Selfless Love

Wow, what a WEEK I had last week! This post will give you the birth/adoption story details, but first I must brag. Little Man was ushered into the world via C-section at 10:10am on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014. He weighed 6 pounds 11 ounces and he is literally the most beautiful person/thing I have ever seen in my entire life. And no, I’m not just giving you my biased opinion, folks. Even the nurses and doctors were gushing over how unusually beautiful he was, “especially for a newborn”. His skin was perfect. He smiled on day one. He scored a 9 on the Apgar test. When I say he was perfect – he really WAS!

Okay. So M, D, & W got in around 9pm on Sunday the 29th. They came by the house on their way to the hotel and it was so great to see them. Over the next couple days we (“we” being my parents and I) got to spend time with them, and my parents got to meet their extended family (all of whom drove hours and hours) for the birth. Both sets of LM’s grandparents, D’s sister (who is also LM’s godmother), and M’s brother and wife all came down. I had met all those who came when I traveled to M & D’s house on spring break, but it was the first time my parents got to meet them. Everyone got along beautifully, and it felt as if we had all known each other forever. My family has gained an entire extended family because of this adoption, and I am eternally grateful for that.

Around 7:45 on the morning of July 2nd, my mom and I stopped by the hotel to pick up M who was waiting outside, bags in hand. We got to the hospital and my dad carried all of our hospital bags up the elevator and to the third floor (yes, there were multiple hospital bags; my mom, M, and I are all Type A personalities who like to be prepared). I had already pre-registered at Labor & Delivery, so a nurse led my mom and I past the waiting room to get checked into an observation room. Sadly M and my daddy had to sit in the waiting room for an hour or so until I got squared away. The nurse weighed me, got me changed into a hospital gown, had me pee in a cup – something I am royally sick of doing after peeing in a cup at EVERY doc appointment for months – and got the monitor strapped to my belly. I had the most adorable nurse, who unfortunately was brand new and did not quite have her IV insertion technique mastered. She collapsed a vein on my left hand, said “oops”, and then successfully got the IV inserted into my right hand, after which she profusely apologized. Bless her heart:) She asked me what kind of music I wanted to listen to while surgery was underway; music?! What?! This was a thrilling development! I requested classical music and for some reason she was impressed.

My C-section was scheduled for 10:45am, and at this point it was about 9:15 so we all thought we had at least an hour to spare. M and my dad eventually made it to the room I was in, and D showed up soon thereafter. We were all nervous, and I had this bad feeling that something would go wrong with my spinal block. I figured I was just being paranoid, but my gut feelings are hardly ever wrong, so I started praying that God would give me grace for the pain, just in case. My brother and his wife were ALMOST to the hospital when the nurse said, “Surprise! The doctor wants to take you back early.” Ready or not, the time had come.

My mom got suited up and followed the nurse and I into the operating room, which was cold and outfitted with fluorescent lighting that made me squint. The nurse sat me on the operating table, and my anesthesiologist gave me a local anesthesia shot to numb my back before inserting the spinal block. I had met with him in the observation room earlier that morning. When he asked if I had any medical issues he needed to know about, I told him that both my mom and I have a very strong resistance to any and all anesthesia/pain killers (and when I say “strong”, I mean I-have-to-get-quadruple-the-numbing-shots-in-my-gums-at-the-dentist-before-he-can-drill-without-me-feeling-it strong). As egotistical medical professionals often do, he dismissed my statement with a roll of his eyes. That was when I knew for a fact that I was in for a rough morning.

The anesthesiologist only used one local deadening shot – with no waiting time to allow it to take effect – before starting in with the spinal block. He ended up having to try and insert it THREE DIFFERENT TIMES before he got it right. Now, I do NOT cry over physical pain. I had my foot run over by a motorcycle a couple years ago, which resulted in three bones being broken/smashed in my foot. My only reaction was to yell like a madwoman at the motorist and keep on walking. This spinal block business was a whole different category of pain! It hurt so badly that I was sobbing by the time the anesthesiologist finally got it right. God bless my adorable nurse; she felt so bad for me. She stood in front of me, holding my shoulders and wiping my tears as he jabbed needles into my spinal nerves; a process that felt as if it took hours but probably in reality only lasted a maximum of 7-8 minutes. I glanced at my mom out of the corner of my eye, and I could tell she was miserable for me. Hey, at least it’s over now, right?

