PAGE # 40
Approximately 11:10 am

If Kendra's mother felt any pain about losing her only granddaughter, she did not show it.  At least not in front of Tom and I.  When Kendra stopped crying that morning in the hospital, I looked for even the slightest trace of ambivalence on Anna--if not something as dramatic as a few tears, then maybe downcast eyes, a frown, a nervous twitch, slouched posture--anything that might betray her ostensible support of the adoption plan.  I found nothing.

And if Anna's physical being demonstrated no visible grief, but she had remained quiet for the duration of her visit there, I might have speculated that her silence functioned as a dam: That if she tried to speak, a flood of misery might spring forth, unstoppable in its force.

But Anna would speak--at length and with optimism.  If the scene had been scripted for a Broadway play, one could easily imagine a spotlight on Kendra as she sobbed--and that same spotlight shift onto Anna--just as Kendra wiped a final tear with the palm of her hand.

I think that if I had been a member of an audience, watching the dialogue unfold on a stage, instead of a prospective adoptive parent in a hospital room, I might have been more apt to notice a startling clue as to why Kendra was choosing relinquishment for her child.  But this was no such performance.  I was too immersed in the drama, too busy looking for answers behind Kendra's plan, to notice the obvious.  I listened to Anna with both relief (that Kendra had stopped crying) and with real interest (Anna would share personal information that was indeed fascinating).  My brain, on the other hand, was not paying attention.  

And so, I would be overtaken by the content of Anna's story.  I would fail to notice the underlying dynamic that was unveiled before my eyes:  that adoption runs in families, at least in this particular family, and probably, I suspect now, that this familial history was the strongest force driving the adoption plan.  As a mental health professional, I am quite aware that trauma gets transmitted through subsequent generations--physical abuse, incest, and the like--but I had never considered the possibility that adoption gets reenacted in one's offspring.  I have not checked any official data on this, but from the personal case stories I've now read, it seems to be a reasonable hypothesis.

For example, a grown adoptee might relinquish her first born in an unconscious attempt to identify with her own birth mother.  Or, a grown adoptee might end up adopting children herself as a means to create a family--even if she has no infertility issues.  I think there are various configurations of how adoption, as a family dynamic, gets passed down to one's descendants, and for sure, I have seen evidence of this phenomenon in many of the adoption blogs I now frequent.

But!  I am not trying to convince the reader of some abstract theory--I want only to convey the interesting adoption facts surrounding this adoption story; that is, those family stories that happened way before Baby Lily was even conceived:

1)  Kendra's mother, Anna, was adopted as an infant.  And it would be this story--Anna's adoption story--that Anna would speak about at length once Kendra stopped crying.  What is interesting to note, is that Anna did not tell her story in any chronological order; indeed, she did not begin with the reasons why she was put up for adoption.  Instead, she began with the story of her reunification with her birth family, and worked backwards from there.

2)  I would also come to learn that Kendra's parents were divorced (though this was not readily apparent as they interacted in a wholly amicable and mutually supportive manner).  Moreover, Kendra's stepmother--Mike's second wife to whom he is still married--is a birth mother to a once lost (and not yet found) baby girl. 

I had never before been surrounded by so many adoption stories in one room.  I guess there's the chance that I'm over-analyzing the family dynamics and throwing too much meaning at it all.  But I tend to think otherwise.  

Because I have no faith in a higher being and no affiliation with any religious institution--perhaps because I cannot throw a blanket of divine reason over all the obfuscation--maybe my search for meaning tends to hone in on the particulars of my observations.  I look for patterns in behavior and I see that humanity, in general, is confined to a process of repetition.  I believe there is a human tendency to repeat the things that cause us the most pain.  And I think this occurs at every level of existence:  individual, family, cultural, the world at large.  

In the following posts, I will share those moments, those revelations about Kendra's family history.  I have now warned the reader of my bias, one that I did not myself consider at the time.  It's a bias formed in hindsight, after much reflection on the stories shared that day.  

