Meeting Maeve: Her ‘Wave’ Hello
In one phone call a year and a half ago this week, I became a mom. And almost exactly 24 hours after receiving The Call that would forever change my life, I met my daughter.
My husband and I watched her get wheeled into the hospital nursery where we sat with anticipation. She had only been in this world a little more than two days, and she had just spent the last moments with her birth mother as the only maternal force in her life.
Still clad in her hospital-issue pink blanket and medical bracelet, she was about to meet us, another set of parents.
Days later, after we returned home from a hotel stay in Maeve’s birthstate while we awaited the legalities of waiting periods and signatures, I wrote a note to a good friend who also was waiting for The Call that would change her life. It was a hard letter to write, knowing that my experience was exactly what she was waiting for. But in all our planning and dreaming during the process and while we waited for word, we had agreed that we wouldn’t let the difficult emotions in not being placed affect our ultimate happiness for the one who would become a mom first. We both acknowledged the pain it would cause, yet we understood that we had shared the journey and we planned to share the destination together, too.
And so I wrote her with a heavy and cautious, yet full and fulfilled heart, and hoped our promise would hold.
(Her wait would not last much longer. Our daughters are three weeks apart.)
And speaking of heavy hearts, that day, of course, was more to us than the start of our family. It was bittersweet in that we left the hospital with a child and another mother left without her child. The note below was written as a chronicle of our experiences those several days because I feared that, in time, they might fade from memory. (It has been edited to protect Maeve’s privacy.) Perhaps I wrote it then from Maeve’s viewpoint because I wanted to record the days’ events as simple and straightforward as my memory would allow. This is what came of those desires:
Dear ‘Aunt’ Maureen,
My mom has told me so much about you in the little time I have known her, so I thought I should introduce myself.
My name is Maeve, although my indecisive folks still don’t have a middle name for me. I was born three minutes after midnight Sunday — 12:03 a.m. July 24.
I was born 7 pounds, 0 ounces, and 20 inches long. Scored an 8 and 9 on the Apgar test. I look like the lightest of cocoa milk, mom says, with the deepest rose-colored lips that form a little puffy heart when I sleep.
I have soft, black, straight hair. It’s short, though, and seems to have a slight wave, so maybe it will be a little curly when it grows. I have good lungs and like to test them out every once in a while. But really it’s just for fun, because I get to watch mom and dad run around trying to make me as happy as can be.
I stayed in the hospital with my birth mom until Tuesday afternoon, when these two very, very nervous and frazzled people came to meet me. I was wheeled into the hospital nursery after spending quality time with my birth mom, who also would leave the hospital the same day as me. She was not yet sure if she wanted to meet my adoptive parents.
I know my mom will tell you some funny stories about how the nurses insisted she sit in a wheelchair to leave the hospital with me, or how she and dad had to pass muster of the “carseat nazi” (as she was introduced to them) before they could leave with me.
They lived the next very strange couple days in a hotel, just staring at me, feeding me (I eat a lot and very fast), and making sure I keep breathing. I initiated them very quickly in the how-to’s of diapering. I don’t think they’d thought about things like cleaning the umbilical cord area (gross, mom says) until I came along.
I snorted a lot. At first they were worried about it and kept looking it up in Baby 411, a book they received from my aunt, mom’s sister. I know mom would recommend it to you because when The Call comes, she says you’ll be surprised how much you suddenly have to look up “just to be sure.”
Thursday morning, mom woke up feeling sick and shaking, and had to keep herself from throwing up. I think it was because it was our last day in the hotel and if ever things could change for the three of us it would have to be that day — since my birth mom still might decide to parent me herself.
After all, mom had just spent days memorizing every inch of my body, including finding a tiny, light-colored birthmark on my back that eerily matches one on her own back.
(I think she might love me too much already.)
The phone in the hotel rang a lot. It was my mom’s parents, my dad’s parents, friends and other family wanting to hear about every little thing. Some even asked my folks to find a hotel e-mail account to send photos. Wow, it sure seems like there are lots of people waiting to meet me!
One phone call on Thursday came earlier than expected, which had my parents thinking it was to tell them they needed to bring me back. Instead, it was to say that my birth mom was on her way to sign the papers and that she had decided to meet them after all.
