The thirty days have passed, the papers are signed, and I’ve squirreled away enough time to properly blog about our son. (I said “our son.” *giggle*)
A month ago Greg and I were with his family in Whistler, chilling out and enjoying each other and looking ahead to 2011 and musing and reading and knitting and sleeping.
On New Year’s Eve we were in a hospital trying to figure out what to name our kid. (Wednesday we spent a couple of hours with our friend Miranda, who happens also to be half of Blue Olive Photography. All these photos are by her. She’s freaking amazing.)
Writing out a play-by-play is boring, so I’ll sum up. On the afternoon of December 30th, Greg and I were having coffee with friends when the social worker phoned. She was with a birth mother who reported drinking during her pregnancy – were we comfortable having our file shown to her?
Within half an hour, we were parents. The baby had been born on Christmas day, a healthy boy.
We spent the early evening at the agency filling out paperwork and learning as much as we could, and then we went to buy some things. Because we had NOTHING.
As you might imagine, that night was electric. We bought a car seat and stroller, a bassinet, a package of diapers and a set of bottles. We talked to family across the continent. And we emailed a few dozen friends to let them know why we had to cancel the New Year’s Eve party we’d planned earlier in the month. So within a few hours of us learning about the baby, most of our closest friends and family and a good number of casual acquaintances were in on the adventure. What a freaking awesome celebration we had by email and phone and text. And how doubly amazing it was that so many of our friends and family from out of town were here for the holidays.
The next day at around noon we went to St. Paul’s hospital to meet the baby. Oh, the baby. He was so beautiful. I mean that in a totally unbiased way. He came into the world in a seriously smooth labour. Even at six days old, it’s not too common to meet a newborn who’s not bruised-looking in some way. This kid was, well, not bruised at all.
The staff in the maternity ward had set aside a room for us to stay overnight, so we got the full new-parent treatment on New Year’s Eve. (We’re told this isn’t standard practice for adoptive parents, and so we feel even luckier for it. It should be standard practice.) The nurses at St. Paul’s are incredible. One hugged us and cried, she was so happy the baby had a family. For six days, these women had fed, diapered, bathed and cuddled the healthy Christmas baby who lived in the NICU. I will always love them for that.
During our 22-hour stay at St. Paul’s, in addition to being shown how to feed, diaper, burp and swaddle the baby, and being given tons of information about all sorts of things, we had to, you know, give the boy name.
Greg’s grandfather William died the day we met in 1999. We’d always kept in mind the idea of naming a child after Bill, and now we finally had to reckon with alliteration. Neither of us was keen on it. And also, the baby didn’t seem like a William. The baby, I realized an hour or two after meeting him, seemed like an Owen. I don’t know why, he just did. He seemed strong and compassionate and sweet and solid. We’d never considered the name before, but it was obvious to both of us that it’s the one. And so we embraced the alliteration and gave the baby four names: Owen William Piper Werker.
And so for the last four weeks we’ve done the whole drill just like all families with a newborn do. We haven’t slept a solid night. I’ve read a whopping 60 or so pages in the novel I started reading just after Christmas and may finish by March. We’ve only once eaten nachos for dinner. At least there’s that.
And unlike most families with a newborn, we’ve had to do lots of things on the spur of the moment. Like let acquaintances and neighbours who knew I wasn’t pregnant know we now have a baby. And figure out where the baby will sleep in a month or two when he outgrows the co-sleeper and his bassinet. And where to keep all his stuff. (OMG, people, babies – and perhaps especially Christmas babies who are adopted on New Year’s Day with very little notice, thus tickling the hearts of many many people – come with a lot of stuff.) And what kind of diapers we’ll use, and will we use a service or wash our own (the service starts Monday).
Owen is, indeed, a sweet and strong baby. He’s cuddly and easily soothed, he eats like formula is the best damned thing science has ever concocted, his increasingly chubby cheeks are delicious to kiss and he has extraordinary neck strength. We love him, our families love him and our friends love him. It seems obvious that he belongs here, and yet a month ago we didn’t even know he existed.
Now. Most domestic infant adoptions these days are open to some degree. There’s some knowledge shared between the birth mother and the adoptive family, and eventually the adopted child. Our adoption is essentially closed, by those standards. We don’t know anything about the birth mother but her age, her race, her education, and basics about her medical history. She knows very little about us. Though we’ve made sure her social worker knows we’re open to being contacted by her at any time in the future, unless she gets in touch with us via the agency, there will be no contact. We wish it weren’t this way, but we very much respect Owen’s birth mom’s situation and her decision.
So for now, it’s the three of us and Cleo, and all the grandparents and uncles and an aunt, and all the friends we’ve felt are like family for so many years and all the new friends who have been moved by Owen’s introduction into our lives.
Owen’s first month has been a lovely example of a community raising a child. Most of his clothes are hand-me-downs collected by friends the first couple of days he was home with us. Barely a day has passed without someone coming by to visit or help or feed us. Though we’ve learned that 9PM is our limit for visits, as we begin to drool and speak in riddles, we’ve loved and appreciate it all. If not for these beautiful people, the last month would have felt overwhelming. But neither Greg nor I has panicked once. Sure, we still have a lot to wrap our heads around, but boy-howdy do we feel safe and supported as a family.
A few more things:
- We’re remodeling our basement! (That’s the answer to the baby’s room question.) My friend Lisa pointed out that this is what most families do when they bring a new baby home, but I think she was being sarcastic. But Owen will eventually need a room of his own, and we’d like that room not to be on a different floor from ours. So we’re moving our bedroom (currently the one bedroom on the main floor of the house) to the basement, where there are two bedrooms across the hall from each other. The only thing is that I simply can’t abide the awful decisions we made when we finished the basement eight years ago. The carpeting’s a disaster and the paint colours are awful. So we’re putting in a laminate floor, we’re repainting, and we’re moving some closets around. Nothing major, but we want to have it done by the end of February. Wahoo! If we do some nifty DIY things down there I’ll blog about it. At the very least, I’ll have some possibly dramatic before-and-after photos. At the time I’m writing this, Greg and some helpful friends have already ripped up the carpets and tack boards, and he’s almost ready with the closets; the flooring has arrived and we need to choose paint colours. The colour consultant at Benjamin Moore told us a bunch of things we didn’t want to hear, so we’re striking out alone on that front. Stay tuned…
- In case you’re wondering, no, my work will not now shift to focusing on baby things or parenting things and this blog is not going to be all about Owen. But, of course, when I find the time I’ll make stuff for Owen – and eventually with him – so there will be that. And he’s cute, so I may show some photos now and then.
- If this is the first post about adoption you’ve read from me, you can read what I’ve written over the last year. I don’t at all mind fielding questions, so if you’re curious don’t be shy!