I left off with Jason agreeing to stay with me instead of driving an hour up to Columbus to pick up my mom. . .
Instead of schlepping through the soft snow, Jason and I stayed with Angie and played cards and chit-chatted. Angie told us about her two children. She told us how she had wanted to be in the hospital over the weekend instead of the middle of the week so they wouldn't miss her. Their father was going to spend the weekend with them anyway. She explained that she had been away for a while and the kids, then around age 4 and 7, thought she had just gained a lot of weight. They didn't know she was pregnant. We talked about how helpful her parents were. We talked about how we picked Casey's name-- and his middle name in particular (which is my maiden name). When they came around with the paperwork for his birth certificate, Angie kindly handed it to us and asked us to fill it in so she could sign it. I was a little surprised she didn't want to pick out a name for the baby, but she told us she hadn't picked any of her kids' names, so this wasn't a huge deal to her. I thought about how lucky we were that Angie really wanted this to be our child from the start. We also played cards. We taught Angie how to play crazy 8s.
So we left off at 10am, when they broke Angie's water. The doctor commented to Angie at the time that the baby seemed to have a lot of hair. We weren't in the room for this procedure, so we got the information from Angie-- though, in retrospect I have to wonder how they could tell that from breaking the water.
Then, around 10:30am, Angie finally asked for some pain medication. This was right around the same time, I think, that Tina (our facilitator) showed up. She had driven across the state of Indiana and part way across Ohio to be there for Angie. They gave her something to "take the edge off," but when I asked her if it helped, she just said it made her feel funny, but it didn't really dull the pain. By 10:45am, she was dilated enough to get an epidural, and they sent in the anesthesiologist to do the epidural. At this point, they moved us into a birthing room. This room was much bigger than the original room, which barely had enough space for two chairs alongside the bed.
In it was a bed, a station for the baby following the birth, a scale, a rocking chair, and a small-ish television on the far side of the room. We turned on the television to Lifetime. I remember because Jason joked, "You women are all the same!" The sign near the door said that only two people were permitted to be in the birthing room with the mother. But no one said anything when we showed up, along with Angie's mom and Tina, the facilitator. We left the room each time they did an epidural so Angie would have some privacy, and Jason and I of course offered to leave the room any time Angie wanted.
The anesthesiologist took about 15 minutes with epidural. He had some trouble-- and Angie complained that it didn't work. By 11:10am, the nurses realized there had been a problem with it, and they paged the anesthesiologist to return. He attempted the epidural a second time. Again, he struggled. Angie commented that he had given up and left. By 11:30am, the obstetrician was in the room with us, and they were telling Angie it was time to start pushing. I remember the doctor calling out: "PUSH. pushpushpushpush. PUSH. pushpushpushpush." Angie's mom was on one side of her, helping hold her upper body up. Tina was next to her. And Jason was helping hold up Angie on the other side, and I was next to him.
Around 11:45am (only 15 minutes later), the doctor commented that she'd need to really push or they'd have to go to an emergency c-section. I didn't realize it at the moment, but apparently Casey's heart rate had started to drop. Angie pushed. Hard. The doctor said she could see the baby's head. The doctor squirted a bunch of iodine-colored liquid all over Angie (in fact, maybe it was iodine). Then she grabbed a pair of forceps-- which were wide and two separate pieces of equipment (the delivery was considered one with "low forceps") and reached in to help slide Casey out.
It seemed like he practically flew out of Angie. The doctor lifted him up and asked if we wanted to cut the umbilical cord. Of course we did. Jason did the honors-- he said it was much tougher than he thought it would be. They counted the three chambers of the umbilical cord and moved Casey over to the station to clean him up and to do the APGAR tests. I followed Casey over to the table, where the nurse said it was okay for me to touch him. I mostly held his leg, as he wriggled and squealed and screeched and screamed. They asked us to cut the umbilical cord a second time here, closer to his belly button. Then they carried him to the scale, where he weighed in at 6 lbs. 12 oz. Somewhere in there, I managed to snap a couple photos of him on the table, and him at the scale. And Jason got one of him being footprinted.
