By Terri Budzyn
It’s 3 am on a Monday morning and I’m getting up early today to meet my new daughter! It’s a five-hour drive to Dallas from Houston, where I live, and I need to be there by 9 am to set up my workspace and run my weekly project status meeting before meeting my daughter for the first time. I’m super nervous!
I got a call on Friday and was told to prepare myself for possibly becoming a parent over the weekend. The birth mother I was matched with had gone into labor early. She had been on bed rest at the hospital for two weeks since her water broke unexpectedly. She delivered the baby that night, and according to Texas state law had two days minimum to consider her decision to relinquish her baby for adoption. I was on pins and needles the whole time until I finally heard from the adoption agency late on Sunday that she had terminated parental rights and decided to move forward with the adoption as planned.
I was elated as my dream of becoming a mom felt like it was finally coming to fruition. At the same time I was also devastated for the birth mother and her difficult decision to relinquish her child for adoption. The birth mother and I had never met. She selected my profile as a single mother even when offered possible matches with married couples. The birth mother told the adoption agency that she admired my accomplishments and independence and thought that I would be the best match for her child. She also requested the adoption be semi-open where we would exchange first names but not know each others full names. I would send her updates about my daughter every six months through the agency for five years but otherwise there would be no contact between us.
I arrive at the hospital in the afternoon to meet my daughter. I wanted to talk to the medical staff at the hospital to find out the status of the baby. She was born 8 weeks early at 3 lbs. 6 oz. and I was not sure what her ongoing medical needs were going to be.
It was a surreal experience to go to the maternity ward in the hospital and simply announce that I was the adoptive mom of the new baby. The nurse on duty was very welcoming as she directed me to the Neo-Natal ICU. I put on hospital scrubs and washed my hands thoroughly. With each moment that passed by, anxiety and doubt entered into my consciousness.
Was I doing the right thing by adopting this child?
Would I be the best mom for her?
Would I be able to take care of her needs as a premature baby?
These questions swirled around my head and fear replaced the joy and excitement that I had felt earlier before I arrived at the hospital.
As I approached her baby bed and saw her for the first time, a sense of peace and wonder came over me. All my concerns and doubts faded away as I looked at her beautiful face. It was a transformative moment and I felt like I already knew and loved her.
My baby was surrounded and attached to several pieces of medical equipment, so it was not easy to get near her and unfortunately I was not able to hold my daughter that first day. I found out from the medical staff that she would need to stay in the hospital for at least three more weeks until she grew big enough to eat on her own without using a feeding tube. Luckily, she had no other health issues that premature babies often have except for her small size and low body fat.
It amazed me how quickly I felt the need to protect and take care of her. My feelings of motherhood were stronger than I had expected them to be and my transition from a single woman to mom was swift and powerful. I felt an instant close bond unlike I’ve ever experienced with any other human being.
It was hard to leave her at the hospital at the end of every day but I had faith that she would grow bigger and stronger with time and that I’d be able to take her home very soon. I was very lucky that I could arrange to work remotely at my company’s satellite office in Dallas and I also had a friend who lived in town that I could stay with during the duration of my daughter’s hospital stay.
I had recently changed jobs so I was not eligible for maternity leave. That was a bit tricky, but thankfully my manager, was thoughtful enough to allow me to leave work early each day to spend the rest of the day at the hospital with my daughter. Over the three weeks I spent at the hospital, I was able to learn from the medical staff the proper way to take care of a premature baby and I was confident that by the end of her stay, I would be able to take over.
By the time my daughter grew to 4 lbs 6oz, she was ready to leave the hospital. She had grown by a pound and was eating successfully without a feeding tube for several days. She was still very small compared to other babies her age but was very healthy and ready to go home with her mama.
Since I knew I would not be eligible for maternity leave at my company, I had asked my mom to help me out for six weeks before I could arrange for a nanny to help me with her childcare long term. The day my daughter was due to leave the hospital, I picked my mom up from the Dallas airport and we both went to the hospital along with a representative from the adoption agency.
I had grown to know the medical staff at the hospital very well and they knew my story of how I had adopted my daughter as a single mom. That day, they generously gave us a mountain of supplies of premature baby formula, diapers, wipes, etc. Although I appreciated their gift very much, I was more grateful for the time they spent with me teaching me what I needed to know to confidently take care of my baby. It was a gift I cannot thank them enough for.
I was both thrilled and scared to take my daughter home from the hospital. Motherhood seemed more real now that I was responsible for her 24/7. I kept thinking in the back of my mind, “Was the hospital staff really going to let me just walk out of the hospital with a baby? How did they even know that I was legitimately her mom now?” Of course, my fears where overblown and after thanking everyone for all the work they did on my behalf, I walked out of that hospital to start my new life as a mama to my beautiful baby girl.
We were finally home after the long hospital stay and 300-mile car journey. The arduous wait and roller coaster ride I went through to arrange her adoption was very far from my mind now as I focused on our new life together as a family.