# 50: UNPREPARED! (and pissed off too)

PAGE # 50
Approximately 10:00 am
"We should probably go to Babies "R" Us soon," I suggested. 
Tom shook his head.  "She's going to keep the baby." 
"But what if she doesn't?  We need to be prepared!"
A mixture of frustration and anxiety stormed inside me.  We could be bringing a baby home in a day or so, and we had no baby supplies.  Instead of being out shopping, we were lounging at Tom's brother's house.  

Tom didn't budge.  He rested upon the sofa, watching Sara chase after her 4 year-old cousin Max.
"Seriously babe," I said to him.  "We have like three newborn outfits and nothing else."
Sam, my brother-in-law, was listening to our debate.  
"Dude, you guys have a 2 year-old!  Where's all her baby stuff?"
"Gone," I said.
"Gone!" Sam's eyebrows shot up.  "We still have all of Max's stuff saved."  
 A voice from the kitchen chimed in:
"All saved in bins and labeled by size."
This voice belonged to Sam's wife, Diana.
"We have everything," she added.
"We gave our stuff away," I explained.
Sara and Max were running circles around the coffee table.  They were the only ones apparently not interested in our unbelievable lack of newborn paraphernalia.  
"Actually, I did keep some of Sara's outfits.  The ones she wore in the NICU.  The ones that have meaning to us."
I had given away the rest of Sara's baby wardrobe, and also all the baby gear:  car seats, strollers, baby toys, etc.  What was the point of cluttering up our limited storage space?  I certainly hadn't anticipated the arrival of a newborn anytime soon.  Remember--we hadn't even signed up to adopt a baby!  And we certainly were not having any unprotected sex.  Our two kids are FOURTEEN years apart!  Who would've thought we might actually need that stuff a mere two years after Sara's birth?
"I don't think you guys should buy anything," Diana advised.  You don't even know about the birth father yet."
"That's true, but even foster parents need baby supplies."
"But you guys are not foster parents.  You're adopting."
"Technically, we're foster parents if we take the baby home.  No adoption is final right away.  It takes months.  And if the birth father contests the adoption, then the baby goes back to Kendra.  So, technically, yes--we are foster parents for now."
My sister-in-law looked more confused than a toddler lost in a corn maze.
"But foster parents don't have to pay money!  They get paid by the state to be foster parents."
"That's true in some cases, yes, but this baby is not in the system.  This is a private fost-adopt situation."
I was getting agitated.  I needed to go buy baby stuff.
"Tom, seriously, we need to go to the store.  Like now." 
"Okay.  Okay," Tom finally stood up.  "Come on Sara," he reached toward our daughter.  "We need to say bye-bye now."
But before our toddler could protest, Tom's cell phone rang.  It was Shelley, the adoption attorney.  
"Now?" Tom spoke into the phone.  "Okay, we're coming now," he told Shelley. 
"We need to go to the hospital immediately.  They're discharging Kendra soon. We need to pick up the baby."
"Right now?  Are you sure?" I asked.
"Right now," Tom reiterated.
"But she just had the baby yesterday!  They're discharging her already?" 
"Apparently, yes." 
"Okay.  Okay," I was thinking out loud.  "I'll bring the newborn clothes I do have.  We'll just have to go buy the rest of the stuff later."
Tom hurried to put Sara's shoes on.
"Shit!" I exclaimed.  "We need a car seat!  We can't take the baby home without a car seat!" 
"I already texted Jim.  He said we could borrow one of theirs." 
"Okay.  Good."
Tom carried Sara out the door.  I was right behind him, but Diana stopped me:
"I still don't think you should buy anything new if you don't even know if you're going to be able to keep her yet.  I mean, what if you end up having to give her back to Kendra?"
"Then Kendra will get her baby back along with a whole bunch of baby gifts!  Seriously, Diana, the last thing on my mind right now is money!  The poor baby!  The least we can do is give her a good beginning.  We're going to be foster parents for right now."
"But can you do this?  Can you really be a foster parent?  Can you really do this?" 
"I'm about to pick up a baby from the hospital, so yes, it seems that I can."  
I left without saying goodbye.  I probably slammed the door too.

To Be Continued...



PAGE # 49
8:03 pm

It was getting late.  Far too late for our toddler, for Kendra's boys, for all of us. Sara, who had been climbing and jumping alongside Alex only moments earlier was now resting on the floor, her hands clutching at her ear lobes as they always do when she's had enough.  People often mistake this as a sign of an ear infection, but it is merely our toddler's strategy for self-soothing, much like how another child might suck her thumb instead.
"We really ought to get going," Tom nudged me gently.
"Yeah, okay, but maybe we should get some pictures of all the kids together first?" I asked.  This question was not so much for Tom; it was for Kendra.  "Would that be okay?"
Kendra said it would be.  

I took a few quick photos.  These pictures did not include the baby--she was already sleeping peacefully in the bassinet beside her mother.  The pictures included Sara, TJ, Alex, and Logan.  I wanted to capture some physical proof that the adoption, if it happened, was about our two families joining together--not an abrupt separation of the baby from her actual family.
"Okay," I said, after I had put my camera back into my diaper bag.
We exchanged goodnight wishes.  Johnny and his boys escorted Tom and TJ out of the room.  I stayed back for a minute longer.  I held Sara.  
"Kendra," I started,  "I know you said it's not even a possibility, but I have to ask you something."
Kendra looked tired but her eyes opened a bit wider as she listened to my inquiry.
"What happens if Bobby [the biological father] contests the adoption?" I asked.
Kendra did not even pause.  She gave an immediate reply that was clearly uttered and rolled easily off her tongue:
"Then the baby comes back to me."
"Okay," I said.  "I just needed to be clear on that.  Goodnight."
I went over this contingency plan in my mind:

If Kendra chose adoption, and if the biological father contested said adoption, then the baby would go back to Kendra.

