In the weeks leading up to our daughter Noah’s birth, reading other parent’s adoptive birth stories was incredibly comforting to me and I promised myself I’d write ours for others who might need it. I originally put this on my Instagram but I’m listing out all of the details here so you can all see it too.
If you want to read more about our full, five-year-long, adoptive journey you can read about it here.
We were matched with Noah’s first mom in January of 2017 and she was due at the beginning of March. We found out a couple of weeks into February that Noah’s delivery would be induced on the 28th. So the first part of our journey was getting on a VERY early morning flight the day before. I spent that whole day feeling strangely numb. After weeks (and years) of waiting for this time I expected to be a wreck, but I was weirdly sedate.
After we landed, we went to Target to buy everything we could think of for a newborn. As a form of self-preservation I hadn’t really purchased anything for her, but being here meant we could embrace the possibility a little more. “Worst case,” I thought “I can always return this stuff.” I said things like that to myself over and over for the next several days. I think that’s what the numbness was… me, constantly reminding myself to guard my heart.
On Monday night we got to have dinner with Noah’s whole family in Nebraska and it was SO awesome. This baby girl is incredibly loved and we were excited to form friendships that will last her whole life. After dinner we all agreed to meet at the hospital the next morning and Dave and I went back to our hotel room. After hours of insomnia over all the what ifs, I finally took a sleeping pill. The alarm went off the next morning at
The alarm went off the next morning at 6AM.
When we arrived at the hospital Noah’s first mama had already been admitted. She’d told us in advance that we could be with her in the room throughout and I had been anxious for days about watching her in pain. She and I sincerely became friends throughout the adoption process and I was sick with nerves to see her hurting. I am SO grateful to her for so many things, but letting us be there, and the hours we got to sit with her and her parents while she labored, will forever be a sacred memory. She was so composed and brave you guys. Even when she was hurting, even when it was hard, she had this immense well of grace. She also had an incredibly quick labor… at least by my standards! She was induced at 7:30 AM and at 11:40AM they told us it was time to push.
Dave and I had been in the hallway eating PB&J’s and all I could think was that I was going to hold her hand while I had peanut butter breath! I couldn’t find gum anywhere!! I obsessed over it for about 5 minutes and then just silently vowed not to breathe on anyone. Getting to stand beside my friend while she pushed a baby into the world was THE coolest thing I’ve ever seen. At the time, I honestly couldn’t conceptualize that she was having my baby… I just wanted to be as supportive for her as possible. I’ve gone through it three times myself but never as anyone’s coach. I was thinking, “Am I holding her leg right? Should I rub her arm or will that bug her??” I didn’t have long to overthink it though because Noah popped out after three pushes. What happened next shattered the cool calm I had pulled around me for days.
She was born screaming at 12:08PM and all I could do was blink at her in shock. The doctor had to call my name twice… “Rachel? Would you like to cut the cord?” It wasn’t something we’d discussed beforehand so I was completely unprepared. I immediately started to cry. She put something in my hand. The scissors seemed so sharp and I was afraid to get anywhere near her with them– I was afraid I’d hurt her, or hurt her mom, or like, stab the doctor inadvertently. Dave snapped this picture over my shoulder and showed it to me later… a reminder that I was there. From the first moment she came into the world, I was there. So many parts of this last week have been sacred and holy– but this was the most special by far.
Noah’s grandma came back in the room a little while later. “How do you feel?” She asked me while I stared down at this little girl in awe. I told her that I felt like my friend had a baby and she was letting me hold her. The numbness was creeping back in. This little girl was wonderful but I didn’t know her yet. I DID know her mama, and so I didn’t want to hope for anything that wasn’t what she wanted first. So I held this baby, and I held my breath, and we started to wait.
The hospital Noah was born in was the BEST… they had free drink stations everywhere with that really “good ice” like you find at Sonic and they handed out warm chocolate chip cookies every afternoon. The nursing staff was kind and SO helpful… unfortunately, they don’t do many adoptions. They didn’t have anything in place to accommodate adoptive parents. That meant that we hung out in the family waiting room with a brand new baby for part of the day. The other part of the day, we hung out with Noah’s first mom when she wasn’t resting. We spent 10 hours a day watching old movies like Twister or The Blind Side or current odd TV like Hoarders or My 600 lb Life while we passed Noah around between the three of us. We hung out until it was too late to stay at the hospital. Then we’d give Noah back to the nursery and we’d go back to the hotel. This was all totally surreal… leaving a new baby at a hospital felt so unnatural but we just tried not to think about it.
