April 30th, 2010. I was tracked out (on vacation while teaching year round) and Steve and I headed to Michigan and Indiana for our spring vacation. We had attended my nephew's first communion on May 1st (a Saturday), and then on Monday, May 3rd, we all headed to Outback Steakhouse to celebrate Mother's Day (which would be May 9th).
While we were sitting at the table at Outback, I got an email telling me that my cousin Jessica had sent me a message on Facebook. I quickly went into FB and told everyone at the table that Jes had messaged me.
I remember thinking it was so odd that she was sending me a message, because I had not talked to her since her wedding. Her message simply said to give her a call when I had a chance, and she included her phone number. I messaged back that we were eating dinner and that I'd call after.
When we got to the car, my dad and nephew Alex, were with us. I don't remember exactly what she said, but she basically gave me a quick background story and said, "My co-worker's niece is pregnant, I passed along your adoption profile, and they want you guys to adopt the baby."
I was SHOCKED. Stunned. FLOORED. What???? So she said told me that she didn't have a lot of specific info, but that they had called our agency already and told them that they wanted us to parent the baby.
When we headed back to Scott's house (my twin brother), I told everyone what Jessica had said. Everyone was excited. It was too good to be true. No way do things like this happen, and surely not to us!!
We were just added to the waiting families page on April 10th, and here we were, less than a month from that moment and we had a family that wanted to place their baby with us! UNREAL!!
We spent the next few days (still in MI) talking to my cousin, and finding out as much info as we could about the birth parents (C and H). They were both minors. C was the niece of Sharon (the co-worker of my cousin). Sharon acted as the middle person and between Jessica and Sharon, we were able to get as much info as we could.
The problem was that our agency (in NC) refused to represent any out of state adoptions, so when we called to tell them about the match, they said they couldn't help us. We were forced to look for an adoption attorney. We were told that the baby was due end of May/beginning on June. It gave us about a month to get things together. Not impossible, but not ideal either.
Before leaving MI, my parents bought us a crib. We went on Walmart.com and ordered it and it would be waiting for us when we got home.
Our time in MI came to an end, and we headed down to Indiana to visit Steve's dad and Sue Ann. They were super excited to hear about the possible baby coming our way in a month.
We were able to narrow down our search to two attorneys. We left Indiana on Saturday, May 8th and arrived home in NC that evening.
Our weekend was spent unpacking (I remember asking Steve if I should put together a bag for when it's time to go north, and he said yes, but we had time to do it). Steve put the crib together on Sunday the 9th and we enjoyed the rest of our weekend. I still had another week of track out, but was planning on going in to work during the last part of the week.
Monday came and I called my principal and asked her if she was able to meet. I wanted to tell her (face to face) about the baby. She was not able to meet. I got my nails done, and then met up for lunch with Laura (my track mate), Kim (a good friend and the person who said she'd do my maternity leave when/if a baby came), and Jen (my very good friend). I told the three of them about the baby and we all celebrated at Carolina Ale House.
We said goodbye, I headed home and got ready to go pick up Steve for our Bulls versus the Mud Hens game. It was a special game because it was being played at the Old Durham Athletic Park. It's where the movie Bull Durham was filmed! We had special seats, and it was going to be one of the only times the Bulls came back to their original field for a game. And the bonus was it was against the Mud Hens (the team for the Detroit Tigers).
I picked up Steve at 4:00 and we headed to the game. We got a prime parking spot, and sat in the car talking for quite some time. We couldn't go in until the gates opened at 6pm and the game didn't start until 7:05.
At 5:45, I said, "Are you ready to go in?" We turned off the car and were just about to open the doors, when I got a call at 5:45 that I wasn't expecting. It was Sharon and she said, "Hey Cathy, this is Sharon. I just wanted to let you guys know that C is in labor." I think my initial reaction was, "Holy shit!" I told her we'd be heading out soon and would get there as soon as possible and she promised to text me the address of the hospital.
