I am sitting here on my bed tonight, next to my peacefully sleeping 3 year old and my mind is returning to all the nights she has laid beside me, all the kicking, the cooing, the drooling on my arm as I hold her little body. Those moments are surreal now. Time has a funny and unfair way of stealing feelings and memories from us, but not those ones. Those moments never leave you.
My second baby girl is never going to be snuggled next to me in my bed. I will never get to wake up to her coos and movements. The days of her waking me up in the middle of the night ended the day she was born.
The months leading up to her birth time couldn’t go fast enough. I was over being fat. I was over wearing the reminder of the lowest point in my life. I was tired of the anxiety anticipating what was coming. It was exhausting throwing that optimistic smile on day after day, month after month but it had to be done.
Through that time, as left right and sideways as the emotions were, I felt pretty peaceful in my decision and as the relationship with Christian and Chelsey developed that resolve only grew stronger. So by delivery day I was ready! I kept in together for the labor, delivery and surprisingly the relinquishment.
And then the light.
Turning that light off killed me.
It may sound strange but I loved that whole experience in the hospital! I adored the people there and the special event that took place. I got to bring the most perfect baby girl into the world to join her beautiful family. I watched it all happen and I never wanted to leave that feeling, that room.
Tears are dropping on my keyboard with each word I remember about that night. In 3 months, this is the first time I have cried about this.
The sun was going down on October 6th 2017 and after the papers were signed I started to panic inside that it was over. All of it was over. My fears started to sink in about the life after “the hospital.” I worried that this was the part where I fade out and became just a name in a story.
The night was gaining the essence of finality as the nurse went through the steps to check me out and I remember wishing they told me I had to stay. Unfortunately I was in great shape to go home. Everyone there was checking up on my emotions and I remained calm and kept repeating myself, “No I am good! I need to get home to Haven anyway.” Which yes, I wanted to hold my sweet Haven but I wasn’t sure I was ready to be reminded there was a life outside and I was all the sudden alone in my body with an emotional mystery ahead of me.
My dad was there to drive me home and so I put a bag on each shoulder and stood staring at the room that held my whole heart. That moment of scanning the room, wishing I could stay forever with that precious baby girl who was no longer physically or legally mine, broke me. I turned, held my hand on the switch for what felt like minutes and finally I turned off the light.
I don’t know how to describe everything that happened after that. My mind was foggy. My sweet dad was so cute walking my limp body out to the car. I watched Christian load the car seat into the car next to ours and my heart ached. We arrived at my quiet house to Haven playing with her toys and her aunt Rachel on the floor. I wanted to be alone so I kept trying to shoo everyone out, especially my dad as I knew he would get me talking when I didn’t want to. Luckily, he knew to hover because as much as I couldn't admit it then, I needed him that night.
I still don’t have a time frame from the time I left the hospital to the time I passed out asleep from sobbing. I talked it all out with my dad for literally hours and then slept really hard! It was way into the night before my dad felt okay to leave.
I can’t say that the reality even hit me until I woke up in my room, no belly, no baby and no freaking idea what to do with myself. In spite of the glazed-over state of mind, I just got up and took my first steps into the first day of the rest of my life.
What in the world do I do now?
" I shannell Stewart, hereby voluntarily and irrevocably relinquish, permanently and completely, all of my parental rights and interests in the guardianship, custody, care and control of the female child born to me on October 5, 2017 at 4:40pm."
This is the part of the story that hurts my heart a little bit to tell.
There is no easy or quick way to explain that experience in the hospital. Twenty four hours to the minute after bringing my sweet baby girl into the world I was going to do the physical act of placing her with her parents. This part is the one you cannot prepare for or know what to expect and even though people say that, I thought I knew what to expect from myself. Let me tell you, my reaction even shocked me.
After giving birth at 4:40pm I just wanted to be alone so I asked everyone to leave for a while so I could sleep. I still hadn't really tuned in to everything. I mean yeah, I just had a baby and I was well aware of that but I just felt outside myself. I felt almost too calm, too much of a lack of emotion. I hadn't even cried yet except that short moment when my doctor embraced me.
So as the night went on, even though I wanted to be alone, I had no plans of thinking. At all! I continued to block out the reality of what I was about to do. I avoided thinking about any of the joys that motherhood brings. I forced myself to ignore the natural desires to hold her and snuggle her. As horrible as it sounds I don't think I even let myself feel the amount of love I had for her. I mentioned in my last post that I didn't want to hold her and I still hadn't yet. I knew I needed to gain more confidence in my tough outer shell before holding her. I almost wanted to be sedated until I could sign at 24 hours. I never once questioned if I would go through with it but it was a way to self medicate. It was me choosing to minimize the agony between now and the point of what was resolve for me.
