You don’t remember this. How could you? You were in your birth mommy’s tummy. July 2001, JUST prior to heading out of work early for a funeral, I received a phone call at my desk. I’ll never forget it. It was Memaw (to be). “Angie, umm, hey, I wanted to tell you something. Aunt Judy works with a girl who is 4 or 5 months pregnant. She didn’t know she was pregnant until recently. She wants to put the baby up for adoption and is looking for someone. Do you and Brian want to do it?” I kid you not, Gavin. That is how your journey into our lives began. “Mom, I have no idea. I don’t think you can just DO that. I have to talk to Brian about it.” I picked up Daddy for the funeral and told him about this crazy call I got from Memaw today. “Cool,” he said. “Let’s go for it.”
I didn’t even know how to process all of this. I mean, we tried a few cycles of insemination in 2000 to no avail and our first in-vitro attempt in April 2001 failed. Gavin, we had put our deposit down just one week prior to this phone call to try in-vitro again. I mean, who would give a baby to a couple when one of the parents had a history of cancer years ago? I didn’t know it was an option. I didn’t know I wanted to have a family that way. I wanted to carry a baby and didn’t know how I felt about all this.
So we did what we always do in confusing situations. We consulted our families and we prayed. We asked for guidance and wisdom and direction. And we felt vehemently guided to explore this adoption option further.
I made the phone call to Aunt Judy. She told me your birth-mommy, whom I will call Rose, was actually 7 months pregnant, due in September. She was a pretty girl, only 18 and she had been to Catholic Social Services and didn’t like them. They wouldn’t promise her that her baby would go to the family she chose (which was probably misunderstood). She wanted to meet the people and know them. Next I called Rose. I had to call her at work on her next working day since she didn’t have a home or a cell phone. It was a Saturday night. She was sweet with her southern accent and poor grammar. She was willing to meet with us as soon as we wanted. We drove 4-1/2 hours one way the very next day on a Sunday to meet your birth mommy and her husband.
We met at Applebee’s. We ordered chips and salsa. I will never forget how they were in such awe of the blue chips that came with the order. We exchanged pleasantries. We talked a bit. She told us you were a boy. She told us you were due Sept. 14. We told her about Daddy’s history. He had been free of cancer for 2 years now and no more chemo. They were okay with it. We told her about ourselves and our lives. We said we would help with some living and medical expenses and we wanted to adopt her baby if she was okay with it, but to let us know after they had thought about it. They didn’t need to think about it. They said, “Fine with us,” right there in that Applebee’s in July 2001. We stopped and told your future Memaw and Papa and drove 4-1/2 hours home reeling with new emotions.
We secured a lawyer in Missouri where the adoption would occur and began the process of home-study approval in Illinois. It was complicated because of Daddy’ history. We had to be counseled as though we were a possible single parent family and had to get statements of health from current doctors. AND we had to rush the process. You were due in mere weeks. We didn’t even know if we would be approved before your arrival and if you were born before the first of September, we would not have you. You would have been in foster care or you would have been placed with someone else unless your birth mommy wanted to parent you until our paperwork was finished and then let us take over. And come on? She couldn’t have done it. No one could have. You were too irresistible.
I talked with Rose weekly. We financially assisted them. They were an impressionable, sweet and confused young couple living in a world of constant financial struggles with a lack of mentoring and good guidance. It was a vicious cycle that broke our hearts. They were troubled, and even if nothing came through with the adoption, as was always their right, we were glad to be helping them. We wanted to help them.
Fast forward two months. September 10th or so, Rose had an appointment showing she was nowhere near dilated and ready for delivery. She was scheduled for induction on September 20. September 11, 2001, the world trade centers collapsed. I was so glad you weren’t born surrounding that. I was so glad we could drive to the hospital since airlines were shut down for a while. I couldn’t wait to meet you.
September 19th I packed my desk at work, praying I would be on leave (perhaps indefinitely) from a job I didn’t love holding my new baby boy. We drove to Missouri and stayed with Uncle Matt and Aunt Mindi. They lived a few minutes from the hospital. September 20th, early in the morning, Rose was induced. It began slowly. The potossin was increased. They broke her water to speed things up. Around 6:00 pm, the nurses started to get “that look.” That look I had recognized from too many hospital experiences years prior. Your heartbeat was beginning to drop. You were under some sort of distress. I saw the concern, but I don’t think Rose did. I didn’t tell her so as not to alarm her. She was instructed not to push until they called the doctor. They did. The doctor came in and said, “let’s try this.” Rose let us stay. A room full of nurses, nursing students, Rose, her husband, her OB, Daddy and me awaited your delivery. This is the closest I have ever been to delivery and I don’t remember much of it because I was nervous beyond nervous about what came next and what was wrong. As you came out, your face was a tint of blue and the cord was wrapped around your neck. Rose’s doctor immediately cut the cord from your neck and you began whimpering a bit with the next push. You began to scream. You were shivering. You were thin. You were amazing. It brings swells of tears to my eyes today to think I was there and I saw you breathe your first breath.
The staff was unsure how to handle our situation. Who holds you first? Who cuts your cord? Once I saw you were healthy with a reasonable APGAR score, my attention turned to the next thing that could go wrong, because, unfortunately, Gavin, that’s the way your mommy roles. Rose immediately asked to hold her baby once you were clean. She held you and started to cry. My mind raced knowing there was no way she COULDN’T change her mind now that she met you. She held you for a few minutes, turned to me and asked if I wanted to hold you. With tears in my eyes and a half-smile on my face, I touched your flesh for the first time. I said hi to you and told you I would take good care of you. Daddy held you next and we passed you back to your birth-mommy.
