“I honestly can’t believe I’m making this call, but there is a healthy newborn baby girl at the hospital and her birth mother is relinquishing her rights. If you say yes, you can go and pick her up tomorrow.”
These were the words that we never expected to hear from our foster- caseworker. After a millisecond of shock, the fact that there was an ‘if’ in there made us laugh. And tomorrow felt like an eternity. We said yes—actually, we shouted ‘YES!’—if I’m going to be honest.
The foster care system in California deems it necessary for any family preparing to adopt to have a bedroom ready for the possibility of almost any age range for the child coming into your home. So we had general baby gear for 0-3 years old (a convertible crib, closet, changing table—the basics).
We rushed out the door, grabbed dinner which we couldn’t eat, begged a police officer at the local university to and went shopping. It was the first time in my life—but certainly not the last—that I’ve ever filled an entire shopping cart with non-food items. Homecoming outfit, first bear, clothes, socks that look like shoes (the beginning of an addiction I didn’t know I had), bathtub, bottles!
We arrived home and did a mad dash around the house to prepare everything we had. We did not sleep that night. We knew that even though a child had to live with us for six months—during which the birth parents could change their minds, among other things related to the Child Welfare System—before we could even apply to her, our child was coming home to us the next morning. We believed she was meant to be our daughter.
The social worker called the next morning and told us we could pick her up. She asked, “Have you chosen a name for her?”
I answered with tears in my eyes and love in my heart, “Her name is Ella.”
“Well,” she said, “Ella is a beautiful baby with the most wonderful disposition. She is waiting patiently for you to take her home.”
On the drive south on the busy Los Angeles freeway, we called our parents to tell them they were about to become grandparents. They were shocked, nervous and excited. When we arrived at the hospital, we were greeted by the hospital social worker (the first person I’d shared our daughter’s name with), led to the NICU, scrubbed in and walked into her room.
And then…we saw her.
The nurse said, “She is so beautiful! She is calm and content. Just don’t be late feeding her because she will let you know!” And then…we held her.
As they placed this 5lb 4oz baby in my arms, I looked at her and I knew. “Hi Ella,” I said, “I’m your Mommy.” And it was true—there was an instant bond. I felt as if I were holding my very own heart on the outside of my body and it was the most intense, I have ever known.
And then…in that very moment, we were a family. For the next few hours we got to know our baby. We held her, talked with her and she smiled and cooed and looked at us with her intense grey eyes. She didn’t cry once, until we had to leave the room to sign the necessary paperwork to take her home.
She was five and half days old and, though the nurses spent as much time with her as they could, this was the first time she’d been cuddled for a long stretch of time. The nurse told us that she could see that she’d already bonded with us and gotten used to being in our arms. Hearing that was like music to my ears.
And then…right before we left, it was just me and her.
I said, “On the day you were born, all the gods got together and had a biiiiig party. They decided that you and me and Momma should be a family. So, we are going home today, and we will be your family. Forever. Ella gave a deep sigh in that moment, and my heart soared as a huge smile spread across her face.
Since that very first call, I just knew. This was our Ella.