As the sun dipped below the earth,we scooted down the windy Pennsylvania roads and slid into Maryland where we stopped for gas. My hands shook uncontrollably as I handed the money to the cashier for the power bars and coffee I knew we'd need for energy for the journey, as I looked out the window and saw your Dad pumping gas. His eyes darted, and I could tell he was making lists in his head and trying to check off everything that needed to be done.
My body felt like I was shivering, but I wasn't cold. I stepped back in the car and nervously smiled at your Dad. There were so few words in those moments between the two of us, because there just didn't need to be- we both knew how the other felt. Words couldn't do it justice, the look in our eyes said everything.
We took the camper back to the storage lot, and without saying a word simultaneously got out of the car and pushed the camper into the space. We hurriedly rushed back into the car and sped home, talking on the way about the plan. Your Dad had to go into the attic to get the carseat and stroller- we'd hid it away weeks ago after yet another failed match. I didn't want to look at it, the smiling baby face on the side felt like a mockery to my lack of motherhood in those dark weeks.
I had to run into your nursery, which was complete but far from organized, and grab whatever I could. Luckily we already had clothes packed (and overpacked, because, well, you know me- the classic overpacker) from the camping trip, but I grabbed even more. I threw baby toys and blankets and bibs and pacifiers into random bags. Then I saw it draped on your changing table- the owl blanket.
The week before while walking through Target, I grabbed that blanket and couldn't put it down. There was no reason for it. We had no match on the horizon, but for some reason I just felt compelled to buy it. And of course, sweet little one, as you well know- it was pink.
We threw everything into the car and hit the road. As we pulled onto I-95, we suddenly couldn't stop talking... is this real? Are we really doing this? Did we seriously just pull onto a major highway to drive into the night with no idea about what lies before us? The nerves started to subside, and it felt like a giant adventure we were embarking on, just the two of us...hoping it would end in three.
I drove from Maryland to North Carolina, and your Dad slept. In those moments all I could think of was you...what did you look like? How were you doing? How was your first Mom doing? Was she okay? We were getting updates from the social worker, but I wanted nothing more than to not be driving on that road- but to be by her side. I wanted a time machine so I would know how it all turned out, so I would know if we would be driving home with the car seat still in the box, or with you in it.
One thing that I will always remember about that drive was the moon. It was enormous, and it lit up the entire highway. At one in the morning when nothing else was lit up on the long stretch of road,the rays of light splashed over the asphalt. It always seemed like it was right in front of us, guiding us to you.
We switched off driving duties in North Carolina, and when I got in the passenger seat I grabbed the pink owl blanket from the back of the car. I wrapped it around my arms and held it close, clutching it to my beating heart. I took a deep breath in and out into its soft fibers, and I prayed for you. I prayed for your first Mom. I prayed you'd be alright, and she'd be alright, and that everything would be alright.
Me in the car, under the owl blanket on the way to Florida.
I just kept looking at that moon, unable to sleep. I found myself in the wee hours of the morning talking to the moon. Tell me she's coming soon, Moon. Tell me she's safe, tell me she's here.
At 3:32 AM, you took your first breath into this world, and our lives forever changed. I could feel it. Something inside of me, deep inside my soul changed at that exact moment. Somehow, someway, I just knew you were here. I knew it in my bones that you were on this planet with us, at last.
A text from the social worker a few minutes later confirmed what I already knew: she's here. Weighing 8lbs 9oz, Apgars are 8/9. Everything is good.
It was only after that text that I felt I could rest. My soul was once, finally, at peace.
I wasn't there to see you take your first breath, sweet one, but my soul was there with you. Those special moments right after birth were just for you and your First Mom. That was your special time, and in a way, I'm so glad you have that to share with her and only her. I have a lot of time with you,and for you two to have those special moments means quite a bit to me.
But the journey wasn't over. Once morning light hit, so did reality- you were not our daughter yet. We were heading into completely unknown territory. That morning when the sun rose, the moon stayed in the sky for a very long time, as if it knew we were nervous, it stayed with us, reassuring us we were still on the right path.
The sunrise on your birthday
Georgia felt like it lasted forever. I thought that state was never going to end, and it felt like the car just couldn't move fast enough. Once we crossed into Florida, I felt my stomach drop. I was terrified of what would happen next.
We arrived at the hospital around ten am. We'd been driving all night, hadn't showered and our faces were swollen from the tears of our worry. Walking into that hospital felt so surreal, so terrifying. We had never met your first Mom, we had never met the social worker or the lawyer or anyone there. Every face was a stranger, every street and stop sign and long hospital hallway was brand new to us.
We met up with the lawyer in the hospital and talked for a bit- she had already met with your first Mom and had met you. She said that your first Mom was spending some alone time with you. This scared me, because after all of the losses we'd experienced my greatest fear was losing you. But we completely understood. We told her to take all of the time she needed, to let us know on her terms what she felt comfortable with. I am so glad you had that time with just the two of you, that bonding time was important. She is and always will be your Mother. You are her daughter in a way you'll never be by daughter, and you're my daughter in a way you'll never be her daughter. But at that very moment- you were hers alone. We were just the people in the waiting room, for all intents and purposes. At that moment, I knew we had to just sit back and let things go how they were meant to go... but it was killing me inside not knowing how they'd go. I found myself calling my Mom and crying to her, telling her my fears, praying with your Dad that things would turn out how they were meant to, rubbing the edges of the pink owl blanket for comfort.