Your birth-grandma called. She sobbed into the phone for me to promise to take good care of her grandbaby. She was a bit of an expert on this as another daughter had placed more than one child for adoption as well. This family blessed with the ability to bear children was blessing those of us that can’t. Rose cried some more. Daddy and I left her alone for a few minutes. Daddy began calling his family exclaiming he was a Dad. “Seven pounds 2-1/2 ounces… 20 Inches long… His name is Gavin Brian… Ten fingers... Ten toes... One penis... He’s awesome...” It was all I had to make one phone call to my sister who was currently hosting my parents for dinner. I curtly gave her the stats and the name. I told her Rose was crying and I was really worried she would change her mind. I didn’t know what came next: how long Rose would be in the hospital, when or how we would be able to see Gavin, when the court date would be, etc. I was filled with uncertain emotion. This was the first time I realized that cautious optimism is one of the worst emotions possible.
cautiously optimistic half-smiling, half-empty Angie with Gavin minutes after birth
totally optimistic, full smiling, half-full Brian with Gavin minutes after birth
That’s what we did.
The next day, your birth mommy was released from the hospital. She and I were given arm bracelets that matched yours. She filled out the birth certificate with her name and information. We would fill out another 6 months later. For the next 4 days, you stayed in the hospital despite your thriving health. We were not allowed to take you without a court order. With no agency involved, no one would take that legal liability and rightfully so. We came up to that hospital 3 times a day for 2-3 hours at a time holding you, feeding you, changing your diaper, inspecting you and devouring you. We brought up your Memaw and your Papa and your Aunt Mindi when we knew Rose would not be there, too. Not that we didn’t want them to meet someday, but we didn’t want the pressure of them knowing each other if something fell through. The town is small. We did it to protect everyone.
On Monday morning, September 24th, Rose and her husband signed the papers. We had a court hearing and were given legal custody of Baby Boy Thursday, which is what they called you in our petition for adoption. We went to the hospital with all our documents and met Rose and her husband. There can be no moment more bittersweet. The very event causing my utopia and elation was the darkest moment of Rose’s life. My unending gain was her forever loss. My greatest gift was her ultimate sacrifice. My respect for her decision has grown exponentially over the years. She had every right to parent you, Gavin. She didn’t ‘give you up’ as so many mistakenly claim. No, she gave up herself.
outside courthouse - Memaw, Angie, Brian, cousin Kim, cousin Jenny, Aunt Judy, cousin Scott, PaPa.
NOW totally optomistic, half-full (cuz we had a court order) FULL smiling first time Mommy!
We stayed in Missouri for a full week until the inter-state documentation could be completed. Mommo and Poppo drove 4 hours to meet you and then back to Illinois. Poppo put together your crib. Mommo painted your room and displayed all the baby things we had acquired cautiously. We had borrowed the car seat, bouncy seat and so many other items to avoid the pain of returning it all if things had unfolded differently. My family all came to meet you and held a baby shower for us. One huge party was thrown in your honor, Gavin. In my family of 25 aunts and uncles and 32 first cousins and multitudes of second cousins, you were the first to enter our family via adoption.
Daddy’s family had a shower for us when we returned to Illinois. Once again, you were celebrated and introduced to a family EVEN larger. Daddy’s family has welcomed several via adoption and we are very familiar with the joy that can accompany such a miracle.
Gavin, this all transpired seven years ago. The emotions surrounding that time were so raw and powerful – both the highs and the lows. Writing them fills me with such admiration and appreciation for your birth family again. It fills me with that first-time-mother uneasiness. It fills me again with the shock of experiencing a new kind of love. So many have asked me throughout the years, “Don’t you feel like he is so lucky to have you? That you saved him?” I reply, “No. There is no doubt Gavin would have ended up loved. So very loved. A birth mom who is willing to do what Rose did for us loves in a way even I can’t understand. No, we didn’t save Gavin. Gavin saved us.”
You came to us in God’s way in God’s time. I have come to understand adoption as an even greater miracle than childbirth. The same timing of a woman and man’s body needs to align. Further yet, an aching family has a need as another family agonizes over an aching decision. Oh how miraculous indeed. What makes our story even more miraculous was our timing – mere months prior, if in-vitro was successful, we would not have YOU. YOU make our family what it is today. Mere days later, we would have been on our next path to in-vitro again. Our paperwork was rushed and finalized a mere 2 weeks before your birth. Had Rose understood the process and had a better counselor at Catholic Services, she probably would have continued on that path. Had Aunt Judy not worked with Rose to begin with, we would not have known about you. Oh, Gavin, God’s hand was SO INVOLVED in this. We were not looking to adopt. Your birth family was not sure they wanted to choose adoption. It was all God’s choice for us. God spoke to Judy’s heart to mention us to Rose. God spoke to Rose’s heart to consider us. God spoke to our hearts to strongly consider this child he created (you). God timed everything perfectly. He even helped finance it. We had spent so many thousands of dollars trying various fertility treatments. Being an open adoption with no agency involved, we had our financial assistance to Rose and our home-study and legal costs. However, they were thousands less than the standard adoption fee of 15% of our gross income. Yes, God led us together as He so expertly does in His infinite wisdom and in His often unconventional ways, and we are humbly grateful for His constant provision in our lives.