The frenzy of activity and stress that followed is unsurpassed. It's all a bit of a blur, to be honest. I called my mom (it was a Monday and she has religious formation classes every Monday, so I knew she would be busy)... told her. Then I called Wendy (our neighbor and my best friend in NC) and told her-- she promised to take care of the dogs and the cats and not to worry. Steve called his dad and then we were back at his work. He ran in to talk to his boss and let her know, and I headed home to grab as much as I could.
He met me at home and we were on the road by 7:30pm.
I remember feeling so overwhelmed and emotional. I called Judy (my room mom) and I was so excited to share my news with her, but so so so scared. She and I only talked briefly, as I had several other people to call. I called Jen... sweet Jen. She was so excited.
The 12 hour drive to MI was full of cryptic check ins on Four Square. Steve and I didn't want to tell anyone on FB about our match because it wasn't a for sure thing. Close friends and family knew, but that's it. Everyone else was on a "need to know" basis and most didn't need to know just yet.
It had to be around 8 or 9 pm... (about this time right now) when I got an email from Judy. It was so incredible. It said everything that I was feeling and it's like God was using her to speak to me. I felt at peace... I was sobbing, and still super emotional, but I knew I had to let go of my insecurities and just trust that God would put us into the place that we were meant to be.
The drive seemed endless on one hand, and flew by on another. I did most of the driving because Steve had worked all day Monday and was exhausted. He was being not so careful behind the wheel and for our safety, I took over. I was exhausted too, but full of so much adrenaline.
To make things worse, we still had no answers about the looming questions about the birth of Tadpole (we didn't know if our baby was going to be a boy or a girl, and my obsession of frogs led us to refer to the baby as Tadpole Walker). We had hoped we'd get to MI before he/she was born, but nothing was certain. I thought we had time.
I was in constant contact with Sharon (C's aunt). She and I were texting back and forth and she was my rock. She gave me P's cell (C's mom) and told me that she was going home for the night and I should text P with anything. I was so scared. I had not yet talked to C or P... and I felt so awkward.
I do remember around midnight or so, Sharon texted me and said I should just call P. She said she had been trying to text her and she wasn't replying to her texts. She wasn't sure if she was just overwhelmed or what, but I should call. I felt like it was a bad thing... P was having doubts and reservations about the adoption.
A flood of tears came down. I remember driving and wiping tears and I was unaware that I was even crying. They were just flowing. It was so draining and scary.
I don't know if there's ever been a time in my life when I've felt like there was nothing I could do about a situation, and I had to just trust in God and let go. It's so scary to give up control, and with this adoption, I had to do that. It caused a lot of tears and fears, and in the end, I just had to face the reality that God would get me through it. No matter what the outcome, God would get me through it.
Around 2am, I got a text from P saying to drive carefully and asking us where we were. We were just south of Cleveland. Then at 3:39ish... I got another text saying, "It won't be long now. Drive careful." I didn't know what that meant and I replied with, "Is C pushing?" I didn't get anything back.
At 3:52 I got a text back that said, "It's a boy" and this picture:
I started sobbing uncontrollably and hit Steve to wake him and show him. We both cried and were silent for a while. I couldn't believe that the face in that picture was the baby that could be mine. It was unreal.
I asked for the stats but didn't get anything back from P. I did get a text from Sharon at 3:55 that said, "It's a boy! He was born at 3:46am, 6 pounds 8 ounces and 19 inches long." I was so thankful to have that information, but then it all became real.
I got another text from Sharon around 6ish with this picture:
She said he had a lot of red hair, and he and C and P were all sleeping. I was frozen with fear. Did she hold him? Was he in the room with her? Was she going to change her mind? I was so beside myself with fear, I can't think of another word to describe it... maybe powerless?
We had never had "the talk" with C. We never had the time. We didn't know what she wanted (open/closed), or if she wanted to name the baby, if she was going to hold him, sleep with him, bond with him. I let the fear get the best of me and I started to doubt the whole thing. I can remember thinking, "I just drove 10 hours and it's all for nothing."
