my head. The truth is, I’ve wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure how to do it. So, in going with my new motto, “Stop worrying. Stop over thinking. And just do.” here I go: Double A and I welcomed a son into our lives in early May. A beautiful, healthy and LIVING baby boy. Yes, we were finally able to bring a child home to parent through domestic adoption.

I haven’t been sure on how to say this here. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wanted to shout it from the rooftops, and in real life, I pretty much have been. But it’s different here. While I know (hope?) that there will be great excitement, with that, also come painful triggers. I’ve been on the other side of these announcements, and while happy for the person, there’s still that giant twinge of ‘why not me?’ So I respectfully share this news here as a thank you for all of the love and support you’ve shown Double A and me, and to continue to shed some light on life, and now parenting, after loss.

While I’m not going to share our son’s full story here, I will share that we got “the call” about six weeks before he was due. We were thrilled, and at the same time, we tried to keep a foot on the ground since we we’ve been down this road to baby before, and had also been through a failed match weeks after we lost the twins. We had the opportunity to have dinner with his birth parents and they are truly a strong, thoughtful and courageous couple. Fast forward, and we were on our way to the hospital when we got the call he was here, and we still had an hour and a half before we arrived. A baby. Our baby? Could this actually, finally be?

After an emotional visit with his birth parents, the social worker escorted us to the nursery. Initial papers were filled out and signed. Bracelets were snapped on, giving us our backstage passes to the show we’ve long had tickets for, but never allowed access to.

The door unlocked and we were ushered in where a nurse stood 12 feet away holding our swaddled son (I’ll be referring to him as Smiley, because he has, and does, since the day we brought him home). We were a mere two minutes of scrubbing away the pain of the last 5-1/2 years from meeting him. This time is blurry for me. I know we were talking to one of the nurses, but what I remember more is the 6 or 7 nursing students standing off to the side whispering, smiling and pointing as they stared, clearly knowing our story. And then after checking that our numbers matched, they introduced us to Smiley.

Tears.Love.Joy.Shock.Amazement.Breathless.Grateful.Sadness.Numb.

It was an unreal moment where I was overcome by emotion. ALL emotions. The happiness of finally getting to this point. The enormity of everything we survived. The potential of all that we’ll be able to see, do and enjoy with Smiley. The pain of knowing that those are the same things we’ll never be able to experience with Baby K, Sarah and Benjamin, and the others we didn’t name. The ache of what his birth parents were going through at this very moment. You name it. I felt it. I soaked up every moment. Every feeling. This was part of our story. Part of his story.

Double A held him first (at my insistence), and then it was my turn. I was overcome looking at this beautiful baby in my arms when PTSD hit for the first time. The last three times I held newborn babies at the hospital, they were beautiful, and yet not breathing. That hit me hard many times over the next 2-1/2 days we spent camped out in the hospital nursery. Double A and I had such an appreciation for Smiley, and his birth parents. We took turns holding him close and telling him how much we loved him, and how many people loved him already—even though most didn’t know he was here. He was bathed in kisses hourly, if not more often.

When it was time to leave the hospital, PTSD hit big for the second time. It wasn’t that we were basically taking him home on loan*, rather it was the wheelchair ride out of the hospital. The last three times I was wheeled out of the hospital, my arms were empty and my heart was aching. It took every ounce of concentration I had to stay present on the positive as I stared at Smiley, repeating his name over and over in my head.

*In Illinois, surrenders cannot be signed until at least 72 hours after delivery. We had him home with us 1-1/2 days before we knew for sure he was staying. Stressful and scary to say the least.

Many people had told me that once we were finally able to parent a child of our own, the pain and suffering we experienced would be replaced by joy and happiness. Others have alluded to the fact that now that Smiley is finally here, that he makes everything better, everything OK. I’ve found that the joy and happiness are there, ten-fold. And so is the pain and suffering. There’s no doubt that a light has been turned back on inside Double A and me, and our families. That light, however bright, does not cast a shadow over our past. In fact, on some levels it highlights it. There are times that I’m overwhelmed by how much I love Smiley and the joy he brings, and at the same time, those same feelings take my breath away of our babies we’ve lost.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of our babies. In fact, we have a shelf in Smiley’s room where we have Baby K, Sarah and Benjamin’s memory boxes containing their footprints, hats and hospital bracelets. The twins’ hats were incorporated into his baby naming ceremony. Just as we have a picture of his birth parents to share with him and talk about, it is important that he also knows of his siblings. They are a part of our lives, and always will be.

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