I went numb from the throat down, and – big surprise – anesthesiologist has erred again, giving me too MUCH anesthesia and making me so numb that I can’t swallow my own spit. I just kept telling myself “don’t panic, this too shall pass, it can’t last forever” while staring desperately into the eyes of my mother. Now, I am not one of those women who thinks the actual process of birth – be it vaginal delivery or C-section – is beautiful. I think the whole thing is pretty disgusting/torturous/awful, and for me personally it was a painful and traumatic experience. A blue curtain was put up so that I couldn’t see anything going on down there (um, can I get a hallelujah) and in a few minutes, I heard my unseen baby crying! My sweet little nurse came and held him to my face, and he stared directly into my eyes. His gaze took my breath away; I kissed his perfect nose and my mom took him down the hallway to meet his parents while the doc stitched me up.

A few minutes later I was wheeled into recovery, and I regained all feeling in my body about 10 minutes after leaving the operating room. My nurse was shocked but I just shook my head and said “I TOLD ya’ll I have a high tolerance for anesthesia!” She didn’t completely believe me so she said, “wiggle your toes and lift your feet”, which I did. After that she was convinced I had superpowers; a conviction I found quite endearing at the time because I felt less like Superwoman than I ever have. (Yes, there are days I wake up and feel like Superwoman thank you very much). Finally I was taken to my “C-section Suite”, which is really just fancy talk for “Labor & Delivery hospital room #9”.

After being wheeled into my new 2-day residence, I noticed four huge bouquets of flowers and balloons. I had one bouquet each from M & D’s new grandparents, one from my brother, his wife, and their sweet baby, and one from a close family friend. Earlier this year, M & D sent me my first bouquet ever of beautiful English roses as a “congratulations” present for finishing up my classes and making A’s this semester. A week later, a close friend of mine sent me more roses “just because”; just because he is awesome and knows about the pregnancy and adoption. While admiring these heartfelt gifts from my biological and adoptive family, I thought about all the ex boyfriends and old relationships I had racked up over the years. Not once had any of them bought/sent me flowers. I decided that from now on, a man better buy me flowers, open the door, pay the tab, pull out my chair, and stay sober on the first date. Time to raise standards and quit dating losers. (It’s funny the things one considers while in a morphine-induced haze).

I was desperate to see and hold my beautiful baby, but nobody brought him to me. Finally I pressed the “Call Nurse” button on my hospital bed and politely demanded someone “bring me my baby IMMEDIATELY because it’s been 2 and a half HOURS, please?!” And they did. And as I held him, I fell in love – really, truly, in love – for the first time in my entire life. I knew I would do anything to give this baby the best life possible, even at my own expense. As I said at the beginning of this post, I’ve never seen anything or anyone more beautiful in my life. I thanked God that I did not abort him. I thanked God that I did not miscarry. I thanked God that He had provided such an amazing family for LM. I even thanked God that I made the foolish decision to hook up with LM’s biological father one far-away night last October. And I desperately prayed that God would have mercy on me and hold my emotions in His hands when the time came to hand LM over to his parents.

As always, my Jesus refused to fail me. Even after everything wrong I have done, said, thought, etc., He still loved me enough to give me supernatural grace and peace and comfort in this situation. This situation that I brought upon myself by deciding to go against what I know is right and enter into sin. This foolish decision to satisfy my own selfish desires and grieve His heart – the Heart of the Lover of my soul – knowingly. He still came through and continues to come through for me every second of every day. Regardless of my actions, He loves me.  Not because of who I am, but because of who HE is.

THAT, my friend, is True Love.

I had my mom and M stay the nights and days with me at the hospital. M would feed, change, and take care of LM, and my mom would feed, change, and take care of me:) I signed my Parental Termination of Rights papers the day LM was born, and the countdown was officially on (after signing the papers, I legally had a five-day time period to change my mind and keep LM). After what felt like the longest hospital stay of my life, it was finally discharge time. LM was circumcised early on the morning of July 4th, and we were both discharged a few hours later. While I knew M & D would be staying at least another week to finalize the adoption, I also knew that this was where LM and I parted ways.

M & D had told me multiple times that they would bring LM to see me every day – for however long I needed to see him – after discharge. But for me personally, leaving the hospital was my final test. I knew that if I could relinquish him upon leaving, I would be able to go through with his adoption. My wonderful CW (caseworker from the adoption agency) has been there for my parents, my adoptive family, and me every step of the way, and this day was no exception; she made sure everybody cleared the room except for Little Man and me.

Once I was alone with him, all the tears and emotions I had been holding inside and hiding for everyone’s sake came out. I started sobbing. I put my head down to LM’s face and kept saying, “I love you, Jesus loves you, I love you so much. I love you so much” over and over and over. Just looking at him put me in complete awe. I fall in love all over again every time I see him. He is absolutely perfect. Absolutely. He stared up at me, wrapped his tiny fingers around my pinkie, and listened intently to my desperate words. About 20 minutes later, Jesus brought peace to my heart and I knew it was time. My mom and CW had texted and offered to come walk me out to the waiting room, but I was determined to walk out by myself, holding LM.