This story is not just about where Baby Lily is now.  This story begs to understand why Baby Lily got lost in the first place.  The answer is probably found in a constellation of factors, not some singular first cause, but I do think the framework for that constellation got formed a long time ago.  Long before Baby Lily constituted a crisis pregnancy for Kendra.  

I think adoption runs in families.  It's an intuitive guess.  But I'd bet good money on it.


After writing this post, I did a Google search using my title, "Does Adoption Run in Families?"  I found the following:



PAGE # 39
June 17, 2012
Father's Day
3:30 pm

To The Biological Fathers (Mine and Baby Lily's):

I'm sitting in the library of a lush seaside resort instead of napping alongside Sara and Tom.  Today is Father's Day.  Sara, exhausted after a half-day of sunning and swimming, will probably sleep for at least two hours.  Maybe three.  I had put my still-wet head upon the pillow next to our tired toddler, but after a few tosses and turns, realized that I ought to be writing instead of fighting against the caffeine (the over-consumption of coffee being a strategy to avoid the over-consumption of food at this morning's brunch).  

This is the first Father's Day in over a decade that I've wasted even a moment thinking of you--my father that is.  And obviously, this is the first Father's Day that I've thought of Baby Lily's dad--as last year he was not a parent at all (unless you count that he was an expectant father) and my life had not yet collided with either parent of Lily's.  But this year, the two of you fathers, like overlapping images, invade my mind.  And I wonder where you each are.

I don't have any religious beliefs (although I've been warned, many times too, that I might embrace God, or Jesus or The Holy Ghost in a sudden burst of optimism upon my own impending death, like the way someone grabs a life jacket as his boat begins to sink).  But whether or not this proves true in my end, the fact that I wonder about each of your whereabouts--heaven or hell?--has no religious significance to me whatsoever.  It's just an easy dichotomy.  It's black or white.  It's good or evil.  There is a generous simplicity in such notions of an afterlife, a simplicity that this world cannot deliver--for in this life, the nature of man, is not so easy to determine.  Is he good or bad?  Was he better or worse?  These questions are far more challenging to a mere mortal than any all-knowing divinity; the latter getting to separate the bad from the good, clearly and definitively, in one final sweep of judgment.  

But I am able to draw some lines now--at least with my own father--if not Baby Lily's.

It was only a few weeks ago when the terror first struck me--that I had to tell this story but could not do so without disclosing my undying dislike for my own father.  Surely that can't be relevant now!  But trauma, particularly chronic trauma that occurs in early childhood, leaves its neurological imprint upon the brain; consequently, the rest of life is forever cast in its dark shadow, as if an umbilical cord connects each and every movement back to one's beginning.  Indeed, even the most liberating moments of creativity are suspect--for they too are cued by that early gun-shot, the one that starts you running, whatever it is you are running from.  

And it is without doubt that I responded to this adoption situation with a complex mixture of post-traumatic features:  derealization, terror, an impending sense of doom.  There was the corresponding rescue fantasy too--I must save this baby from an abusive father!  But how could I, or anyone in this story, know a man's degree of good versus evil?

As for my father--there are memories.  Pockets of memory so terrifying--who would ever speak of them except to a therapist or personal journal?  And even though the man is underground for 23 years now, to write of him in an open forum--to disclose such horrors in front of family and friends--what risk!  I had to ask myself:  What could be so horrifying that a middle-aged woman, now wrinkled with experience, might stop telling a story in the only way it must be told?  The short answer:  I thought of my brother and how he might feel reading about it.

So I called my little brother--still a blond, curly-haired, cooties-infected boy in my mind--and asked his permission:
"Would you mind if I, well, if I, well, happen to write some bad stuff about Daddy?"
And not only did he say--"Sure, you've got to do what you've got to do," but he remembered!  He was able to corroborate these memories.  We shared details.  Why had we not discussed this before?  And together, for several consecutive nights, we were able to help each other piece together at least part of a picture that has been so fragmented for too many years.  After nearly 15 years of trauma work, 2 prior hospitalizations due to severe flashbacks, and a career path chosen, let's face it--to create my own internal therapist--I was no longer alone in memory.  Relief is an understatement.

