PAGE # 78
Christmas Eve Day
Approximately 3:00 pm

It turns out that Christmas Eve Day is an optimal time for visiting the pediatric emergency room.  The place was empty when we got there.  No other babies or kids or anxious parents.  Just me, Tom, and Baby Lily.

"Where is everybody?" I wondered aloud.

Tom shrugged.  "At least it won't be a long wait."

"I mean, there can't be less emergencies just because it's a holiday," I said.  

"The pediatrician said the ER will likely fill up later.  Typically gets busier at night."

"I guess.  Or maybe parents are more likely to neglect a medical issue on a holiday.  Unless it's like a blood gushing situation or something.  Too much to get done on Christmas Eve.  Too many guests coming for dinner."

We didn't have time to speculate further--we were already getting called back.  The medical area was also empty--Baby Lily was the sole patient of the hour!

A nurse took Lily's vital signs.  Tom held her while I explained the problem.

"Her belly button is not looking so good," I started.  "It's oozing a ton of pus and it's quite red and we're worried that it might get infected."

The nurse noted that Lily didn't have a fever.  "She's your first baby?"

"No, she's number three," I said. 

I figured the nurse thought we were over-reacting first time parents, but she didn't act too surprised when I mentioned we had other children.  What did throw her, however, was when she asked how old the other two are.

"Our girl is two and our boy is sixteen."

"You have a two-year old, a sixteen-month old, and a newborn?  That'll sure keep you busy!"  The nurse smiled.

"No, our son is sixteen years old," I corrected her.  

"A teenager!  You have a teenager?  When did you have him?  When you were in junior high?"

I was tempted to say yes but took the compliment instead.  Sure I was young when TJ was born (age 21), but I don't look that young.  In fact, I thought I was aging quite rapidly under our current circumstances.

After the nurse left, we waited for the doctor.  This took longer than one might expect given that the place was deserted.  Tom held Lily.  I checked the time on my iPhone.

"This is ridiculous!" I exclaimed.  "Where the hell is the doctor?"

"I don't mind waiting.  In fact, I'd stay here all night.  It could be the best Christmas Eve ever.  I don't have to listen to your mom and TJ arguing.  I finally have some peace."

"Come on, I think everyone's getting along pretty well considering the stress we're all under."

"But it's so much nicer and calmer in here."  Tom kissed Lily's cheek.  Then he looked up at me and mentioned Bobby the bio-dad:  "Where's that interloper now?  Huh?  We're taking care of his baby, but where the hell is he?  If he ends up contesting this adoption, I'd like to know where the hell he was hanging out this Christmas while we were taking care of his baby."

The doctor finally arrived, and he took a quick look at Lily's belly button.  He didn't think it was problematic.  We were told to continue cleaning the umbilical stump, etc.  There was nothing to worry about.

Tom was feeding Lily.  The doctor's exam had woken her up.  She took down the whole bottle and was fast asleep again before the doctor stopped talking.  "It's always better to be safe than sorry," the doctor went on, "cause you never know.  It was the right thing to come in and have her checked out." 

"Yeah, well, our pediatrician was already closed for the day." 

Tom was trying to get a burp out of Lily, who was totally asleep upon his chest.

"Formula really knocks them out," the doctor said.  "Breastfed babies never sleep as much."

"I know," I said.  "I breastfed our other two.  But we're adopting Lily.  So, formula it is."  

The doctor raised his eyebrows.  "Wow, you guys are brave.  Lots of people would be afraid of adopting a newborn because of fetal alcohol syndrome."

And with that he wished us happy holidays and the best of luck with Lily.

Shortly afterwards, as we drove back home, I asked Tom what he thought of the doctor bringing up fetal alcohol syndrome.

"Do you think he noticed something about Lily?  Maybe he noticed something wrong with her?"

Tom scolded me for being ridiculous.  "If he noticed something was wrong, he'd have to tell us.  That's his job.  And anyways, our pediatrician said she's perfect."

"Well, you can't always tell, you know.  I mean, there are physical signs in more extreme cases.  But no one can really know the effects of any amount of alcohol use on the fetus.  And Kendra did drink until she found out she was pregnant.  And she didn't find out until the 9th or 10th week.  That's practically the end of the first trimester!"

Tom patted my knee.  "Lily's fine.  She's totally fine.  She just has a yucky belly button right now."

