Two years ago today, my daughter was three days old. She lay in a hospital nursery, swaddled in pink and blue blankets, completely oblivious as to how her life was changing so drastically on that day.
Her mom, just a few doors down the hallway, signed to terminate her parental rights, allowing her second-born child to go home with a couple she'd only met a handful of times prior. To be loved and snuggled and cared for and protected by them. To be raised in a different home, a different town, and with a different last name.
A few floors below, we sat in the lobby, waiting, torn between the deep desire to be parents to this precious little girl we'd met and the horrific dread of watching a mother and child be separated permanently.
The social worker came downstairs, giving us a thumbs-up sign, which is another post for another day. It was well-intentioned, but felt so very inappropriate in that moment, and I still believe it was, although I do know she didn't mean it the way it came across. I crumpled into my husband and sobbed. They were not tears of joy, and would not be for weeks, or even months maybe.
We listened to all the legal jargon, so void of emotion, but still understandably necessary. We signed where we were told, on papers that said we were now parents. Just like that. Like someone flipped a switch from "off" to "on."
Up an elevator, through locked doors, down a hallway, around a corner, inside a hospital room sat FirstMom. I will never forget the moments that followed. As we walked into her room, she was putting the last of her belongings in her bag. Three family members assisted her. She wore a baggy brown sweater and gray sweatpants over her postpartum stomach. Her hair was pulled up out of her face, and she wore no make-up. We sat together on a little couch in her room and cried together. We hugged, we talked, we tried to laugh, and we prayed. We took a picture together. I said I couldn't leave that day feeling like we might never see her again, and she assured me we would see each other again because we were now family.
A nurse came with a wheelchair, and FirstMom left. I'll never forget watching her leave the room and out of my sight. I sobbed even harder. She was gone, and her baby, who was now my baby, still lay in the nursery, unaware.
We left the hospital that day as a family of three. It took a long time for me to feel that it was okay to be joyful about Sassy being with us. Attachment was not immediate for me, but it did come as the days went on. Sassy, on the other hand, transitioned beautifully. There were only a few occasions that I felt strongly that she might have been confused or upset, and I did everything in my power to comfort her. Even though it took me a while to feel confident in my role as her mom, I always had the instinct to protect and nurture her.
Life went on, as it always does. We've grown and changed. FirstMom has grown and changed. Choices are made. Circumstances follow. Though the loss will always be there, life does become normal again, even if it's a new normal.
On that day, we were placed with our daughter, and FirstMom went home empty-handed. Today, exactly two years later to the day, FirstMom has delivered her third child, her second daughter. Baby Sister was born this morning, and everyone is healthy. She is likely lying in a hospital nursery, swaddled in pink and blue blankets, and awaiting her discharge in a few days to go home with her mommy, the only one she's ever known.
On the exact day of the year that FirstMom lost a daughter, another daughter has been born to her whom she will not lose. Baby Sister is in no way a "replacement" for Sassy. But, I can't help but think how very ironic it is that her birthday would be today.