we were welcomed into the agency by robert and ginger, and ushered into an office with a large table. robert explained that we would go through the paperwork first, and our baby’s foster parents would bring him a little bit later. apparently it is usually best to get the paperwork out of the way before the baby shows up, because the parents tend to be just a little distracted after that.
at this point, we received more legal information about the adoption. while most of the loose ends had been tied by the agency, there was still a matter involving ash’s alleged birth father, and a very slight chance that he could sue for custody. robert reassured us that the process was highly unlikely for all sorts of legal reasons, and we felt reassured.
the mood in the room was an awkward combination of businesslike and jovial. lots of nervous laughter and halting grins, shaky signatures and shallow breaths.
at some point, we learned that the baby, along with the foster parents, was here. we managed to continue to concentrate on paperwork and legal whatnots, until ginger came in and explained that, because a birth father had come into the waiting room, the baby could not stay there any longer. we weren’t finished, but could they please bring him in now?
before we could halt our shaking breath or do more than squeeze our hands together, a middle aged couple appeared, carrying a tiny carseat.
it is impossible to describe what we saw in that car seat.
the tiniest, scrawniest little limbs; piles of straight black hair; wrinkled, peeling skin; and those giant black eyes, wide open and peering at us. he was the most beautiful little lizard i had ever seen.
i had worried that, since he was almost 2 weeks old, he wouldn’t be tiny any more. i didn’t need to – the child was barely over 6lbs when we met him. he was the size of a 5lb dumbbell; people, he was tiny.
he looked around with his huge baby lizard eyes and started to fuss, and then suddenly the foster father was holding this tiny fussing thing and handing it to me, saying something about swaddling it (huh?), and giving it a bottle. my hands were shaking and i couldn’t believe they were going to let me hold it, and right now, and don’t they know that i have no idea how to hold this thing, and suddenly i couldn’t talk because i was crying so hard.
when i say crying, i don’t mean “a few emotional tears.” all the pain and loss and ambiguity welled up in my throat at once, the body memory of a year before, and my nose swelled and throat sobbed and i could barely say the sentence that i knew i had to say.
i haven’t held a baby since my son was stillborn a year ago.
nobody responded, and i wondered if i had said the wrong thing. the baby lizard, though, sucked away at his bottle and stared at me with those amazing eyes. maybe he understood.
we finally settled in, and i fed him in silence while joel started back up on the paperwork with robert. i don’t remember much of this part, except the total otherworldliness of holding this child, my child, and not believing that any of it was real.
at some point the baby’s diaper needed to be changed. i panicked a bit and looked at joel; i hadn’t changed a newborn’s diaper, like, ever … at least he had experience from his mother-baby clinical in nursing school. he accepted the responsibility with confidence.
after the diaper change, it was joel’s turn to hold while i signed. little did we realize then, that the baby in our arms would not be able to be set down (including when asleep) for the next 7 months.
somehow, through the blur, things were accomplished, and it was soon time to leave. they showed us how to strap the baby into the car seat, and our hearts broke as he started to cry, tiny thing that he was.
and, just like that, we left.
with a baby.
we stopped at whole foods on the drive back to our hotel, and as i carried his sleeping smallness through the store, one woman stopped us to tell us how lucky we were.