Baby girl is almost four months old and I am no longer in shock that I am a Baby Mama.
I was at first.
On February 5th, our beautiful birthmother Ashley chose our adoptive family profile, and Eden Renee was born on February 21st.
So if you are keeping track, we had about Two Weeks Notice before becoming parents. Though it had always been on our Bucket List to have kids, adoption pushed us onto the fast track.
Before baby was born, we took Ashley out shopping and to dinner, and with a dash of Serendipity, we stumbled into the birth father at the store with no prior arrangements.
He asked questions. We asked questions. I complimented his dreadlocks, and we walked and talked, and invited him to dinner.
We crowded around a Zaxby’s table, eating fried chicken and talking about our jobs and personal lives.
We were nervous but confident, and although part of it terrified me like Scary Movie, the other part glittered and sparkled because maybe It’s a Wonderful Life.
Eden Renee came to life at less than 7 pounds and with a tuft of hair hiding under her striped hospital hat. Her Bourne Identity was bi-racial; a beautiful mix of her Italian birthmother and African-American birth father.
Without our DNA or our blood, they placed her in our arms to clothe herself in our last name and unconditional love. We took her home, and the moment we walked in the door, it was Instant Family.
The first night, my body gave me The Blindside and decided not to function anymore. I battled nausea, vomiting, and extreme anxiety. It was Nightmare Before Christmas until I send out an SOS. Friends rushed over to hold me as I cried, listen to my pain and tears of confusion, and stay the night to help me take care of the baby and myself.
They did laundry. They fed baby on the couch, a pillow tucked under their arms. They rotated naps in the guest room. They exhibited peace and calm when I was awake at 2 am, shaking and teary-eyed, nerves shooting through my body.
Their voices dripped sweet, and it was Miracle on 34th Street.
Monday morning burst with the bright light of a new day and it was You’ve Got Mail, packages arriving nonstop in my mailbox and on my doorstep. My house filled with big and small brown Amazon boxes, sliced open with scissors. Onesies, rubber duckies, diapers, wipes, towels, blankets and newborn size 27 Dresses splayed all over my couches and guest room bed.
If she wasn’t in her bassinet, Eden Renee lay curled up in my arms. I imagine telling her one day that the only time I got anything done was While You Were Sleeping. My eyes were bleary with exhaustion, stinging like I had spent an evening around a blazing bonfire. I fought against feeling like a robot, meeting the needs of a helpless human learning how to live outside of the womb. Maternal instincts kicked in while Eden experienced Meet the Parents in a startling way.
But I didn’t feel like a mom, yet. I didn’t feel like I was babysitting, but I didn’t feel like I was parenting either.
Overwhelming emotions of a whirlwind adoption slammed my body. I ached from the underlying stress of a weekend in a hospital and then Sleepless in Seattle at home with soft whines from a newborn at 11:00pm. And then 2:32 am. And then 5:50 am.
I was grateful, yes. I knew we were the parents of the child, yes. But I was mentally processing everything at once, and I felt lost under the deluge of emotions.
Kevin was Man of Steel: strong and helpful, bearing the weight of two jobs and newborn dad life without a complaint. He was Daddy DayCare, washing bottles alongside me and walking laps in our house, his steady gait moving quietly across our floor; her restlessness abating with each step.
My arms were moving; washing bottles, thawing donated breast milk in a blue bowl of hot water, and then filling up bottles and throwing away plastic breastmilk storage bags.
My legs were moving; walking to pick Eden up from the creamy-white bassinet, her thin muslin blanket wrapped around her as she nestled under clothes that just barely fit her little body.
My brain was in constant awareness of what was going on in each corner of the house, and the feeding, sleeping and waking schedule. Thoughts blurred constantly back and forth, Who is texting me? Who is coming by the house later? Who is buying me diapers and what size do I need? I kept meticulous scribbles of feeding times and ounces in The Notebook.
I was moving, napping, walking, bending, washing, cleaning, thinking… going through the motions of a caretaker.
My heart hadn’t quite caught up with the adoption paperwork. Though I knew we were legally her parents, I was fuzzy on the details of how we fit together as a family.
The quarantine was in full-force, leaving us Frozen in the house. The two women that offered to help every week could not come over due to health concerns.
We were on our own. It was the Perfect Storm of newborn life and worldwide pandemic, and I didn’t have enough hands.
But there was one thing that connected me to my child; one thing that inched me closer and closer toward a relationship that the umbilical cord didn’t give me.
I couldn’t stop staring at her face.
She was so so so breathtakingly beautiful.
Her cheeks puffed the most gentle breaths. Her dark hairline framed her head like a painter’s masterpiece. The brownness of her skin deepened down her arms, across her knuckles, on her itty-bitty fingers, and on the tops of her feet. Her nose widened and perked up in a stunning silhouette, and her full lips blushed a soft pink.
