A Sister’s Sacrifice: Sean’s Adoption The Conclusion

My sis showing Sean that "Bandaids aren't scary!"

My sis showing Sean that “Bandaids aren’t scary!”

Growing up my sister and I never got along. I wouldn’t be exaggerating when I say that we fought over EVERYTHING! We battled over our friends, our toys, even who got to sit in the coveted front seat of the car. There are only two years between us and we found ourselves at odds over the tiniest details in life. It didn’t help that we are exact opposites in our approach to life in general. She thought I took life too seriously (probably true) and I thought she didn’t take life seriously enough. We never saw eye to eye. Sure, there were times when we would laugh and giggle together, but as we grew older things got progressively worse. In order to cope with the fact that every time we saw each other it was likely to end in a struggle, we grew further and further apart.

It was with these thoughts churning in my heart that I entered the hospital room where my sister was in labor. It was still quite early and already the morning had been a whirlwind of emotion. Having been awakened by my frightened parents who said she was bleeding heavily, Greg and I had rushed to meet them at the hospital. I was remembering all of the times we had fought bitterly over stupid things as sisters tend to do and thinking of how very much I wanted her to be all right in that moment. As I walked in I was relieved to find her lying peacefully on the bed while the nurse was explaining that although the blood had been scary she was simply in labor. I hurried back out the door to inform Greg and my Dad that all was well and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Upon arriving at the hospital they had put my sister into a small examination room. After they determined that the bleeding was under control they moved her into a birthing suite and we prepared for the wait. Her labor was slow and her water hadn’t broken yet. After taking care of that little detail her labor stalled, the contractions beginning to taper off. This wasn’t good for our little baby; he was beginning to show signs of distress. It was decided at that point that they would give my sister Pitocin. Having never been through the labor and delivery process myself I took my sister’s word for it when she said, “OW, this is making the pains more intense!” So an epidural was in order.

From there it seemed to happen in a flash. There I was holding my sister’s hand as she gave birth to our son, my son… I wasn’t sure in what terms I was supposed to think of it all. As you know, once a baby is born and if all is well, they immediately place the baby in the arms of its mother. My sister, wanting to avoid the pain of bonding with him in those first few moments, left explicit instructions with the nursing staff that she did not want to hold him right after the birth. Of course as the shift change occurred the message did not get passed along, but she had been adamant with me beforehand so I knew that at all costs I was to intercept him. However, as the birth happened my sister began to cry which steadily progressed to huge, body wracking sobs. I was torn from the inside out. I faithfully followed her directions and reluctantly left her side to follow the nurse to the crib.

With the sounds of my sister in utter and total grief, I intercepted the nurse after the Apgar testing and took Sean from her arms. Amidst all of the commotion she actually tried to snatch him back from me and said in a terse voice, “That baby needs its mother!” To which I responded with equal venom, “I AM THE MOTHER!” This was my first foray into being an advocate for my own child and while I probably could have been a little nicer about it, I was proud of myself for protecting the interests of everyone involved. Even at the risk of offending those around me who were ignorant of the circumstances and ready to judge us.

At this point my sister just wanted us to go but I could hardly tear myself away. There she was, her despair filling the room in all-consuming waves, and yet I was also feeling elated at having a beautiful and healthy baby boy. My heart felt torn in so many directions. How could I leave my sister in her anguish? On the other hand I couldn’t very well abandon my new baby either. With sudden clarity I realized that this was so much bigger than I. I could never manage what was to come without divine assistance. So I sent a prayer heavenward asking the Lord to comfort and care for my grieving sister as I reluctantly left the room with the greatest gift anyone has ever bestowed upon me.

I was determined not miss a single moment of my son’s first few hours and moments. I knew that I would never have this opportunity with any other birth mother so I wanted to take full advantage of it. I got to do his first feeding, the first diaper change, the first bath… I was in absolute heaven. All the while my sister was in the back of my mind and I wondered how she was coping, how could she possibly be expected to recover from all of this?

I had planned to stay the evening at the hospital so that I could feed Sean through the night. I just couldn’t tear myself away, I didn’t want to leave. I figured I would find a couch in the waiting room and hunker down there. After his bath and feeding, while he slept, I checked on the sis. I tentatively opened the door to her room and walked in. She had stopped crying and seemed to be OK for the moment. We chatted for a bit and then she did the most amazing thing; she told me that she would like it if I stayed in her room with her through the night. This way the nurses could just call her room from the nursery and let me know when Sean was ready for a feeding. I just looked at her, mouth agape, thinking that she was so brave and wonderful. I asked her if she minded being awoken through the night and she replied she’d rather have the company. I smiled and said we could make a night of it. I could sneak in some yummy food and movies to watch. She smiled back at me and I knew we’d work through it all together.

Each time the nurses called I would step out to feed Sean. There was a small, quiet room in the nursery with two rocking chairs and I found that I could sit and hold Sean all I wanted. It was my own little private haven since most babies stayed in the rooms with their mothers instead of the nursery. This would have been too much for my sister and so I was content to stay and cherish him there.