And so, because of a little girl born decades after my own traumatic history--because of Baby Lily's story--I get to make a final conclusion, and pronounce with utter certainty that my father was not only no good, but likely a sadistic sociopath at worst, a drug addict at the very least, and a definite child abuser no matter the etiology.  And all this coupled with his not too shabby intellect, some charisma reserved for those outside his immediate household, and a wife who made him look presentable--his early death was a blessing for this once upon a time 14 year-old little girl.

What an ironic twist of events!  That one silent child's story (Baby Lily's) resurrects the story of another silent little girl (that would be me some decades ago)--and brings some closure to at least one of us.

My hope is that this memoir may bring closure to Lily someday too.  I write this narrative for her more so than anyone--that this part of her history may wait for her in cyberspace.  So she can fill those empty spaces with some truth.  Those holes from her first month of life.  The need to make sense of one's origins is an imperative I understand well.

As for the final judgment on you--Baby Lily's father--this remains unknowable.  Good or bad?  Kind or evil?  Heaven or hell?  I would really like to know, but will have to settle with an ambiguous, paradoxical, and limited testament of your character.  At least for now.

I will NOT wish a Happy Father's Day to my own.  Your fate is sealed; I am certain of your kind.  

As for Baby Lily's dad:

You get a maybe Happy Father's Day.  I am not sure whether you were victim or culprit in this tragic tale.  I only know that I chose to err on the side of good, on the possibility of goodness, despite the case against you.  And it was easy to believe in your intrinsic badness, especially given the nature of my earliest recollections of a father figure, but I did not believe then, as I still maintain now, that I was meant to judge you.  Or use my resources against a biological parent.  

So...RIP.  Maybe. 




PAGE # 38
Approximately 10:50 am

The eye-color inquisition ended abruptly.  A nurse entered the room and everyone quieted.  We scattered out of the way.
"It's okay," the nurse said.  "You guys can stay in here."
I was near the window--the longest distance from the door.  Anna had moved back from Kendra's bedside, so she was still face-to-face with her daughter, just with greater space between them.  Tom was next to me, seated on a chair, holding the baby.  I'm not sure if Mike left the room immediately or shortly after Kendra started crying.  I don't remember if Johnny, the husband, was even in the room before the nurse appeared; certainly, I have no memory of his presence when Kendra began to sob.    

The nurse did something to Kendra that involved a needle--I can't recall if she took a blood sample or fussed with an IV.  She must have been removing the IV from the labor and delivery.  Kendra whimpered at first, and if she was not about to become a "birth mother," the nurse might have been thinking, what histrionics!  I assumed the nurse knew of the adoption plan, but maybe not, because she offered no comfort to Kendra as tears gave way to guttural sobs.   

Kendra's mom did not react.  Where was Kendra's dad and husband?

The nurse left quietly.  She hadn't said anything at all.

Kendra wailed and I wanted to cry too.  It was horrible.  And confusing.  I could feel my severe case of moral indignation emerge.  Why did Kendra's mom just sit there?  Was her mom thinking:  better to let her just cry it out than pretend there could be comfort?  Maybe it was selfish to approach Kendra now--an attempt to manage my own discomfort?  Was it better to give Kendra the space to grieve?

I would have exchanged all my aforementioned superpowers for total omniscience.

It didn't matter.  I could not just stand there.  I approached Kendra and asked if I could sit next to her.  She nodded and I sat on her bed.  Did I hold her hand?  Did I actually touch her?  I cannot remember if I was that bold.

I felt powerless.  I wanted to tell Kendra:
"You don't have to do this.  We can help you find a better way."
But I said no such thing.  I heeded the social worker's warning:  that this was Kendra's decision and I needed to respect her.  I worried that challenging Kendra's adoption plan might equal a criticism of her.  I did not want to be disrespectful.  I did not want to cause her additional pain.  I could not understand any of it, but I was also convinced of my own arrogance:  I asked no questions because I thought I was failing to put myself in Kendra's shoes.  If I poked doubt at her "choice," if I suggested an alternative--wouldn't I be suffocating her chances of self-actualization?  Wouldn't I be judging her at the worst and most difficult moment of her life?

