Thursday, September 4, 2008

Alex’s birth story

Our oldest son, Alex’s, due date was December 29, 2004. We had anxiously waited for about two months for his birth, since Tabatha had asked us to adopt him. Tabatha is my cousin, at the time, an 18-year-old, unwed, unemployed, pregnant young woman, who had made the courageous decision to have her baby, and place him for adoption. Knowing that my husband I were looking to adopt, in October of 2004, at 7 months along, Tabatha lovingly asked us if we’d consider being the baby’s boys parents. Overjoyed and thrilled, we said yes, and thus our family’s journey, and this blog story, began.

Tabatha had grown and grown and grown and had kidney trouble during her pregnancy, so when she began having contractions at Thanksgiving, and then started to dilate around December 20, we headed up to Alabama on December 22. We thought, at most we’d be gone around ten days (as told to us by our Alabama attorney).

Tab went to the hospital about every other day from the 22nd to the 27th, thinking, “this is it!” but each time the doctor sent her home. On December 27, the poor girl was so uncomfortable and miserable, the doctor decided to induce her labor the following morning, so we finally were about the meet our new son.

Tab checks into the hospital around 6AM on Tuesday, December 28, 2004. It was a long, slow morning, but things really started happening around mid-afternoon. Finally, at 6:19 PM, Alex was born! Our beloved, first-born son! We are so proud, so happy, so blessed, so elated, so excited! My first phone call was to my mom. I have her on the phone while I’m in the nursery, giving Alex his first bottle. Her first grandchild is born! Oddly, her reaction was very...flat. Very un-enthusiastic....very off...very not-what-a-grandma should sound like, I thought. I kept her on the phone a while, trying to get some sort of excitement from her, but I finally let her go, as she just sounded like she only wanted to take a nap.

(Days away from home: 6)

Alex stayed in the hospital for 36 hours until medical check-ups and legal paperwork could be completed. On the morning of Thursday, December 30, we were allowed to leave. It had been previously decided that we should not hang around there in Northern Alabama in deference of Tabatha and her mother’s emotions during this time, but we couldn’t return to Florida, either, until the Alabama paperwork end of the adoption was sent to Florida. We were told by our Alabama attorney personally that we could leave the hospital, leave the city, leave the county, leave the state and go anywhere, with the one exception being going back to Florida. THAT we could not do. So, with what we were told would be only a few days to kill, we decided to head to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to visit my husband’s oldest son, Matthew, and his family (wife Emily and then-3-year-old son Colton), to introduce them to Matthew’s new baby brother, before Matthew had to leave for his Air Force tour of duty in Iraq.

We get to Ocean Springs on the afternoon of December 30th and spend a few days there. After Matthew leaves on January 2, and the paperwork from Florida was still not completed, we decided to head to Valdosta, Georgia to camp out, so that when we finally were given the green light to go home, we’d only be a few hours away.

(Days away from home: 12. Alex: 6 days old.)

We set up homestead at a nice hotel right by the interstate, on the afternoon of Monday, January 3, 2005, assuming we’d only be there a few days. A few days pass, and no word. Finally, I get a call from our social worker, Candace. Candace informs me that on her end of things, she never received our medical clearance forms from Dr. Ashley, our family doctor. That is a crucial piece of the paperwork needed for the final adoption homestudy. We both had had our physicals done by Dr. Ashley back in November, so I didn’t understand why the reports weren’t sent to Candace.

I call Dr. Ashley’s office from our hotel in Valdosta, Georgia. I’m informed that they are short-staffed because of the holidays just past. Well, I don’t care about that...I care about why my paperwork was not sent to our caseworker. I was informed that we “never called back for an appointment to come pick the paperwork up.” I replied that when had come in for our physicals, I had advised not only Dr. Ashley, but his office manager as well, that when the report was completed and lab results were in, that the office was to simply fax them to Candace. Due to the approaching holidays, the any-day-now arrival of the baby, and our previously-planned and can’t-get-out-of- without-losing-a-lot-of- money trip to New York City with Adrian, us coming to get the paperwork in person would be difficult and time-consuming. We had previously signed a release for him to simply fax our medical reports to Candace, without any follow up needed from us.

Apparently, no one followed up on that, and I was told that I “could set an appointment now to come by the office some time later in the week to pick them up myself”. To which I replied, “well, that might be a little difficult, because our child has already been born, we have temporary custody of him pending the completion of this paperwork, and we’re stuck out of state and don’t know when we’ll be back, because we CAN'T come back to the State of Florida until the paperwork is completed, part of which is what you have right now, so JUST FAX IT TO THE CASE WORKER LIKE YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO SIX WEEKS AGO?” We don’t need the medical reports, the case worker does. We can’t come get it, because we’re not allowed in the State of Florida with this child YET, so it would have been so simple for them to just fax the stuff and be done with it. But no, they had to make it difficult. They had to fax us another release, which we had to sign and fax back, for them to fax the reports to Candace. Another day shot.

(Days away from home: 15. Alex: 9 days old).

On Friday, January 7, 2005, my parents decide to drive up and meet their new grandson, since it’s apparent we may never return to Florida. They arrive that afternoon and lo and behold, my mother’s arm is in a cast. Turns out, the night before Alex was born, mom tripped on their dog, Rose, and fell, landing on and completely breaking her wrist. She’d been to the hospital and they’d put her in a cast and given her narcotic pain relievers, which explained her lack of enthusiasm when I called her the night of Alex’s arrival. She was doped up on painkillers! She didn’t want to tell us because she did not want to dampen our joy at Alex’s birth or have us worry about her at that precious time. Well, at least I felt better about that...not her breaking her arm, but about why she’d been so “meh” about Alex's arrival!

