Seeing as yesterday marked three months since our little guy was born, it seems like a good time to share his birth story! I’ve been a little quieter on the Felix-front than you might have expected- part of that is due to the tenuous nature of adoption and simply not being able to share as much as I might have otherwise, and part of it’s been Matt and I wanting to be present and us choosing to leave phones in another room. And then another part of it is having WAY less time on my hands than before, in the best possible way!
One of the first questions we get when people hear that Felix is adopted is “how old was he when you adopted him?” While official placement papers were signed when he was 36 hours old, he’s been with us since the very beginning in the hospital- we recognize that we have an incredibly special story! Felix’s birth mom showed consideration and kindness beyond anything we could have ever expected, and we are incredibly blessed to have been regarded by her as Mom & Dad from his first minutes in this world. I can’t wait to share this story with you guys.
Just a few things before I get into it:
1) Once we were matched with Felix’s now-birth mom, anytime we mentioned her in conversation, we referred to her as “Em” for “expectant mama” (instead of by her name). The nickname sort of stuck, and so that’s how I’ll refer to her throughout this blog post!
2) There are parts of the story we won’t be sharing because they’re either not mine to share, or in order to honor Em’s privacy. It’s been a delicate thing to learn to say “we’re actually not sharing those details” but we’re learning that honoring Em and protecting Felix’s story are most important. We won’t be sharing, for example, why she chose adoption- I realize that’s a natural curiosity, but we want to make sure we’re respecting Em and Felix’s right to tell that story if and when they choose.
3) We do indeed have a relationship with Em, and are so grateful to have an open adoption! This means that we share photos and updates with Em, and we actually had our first visit with her last weekend! I’ll be honest- open adoption was something that intimidated me at the beginning of our journey, but I’m so grateful that changed, and for the relationship we have with Em. We LOVE her. And we’re so incredibly excited for her and Felix to know one another.
4) A little bit of advice for any hopeful adoptive parents out there- I’m deeply thankful for the friend who told me that if we were invited to the hospital, we would be there as her GUESTS. This was not our space, it was hers, and we were just grateful to be there! This meant that we asked permission before coming into the room, I didn’t speak on her behalf unless she asked that I do so, and we deferred to Em on any questions asked in the L&D room. We were not parents yet- we were there to support Em, however she needed. Up until termination papers are signed, she is still just an expectant mama, albeit one who has made an adoption plan. We never wanted to presume ANYTHING, so Matt and I tried as hard as we could to keep expectations loose and flexibility HIGH.
Ok, so now that we’ve got that established… let’s go. Buckle up, this is going to be a long one!
Sunday, August 25th
Matt and I don’t normally sleep with our phones next to the bed, but beginning around two weeks before Em’s due date, we relaxed that policy. At 2:20am, Matt’s phone rang and I immediately knew it was go-time! Em was four days past her due date and had an induction scheduled for the next day, but the agency’s pregnancy counselor was on the phone telling us that Em had been experiencing contractions over the last couple of days and was headed to the hospital, praying they would finally admit her. We were told to hang tight, that they’d call us back if/when she was admitted.
(From the beginning, Em’s plan had been for us to be there from the start- she wanted us to come to the hospital while she was in labor, and for me to be in the room when Felix was born. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful we are for her generosity with us. Allowing us into her space during such a vulnerable time was something I never imagined we’d be gifted, but from the word “go” she has done everything she can to allow us to fully lean into our roles as Mom and Dad.)
Having NO idea how long it would take for that call to come in, we tried to go back to sleep, then realized that was IMPOSSIBLE. So we got up, showered, and packed the last few things in our hospital bags- we weren’t sure whether it would be possible for us to stay at the hospital once Baby Spring arrived (it depended on how full the Mother & Baby floor was), and we wanted to be prepared for everything.
We got the call that Em had been admitted and labor was progressing, so we should head on over whenever we were ready! We piled our bags into the car, texted our friends who’d be watching the pups, and made a quick stop at Starbucks (where I told the barista “we might have a son today!!”).