During the early morning hours I had left my sister’s room to feed Sean and was enjoying one such moment alone with him when I looked up to see my sister shuffling into the nursery. I was in shock. She had been adamant about not seeing him, holding him, or even interacting with him. Yet here she was, coming into the nursery to sit next to me in the only other rocking chair in the room; my brave, wonderful sister.  My sister and I had come a long way from those childhood hurts where all we did was fight each other. We had bonded in so many ways, and in an ironic twist of fate, two girls who couldn’t even share a piece of toast without a fight were now sharing a child.

She looked over at me with an expression of doubt and asked, “May I hold him?” With a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes all I could do was smile and nod. Of course she could hold him! I decided in that moment that I would make sure she knew that she was always welcome in his life. I sat quietly and watched as she carefully took him. She slowly unwrapped the blanket and methodically stroked his fingers, then his toes. She poured over every inch of him as I looked on with bated breath. She then secured the blanket back around him and rocked him for a bit. I watched with wonder as she raised his face to her lips and kissed him softly then handed him back to me. With a small smile she got up and shuffled back to her room. I knew that this was her way of “saying goodbye” and I wept openly as I thought about the tremendous sacrifice she was making for her baby and for me.

I knew in that moment that the days of thinking of my sister as someone with whom I could never relate were over. Through this experience all old hurts have been healed and we are the best of friends and forever will be. Thanks to my sister’s tremendous strength there has never been an awkward moment between us. Sean knows exactly who she is and where he came from. He understands that she is his birth mom and that she loves him with all of her heart. One of the reasons this works so well is because my sister wisely set up some boundaries for herself from the moment she decided that this baby was destined to be mine and she never… NEVER pushes those boundaries. She has never faltered once in referring to herself as his aunt and acting as his aunt. Without this incredible fortitude our situation would not have worked as well as it does. There is no competition, no need for egos to be involved, there is nothing that interferes with our loving Sean together; she as an aunt and I as his mother.

Eight years later I look back on those times and am so grateful for the bond that we all share. I wouldn’t have it any other way. My sister is an integral and important part of Sean’s life. In many ways I find great comfort in the fact that there is another person who loves Sean as only a mother can. When Sean is hurting, she hurts with us. When he is thriving and happy, she celebrates with us. I know that there are times when this is incredibly difficult for her but she soldiers on. We have held each other up through the hard times and enjoyed the good times together. When Sean was diagnosed with Asperger’s we grieved together and worked to understand him and help him together. She is his biggest advocate outside of my husband and me and we welcomed her into the process with open arms.

Get the picture? The days of Greg and I thinking that we could only do a closed adoption and that we would never adopt a family member’s baby are long gone. Obliterated is the idea that we can’t share the joy of our children with their birth families. Every adoption is different, but in Sean’s case it just works!

I wrote a poem for my sister after Sean was born to express to her my great love and affection. It doesn’t even come close to doing adequate justice to the gratitude and love that I feel for her, but here was my humble attempt:

Sean, The Sis, and I on an amusement park ride... Sean's not sure he's going to like it...  :)

Sean, The Sis, and I on an amusement park ride… Sean’s not sure he’s going to like it…

Two Sisters

From your arms to mine

A spirit arrives

Your sacrifice divine

Changes both of our lives

From my heart to yours

A love flows eternal

This baby of ours

Two mothers maternal

A child so blessed

Two mothers who care

From one who knows best

And chose to share

Two sisters in kind

Are the mothers here

Two sisters will find

A love that is dear

One Sister without

One Sister who can

One without doubt

Offers her hand

An act so courageous

Speaks of love untold

A sister’s sacrifice

Blesses the other ten-fold

With hope, trust, and love

This little life given

A gift from above

Loved as from Heaven

From my heart to yours,

From your arms to mine,

This baby of ours

Will be loved for all time

C.M.

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15 thoughts on “A Sister’s Sacrifice: Sean’s Adoption The Conclusion

  1. What a fantastic ending to a fantastic journey. Sean is very lucky to have both of you, double the love. Thank you for finishing your story, I knew there would be a happy ending.

    • Thank you. This was a fun story to write. So much of my life seems filled with struggle but this one makes me so very happy! Double the love for Sean and all the more love for my sister and I as well. I feel very blessed!!

  2. Thank you for sharing how we can all love our heavenly Father’s children so completely. Beautifully written.

  3. Christina this made me think back to this time. I remember when I heard that you and Greg were adopting your sister’s baby, I remember thinking that it wasn’t a very good idea but I’m so glad that you guys knew best and that Sean has so many people who love him so much. He’s a special kid from a special family. I love you guys!

  4. It is a beautiful story to share. I have no idea what your sister went through, but I was at the door once, with the notice that I couldn’t conceive, and would need an egg, at least, from someone else. My sister in law was the only one, immediately to step up to donate. When I talked with the family about all of my fears of carrying, losing, what if it all went wrong, no one sat down with a practical conversation, no one offered to do what your sister was willing to do. God bless the families that overcome all past things to do incredible things like yours.

  5. Wow, sis. I had forgotten or maybe even repressed some of these details. It was really good to read your perspective on the whole thing as I often wondered what emotions this situation stirred within you. I love you so very much! And would do it all over again in a heartbeat. It has been hard but rewarding in it’s own way. Thanks for sharing. It made my day. 🙂

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