August of 2004 came and went in a blur. To both Greg and I it seemed that marriage might never come for us. Then we met and after our swift courtship we anxiously awaited our special day. When all was said and done it was over in a blink. All of the stress of moving from Washington back to Utah, changing jobs, finding a place to live, and preparing for a new baby was set aside for one glorious day. We were determined to make the most of what we knew would be a very brief “honeymoon” period after marriage. We married on the 4th surrounded by family and loved ones in Nauvoo, IL. Greg’s parents were serving a mission for our church and we decided to travel there so that they could share in the celebration. This meant that most of our close friends and even some of our family were not able to attend. In order to celebrate with everyone we decided to have our reception afterwards. We chose a day about a month later in September so that we could have our honeymoon and then get home and settled in our new apartment in Utah.
In the mean time my sister had invited me to attend her prenatal Dr’s visits. This was an interesting experience for both of us, especially as we explained our circumstances to the Dr and his staff. It was a special time for me. I realized that because I was adopting my sister’s baby, this was a unique opportunity that most adoptive mothers don’t have. I am so thankful to my sister for her willingness to allow me to share in this process. Although I was grateful, there were times when it was also painful. One of the hardest things for me, even now, is going to a gynecologist’s office and having to sit amongst the pregnant women while I wait for my turn to be seen. You’d think that after all of these years I’d be over it, but there are still times when it hurts. As I wait I wonder what it would be like to feel that small life growing inside. I marvel at the thought of experiencing a baby kick and flutter from within. I mourn the fact that I’ll never understand what that feels like.
So it was each time I would be at the Dr with my sister. Part of me was thrilled to be included in the process while on the other hand I ached that it was essentially her experience and not mine. I realize that many of you may be reading this and thinking that pregnancy isn’t always what it is cracked up to be. For someone like me, however, it can be painful to think about all that I’m missing out on; even the “getting fat” and morning sickness parts. My sister’s ultrasound appointment, at which we would find out the gender of our baby, was scheduled for the same day as our wedding reception. That morning my sister, my mother, and I all went to the Dr together.
Before I get to the big reveal, a little background… For months leading up to my hysterectomy I had started having terrible nightmares. I believe this was probably due to the emotional stress and trauma I was under at the time. My dreams were filled with dark figures in black robes that would claw at me in desperation. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with them until I would look down at my own hands which were covered in sores. I would watch in horror as, slowly, parts of me would just fall away. My fingers would fall off, followed by my toes, and then my hands, feet, arms, and legs. As this happened I would attempt to flee the clawing figures then look up to see a large building on fire. From the inferno I would hear the frantic screams of children. At this point I would recognize the building as a large orphanage and while my limbs fell away and my progress was impeded by the cloaked figures, I would scream in frustration because I could not save the dying babies. I would awake from these nightmares in tears, drenched in sweat.
Through the years after my hysterectomy, as my journey through emotional healing progressed, these episodes thankfully subsided. They were replaced by happier dreams in which I would see a blond-haired, blue-eyed little boy running toward me with arms stretched wide. So it was no surprise when the Dr announced that we would be having a little boy! Tears streamed down all of our faces as we looked at the little baby on the screen who was taking great big gulps of the amniotic fluid. I was full of conflicting emotions. Seeing him there moving and healthy was a powerful reminder of everything that we were doing. I was excited to be a mother, sad that I couldn’t experience it for myself, but most of all I began to really think about the sacrifice that my sister was making.
In that moment my heart ached for her and all that she was willing to give up for her baby’s well being. I believe that this was the first time I felt the stirrings of the grief and heartache that were to come. The dichotomy of emotion was almost too much to bear. There I was, so eager and delighted at the thought of having a baby and yet… There was my sister with tears streaming down her cheeks and I wondered at how this would all affect her. Would she survive the anguish of her decision and how could I come to terms with the fact that I was an instrumental part of that journey for her? This is something that I think most adoptive mothers take for granted until they actually experience it. There is a measure of guilt, however unfounded, that comes with the adoption process. You feel as if you are part of the reason that the birth mother is suffering. It is a profound and special gift that she is giving you and you feel partially responsible for her grief. So it was with my sister. I think it was even more heightened because we ARE sisters. We had started a habit of sitting together at my parent’s home every Sunday evening and reading about the week of pregnancy she was in and what that meant for her and the baby. Through these times she and I deepened our bond.