Did Kendra's mother really ignore her cries?  Am I remembering it all incorrectly?  Is it possible that Kendra's mother consoled her sobbing daughter and I failed to notice?

Where did everybody go?  I feel like Kendra and I were alone together on that hospital bed.  She cried and I witnessed her pain.  But everyone else--Tom, the baby, Kendra's parents, her husband--they must have been there too.  Or at least close by.  

I just can't see them there.

I only see Kendra crying.  I hear her pain within the sound of silence.

And I wanted to cry too, 
because I felt deep sadness, 
and I didn't understand why this was happening at all, 
and I wanted to help Kendra,
and the social worker had told me I needed to be strong for Kendra, 
but I didn't feel strong at all,
and everything seemed unreal,
like I was watching things from inside a dream.
And sometimes, even now,
it feels like I am making Baby Lily up,
as if she's my invention,
and no one wants to tell me the truth:
that I am completely insane.

Was Baby Lily ever really here?  


I have her footprints.  I have pictures.  I have her hospital ID bracelet.

Where's Baby Lily, Mommy?

I don't know.

For more information on derealization, click here:




PAGE # 37
Approximately 10:35 am

I stood between Kendra and her baby.  
"Hey, how's it going?" I asked.
"It's okay," Kendra replied.  "Do you want to hold her?  You can hold her if you want."
I gathered the baby into my arms and carried her to a chair near the windows.  She was sleeping.  She showed no evidence of a vaginal delivery--her head and features were in pristine condition--I realized she was probably the most beautiful newborn I'd ever seen.  She didn't seem real.    
"She's adorable," I said.
"She looks like Alex did when he was first born," Kendra told me.  "Well, except for her nose.  I think her nose is a bit wider."
I could hear Tom talking to Kendra's parents in the background.  I think Johnny was on his iPad.  
"Where are your boys?" I asked.
"School.  My babysitter will bring them later." 
Kendra picked up her phone to text message someone.  I looked at the baby but wondered who Kendra was writing to.  I didn't feel like I was holding my child.  I felt like I was holding Kendra's baby, because I was.  

I couldn't summon love for Kendra's baby in an instant.  I was too worried about Kendra.  The social worker had told me:
"Kendra needs to see you falling in love with her baby!"
I didn't think I was doing a very good job of this and asked Tom if he wanted to hold her.  I transferred the baby into his arms and walked back over to Kendra's bedside.
"Have you thought of a name yet?" she asked me.
"We really like the name Lily," I offered.
Kendra smiled.  "That's one of the names my mom and I were talking about earlier.  She gestured to her mother, Anna, to join our conversation.  "Tell her mom!" Kendra instructed.  "Tell her how we were just talking about all the flower names."
Anna nodded.  "Yes, we were thinking of the name Lily.  Or maybe Jasmine."
"Or maybe Holly," Kendra added, "because it's almost Christmas.  I can't believe we were both thinking of the same name!  Lily!"
The conversation moved onto the subject of middle names, but I was distracted.  Kendra's parents looked nothing like their daughter.  Kendra's mom was quite fair in coloring, as was Kendra's father.  Kendra had freckles whereas neither of them did.  None of their features appeared similar.  I wondered if Kendra had been adopted.  These people could not be her biological family!

I looked at them more closely.  I looked right into their eyes.  Blue eyes for Anna.  And big green ones on Kendra's dad, Mike.  This seemed strange to me, because I thought two light-eyed people could only produce a light-eyed child.  Kendra's eyes are a rich shade of brown.  

I was sure that two blue-eyed people only made blue-eyed babies.  Two brown eyed people could definitely yield a light-eyed child, if at least one of them carried the recessive gene for blue.  But what was the rule for green eyes?  Could blue and green make brown?

