We welcomed our newest family member into the world on Monday April 6th. Our adopted baby boy is perfect with chubby little cheeks, teeny tiny toes, and a head of short straight black hair. He makes little ‘shnurfling’ noises when he eats, his face gets all scrunchy before he poops, and he loves to kick his legs straight out and hold them up in the air for a stretch. He prefers to sleep tightly swaddled and looks at his mama, daddy, and big brother right in the eyes when awake. I feel as though I have loved him since the beginning of time.
Little Bear was born on a sunny Spring day, though he wouldn’t see the sun or the sky until a week later after spending time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Anyone whose baby has been in NICU knows how challenging it is not to be able to be with your baby immediately and constantly after their arrival. We were luckily able to hold him two hours after he was born, and I stayed at the hospital the whole week he was there.
The first three days were hard, with Little Bear losing significant weight, struggling with jaundice and showing obvious signs of discomfort. I was in a daze of mesmerizing love for my new son, sadness for his suffering, fatigue from being constantly awake, and trying to get to understand the medical environment.
On day four, I found my voice, in part thanks to an inspiring mama who’s little boy had been in the NICU for three weeks, who encouraged me to listen to my baby and my inner wisdom. I started to ask lots of questions, listen to my intuition, and demand that I be able to meet my sons needs (I had to remind nurses constantly to call me when Little Bear woke up so that I could feed him, change his diaper, take his temperature, monitor his symptoms and so on). I took to sitting in the chair by his cot practically 24/7 because if the nurses tried to comfort him, change his diapers and so on, he would scream and fuss which would cause him to get high scores on their monitoring system. High scores meant an unhappy baby staying in hospital longer. When I met his needs on demand and really attuned to his patterns, his scores lowered, his temperature regulated, his fussing stopped, his screaming reduced, and he fed better and slept longer. By the time we left the NICU, Little Bear had surpassed his birth weight, was eating like a champ, had a much lowered biliruben count, and now only cries when he’s having his diaper changed and even then we are learning how to time it so he’s relaxed.
While I felt frustrated by the NICU’s apparent disinterest in mama-baby bonding, I do recognize the hard work that the medical team does for babies who need a little extra help starting out in the world. Once they got used to my being there, the nurses and pediatricians started including me more in their procedures, explaining what they were doing and why and helping me work with their system for the best results. They never said a thing about my constant presence (though I did overhear them say about Little Bear and my inspiring mama-friend’s baby ‘those ones are easy, their moms come and do everything’), and by the time we left a week later one of the nurses said ‘thank you for all the work you’ve done, we truly appreciate it’. I genuinely returned the gratitude.
Of course, I can’t write all this without acknowledging the amazingness of Mr. Hempleseed who was the world’s best husband and dad the last week, coming to the hospital whenever he wasn’t taking care of our toddler Sir Riel, running our house and garden, taking care of his business, or picking up groceries. Little Bear loves being in his daddy’s arms. We also had some great help from my mom, step dad, and friends. Really, everything I write in this blog is supported by a whole community of incredible people making the richness of my life possible. If I write as though it’s all about me, well, that’s because it’s my blog, dangit!
Now we are home. Our bigger family, our perfect family. When Little Bear woke up this morning, big brother Sir Riel heard the ‘shnurfling’ from his room and joined us in the family bed. As we all sat there snuggling, Little Bear in one arm, Sir Riel nooked into the other and Mr. Hempleseed cozied up along side, my heart nearly burst with joy. Then Sir Riel said ‘mama, you are the only girl in this family’. It’s true. Even our cat is a boy. At least we have the hens!
Our adoption journey has been full of twists and turns, and will continue to be full of learning. I like to think of the arrival of Little Bear as a happy ending to an early chapter in a very long, interesting, challenging, sometimes chaotic, whole-hearted, adventurous story of a lifetime.