My Gay Adoption Day 508 :: And then, all of a sudden...
I’m writing this blog update from a hospital room, with my brand new would-be daughter sleeping a foot away from me in an acrylic crib, swaddled to the nines and cooing lightly. Kenley was born this morning, at 7:47am, and her first day on earth has seemed, to me, to last about a month.
As most of you know, this has happened about two weeks earlier than anticipated; our birth mom Jeyne was due on April 29th. I suppose we had fair warning when two weeks ago Kenley’s weight was lagging behind her gestational age; she was a scant 4 lbs. 9 oz. at the time, and the doctor performing her ultrasound was concerned that Kenley was not growing at the rapid clip expected in the last four weeks of pregnancy.
Well, that’s frightening enough; thereafter followed two weeks of nail biting, during which Kevin and I kept ourselves as occupied as possible, and consulted with our own pediatrician friends. The concern was IUGR - Intrauterine Growth Restriction - that refers to poor growth in the womb. Specifically, Kenley weighed less than 5% of other babies at her gestational age.
We were warned that, upon the next ultrasound, should Kenley be determined to be growth restricted, the doctors would then proceed to attempt to induce Jeyne. What we didn’t realize was that, this past Monday, when that diagnosis was actually made, they would order her to run home, take a shower, pack a bag, then report directly back to the hospital.
I was at work when the call came through; Kevin rapidly phoned me and told me to get home as quickly as possible. I raced home, and then the two of us attempted to pack everything we might need for an extended stay in another state. We had prepped for this by preparing all of Kenley’s necessities and putting them into a suitcase, so we really only needed to get our own stuff into bags, and then load the lot into the car for the trip... but as they say, nothing can prepare you for the reality.
I can’t really remember what that half-hour was really like, except for the fleeting memory of wondering where the cats were and discovering them under our bed, staring at me with expressions that seemed to imply that their daddies had gone completely mad - clearly they were going to go into hiding until the insanity had passed. But we did manage to pack fairly quickly, and surprisingly, somewhat thoroughly. And I even convinced Kevin to bring Kenley’s wubbanub, despite the fact that she’s unlikely to use it for weeks.
By the way, for you non-parents out there, a wubbanub is a combination stuffed animal and pacifier, and Kenley’s is a blue pacifier attached to a little giraffe. I felt it really important that Kenley be introduced to giraffes within her first few days. I’m sure most parents would agree.
Between the hasty pack and our destination lay nearly six hours in the car, encompassing $20 in tolls, a rolling stop at a Boston Market along the Turnpike, and the easing into the afterlife of at least a hundred insects against the windshield of our car. I learned that Madonna’s latest CD is an acquired taste, that cell reception still does not exist in many rural areas of the USA, and that a Boston Carver sandwich has some sort of nasty mustard-mayo-indiscriminate substance sauce that makes me gag.
As it turned out, we needn’t have rushed. Once we arrived, our FIA social worker advised us to check into our hotel and just sort of, you know, take our time getting to the hospital.
Beg pardon? If there was no rush, why did I freak out my cats? More importantly, why did I eat some sort of mustard-mayo-indiscriminate substance sauce that makes me gag? I could have taken my time and had Chicken McNuggets.
Thus began the process of what I now call "selective dissemination of information" (SDI) based on too many "complex interests in perpetual motion" (CIPM)- I’ll delve into these new terms more in the next blog, but basically this means that the longer the cogs of adoptive baby delivery have been turning, the higher the odds of any particular information being somewhat inaccurate. In this case, our birth mom was in the early stages of what the hospital predicted would be a long delivery process, and the string-to-can communication process just wasn’t perfect. Nobody to blame - but an example of how, as adoptive parents, one needs to be ready to roll with the punches from the very beginning.
At 6pm on Monday night, we finally walked into the lobby of the hospital, a cute, well-appointed affair with a sprawling maternity unit. Jeyne was in process, but clearly a long night lay in store for her; the look on her face was enough IMHO for a hero medal. It was decided that most of us would let her progress without us hanging around making her self-conscious, so Kevin and I headed back to the hotel.
He organized the room. I went to the gym. Then we sat facing each other for an hour or so, anxious and wondering when that final call would occur, and wondered how long Jeyne would have to endure the labor process.
Jeyne saved us the agony; she phoned us out of sleep just as she was entering true labor at 6:30am. And then, Mother Nature spat on the best-laid plans (lesson #2 in expecting the unexpected) with her own surprise: after barely three pushes from her mom, and arriving for her close-up so quickly the nurses joked she came out on a waterslide, Kenley was born.
We arrived just in time for the nurses to bring the baby, weighing in at 5lbs, back into the maternity room. With a nod from Jeyne, they promptly put her in Kevin’s arms, whereupon he burst into tears.
Fast-forward. We were given our own room and a crash course in swaddling, bottling, burping, and a vicious natal fluid called meconium (look it up if you’re a masochist). No fewer than fifteen individuals from pediatricians to a string of nurses has been in and out on a fairly constant basis, poking and prodding, taking temperature, weighing, and listening to the wee heartbeat. Jeyne, relieved and healthy, bopped to her own room and has even been by to visit periodically.
We’ve had phone calls to relatives and friends, and the news broke on Facebook despite us trying to stay under the radar; ah well. Kenley learned how to breathe (it took a little while and she’s still snuffling a bit), how to eat (that was more about us being unafraid to put that darn bottle all the way in her mouth), how to burp (critical stuff) and how to pee and poo. And we did our best, emotionally and physically exhausted and longing for real food and a shower, to be the best new daddies we could.
We also had one hysterical moment. Around 11pm, a cleaning lady knocked and entered the room to empty the trash. She glanced at Kevin, seated by the window, and myself, in the rocking chair holding Kenley, and blurted out, "but where’s the mother?"
Kevin and I glanced at each other. Kevin said, "Down the hall in her own room." The visitor looked increasingly confused. I added, "We’re the adoptive parents."
Thereafter followed the longest computational cycle since Big Blue and punchcards in the 1960s. At least twenty seconds later, she blushed and stammered, "Oh!" and quickly ran into the bathroom to claim the garbage. As a credit to her resilience, she smiled on the way out and offered us heartfelt congratulations.
That’s us. Gay activists trailblazing for queer adoption one cleaning lady at a time.
And here I sit, at 1:30am, staring at a tiny baby growing stronger by the hour as she desperately grasps a giraffe wubbanub.
Kenley’s first day on the planet wasn’t simple, and it offered a number of surprises and challenges that I’ll document more as the week progresses - and the true process of adoption is only beginning. But suffice it to say, I’m so grateful for the miracle lying at my side, and I’m cognizant that, while much is still at risk, for good or for ill, we have already welcomed this little girl into our hearts.