I pointed to Kendra's dad.  
"Your eyes are green," I stated.
Then I turned to Kendra's mom.
"And your eyes are blue.  I didn't realize that blue eyes and green eyes could make brown eyes," I said, gesturing toward Kendra.
"His eyes used to be brown," Kendra explained.
The dad nodded.
"Yeah," he said.  "My eyes were brown and then one day, maybe in my late thirties, they started turning green."
(I would Google the genetics of eye color later--oh how science has changed since high school biology!  Eye color is more complicated than previously understood; even two blue-eyed parents canin fact, make a brown eyed child.  It's a rare outcome, but it is possible). 

My interrogation of Kendra's parents was meek.  I failed to ask what I was really curious about:
  1. Are you guys telling Kendra she should do this?
  2. Why don't you want to help Kendra keep her baby?  She's your grandchild!
  3. How can you even look at your granddaughter and daughter without crying your eyes out right now?

I did not verbalize any of the above.  Instead, I talked about eye color.  It was a symbolic accusation.  It was my unconscious way of saying to them both:
"I don't trust you."
I continued to mentally entertain the possibility that Kendra was also adopted (she really looked nothing like either parent), and tried inventing reasons why this was not disclosed.  Perhaps Kendra had never been told the truth?  OR maybe she had been conceived during an extramarital affair and Kendra's dad had raised her as his own child?  AND maybe he had no idea that Kendra had been fathered by someone else!

My mind didn't stop there.  Check out my next thought:  

Maybe these people weren't Kendra's parents at all?  Maybe her real parents didn't know about the adoption and Kendra had "borrowed" a friend's family for good show?  And this fiction, this paranoid and ridiculous idea, would have explained why Lily's grandparents were not behaving as they should have been behaving.  
"Should have been behaving?  Should have been behaving according to you," Tom would later say.  "You have no idea what those people were feeling inside.  You can't judge them.  They were supporting their daughter's decision."
"True," I would say.  "But I kind of expected them to cry and shout and beg Kendra to keep the baby."
"We don't know what they know," Tom would add.  "Maybe there are serious reasons why they'd want to see their grandchild adopted."
"We don't know shit about anything," I would conclude. 
Of course, during our time at the hospital with Kendra's family, I totally forgot about colored contact lenses:

A belated but more plausible explanation for Mike's overnight eye color change?

To Be Continued...



PAGE # 36
10:20 am

There was some confusion in the hospital lobby while we waited for Kendra's husband, Johnny, to come get us.  I'm not sure how we ended up in a small office with the head of hospital security, but the man was less helpful than a blade of grass.  Did we approach the security office ourselves?  Did the security guard question us on his own accord?  Tom, too, cannot remember the exact cause of this "detainment," but Johnny appeared in the midst of us trying to explain our situation to the officer, and we soon found ourselves in an elevator.

The three of us--myself, Tom, and Johnny--we must have had some conversation on the way up to Kendra's floor.  But I cannot recall what we spoke about.  Neither can Tom.  I imagine we asked about Kendra:  how she was doing, how the baby was, that kind of thing.

Although I cannot summon the exact dialogue between us, I do remember how Johnny seemed to me.  He appeared casual, in both demeanor and dress, just as when we had first met him at the attorney's office.  He gave an overall impression of relaxed indifference.  Perhaps he had smoked pot or taken something to calm his nerves?  

The situation we were walking into--the potential separation of a newborn from her very mother--would never be guessed by an outside observer.  If someone had seen us emerge from the elevator, he would not have suspected we were participants in anything out of the ordinary.

We followed Johnny down the hall, hypnotized by the sound of his shoes against the bottoms of his feet.  Flip-Flop. 

The room Kendra was in--I assume it was the room where she delivered the baby--was bright and spacious.  I saw Kendra in the bed.  She was still wearing that grayish blue hospital gown that everybody gets, whether for having a baby or a heart attack.

There were two other adults in the room--a woman and a man--probably in their mid-fifties.  They were Kendra's parents, and I was surprised to meet them, because the social worker had told me only Johnny and a few of Kendra's closest girlfriends would be there.  But there were no friends present, not on this day or the next.

Tom says I went straight over to Kendra, while he first shook hands with her parents.

