Then came the numerous meetings and reams of paperwork. The gears of the adoption machine went into full speed and did not stop for hours. As various forms were handed to us to sign, we continued talking with the birthgrandma. Together we visited the nursery so we and the birthgrandma could get footprints of the boy.
We took some pictures with the baby and his birthgrandma. She took a picture of us as a new family.
(Yes, I’m wearing a Star Wars t-shirt. No, that was not intentional. It was just one of my only clean shirts. Deal with it.)
The birthgrandma wisely asked if we needed to have wristbands so we could see the baby and make medical decisions for him. A hospital social worker went to find the paperwork to make that happen. It became apparent that she had not dealt with many adoptions before and so Tina did great work helping the hospital find the correct forms. After signing more papers, custody of the child was given to us. In an oddly quick turn of events his birth family now had to receive our permission in order to see him or be admitted to the Mother/Baby Unit. The only thing I can relate this sudden change to is getting married in which two people arrive single and legally unattached and then in just one moment they become a lawfully, wedded couple. With a few signatures we received responsibility for this child’s welfare. The birthgrandma and birthaunt said goodbye to us. As social workers and nurses flew in and out of the room, Tina went to check on the birthmom. When she returned, we learned that the birthmom had discharged from the hospital after she received word that we would adopt her son. The birth family went home to recover from the delivery and to begin a new chapter in their lives. While we celebrated this joyful gift, they would likely experience some grief, which is natural for any family who has placed a child for adoption. Tina left us after a long weekend of navigating legal minutiae and calming two nervous families.
For a brief moment Carey, I, and the baby were alone. Nobody asked us questions. Nobody handed us papers to read or to sign. Nobody called or texted. Just the three of us, a new family, hushed in a cloud of grace. That tiny room with hand washing instructions posted on the wall and books with titles like, Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul and Hugs for Nurses, sitting on a shelf, became sacred space for us. Just moments before we agreed to open our hearts to a wonderful baby boy and now we were resting in that decision. I unceremoniously interrupted the silence by taking lots of pictures.
(“Who are you?”)
At about the same time Carey and I realized we still had to give the kid a name. As Carey held the baby in her arms, she said, “So, ?” We looked at him and knew the name fit. Elijah means “Yahweh is God,” or “Yahweh is my God.” In 1 and 2 Kings, the prophet Elijah calls the people of God to return to allegiance to Yahweh when worship of Baal is in vogue. When people encounter Elijah, they often come to the conclusion that Yahweh is God. As we remember our son’s story, we clearly see Yahweh’s involvement and power. Our son Elijah’s story is one of love, protection, orchestration, and resurrection. Atticus comes from the character Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch stands for what is right and just despite the popular opinion of his views. He loves his children fiercely. He teaches them not merely tolerance of others, but respect and empathy. Atticus means, “Man from Athens,” but that is not very significant to us. Watson means, “Son of Walter,” implying that at some point in my ancestry there was a guy named Walter and he had a son, and that child was known as his father’s son.
Then meetings and signatures continued. The hospital social worker entered and exited, finding new forms for us, or new places to sign on forms we had already signed. Nurses brought us supplies and gave us a crash course in infant care. The pediatrician spoke with us candidly and encouragingly, giving Elijah a clean bill of health. The hospital eventually moved us to a birthing room since the nursing staff would need their office back for the shift change and we needed a place to eat — they did not allow food or drink in that office. We were not thinking about food for most of the day and suddenly discovered we were famished and very thirsty. Carey walked to the cafeteria and used her employee discount to purchase us lunch. The hospital wanted to discharge Elijah that day, but when they learned that we only owned a toy monkey, they agreed to let him stay one more night so that we could collect and buy things necessary to bring a child home.
In the new room, eating a chicken quesadilla a salad, we realized we wanted some friends to celebrate this wonderful gift with us. Carey called her ob/gyn colleagues who were working that day, inviting them to come meet her son. She said they sounded unfazed, so we thought the hospital rumor mill was in full swing and they already heard the news. When they came into the room they were surprised to see Carey actually there, actually holding a baby. Until they saw the bands around our wrists, they did not truly believe that we had adopted Elijah. One of the doctors admitted he thought she was making some April Fool’s prank. Then he could not stop laughing with joy as he held our child, congratulating us every few seconds. Because our step into the adoption process was so recent, Carey had not been able to tell all the physicians in her practice. Nurses and hospital staff who knew Carey came by to meet Elijah and offer their congratulations.
We called and texted some friends who live in the area. Nelson and Angie, Jim and Meghan came bearing food and gifts.
They held Elijah, we laughed, we told his incredible story, and we expressed our awe of God. People kept saying they could not believe how fast everything came together. Everyone was so happy for us and so grateful for Elijah. We all stood amazed by the generosity and humility of his birth family. Jim also brought this poster as a birthday gift for me/decoration for the baby room. It is all kinds of awesome in that Spinal Tap meets Star Wars kind of way.
Other friends, Robert and Tracy arrived with their daughter to take us out to dinner at Smokin’ Okies, a barbecue joint near our house. We carted Elijah back to the nursery and said good night to him. While we were exhausted and knew we needed to make some basic preparations to bring him home, we nevertheless felt strange leaving him at the hospital without us. At dinner we recounted the crazy tale again, basking in Jesus’ odd timing and surprising creativity.
After dinner Carey and I made our way to Target to buy the necessities like formula, diapers, clothes, etc. We were so tired we just stared at all the varieties of baby formula, feeling ill-equipped to make a choice. Finally we grabbed one after we realized they were all fortified with iron. Diapers proved to be no easier with the myriad choices available to us. I called my mom, who, in a heartbeat, agreed to drive up and help us out the next day. As we made it home, our friend Barry was waiting for us with a car seat and other baby supplies like an infant bathtub. He helped us install the car seat. As we put away our new equipment, I teared up thinking about our friends’ generosity.
The next morning we headed back to the hospital, car seat in hand, ready to bring our son home. We sat in the nursery feeding Elijah, signing even more papers, and getting all our ducks in a row so we could legally change his name. Another social worker from the hospital spoke with us. She meant well, but clearly had little understanding about or trust in open adoption. She gave us some strange advice, revealing she thought we had no idea what we were doing. I am so thankful that the social worker who knew and recommended our agency was working the night Elijah was born. Without her guidance, I do not know if he would be with us today.
While we were preparing to take Elijah home, Tina, our social worker was meeting with the birthmom to sign her relinquishment of parental rights. I cannot imagine the strength and grace it takes to make such a decision, but I am so thankful that Elijah’s birth family found it within them to do so. Their love for Elijah and continued commitment to him through open adoption humbles us. They have been a godsend.
Back at the hospital, we showed the nursing staff our car seat, buckled Elijah in, and walked him downstairs with an escort who brought a wheelchair for Carey, which was nice, but unnecessary seeing that she was not recovering from a delivery. We brought Elijah outside for the first time in his life, set him in the car, and drove him home.
I shall end the narrative of Elijah’s adoption here. I will have one more post with my reflections on the experience.