Our Biggest News Yet: Welcome Maya Catharine!

November 25, 2015

family-of-3

Well, friends, it happened. It really and truly happened. We’d like to introduce you (kind of, and I’ll explain that below) to our daughter, Maya Catharine Westbrooks.

On October 6th, I closed my eyes and clicked publish on a post about beginning our adoption journey here in Houston. I was finally able to explain to you all why we hadn’t made it back to Dublin yet after our summer travels and I went to sleep that night feeling that a weight had been lifted after the beans had been spilled. The response from you all to that post was so encouraging and heartwarming. Michael and I could actually feel the weight of all of your thoughts, prayers, and well wishes from around the world. They felt strong and powerful.

The next morning, not twelve hours after I published that post, we got that magical phone call from Kim, who runs our adoption agency. It’s known in the agency that Kim will always start these phone calls by saying, “We have a situation.” I had actually received two phone calls like that in the previous two weeks, about situation with children who just weren’t meant to be ours, for various reasons. But this phone call was different. I’m not even sure Kim said there was a situation. I think she might have said “There’s a baby.”

Our baby.

I knew it, I knew in my bones that she was ours from that very minute. And she was. And she is.

I barely held it together on the phone as Kim explained that the baby girl was in the NICU and she needed a family. She had been born a few days earlier to a mom who wasn’t equipped to keep her. Her birth mom had already signed her over to our agency and left the hospital.

As soon as I got off the phone with Kim, she texted me a photo of the sweetest little bitty baby girl with one of those hospital issue hats with a bow. She was fast asleep, bundled up to her chin and had the sweetest turned up nose. I hope I never forget the moment I got to see my daughter’s face for the first time, it was wonderful.

Of course, Michael has been in school when I’ve gotten these phone calls, and usually I wait patiently until he’s free so I can talk to him. This time, I didn’t wait. I drove the ten blocks to his school and texted him from the parking lot that he had to come outside right away. I certainly wasn’t about to text him that we had a daughter. It was too important. Michael believed that teaching the class he was in the middle of was also quite important, so he wouldn’t come outside. Honestly, if he had left his class, his students might have burned the building down. They’re a little unruly, so I do see his point. But at the time, I was not happy. So I went to the gym and counted the minutes until 12:08pm when he could come out for his lunch break.

And at 12:08, I was reminded that Michael is the worst for those moments when you want someone to jump up and down and cry and have a big old show of emotion. He just doesn’t work that way, especially when he’s in school mode. So, I left him to process the news (and, poor thing, go back to work!) and headed home to shower and get dressed. Oddly, choosing what to wear to meet my daughter felt really important! I spent the rest of the afternoon in a daze, wandering aimlessly around Target trying to figure out what we should bring her in the hospital. I settled on a few swaddle blankets and little outfits, and then dazed myself home to put wash and dry and fold and re-fold, marveling at the teeny tiny size of those little clothes.

It was possibly the longest afternoon of my life, waiting until Michael was out of work so we could meet her. When we arrived at the hospital, our friend Debs was already there and had gotten our nametags all set and was waiting in the room to take a video of the moment we met our little girl. I’m so grateful (on about a million levels) for the support Debs has given us for years leading up to this moment, and I’ll be eternally grateful that she captured those first moments with Maya. Without that video, I’m not sure either of us would have believed it really happened when we got home that night! It was just too surreal!

We had loved the name Maya for a long time, and after holding our Maya for a little while we decided that she did indeed look just like a Maya! Her middle name is Catharine, named for my maternal grandmother, who is fiesty and strong-willed, smart and industrious. All qualities we want Maya to have as well. My grandmother is also quite small, and we think Maya might end up on the diminutive side. We don’t think she got the Westbrooks height!

***

I’ll take a break here to let you know that at some point, I’ll be able to share that video and lots of photos of Maya. But for now, we aren’t able to share her image on social media or online. We will have Maya in our home for six months, and then we will get a court date for the final adoption. At that point, we’ll get a new birth certificate with our names and hers on it. While both Maya’s birth parents have signed her over to our agency, this is a rule they have for this interim period and we’re making sure to follow every rule to the letter so that we don’t jeopardize anything.

***

Now back to the good stuff.

We spent a few hours in the hospital that first night holding Maya and staring at her, and then trying to reach as many family members as possible, both in Maine and in Ireland, to tell them the news. It took us a few days before our immediate family members were all in the loop. Those were very, very fun phone calls and Facetimes to make. I wish we had those recorded as well.