Upon hearing this, my mother had to keep from throwing up her insides. She was both scared and happy at the same time. (Boy, you adults sure are complicated!) I wish I could talk, so I could have told them there was nothing to be nervous about. I had just spent the last 10 or so months with her and she is a kind and gentle woman.)
In a strange city, they stopped at the best store they could find — a Barnes & Noble — to find a special photo album for my birth mom. They wanted to explain to her that it was symbolic of their promise to send her photos and letters very often — and that they planned on filling it for her.
Dad stayed with me in the car while mom looked around inside. She found a pretty, light green one with embroidered flowers made from tiny pastel ribbons. She liked it so much she bought two — one for my birth mom and one for me. That way, if my birth mom ever sends us anything, it will go right into my album and I will always know we each have the same book.
Mom nervously fidgeted at the register, unhappy with the gift-wrap choices. She didn’t seem to think anything was going to be good enough for the very important person she was about to meet. She chose the best they had while rambling something to the cashier about ‘meeting her daughter’s mother’ and ‘the store needed more options’. Her hands were shaking when she paid. (I think she might have scared the cashier.)
By now, all the paperwork was signed and my birth mom was waiting for us. I would definitely be going home with my new family today.
We arrived at the adoption agency. Mom was trying not to cry and dad was carrying me in the carseat carrier. He definitely was calmer than mom, who I am learning is very sentimental. I think this meeting was very special to her.
We entered a small white room with white wicker furniture and floral seat cushions. My birthmom stood up and shook my parents’ hands and hugged them both.
They sat and talked, at first idle chat, as they all watched me look beautiful (which, mom says, is evidently very easy for me to do) in my carrier, set on the floor between them.
Mom asked my birth mom if she wanted to hold me. She seemed surprised my mom would offer. “You wouldn’t mind?” she asked. “Of course not,” my mom said. My birth mom held me for a while and it was really nice.
Later, when it was time for me to eat (I do like my bottle every three hours, after all) mom and dad asked my birth mom if she would like to feed me. Again, she seemed surprised they’d asked, but said she’d love to.
She touched my face and looked at me a lot. I noticed mom and dad were watching intently too, because these were some very nice moments for all of us.
My birth mom gave me a stuffed puppy with floppy ears and soft fur. It sits in my room on a bookcase where I can always see it. She really seemed to like the photo album my parents gave her. She asked them if she could please send me Christmas and other cards. My parents said, “Yes! Please, please write anytime you want. You are always a part of her and we want her to know her story.”
My mom and dad learned that my birth mom chose them as my forever family because she really liked that my dad was adopted too. She said that as I grow up and have questions, dad would be a good person to help me.
She really must have thought hard about what she wanted for me. (Moms are like that, ya know.)
When it was time for everyone to go, my moms hugged and my new mom said, “Thank you soooo much” to my birth mom while trying to hold back tears. But it was too late for that, she was already a blubbering mess.
(My mom later said that “thank you” felt strange and empty because they were just words and hardly enough. She asked my dad how to adequately thank someone so strong and so brave for sharing their child with you.)
As they hugged, my birth mom said, “Oh, please don’t cry, I will cry too. And I was doing so well.” But she also started crying and they just held each other for the longest time.
Then mom and dad drove me to a place they called home. I met more family: a grandma and grandpa were waiting in the driveway, and soon my aunt, another grandma and grandpa, and a great-grandma arrived.
I also met a cousin! (I can’t believe I have a cousin!) He brought me a drawing with a note that says he loves me. He’s four. I know I just met him, but I really think I love him too.
Mom doesn’t put me down much, but dad says she’s had just about 10 hours sleep since Monday when they first learned about me, and she should rest. Sometimes when her “feeding shift” is over, she doesn’t wake dad. She says it’s so he can continue to sleep, but I think it’s also so she can stay with me. She runs her hands over my face, my hair, my toes. I think she still can’t believe I’m here. When she does finally sleep, she wakes up later worried it was all a dream.
My mom wants me to tell you, ‘Aunt’ Maureen, that she can’t wait for your phone to ring too so we can all celebrate together.
Please say hi to ‘Uncle’ Paul, who I hear is a really fun guy and is very tall — so I look forward to riding on his shoulders! (And don’t worry, I’ll share my dad’s shoulders with your new baby, too.)
We’ll all have so much fun.