The baby was in a bassinet.  She was located next to Kendra's bedside, and I was able to greet Kendra and the baby simultaneously.  This was a relief.  If the baby had been on the other side of the room, I probably would have gone to Kendra first, and then felt bad for neglecting the baby.

The atmosphere was not uncomfortable.  It was actually kind of pleasant.

I attribute this surprising discovery--that we recall feeling mostly normal and okay despite our bizarre circumstances--to the fact that we probably were completely out of touch with our feelings.  The whole encounter was outside the realm of our normal experience.  The fact that we remember feeling normal, probably has less to do with how we actually felt, and more to do with an utter lack of self-awareness that day.

In contrast, I usually balance social interaction with a high level of introspection.  My cognitive style, as I experience it, is that I engage others in a variety of social settings, and at the same time, I am exquisitely aware of my own emotional state.  I also tend to notice subtle cues from others.  And I am able to juggle all these tasks simultaneously; that is, I can participate in an event while attending to my own psychological reaction to the environment and its dynamics.  Furthermore, I'm typically aware of the feeling states of others.

Of course, being able to attend to multiple phenomena--both interpersonal and intrapersonal--demands a level of knowing what to expect in a given social encounter.  

Consider the following examples:  

If I am driving along a familiar route, I don't need to attend strictly to the demands of the task at hand.  I can attend to other things too.  Perhaps you're my passenger and we're talking about dinner or a mutual friend or even my next blog post.  I can engage in a significant conversation with you, and intuitively grasp your feelings about it, even with my eye on the road ahead.  I manage to arrive at our destination safely, because I already know the way. 

On the other hand, if I am met with a detour and have to travel a completely unfamiliar route, I am less likely to be attending to anything other than the road before me.  Since I do not know what to expect, and the way is unknown to me, my attention is likely focused solely on driving.  I'm probably not thinking about much else, let alone talking to anyone in the passenger seat.

Now, imagine doing something more socially complex and interactive, say going to a wedding.  At such an event--a person is able to attend to many aspects of his/her experience without having to deconstruct the very nature of the experience itself.  There's the ceremonial ritual, the couple's first dance, the cake, etc.  A person can perceive the other, random things happening at the event (say, the building flirtation between two other guests, or that the bride's mother seems like a control freak, or any other number of possibilities), and I'd argue that this is all possible because the overall experience unfolds in an already familiar cultural paradigm.  

If I attended a wedding ceremony in Papua New Guinea, on the other hand, I'd probably be less attuned to the more subtle details of the environment.  I'd likely be focused, instead, on whatever novelty I'd be experiencing.  I might fail to notice that I'm getting tired, or that my husband has sprouted a few more gray hairs.  I'd be too busy experiencing new foods, strange rituals (strange, that is, to my American point of view), etc.  I'd be so overcome by the experience--the in-the-moment excitement of the unexpected--that I'd neglect the softer, perhaps mundane, details of human existence at that particular moment in time.  

I use these examples to illustrate how even a neutral condition (like driving) or a celebratory one (like a wedding), if either occurs in an unfamiliar context, can alter our perceptive abilities.  So, how can one begin to navigate a complex and unfamiliar situation that is also entangled with traumatic circumstances?  How does anyone make cognitive sense of the pending separation of an infant from her mother?  And...while the biological grandparents stand by, witnessing it all, as if it were a normal rite of passage in any young woman's life?   

It is no wonder that trauma is so hard to integrate into our experience.  It is no wonder that traumatic material gets split off, repressed, fragmented, dissociated, etc.  It's hard enough to process new stimuli in a meaningful way, even when it occurs in a safe situation.  Imagine trying to merely understand an entirely unnatural situation, integrate it within one's sense of self and personal autobiographical memory, and make sense--any sense whatsoever--of an act you cannot fathom.  (In this case, the act of relinquishing one's flesh and blood to, hold on a second, to me?)

I apologize for this lengthy detour from the main story.  But the reader must know, and keep in mind, that my confusion at the hospital cannot be related in its pure form.  And writing it all down now, transforms a primitive experience into something other than it was.  