She was radiant like a star, gleaming at every turn of the light. I snapped pictures and then deleted them because the photo was just a tint of what I saw when I looked at her. A Star is Born, and she was in my living room.
Before I felt in my bones I was indeed a mother, before I recovered from the shock of a rapid adoption, before the reality hit that this baby would grow up with our last name; her teensy-weensy face captured my full attention.
With her eyes closed, she was Sleeping Beauty.
When she slid us a sneaky smile, she was Miss Congeniality.
When she finished her bottle and wanted to sleep, she stuck out her bottom lip and relaxed her eyes. I was wonder-struck, bragging to others and looking back to her face again and again, asking her to do That Thing You Do.
Soon she was three weeks going on three months going on 13 going on 30. She was growing into her skin and we were there. We were squeezing the juice out of every second; figuring things out and trying so hard to embrace the burden and joy of parenting for the very first time.
Her onesies filled out and she was more awake but also fussier. Her evening witching hours were a constant barrage of tears, feedings and screamings. Kevin and I rose from the couch again and again, walking and pacing and reading online all the tips and tricks.
When I forget to check her diaper and realize she has been sitting in her poop for twenty minutes, I felt like Dumb and Dumber.
When I finally went to lay down at night, I realized I overextended the muscles in my lower back. The next day I paid attention to my back tightening when I picked her up, or carried her for too long on my shoulder, my left arm under her bottom and my right arm on her back. It was Bend it Like Beckham but without access to a masseuse.
I looked over at Kevin and his eyes were big as he held our wild baby in his arms. I thought “Oh this is How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” He didn’t realize that even though I didn’t have the hormones from a pregnancy and birth, I was still fully capable of snappy words, exhausted mumbled sentences and endless tears, thus becoming The Devil Wears Prada.
Even though she was an angel of a gift to us, and we were so grateful, we couldn’t ignore the obvious fact that we were New in Town, first-time parents, and given less than 3 weeks to even attempt to prepare for newborn life. We were on the hunt, The Pursuit of Happyness.
Many nights, I held my phone was in my hand and searched the What to Expect app for help, help, help. How were others dealing with colicky babies? Should I keep feeding her through the hiccups? How long should her wake time be? How many ounces should she be eating? My questions and concerns were constant.
So I tried not to lose my mind, but instead accept the Amazing Grace at my doorstep every day in countless ways.
Diapers, and a diaper pail and diaper cream and diaper wipes.
Dinners of rice, chicken, salad, vegetables, potatoes and gravy, and even dessert.
A mother-in-law visit to help with nighttime feedings, so I collapse into bed to try and rest.
Prayers from family, friends, and wise counsel from those who have gone before.
I still had moments of daring to tear out the front door, yelling, “Catch Me if You Can” over my shoulder as I sprinted far, far away. (Who am I kidding? I didn’t have the energy to sprint.)
But with each day that passed, though not all my worries were Gone with the Wind, my thoughts narrowed in focus.
Her constant need for care kept me busy fixating on her. Learning her. Paying attention to her. Soothing her. Watching her grow.
I propped the bottle to her mouth while she guzzled like a starving caveman, or slow like a sleepy sloth, milk dripping down the corners of her mouth.
I tenderly changed her diapers, cleaning the umbilical cord area with an alcohol swab and applying cream to prevent rashes.
We bathed her, wrapping her tight in a towel and shushing her cries of cold before we could get her warm and snug in her zip-up jammies with monkeys on the feet.
And I lay her down every hour or two in her bassinet with her sweet eyes closed, moving my hand out of the way at the last second so she could drift off into dreams among the stars.
On Mother’s Day, I looked at Eden like she was the Million Dollar Baby and I had won the lottery. I thanked her for making me a mother. The title was growing on me, like a queen’s robe that made me stand a little taller and own my identity. We were roommates that just had to get used to each other at first.
Weeks trotted by. Eden smiled when I greeted her in the morning with “¡Buenos Días!” She began to know my voice. Know my face. Know the difference between my singing and my talking. The more walks we took, the faster I could walk. And then jog.
Soon I had the energy to have a conversation with my baby instead of just stare at her. I pushed through the shame of being too exhausted to talk to her, or tell her how I felt in the moment. The first several weeks had sucked a lot of life out of me, but her beauty had pressed me in closer.
And the love met me where I was.
Now, I push the stroller confidently and peer at her big, brown eyes gulping in the surrounding sights, her curly hair a jungle on top with a blooming flower bow resting in the middle. She looks out at the Spanish moss hanging off the trees, hears the crackle of rustling leaves and feels the cool wind float across her.
And she sees Mama’s face full and happy, whispering “PS I Love You.”