The Last Word I Wanted to Hear.

Via on Oct 2, 2010
Photo: flickr.com | JeremyHall

“Blessed.”  That was the last word I wanted to hear the day the baby was born.

A word uttered by the proud father who, along with his girlfriend, held the fate of this precious newborn we hoped to adopt.

Blessed. That one word began to unravel whatever hope we clung to for bringing the baby home from the hospital.

“We named him Ryan,” Pete said. “After Christie’s brother.”

Gripping the phone, I searched for the right words. The wrong words could push him that small distance away from the original decision.

“I’m so happy for you two,” I said, summoning the courage to continue. “Are you still—”

“Yes. We haven’t changed our minds.”

One month earlier, my husband Craig and I received “The Call”. Christie and Pete were college students who feared that the responsibility of a newborn would set impossible hurdles on the path to their futures. Of all the families waiting to adopt, they chose us. They trusted the stability of our ten-year marriage, made stronger by the trials of infertility, my plan to be a full-time stay-at-home mom. We reminded them of an older version of themselves.

We arranged to meet Christie and Pete at the adoption agency with our social worker, Margo, as our guide. At almost six feet tall, Christie hardly looked seven and a half months pregnant. She dotted her enormous eyes with a tissue before shaking our hands. A tentative smile appeared above the deep clef that interrupted her strong chin. Calmer and taller, Pete gripped our hands; an easy smile floated on his boyish face. Emotions high, neither Christie nor I could utter more than a few words. Pete and Craig talked as though old friends.

Pete told the story of how Christie’s mother read through prospective adoption family profiles at the agency, then called to announce, “I’ve found the perfect couple.”

“No, I think I found them,” Christie had insisted, having reviewed profiles featured on the agency’s website, only to discover they’d found the very same “perfect” couple: us.

Voice shaky, I asked, “Do you know what you’re having?”

Christie nodded. “A boy.” The possibility of parenthood became all the more real. A baby boy.

“Are you willing to take him home when Christie’s discharged?” Pete’s question hung precariously over us before dropping forcefully, sinking in. By law, birth parents had to wait seventy-two hours after the baby’s birth before relinquishing their parental rights. Even knowing that they could change their minds days—possibly weeks—later, regardless of all the hours we would hold the baby in our arms, care for him, kiss him, we still said, “Yes.” If the baby went home with them, it would be harder—perhaps impossible—for them to say good-bye.

We left the meeting wondering whether they liked us.

Then we scrambled, decorating the nursery vibrant green and yellow with a circus elephant border (unisex, in case this adoption fell through), buying the basic baby necessities. Only to wait, which was more difficult than all the agonized waiting we endured through years of infertility treatment.

Yet we were closer to having a baby than ever before.

A few days before the due date, Margo called.

Ryan was born—seven pounds.

One hundred percent healthy. She put Pete on the phone. Christie and baby were doing well.

“And how do you feel?” I asked.

“Blessed.”

Two days later, we headed for the hospital. Barely out of the driveway, Margo phoned.

“They’re extremely emotional. This could go either way. Be prepared…we may call and tell you to go back home.”

Tears sprung from my eyes. I had played mind games, pretending this would be just a baby-sitting job. That way, if we took Ryan home and they decided not to sign the papers, I could deal with it. I tried to reason with myself that if we had to give up the dream of bringing Ryan home, our loss would be a fraction of what Christie and Pete would feel if they did sign. But the thought of walking into our home without Ryan in our arms was unbearable.

We made it to the hospital without a phone call and, hearts in our mouths, entered the lobby to a grim-faced Margo. Tina, another social worker, was counseling Christie and Pete in the hospital room.

Under the heavy weight of uncertainty, we signed the necessary paperwork. Seeing the intended name for our possible son—Ethan Louis Hasselberger—for the first time set off a fit of sobs. (Louis for Craig’s late grandfather, born the same day… years before, of course).

We waited. And we waited.

Tina finally appeared, looking drained. “They’re ready.”

As they led us to the room, I was sure my trembling knees would give out and that the world could hear my pounding heart.  Just inside the door, Pete sat on the edge of the bed. He flashed us a reassuring smile that contradicted his wet, red eyes.

Beyond him, Christie sat in a rocking chair looking down on her baby.

Clinging to each other, Craig and I made our way around the bed to stand before Christie and Ryan. I held my breath, clutched Craig’s arm. Enormous eyes behind closed lids, clef chin. Ryan was beautiful, serene.

Christie rocked a little longer before standing. Shifting her gaze from Ryan to me, she took a step forward, placed him in my arms. Without a word, I took her place in the rocking chair. It was as if we were following a script, yet it couldn’t have felt more natural.
Craig knelt beside me, caressed Ryan’s cheek. We felt a combination of guarded happiness for ourselves and unexpected grief for Christie and Pete.

