You never forget the moment you meet one of the loves of your life.
When the phone rang, the man from child placement on the other end of the line said, “Ma’am, I suppose there’s been a mistake. Are you coming to pick up the baby?”
I replied, “I was told you found another home.”
“No ma’am. Can you be here in thirty minutes?”
I flew in to action with my family and threw together a diaper bag. All I knew was the baby was a two month old boy born addicted to opiates and methadone. Having not had a baby in eight years, I struggled to remember what I needed. Somehow, I managed to bend time and get to the hospital by shift change. The NICU let me in, asked for ID, and I realized I’d forgotten it in my rush. Luckily, the nurse took pity on me and figured I must be the right person since no one else was there to take home their resident.
The nurse led me towards a small, dark room with the blinds half open. Inside I could see a crib and a rocking chair. She explained on the way that I would need to change the baby into clean clothes and feed him. Then, right before she opened the door, she paused, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Promise me you will adopt this baby and give him a new name.” I laughed. My family and I had no intentions of keeping any of our foster children. Our plan was to rehabilitate their parents and give the children back. We had enough children, thankyouverymuch.
Quietly, the door to the baby’s private room was opened. I stepped inside, the nurse following behind. In the bassinet lay a baby. He was average sized, his eyes sunken and dark, his expression confused. He was clearly not at home in his own body and I was overcome with the sense that this little one hadn’t found the world to be a safe place just yet. This angry little alien with clenched fists and spastic movements surveyed me. His eyes met mine, then darted away.
Then, so loudly I looked over my left shoulder expecting to see someone behind me, I heard two words.
“This is your son.”
Sometimes, two words can change the course of an existence. Not having time to process everything that was happening, I brushed off what I heard as a figment of my imagination and went to pick up my temporary baby. He flopped around in my arms, obviously irritated by the intrusion. I started changing his clothes and the worst cry I’ve ever heard came from his lungs. It sounded like something between a cat being murdered and gravel scraping glass.
No one prepared me to spend the night with a baby pterodactyl in order to learn his medication schedule. No one really prepared me to give heavy doses of anti seizure medication to a baby, or opiates to ease his withdrawals. The thought of this weighed heavy, maybe this was all an extremely bad idea. It’s quite surreal to be given someone else’s baby, to hold a life in your hands you did not create. I just kept thinking, “They gave me a baby. They gave me someone else’s baby. How is this real?” However, as you do when diving in headfirst into a great unknown, one foot went in front of the other as I settled into a loaned hospital bed with a grumpy little stranger, prepared for a long and loud night.