After what felt like a lifetime, we were asked to come in. I ran to your first Mom and gave her a tight hug, asked her how she was doing, she asked me how the drive was, and we had chit chat.
Then the lawyer brought you in... and suddenly, everything was quiet.
And suddenly, love exploded all around me.
It's so hard to describe this...seeing you for the first time. It wasn't how I pictured in my head it would go. I always thought seeing my child for the first time would be like meeting a person I'd never met- but it wasn't. I knew you. From the moment my eyes met yours, it was as if my soul had said, "Oh there you are. I've been looking for you." The gleam in your eyes, the quick smile you flashed me, the tiny fingers that curled so tightly around mine. I knew you. I've known you since forever. I looked at this tiny face staring back up at me, eyes wide open and focused. I looked deep into your eyes, and I broke down and wept. I wept because in my soul, I knew I'd finally found you. I knew that after all the searching, all the pain and heartache and looking for the past two years... I knew it was over. I just knew. You were my daughter, through and through. Just as you'd always been, just as you'd been in these letters I've been writing. Your face was the face that had appeared in all my dreams of our future baby. Your smile was the smile I've known in my heart for so long. Your big soulful brown eyes were the windows to that tiny soul I'd been praying and wishing and hoping for. It was you. That was the moment my heart had been waiting for. It was the moment of a lifetime. It was just like the first time I looked into your Dads eyes- I'd known him forever, and once I looked into his eyes I knew. And once I looked into your eyes, I looked back up into your Dads hazel eyes, those eyes I'd fallen in love with so many moons ago, and with my lungs working hard for me to breath between the gasps of tears I whispered out, "It's her. She's here. She's really, finally here."
Your Dad held you and his eyes welled. There was a look on his faced like I'd never seen- this immeasurable amount of joy that only a father can have. I will never forget that look. I will never forget a single moment of that beautiful day, your first day gracing us on this big green earth.
That day you spent in the nursery, and we spent in the room with getting to know your first Mom alongside the social worker. That is a day I will forever cherish, because we got to know so much about her. We bonded over food and books and movies. We talked about your future, what all of our hopes and wishes and dreams are for you. We talked about family and traditions. We talked about your hair and skin, and how I would take care of it. We talked about how very loved you are- and how you'd always know you are loved, especially by your first Mom. We talked about your siblings and their traits, and wondered if you'd share the same. We talked about openness.
Then, we talked about your name.
Your first Mom asked us if we had a name in mind. I told her we'd always had the name Lorelai picked out for a girl, but we were open. She suggested the name Lillian, because it goes well with one of your siblings names. We agreed- it just fit you. It was you through and through.
She then asked if we had thought of a middle name. Yes, we said, Faith, because of the faith it took to get us here, to this place. She happily agreed, and said she loved that name.
And then you were you, Lillian Faith.
I am so grateful that we came up with your name together, and that your first Mom graced you with such a gorgeous first name. That is a gift you will always carry from her, now and forever. Your name is such a representation of who you are- first hers, then ours, and always ours together.
The social worked dubbed it a "cursive name", because of how beautiful it would look in cursive. We all agreed.
That night we headed to a hotel your first Mom suggested. We walked along the water, taking in what would be our last night as just the two of us. We grabbed pizza, and crashed that night. We were so exhausted from the drive and all of the emotions of the day, sleep came easily.
Our last night as a family of two!
Placement day was difficult, but somehow peaceful. Your first Mom was so incredibly courageous and stoic that day. She felt in her heart that this was what was best for you, and she put aside all of her own pain and hurt and anguish to make that decision for you. We will always be so grateful to her for the decision she made. We took pictures together, took turns holding you and praying over you and crying over you. She gave you the most beautiful kiss I've ever witnessed on your soft baby cheek, we agreed to talk soon, and then it was just the three of us.
After placement, they had to get a room ready for us to stay in. We went downstairs to the cafeteria to get our bearings and call family, and I couldn't contain the tears. Then, when I sent the first picture of you to our family, our phones rang off the hook. They were all so elated for you to be in our family, and they all couldn't get over how absolutely perfect you are.
The view from the hospital
You stayed one more night in the hospital, and we just couldn't put you down. We took turns holding you, wrapped in that pink owl blanket. We would just hold you tight and stare at you.
I remember cradling your tiny hand in mine, wondering what those hands would do. Would they heal the sick? Would they help the less fortunate? Would they type on important computers? Would they pet animals, or craft things, or drive fast cars? The possibilities were so endless.
Whatever those tiny hands grew up to do, they had already changed the world. They certainly changed our world that day. We were new people because of you. Life was suddenly full of love and light. Your Dad and I held each other close, with you cradled in between us. We were suddenly, finally, a family.