We made it back home in time for Christmas Eve dinner.  My mother had prepared the table and TJ and Sara were excited to start celebrating.

After dinner, we sat around the Christmas tree and I held Lily on my lap, facing out so she could see the Christmas tree lights.  TJ was singing a Christmas song, and Lily seemed mesmerized--either by the music or the twinkling lights or both--but where was Sara?  

I didn't see my toddler come running toward us until it was too late.  Sara clutched a red stuffed doll in her hand.  It was an Elmo doll.  Sara's hand swung back and then--boom!--she hit Baby Lily straight on the head with Elmo.

I was too shocked to speak, but TJ, who had witnessed the whole assault, was first to reprimand his little sister:

"Sara!  That's not nice!  Santa's watching you and you're not gonna get any presents if you hit Lily.  You better say you're sorry."

Sara pouted.  "No!"

TJ moved closer to Sara and shook his finger at her.  "You better say you're sorry, Sara.  Santa's watching!"

Sara sighed.  "Okay," she said and turned back around to face me, Lily and Elmo:

"I'm sorry Elmo."

Then, she grabbed Elmo and rubbed and kissed his head.

"Elmo's all better now," she assured us.

I couldn't help but laugh.  Tom and TJ were roaring as well.  Only my mom looked concerned.  "She's a naughty little thing, isn't she?" my mom said.  "She needs more discipline!"

"On the contrary," I said.  "Sara's totally normal and that is probably the most normal thing that's happened around here since we took Baby Lily home.  Sara's behavior is entirely appropriate for her age.  It's the rest of us who don't know what to do in this situation!"

And it really was true.  Sara's acting out normalized the whole adoption process.  It actually made everything feel, well, as it should be.  What parent hasn't had an older sibling feel threatened by the sudden appearance of a new baby in the home?  

I'm sorry Elmo!

It was the comic relief in a tragic journey. 

To Be Continued...


Anonymous said...

"Lots of people would be afraid of adopting a newborn because of fetal alcohol syndrome."

Really? How many couples and singles are waiting to adopt a newborn in the US? That doctor was an idiot. A thoughtless idiot.

Jennifer said...


Yes, I suspect the doctor was expressing his personal opinion and just prefaced it with "lots of people" as to not take responsibility for the remark. Whatever the case, it was certainly an insensitive remark.
Thanks for reading,

Daughter Left Behind said...

That was an odd statement to make. I would have thought most people would think of other kinds of substance abuses other than just single out alcohol...there are many things a fetus can be exposed to besides alcohol to worry about. Weird.

Jennifer said...

Daughter left behind,

In the few short weeks that we had Baby Lily in our care, I learned that people often make all kinds of weird statements/assumptions about adopted persons.
Thanks for reading,
Jennifer :)

Jay Iyer said...

Jennifer, I just arrived at your blog through a comment you made in response to an article by Christy Maldonado, biological mother of Baby Veronica, in the Huffington Post. You write so well. I think I know the gist of your story and I want you to know I admire the choices you made in regards to Baby Lily. Regardless of what holds up legally, I believe it is morally, ethically, socially, emotionally, etc. best for a child's well being and sense of identity if he/she is raised by his/her birth family, except in dire situations where they are unable to provide basic necessities and safety for the child. I learned that through our experiences fostering a little girl (you can read it, if you like, at this link):


I cannot imagine adopting a child, knowing there is a biological parent who wants to and is capable of caring for and loving that child. Thanks for sharing your story.

Jennifer said...

Thank you.
I totally agree. In our situation, neither bio parent ended up with Lily either. And not everyone even comes out of this story alive. Certain truths will forever remain out of my reach, and we had to make a choice under ambiguous circumstances.
I did read your unbelievable story and am so happy for how things turned out for everyone. It is a perfect ending and restores some of my hope regarding the whole system. I do admire your strength and commitment to loving a child who would not stay in your home. As a reader, I felt so much joy ultimately learning that Nina is able to be loved by all of you.
Thanks for stopping by.
All the best,

Jay Iyer said...

Jennifer, yours is a remarkable story too. Remarkable, albeit sad. Ours is not perfect either. Just yesterday I walked into a situation that broke my heart for Nina. I was able to take charge of the kids for a few hours. Hard to leave Nina behind in a tension-filled situation, yet I know I am exactly where I need to be - as part of the family preservation network for Nina. I believe the best case scenario for her is if we all continue to be around her, loving and supporting her.

