In October of 2004 we phoned our adoption agency with hope and excitement at the prospect of bringing a new child into our family. This time, however, we would be taking a fairly substantial risk due to the fact that we we were moving out of state and had about ten months from the start of the process to bringing a baby home. In reality though, we only had eight months from the time we were placed on the waiting list. Knowing that many couples wait two or more years for an infant, we were taking a rather large "leap of faith".
I was not afraid. I had already suffered a failed adoption once before, and mindful of the abundant graces obtained from that loss I knew God would provide, whether we successfully adopted in that short time or not. But I truly believed we would be blessed with a new baby and a sibling for our Gianna, who possessed that abundant happiness and love, so universal to young children, which beckoned someone else to share it with.
I will never forget the day we received that promising phone call from our agency. I was in my kitchen in the late afternoon, bright sun rays beaming through our dining room window. I remember the smell of roasted rosemary-garlic chicken in the house and the quiet of the afternoon while Gianna was napping upstairs. I remember feeling as though I had just walked through the gates of heaven, not quite seeing the face of God yet because I could not remain calm or still, but I stood in hope-filled, excited anticipation of something glorious about to happen.
After hanging up the telephone I knew a dozen things - about the birth parents and their reasons for choosing us, about the pregnancy and health of the baby, that the baby was due in less than a month and that we would be having another girl. "A girl?" I asked, and the caseworker responded "Yes, a girl." My heart was thrilled. Images of sisters twirling around in their dresses, playing with dolls, sharing a bedroom, and sitting on their Daddy's lap in pig tails while having fairy tales read to them- this is what passed through my mind. I savor the memory like it was yesterday.
During the weeks before our Madeleine was born, we were able to attend prenatal appointments with the birth parents, taking Gianna with us. Having had no experience with sonograms, infant heartbeats or the joys that accompany such events, I was so grateful to be present during these visits. I had no idea the sound of a baby's eight month old life could be so overwhelmingly beautiful. My husband also treasured these moments and was amazed by the miracle of it all. Gianna simply thought it was funny that she could hear her sister in someone else's belly!
And then came our big due date. And then passed our big due date. (I know how you mothers feel now - the anxiety is almost unbearable!) After a few more weeks passed, the doctor finally ordered an induction. He scheduled it for 8:00 pm on the eve of the Feast of the Visitation. It seemed perfect. The day celebrating Mary's greeting of Elizabeth, two women coming together, each expecting a baby of their own. And now two more women would be coming together, but these two mothers would be expecting one child, who would be loved and treasured by both.
The night of Madeleine's birth was a miraculous whirlwind. We arrived at the hospital a little before eight o'clock and met with Danielle and Gabriel in the parking lot. We all walked in together. After the routine check-in, transfer to our room, etc., the doctor arrived and checked Danielle. She was dilated only one centimeter when the prostaglandin tablet was inserted, and the doctor asked us to remain in the waiting room until the next examination. Around midnight we were informed that Danielle was still at one centimeter, and the doctor insisted we drive home and get a good night's sleep. He said he was certain she would not go into labor until sometime the following afternoon, and that it would be best for us to get some rest. We were nervous about leaving, but he again insisted we go home and that he would call us should there be any progress.
We arrived at home about thirty minutes later and went to bed. (Don't ask me how we could sleep soundly, I have no idea!) After an hour of rest the phone rang and both of us jolted out of bed. The nurse informed us that Danielle was beginning to have contractions and encouraged us to come back to the hospital. I remember the feeling of stirring nerves and the pulse of restless heart palpitations. I wondered whether we would make it back in time for the birth of our baby.
When we returned to the hospital room, Danielle was at three centimeters but quite relaxed and her contractions did not seem to bother her. We returned to the waiting area, only to have the nurse open the door violently a few minutes later shouting, "It's time! Hurry up!"
I don't think my feet touched the ground along that corridor. But when we approached Danielle in her room, in her sweet, quiet voice she announced, "This is it. Are you ready?" Madeleine's head was visible, but the doctor asked her to wait a few more seconds while he made his preparations. I remember this beautiful, bluish, somewhat alien-like creature surfacing, her head first, then those sweet little shoulders one-at-a-time, that round belly and those adorable feet. The doctor handed me the scissors and I cut the umbilical cord. How beautifully symbolic that moment was, an event that made an enduring impression on my soul.
Being present at Madeleine's birth was something I never thought I would desire. But it was one of the most miraculous, awe-filled moments of my life. It is indeed the closest thing to participating in the Divine I can think of.
The nurses asked Danielle who she wanted to have hold the baby first, and without hesitation, she insisted that I take Madeleine into my own arms. I cried. As we held our Rose from heaven and marveled at all her tiny features, Danielle looked up at us ever so sweetly, smiled, and congratulated us. SHE is a miracle!
The rest of the hospital stay was all about holding, kissing, gazing at and cuddling with our new infant, and thanking God for every minute we had with her. Gianna visited her new sister the very day she was born, and our photographs and video footage of the encounter are precious. She was so tender with this little babe - her gentle kisses and caresses, so lovingly executed, were enough to make a new mother's heart melt.
My heart still melts today when I see the two of them playing, fighting, laughing, embracing or just sitting together. I once said that I am grateful for their moments of discontentment and temper tantrums, because the very sound of fussiness reminds me that I am not childless. My two girls bring me more joy than I could have ever imagined. I hope through grace I might return that happiness by giving them the love of Christ, to guide them on this earth and prepare their entrance into the gates of Everlasting Joy.
One of the most beautiful lessons I have learned from my sweet Madeleine is that sometimes, a "leap of faith" is all we need.
Madeleine Rose, 2 days old