Upon arriving at the hospital, we went straight up to Labor & Delivery to see Em. Her epidural was doing its job and she was feeling a bit more comfortable, so we got settled in for a long day! Em had told me she was ok with me bringing my camera which felt like SUCH a gift, so I had fun documenting some of the little pieces as the morning progressed. (Even though nearly all the images in this blog post are by Emily Gerald!)
Never having been present for labor or birth before, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of how we’d be treated by nurses and doctors, but the hospital staff were more considerate and respectful than I could have possibly hoped for. Adoption can be such a fragile thing to navigate for someone on the outside (heck, it was fragile for us and we were on the very INSIDE!), but the nursing staff were so kind. Seeing them dote on and care for Em with such tenderness and compassion made me all the more in awe of her and what she was doing.
My favorite part of being in the labor ward with Em and the two friends she had there as support was the opportunity to get to know her even more. We’d had two meet-ups with her in the weeks prior, but those had all been with an agency representative present. There in the labor ward, things felt more relaxed and organic- amidst the steady rotation of doctors and nursing staff, we watched Bravo, talked about favorite holidays, and planned what Em’s first meal would be once Baby had arrived (breakfast food!).
Labor stalled a bit, so her doctor advised starting her on Pitocin to help keep things moving along. Em held up so well and was so patient (because anyone who’s ever delivered a baby can tell you that as SOON as you fall asleep, it’s inevitable that a nurse or doctor will walk in and need to examine you or stick you with some kind of needle), and seeing how she was enduring it all with such grace blew me away. This was the final stretch of this particular chapter, and I couldn’t believe how considerate she was being of us, and how well she continued to care for Felix in the last few hours that she carried him.
Our friend and amazing birth photographer Emily Gerald arrived midday so that she could be ready as soon as Felix arrived- Emily wasn’t in the room when he was born, but we were so very grateful that she was willing to come and photograph us meeting our son for the first time. She camped out in the waiting room, on call for whenever Baby Spring made his debut! She was also a total saint and brought takeout from my favorite restaurant… but I was so amped up I could barely eat!
The doctor ended up breaking Em’s water to get things moving a little more in addition to upping the Pitocin levels, which meant contractions began to intensify. I got to hold Em’s hand during some of her more painful ones, and I hope one day I’ll be able to express to Felix what a joy it was to be there in that moment with her, to pray over her as fatigue began to set in. Em’s friends were such an incredible support to her, keeping calm and helping talking her through it all when contractions were especially rough and the potential for fear ran high.
Afternoon into evening
The afternoon rolled slowly on with many popsicles and clear liquids consumed, and a few naps snuck in to help Em rest in anticipation of delivery. We goofed off, playing games with hospital latex gloves, blowing them up into balloons and seeing how far they’d stretch over our heads- you know, typical L&D shenanigans!
She was at 9cm! (For anyone not familiar with birth, 10cm is considered fully dilated and typically ready to push.) That news was welcomed enthusiastically, with everyone thinking she’d be ready to push shortly and Baby would be here SOON. The nursing staff prepared the room, bringing in the warming station and medical supplies, so we figured things were definitely going to get intense shortly. But then things stalled again, and Em was in a lot of pain, and there was only so much additional medication they could give her. She was almost there, and I wanted so badly for her to be able to rest, but every time they checked for the next 2 ½ hours, she was still at 9cm.
By this time, Em was exhausted. At the end of her energy reserves. Emotionally spent. “I don’t know what I’m going to do if they check me again and I’m still at 9cm.” There was literally nothing I could do in the moment other than pray, and so that’s exactly what we did- I prayed over Em, asking God to allow her body to do what it needed to do to safely bring Baby into the world. That He would give her peace, calm her fears, and give her supernatural energy to make it through delivery, despite how exhausted she was.
A couple minutes later the nurse came in, checked progression, and said “Ok… on the next contraction, we’re going to have a practice push,” and after that, she’d be ready to push for real.
She was a 10cm- it was time! Em was so relieved! Things got moving quickly- the doctor came bustling in, instructing Em’s best friend and I on where to stand, telling me how to count Em through each contraction. She was so ready for this.
After five contractions and less than 20 minutes of pushing, he was here. Born with his hands up by his face, crying boisterously just a few seconds after entering the world, he was here. And as much as I wanted to look over and watch every second of his brand new life, the most important thing for me in that moment was staying by Em’s side.
