Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Big Adoption Series - Chapter 9

The sun scorched hotter and the days dripped slow with impatience. Shosh's mom called to say that it would be soon, and so began our moth-like existence - breathless banging against the screen, fluttering toward the light. You know, these things always happen in the middle of the night.

One sleepless night would blur into day and our anticipation would desaturate. It was still there, our anticipation, but the demands of the day faded it at the edges.

Then, again, came night.

I would lay in bed feeling so sure that this would be it. It almost felt silly to sleep. I felt compelled to hop up and shower, to fix my hair. I would conjure up the feeling that was sure to sweep in with the mid-night ring of the phone. I would imagine a tail light-streaked drive down the highway to my daughter.

Then inevitably, I would drift to sleep.

Morning would come and with it, the reality that one more day had passed. The glare of day did its work and I pined for night, when my unabashed excitement had my full attention. I did not want to trudge through reality. I wanted to bask in what was yet to come.

August 11, 2006, just a few hours after we had drifted, the phone rang.

The voice on the line spoke with urgency - Shosh is in labor. You need to get here quickly, or you'll miss it.

We called Cory's parents. No answer.

We called Cory's sister. No answer.

We called Cory's other sister. No answer.

We called Cory's parents again. And again.

No answer.

With Calvin asleep one room over, we called a friend who lived two blocks down. In no time flat she was asleep on our couch, and we were headed to town.

(But not before stopping to get gas, since, in typical "us" fashion, the gas light was on.)

We raced in to the hospital, disheveled and glowing, all at the same time.

We waited in straight-back chairs by a pop machine. Before long, I was led into the delivery room where things were heating up.

I stood at the side of the woman giving birth to my child. I felt out of place and silly. I felt useless and like I didn't deserve to be there, in a moment so sacred. I felt panicked, not knowing what to do or how to act. I asked if she wanted time alone with Ruby after she was born and she declined.

I listened to her pain and saw the sweat bead on her forehead, while I stood idly by.

She began to push and the weight of her pain - both kinds of pain - cracked me open. My eyes welled and spilled as I bore witness to the birth of grace - a gift I did nothing to earn, a gift born of selflessness, a gift I could never repay.

How could I simply watch as she summoned all of her courage, her focus, her fierce will to bring life into this world? How could I possibly be a part of something so unfair?

She pushed again and time stood still and the clock hands raced.

A baby cried.

A mama cried.

A mama cried.

A flurry of medical scrubs and jargon buzzed and thrummed and all I could do was look at my daughter.

The truth is, I did not feel that storybook rush of instant adoration. I felt protective and worried as they hustled around in indication that all was not entirely right. I felt confused, like I was standing on the stage of someone else's show - my lines not fitting the plot, my costume from the wrong period.

I wanted to take some of her pain away. I wanted to act in any way that might inspire confidence, but I had no way of knowing what that would even mean. I wanted my compassion to fill with color and become tangible - a warm blanket to wrap around her, the whistle of a tea kettle lilting the promise of comfort.

I wanted to hold my baby.

I wanted her to hold her baby.

I wanted to be fair. I wanted to be kind. I wanted to do whatever I could.

She asked for time alone with Ruby and I was grateful. She was doing what she had to do and she was confident in asking.

I left the room and hugged Cory - Ruby's Daddy. I called my parents and relayed an APGAR number which was not stellar.

The updates came - Ruby was having difficulty breathing. She was being admitted into the NICU.

What should have been a standard two-day affair was now stretched out taut and shiny.

We moved into a room down the hall, with Shosh just a little further down.

Over the next days, we would scrub up and walk through those swinging doors so many times. We would feed bottles and change diapers and watch her chest reach for air. We saw her through a tangle of wires. We watched her yellow right up, then fall back down to perfect.

Sometimes, we would round the bend to find her in the arms of a girl with long, curly hair.

Sometimes, that girl would see us, too.

She would invite us over and we would double-up our love for that precious baby. We would rain it down on her cotton curls. Look at all of this love you have, Lucky Baby. Please feel this love. Please know that this is love multiplied, not divided.

In those moments, my heart swung an anchor that landed square in the heart of another woman. Come what may, our hearts were connected by a fine, pink chain. The chain was beautiful. It was delicate. It was iron coated in titanium.

The social worker came in two days after the birth for paperwork to be signed by Ruby's birth mom. As sure as I was that this was sure, well, I wasn't entirely sure. The game had changed and I knew it. We all did.

We were not present in that room and I am thankful for that.

Inked on tear-soaked paper, the adoption was official. The truth of the last 9 months circled all the way around. It was a sure thing. But I know, it was the hardest thing.