We did this for two days, then Thursday came. Thursday was the day when we would all sign paperwork that made Noah our baby officially… or we wouldn’t, and my greatest fears would be realized. I wish I could tell you how present I was in that day, but the truth is, I was numb with fear. When the attorney came to the hospital she asked us to leave the room so she could talk to first mom. What followed was one of the hardest hours of my whole life.
Waiting in the hallway was terrible. Dave took this picture of me while I sat there anxiously, “We’ll want it later,” he said. “It will all be fine,” He told me over and over again. But my fear was crippling. It’s not that I didn’t believe Noah’s first mom, it’s not that I didn’t have faith in her intentions, but it’s such a big decision. Can you even imagine? Can you fathom how much strength and courage it takes to make this choice for your child? I couldn’t imagine being that brave and so I sat in the hallway for nearly and hour and worried that she’d change her mind. “Five years” I kept thinking, “Five years and it all comes down to this chair, in this hallway.”
I kept my eyes on the floor, I didn’t want to see the looks of concern on the nurses, I didn’t want it to add to my own. I pulled my feet into the seat, wrapped my arms around my knees and hid my face like a child. “Just hold it together a little while longer,” I whispered. Half an hour in, when I was close to throwing up, I made up a story to make myself feel better. “Someday I’ll tell Noah about this moment… someday –maybe her wedding day– I’ll tell her about how long we waited for her, and how the worst part of it, was just before it was finished. I’ll tell her this story so she knows that anything worth having will be hard-fought to achieve. I’ll tell her she was worth fighting for.” The door opened and we jumped to our feet. The attorney walked over to us, her face didn’t have any expression, which made me feel worse. “It’s done,” she told us.
I had no idea what that meant. I couldn’t process the words. She must have seen my confusion. “She signed, and in this state her decision is irrevocable. Congratulations on your daughter.”
Every emotion I’d been holding onto for two weeks, or two months or five years came rushing out. I collapsed in sobs. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t believe it was real. All of this. All the time and tears and worry and paperwork and frustration and desperation and thinking that maybe we should quit, it wasn’t for nothing… it was for Noah.
Now the waiting started. We were so thrilled to bring Noah home from the hospital, only “home” was a relative word. Since we lived in a different state than we adopted from, we’d rented an Air BnB where we spent every day in pajamas, waiting for a phone call. The first few days were a whirlwind of finding our rhythm, but every day after it started to wear on me. We waited a week and a half. I missed my boys SO much and I hated not knowing when we would get to go back to them. Legally, Noah was our daughter but we weren’t allowed to cross state lines with her until both states have filed paperwork that said so. So we ate chips and watched A LOT of TV and when it was warm enough, we walked up the street for ice cream.
Every single day, I prayed all day long, for a phone call that said we could take our baby home and introduce her to her big brothers.
Our paperwork came through!!! Thank the Lord! We got the call on Wednesday afternoon –just when I started to really stress that it might be several more days– the attorney literally screamed the news into the phone because she knew how much we were hoping for clearance. Noah BARELY slept the night before we left so we were one big zombie-mess on our 7AM flight, but who cares?! I wrapped her up tight and she was a perfect lady for both flights. When we finally landed in LA, the flight attendant gave a speech I’ve heard hundreds of times but never really taken to heart. “If you’re visiting, have a great time. If Los Angeles is where you live, then welcome home.” I started to cry as I whispered the words down into her tiny, perfect ear. “Welcome home Noah.”
There were balloons spelling out her name when arrived from our sweet friends, and three little boys fighting over their turn to hold her next. Much like the letter we sent to perspective birth moms all those months ago said, the house was loud and smelled like bacon and a little dog was wagging his tail and begging for a moment to give her a good sniff. It’s all controlled chaos around these parts and our hearts are full to bursting that we’ve added this long-awaited girl to our team. Looking forward to teaching her all the sweetest dance moves, inviting her to Friday night pizza parties, Sunday church clothes, summer pool days, family Halloween costumes and a thousand other adventures we haven’t even thought up yet. What a long and hard fought journey, what a beautiful story of faith in action and God’s redemptive hand. What a miracle. What a blessing. Welcome home little girl, welcome home. #HollisAdoption