Sharon called me at 7:15 and we were at McDonald's getting breakfast. We were in Michigan and were about 45 minutes away from the hospital. We weren't really hungry, but didn't know when/if we'd be eating again, so we thought we should get something in our stomachs. I remember picking up the call while in the drive-thru and she told me that C had set aside one of the "Hugs and Kisses" security bracelets for us to have so Tadpole could be with us. Sharon also told me that when we arrived at the hospital, we needed to check in, then tell the nurses who we were and they'd take us to a private room that they set up for us. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It meant so much. I wasn't prepared for that. I don't know what I thought we'd do once there, but having a room was not something I expected.
She said they knew we were coming and knew the situation. Thank goodness for that.
I think my dad called to see where we were, and it was around 7:45 and we were on 75 near the oil refineries... I remember trying to talk to him and I couldn't. I couldn't even start to talk because I was so overwhelmed with emotion. He was crying and I was crying. I passed the phone to Steve because I couldn't talk. When Steve grabbed the phone, my dad was crying and it made Steve start to cry. We were a mess. A hot, blubbering mess.
Steve gave him a few details and told him we'd call him in a bit... then he hung up and called his dad. They both were blubbering and then hung up. We had reached the hospital.
I think anyone who's ever adopted can relate to the fear that instantly swept over me when we pulled into the parking lot. I literally thought I was going to throw up. Even as I write this, I'm shaking because I vividly remember that feeling. No words can express how it felt, and unless you've been in a similar situation, you can't even imagine it. When we parked, Steve stepped out (it was raining) and I couldn't move. I literally was frozen with fear. He came to my side and opened the door and I said, "I don't think I can go in there." He said, "Yes you can, we're going to do this together. Come on."
We held hands as we dashed through the rain and into the hospital. We checked in and they told us to head to the fourth floor. I was okay in the elevator, but as soon as we were on the maternity floor, I thought I was going to pass out. HOLY SHIT. No way was I going to be able to go into her room.
Steve told the nurses at the nurses station who we were and one nurse said, "I'll take you to the room. They're expecting you." When she opened the door... I knew my life would NEVER be the same again once I walked through the door.
P was standing by the bassinet and Tadpole was inside. We walked in and said, "Hi!" Steve introduced himself and I introduced myself and P came over with Tadpole and held him out to me and said, "This is your baby." It was so incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. It was quiet and I just fell apart.
I couldn't contain my emotions anymore and I held him (I didn't even look at him) and sobbed into Steve. He was crying too... and then I passed Tadpole to Steve. I didn't want to hold him too long... and P and C were watching. I felt HORRIBLE and like I didn't deserve to have this baby.
Steve passed him back to P and she put him in the bassinet. Then P said, "Come in... take a seat." So we awkwardly walked over to the couch and sat down. P sat in a chair and C was in the bed watching television. She didn't look at us. :-/
We made small talk about the drive, and asked about the labor and we were told that C didn't use any meds... no epidural or anything. She had gone to school all day and came home at 4 and said she was crampy. P took her to the hospital and they told her that she had been in labor for quite some time. She went all day in labor and didn't even know. So strong!
The nurse came in to get info from C and said she should take a shower. So we took Tadpole to our private room and P came with us. In the room it was much more relaxed and P told us that she told C that she'd support whatever decision she and H came to. If they wanted to raise the baby, she'd support her, and if she wanted to place for adoption, she'd support. It was 100% her decision.
We asked about a name and she said C didn't want to name the baby, and we could name him. When I said we wanted to name him Gus, after my Grandma Ghrist's brother, P said she was sure C would like that. Tadpole Walker was now officially Gus Daniel Walker. :-)
We talked about open adoption and P said she wasn't sure what C wanted to do. She wanted whatever C wanted. After a bit, she left to check on C and Steve and I had our first moments with Gus. It was amazing. Truly the most special, incredible moment of my life so far... was picking him up, looking into his sweet angel face and holding him. He looked so sweet and pure, and I was overwhelmed with such joy that I was holding my son.