Through writing, something that had no organizing principle, now gains meaning and structure through narrative, the benefit of hindsight, and an author who is subsequently much more educated on adoption issues.  The words you read now, are formed via a mode of elevated thought; therefore, it is impossible to convey my sheer bewilderment at the hospital.  Please know, that the actual experience, as it is depicted here, is merely a construct of the fragmented details of what was actually, I now understand, a traumatic experience.  And worse in some ways than other traumas, because no one dared to call it what it was.  Not even me.  Not even Kendra.  And certainly not its littlest victim:  a baby girl with no voice.  

Where's Baby Lily, Mommy?

The past, through being told, gets trapped in story.  It's a process of containment.  Form appears from what was wild and incomprehensible.  Before, I could not grasp it.  There were no words.    

It simply was.

Therefore, in the posts that follow, the ones that try to best depict our experience at the hospital, I may need to write two accounts:  the one I recall experiencing, and the present analysis of that described experience.  

And by the way...

In case you too are now wondering about wedding customs in Papua New Guinea, I just Googled "Papua New Guinea Wedding" and the first link to appear leads to this story:


The story is also, coincidentally, about an abandoned infant and how later, as a grown man, he returns to his original family and native land.  For his wedding!



PAGE # 35
9:20 am

Tom and I did not drive straight to the hospital.  We stopped first at a local florist.  The woman there asked what type of occasion we were shopping for, and I didn't know what to say.  
"We're going to the hospital," I almost stuttered.  "I mean, we need flowers for a new mom.  But we might be adopting her baby too."
The woman created a beautiful bouquet for Kendra, but once we were back in the car, I felt nauseous from the scent.  I do love the smell of flowers, but only when they grow in nature.

On the other hand, flowers that get cut and sold, well, I think they smell like the inside of a funeral home.  This olfactory association with death--a direct neural pathway from my nostril to the mental image of a coffin--started after my father's wake and burial.  The funeral home was literally stuffed with flowers--I remember the facility could not even fit all the floral arrangements into the room where my father was laid out.  The experience left me with an aversion to cut flowers ever since.  I think of it as a psychological allergy.

Now, I clutched the vase between my knees and wished we had thought of something different. 
"Ugh...Why did we buy these?" 
"What's the problem?" Tom asked.  "They're pretty."
"They smell like a funeral home," I said.
"I know," Tom replied. "I know you."
We got on the highway--the hospital was about 30 minutes north of us.  
"But do I know myself?" I wondered aloud.
I was thinking about an apparent contradiction within myself:  that I did like some cut flowers:  daisies!  Especially gerbera daisies!     
"Do daisies smell?" I asked
"Don't know," Tom shrugged.
"I don't think they do.  They can't."  I was probably shaking my head.  "We should have bought daisies for Kendra."
"Forget it," Tom said.  "Too late for that now.  We need to get there already."
"I can't believe Kendra wants us there so soon."
"Well, that's what Shelley said."
"What else did she say about the birth?" I asked.
Tom had been the one to speak with the attorney over the phone earlier.
"Nothing much more than I already told you.  That she got the Pitocin.  That her and the baby are doing fine.  That her husband, Johnny, was there for the delivery."
I was relieved that Tom and I had not been called to participate in the the actual birth.  I felt it would be intrusive and inappropriate.  I could not imagine giving birth while a couple of total strangers looked on.  And what if Kendra decided to keep her?  I did not think we should be there when mother and child met for the first time.  Even if Kendra chose to relinquish, I thought she should have time alone with her baby.  

When our friends, Jim and Tracey, adopted Ricky, they were present for his birth.  Ricky's biological mother was a teenager whose entire family refused to accompany her; if not for Jim and Tracey, the young woman would have been alone, minus the medical staff.  

But Kendra's situation was altogether different.  She had a husband.  They had been through labor and delivery twice before.    
"What are we supposed to say when we get there?" I wondered.
"I don't know," Tom admitted.
"This is really strange," I said.
"There's no way she's going through with this adoption plan," Tom said.  "I still don't get it.  I just don't."
I felt the same as Tom.  As did several family members and friends.

