It’s been harder than I thought it would to write the second part of this birth story. There was that moment of silence when she was born that I spoke of before, that little whispered prayer from me to her, and then everything came roaring back to life, lurching forward more quickly that I could keep up with it. Everything seemed too loud, too bright, too fast. The first picture of her is blurry, the second focused but skewed, neither B or I could find our footing well enough to take anything better. I had immediate panic, a deep-rooted fear that I was going to have to give this baby back, that I could not accept the gift. It was like you are always told you should do when someone gives you something too expensive, even if you want it, you say, “No, I couldn’t. Really, you should keep it, but thank you.”
I was more divided than I have ever been – I wanted her so badly, but didn’t dare believe she was mine. The room was divided too, half of it with doctors and nurses working on babymama and half of it with nurses and us weighing her and trying to take pictures. And at the heart of it, I was sorry. At that moment I was sorry that I was taking her baby, and half of my heart was still at her bedside, wanting to comfort her. I think this is why often surrogates are strangers, because when you love the person that is giving you the baby things are so much more complicated. And then there is B with tears in his eyes, looking at her and believing fully that she was his, because she is.
So I busied myself with the details – where would we go now? I don’t even remember the faces of the nurses, only their hands, passing her back to me. They said they had set up a room for us to spend the night in, and I looked back at babymama, and she smiled and I said thank you, and she said you’re welcome, B told her he would go get her a cheeseburger, and we left.
They had one empty room that night, a tiny little room that barely fit the hospital bed, the cot, and the thing the baby is in. They showed us the room, pushed her in, and left. And we bumbled, oh my God, this was the start of two weeks of running into to each other. Also, I swear to Homer someone slipped B a roophie the second she was born. I’ve never seen him move slower in my life, he was KILLING ME.
Our family came in, crying big tears that I could not find myself. We took pictures and ooohed and ahhed over her but again, the moment was happening to me. I saw everyone as people who were going to be so disappointed when this went bad.
We tried to get comfortable on the cot and bed, while Fiona slept. In the darkness we said things like, “Holy shit” and “Oh. My. God.” When she woke up we bumbled and tripped over each other getting the bottle ready and feeding her. When it was quiet I thought of babymama, down the the hall. I couldn’t bear that she was alone. I snuck down to her room, and quietly went inside. She was asleep. In that moment I remembered a line from a poem that one of my writing professors had published:
“I believe a good coach rises from the bed at night and walks into his son’s room, and walks into his daughter’s room, and gives them signs they never see that are of no help at all and then utters the word “safe” over them.”
I wished to call her safe, to wrap her in some protective coating, to say to the world, “She has done this. You owe her things.”
I didn’t wake her up. I snuck back to my room and stared at Fiona, at B, at the bottles and the blankets and our bags and I felt a tiny little ray of hope. This baby, I thought, might be mine.
We didn’t sleep all night, of course. The nurse came in early and said that they needed the room, so we would have to pack up and move back in to babymama’s room. Thus began the hardest part of our journey, the next 6 hours that we shared a room with her, trying to tamper the picture taking and oohing and aahhing out of respect for her. How do you act when you are in the same room as the birth mother? We didn’t know.
She was up and putting makeup on when we got there. There was blood all over the sheets and drips of it all around the toilet. I kept staring at them, bright red against white, thinking how real this all was, how she bled for us.
She wanted to go home. The doctor didn’t see any reason why she had to stay, but we had to wait for the attorneys to get there and for the discharge process. We all watched tv, ordered food, chatted. I asked her if she wanted to hold Fiona, and she said yes. I gave Fiona to her, and she curled up with her and started whispering in her ear. It was perhaps the first act of parenting that I had really done, my body was screaming for that baby, but this moment was not about me. My only job was to stay out of the way, to let them share this.
I don’t know what she whispered in her ear. I never will. And when I wonder about it, I remind myself that it’s not for me to know.
She gave her back and stayed laying down, dressed and with her makeup on, in the hospital bed.
The attorney got there. Babymama stayed in bed and we sat with the attorney on the couch and signed about twenty different things. Then it was time for babymama to sign, and I just didn’t breathe the whole time. It’s not that I thought that she wouldn’t, it’s that it was all so real in that moment.
She had to repeat after the attorney and then sign things. She had to say, “I, Babymama, understand that I am irrevocably terminating my parental rights to this child” and she cried the whole time. Not big sobs or anything you could hear, just wiping tears off of her face over and over again. Again, there were two of me. One of me was devastated, wanted to punch the lawyer and say, stop, you are hurting her. The other part of me was praying that this end soon, that this baby become mine, finally.
The attorney left and we gave her an envelope with a check for $8,000.00. She gave us hugs and left. We had to stay at least 24 hours with Fiona, so we collapsed back on the couch, and held hands in silence. Anything we could have said would have been not enough.