The months of pain and agony over not being able to conceive, and the tears of doubt and feeling like I'd never know motherhood were instantly wiped away as I looked at Gus.
The first time holding Gus Daniel Walker
We were able to spend the morning with Gus in our room. I think we were alone with him from roughly 9am through 11 or so. While C was in her room, the hospital social worker came to talk to her and then came to talk to us. When she came to talk to us, Gus went back to C's room. The social worker was retched. She made us feel like we were stealing a baby and we had no right to do so. She was nasty.
We stopped by C's room for a bit and then decided to head down to the cafeteria for lunch. It was just after 12. I remember thinking that the cafeteria was JUST LIKE Grey's Anatomy. It was a nice distraction. :-)
We stopped at C's room after lunch and stayed there for a bit until our attorney arrived. Deborah arrived around 1:30 and from that time until after 4:00... we were in the private room without Gus. We knew that H had arrived at the hospital, and we had not met him yet. P had gone and picked him up from school and brought him to see C and Gus. We thought we'd see him, but we didn't. Deborah had him and C fill out paperwork and then sign temporary release of custody.
A bunch of other details were worked out in that time frame as well. Steve and I had hoped to spend the night at a hotel and come back to the hospital in the morning, but our attorney said it was best if we stayed at the hospital. We just wanted one last night of rest before bringing Gus home, and she said it was a bad idea (in hind-sight, we should have gone to the hotel-- since not going caused us to lose our reservation).
I talked to my dad around 3 and he said he wanted to come to the hospital and see Gus. He was so excited. I said I'd have to ask C and P, but if they were okay, we'd love to have him come. He decided to go home and get my mom and bring her with him. I asked C and P and they were both okay with us having visitors. I called my dad and he said they'd be coming around 6ish.
Before they arrived, Sharon and her daughter Madeline came to the hospital to see C. I was excited to meet Sharon in person, since I had been texting her so much. They left shortly after we came into the room to visit... and then my dad and mom arrived. They brought my SIL Christie and my niece Lily too. It was so great.
Gus and Christie
Me holding Gus
Getting ready to learn how to give Gus a bath
We weren't sure if C and P wanted us in the room with them when my parents arrived, but they were very welcoming and wanted them to come in and visit in the room with them. My mom and dad talked to C and P and Steve and I were taught how to give Gus a bath. Our night nurse was AMAZING and so sweet.
After a bit, we decided to head out and grab some dinner. We were starving and wanted to just clear our heads for a bit. We said our goodbyes to C and P and headed out for dinner and as we were leaving, my dad thanked C and P for all that they were doing and he started crying.... which made me start to cry. Everyone was so overwhelmed with emotion over this little baby.
Dinner together was wonderful and it was great to be with my family. I look back and recall it as my last dinner out without a baby to worry about. Gus was in the nursery for the first night, and we had a decent night's sleep in our room.
Gus had his circumcision in the morning and C decided to put him in the nursery for the night. The whole day was full of so much emotion and mixed feelings. We had no idea what our future would hold, and if you would have told me that day, that in two years we'd be where we are today, I don't know if I would have thought it was possible. I have so much more than I ever dreamed.
My love and respect for C is limitless. She's indescribable. I honestly cannot say enough things about her. Not only did she create the most incredible little boy, but she chose life. She could have made the decision to parent him... but she didn't. She wanted the most amazing, incredible life for him, and her life circumstances didn't give that to her at the time. She decided to place her trust with us, and handed over the most intimate piece of her heart for our safe keeping.
Gratitude doesn't even begin to express my feelings toward C. She's an angel on Earth. She facilitated my greatest desire coming true. Motherhood. Four anguishing years of infertility led me to believe that we'd never have a family of our own. We longed for a baby and God answered our prayers, and the prayers of all of our family members, with Gus.