After our appointment I had to switch gears for the reception that evening. I couldn’t quite compartmentalize all of the emotions I was feeling. My sister, acting as one of my bridesmaids, was standing there with me and carrying our first child. I remember being there in my wedding dress with my bouquet in hand and hearing our friends and family congratulate us. Up to this point we had been very selective as to whom we told about the coming baby. It was common knowledge among the family and our closest friends, but friends of our parents weren’t aware of the situation yet. So you can imagine the surprised looks I got when every so often I would slip up and respond to their congratulatory remarks with, “Thank you! We are so excited to be having a boy!” I’ve never seen so many eyebrows disappear into hairlines as I did that evening. I would just laugh and sheepishly gesture toward Greg saying, “Oh, you meant this… well yes, we are happy, thank you!”
After the marital celebration dust settled we decided to add further stress and buy our first house. Sean was due to be born in late January early February. It was a tricky time to purchase a home, Greg had a job but we had agreed that once Sean was born mine would be going away. Of course this meant that we would also be reducing down to one income. Additionally we needed to cover the expenses of the up coming adoptoion. It was clear that there were going to have to be some major sacrifices made on our part but we felt that they would be worth it. So in late October we started the process of looking for homes and by December 1st we were moving in. By the time we’d made it through the home buying process Greg and I were emotionally spent from all of the big life changes we’d experienced in just a few short months. They say that there are major life events that cause great stress job changes, buying a home, getting married, moving, and having a baby. Well, you know me, I can’t do ANYTHING half-way so if we’re going to add stress to our lives, why not do it ALL AT ONCE! It was exhausting, but somehow we survived.
Christmas came and went the highlight of which were all of the baby gifts Greg and I received. We brought these gifts home and put them next to our wedding gifts which we were still sorting through and finding space for. Imagine if you will two piles of gifts organized into “wedding” vs. “baby”. Diapers next to toasters and a playpen next to fancy wedding picture frames. At times I was overwhelmed with joy and at others I felt I might buckle under the strain. My sister continued to progress on schedule but pregnancy was not kind to her. Her sciatic nerve was pinched and causing her great pain. Because she was getting so miserable the Dr suggested that we schedule a date on which he would induce her. Due to her great discomfort she was confined to bed for most of the day unable to put weight on her hurting leg. It was decided that I would quit my temporary job a week earlier than planned to help take care of her and my niece.
In mid January we met with her Dr for one of her final visits and he broke the news that he could not schedule an induction date until she was dilated a little further. He told us that the reason she wasn’t progressing was because she was stuck in bed for the better part of her days with the leg pain. My sister and I decided that we would spend an entire day walking around. It would be painful with her pinched sciatic nerve but she was, “SO ready to be done…” as she put it. So that is what we did. We walked and walked and walked. I’m not sure how she survived. We went window shopping at every mall we could think of and literally stalked around my house in endless circles in hopes that this would help her progression. Thankfully it worked and we were scheduled to have a baby the following Monday, January 31st.
I had spent all day Thursday, January 27th with my sister helping her cope and take care of her little girl. I didn’t get home until almost 10 o’clock that evening and fell into bed exhausted. As sleep overcame me I had the random thought, “I should probably pack a hospital bag, just in case…” I still had time; I would just take care of it in the morning. I felt as if I had just closed my eyes when my cell phone rang. I looked to see that it was only 5 am. Bleary eyed and half asleep I answered to hear my Mom’s voice on the other end saying that my sister was bleeding badly. Dad had taken her to the hospital and we needed to get there as quickly as possible. She sounded panicked and told me that they were worried something wasn’t quite right. I bolted out of bed and woke Greg, who can sleep through anything, and we packed up as quickly as we could. I’m pretty sure we ran every red light in our haste to get there. I was so worried, I kept praying for the safety of my sister and my new baby. When we got to the hospital we found my Dad pacing outside of my sister’s room with a frightened look on his face. My heart skipped several beats as I gently pushed on the door to my sister’s room.
Well, you know how much I love a good cliff hanger…