Right before we left Maine a few weeks ago, we got a phone call from our new agency to say that there was a baby to be born later in August and they thought we would be a match. They told us that his mom was pregnant and had made an adoption plan, that she had chosen adoption for her daughter five years ago as well. We were his family if we wanted. And of course, we wanted very much.
We have been praying for and working toward an addition to our family practically since the first call we got after we had Maya – asking us to consider another adoption when we had barely adjusted to the first. You might remember that over the course of 2016 we experienced considerable disappointment toward that end. Neither of us would ever trade our time as a foster family, but in addition to foster kids who came and went, we also had two failed infant adoptions. Two moms chose us to parent their future children and then chose to parent themselves instead.
So in the same way that it felt like we might never have a first child before Maya joined our family, it often felt like we might never have a second. Until we got this call. We both knew abstractly that it was really going to happen; every sign pointed toward his birth mom being confident in her decision. But until there was a real baby in my arms and paperwork was signed, it didn’t feel like it could possibly be real.
On Thursday last week, there was a very real Noah Michael in my arms. And on Saturday, paperwork was signed and he was officially ours.
I’ve written before about the heartbreak that comes with adoption, and we both felt it heavily last week. Our gain was another mom’s immeasurable loss. The beautiful thing about Noah’s first few days in the hospital was that his birth mom did get to spend time with him. She got to hold him and say his name. And while I often feel like how we act and what we do with regard to our kids’ adoptions is just what anyone would do given a similar situation, I am proud of the way we were able to honor Noah’s birth mom – and vice versa – during that in-between time.
Noah’s birth mom didn’t want to meet us, but she did want to spend time visiting Noah with her parents before she signed the adoption paperwork 48 hours after his birth. She also wanted us to be able to spend time with Noah in the hospital, and she wanted us to be able to name him, to put the name we had chosen for him on his birth certificate. Her last name will remain until we have a court date in February to finalize the adoption and petition change his last name to Westbrooks, a legality of the adoption system in Texas.
When Noah’s birth mom wanted to come visit him, she would call the nurses and they would ask me to step out for a bit. Then they would let me know when she had gone back to her room. We were sort of like ships passing in the night – or in the quiet and sterile corridors of the NICU. It was strange to think that Noah was being held by two moms during those few days, but it was also comforting. It felt like a passing of the torch, a transition from one mom to the next, a slow handing over of a priceless gift.
In addition to great gifts and great loss, there was the sheer logistics of the week. When we got the news that our baby was going to be born by scheduled c-section, we had 5 days notice and we were supposed to be in Dublin for yet another ten days. Although it wasn’t the option either of us preferred, we decided that Michael and Maya would stay in Dublin while I flew home and was there for Noah’s arrival. They would attend Michael’s only sister’s wedding, and Maya would be a flower girl.
I arrived on Monday evening and our apartment in Houston was still being rented for another few days (such a blessing! but tough timing). My dear friend Jamie drove in from Dallas the next day to be with me and head up “Operation Distraction,” and I was able to stay at her mom’s house just a quarter of a mile from the hospital, steps from the leafy and calming grounds of Rice University. I was so grateful for the moral support and excellent distractions they both provided while I anxiously waited for news of Noah’s arrival.
Noah was to be born on Wednesday, August 9th, by scheduled c-section. There was something about the wait for his arrival that made me dizzy and dazed and completely ungrounded. It was the exactly feeling I had when I had heard Maya was coming but we hadn’t yet made it to meet her. I think when we were in Dublin and waiting for a late August due date, we were able to not think about the wait because it felt like we had time to get amped up once we returned to Houston. But when I got on the plane from Dublin to Houston last Monday, I felt like I was floating and couldn’t find the ground.
At 6:30pm on Wednesday evening, just as our caseworker was starting to warn us that his birth might have to be rescheduled to the next day or even the next week, we found out that Noah had arrived into this world. At 2:47pm on August 9th, Noah Michael was born. 5 pounds, 13 ounces and 18 inches of perfection. I somehow slept that night, grounded by the weight of that 5 pound 13 ounce detail. Noah joined our family the next day, placed into my arms on the morning of August 10th.
One week later, our family of four was together for the first time. Michael meeting his son and Maya meeting her brother was another excruciating wait, and another enormous gift.
At one week old, Noah is healthy and growing. He is calm and eats better than Maya ever did at this age. He has periods of alertness where it feels like he’s staring straight into your soul. He loves to sleep with one arm out of his swaddle, and has almost regained his birth weight. He swims in newborn sized clothes and has the most perfect little features we ever did see. He squawks when he’s hungry and has projectile vomited on me twice.
The day we learned that Maya was joining our family, I distinctly heard God tell me that our baby was here; the day before we heard that Noah was joining our family, I heard God reassure me that we had been matched, that he had chosen our son for us already. All we had to do was be patient and faithful.
Our agency actually called my parents’ house while we were packing to leave for Dublin. For whatever reason, we don’t get cell service up there (darn, Cricket Wireless!) and Michael had answered the landline while I was in the shower. The image of Michael racing up the stairs with the phone in his hand, breathlessly telling me that it was our agency on the phone, will forever be seared into my memory. It was poetic that Michael had answered the phone; Michael’s obedience and humbleness were the key to Noah being able to join our family.
It would be an understatement to say that it was a difficult decision for us to stay longer in Houston or to pursue changing agencies in order to wait on another adoption. It was the most difficult time we have experienced in our nine years of marriage. It was also one of the most strengthening times in our nine years of marriage.
After discarding just about every other boy name out there, we chose the name Noah because we both simply (and finally) liked it, but its biblical echoes now feel perfect. Noah was a faithful man who obeyed God’s command for the saving of his family. I asked Michael if we could use his name following Noah just as Michael’s parents had given him his father’s name as a middle name, but I also wanted to honor Michael’s sacrifice and obedience in growing our family. Simply put, Michael is a faithful man who obeyed God’s command for the saving and growing of his family.
Once Noah’s adoption is finalized early next year, we will finally get to return to Dublin. We’ll get to struggle on a transatlantic flight with an almost-three year old and a one-year-old. We’ll get to move into the house we bought but have hardly ever seen. We’ll get to walk along the beaches where we walked just Michael and I – with our son and daughter trailing behind us or racing up ahead.
And we’ll get to stare up at those incredible Irish clouds in the vast Irish sky and thank our big, big God for a life that is bigger than we could ever have dreamed.