So BIG NEWS - we adopted again!!! Our little girl turned one month old yesterday and we adults are sleep-deprived so this will be a bit of a brain dump to record on our blog how Gracie came into our lives!
Fri-Sat Sept 27-29
Dan and I had planned a long weekend away for a while. His mom was visiting so we took the opportunity to head down to Virginia (by the bay) for a getaway. We stayed in a house that belongs to one of Dan's former coworkers. It was gorgeous - dated back to the 1800's, super classy, felt like getting to sleep in a historic home, steps away from a peaceful inlet of water. So perfect. We had such a nice relaxing weekend the two of us, enjoying some leisurely meals, walks by the bay, antique shopping (only I cared!), etc. Just what we needed. (Even more than we realized at the time!)
Ironically, we spent some time talking/complaining about how long it was taking to adopt again. Little did we know that on....
Mon Sept 30
We would get an email in the afternoon from our home study agency saying that there was a baby girl in the hospital who they thought we'd be a great fit for. (!!!) We got some basic info and had a three-way call with the social worker handling the case, to ask more questions and such. It was definitely head-spinning, processing all this info on the fly, and apart until Dan got home from work. By that point we had already decided to say yes, and then around 6 the social worker called to say she had spoken with the baby's mom who agreed to move forward with us. (!!!)
So we went downstairs, sat down to dinner, and calmly informed Dan's mom and Zelie that we are adopting again! Cue tears! Amazing, Dan's mom had been set to leave the very next day but was able to extend her visit, which was so helpful because on...
Tues Oct 1
We drove an hour to the hospital (in Virginia) in the afternoon to meet with the social worker and then with the baby. FYI: Grace's birthmother has opted for a closed adoption after counseling, meaning that we don't know who she is, we didn't meet her, and we're not in contact. That may change over time - we are hoping it will, because we know how valuable it is for children to have information about their family of origin and for both birthparents and children to have some kind of ongoing contact. But who knows what will happen.
Anyway - we got debriefed by Sami the social worker, then went in the NICU, scrubbed our hands for three minutes (a ritual we got used to soon), and met Grace!
Sidenote: we chose her name between Monday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon! We had some names in general we liked, but nothing "picked out" in the absence of a specific child. We basically typed up a two-page list of name possibilities and combinations, then went through circling or striking out ones we liked or didn't. Literally on the way to the hospital we settled on her full name.
Grace Theadora Rose
Grace: we loved how that sounding, and the meaning of grace, gift and favor
Theadora: she was born on the feast of St. Matthew (Sept 21), whose name in Hebrew means "gift of God" - Theadora also means "gift of God" in Greek; it's also a connection with Sr. Thea Bowman, an African-American Catholic leader who is in the canonization process
Rose: we met Grace on the feast of St. Therese (Oct 1), and her "sign" is roses; this is also a connection with Zelie, who has Rose in her middle name too
Back to the hospital...Grace was resting in her clear plastic baby bed in a private room, dim behind a curtain. "Surreal" doesn't begin to describe the moment - yesterday we hadn't even known about her existence, and here we were with this new little baby. And she was SO cute and tiny and cuddly!! We stayed for the rest of that evening before driving home.
FYI: At 5 p.m. that evening Grace's birthmother's consent became irrevocable. It had been signed right after Grace was born (before we even knew about her).
Weds Oct 2
Zelie got to meet her baby sister today! As soon as she walked in the room, she asked to hold the baby. #heartmelt So we got her positioned with the boppy on her lap and she held Grace for a while, trying really hard to get the pacifier in her mouth. It was so precious, seeing our TWO girls together and interacting for the first time. Then Zelie got bored of holding the baby and wanted to put her in the bouncer (mamaroo) that was in the room. Then she wanted to touch all the wires and push the rolling bassinet and rock on the rocking chair really hard annnnnnd it was time to go ;)
We also signed all of the placement paperwork with Sami, there at the hospital, so we'd be able to leave with Grace when she got discharged. And Sami started the ICPC paperwork that would allow us to take Grace home to Maryland.
Dan's mom stayed with Grace so Dan and I could take Zelie out to eat (a yummy burger place) and to play. There was this pretty swanky shopping center a few minutes away from the hospital that had one of those water fountain play areas for kids. It was HOT today - 90's - so Zelie had a blast running around in the water and getting totally soaked.
