How in the world are we just a few days away from Brighten's first birthday? In some ways it seems like yesterday that we were packing our car and heading to Texas to meet our daughter. In other ways it feels like Brighten has always been a part of our lives. Jason and I keep joking that we are having a birthday party for Brighten to really celebrate ourselves and the fact that we kept another human alive for a full year :) I joke, but in all seriousness this has been the most sanctifying year of my life.
Whenever I tell our adoption story, one of the most frequent questions I get is, "What was that like?" It's such a broad question with so many variations of an answer, but in honor of Brighten's first birthday I'm going to dig deep and try to answer it the best way I can.
What was it like to find out I would be Brighten's mom?
Shock and disbelief seem like the appropriate answers, but in reality it was something more like cautious determination. We knew we had a lot to do in a short amount of time, but I was also determined to see this through. I wasn't giving up, no matter what barriers were going to pop up and stand in my way (read more).
Thankfully, there weren't any major barriers that threatened our adoption, and things did not fall apart. At some point I moved into the disbelief emotions, but also gratitude and a big dose of fear. What many people have close to nine months to plan for we only had three weeks. Plus we were adding in a few servings of new people who would forever be part of our family in some way, shape, or form, and it was a lot to take in.
What was it like to meet Brighten's birth mother?
I think this is what most people mean when they ask the question about what it was like, and unfortunately there's no real way to describe it. Brighten' birth mom is very nice and was very gracious to us. She always yielded to us when it came to decisions about Brighten during our hospital stay, and even told our attorney before we got to Texas that Brighten was our baby so we could make decisions for her.
We had talked to her birth mom on the phone once and texted a little bit before we arrived in Houston. Most of the communication about all of the adoption details were done through our attorney, which was really nice. When we arrived, we already knew her expectations for who she wanted in the room for the birth, who would hold Brighten first, and things like that. It was nice to just know all of that going in because it alleviated the need for any awkward conversation upon our first in-person meeting.
The night before Brighten was born, Jason, Jenny, and I met at the hospital and went to visit Brighten's birth mom after she had gotten settled into her room. It was so nice to have Jenny there to make introductions and make it more casual.
I remember thinking, "My baby is in this room, this is my baby's birth mom!" It was actually a really natural conversation. We talked about Alabama football, what it was like when Jojo (Brighten's brother, Jenny's son) was born, and good BBQ in Houston.
When I'd imagined meeting our child's birth family, I never imagined that I'd have such peace. But meeting Brighten's birth mom gave me the final bit of peace I needed before I walked into motherhood. She's just a person, a person we are forever connected to through this beautiful little girl, but just a person.
Standing in that hospital room, I realized that whatever happened with Brighten and with the adoption was completely in God's hands, not in my hands or in her's. None of us held any cards and there was no tension. We all just wanted what was best for this tiny little human that we were all excited to meet.
What was like to watch my daughter's birth?
This is the hardest 'what was it like' question for me to answer. I never expected to see any of my children be born. So the fact that Brighten's birth mom wanted me in the room during the birth was such a special blessing, but I was really nervous about my emotions.
You see, when Brighten was born we were about a year into what has now been an almost two year walk through infertility. Because we had one, and then two pending adoptions, we've never really talked about it or even struggled with it that much. It was just something that lived in the background of our lives. And the fact that I didn't ever think I'd have the chance to see one of the children we'd adopt be born was a little bit of a comfort zone for me.
Obviously, I knew there'd be a birth, but if I didn't know anything about it, that meant that I didn't have to feel like I was missing out on something. I deeply feared that being a spectator of my child's birth would make me feel less than a real mom because I'd be watching someone else deliver my child. Knowing something like this happened and watching it happen felt like two totally different things.
While that fear may be irrational, that's how I felt, deep down. I didn't really express this to anyone because I felt like vocalizing all of this would make it real or worse or something. So when the opportunity to be present for Brighten's birth arose, I was really nervous, but there's also no way that I would have passed on that chance.
When I frantically arrived in the delivery room, Brighten's birth mom was already pushing (read more). One of the nurses that I'd met the night before told me where to stand and what to do. I was so thankful for a task, rather than having to just stand there.
I'm sure my hands were shaking, but I felt calm as I watched Brighten take her first breaths. My eyes were glued to her as they weighed her, did all of their little checks, wrapped her up, and handed her to me. I must have looked like a deer in headlights because at one point Jenny put her hand on my shoulder to guide me over to where they were taking Brighten. When I finally got to hold her for the first time I whispered to her that her name was Brighten Storie Morales, and I was her mommy and I'd always love her so much.
It was in that moment that I realized how God puts us in the right places, in our right roles, and He doesn't make mistakes. It didn't matter who was in that bed, it could have been me, it could have been her birth mom, it could have been anyone else in the world, but there was no denying that Brighten was my daughter and I was her mommy.
What was like to leave the hospital as a mommy?
The last few hours at the hospital were hard. We were all getting stir crazy. The papers had been signed the afternoon before and we were ready to get discharged so we could begin our countdown of time that we had to spend in Houston before our paperwork cleared for us to go home. Brighten's birth mom was anxious to leave as well and have some privacy and get some sleep. So, when we were told we could leave, we were really excited.
We actually road down the elevator with Brighten's birth mom, which we'd requested not to do. We wanted to be respectful of Brighten's birth mom and any emotions she may have upon leaving the hospital. We also wanted the freedom to take as long as we needed to to get Brighten into the car, celebrate, and look up where we were headed. But, we came down the elevator together and parted ways in the parking lot. Looking back, I wouldn't have changed a thing because it truly was an experience that we lived through together, and leaving together just felt right.
We got about 15 minutes down the road in Friday rush hour traffic in Houston (anyone who has driven at any time in Houston is sympathizing with me right now) with our one-day old child, and we found out that we'd have to turn around and go back to the hospital to get a piece of paper for our attorney. So, about 30 minutes after we'd been discharged, I waltzed back into the L & D floor with Brighten, only to find out that we could not get the piece of paper that we needed because they'd already sent it to some other office that was now, in fact, closed for the weekend. Well, great.
Back into the car we went and to our home-away-from-home - a corporate apartment on the 33rd floor of an apartment complex, with our dog, newborn baby, and my parents. It was a huge blessing to have so much space, a full kitchen, and places to walk to nearby, however I certainly do not envy anyone who has to take an elevator down to walk their dog or get their baby in the car.
We tried to keep busy most of our time in Houston, and we even drove over to Waco for a day trip to visit Magnolia Market. Brighten was about a week old and everyone was giving us judge-y looks for having a tiny baby out in public. We survived, though, and we needed a change of scenery for our sanity. Jason also got to work out of the law firm's Houston office for some of our trip so he didn't have to take as much vacation.
Overall, I'm really thankful for the time that we got to spend bonding as a family before we came home to Alabama and got back to normal life.
So, that's what it was like. Even writing this, I feel the rush of emotions that I felt at the time, and it feels just like yesterday that this all happened. It's also kind of crazy to have people ask what our experience was like because we don't know anything different, so to us, this is just how it is when you have a baby. I'm thankful for this unique experience, though, and I look forward to someday adding more children into our family through adoption and experiencing their unique stories as well.