I’m not sure how long I rocked Ryan, amazed and somewhat afraid of the instantaneous love I felt for the tiny warm bundle in my arms.

The time came for Christie and Pete to say good-bye.

Christie and I hugged. “You’ll make a great mom,” she said. I thanked her, knowing she could still change her mind.

She leaned over Ryan, kissed his cheek, and whispered,

“You’ll be in very good hands. They will love you so much. I love you.”

After hugging me, Pete kissed Ryan’s forehead. “I love you,” he told him.

We brought Ryan home. My parents stayed with us—what we hoped was our new family. Christie and Pete were scheduled to sign the papers at ten the next morning at the adoption agency.

Morning arrived along with more feedings and diaper changes.

Ten o’clock came and went.

Eleven o’clock came and went.

Eleven-thirty, the phone rang. Margo. “Christie isn’t feeling well. But she said they’ll come in later.”

And we waited.

Ryan never fussed, ate like a champ, and slept like an angel. It was impossible not to love him.

Dusk found us all sitting in the family room, Ryan in my arms, watching the sun sink beneath the tree line until we sat in dark silence. Waiting.

At six o’clock, unable to bear growing more attached to Ryan, I handed him to my dad.

My heart was breaking.

Finally, the phone rang. It was Margo.

“They signed the papers.”

We cheered then began calling every person we knew. But sadness lingered in my heart for Christie and Pete.

Five Years Later…

We waved at Ethan with his gelled hair and contagious grin; huge eyes peering at us through the bus window. His first day of kindergarten. I was transported back in time, when his tiny fingers gripped my thumb. Now his hand was more than half the size of my own. Our Lego-obsessed son who constantly tells us, “I love you further than space, a hundred and sixty-four times around the Earth, and a billion times around the moon.” Our son.

As the bus drove away, I could hardly catch my breath. I buried my face in Craig’s chest, and we both cried. It was hard to believe how quickly the time had gone, what a funny, thoughtful, bright little boy Ethan had become—Christie and Pete’s blessed gift.

1st Day of Kindergarten
Photo: Carolina Van Leeuwen | E just turned 5
Ethan with his best bud, Dutch

Today.

Ethan started 4th grade a little over a month ago. He’s getting so tall. Still Lego obsessed with a very, very messy room. Loves to cook and will actually force Craig and I to sit by candlelight (tea lights he’s arranged himself) to relax, serving up “courses” of food, not allowing us to help while he eats his own food in the kitchen. No electronics allowed. He dreams of one day opening a restaurant/spa/yoga place, able to describe each level in detail. Doesn’t allow me to be present when the school bus arrives. I take snapshots in my mind of moments. His laughter. His mock Lego gun maneuvers  indoors and out. He and Craig playing football, hockey, basketball; tossing the baseball around. I reach for his hand, now almost the size of my own.

Me + E 2010

About Lynn Hasselberger

Lynn Hasselberger lives in Chicagoland with her son, husband and two cats. She loves sunrises, running, yoga, chocolate, and NYR, and has a voracious appetite for comedy. In her spare time, she blogs at myEARTH360.com and LynnHasselberger.com. A "Green Diva" and social media addict, you'll most likely find Lynn on twitter (@LynnHasselbrgr & @myEARTH360) and facebook. She hopes to make the world a better place, have more fun, re-develop her math skills and overcome her fear of public speaking. Like her writing? Subscribe to her posts.

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55 Responses to “The Last Word I Wanted to Hear.”

  1. Leah says:

    thank you for sharing. this is beautiful, brings tears to my eyes and love to my heart! Blessings to those beautiful people who brought you your joyful boy

    • Lynn Hasselberger Lynn Hasselberger says:

      Thanks, Leah, for reading. The birth parents will forever remain in our hearts for the precious gift they gave to us. xoxo Lynn

  2. Lynn!! This is one of the most wonderful things I've read all year, made all the more poignant by the fact that I have two new grandsons, both born in the last month. My grandsons, of course, bring back all my memories and emotions from when my kids were little, then I read this delectable story of yours.

    I was so afraid it was going to have an unhappy ending. It was like a little tear-jerker of a movie, all in the space of a five minute read.

    Thank you for writing this.

    Bob Weisenberg
    ElephantJournal

    • Lynn Hasselberger Lynn Hasselberger says:

      Wow. I've wanted to share this story for years–actually submitted it a few years ago for publication. Dusted it off and knew this was the perfect home for our story. Glad you liked it so much. xoxo

  3. Helene Rose helene_rose says:

    Lynn,
    The tears flow from my eyes. What a beautiful heart opening story of love and what a beautiful gift this couple gave to the earth, to you, and their biological child. He is beautiful.

