May 28, 2003 we got the phone call. Something was happening. Be ready she said, I do not think I will make it to my scheduled C-section!
We changed our flight and flew to Arizona and drove to the hospital. We met our birth mom for the first time.
The next morning we went back to the hospital and there was nothing on the schedule, so we wandered over to the cafeteria, and then we got a phone call!
We raced back to maternity and they quickly put me in scrubs (needless to say I saved those and used them as my Halloween costume for several years!). They explained that since the birth mom had come in the day before unexpectedly she was not on the schedule. Thankfully we made it, we were thrilled that one of us could actually be in the delivery room! I was chosen (by me!) to be there holding her hand through the procedure as I am the more empathic.They gave her some minor drugs as they could not do more than that for a c-section and I held her hand and tried to keep her calm as she was letting everyone know she was feeling the whole thing. In less than 10 minutes it was over for her, and as soon as the baby was disconnected from the umbilical cord they put her out with stronger drugs. There had been a sheet up so I did not get to see the actual “operation” and it is just as well, my job was to let the birth mom know I cared about her and she wasn’t alone. She has asked for that support earlier in our conversations and I was happy to provide it for her, she was to be our angel, allowing us to have her birth child so we could realize our dream of becoming parents.The nurses called me over to cut the umbilical cord (which was cut already but the parent gets to cut it down further to feel part of the process). I don’t know at what minute I started to sob but I can tell you I didn’t stop. I had an instant camera that they took to take pictures of me (the staff was AMAZING, they treated me wonderfully and knew exactly how to guide crazed new parents through this process) and then they whisked the baby to the nursery for hours of tests.
So, here’s the thing: the moment I saw this new born baby I had a feeling of recognition. Through my haze, through the feeling of pure love for this infant that I knew was my son, the instant I saw him, I knew we had been together before and were meant to be together again at this time. I do not believe in reincarnation per se but I am telling you the exact feeling I had. When I read about Rosie O’Donnell relating her experience in the same situation, I understand completely what she is saying even though my exact feeling was different. As she puts it, like in the wizard of Oz, at that moment, her life went from black and white to color. Adopting parents do not get 9 months to prepare mentally or any other way for our child’s birth. Papers are not yet signed. But we know our miracle has occurred. We know our world has forever changed for the better. I understood now that winning the money lottery could not compare with this feeling I was having.
They guided me out of the operating room and I went to the waiting room to see my spouse. I could not talk, I remember very clearly from almost 11 years ago that I just gave him the thumbs up. I think it is possibly the only time in almost 18 years that I have really seen him cry.
Eventually we regained our composure and went to see him at the nursery. We were told that we would have a few hours to collect ourselves and I asked at the front desk if there was anyone who gave a baby class. They said they did have someone on staff but she was out at the time. I am glad I knew to ask from my friends in NY (thank-you Brian and Kerry), we would find her later!
We drove to ToysRUs (there was no BabiesRUs but this store had a large baby section). We were told not to go to Walmart as they were closer to the Mexican border and it was usually packed all day because of that proximity. We needed several things, I most clearly remember we bought a portable bassinet. We had NOTHING, we were completely unprepared for the next step, but we would do what we had to!
Back at the hospital we again inquired about the baby class and were told the girl had just stepped in: her name was Donna, she was originally from Connecticut, and she gave our son his first nickname, No Neck Nunzio (Nunzio is my father-in-law’s name and my son’s 1st of 2 middle names). This woman spent 2 hours with us and was like everyone else at this hospital, an ANGEL. She could not have been nicer, more supportive, and helpful. She gave us samples, coupons, a car seat for a donation of $25 (which we used for over 2 years), and tons of information. I have since made donations to the hospital and sent her a thank-you letter, our experience in the “butt end” of Arizona was truly blessed.
Next, we went to see our son again, we went into the nursery, and a nurse was holding him that we had not met earlier and who did not know any of our story. At this point the baby was called baby boy Rose, based on the birth mother’s last name. This nurse was calling him Peter. That is not a common name in this part of Arizona, right near Mexico. But it is my spouse’s name. For me it was a sign from God that she was calling this unnamed baby by the name of his adoptive dad to be. My spouse was nervous until the papers were to be signed 3 days hence and I told him that as far as I could tell, God was giving us a sign that this was our baby. I felt like God was literally saying hello to us as a way of saying don’t worry. I was never worried, by the way, as I felt this birth mom had all the tell tale signs of someone who could not keep their child.
At this point we were told to get our stuff, we were sleeping over. Now we were in a state of shock! Someone knew enough of the situation to arrange for this babies parents to sleep over the first night of his life with him in the parent room. Again, we were in shock the way this hospital treated us, like we were the parents already and it seemed like they were supporting us as if we were any couple that had just given birth. We were thrilled and horrified, we thought we had 1 more day to get used to the idea of having a baby to care for!
Just as an aside, I expected some prejudice in people’s reaction to two men adopting a baby in this part of America. I could not have been more wrong, and in fact, I think there was extra support. The birth mother had told the hospital that we were adopting the baby and everyone then proceeded to treat us as the parents, and quite honestly it seemed like they were extra supportive. I will never forget the angels at that hospital.
