In March we got a call from our social worker with our church adoption program. We had a birth mom through the agency who was interested in us. The birth mom had cognitive learning delays as did 3 of her half brothers. He told us this baby may or may not have cognitive delays as well. Were we still interested in being a possible family for this baby? We discussed it and decided we were willing to take this child no matter what the situation was.
I ended up being put in contact with our birth mom’s Step Mother. She seemed to be the one who was the contact person. We talked for hours. We decided over spring break to head to St. Augustine and we would meet up with our birth family. It was nerve wracking. My husband couldn’t come with us because of work, so Lauren Elizabeth, myself, my sister in law, and my niece came with. We met them at Cracker Barrel and ended up staying there and talking with them for 5 hours. We seemed to get along. Things looked promising. But, once you’ve had an adoption fall through, you’re constantly paranoid that another one will as well. There are no guarantees.
Our birth mom was due in May and at this point, they didn’t know the gender of the child. Not long after our meeting, our Birth Mom found out what she was having. Again, I was on the phone with the stepmother, and she told me we were having a little GIRL!! It was so exciting, yet I was still cautious.
A couple of weeks later I was talking to the stepmother, and she said that she was going into the hospital for a medical procedure. She was worried that our birth mom would have the baby while she was in the hospital but I assured her the chances of that happening were slim since she would be delivering 4 weeks early.
On April 5, 2006, we got a call from the stepmother to say that our birth mom had the baby while she was in having her procedure done. I was stunned. She had indeed delivered 4 weeks early. Our birth mom was staying with an older lady who was their family friend while her step mother had her procedure done. She didn’t realize she was in labor until it was too late. She ended up having her daughter on the couch at this home and her friend delivered her baby. They then rushed them both to the hospital to be cared for. The stepmother then told us we needed to come to Jacksonville.
I had to wait for Devin to get home from work to get me. I was anxious, nervous, scared (what if they changed their minds??). I couldn’t sit still. He finally got home and we decided to stop at Lauren Elizabeth’s school and tell her what was going on. We made arrangements for someone else to pick her up from school and for her to stay with family until we got back.
We made it to Jacksonville. We stayed that day in Jacksonville and spent time with our baby’s birth family. To say there were ups and downs would be an understatement! It was a roller coaster ride, with my emotions so close to the surface! I felt like at any moment I would burst into tears. We left that evening with pictures of the baby to take home to show Lauren Elizabeth her baby sister.
The next morning we showed the pictures to Lauren. We told her that we would be naming her Sydney Gloria. Gloria is the name our birth mom said she would have named the baby, which is after her grandmother that died from breast cancer. We thought this was a way that we could honor our birth mom, by using Gloria as a middle name. When we told Lauren the name she was adamant that we could NOT name her Sydney. She was sure her name should be Annalise. We flipped through the pictures again and again and made the decision that Lauren was right, her name should be Annalise!
The next day we did not go to Jacksonville. There was so much going on that we felt the birth family just needed some space. It was hard being here in Tallahassee, and hoping that everything was alright with Annalise. She ended up staying in the hospital for 4 days because of jaundice and some infection she had.
We headed back to Jacksonville on Friday evening. This time Lauren came with us. Annalise’s birth family wanted to have a placement ceremony on Saturday afternoon (don’t know what else to call it). They invited their friends and congregation to their church for a service. The intent was for this to be placement of Annalise with us. Unfortunately, Annalise was still in the hospital and we weren’t sure when she would be released. We were so thankful that Devin’s brother, his brother’s wife, and niece and nephew could come and be with us. By this point I was a wreck and things were going from bad to worse (not with the birth family but with our stress level). I had a break down in Walmart and burst into tears at the photo center. I think the lady behind the desk thought I was crazy or had lost it! Devin and Lauren had gotten locked out of our hotel room because our extended stay was up, yet we weren’t quite ready to leave because it had taken so long at Walmart, Devin was supposed to meet Annalise’s birth grandfather at the hospital to give Annalise a blessing. We were a mess! But, we made it to the hospital and we made it to the church for the service. It was indeed a highlight and a strength to see some friendly, loving faces in our family who were able to come. We honestly couldn’t have made it without them! They definitely know the meaning of supporting your family in all things!
We left Jacksonville Saturday evening hoping and praying that we’d get another call saying Annalise was being released from the hospital. We decided to ask for help with fasting and praying from family that this might happen quickly. We headed to church the next day and right before we walked into church, we decided to call the birth family to see how they were doing. They were headed to the hospital to pick Annalise up! She was being discharged! We were so thankful! We went to church and ditched out a little early to make it to Jacksonville by 4 pm so we could sign paperwork and pick up our sweet baby girl. It looked like placement was going to happen! This wasn’t going to fall through. I was beginning to relax and felt some relief.
Being at the placement was different than I thought it would be. I was so happy to be bringing Annalise home, yet my heart ached for Annalise’s birth family that would be hurting. When it was time to leave, our birth mom let out a cry that about broke my heart! This had to be so hard for her. It was so heart wrenching. I could only imagine the sadness she was feeling. She carried this sweet little girl for almost 9 months. But, she knew this is what would be best for Annalise.
Our Birth Mom is amazing, brave, and our hero! She placed Annalise with us, something we could not do for ourselves. We love her so much and are so grateful to her selfless act of love. It’s been almost 10 years since Annalise was placed with us. We can’t imagine her not being in our family. Her smile can brighten anyone’s day and you’ll not meet a more loving and considerate almost 10 year old, ever.
There have been times when I’m talking to people that I’ll say, “When I was in the hospital with Annalise when she was born…” They’ll look at me funny and it takes mea minute to catch onto what I’ve said. I wasn’t in the hospital with her, I was visiting the hospital when she was born. I may not have given birth to her, but she is still my child, the child of my heart.
Someone once said to me, “Oh, adoption is having kids the easy way.” I reply, “Physically, yes, it’s easier on your body. Mentally it’s the hardest way. There are so many variables that you have no control over. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.” I can’t imagine our home without either of my girls. I love them so very much and love the way that both of them came to be a part of our family.
To this day, we are still in contact with our Birth Mom. I talk to her on the phone every month or so. She’s always so thoughtful and sends Annalise birthday presents and sends both girls Christmas presents. Annalise knows her adoption story, knows who her Birth Mom is (she has a picture of her on her shelf in her room), and knows she is loved greatly by her birth family. She’ll often sayto me, “Mom, tell me about when I was born,” and I’ll go through the story for her and she feels the love that both families have for her. Annalise is a little girl who has so many people who love her and are rooting forher. What a blessing and how grateful we are.
What I’ve Learned:
I have learned over the 24 years of struggling with infertility and heartache that I am capable to handling a trial that I think at times I didn’t think I could bear. I have learned that God hears and answers prayers and that he knows ME, I have learned that I can do hard things.
24 years later and I wouldn’t trade my life or these things for anything in the world. You see, I think it’s at our lowest point that we are capable of learning and growing. I am thankful for Infertility. Because of it, I’ve got two amazing girls who I love more than life itself. My sweet little family is my everything and I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.