Today’s guest post was written by Jenna Myers, a birth mother who placed her daughter with an adoptive family in 2009.
I’m beyond uncomfortable as I sit alone in the bright, yellow-walled waiting room at the doctor’s office, my fingers and feet swollen with the pressure of what feels like a cinder block crushing my bladder. I can’t help but notice every detail about the women who surround me: the way they hold their husbands’ hands with excitement and anticipation, the obnoxiously expensive maternity clothes that drape their bodies in just a way that makes their sudden weight gain and pop belly flattering, and the books they read about what to expect.
And here I sit in my oversized sweatpants, holding the tears back from erupting. I have smeared mascara, bags under my eyes, and a nine-month-old sinus infection.
My name’s called out, crashing my train of thought.
“Jenna Myers?” asks an overly cheerful nurse in scrubs with small pastel hand prints on it. “Follow me.”
Same procedure, different day, for the nurse and for me. Weight, temperature, blood pressure, pee into a cup, and wait.
“The doctor will be in shortly. Undress from the waist down and drape that over you,” the nurse explains, closing the door behind her.
Ten minutes pass before the doctor gives a small knock and barges in, clipboard in hand. He manages to make awkward conversation while simultaneously poking and prodding around inside of me.
“It’s almost time, the baby has dropped and you are two centimeters dilated. I noticed the amniotic fluid levels are lower than normal. If they drop anymore, we will have to perform an emergency C-section. I understand you are placing the child for adoption?” he asks, his tone professional and impersonal.
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Okay then, I will put that in our records. I will see you in a few days for your next check-up.”
As I walk out of the office, I feel all eyes on me. If they only knew.
Now, I’m not very religious, but every night for the next few days I pray myself to sleep, in hope that it will cause these fluid levels to drop. The combination of excitement, fear, impending relief, and grief is weighing on my stomach like a small sandbag. My hands lay pressed against my bulging basketball belly, fingers crossed inside my hoodie pocket so no one can see the childish superstition I still carry with me at twenty-one.
“Jenna Myers?” a woman calls out. “Come with me, sweetie.” This woman is not the nurse from the other day, but she is soft spoken, with sympathetic eyes. She puts her hand on my shoulder as she leads me into the sonogram room. As I lay on the table, she says: “You’re placing her for adoption? That’s very brave of you.”
“Yeah. I really just want her out of me at this point. I’m ready to start fresh,” I reply quickly, as I feel the burn of unwelcome tears attempting to make their appearance. I swallow hard, but my chin still quivers.
“You are doing an amazing thing, Jenna. You are a strong woman,” the nurse says as she rubs my shoulder and hands me a tissue.
“I just don’t want to give….my baby….away…on Christmas!” I finally blurt out in between sobs.
“Well, I can help you with that. You are already ‘full term’, and if your levels have fallen since your last visit, they will most likely want to do an emergency C-section. Can I just measure the lowest amount of fluid for you instead?” she asks. I quietly shake my head as I feel a single tear tumble down my cheek. The levels are low enough for the C-section. Looks like today’s the day.
It’s as if every minute I feel a different emotion: sadness, excitement, nervousness, relief. I get into my car, take a deep breath and take my phone out of my pocket. It’s time to make the call to Lindsey, my adoptions counselor.
“Call Daniel! I’m going in today! Tell him today is the day he gets to meet his daughter!” I say before Lindsey can even say ‘hello.’ Daniel and Elsa are the perfect couple to adopt my baby. They are who I would’ve chosen, had I been able to pick my own parents. Elsa is in Sweden and will be taking the next flight home, so Daniel will be meeting me at the hospital. I knew this was going to happen and I wish Elsa could be here too. Reality sets in as the excitement starts to wear off the closer I get to my house.
“This is the best Christmas gift you could give,” I repeatedly tell myself.
Sarah, my best friend, is supposed to be spending this wonderful stay in the hospital with me, but she’s in Texas. Why the hell she is in Texas, I have no idea. But she is about to board a flight home. My mother is the lucky lady who gets to deal with me. Two hours pass too quickly, and I’m not ready for any of this, but I can’t wait. How I feel is too damn confusing.
Finally, Sarah comes running in, with a duffel bag twice her size. “I’m here! You waited for me! That was so nice of you!” she jokes.
“I held her in just for you, how’d you know?” I shoot back. Not long after Sarah, the doctor walks through the door to go over procedures. Sarah spends this time getting ready for the “O.R.”– playing dress up, basically. Her silliness is a pleasant compliment to the craziness of emotion that’s going on. The curtain flings back, and there stands Sarah, head to toe in blue disposable scrubs. She has it all on- the hair cap (covering a short mohawk), the blue paper jumpsuit, the shoe covers. She dramatically turns around while snapping her last latex glove on her hand. This is why Sarah is my best friend.
