Being at the hospital already seems like a distant dream, even though we only brought Dominic home three days ago. The time we spent there was exhausting, both emotionally and physically. From the moment we left our home Monday morning through our return Wednesday afternoon, there wasn't any real downtime. (As I write this, it's astounding to realize that period was only two days - it certainly felt a lot longer!)
As we've mentioned before, the original hospital plan was that Carly would spend a few hours with the baby following the birth, and then she wanted to completely hand over his care to us. We were totally on board with that, and we were also ready to accept any changes in the plan that she might decide she wanted. Well, as it turned out, Carly wanted Dominic to spend the night in the room with her. Though it meant we wouldn't be able to spend as much time with him right away, Brian and I were completely fine with that decision, and in fact we had somewhat anticipated it. It was a little easier to be patient when we knew that in a short amount of time he'd be coming home with us, and we'd be parenting him for the rest of his life.
|Dominic in his hospital bassinet|
And that's also why it hit me so hard on Tuesday when Carly decided she wanted Dominic to spend another day in the hospital with her. Carly had a C-section, and so she had to spend 2 full days in the hospital afterwards. Dominic, being a healthy baby, was ready for discharge after just 1 day, and the original plan in that case was that he'd leave after 1 day. Even at the time, I knew that it was a good thing for Carly to do whatever it was she needed to bond with and welcome Dominic, as well as process her grief; and in hindsight, I'm glad that she decided upon having that second day. But at the time, I was just about at my own breaking point, since I'd been so looking forward to us leaving for home, and that was going to be postponed for another night. I had anticipated a lot of changes to the hospital/birth plan and was mentally prepared for most of them, but somehow it never crossed my mind that another day in the hospital was a distinct possibility until it actually occurred. And in the end, it was a very good thing, but just was difficult to process as it was happening.
That second night "in the hospital" actually turned out not to be - the courtesy room that the hospital staff gave us on the first night was needed for actual patients, so we had to head out to a hotel for the evening. That was both a blessing and a curse - neither of us wanted to spend the night away from Dominic, but it also forced us to give Carly some time and space on her own with him. That, and it afforded us one full night of sleep outside of the hospital before we would bring the little guy home (and probably not sleep again for a few years!).
Having a hotel sleep on Tuesday night was probably one of the best things that could have happened, since we really needed it on Wednesday. The morning started quietly enough - we got to Carly's room relatively early, and we spent the morning chatting with her, holding Dominic, watching TV, and generally having a relaxed time. But I think we all knew that in just a few hours, Carly would be entrusting him to us in a very permanent way, and that knowledge added more than a bit of tension to the environment. After a little while, Courtney (the counselor from OA&FS) arrived, and she really started the entire process moving for the day. Carly was able to take as much or as little time as she wanted; but there was no more ignoring what was about to happen.
Most of the discharge process went by in an uneventful way - Carly was given her last vitals check, Dominic had all of his stuff packed up, and eventually the checklist was completed. Then it was really time for Carly to say goodbye, in whatever way she needed. Courtney took us downstairs to sign some paperwork, although I think the true purpose was to give Carly the time she needed with Dominic on their own. And then, when Carly let us know she was ready, the time we were waiting for was finally there.
When we got back to Carly's hospital room, she said she was ready for us to take Dominic home. She herself was walking around the room gathering her things - I could tell she was trying to distract herself. We had a small gift to give her: a photo album with a number of pictures of all of us, from Dominic's first few days of life. When we pulled that out, Carly began to cry - and that was when it truly hit me how difficult this was going to be. Nothing I've ever experienced can compare for me to the next few minutes.
Carly is not a person who likes to appear vulnerable, and I know that she would have liked to hold back her tears. But the grief and pain on her face was palpable, and I still can't get it out of my head. As happy as I was to be bringing Dominic home, I knew that at the same time she was parting with him. And I know that she made this decision willingly, and in trying to keep Dominic's best interests at heart, but that didn't make any of the pain easier to handle. Once Carly said it was time for Dominic to leave with us, we tried to accommodate her wishes and not draw out the goodbye; unfortunately, we had trouble actually strapping him into his carseat before we left the room. Hearing Carly quietly crying did not help the process, and it almost sent me over the edge myself. But I knew that we wanted to show a strong front for her, and I was able to pull myself together until we made it into the hallway.
By the time we got to the elevator, however, I was sobbing. I know that this should have been one of the happiest moments of my life, but all I could feel was a profound sadness. I still can't fathom what it would be like to experience that pain we saw on Carly's face; and I couldn't stop from feeling that we were causing it for her. Even thinking about it now is causing me to tear up a little, since the emotions are still so raw. I know that the parting in the hospital was not a permanent goodbye by any means, and I look forward to many happy gatherings with Carly and all the people who love Dominic; but I also know that what had just happened was a fundamental transition in Dominic's life, and I couldn't help but feel some of the loss.
Courtney accompanied Brian and I to our car, where she gave us each a hug and sent us on our way. I haven't written a lot about her role here, but I can't imagine how we would have gotten through this entire process without her. Obviously she's a professional and this is her job, but she was a wonderful guide for the entire process, and without her I don't know what we would have done.
|With Courtney, in the hospital lobby|
|Dominic sleeping on the ride home|
As I've reflected on this past week, it's struck me just how important this experience has been. Yes, there were some bumps in the road, and yes, it was a difficult and emotional few days; but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I'm so glad we chose to pursue an open adoption, raw and painful as it's been. We saw firsthand how much Carly loves this little boy, and I hope she could see how much we love him too. No matter what else changes in his life, he will never be short on love.
Dominic, our son, is home. And that makes everything worth it.