Maya was in the NICU because she was born with drugs in her system. Her birth mother admitted to using drugs and drinking alcohol while she was pregnant, and she had no prenatal care during her pregnancy. Maya had some withdrawal symptoms, mostly extreme irritability, during her first few days. My heart breaks that we weren’t with her for those first hard days. But miraculously, Maya is developing perfectly normally. She improved quickly in the NICU and was released a few days after we met her. I was with her during the days in the NICU and the nurses were so kind. They called us mommy and daddy from the moment we walked into her room. They told us they had prayed for a family for her in her first hard days. They said she cried until we came.

Maya is now just over seven weeks old and chunking up beautifully. She was born with a full head of hair and it’s growing fast, as are her cheeks! She no longer fits into her newborn clothes, which is quite sad, but also feels like such an accomplishment for us all. She has started cooing and smiling, and this week she discovered she likes to poke her tongue out at everything and give it a lick.

***

For the last few years, since we decided on adoption, I’ve dreamed about that moment. Whenever I couldn’t sleep at night, I’d let myself picture what it would be like to get a phone call telling us we had a baby. Or going to the hospital and meeting her for the first time. The odds of that dream coming true, almost exactly how I pictured it for so long, were very slim. Our agency deals primarily in foster-to-adopt situations with rescue babies and children. Newborns are rare. Newborns that are headed straight to adoption are even more rare. We were prepared for much more complicated situations with birth families and babies coming from very traumatic situations of neglect, homelessness or abuse.

But after years of heartache in wanting to start our family, we got the dream. Finally, after a giant leap of faith and a whole lot of work to set up everything in Houston, this part was just easy.

A few weeks before Maya joined our family, my friend Joi sent me the most beautiful email and reminded me to listen to a song that had been impacting her lately. Little did she know I had been listening to it on repeat for weeks. It has turned into my little Maya song, and I can’t help but cry when I hear it. This is my favourite verse:

From my mothers womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again, into your family
Your blood flows through my veins

I change all the pronouns so they make sense for us, but the funny thing is that I feel so strongly that her blood runs through my veins. Michael said to me recently that he felt like we gave birth to her. “She’s never belonged to anyone else,” he said.

There isn’t a word big enough to describe that gift. She is all our Christmases in one tiny little package.

Maya was chosen for us from the moment she was conceived, which, not coincidentally, was exactly the time we made the decision to move to Houston this summer. And over those nine months, God protected her from the trauma of drugs and alcohol while she was being carried by her birth mother. And He split the sea so we could walk into that hospital and hold her in our arms.

***

In our adoption classes, we learned a ton of useful information. Two things stuck with me, repeating in my head every so often. There is no adoption without great loss. Before we even got to hold Maya in our arms, she had experienced the greatest loss of her life, a loss greater than most of us experience during our whole lives. Giving her up so she could be with our family was also an enormous loss for her birth mother and father. We will forever pray for them that their lives become stable, that they know they are loved and worthy, and that they know our family’s love for them. We will be forever grateful for the sacrifice they have made.

The second thing is what Kim, who runs our agency, calls the “But God” Factor. Maya had no prenatal care and is 100% healthy. For us, there is no explanation for that except “But God.” That the social workers called our agency, when they so rarely do, is so unlikely. But God. That Kim felt called to choose us, that our paperwork was finished so early, that I hadn’t gone to Ireland that week like I had originally planned. But God.

A few months ago, we heard a sermon somewhere (we were in a lot of churches this summer over our travels!) and the pastor was encouraging the church to consider asking God for God-sized things. It was a turning point for me. I stopped praying around the edges of a new member of our family, and began praying directly for that big, God-sized thing.

On the morning we got the call about Maya, about an hour before the phone rang, I was making the bed. I was tucking the sheets in on Michael’s side of the bed when I felt the strongest words in my soul. It’s here. I had no idea that meant like really, right now, today here. I simply thought it was a perfect reassurance that God had chosen a child for us and it was already here, somewhere out there, waiting to be united with us in the coming months.

Little did I know she would be in our arms that evening, part of our family forever.

We can’t wait to share more about her, and more about our experience soon. In the meantime, bear with me as I juggle life as a mom of a nearly-two-month old! Posting will be light, but I hope it will become more regular in the coming weeks.

Our little family of three, pretty much bursting with gratitude at the moment, wishes you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving day tomorrow.

68 Comments

  • Reply Kim B. November 25, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Emily and Michael and to both of your families and to little Maya — Congratulation.s. This is THE most beautiful story – to think of the way that God truly put you three together is absolutely mind-boggling and reminds us that He can do great things. Thank you for being there for Him to work through you for this little precious baby. Blessings to all of you.

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:54 am

      Thank you, Kim, for your sweet words. It is mind-boggling and awe-some in the truest sense of the word. May we always remember His size and power!

