We pulled up to a small, one-story home and parked our van in the driveway. Ryan took our video camera bag from the car, gave our personal cameraman (Barbie's husband) a quick tutorial, and then took an uncomfortable amount of time white balancing (fixing the color so whites are true whites). The nanny had opened the door at this point, Wendy was walking in and I was growing fearful that our meeting was not going to go as planned. Oh this is our daughter? Sorry. My husband is the one outside adjusting our camera settings.
I begged him to stop. He passed the camera off and we entered. I immediately embraced the nanny, who had a sweet face with kind eyes, and then Ryan did the same. We made small talk for a few seconds before she asked if we wanted to meet our baby. She was smiling, but I could tell this was hard for her, that she wanted to get it over with. We followed her into her bedroom, where a bassinet was set up next to her four-poster bed.
She leaned down, picked up a teeny tiny baby, who seemed to be all pants, and handed her off to me. A stranger handed me a baby. Flashes were going off. My brain was telling me I should be overjoyed, crying even, that this was my daughter, but the entire situation seemed completely absurd. I momentarily wondered, where was I, who were these people? How had I gotten here? Not exactly the reaction I imagined having, but I quickly learned that absolutely nothing can prepare you for that experience.
We had woken her. She stretched with her fists clenched and her face turned tomato red. She had lots of relatively long hair on the sides of her head and practically none on the top. Her eyes seemed swollen shut. Someone asked if she was as small as I had expected and I answered yes, she was.
Picture taking commenced and one was texted to our family and friends within the first five minutes. We couldn't let them wait any longer.
I sat in a recliner and held Clara awkwardly. I felt awkward, embarrassed I didn't know how to hold my own baby. My own baby. Ryan squatted next to us, starring speechless at his daughter.
Wendy asked if we wanted to get going and I was thrust back into reality - we could leave with her. I followed the nanny into her kitchen and fought to pay attention as she gave me instructions on bottles, iron supplements and her stuffy nose. She then held Clara and said a tearful goodbye. She'd wake up at the same times Clara usually woke up during the night for about a week, she told us. She did after all the babies.
We thanked her profusely. She had taken loving care of our daughter and played an important role in her young life. We strapped her into her car seat and stood back and we all laughed at how it seemed to swallow up all five pounds of her.
And then we were gone. We were driving away, me in the back seat behind Ryan with a baby to my right. We had escaped with her and no one was coming for us.
As the nanny's little home faded into the distance, Ryan made a tearful call to his mother and I secretly wondered if something was wrong with me because I still hadn't cried. The tears on the way to get her had dried up. I was no longer shaky, but calm. The adrenaline had drained from my body and I felt tired. I was relieved. Content. It wasn't, surprisingly, shocking to me that we were now a family of three; it seemed right. Perfect. I was a mother, Ryan was a father and this little girl - Clara - was our daughter. I felt like we'd had her all along.
It's difficult to pick an ending to this story, since it's not an end, but rather just the very beginning. There is so much more I could share - our cluelessness that first day (thank goodness for Barbie!), finding our way that first night (we couldn't believe we were this little person's primary care givers), when she really felt like ours (that first night), and the wonderfully easy ride home (we were sure we had adopted the best baby in the history of babies). Back home, we continued to receive donations, including a hefty one (a constant reminder that there really is so much goodness in this world), and we are completely paid off with the attorney. We will work to pay back our family over the next couple years.
The adoption will not be finalized until roughly a year from now. I struggle with that from time to time, but, in the end, there is nothing I can do. We trust that everything will go smoothly and, in the meantime, we know we are Clara's parents.
I thank God every day for this miracle - that her birthmother carried her, that she was born healthy despite being only 30 weeks, that word got to us that she needed parents, that no one else took her home before we did, that we got the money together, that I started this blog, that I have joy in my life once again. God is so good, even to those who spent years doubting Him. I can now say, with complete sincerity, that my infertility turned out to be a blessing because it brought me Clara. Every second of heartache was worth being able to look at this face...
He really does make all things new.