I called the nurse, who handed me a Kleenex and looked at me sympathetically, saying, “It’s not too late to change your mind, you know. You can still keep your baby. Everyone will understand.” I smiled at her through my tears and said, “Thank you, but this isn’t my baby to raise. I dedicated him to God months ago. I want him to have the best life possible and only those amazing parents out there can give it to him.” She just shook her head and said, “Okay, I’ll show you how to get to the waiting room.” I don’t know why, but as soon as I saw M & D in the waiting room with LM’s car seat, I burst into tears again. I couldn’t help it. I had initially planned to hand LM directly to M, but I just couldn’t at that moment. I wish I had had the strength to do so. I could barely breathe. I kissed his precious face and handed him over to my mom, who gently placed him in M’s arms.

My test was over. I had passed. I officially loved my baby enough to let him go.

I plan to write another post about the week that followed LM’s birth, but this current post has sapped enough emotional energy from me for one day. I will skip ahead to 4:30pm Monday, July 7th: the time and date that my five days were legally up. I was in my mom’s dressing room doing my makeup when she came upstairs to see me. She said, “It’s almost 4:30! I didn’t want you to be alone when ‘it’ happened.” (This is just one example of why I have the best mother in the world). At 4:32, I texted M & D and reminded them that my five days were up. I added little firework explosion emoticons to emphasize the significance of my words:)

LM’s adoption was finalized the very next afternoon, and after a lovely dinner with M, D, my mom, and LM that evening, I knew the time had come. It was time for M, D, & LM – the one and only love of my life – to head home the next morning. My mom and I arrived at the hotel around 9am, where we proceeded to spend about an hour with M, D, and LM before they headed home. I cried a little when I told him goodbye for the second time, but in my heart I was happy.

A lot of women who have gone through this experience talk about being completely devastated; they feel they have experienced a profound loss and are deeply mourning it. I honestly do not feel that way. I feel as though I gained an entire family, a best friend in M, a stronger relationship with my Jesus, and a son in LM. I feel overwhelming relief that God made me strong enough to give LM everything he deserves in life. God has given me peace, grace, and supernatural joy regarding my precious baby. I leave you – for now – with a quote:

“We can hug our hurts and make a shrine out of our sorrows, or we can offer them to God as a sacrifice of praise. The choice is ours.” ~Richard Exley

I Resolve to Lay My Isaac Down

In four days, my entire life is going to change drastically. My C-section is scheduled for the morning of July 2nd. After months of counting down the days and wishing Little Man would hurry up and be born already, I suddenly realized about a week ago how absolutely terrified I was for his birthday to arrive. I have a tendency to stuff my emotions and mentally block them out; this is a talent that has served me well in the past, but also a reaction I knew would not be helpful for this situation. My caseworker from the adoption agency told me early on to start the grieving process as soon as possible, and I determined to do so. I am glad now that I listened to her, because if I had gotten this far in the pregnancy without confronting my emotions concerning LM, I would be in dire straits.

Speaking of my caseworker (CW), she came to my house last Wednesday to go over my hospital plan and the other last minute details that needed to be attended to. These included questions like:

“Who do you want to hold the baby first? Do you want all of his extended family members to see him the first few minutes, or just his parents? Do you want one on one time with your baby, and if so, when do you want it? Do you want the baby to stay in your room? Do you plan on signing the relinquishment papers the day he is born? Will the baby’s biological father be invited to the hospital? Do you want the baby to be discharged when you are discharged? If so, do you want to personally hand him to the adoptive parents or do you want me/a nurse/someone else to do it? Will you be bringing a stuffed animal or outfit to give your baby? Do you want the adoptive mother to feed the baby? If so, do you want her to stay in your hospital room at night in order to do so? After you are discharged, do you want to see your baby and the adoptive parents while they are in town waiting for finalization? Do you want your last name on his birth certificate, or the adoptive family’s last name?”

Not overwhelming at all, right? I actually felt quite relieved after we had all of those questions and concerns ironed out, and it was a relief to talk to my CW about the whole thing because she also relinquished her first child years ago. The comfort I received from having a concrete plan in place lasted about 2 hours, and then I started FREAKING out. The combination of anxiety over relinquishment, fear about having major surgery, excitement for the adoptive family, wonder over the fact that I will have a biological son for the rest of my life, and sadness/guilt for putting my parents through this whole thing was suffocating me. I basically had a panic attack that lasted for two days, and I could not shake my fear.