  • Reply Sydney November 25, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    Crying with happiness for you and your new family! Keeping Maya in my prayers 🙂

    Sydney

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:53 am

      Thank you so much, Sydney!

  • Reply Lindsey November 25, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    So so so wonderful, Emily!!! I can’t wait to see more photos of her as she grows. A happy thanksgiving indeed!

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:53 am

      !Thank you, Lindsey! Happy and peaceful holidays to you in Paris!

  • Reply Elaine November 25, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    Oh Emily I’m so delighted for you three. Reading this and bawling crying with happiness and so much hope and joy for you! Being a mom is the most amazing feeling in the world! Enjoy every heart wrenching second. …..it’s all so worth it! X

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:52 am

      Thank you, Elaine! So far it is a little more heart-wrenching than I was expecting. It’s hard to love a little being so very much! xx

  • Reply Annette Murphy November 25, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Emily,
    I couldn’t not post after I read this beautiful piece. Myself and my husband, Éamonn, met you and Michael a few years ago in The Bridge House Hotel in Tullamore at a review night. I enjoy reading your writing and this post has brought a tear to my eye. Congratulations. I wish you every joy and happiness.

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:51 am

      Hi Annette! How fun! We remember you well! Michael and Eamonn had a whole lotta sports to talk about 😉 Thank you for your sweet comment. I hope our paths cross again in Ireland someday soon!

  • Reply Joanne Saunders Dunne November 25, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    May chose you and what a good choice of parents. The Lord blessed you in a way you can only imagine and your journey starts now. What a wonderful journey you have both begun.

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:50 am

      Thank you, Joanne! So funny to think how far we have both come since our ICA days! xx

  • Reply Laura Cunningham November 25, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    I can barely see my phone to type – complete emotional mess reading this. It’s just so so wonderful. Sending you massive hugs and love from Dublin, to your gorgeous little family. I’m so happy for you xxx

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:49 am

      Thank you, Laura! I will bring her in when we return so she can meet you all! Love from Houston, please say hello to everyone for me!

  • Reply Stasie F November 25, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    Congratulations! Beautiful story & baby girl. You are all blessed. Much happiness wished upon you and looking forward to pictures of your sweet girl.

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:49 am

      Very soon, we hope, Stasie! We are biased, but we think she’s beautiful and can’t wait to share her pretty face 😉

  • Reply Lou November 25, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    Lovely news, so many good wishes to your family!

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:48 am

      Thank you so much, Lou!

  • Reply Becky November 26, 2015 at 12:04 am

    This is profoundly beautiful Emily. Thank you for sharing all of this. Much love from Dublin xo.

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:48 am

      Thank you, Becky! Can’t wait to introduce Maya to sweet Tovi! xx

  • Reply gerry November 26, 2015 at 12:26 am

    Welcome, Maya. Thanksgiving, indeed.

  • Reply Sarah November 26, 2015 at 12:43 am

    So delighted to hear your fantastic news. Massive congratulations to you. Welcome baby Maya

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:47 am

      Thank you so much, Sarah!

  • Reply Yara November 26, 2015 at 3:37 am

    How beautiful!!! So happy for you, Michael and Maya to be together at last! Thanks for sharing your lovely story.

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:47 am

      Thank you, Yara! So sweet of you 🙂

  • Reply Mary Clark November 26, 2015 at 3:55 am

    What wonderful news! Thanksgiving (and every holiday to come!) will have so much more meaning for your family. I look forward to hearing more about Miss Maya’s adventures in Ireland!

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:47 am

      Oh, we are so looking forward to introducing Maya to Ireland! We can’t wait to show her all our favorite spots 😉 and find some new child-friendly ones!

  • Reply Catherine November 26, 2015 at 7:35 am

    That’s such a beautiful story! Congrats to all of you.

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:46 am

      Thank you, Catherine!

  • Reply Nathalie Marquez Courtney November 26, 2015 at 8:52 am

    Was in floods of tears reading this. So, so happy for you both. Sending all the good wishes, hugs and love your way. x

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:46 am

      Thank you, Nathalie! And best wishes on your new adventure as well!

  • Reply Tilly November 26, 2015 at 9:33 am

    Wow, first time to post, but I had to.