They sat me down in the rocking chair with a bottle of sugar water. He cried and cried and cried. Casey didn't want the sugar water. Jason tried to help me feed him, and he eventually calmed down.
In the meantime, the doctor was checking out Angie to make sure she was okay. I asked Angie if she wanted to hold the baby-- to see him. And she said no. So did her mom. So we followed the nurses to the nursery with Casey to give him his first bath.
In the nursery, we bathed him by holding him under the sink. They showed us how to swaddle him, then they sat me in the rocking chair in the nursery to try feeding him some more. One kind nurse told me I could even try to breast-feed Casey if I wanted to. But I didn't. I couldn't be one hundred percent sure Angie wouldn't change her mind, and I didn't want those hormones coarsing through my body. Plus I hadn't done any research, and I just didn't know what to expect. So bottle-feeding it would be.
The hospital social worker showed up right around then and told us that the maternity ward had some extra space, and they'd arranged for us to have our own room with Casey. The state would be picking up the costs for the first three days in the hospital until Angie signed her paperwork-- and as long as we didn't eat the hospital food, the room was free to us. Of course we jumped at this opportunity. We didn't use the shower or anything (though I suspect we could have because they actually gave us a room with a private shower; all the rooms were private). But we had our own space, four doors down from Angie.
A few hours after the delivery, after Angie woke up, I walked down to her room to see if she wanted to visit with Casey. She said she did. She explained that Tina, the faciliator, told her it was hard to say good bye when she hadn't even said hello. She also revealed that the epidural hadn't kicked in until after the delivery. Nice timing.
I returned to our room, and placed Casey in his wheely basinet, and I wheeled him down to Angie's room. I put Casey in her arms, and Angie commented how beautiful he was. We agreed. We asked to take a photo of them together, but she declined (she agreed the next day). At some point that afternoon, the adoption agency social worker Danni called. She couldn't believe we were all hanging out together in the same room! We offered to leave the room so she could have some privacy, and I don't remember if we did or not. Apparently that kind of thing is pretty rare.
My mom showed up around 1:30pm. We talked about how funny it would have been if Jason had missed his son's birth because he'd gone to pick up his mother-in-law from the airport! We spent the afternoon in Angie's room. Her mom came back later in the day and agreed to hold the baby for a while. And Tina came by for a while and hung out with everyone.
When the night came, we offered to let Casey stay in the room with Angie. I told her if she wanted, she could just call me to come feed him whenever he woke up in the night. Angie said, "No thank you. I don't need that middle-of-the-night stuff!" And we all laughed. Casey and Jason and I slept in our own room together that first night. Our first night together as a family.
The next day, Tina left. Angie was getting ready for a medical procedure, and they brought her some paperwork for Casey-- Angie told them to bring the paperwork to us four doors down and that she'd sign it after we completed it. Yet another example of her generosity.
That evening, while we were in Angie's room and she was holding Casey, her mom came with her two kids. Haley, the oldest said, "Mommy has a new baby!" And Angie said, "This is Karen and Jason's son Casey-- would you like to see him?" Of course they wanted to. I remember them so clearly-- in fact, Bryce was 4 years old-- the age Casey will be tomorrow. I remember buying him a soda from the machine in the waiting area. And now that Casey will be 4, I'm super-impressed by how articulate he was at 4 years old.
Angie went home that afternoon, I think. We stayed at the hospital with Casey. It was strange to be there with him and without her-- like something was missing. We still hadn't even told Jason's mom about Casey yet. We didn't want to get anyone's hopes up until papers were signed. But Angie gently prodded, "What does Jason's mom think about all of this?"
So finally we had to call her and tell her. I wasn't on the phone when he told her, but he claims the exchange went like this:
"Hi, Mom. Sorry we got tied up and stuck you with the dogs for some extra time. It's been really snowy in Ohio."
"That's okay, son. I hope you had a good time."
"Oh we are, Mom. I just wanted to say hi to Grandma."
"There's no Grandma here."
"Yeah there is, Mom. YOU. You're Grandma. We are in Ohio because one of the birthmothers we've been talking to had a baby boy and she picked us to be his parents. That mean you're a grandma."