I decided to divert my attention from it all by cleaning and working in the house. While organizing random things all over the place, I came across a book by Carol Kent titled “When I Lay My Isaac Down”. Now, my mom has TONS of books all over the house, and this was probably the 40th one I had come across that day. This was the only one I paid any mind to, and I felt God prompting me to read it. So, I did.

The title refers to the story of Abraham in the Bible. God asks him to kill and sacrifice his one and only son Isaac – the son whom God had promised would be the one to bring Abraham more descendants than there were stars in the sky – on the altar. Abraham, with no hesitation, obeys. Not only does he obey, but he wakes up early to start on his three day journey to the place of sacrifice. He trusted God and His promises so much that he was willing to “lay his Isaac down” – kill his own son – knowing that God would bring him back from the dead to fulfill His promise if need be, and if not, that God would heal his heart. God, upon testing Abraham’s heart and seeing him raise a knife to kill his son, tells him to stop and provides a ram to offer as a burnt sacrifice instead. An angel then says to Abraham, “God says: because you have gone through with this, and have not refused to give Me your son, your dear, dear son, I’ll bless you…And your descendants will defeat their enemies.”

The author goes on to tell her personal life story about her only son who is an upstanding Christian and member of society; he has an impeccable military record and is the darling of the family. One day, Kent receives a call that her wonderful son has been thrown in jail for the premeditated, first-degree murder of his wife’s ex husband. Several years later, he is sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. He is still in prison today. Carol Kent then goes on to share what God taught her about “laying her Isaac down” and having “unshakeable faith in unthinkable circumstances”.

I cannot recommend this book enough, especially if you have ever gone through anything painful in your life. (Which I’m pretty sure you have, because that’s an essential part of being human.) I read, highlighted, and cried until I finished the last page. The whole book is full of wisdom, but one part in particular really helped me let go of my anxiety and receive peace. I quote:

“Relinquishment is a poignant word. It means ‘to let go of, to cease to hold in the hand.’ It means giving up my rights to control the person, dream, expectation, or preferred outcome of the object of my concern…Relinquishing your ‘right’ to hold your precious Isaac in your own hands is the most painful thing you will ever do. It seems as irrational as Abraham’s decision to place his son on the altar. It goes against the grain of human self-reliance…It’s an act of trusting God when we cannot envision a positive outcome. But in the end, it’s the only thing that works. I know. I have walked this road…I spoke aloud to God, ‘Father, I open my hands and ask You to guide me through these uncharted waters. Please fill the hole in my heart. Your presence is sweeter than I’ve ever known before…I hate the reason why this deeper intimacy with You is being birthed, but I embrace the sweetness and I love You.’…we bow in worship before the God who loves us more than we love our Isaac and open our fists. And in the process of releasing, we find ourselves deeply loved. The love is born from within Him, not from what He sees in us. That’s a good thing, because we know we aren’t worth that much. But in His eyes, we are worth everything. He has already shown us how much. He gave the greatest heart sacrifice known to man – His only son.”

The hidden, nagging fear I have had throughout this whole pregnancy is that I will meet LM and not be able to give him up. This fear has been fueled by several things: reading accounts of women who planned to relinquish their baby and then changed their minds at the last minute; being told constantly by those who know my adoption plan that it will be the hardest thing I will ever have to do; and forgetting the fact that LM is neither mine nor M & D’s, but God’s. I have been fighting this fear through gasping, desperate prayers and recitation of the facts that I know. Here are a few of those facts, along with the nagging doubts that follow them: “I am the most strong willed person I have ever met. Once I decide to do something, I do not change my mind. (But I’ve never had a child before. How do I know what I will do?) I know God and I know God’s voice. God has made it exceedingly clear that this is His plan, and I am determined to be obedient to Him. (But what if I heard Him wrong? What if?) I explicitly trust the adoptive family I have picked to raise my child, and I know that they are excellent parents and the ones God has ordained for LM.(But what if I’m wrong?)”

After reading the afore-mentioned book, I was able to once more open my heart, give my fears to Jesus, and gain assurance that I would be able to relinquish LM. Not only would I be ready and willing to do so when the time came, I would be able to do so with a certain kind of supernatural joy: the kind of joy that only comes from having a personal relationship with Jesus and trusting Him enough for me to make this heart sacrifice to The Father.

As Christians, we do not grieve the way the world grieves. We grieve with hope, because we know our Jesus will always take care of us. We place our trust in Jesus, and eliminate “normal” human fear with a peace that passes all understanding. We put on the garments of praise in place of a spirit of heaviness. We endure with hope. We willingly lay our Isaac down.

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