    Congratulations to you both! I wish the three of you lots of happiness for the future. This post is beautiful, just like your family. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:45 am

      Thank you for commenting, Tilly! May it not be your last 😉

  • Reply Aidrienne Branagan November 26, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Emily,
    Sitting here in my kitchen on a damp wet morning in Dublin, I am crying tears of joy for you and your Family.
    I wish you all a life full of happiness and joy.While I will miss your blogs about places to visit in Dublin. We have tried many places on your recommendations. I am looking forward to reading all about your new adventures in US .I love all things American. We are having a thanksgivings day dinner here in Malahide. Turkey waiting to go in oven.
    Have a lovely day

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:45 am

      Aidrienne, thank you so much, I love picturing you having Thanksgiving in Malahide! We miss Dublin so much but we will return before you know it and will be back to catching up on as many recommendations as possible. I have a running list! And feel free to send me yours so I don’t miss out 😉 xx

  • Reply Courtney F November 26, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!!!! FINALLY!!!! That is a wonderful story of love and faith and hope …. We are so happy for you three!! We can’t wait to hear more stories and see more pictures!!

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:44 am

      Thank you, Courtney! I can’t wait to be able to share more! It’s actually so odd to think no one has even seen her face yet! Soon, hopefully!

  • Reply Raffaella November 26, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Tears of joy for you, really! I imagine what a wonderful first Thanksgiving and Christmas as a family of three, you’re going to have! Hugs from Italy!

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:43 am

      It is certainly the perfect season for welcoming Maya into our family! And teeny tiny Christmas outfits for her 😉 xx

  • Reply vanessa November 26, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Wishing you all, all three of you, well. Wishing you happiness and good days.

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:43 am

      Thank you so much, Vanessa!

  • Reply Au Fil d'Isa November 26, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    I am so happy for you guys. And that story is so beautiful, Maya will love to hear it when she’s older. I’ve know moments like you describe here, moments where you just know something is about to happen, and it makes it even more amazing and powerful. Thank you again for sharing your journey with us. I wish the best to your little family <3

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:42 am

      It is even more powerful, isn’t it? Although no less shocking in this case 😉

  • Reply Amanda November 27, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    Welcome baby Maya. Such wonderful news . Congratulations to you.

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:42 am

      Thank you, Amanda!

  • Reply Dara November 27, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    What a lovely happy ending…or more accurately a happy beginning…congrats on the new addition to your family. https://champagneinateacup.wordpress.com/

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:41 am

      Thank you, Dara! It is, indeed, just the beginning 🙂

  • Reply sunny November 28, 2015 at 12:51 am

    Congratulations, I am so happy for you! 🙂

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:41 am

      Thanks, Sunny! What a cheerful name you have 🙂

  • Reply Aleksandra November 28, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    All the best for you and your little child! It’s amazing to hear that such good things are happend around us.
    Greetings from Poland

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:41 am

      Hello to Poland, Aleksandra! Thank you so much!

  • Reply Emily November 29, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    This post is so beautiful. Congratulations!!! Welcome home and Happy Thanksgiving to baby Maya!

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:39 am

      Thank you so much, Emily!

  • Reply Elizabeth November 30, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    So amazing!! Love, love, love!!!

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:39 am

      Thanks, Ellie! And thank you for your sweet email. I might take longer to respond there, but I will get to it and appreciate it! xx

  • Reply Sarah November 30, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    I was hoping the recent quietness on the blog meant good news for you all!!! Congratulations to you and Michael and a huge welcome to baby Maya! Wishing so many blessings on you and your family at this special time x

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:38 am

      You were right, Sarah! Thank you so much! 🙂

  • Reply Lily Ramirez-Foran November 30, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    Oh Emily, I’m in bits reading this. So, so delighted for you three! I know far too well the pain of wanting a family and not being able to have it. This has warmed my heart and given me hope. Sending you guys all the blessings in the world!

    • Reply emily December 1, 2015 at 2:38 am

      Thank you so much, Lily. I wish with all my heart you didn’t know that pain. It’s so incredibly hard and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Love from Houston! xx

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  • Reply Anita January 9, 2016 at 12:27 am

    Thank you for telling your beautiful story here Emily, what a privilege to hear of God’s remarkable love in your and Maya’s lives. That song has also been a wonderful blessing to me as I watched the video tonight, no longer slaves to fear, we are His children. I’m praying Maya knows His great love for her every day of her life. Congratulations!

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  • Reply Asking for Help and Happy Weekend - From China Village March 11, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    […] So here goes. If you or someone you know feels strongly about adoption or has a heart for orphans, or simply appreciates being able to come here and read this blog most days for the last few years, perhaps you’d consider donating through our adoption fundraising page. If you aren’t in a position to donate, perhaps you might consider sending our story to someone who is. Donations are tax-deductible in the United States, and donations are possible from anywhere in the world. And if you missed how Maya came to join our family (in which case you might be awfully confused right now!), you can also find that right here. […]

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    […] (I wrote these words yesterday, but didn’t manage to press publish until this morning. If you’ve missed this (admittedly over-blogged ? episode in our lives, you can catch up with Maya’s birth story here.) […]

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