The anesthesiologist comes in to prepare me, and Sarah leaves.
“Sit up straight, lean forward, and hug the pillow. Now do not move. Your legs will begin to feel very heavy, and you won’t be able to move them, so don’t panic when you can’t. Also, you won’t be able to feel yourself breathing, but you will be. So don’t panic about that either,” the anesthesiologist casually states.
“Don’t panic? I won’t know that I am breathing, and I’ll be paralyzed from the chest down.” I’m already panicking. I’ve never felt so claustrophobic in my own body before. The needle goes in and I jump, of course.
“Now just lay back and rest your arms here,” he says while he moves my arms out to my sides as if I’m flying. He starts to strap my arms down to a board and a giant sheet flies up over my face. If I wasn’t feeling claustrophobic before, I definitely am now.
“No, no, no, no. You can’t do that to me! I will have a panic attack!” I try to explain to him. At that moment, Sarah is finally allowed in the room and I thank god. Together we convince the anesthesiologist to let me have my arms. He explains that it’s a natural instinct for a woman to grab her stomach during a C-section. So, I promise not to grab my stomach and I shut up.
The C-section is grueling. The numbness of the anesthesia and pressure from the doctor moving my organs out of the way as if they are toys in the living room floor doesn’t help. “I’m not very happy with you, Dr. Norman,” I tell my OB/GYN.
“That’s why I didn’t come in here any sooner!” he snaps back. He and I have a similar sense of humor and he gets me to chuckle. Sarah starts talking to distract me since I voice how uncomfortable I am about every ten seconds. Suddenly, everything slows down. The discomfort is there, but it’s okay. It’s morphine.
My eyes jump around the room to find the clock. It’s 3:33 pm. The small cry I’ve been waiting to hear breaks my concentration, then silence again.
“Was that the baby? Why did she stop crying? Where did she go?” I ask in a slight panic.
“That was your daughter! We are going to weigh her and get her vitals in another room. That’s what you wanted, right?” Dr. Norman replies.
“Yeah, that’s what I wanted. Does she look healthy?” I ask.
“She looks so healthy, I can’t imagine a baby that big inside such a small girl!” he says. Knowing she’s okay puts me at an indescribable ease. I swear another half an hour passes before I get to go into recovery, a very uncomfortable thirty minutes.
The recovery room is depressing. It’s dark, and the woman to my left is nursing her newborn, husband by her side. The nurses are short with me, as if they are at the tail end of a twelve hour shift. Sarah is giving updates to everyone, as Lindsey comes to check on me.
“How are Daniel and the baby?” I immediately ask.
“Daniel and Emma are doing great. He is such a proud Dad! You gave a wonderful Christmas gift today. Do you still not want to see Emma until the papers are signed tomorrow?” Lindsey asks.
“Yeah, it’s probably best that way. I don’t want to have any chance to change my mind. I can’t do that to Daniel, Elsa or Emma,” I reply confidently.
Morning comes too fast. It’s time to sign the papers. After the paperwork is complete, the nurse walks me over to the nursery where Emma is. I immediately know which baby is her.
“Oh, okay,” I say when I see her for the first time. I turn around and slowly shuffle back to my room. The face I put on for these people scares me. So confident on the outside, but I feel like I’m dying on the inside. Like someone took my soul out of my body, and I’m left empty, sad and alone.
I spend my night yearning, bawling, weeping. The release is like an avalanche, uncontrollable, yet I welcome it as it wipes out all the things in my past and lays a fresh foundation for my future.
It’s a new day and Daniel wants me to spend some alone time with Emma, just the two of us with no one to analyze me. I appreciate his empathy and trust, as this can’t be easy for him either. I sing to Emma, tell her how much I love her, and just stare at her for hours while she lies asleep in my arms. Now I understand what it is like to be a mother, I feel what it is like to be a mother, a person I never thought I could be.
A few hours pass, and Elsa bursts through my door, tears streaming down her face. But before even looking at Emma, or Daniel or anyone, she runs to me and gives me the biggest hug and the biggest kiss on the cheek. I smile, reminded again of why I chose Elsa to be Emma’s mom and hand Elsa her new baby girl. I quietly say “congratulations.” Elsa’s face lights up. The room goes silent. A flash lights up the room. Daniel has his camera on Elsa so he could capture her face the very first time she sees Emma. Her eyes radiate an unconditional love I have never witnessed before. The only sound in the room is Elsa’s joyful, thankful sobbing as she holds her newborn daughter. It is in this moment that I realize the gift I have been given.