    Helene Rose

    • Lynn Hasselberger Lynn Hasselberger says:

      Thank you, Helene. These are the things I tap into when he's getting into trouble as all children do :)
      Cheers,
      Lynn

  4. I also had a hard time to conceive… Very emotional. I found this great book.. its a great read and includes "ancient chinese" infertility therapies to help you have a baby. See the link above.

  5. Kimberley Rome says:

    Absolutely beautiful in it's raw truth, and incredibly moving. I cannot help but be awestruck by the energetics of Love in the birth of the amazing Ethan. All 4 of you gave him so much goodness and wholehearted action that he is a being of delight! I am crying as I write this for the wonder and gratitude of the bittersweet miracle of consciously lived lives! Thank you, Lynn. My day begins on the cusp of ONEderment. (again!)
    LOVEkimberley

    • Lynn Hasselberger Lynn Hasselberger says:

      I am so glad you enjoyed the story so much, Kimberley. I wrote it a few years ago and have wanted to share it in some way. Thank you for your beautiful feedback.
      Cheers, Lynn xoxo

  6. Neil says:

    I have tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing your story and your love – be well, smile and be happy

  7. Lynn Hasselberger Lynn Hasselberger says:

    Dear Ben–I'm guessing your bawling was triggered by a combination of all of the above and then some. I hope you were able to put your eyes back into your head (LOL). I wrote this soon after my son left for kindergarten and have been holding on to it ever since. Wanting to share it and happy to have found a home for it :) Glad you enjoyed it so much.

    xoxo
    Lynn

  8. Aminda says:

    Thank you.

    24 years ago, well 23 years 363 days ago, I signed the papers to give up my daughter for adoption on my 18th birthday. I have never ever thought it was a bad decision; it has always felt right…and reading your story just cemented that feeling…somehow I feel blessed. Knowing that my daughter too has parents that cherish her like you cherish Ethan.

    I was later blessed by three sons of my own to raise. The good lord didn't see fit to let me have a daughter to raise…I can't thank you enough for reminding me how one person's loss is another's gain and that love knows no bounds.

    Blessed. so very blessed. and I can tell you from the birth parents side; it is a feeling a being blessed knowing that your child has a wonderful family to go to…

    Thank you

  9. Definitely one of the best Ele articles ever! So beautiful – you had me in suspense for a bit there… I was worried – and happy to read the ending of your wonderful, loving family – so complete with E!
    Thanks, Lynn.

    • Lynn Hasselberger Lynn Hasselberger says:

      Thanks you so much, Maureen. So glad you enjoyed. Can't imagine what life would be like had the story ended differently. ~ Cheers, Lynn

  10. Jessica Fashun says:

    I felt like I was reading our story…thank you for sharing! Beautiful! Our dear baby girl is just 8 months old!

  11. Celia Aurora de Blas Aurora says:

    Wow. Beautiful.

  12. Colette Stanton says:

    Lynn, thank you for sharing the beautiful story of your precious Nathan. My heart grew just a little bigger today…again ;)

  13. ARCreated says:

    Thank you.
    24 years ago, well 23 years 363 days ago, I signed the papers to give up my daughter for adoption on my 18th birthday. I have never ever thought it was a bad decision; it has always felt right…and reading your story just cemented that feeling…somehow I feel blessed. Knowing that my daughter too has parents that cherish her like you cherish Ethan.
    I was later blessed by three sons of my own to raise. The good lord didn't see fit to let me have a daughter to raise…I can't thank you enough for reminding me how one person's loss is another's gain and that love knows no bounds.
    Blessed. so very blessed. and I can tell you from the birth parents side; it is a feeling a being blessed knowing that your child has a wonderful family to go to…
    Thank you

  14. Diana Mercer diana mercer says:

    oh lynn. this is so lovely. I'm in the process for waiting for my baby right now…you gave me an extraordinary glimpse into the intertwined joy and heartbreak of this process of adoption. thank you, thank you for sharing. blessings. diana

  15. Lynn Kup says:

    Lynn, how wonderful you wrote and shared this story—it is such a beautiful story. As lucky as you feel to have Ethan, he is equally lucky to have you and Craig. You all clearly share a mutual love and together have created the most beautiful family. I love that you take nothing for granted and have a heart so big that you were able to sympathize with Christine and Pete regardless of how bad you wanted to take Ethan home. You are a true inspiration and light.

