PAGE # 55
Approximately 2:30 pm 

I was rolled out of the hospital in a wheelchair.  
"It's the discharge policy," the attorney had told me.  "Whether you birthed the baby or not."
A nurse waited with me.  Tom had run ahead to get the car.  I sat in the wheelchair, snuggling the baby.  I wasn't sure whether this particular nurse knew that I was not the baby's real mother.  Most likely she did.  I imagine it's the kind of thing that the nurses must talk about; that is, they probably gossip more than usual when a baby goes home with someone other than the woman who checked into the hospital in the first place. 

Tom drove the car up and rushed out to help with the baby.  I ran around to the other side of the car, crawled in back, and watched the baby sleep peacefully as we drove away from the hospital.
"This is the strangest feeling ever," Tom said.  I could see him looking at me in the rear view mirror.
"Yeah," I agreed.
"I feel like we just kidnapped her or something," Tom said. 
"Seriously," I said.  "This feels crazy.  It's like my brain can't figure out how there's a baby here."
But even if we could wrap our heads around it all, our brainpower was needed elsewhere:  Tom was battling our health insurance company--they didn't want to add the baby to our policy until the adoption process reached finalization--but that would take at least six more months.  Plus, I needed to call our pediatrician for a Monday morning appointment.  I reached for my cell phone, started dialing Dr. Shine, then pressed 'End Call' before the pediatrician's receptionist could even answer.
"Wait.  I can't call yet," I told Tom.  "I don't know how to schedule an appointment for her until we decide on her name."
"What are you talking about?  Call the office, tell them we adopted a baby named Lily, and hurry up because they close early on Saturdays."
I shook my head.
"Tom," I said, "I don't think we should name her Lily anymore."
"What? Why?"
"Because it's not the name Kendra picked in the end.  Kendra already named her Holly and I don't think we should change it."
"That's ridiculous," Tom said.  "Of course we can still name her Lily.  Kendra said she loved the name."
"Yeah, but she ended up naming her Holly.  So her name is technically Holly.  And that's the name that's going to be on her birth certificate."
"No, the social worker said that she'll get a new birth certificate after the adoption is finalized."
"So what?  I don't think it's right.  That's her name and I don't think we should change it."
Tom stopped at a red light and turned his head around to face me:
"I don't think Kendra cares if we change it--she knew we were picking the name Lily.  Maybe she wants to have her own name for the baby too."
I hadn't thought of that.  That Kendra might prefer we not keep the name Holly.  But I continued my protest:
"I'm not sure that even matters.  This little girl was given a birth name and I don't think we should change it.  What are we supposed to tell her someday--that we changed her real name?"
I was thinking about one of my best friends--Crystal.  Since Crystal wasn't adopted until age five, she was in and out of multiple foster homes--and in one case, her name was changed.  I didn't think it was right.  My severe case of moral indignation was beginning to emerge. 

Tom disagreed and he did so strongly (please recall his aforementioned power of persuasion):
"Look," he argued.  "I hate the name Holly.  I really really hate it.  It's got to be better to name her Lily--that's a popular name right now and it's going to be hard enough for her being adopted.  I think it's only fair to give her a name that blends in more easily."
"I like the name Holly.  I don't think it's an odd name.  Tons of people are named Holly."
"Name one," he challenged me.
"I can't think of anyone right this second, but I know it's a perfectly fine name.  It's a real cute name.  I like it better than Lily even."
"Can you imagine how the kids are gonna tease her with a name like Holly?" Tom countered.  "It's the plant people kiss each other underneath at Christmas!"
"No it's not!  That's mistletoe!"
"Mistletoe Shmistletoe!  It's just another holiday plant!  Do you want her named after a holiday plant?"
"No, but it's already her name!"
"So, people change names all the time after coming home from the hospital."
Tom cited a couple of our friends who had changed their kids' names a week or two after coming home.
"I just don't think it's right.  Her name is already Holly."
Tom refused to budge.  "No way.  We picked Lily.  We're going to be raising this child like our own and we're calling her Lily."

I didn't fight Tom on the issue any further.  I could tell from his tone of voice that it was all futile.  But another piece of my heart broke for the little baby girl who had already lost her first family and was now about to lose her true name.  
"Fine," I said.  "You win," but by the time we arrived home, I was so disgusted with my husband, I wanted to whack him over the head with a baby bottle.
"I can't believe you!" I shouted at him.
"I can't believe that this is what it feels like to take home a baby you haven't birthed."
"What the heck are you talking about?"
"That you just waltzed home with a baby this time and the other two times.  And now I'm waltzing too--no pregnancy, no labor and no delivery--and now I see how much easier it is to have been you the other two times!"
"What do you want from me?  It's not my fault I can't do the pregnancy part!"
"Yeah, but now I can see how much easier it was for you and it's pissing me off!"  We were not quite in the front door yet.  Tom was holding the baby in the infant carseat carrier.  He let out an audible sigh but I could not stop:
"This is utterly ridiculous--bringing a baby home and feeling totally normal!  Physically normal," I clarified.  "I can't believe this is what it feels like for a man.  I can't believe this is what it felt like for you.  I'm freaking mad at you.  I'm really freaking mad at you."
"Jen, I think you're losing it a little."
"Maybe," I admitted.  "But I feel like I want to hit you."
Tom laughed.
"It's not funny," I pouted.  "It's not fair."
"But I love you," he said.  "I love you more than anyone in the world."
"You're annoying."
"What did I do?"
"Nothing!  Forget it!"
"Is this about the name?  Is this because I don't like the name Holly?"
"Maybe.  I don't know.  I feel terrible."
And then, I burst into tears.

Tom hugged me with his free arm.
"I know, honey, I know" he said.  "It's really sad for Kendra.  And for the baby too.  But look, we have to take care of her now.  She's going to be our daughter.  It's not fair to her to be sad when she comes home for the first time.  She needs us to be happy.  She deserves a happy family."
To Be Continued...

1 comment:

Addison Cooper said...

Very powerful post, and well-written.

"I imagine it's the kind of thing that the nurses must talk about; that is, they probably gossip more than usual when a baby goes home with someone other than the woman who checked into the hospital in the first place." - I don't know; I imagine it happens enough that they probably don't think of the departing adoptive parents as abnormal. It probably happens enough that it seems normal.