At that point, the phone was silent, and all Jason could hear was screaming in the background. Shouts of joy and jubilation. Jason's mom was, needless to say, ecstatic. (And as a side-bar, in the four years since Casey's birth she has forged quite a special relationship with him!)
Of course, nothing was final until Angie signed the paperwork terminating her parental rights. And that couldn't be done for 72 hours following Casey's birth. And because Angie had had the medical procedure, she wasn't really in any condition to sign such important paperwork 72 hours after his birth. Somehow while we waited Jason and I managed to eat three meals a day, shower, buy baby clothes and a car seat and a stroller (because we had nothing ready for a new baby!) and take probably hundreds of photos. I actually kept a hand-written journal of everything, which I will share with Casey some day when he is older. And I'm really glad I did because it's all such a blur already.
On the 19th, when Angie showed up at the hospital to sign paperwork, she stopped by our room first. As Casey's legal parent, she had to take him with her to sign the paperwork. And we, of course, had to "let" her. After four days with this child, the next 2 hours would be insanely nerve-racking. It was out of our hands. . .
And you all know it's a happy ending for us because Casey is still our son. I asked Angie what happened in that room-- the room we went into after she did. The room where we signed the paperwork agreeing to be Casey's parents. Where our lives as parents legally began. She admitted it was much harder than she thought it would be. Having him in the room with her made her ache for him. And even though she knew that placing him with me and Jason was the right thing to do-- he'd grow up with a mom and a dad in a diverse and populated part of the country, and he'd grow up still knowing her and his half-siblings-- it was still so hard. Because she loved him so much. I think she went through a lot of kleenex during that meeting. But she did sign the paperwork. And in doing so, she changed our lives forever. I could never thank her enough for the joy that she has given us. For helping us feel more complete as a family unit.
In the meantime, Casey's billirubin count was off and there was some talk of keeping him another day in the hospital because of the jaundice. Which of course we didn't want. After some re-testing, they decided it was minor, that he was eating well, and they let us go.
Jason, my mom, and I joined Angie, her parents, and her kids at their home for a delicious home-cooked meal (our first one in well over a week!). Angie's mom Linda made Texas sheet cake (which she makes every time we visit). There was ham and biscuits, too. We looked at old photo albums and just hung out with the newest extension to our family. As the sun began to set, we had to leave because we were driving back to Cincinnati to stay with my aunt while the paperwork processed (we needed permission from Ohio to take Casey back to California), and Angie's brother (whose name is also Jason) showed up with some Buckeyes gear for Casey. You see, the year 2003 was a championship year for the Ohio State Buckeyes-- and we have the blanket and the penant to prove it. . .
For those of you out there reading this, thinking about what a Disney-happy-story it was, remember that you are reading it only from my perspective. I'll never really know what Angie was thinking that night of January 19th when she said good bye to Casey because she passed away in a tragic car accident in October of 2004, when Casey was just 21 months old. But in my journal I wrote about how Angie had been holding Casey and how I didn't want to take him away from her. But we needed to get on the road because we had a two-hour drive ahead of us in the snow. I wrote about how Angie was sobbing as I placed Casey in his carrier and we moved toward the door-- about how awful I felt for her, almost as if I was outside my own body watching Angie's heart break a little bit more. And I wondered how I could be so selfish-- to feel so happy for me when someone else was aching so badly-- how my joy was causing her pain. Or perhaps it was the other way around. It was so clear to me in that moment how much she loved him. And yet she had not only chosen us despite the difficulty of the decision, but she had also opened her home, her life, her family, her heart to us. How lucky we are that a woman so strong was willing to endure such pain for our benefit. For Casey's benefit.
Angie and her parents and her kids and her brother -- well, they set the tone for our relationship with them. They treated us like family, and that's how we think of them. Every year we look forward to visiting with them in person, seeing how much they've grown and hearing the stories from the year. I've written before how lucky we feel to be connected to them forever through Casey. How much we cherish our time for them. And it's all true. We are lucky in so many ways-- to have known Angie (as briefly as we did). To have Casey in our lives. To know his birth family and to call them our family.
On the eve of Casey's birthday-- four years after he came into our life, I remember how nervous I was four years ago. But mostly I just feel very blessed.