We made a brief visit later and hugged and smiled through a veil of fog, the air clouded with emotion too great for the square footage of the room.

I humbly asked if there was anything we could do for her.

Her request? Cherries.

We brought Bings and Raniers, because there is a big, big difference, and when you want a Ranier, you want a Ranier.

The nurses whispered to us about family members - Ruby's flesh and blood - arriving to hold her in night's dark, to sing to her and kiss her head and pray over her.

I prayed that the prayers would pile up. Come on, heap them on. I want this baby girl - my daughter -  to feel them. I want her to feel love from every direction. Soak her heart in them. Fill it up so full that when the questions come - you know they will - she can reach down and pull up a bucket of love to rinse the salt tracks from her cheeks. Galvanize this child in love clear as the morning light, deep as the brown of her eyes.

Before long, Shosh went home.

But now and then, she would breeze into the room in her exotic skirt and we would talk about silly nicknames. We would share memories. We would not talk about the future. The space was still too tight to linger there, on life outside the hospital walls. Instead, I'd pass that burrito baby to her first mama and we would marvel at how - how? - did we have the prettiest baby in all the world?

I wanted so badly to go home.

And I wanted so badly for time to freeze, so that we could live in the microcosm of our shared life, doing exactly what felt most right for the moment.

Ruby, looking like an eight-pound moose next to the preemies beside her, healthied up. She slurped her bottles. We had more opportunity to look right into her eyes.

Within five days, we bundled up a girl as hardy as oatmeal, as breathtaking as a miracle, as perfect as pie, and we headed home. We crossed the threshold from sterile and cool to blazing August hot.

With just one step, we walked into a future that would have its share of questions, but that would be sure to its core.


Join me here next Wednesday for Big Adoption Series - Chapter 10

(To catch up on Chapters 1-8, click here and start from the bottom.)


  1. Your words..your memoirs are blessed. I always find my motherly love for my child..for all children ignited once again in an even stronger more fierce flame when I read your words. I adore your soul and am always in awe by you... My friend.


  2. my word. soooo good. two mama's heart linked forever. you can't understand it until you've felt it. adoption is just such a crazy ball of amazingness!

  3. And you made me cry, which is not easy to do.



  4. Oohhh Shannan, I want to be the first to read your book:). I had tears in my eyes. You definitely have a gift. I did not realize Ruby was in NICU. That brough back memories of a short time ago. One would never know looking at that sweet little Ruby. Tell her I said hi.

  5. How big is your heart? Amazing story. I cried and I laughed. So happy that baby girl of yours was surrounded by so much love. I'm sure she knows how loved she is even today. God Bless.

  6.! I am in love with this series. "hearts were connected by a fine,pink chain"-perfection!!
    How cute was/is she! God knew you were to be her mama. Amazing the paths he takes us down. I just love a happy ending (beginning)!!

  7. I am in awe of the way you poetically put words together. I read and reread your sentences...absolutely in awe. The words dance on the screen dear girl. Sweet sweet Ruby's story is so precious. What a gift from above.

  8. I am certain that Shosh is so happy that you are putting this out there for her and those like her, for you, for everyone. How touching. When you start the baby journey, you have no idea where you may end up. So many paths are yours to walk. Some have detours others are rocky. You found the one that was meant for you. Love you XOXO

  9. I love that we were loving on our precious newborns at the same time! Time that went by way too quickly. It's amazing to watch them become little people growing in God's grace. Are we allowed to arrange marriages?

    ps 2006 :-)

  10. You have an incredible gift. Each week I leave wanting more. I want to know more....more about your experiences, more about Calvin, Ruby, and Silas.....Thank you for opening your heart and soul. Your children are blessed.

  11. This series was the best, the most heart warming and heart felt. The world is truly better because of all of you ~ you are very special people.

  12. You, dear Shannan, have an incredible gift! The gift of words that bring others in and capture their hearts and minds and make them want to be there with you and feel what you were feeling. That is an incredible blessing - thank you!

  13. This story tugs in so many different directions, Shannan. I'm so glad you are sharing it and letting us experience it with you. And the pictures? What a little doll. She had those cheeks from the get-go, didn't she?

  14. Shannan, I don't know you (obviously) but I thank you so much for sharing your life with us.

    I'm 32 and for as long as I can remember, I've felt that some day I would adopt. I don't know where that feeling comes from. . .it's just always been there.

    Your words stay with me from week to week, day to day and I look forward to each and every post. . .but I especially look forward to your adoption series.

    Thanks, again, for sharing.