It made surprising sense--a kind of circular logic.  I felt like a little path had been carved out of all the uncertainty.  There were only three possible outcomes:

1)  Kendra would choose to keep the baby in the first place.
2)  We would take home the baby.
3)  Kendra would get the baby back if the biological father contested the
     adoption plan.

It felt like the baby had a 2/3 chance of remaining with her family.  And in the slighter 1/3 chance that the baby did not, Tom and I were 100% certain we would raise this child in a way that included her family of origin.

To Be Continued...



PAGE # 48
Approximately 6:45 pm

We were in Kendra's hospital room again.  Actually, she had been moved into a new room and it was much smaller than the previous one.  There was a lot less seating and a lot less space to move around in, but at least Kendra didn't have a roommate to contend with (as is often the case in the postpartum maternity ward).  Then again, what kind of hospital would bunk a woman with an adoption plan next to another mother and her newborn?  

The room seemed dark to me.  There was some lighting, of course, but the dreariness of this new setting was a stark contrast to the room in which the baby had been born.

We introduced our children to Kendra and Johnny, to their boys, to the new baby.

TJ gave a high-five to Alex.  "What's up buddy?" 
The five year-old flashed him a wide grin.  He was a real cute kid with big eyes, long lashes.  

The 18 month-old was toddling around, his mouth sucking on a bottle of juice.  He was cute too, although something of a mess, with his face sticky from the apple juice.  Or snot perhaps.  Whether he had a cold or had been crying or simply squirting the contents of his bottle directly onto his cheeks, I couldn't tell.  But he was quiet the whole time.

Kendra tried to explain our presence there to Alex:
"These are the nice people who are going to take care of the baby."
Alex looked down.  There was some type of portable video game player on his lap.  I thought he was about to start fiddling with the buttons, that he was ready to start a new game.  But he surprised me by placing the toy carefully on the ground.  Then, he bent down again to get something else off the floor.  I couldn't see what it was he was reaching for--my view was blocked by a heavy chair.  But when Alex finally raised the shiny gold paper over his head, I recognized it immediately.  It was a crown from Burger King.  

Alex walked over to me, crown in hand.  He stood at my feet, lifted his head up so I could see straight into his brown eyes.  
"Can you please give this to my sister someday?  I want her to have it."
His eyes were full of tears, as were mine. 
"Of course I will," I promised.  "I'll keep it safe for her until she's old enough to play with it and I'll tell her it's from you."
Kendra was blowing her nose.  I needed a tissue too, but used my hand.  I folded the crown and placed it inside my diaper bag.  
Tom raised up the two gift bags, the ones with the teddy bears.  "We have something for you boys too," he said.
"And we brought homemade cookies," TJ added.
There was the usual commotion when young children unwrap gifts.  Plus, the chomping of gingerbread men.
"A teddy bear!" Alex exclaimed.
Sara, who had been darting around the room the whole time, ran to pet the bear too.

Out of another bag popped Logan's bear.

"Two teddy bears!" shouted Alex.
"Actually, there will be three teddy bears," I said to Alex.  "Your baby sister is getting one too, so all three of you will have matching bears," I explained.  
The idea of three matching bears occurred to me on the spot--I hadn't actually ordered a third bear for the baby yet.  But it must have been a fairly good idea because Kendra smiled and said:
"You hear that, Alex?  You're all going to have matching teddy bears.  Matching with your baby sister's bear too."
I imagined that someday, the three siblings would be reunited, teddy bears included.  

We all ate some more cookies.  Tom and Johnny took the small children to play in the lounge down the hall.  Sara was happy to run after Alex, while Logan stumbled along after them both.

When the room cleared, Kendra asked TJ if he'd like to hold the baby.

"Okay," he said.
"Sit in that chair," I instructed before passing the baby from Kendra to my teenager.
"TJ is great with babies," I bragged.  "He was in the delivery room when Sara was born," I added, feeling like I probably had already shared this fact with Kendra during one of our earlier conversations.
TJ was cuddling the infant.  I had hoped to have some time alone with Kendra again, but TJ was looking pretty comfortable.  It turned out a good thing, having TJ there with Kendra and I, as he was able to discuss the adoption plan with the kind of careless freedom only an adolescent possesses.   
"Wow, this must be so hard for you," TJ said.  
Kendra nodded.  "Yeah, but it's what I want for her.  I'm doing this because I love her so much."

I didn't know it then, but this type of explanation is common in adoption:

I'm placing my baby for adoption because I love her enough to do so.
It would be selfish of me to keep her.
I want her to have a better life.
Do these phrases spring forth spontaneously each time a new baby is handed over for adoption?  Or is the story more scripted?  Maybe these ideas get implanted by the adoption workers into the birth mothers' minds?  I can't know for sure, but it definitely seems like part of the adoption rhetoric. 

TJ was all ears that night.  He listened to Kendra with a mixture of seriousness yet casual ease.  I realized that the two of them are not all that far apart in age.  In fact, TJ is closer in age to Kendra than I am.

Later, TJ would tell me that Kendra was the strongest woman he'd ever met.   

But that night in the hospital, I wasn't certain of anyone's degree of strength.  I wasn't certain of anything at all.

The baby started to cry.  

"I think she's hungry," TJ said.  "I can feed her if you want," he offered Kendra.
"That's okay," Kendra said.  "I'm actually breastfeeding her," she added softly.  "I want her to get the colostrum.  I didn't know if I should tell you that," Kendra looked at me with an almost apologetic expression.  
"I think that's great," I replied.  And I did.  I also thought this indicated that Kendra might be changing her mind.
To Be Continued...