Thurs Oct 3 - Weds Oct 9
Grace's time in the NICU. Honestly, it wasn't all that bad!
Pros: very little to do other than rock Grace, so lots and lots of time for bonding and holding and being together. The nurses were AMAZING and helped so much with Grace, and helped us get comfortable caring for a much tinier baby than we had before with Zelie (5 lbs vs. 7 lbs), navigating all the wires and beeps, etc. The drive to the NICU wasn't awful, about an hour one way. And hospital itself was pretty quiet and calm.
Cons: The worst part was not being together as a whole family. We decided not to get a hotel room because a) cost, and b) we thought Zelie would be more comfortable staying at home. Thanks to LOTS of grandparent support, Dan and I were able to take turns being with Grace. But that meant we only saw each other for the "hand off" so to speak, as most nights one of us stayed at the hospital. We could tell Zelie was getting tired of not seeing mommy or daddy all day, as she needed more cuddles and attention, understandably. Plus we were eager to get Grace out into the fresh air and away from the small little space she was literally connected to!
But overall, the NICU time went smoothly. We tried to focus on a day at a time, making a plan for that day, getting as much rest as possible, meeting Zelie's needs too. We also benefited a lot from the advice of friends who had had NICU stays with their kids.
So finally, after about a week and a half, on...
Weds Oct 9
Gracie was ready to get discharged!! Hooray! At this point we didn't know whether our ICPC paperwork would be cleared and we could drive Gracie into Maryland. If not, we'd have to stay (she'd have to stay - obviously with at least one of us) in Virginia until we could leave. Dan had scoped out a hotel option and I had packed enough stuff for all four of us for a few nights, just in case. Not ideal, to stay at a hotel with a newborn, but we had done it with Zelie for 3 weeks (1 week at a friend's parents' house) so at least this wasn't brand new.
BUT right before Grace was officially discharged, Sami texted to say ICPC cleared! So we could leave the hospital and drive straight home! That was definitely a relief and cut down on the complexity of the next few days.
We did a required mini-CPR class for infants (complete with an inflatable mini baby that we got to take home) and took the required discharge training from the nurse with some basic care info. Then Grace was ready to become wireless and go home! Oh, and the night before she had passed the "carseat challenge" - buckled into her carseat for an hour and a half without exhibiting distress. Awesome job, Grace.
Procedure was that we put her in the carseat, which was then placed on a rolling crib, sides raised, and a NICU nurse wheeled her to the hospital entrance for us. Kinda funny! A dramatic exit. We said goodbye and thank you to the nurses there, who again were SO amazing the whole time. We promised to send them our Christmas card! And we wheeled through the postpartum unit, where the nurses all clapped. #moretears
Then Dan got our car, we put Gracie in, and homeward bound! She had her first trip of many on 1-95 and the Beltway, plus a lovely view of downtown DC from the bridge over the Potomac (not that she noticed) and finally into Maryland! And finally home! Whew!
Not ten minutes after we arrived, a friend stopped by to give us several loaves of bread! Which was awesome because we had managed to place an order for pizza at the wrong pizza location so my mom was engaged in going to the other location for our dinner...oops.
It was so wonderful to finally be together all four of us, in our own home.
Life! Hopefully some more sleeping from our hungry girl! But glad that she's eating so well!
Grace had a pediatrician appointment two days after discharge, and she was over 6 lbs, awesome!! And overall is doing really, really well. Poor Zelie got a flu shot at the same appointment. Of course we needed some Chickfila after that morning.
In terms of postplacement stuff, it's the same as with Zelie. We'll meet with our social worker three times in our home. One of those meetings already happened, the Monday after discharge. Each meeting is an hour long and we just talk about how things are going, how are we adjusting, attachment, questions, concerns. We've worked with our social worker Sandy now since before adopting Zelie, so she feels like an old friend at this point!
Grace's adoption will be finalized in Virginia, so it's likely that we'll actually go to the courtroom this time (instead of calling in like we did for Zelie's) - that should be pretty cool! It will happen a little more than six months from now because of the required postplacement visits and other paperwork (naturally).
So that's the story! We are a family of four now, thank you God! We don't take that for granted for a single second after years of praying to become parents, and now having the amazing blessing of each of our children having a sibling. So, so happy.
Thanks for reading this novel!!