I will continue to follow your story, even though it makes me so sad to think about the final outcome for Baby Lily and the fact that everyone did not come out of it alive.

Anonymous said...

What happened to lily? Did I miss something? This sounds so sad.

Jennifer said...

Have you written more about your story beyond the single article? It's interesting to meet you here online--your outcome is a bit of what we were hoping for and thought might happen in our situation. That is, that Lily would end up back with her mother and we would somehow remain involved in their lives. I'm sure it is much more challenging than the simple fantasy we once held. Please do stay in touch.

No, you have not missed anything. I am still in the middle of blogging the story. Thanks for reading,
Jennifer :)

Jay Iyer said...

Jennifer, please feel free to e-mail me at any time: jiyer4835@gmail.com

I am so happy I found your blog. I am not proud to say that when we began our adoption journey, all I could think about was how I would finally get a baby of my very own. I conveniently divested my mind of all thoughts regarding "other" family in the baby's life. I hope that, since those ignorant days, I have acquired some level of empathy and respect for the rights of the biological family. They are precious and it is only recently that I further became aware of how easy it is to take away an unwed biological father's parental rights.

Some day I would like to share my ongoing story in a blog. The only writing I have shared online thus far is the link I pointed you to.

There is a yin and yang aspect to our stories, yours and mine. For example, like Kendra, Rayna too was married with two children born of the marriage when she became pregnant, by another man, with Nina. Unlike Kendra, Rayna chose Nina over the marriage. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Rayna had chosen the marriage instead. I am fairly certain Nina would have been put up for adoption and there is a good chance we would have become her adoptive parents - even though, like you, my husband and I also questioned the social workers repeatedly about Nina's biological father and we were told not to worry about it. I now realize that poor guy didn't have a leg to stand on, legally - Rayna's ex-husband was the presumed father under the law and this one night stand was a nobody who to this day isn't even aware he has fathered Nina. I am so glad Nina is being raised by at least one biological parent. This is what is heart wrenching to me about Baby Lily, that it appears she has no biological family in her life. If that had to be the outcome, I wish empathetic people like Tom and you had become her adoptive parents.

I aspire to be like you, Jennifer. I will end by urging you not to close your hearts off to adoption. Sometimes, as I have seen (and now adopted) through the foster system, it is needed as a last resort of a loving home for these children. For us personally, however, now that we are more enlightened about how fraught with unethical practices adoption can be, we would never adopt through a voluntary placement and I absolutely do not believe in pre-birth matching.

Keep writing, and you stay in touch too!

Jennifer said...


Thanks for your email address. Are you on Facebook? I'm much better at keeping up there.

As for kids who really need homes--yes, one of my closest friends was adopted at age 5 or 6--she had been with her biological mom for 2 years (Dad in jail). The state terminated mom's rights, and my friend was in and out of different foster homes for years. She was ultimately in an orphanage by the time she got placed with her adoptive parents. It was actually her story that had me motivated to adopt in the first place. But yes, private newborn adoption is a whole unethical mess here in this country.

Jay Iyer said...

Jennifer, I unfortunately am not on Facebook. The friend you mentioned - I am so glad she was finally adopted and got to experience that stability and consistency of family. I have a friend who aged out of the foster system after bouncing from home to home. She is an amazingly well-adjusted woman today and is a huge resource for kids that age out of the foster system - yet she continues to be haunted by the question, "why did none of the foster homes I lived in want to adopt me?" There is such an undercurrent of rejection there - first by her biological family who had such horrible issues there is no way they could have taken care of her, and then over and over from various foster placements as well. This is why there is a need for adoption - it is the unethical aspects that we have to fight.

Jennifer said...


Totally agree--adoption was meant to find homes for children who truly have none. I'm sorry for your friend's early trauma, and glad to hear she has transcended it.


Jess said...

Jennifer, I too happened upon your blog through the Baby Veronica drama. I want to say that I wish my daughter's adopters were like you. We found out the hard way that most adopters will tell you anything to obtain your child and then to hell with you. You and your husband really are good people.

by Jennifer said...


Thanks for reading and I'm very sorry about your adoption situation. I've heard from so many natural mothers who are in your situation. It's really unbelievable that this goes on.

All the best,
Jennifer :)