The fact that they were asking us to sleep over was not something we were expecting anywhere, let alone this part of the country. No one seemed to care that we were gay, they only supported us a million percent in being good parents. And this was not an area that you would label progressive like NYC. That’s all for my political message, we should not have been as closed minded as we expected them to be!
We ran back to the hotel to get some clothes, we tried to buy some food, we were in a zombie like state again (not in the bad way).
We settled into the very uncomfortable parent room (just a note, I am not complaining!) on a fold out couch. A nurse came in every 3 hours to bath, feed, and check on the health of the baby. I could not handle the bathing part so Peter did his best to learn that. I believe that is the only job Peter kept for the next several years! There was very good security here, there was a line outside we could not cross with the baby as he had some kind of detection device on his bracelet. Not that we were going anywhere, we would have been happy to stay and have their help for years!
The next morning we had the birth mom come in to say good-bye and hold the baby, I took pictures for him to see when he grows up. Did I mention I took some pictures of her the night before as well, with that huge pregnant belly? I am not keeping secrets from my son, I am the type to drive him to meet her when he turns 18!
There were some details at the last minute, the hospitals social worker wanted to control our exit (and delay it it) for his own personal reasons, our lawyer gave us instructions so that we could leave in a legal fashion and circumvent this guys control issues. I did not think there was any anti gay issues here, just control issues. I felt like we just had to do it his way. My lawyer had worked with this hospital before but not that social worker. Luckily I had my lawyers cell phone number, you do not know when you need to reach yours in an emergency. We left with the baby when he was 1 day old!
The hospital had just moved towards pushing breast feeding so everyone was quite generous with the formula samples, good thing, we were not ready to figure out that part on our own just yet!
May 30, 2003, Friday, is a blur, we left the hospital at almost noon and drove to our hotel to wait out the 3 day signing period. We had asked the hotel for a crib, what a laugh, that thing was huge compared to our 6 1/2 pound kid! Luckily we had a bassinet from ToysRUs. I don’t know what or how we ate, I dimly remember a Chinese buffet the day before but that was it. We were in a daze.
Saturday, 2 days after his birth, she was due to go home. For any moms out there, is that normal, 2 days after a cesarean? I don’t think so, but the state was paying. Oh, yeah, luckily for our wallets her welfare had kicked in earlier that same week, that saved us a lot of fees. She had asked us for a ride to her house but we did not get there in time. We were still in touch via the 800 number transferred from my home phone to my cell now in Arizona. She asked us to take her to the pharmacy for her prescriptions, again, we would do anything she asked. I somehow knew to have her sit in the front seat while I sat in the back with the baby. I was VERY nice but trying to keep a distance so she could not develop any attachments. Don’t get me wrong, she was very sweet, very supportive, her roommates had 2 kids and they gave us some stuff for the baby. I was thrilled for the hand me downs, it was a great gesture.
Peter and I were still zombie like trying to feed the baby and change diapers every 3 hours. Remember that meck? Their first bowel movements where they are still digesting what they received when in the womb? I think that was almost finishing, it was just so difficult to wipe!
At some point I went back to the maternity ward crying to the nurse, I needed more nipples cause I did not how to get my own! Don’t worry, I would soon learn! While I was there I also managed to beg for more formula, they brought me a case which fell! They brought me another case so I took the unbroken half and the whole other one. I was actually not being cheap, I just did not yet know how to buy formula, bottles or nipples. Yes, I did eventually learn!
Sunday morning came and I got breakfast at the hotel buffet and made a plate for Peter and brought it to him; he would not leave the baby nor take it to the breakfast room. He was more nervous than me about everything! We packed the car so we could leave as soon as the papers were signed.
The birth mother called us at about 11 am to tell us she signed the papers and the lawyer was on his way to us to complete the job. We profusely thanked her and of course she and I were crying! As soon as the lawyer left us we got in the car and headed to Phoenix. Not that we didn’t love where we were, we just felt now that the papers were signed, the birth mom had relinquished her legal rights, we wanted to get out of her town! We would eventually fly out of Phoenix so that was to be our home base until the next set of papers were completed by the various state courts in NY and AZ. We drove 3 hours through the desert, stopping at some restaurant/fast food type place as the baby was crying for a feeding. We did manage to feed him regularly!
We rolled into Phoenix, we were staying at a golf resort, it was off-season so we had a lovely 1 bedroom apartment with ALL the amenities, including a washer/dryer in the kitchen, something every new parent should have close by! And my spouse shocked me by showing me he knew how to operate such appliances! And, thanks to Jackie of Southwest Airlines, a friend of my dear college friend, Mindy: besides helping us with the rental car when we first arrived in Arizona, she recommended this resort and it was perfect for our needs! It pays to have friends and contacts when you have this kind of a big countrywide situation. Again, I felt the whole thing was God driven, he was helping us every step of the way, truly in my heart, this feeling is still with me! Except at homework time!
Our dream had come true. The dream we thought was unattainable. Thank-you America for letting us become dads, we were the happiest two men on Earth!