The saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words” sometimes though, we hold memories that no picture could ever contain.
It had been just over a month since we met Nichole, a young pregnant girl, wanting to find a married couple to adopt her child. My husband and I were lucky enough to be friends with her pre-natal care nurse who thought of us when this young girl, in many ways still a child herself, mentioned adoption was what she wanted for her unborn baby.
I remember noticing when we arrived to that conference how young she actually looked. The nurse had told us she was young. I had tried to prepare myself to see a young teenager, but I was not prepared for how similar this child looked to one of my own nieces at that age. Aware that my staring was probably making her very uncomfortable I confessed to her that her mother reminded me of one of my sisters, and that she herself reminded me of my favorite niece. She smiled at that statement, and started talking to us.
“My nurse told me a lot about you, I thought you would want this ” she said offering me an ultrasound print. I took it from her and stared at it. It wasn’t a blurry image full of static like other ultrasound pictures where you have to have someone point out the baby in the image for you. No, this was a clear image of a baby with a strong jawline and angled nose; distinctive features which mirrored those in the face of the young girl sitting across from me. “This is a really clear image”, I said to her. She glanced at it for a second then clarified “He’s a boy”.
The next few hours seemed to fly by. She told us about her pregnancy, how she had tried to keep it hidden from her mother; how the boy involved had denied being the father; and how some of her friends had tried to persuade her to have an abortion. We each got a crash-course in the other’s family history. Details that would normally take years to know even in a close friendship were compressed into an afternoon. Everything from hereditary traits and possible genetic health concerns of the baby to where we would most likely take him for family vacations was discussed.
The entire time, I held that ultrasound image. I looked from the picture to the girl sitting across from me and wondered what her expectations of us were and if we were measuring up anywhere close to them.
All of the adoption paperwork had been prepared that day, and completed as much as possible. All those forms were just waiting in a file, waiting for the birth of the baby, and for the final signatures allowing the petition to be filed. As we were leaving I held out the ultrasound image for her. “No”, she said, “That’s yours”. At that point, I had hope and I held it in my hands.
That was not the first time we had begun the process, met with a birth mother who was absolutely certain they could not keep their child and would like to have it adopted, only to receive a call the day the baby was born letting us know the mother has changed her mind and decided to keep her child. That very real and very heartbreaking scenario weighed heavily on my mind following this interview. The harsh reality is the only way I get a baby is if someone decides to give me one, and as wonderful as the thought of being a mother is, the thought of denying someone else that experience is hard to deal with. Maybe this time would be different, better.
We had very little contact with Nichole throughout the remainder of February and the first part of March. Looking at the little ultrasound picture she gave me, I decided I wouldn’t be strong enough to keep any hope of parenthood if this adoption failed and I had to return or give away more baby things like before. I did not buy a bassinet, sheets, diapers, or baby clothes this time. I tried my best to carry on as normal over the next few weeks, waiting for any news about the baby.
The call came around 4:30 a.m. on March 23, 1999. It was Nichole’s mother with a short, quick message:”We’re on the way to the hospital, meet us there”. It was time. We both dressed and were out the door in record time, almost holding our breath as we drove though the still black cold morning in silence. When we reached the maternity ward we were quickly escorted to Nichole’s recovery room. The baby had been born just a few minutes before we arrived. We stood by the bed talking with Nichole and her mother; it had been a quick and easy delivery for her and the baby was healthy.
The nurse finished cleaning him, wrapped him in a small white blanket, capped his little head with a blue toboggan and brought him to the bedside. Even all snuggled up he was immediately recognizable. He looked remarkably like the ultrasound image, and like the girl recovering in the bed. The nurse then asked Nichole if she wanted to hold her son. She looked at him for a moment. I braced myself. She was looking at this beautiful, perfect baby, and I wouldn’t blame her if she changed her mind. Very quietly she told the nurse, “No, that’s her baby”.
The nurse laid him in my arms and asked what his name would be. I knew Nichole was looking at me but I couldn’t look away from his tiny face. “Nicholas” I said, “His name is Nicholas”.