Yesterday Drew and I were headed to Fayetteville when Esther (our attorney) called and said that birth mom couldn't make it in (we've had some snow and ice and the rural roads were still iffy). We were super bummed, but Esther said to come on and visit with her. We did and it was great. We got lots of information and history on mom and a good feeling for the situation in general. We felt very encouraged and rescheduled our meeting with birth mom for 9am this morning (Thursday).
Let me say that there is MUCH information, but I am only willing to share certain things here. This blog is available to anyone and everyone who may chose to read it and my first priority is protecting the privacy of this lovely lady whose name I'm not sure I should share here. I will just refer to her as Birth Mom. I am perfectly willing to share more detailed information with you privately. Here's what I will share publicly...
Birth Mom is lovely. She's had a hard life and didn't get a fair start. Her mother was/is an alcoholic and as a result Birth Mom has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This affects MANY things in a child's development in utero and consequently for the rest of her life. This includes various cognitive and emotional issues. She did graduate high school and now lives with her step mom, who is wonderful and plays a big part in helping her make good decisions, both in her daily life and big picture. We were really very impressed at her self awareness and honesty in the struggles she has faced her and admission that she cannot care for a baby. She seemed to genuinely feel that this baby girl deserves a wonderful family and that she can't provide that. Now, your question... what does Birth Mom's diagnosis mean for baby girl? It's fabulous news, really. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is not genetic. It is purely from exposure in utero and will not pass on to baby girl. The only way that baby girl would have these same issues is if Birth Mom were drinking or doing drugs, etc., which she is not. We feel sure of this because she has been in the care of her step mom since right before she found out she was pregnant. She is not even taking prescription medications for her own needs because of the risk they pose to baby girl. She is making responsible choices and her doctors are closely following her pregnancy with regular check ups and level 2 ultrasounds. Of course, nobody has a guarantee on health (we know that so well), but my point is that baby girl will very likely be a healthy child because Birth Mom has made the decision to give baby girl a fair chance in life.
Honestly, I'm in awe. She expressed concerns over baby girl having anger toward her for giving her up. With tears in my eyes, I told her that I can't imagine any such thing. Baby girl will ALWAYS know that God chose Drew & I to be her daddy & mommy and that that was only possible because of how brave her birth mom was. It's such a beautiful thing and my heart aches for her bravery. Her step mom explained to her that they don't have to take the baby away immediately after birth, but that she can have a few minutes to hold the baby, tell her she loves her, explain why she made this decision and then hand her to us. Birth Mom seemed to find comfort in that idea and I do think it may provide her some closure and assurance. She asked us if it would be okay to take a picture with the baby after birth and then one with us, so that she has that memory. We absolutely agreed and told her that we would like to have those photos also. Someday our daughter will have questions and I would love nothing more than to show her that photo and remind her of the reasons that we get to be her mommy & daddy. As for communication after the birth, there shouldn't be much if any. I do know that will have the information and resources available to contact them should that ever be necessary, but it is believed by all to be better for Birth Mom (and probably baby girl, too) if there is no continued contact. Baby girl will be ours and Birth Mom will have a better chance of going on with her life and being healthy if that attachment is not there. Drew and I are very comfortable with that arrangement.
I also wanted to mention that adoption was Birth Mom's idea. She was/is in no way being pressured to place the baby for adoption, only encouraged and supported in making such a responsible decision. Drew & I have a very good feeling about everything and much less fear that she will change her mind. She seems to understand, and her step mom fully supports, that she cannot raise a child and that adoption is best. The other potential adoptive parent involved is no longer anywhere in the picture and Birth Mom & her step mom seemed quite certain that we are the mom & dad for this baby. The process from here... consent will be signed upon birth of baby girl and Birth Mom & her step mom (her guardian) will both sign so that all bases are covered. When baby is discharged from the hospital, we bring her home. There are technically 10 days for Birth Mom to change her mind, but I honestly have much less fear of that happening after meeting her today. The adoption petition is filed as soon as possible after birth. The adoption is legally final 6 months later. Drew & I will have to proceed with a home study and all that that involves fairly soon.
On March 3rd we will get to attend a regular OB appointment with her and on March 11th we will attend a level 2 ultrasound. Step mom felt that this was not only important so that we feel involved, but also so that we have the ability to ask questions and fully understand everything. I am so grateful for this involvement and very much look forward to these and all following appointments for our baby girl.
We did ask if she would be willing to take a photo with us, so that will have this memory to share with our daughter someday. She was happy to do so and I wish that I could share it here, but, again, I want to protect her privacy. Since I can't do that, how about something even better?
That's our daughter!!! This was last week, from an 18 week ultrasound. You can see the profile of her head & torso and her sweet little legs kicked out. Okay, I can't resist. What's my favorite kind of photo? If you know me very well then you already know the answer is... feet!!! Mark this in the history books as the first of many to come!
Eleanor Jewell Harris
We plan to call her Ellie. She will have the cute nickname, but her full name will be a grown up name she can proudly put on a resume someday :) Eleanor is the old fashioned name that I was craving (and amazing also loved by Drew) and Jewell was Drew's Mema's middle name (Dottie's mother). I recall having a conversation with Mema years ago when she explained how she got her name. She was the first girl in the family and her parents named her Audrey. Her brothers were smitten with a girl and thought she was a jewel, so her parents chose Jewell as her middle name. I agree. Mema was a jewel and Ellie is a jewel in our lives already. Jewell can also mean "joy", and that seems quite fitting as well.
Praise be to God for such an unexpected blessing. I am reminded of a lesson that I have learned many times in the past and am sure to relearn many times in the future... God's grace and will extends further than anything you or I can imagine. Drew and I never imagined anything like this and now we are filled with a joy and hope that we didn't even know we desired. We will continue praying for the daughter we will call Ellie and for Birth Mom in the months to come as we prepare our lives and our home to welcome another daughter in to our family.