In fact, lots of people had been asking us this question over the last couple of weeks:
"But what if she decides to keep the baby?"
And we always said the same thing:
"We hope she decides to keep her!  If that turns out to be the case, we would be thrilled for the baby.  Who wants to see a baby separated from her mother?"
Some people thought we were strange:
"But you guys already spent thousands of dollars on this!"  They were referring to the attorney's fee.  
And Tom would always respond:
"Yep.  And if she decides to keep the baby, we're going to spend even more--we're going to give her and the baby a few thousand bucks for Christmas.  We're going to try and help them out."
And people thought that was strange too.
"But you're doing everything to prepare for this baby.  Aren't you going to be pissed off?  Disappointed?  Feel tricked?"
And we would always respond:
"No!  We would be relieved for the baby, and her brothers, and her mother."
To this day, Tom and I cannot understand how any prospective adoptive parents could feel otherwise.    

But a few people have challenged us on this too:
"Well, you would feel differently if you were infertile and if you didn't already have kids."
I don't particularly like when people tell me how I would or should feel.  

And I don't think having children is an entitlement.  Life isn't fair.

I would like to think that my empathy for others is not dependent upon my own gains or losses.  I would like to think that my moral compass is not subject to mere relativism.  I would like to think that I am able to make the harder but better choices, even when it feels terrible for me personally.

I can't prove to anyone that I would've felt otherwise, had I no children of my own, because these were not my circumstances.    

We were almost at the hospital when I probed Tom on the issue:
"If we couldn't have kids, do you think we'd really feel the same way?"
"Well, we can't know, so why bother asking?"
Tom hates hypothetical questions.
"We probably would feel desperate," I decided.  "But I still think we'd be hoping for the same outcome."
"I think so," Tom agreed.  "Life is hard enough without having to start off with losing your mother at birth."
If I hadn't any children, maybe I would feel angry and pissed and used if Kendra decided to parent.  But emotions aren't solitary manifestations--humans are complex enough to feel many different things at the same time.  I could imagine being disappointed for myself while simultaneously feeling joy for a baby and her mother.
"I feel bad for the baby," I said.  "I feel terrible for her."
"I know," Tom said.  "But if Kendra decides not to parent, we're going to give her a great life."
We were quiet until we finally reached the hospital.  Tom pulled into the parking lot.
"Oh!  I almost forgot to call the attorney," he realized.  "She said we need to call first before going in."
"She needs to call Kendra's husband when we get here.  He's supposed to come down to the lobby and bring us upstairs."
"Okay," I said.
Tom called Shelley.
"We're here in the parking lot," he told her.
I waited for Tom to hang up.
"Ready?" I asked.
Tom hesitated.
"Maybe we should have listened to Jim's advice and rented a car for the hospital," he said.
"What for?"  
"I don't know," Tom replied.  "It's probably nothing.  But Shelley just told me that there's no record of Kendra's name at the front desk.  She said that we need to wait for Johnny to come get us in the lobby."
"What do you mean?"
"That if we just walk inside and ask to see Kendra, no one at the hospital desk will know who or what we are talking about.  The hospital staff has no record of Kendra being here.  Shelley said it's a safety precaution.  To protect her from the birth father."
"But Kendra told us that he's not a danger!" I was horrified.  "Kendra said he's just a spoiled brat who wants nothing to do with either her or the baby!"
"Maybe it's standard procedure in adoption?"
"Maybe," I said.  "But Kendra did also say that he punched her in the stomach."
The birth father was a paradox in my mind.  My brain kept receiving contradictory input regarding the man.  My head hurt, but I could find no explanation to resolve the cognitive dissonance.
"We need to ask Kendra about him again," I insisted.  "Thank God that attorney isn't here."
"For sure," Tom said.
We were finished talking, but we didn't exit the car just yet.  We looked around to make sure no one was watching us.  And we walked with our heads down as we approached the hospital's entrance. 

The fear factor was back.   

To Be Continued...