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Once Jude was healthy and we had legal permission to take him from the hospital, Lydia would still need to formally consent to the adoption. Then state bureaucrats would have to approve us to take him back to Wisconsin. It would be days before we could take him home.
The Fourth of July holiday weekend spun the entire process—with social workers, hospital staff, lawyers, and court—into slow motion. Each hour and day of taking care of Jude forged a deeper attachment, but we were suspended, mid-air, in the process that would make him our son.
Two days after leaving the hospital, Lydia met with the attorney and signed papers to allow us to leave the hospital with Jude the next morning. We’d have to monitor his jaundice, but the doctors said his infection had gone away.
We were elated and decided to take an hour away from the hospital to have what might be our final dinner without a baby. As we left the restaurant, buzzing a little from delicious microbrews, Lydia called. We knew that she had finally arranged a meeting with the birth father so he could sign his papers.
She said quietly, “He says he needs to think about this.”
Haltingly, she told us he was shocked to learn about the baby. She had not told him earlier—about the pregnancy or her intention to place—after all.
Up until that moment, Lydia had seemed reliable. But if she hadn’t been truthful about the birth father, what other information were we missing? The new level of uncertainty was devastating.
“Okay….” Travis tried to keep his voice even. There was no point in letting her know we were upset and confused. “What about you? Do you still want to go ahead with the adoption? We’ll understand either way.”
“I’m still sure.”
Jude waited back at the hospital for us and was still scheduled for discharge the next morning. Our hope now rested on the possibility that the birth father would recover from shock and decide he did not want to be responsible for a baby.
Back at the hospital, the nurses told us Jude wasn’t sleeping well and clearly wanted to be held. Of course he did. We wanted that for him too. We were so ready for him to become a part of our lives away from the glare of the fluorescent lights and without hospital scrubs coming between our skin.
We left the hospital late and, after another restless night, went back with a full diaper bag and a brand new car seat. We knew the risk of the situation but couldn’t imagine leaving Jude all by himself for another day. I couldn’t help but feel excited and hopeful.
As we entered the NICU, a familiar nurse quickly intercepted us to let us know the birth father was there late the night before. He told them he “had to do the right thing.”
I had barely digested this when Lydia arrived unexpectedly, with her girlfriend and another friend. Her body language had changed dramatically. Arms crossed and back slumped, she did not raise her eyes to meet ours. Eventually, she mumbled only that the birth father didn’t want the adoption to go through.
We crowded into the room normally reserved for mothers to pump milk for their preemies. The social worker tried to prompt Lydia to reveal what she wanted. She stared at the floor and said nothing.
After minutes of sitting in silence, I grew angry. I would respect Lydia’s decision. I was aware that we knew little about her life or the nature of her relationship with the birth father. But after taking care of and completely falling for that beautiful little baby, we deserved an answer.
Travis was more measured, so I kept quiet. He said, “We want you to make the decision that’s right for you. We just need to know what you want.”
She kept her eyes on the floor and said nothing. Her friend then informed us: “Lydia is going to tell her family about the baby later today.” Still, Lydia remained silent.
I had to get out of that room. Travis followed moments later. There was nowhere private to go so we awkwardly stood over a bin of used hospital scrubs, fiercely fighting the urge to collapse. My instinct was to run.
The social worker emerged to tell us Jude could stay in the hospital for the weekend. That would give Lydia and the birth father more time to make their final decision.
It was horrible not to have a final word, especially when the outcome seemed clear. But I was relieved that the hospital could keep him. The thought of bringing him to sleep with us in our hotel, only to have to bring him back was far worse than living with another few days’ uncertainty.
We walked over to Jude, took turns pressing our face against his, and softly whispered goodbye.
As soon as we crossed the skywalk into the parking garage, Travis’s mouth crumpled and a sob rose in his throat. He lunged toward me, and I started sobbing too as we limped toward the privacy of our rental car. I remember being scared by the intensity of how broken I felt, wondering if either of us could ever heal.
We spent the next few hours listlessly driving and walking through the city. Off and on, the tears would come pouring forth again, especially when we called friends and family to give them the news.
Before heading back to the hotel, we decided to drop off the things we had planned to give to Lydia. At the hospital front desk, we left a keepsake box with photos of her and her baby tied up in red ribbons, the recording of her talking to him, and her little lion. Travis wrote a short note, letting her know we understood and wanted the best for her and her son.