It’s now the first full week after New Year’s. Adrian has to go back to school. Pete leaves with her on the evening of Sunday, January 9, 2005, to take her home and spend the night at the house and just generally check on things, leaving me in Georgia with Alex. One thing that needed his attention was the piled up mail. He returns to Alex and me in Valdosta on Monday, January 10, 2005, bringing the mail with him. One of the things in the mail was the tag renewal stickers for the car and truck, both of which I had paid for before we left Florida back in late December. I went down to the car to put the sticker on the license plate, and realized that the numbers did not match up. Odd, thinking I had brought the truck sticker with me, I went back up to the hotel room and got the other sticker. Strange, that did not match either. I checked the glove box for our registration and other auto info, and the sticker I have in my hand matches neither our car nor our truck. So I called the tag agency, and as it turned out, apparently our car tag had been stolen (who knew when, other than sometime since the previous January when I had placed 2004's sticker on the plate) and another stolen tag had been put on our car in it’s place! We’d been driving around for who knows how many months with a stolen plate on our car! Good grief. More calls to Florida, this time to try to make DMV aware that we were stuck out of state because of a pending adoption, and could not return to Florida until advised to do so, and what could be done in the interim to make sure if we get stopped for any reason, we’re not carted off to jail! Turns out, not much could be done until we returned to Florida. So, just be cautious while driving and pray we don’t get stopped!

(Days away from home: 19. Alex 13 days old).

Still hanging out and waiting in Valdosta, Georgia, we get a second call from Candace, our case worker on Thursday, January 13. Apparently our attorney in Alabama did not handle things correctly when he got Tabatha’s voluntary relinquishment of her parental rights. He did not wait long enough after her delivery and the pain killers wearing off before getting her consent to the adoption, so now she has to do it over again. Otherwise, she’d have the option of later saying she had been “under the influence of drugs” at the time of termination, so it now has to be done all over again. So we’re not even cleared out of Alabama yet, much less having paperwork sent to Florida for review.

(Days away from home: 22. Alex 16 days old).

The next day, Friday, January 14. Candace calls again and asks us exactly where we are (she’d been calling on our cell phone), as there was another mess up on the part of our Alabama attorney. Apparently, when the termination of parental rights consent was taking place in Tab’s hospital room on December 30th, Pete was in the room also, which was not allowed during the termination, as then it could be considered “intimidating” or “threatening” to Tabatha. So it has to be done all over again, and in making the arrangements, Candace wants to make doubly sure that we’re not staying anywhere near any of my family in Alabama, just to that nothing can go wrong this time with the termination proceeding. We tell her not to worry, unless Tab feels intimidated from being an entire state away. She freaks out, “what do you mean, an entire state away?” because apparently, we did NOT have permission to leave the State of Alabama. We told her, “But our Alabama attorney told us we could leave, that we could go anywhere EXCEPT Florida.” We tell her about our trip to Mississippi to see Matthew and she replies, “well, don’t broadcast that!” because apparently with Alabama not having signed off on the adoption paperwork yet, (because of our attorney’s TWO mistakes) we were NOT allowed to leave, despite of what our idiot attorney told us. Technically, Tab still had parental rights since the attorney had botched the taking of her consent to the adoption. As a result, we were actually kidnappers, since we’d left the state with the baby! A felony, FBI, prison, everything! And us driving a car with a stolen tag! Good grief, can it get any worse? Candace tells us to very quickly and very quietly and very carefully head back to Alabama. Anywhere in the state, as long as we are in Alabama. While we pack and get out a map and try to decide where to go (not wanting to go back to my aunt and uncle’s hometown, again in deference to the family situation) Candace is working on the arrangements for getting Tabatha’s relinquishment of parental rights again, and this time, she is hiring some big guns to take charge and making sure it is even videotaped.

The next day, my birthday, Saturday, January 15, 2005, it was done. We were now in Dothan, Alabama. As close to Florida as we could get and still remain in Alabama. We were now no longer kidnappers (just car thieves)!

(Days away from home: 24. Alex 18 days old).

We settle in for a wait, now with the adoption paperwork now in the hands, finally, of the State of Florida. Candace tells us she is going to put as much of as rush on it in Tallahassee as she can, considering all that has happened. But, seeing as Monday, January 17, 2005, was a holiday (Martin Luther King Day), everything is shut down and closed.

At long, long, long last, on Thursday, January 20, 2005, around 4PM, Candace calls us, still hotel-hanging in Dothan, Alabama, and tells us we can come home. Home. Our real home, Gainesville, Florida. It took us mere minutes to throw everything in the car and pull out. We were home by 8PM, where my Mom and Dad and my brother Mark were waiting for us, with a big Welcome Home Mommy, Daddy and Alex sign. At long last, home. It only took 29 days, and Alex was now 23 days old, but we were finally HOME!

I look back on this now, almost 4 years later, and I can laugh and appreciate the comedic chain of events that occurred during our month-long journey with a newborn. At the time, though, it was pretty stressful. However, being on the road, away from other well-meaning family members and friends, away from work, and away from even the chores and habits and duties of being at home, really gave us the opportunity to focus in on our new son. Hours and hours, undisturbed, uninterrupted, to gaze, to sing, to cuddle, to love and snuggle and squeeze, to bond, to give thanks to Our Father above for this miracle. So in the end, I guess you can say, I wouldn’t have traded out little Southeastern US adventure with Alex for anything!


Karen L. said...

Wow what a great story! You write very well. Alex will have an awesome story to tell his kids one day!

College Mom's Blog said...

Mo!! good journalism! Thank u for sharing! I am linking your blog over at mine!