    • Lynn Hasselberger Lynn Hasselberger says:

      Aw–Thanks, Lynn, for your words! So nice! Glad you liked the story!! Cheers! xoxo PS. Looking forward to our next run!

  16. Wendy says:

    beautiful :)

  17. [...] Lynn Hasselberger’s The Last Words I Wanted to Hear. [...]

  18. [...] talk about selfless: A-D-O-P-T-I-O-N. My sister and brother are adopted. My life partner is adopted. My dad adopted me (thanks pops). [...]

  19. Marylee Fairbanks chakras yoga says:

    what a beautiful story. I just loved it

  20. GretaCargo says:

    This story just happened last week to some very close friends. Wow. There is so much love and courage in this situation, all around.

  21. [...] my son has money in his pocket and I take him to the store, I hound gently remind him to consider the [...]

  22. [...] Ethan didn’t say it in a snarky way. Just matter-of-fact. I had no retort, other than, “I don’t wear the same sweatshirt every day” and “I don’t always wear a sweatshirt!” (Do I?) I think I also told him I could wear sweatshirts because it wasn’t like I was going anywhere. That was important to qualify since I’m always harping on him to mix up his school wardrobe. “Didn’t you just wear that?” I’ll ask in frustration. “Are you sure that’s clean?” He has plenty to choose from, since he’s receives hardly worn hand-me-downs from a friend who is a head taller than he. And, P.S., he has lots of sweatshirts and does not like to wear them. Hmmmm. Wonder why? [...]

  23. Tamara says:

    Such a beautiful story, brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing from your heart Lynn. What a lucky boy to find such a loving family and what a lucky woman to find a mother like you for her son.

    • Thanks so much Tamara. How many tissues were required? :) Can't imagine life without my little guy. He's truly a gift!! Cleaning out a closet earlier this week and found that long lost TINY mitten of his made me cry. xo

  24. Peace says:

    Years rolling down my cheeks too. Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing Lynn. God bless!

  25. Randall Foster says:

    Lynn,

    I am adopted and was considered a "high risk" adoption as I was 5 years old when my blessed parents Bill and Joan Foster and my brother Brad decided to share their lives with me. It wasn't easy but my mom is a true angel and the most loving and generous person I have ever known. Your story elevated my soul to heights it seldom sees, thank you and may the universe choose to bless the three of you throughout your lives.

    I have lost my fantastic brother and my (words cannot describe him) dad and now it is mom and me and I write her frequently and talk to her every week and my heart alomost falls from my chest when I ponder her passing so love each other everyday as deeply as possible and never miss an opportunity to say "I love you".

    Namaste

    • Hi Randall, Thanks so much for reading and commenting. So happy to hear you enjoyed the story and even happier that it elevated your soul! Sorry about the loss of your brother and dad, but glad you were adopted into what sounds like a wonderful loving family. It's also comforting to know how much you love them. Cheers. ~Lynn

  26. [...] what happened. I told my son, Ethan, time and time again that we weren’t going to buy those “cool” plastic water bottles. [...]

  27. [...] it be all the times my son has to drag me by hand away from the computer. “No more computer today, mom!” Once he’s big [...]

  28. [...] have required me to open a vein or two: the first visit with my brother; my fear of speaking; the pain of infertility; my husband’s affair; struggles with what I wear; getting older; [...]

  29. Jean says:

    Beautiful!

  30. Tabitha says:

    Story very well written, kept me on my toes, the anticipation…what a blessed end.

  31. [...] I’ve been a mom for 11 years, one month and 12 days. [...]

  32. [...] even I eat candy corn (I know it’s laden with corn syrup and, for that day, it doesn’t matter). My son chooses yet another black-caped skeletal costume-of-impending-death and I long for the days he’d [...]

  33. [...] today. Another school shooting. So many young innocent children. Gone. My son just came home and I hugged him [...]

  34. [...] Instead, I deal with it. I put on a good face and try to muscle through it. I explain to my almost 12-year old— women have these hormones, ya know? And sometimes the hormones can make us a bit irritable, [...]

  35. Lynn Hasselberger Lynn Hasselberger says:

    Thank you. I told him his story just this summer one night when he camped out on the floor next to our bed. I encourage him to ask questions.

    I can't even imagine the day he moves away!

    Appreciate your kind words.

    xoxo
    Lynn

  36. KamGi. Now that takes some emotional guts–reading this article while listening to Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah"!

    Bob W.

  37. Lynn Hasselberger Lynn Hasselberger says:

    Sorry for the delayed response, Bud! You're absolutely right–it's Ethan who lit the fire. He may, however, wish to live a life of steak eating once he's 18 since he doesn't get it at home :)

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