It’s so hard to explain to anyone not in the adoption world, but I never wanted Em to feel as though we were only concerned about her wellbeing until Baby Spring arrived- she is forevermore part of our family’s story, and as excited as I was to meet this little miracle, I knew Felix and I would have ages to get to know each other. And so in those few minutes after he was born while they were cleaning him up, weighing him, and checking him over, I stayed by her side. And gosh, am I glad I did- there was a moment when Felix had quieted and I looked down at Em. Her eyes were closed, and she said “I just feel so peaceful right now.”
God is so good. Throughout the entire adoption process, the number one thing we’d been praying for our birth mom was PEACE. That despite her situation, whatever it may be, that she would feel comfort and peace about her adoption plan.
After making sure that Em was ok for the time being, I literally SPRINTED to the waiting room, burst through the door and shouted “HE’S HERE! COME ON!!” Matt was sitting there with Emily and they both looked up, shocked that it was over so quickly, and I ran back into the room with Em.
A couple minutes later, the nurse placed Felix in a bassinet and I walked with her to the room next door, where Matt and I met Felix for the first time.
The next hour was a beautiful sort of a blur, which is, in part, why I’m so grateful for Emily being there to document it- we watched the nurse swaddling Felix and clearing his airways a little more, and Matt and I just held on tight to one another. All I could think about was how grateful I was.
He’s here. He’s HERE. More than four years of waiting led us right to this moment, and he’s here.
The nurse handed Felix to me, and holding my son for the first time was overwhelming. All the tears, grief, physical pain, waiting, frustration, and anxiety of the last several years felt small in comparison to the amount of gratitude I felt in that moment for how beautifully our story was being woven.
For the gift of our son, for the ability to be there when he was born, to hear his first cry, to hold the hand of the woman who carried him, and to learn to love her more fiercely than I could have ever thought… it came crashing down all at once and I felt the crushing weight of a gratitude I never knew was possible.
Sitting in that room, we became a family of three.
Sitting in that room, the long-burning desire to be parents now became our reality. I believe God only ever leads us into places where he will also be with us, and in that room, he was present as his promises came to pass. Every moment of difficulty leading up to that night now felt worth every second. Not for a minute were we forsaken- the Lord was in this place.
I can’t talk about our joy without also acknowledging her grief. Adoption is the epitome of bittersweet. Joy for our newly-formed family, but knowledge that on the other side of the joy we felt was her grief at the loss of this little one she’d carried for so long. Relief perhaps that this particular chapter of the story was drawing to a conclusion, but simultaneously feeling the weight of separation.
When I went back into her room to see how Em was doing, she said this: “I love you. And I am so excited that you are his Mommy and Matt is his Daddy.”
She showed kindness, bravery, endurance, and love for Felix and for us in a way that rocked me to my core. For that, among so many other reasons, we will always hold her in the highest regard.
Over the next hour, we sat and simply marveled at the wonder of it all. We had the chance to feed Felix for the very first time, and the pediatrician came in a little while later to check our little guy over and make sure everything was as it should be. We took turns holding him, marveling at his tiny-ness, loving his wide-eyed stares and that lip-smacking thing he did, and trying our best to soak in every sweet, sleep-deprived moment.
We were fortunate to be able to stay in the hospital in our own room on the Mother & Baby floor, instead of going home at the end of the night. That was such a redemptive experience, being able to sleep next to him those first nights, waking every 2-3 hours for feedings and diaper changes. We were there for all the tests they run, for his first sponge bath, all of it.
And to our surprise and delight, a few hours before we were discharged on the 27th, official placement papers were signed and we were given the blessing to take Felix directly home! There was a potential for not being able to bring him home until he was 10 or 11 days old, and we were so grateful that Em chose for him to come home with us straight away.
Walking out that hospital, I didn’t feel an ounce of fear for our future. Our God had held us in his loving care every single step of the way, and going forth into parenthood, I knew it would be no different.
Welcome to this world, sweet Felix.
An enormous thank you to Emily Gerald Photography for all the photographs from the night we met Felix! They’re some of my most treasured possessions!