Chelsey and Christian had a room down the hall where they had taken Juniper, which was how I wanted it. I knew I would not be changing my mind so why not let them have every second with her. I just put myself in the frame of mind that she was their baby, she should be with them.
Now I just had to wait.
Wait to sign my name on the line.
Wait to feel the unpredictable whatevers.
I longed for the moment I could just breathe knowing it was over.
I fell asleep intentionally numb minded.
I woke up multiple time in the night and just tossed and turned mindlessly hoping 4:40 pm would just come before I went crazy. Once morning came I couldn't believe how I was in the very center of this whole experience and still hadn't really pulled a classic "Shannell," which, if you ask my family, is an emotional wreck over a half bare Christmas tree and how that tree must feel knowing no one wants an asymmetrical Christmas tree. This was a baby! How was I not hysterical over a baby!?
I felt my wall built up high and strong around mid morning and when Chelsey asked if I wanted time with her I finally said yes. In my mind I was doing my due diligence. It almost seemed irresponsible not to spend time with her before the relinquishment. I was merely going to appear to have a heart for the sake of the masses. I was more worried that everyone would worry about me if I didn't, so I pumped my mental/emotional muscles up for some heavy lifting.
I watched from my hospital bed as Chelsey rolled this tiny little girl into the room wrapped in pink.
The wall came down. Hard.
As she was placed in my arms every ounce of emotion came rushing in. An array of sadness, happiness, contentment, jealousy, confusion. The works! I remained calm but inside lost my composure. She was absolutely beautiful and precious and perfect and I didn't get to take her home. I had to ramp up the logic. My mind was going into overdrive remembering why I was doing this, why I couldn't keep her and how my circumstances had not changed from the first day I decided on adoption.
I had about an hour alone to just stare at her and in that time I went through the hills and valleys of it all. I went back to the way my life was when I found out I was pregnant and all the events that brought me to this moment. The being that was just a reminder of my mistakes and a trial I had to overcome was now here in her angelic grace as so much more than that! She was now the precious blessing that gave me the strength to be able to do the right thing for her. She carried the power of angels that gave me the ability to love her so much and yet still hand her to her mom and dad.
After that time with her I got up and I faced the rest of the day.
We gave Juniper her first bath together later in the day and as Chelsey and I stood over her itty bitty body I felt such a bond as mothers of this sweet little girl. I am grateful she shared that experience with me and I am glad I let myself risk the heavy feelings to share that experience with her.
4:00pm was here and it was almost time. My case worker came and we all settled in for the reading of the legalities. My wonderful dad was there to be with me for this very unpredictable challenge. I was holding Juniper when Christian and Chelsey left her in my arms and hugged me before leaving the room. Legally they could not be present for the signing.
This is the part I'm not quite sure how to put into words.
I was sitting at the end of the bed, light streaming in from the window, looking down at white papers covered in black words, all eyes in the room on me. I was hearing every word, every legal definition, restriction and explanation to what I was about to sign but all I really saw or understood was that this was it. I am here. The moment that makes all of this real.
My support system was strong with my dad there, my case worker, my nurse, the witness, my sweet Haven and oddly enough my ex husband's mother who had become a huge support as she adopted all four of her kids.
It felt like days before I put that pen to paper. It was such a slow motion experience that I know couldn't have been more than 10 minutes but felt like an eternity.
"I fully understand the legal significance of the Relinquishment of my Parental Rights. I understand that this Relinquishment of Parental Rights and, Consent to Adoption and Consent to Termination of Parental Rights will be effective upon signing this instrument and may not be revoked and that I cannot change my mind about surrendering my parental rights at any time."
I read and reread that paragraph. In response to the natural anxiety that would be building I just said once in my head, "This isn't about you Shannell. You know this is right for her and that is all you need to know. Now sign the paper."
And I did.
I just signed it and didn't look back. I lifted my head from signing and dating to six sets of eyes, six stoic faces ready to cradle me in their arms while I finally broke down.
Yet again, nothing.
I smiled for the pictures, I laughed at the light hearted jokes and I kissed that perfect girl on the cheek before she went home with her mom and dad. Then I packed my bag, my gifts, my copy of the relinquishment and I walked to the edge of the hospital room knowing it was done, and I turned off the light.