  15. I wanted time to stand still for you both too. You described how it felt to be in that room. I too stood beside an 18 year old who was waiting for a stillbirth. You described how out of place it felt to be there, trying to make things better, knowing you could really do nothing. A wonderful post. Loving you series.

  16. This is so beautiful. I now understand why people want to put moments like these on video. Although I would never have wanted anything filmed when my kids were born, I see now that you may not be able to remember all of the thoughts and feelings that occur.

    What a story to share with all of us.

  17. I have sit and stared at the computer screen for 20 minutes waiting for something to come into my head to post as a comment. Something that could honor a post like this - a series like this. I have come to the conclusion that there are not strong enough words in my head to compliment the story or the writing enough. All of my words seem so luke warm tonight compared to the gratitude I have that I have found this blog and that you are sharing your children's stories. Thank you and I look forward to next week.

  18. I just want to stay up all night reading your story... what a sweet blessing and gift all of you are to this world.

  19. Love this series - just have to tell you that. LOVE it!

  20. I usually read your posts and respond with a hearty "Amen!" but tonight I have to disagree with you. A couple days ago you were said that while reading The Help that you realized you couldn't write a novel. Not only could you but you are. This is beautiful! Once again, thank you for sharing it with us.

  21. This was so beautiful. What an amazing story you have, and every week your cup overflows even more than the last with your blessings and love. We, as your happy followers, are washed and blessed in the overflow. My heart always feels so full and happy after reading your Wednesday series! Thank you so much for sharing your story, I love you heart it is so lovely...!

  22. What a gift it will be one day for Miss Ruby to read this. And holy cow! What a beautiful baby!

  23. that was just about the most beautiful pouring of emotions i have ever read....
    tears...smiles...tears...i've just had them all....

    she is a very beautiful and very lucky blessed little angel...

    melissa x

  24. our daughter is from China and what I wouldn't give to know her first mama.

    this post rocked me this morning....

    your daughter is absolutely beautiful and so is her story.....

    I can't wait to go back and read each and every adoption post....

  25. Adoption stories break my heart...for so many reasons but mostly because of the birth mama's situation, something I can not---and yet, can---imagine. Thank you for not glossing over that pain.

    And Ruby is about the most gorgeous baby I have EVER seen.

  26. Wow, did that bring back a flood of memories and of course you brought me to tears again! We have been so blessed by the God we serve haven't we? I am so glad that it is He that plans our life and not us because it makes our lives so much richer, just like Ruby has. She makes my heart swell and smile every time I'm with her, I just love her so much and I too am thankful for Shosh's sacrifice and heart.


  27. You are blessed with a talent for writing and I am blessed reading your writings. My heart and soul are touched.

    Thank you ~ FlowerLady

  28. I can't even begin to tell you how beautiful this is...and how amazing it is to feel like I'm right there with you with your beautiful words and emotions. Thank you.

  29. Well - as usually you made me cry again. Which is something I am starting to expect from you. I am a NICU nurse, and we have the option of signing up as primaries for families. That means every time we work we get that family. I always sign up for the adoption families. You get the help the birth mother get through it and then you get to see a new family blossom. Few things are as amazing as helping load a newly adopted little person into a car to drive away to start their life. Humor me and send your NICU a current picture of you and Rudy together. They will love it. You have to be in it too so they will be able to remember Ruby.

  30. Your prose is poetry...Gifted by God to bless others.

  31. The way you capture your memories in words is breathtaking.
    "My eyes welled and spilled as I bore witness to the birth of grace - a gift I did nothing to earn, a gift born of selflessness, a gift I could never repay."
    I think all mamas feel this way to some extent, but the amazing way you get to experience it in your journey - wow!

  32. Love it.
    What a beautiful baby she was!
    She looks soooooo long.

  33. Wow! Your words are like silk. Truly, you are such a gifted writer and you make me want to be a better person.

    Continued blessings to you and your beautiful family.

  34. As always - wow. You have a way of just inserting us all into your life so much that I can visualize the setting. Ruby was precious and she looked just as she does now - one sweet sweet girl. Can't wait for more :)

  35. i love how open you were to the whole experience. how it happened. i love reading how your story unfolds. i am again sitting at work sobbing. and wondering if someday some of this story will make sense to me in a whole new way. praying.

  36. What a sweet story!!!! I admire you and your husband for taking the courage to adopt.How wonderful that you were there for your daughters birth!!!! Blessings,Sara

  37. Oh girl...big slobbering mess right now. I get transported to a spot right there with you when you write. I can't imagine the emotional roller coaster of that whole experience...what that would be like. The way you express yourself is just beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this. Ruby was soooo beautiful. That had to have been the hardest thing in the world for that precious woman to hand her over.

  38. Thank you for who you are. And thank you for sharing. Give those kiddos a hug from me!

  39. Wow. I think each week--this is my favorite post yet--but for me this one truly outshines all the others (not an easy task--as you are truly, truly gifted with words)--but you've outdone yourself this week. I think this piece is particularly touching because I often see the story of international adoption, but don't get to see the story of domestic adoption. Thanks for sharing it with us. Ruby is such a beauty.

  40. You are the best writer that I know. I love reading everything that you write...and the best part of it your heart. Those two combined are simply perfection in my book. An added dose of sarcasm and silliness always keeps me hanging on. I can smell the air as you write about it, whether it be babies or apple pie. I've been reading your blog for awhile now, when I find the time.

  41. As I sit here with tears in my eye I am in awe you and this beautiful story that you are sharing. It definitely needs to be in a book.

    Have a beautiful day.

  42. Beautiful. You have such talent in words. I loved how you described the birth. "birth of grace - a gift I did nothing to earn, a gift born of selflessness, a gift I could never repay."

  43. again the mascara... the most beautiful baby in the world!

  44. OK...I have to tell ya, I've welled up in tears this week every time I've thought of how your sweet baby got her beautiful name. I was telling Mr. D the story and I had to choke back the tears. BUT NOW LOOK WHAT YOU DID...I'm a mess, just a heart bursting joyful mess.

  45. Oh, such a beautiful story... You made me cry, again, but I thank you! Hugs, Lola

  46. Wow- I wish every woman could read this! As a mom who adopted a little, sad 7 year old boy who has now grown into my 6 foot "little" boy, and a mom who also has 2 bio children...way too many thoughtless women have said " well, you surely don't love him as much as your others!" I only wish I could have experienced the joy of his birth! Congrats and God bless your whole family.

  47. well i honestly dont know if i have ever read something so unbelievably raw and beautiful.You have such a god given gift with words,and i feel so privledged to read it laughing and crying with every unique post.You have such a beautiful and transparent heart and i am so greatful to have found this blog.
    sincerly Siobhan

  48. Beautiful...thank you for sharing this with us. I cried...again.



  49. Just re- read this and dang girlie you tug my heart strings. I love your blog, such a blessing to me!

  50. She is beautiful! I have no words to say really...but that was beautiful to follow with you ~ your words so perfectly describing your experience

  51. Wow, sweet girl...amazing words that are raw to the core---and so beautiful at the same time. She was meant to be is a wonderful miracle and I am so glad you are sharing the needs to be told!
    admiration and love--

  52. The angst too of reading this one. I felt a bit of my own remembering with our son, similiar. What a journey toward your daughter, and all that you even embraced so well through it. You remember it as if it were now. Wonderful.

  53. You make me cry every time. I usually read blogs while at work and I am now hoping no one walks into my office or I'll look like a complete idiot.

  54. I have tears flowing down my face. This is so beautiful. You have such talent to write a lovely story. My, was Ruby a pretty baby. I love that you are doing this series. I have missed a couple chapters. I need to go back and read more.

  55. absolutely beautiful story Shannon, what a blessing and a beautiful baby you have!! Thank you for sharing so openly with us!

  56. Love it, Shan! And, I so know that feeling of being given such a beautiful gift. As I stood beside our birthmama, watching her give life to our Noah, I had a love for her that I could not explain. It was maternal, as she is much younger than I, yet it was a feeling of respect that one has for someone they hold in high esteem -- someone that somehow, should be older. Anyway, you managed to put into words all the things I felt that April day of my own. Thank you for sharing! Love, Becky

  57. Your words are touched by God, they are magical and uplifting and life saving. I know that all is well in this world when their are families like yours and I feel blessed to be touched by your life. Suze

  58. This is heartrending, beautiful. A perfect picture of His love and grace. How beautifully and graciously you recounted it.

  59. I don't know Ruby and her birth mom but I love them!

  60. just read this series after a friends told me about your blog. SO encouraged and inspired. We live in East AFrica and are in the midst of adopting here. It has been trying at times but I hold on knowing God i with us and knows the details. You encouraged my tired heart tonight..thanks!

  61. your writing slays me, shannan. gifted, you are. praising god for this sweet part of your story!
    i am weeping now, thinking of elijah's birth mother. i wanted so badly for her to have an alone time with elijah at his birth. she declined, and never looked back. she barely even looked at him. it was just so foreign to me. i wonder how she feels about him today. my heart aches. i just pray.