The day came. It was time to get Sweet Pea ready to go see her biological grandmother and aunt for the first time since she was taken into custody at 13 days old.
In the time they’d missed, Sweet Pea had plumped up quite a bit. Her cheeks were quickly becoming a signature feature, and were often commented on by total strangers. She’d recently turned three months old, and was gaining more life and personality every day. Her smile was infectious, her brown eyes captivating.
They are going to want her. I thought.
My hands didn’t stop shaking all morning.
When it was time to get her dressed, I was faced with quite the dilemma. Should I dress her “down” in just a plain onesie and pants… try to camouflage the cuteness at least a little bit (as if that were even possible)? Or should I go with a cute dress and big flower on her head to maximize it? If I dressed her too plainly, they might think we don’t take excellent care of her… and we definitely wanted them to know that we did. But if I dressed her up too precious-like, they might instantly decide that they want her, because seriously… who wouldn’t?
I finally decided on a cute casual number, an outfit I liked her in… but no big bow. We got her dressed and were on our way.
As we pulled into the parking lot I immediately started scanning the area for anybody who could be the grandmother and aunt. After a minute, I saw two ladies. One was fairly young, but I suppose she could have been old enough to be the aunt, and the other, the grandmother. They were not the most hygienic looking people… super messy hair, the younger in oversized, worn, pajama pants and a tank top, the older woman not dressed too much better.
I scolded myself for being so judgmental, but if these people were going to be holding my baby, I wanted them to at least be clean. We slowed our pace, waiting for them to enter the building far ahead of us, wanting to wait until we had proper supervision before we had any interaction.
We’d been told that visits by the family are always supervised, and the family would get one hour with the baby. Because it would be Sweet Pea’s first ever visit, we’d requested that we be allowed to stay in the room with her until she got a little settled. We were told that we’d get about 20 minutes to stay, then we’d be asked to leave so that the family could have some alone time with her.
Sure, it’s supervised, but that thought was scary. Why do they need alone time? What if Sweet Pea gets scared and wants us, but we’re not there? Would they let us back in? Surely they would… right?
I came to the decision that I didn’t like this at all.
But I knew we had to do it.
We got to the waiting room and checked in with the lady at the desk. We’d passed the could-be aunt and grandma outside by the elevator, but they didn’t seem real interested in the fact that we were pushing a stroller, so maybe it wasn’t them after all. After receiving our visitor badges, we sat down. And we waited.
My husband and I were whispering amongst ourselves when a couple walked in. Not them, no grandma. But when the lady checked in the desk, her last name matched Sweet Pea’s. Uh-oh.
My husband and I shared a nervous look. That’s her, I whispered.
Right then, she turned around. Her eyes locked on the stroller, Sweet Pea still sound asleep.
“Is this her?” she asked.
“This is her,” we smiled, trying to not reveal how nervous we were.
She looked at her for a few seconds, then burst into tears. She leaned into her boyfriend for comfort as she wiped her eyes.
“She’s gotten sooo big,” she tried to smile through the sniffles, “Look how beautiful she is, Michael.”
Just then, Sweet Pea started stretching, getting ready to wake up.
A social worker appeared at the doorway. “Are you guys ready? You can come on back now.”
We followed, our nerves beginning to fade. This lady, who must be the aunt, was very pretty and seemed very nice.
When we got to the visitation room, we had to explain to the supervisor that we were given permission to stay in the room with them for the first twenty minutes. He agreed, and took his post at the doorway. He was clinging to a clipboard, scribbling things down non-stop. We wondered if he was recording everything that was being said and happening. The nerves came back.
With Sweet Pea just waking up, I held her for a few minutes while she got adjusted to her new surroundings. Once she seemed okay, I handed her over to the eager Auntie, who couldn’t wait to hold her. We filled them in on how she was doing, and the conversation came pretty easily. When Sweet Pea started getting fussy and reaching out for me, the aunt said the one thing that let me know this was all going to be okay…
“Do you see mommy over there? Awww… you want mommy, don’t you.”
She called me mommy. Joy filled my heart as she handed Sweet Pea back to me. All morning I’d wondered what her attitude would be towards us. Her twin sister had given birth to this baby. I didn’t expect her to call me mommy. But she did. She acknowledged our role in Sweet Pea’s life, and she accepted it. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have said that.
I reached into the diaper bag pulled out the little 4″x 4″ mini photo album I’d spent two hours making the day before, so that they would have some newer pictures of her. On the front was her name and “The First Three Months.” I handed it to the aunt, and she glanced through the pictures, pointing out the precious ones to her boyfriend, a big smile on her face.
Twenty minutes came and went, and before we knew it, the supervisor interrupted us. “Five minutes.” We looked at our watch. We had stayed in there the entire visit… the supervisor hadn’t kicked us out, and the aunt didn’t seem to mind our company.
She’d made a call to the grandma during the visit (who had to go out of town, thus explaining her absence), and left a voice message telling her how great the baby looked.
As our time drew to a close, we packed up the stroller and began to walk out.
“Thank you so much for meeting with us,” they said.
We got out to the car and breathed such a sigh of relief. It had gone well… no, really well. Far better than we could have imagined.
But on our drive home, we both were plagued with remorse as we remembered one point in the conversation. What did we say exactly? That my husband worked at _____ church and they were free to come visit anytime? Sure, it was the Christian thing to do, inviting them to church… but would it turn out to be a mistake? Letting them know where we’d be. Every. Single. Sunday.
God, please don’t let this come back to bite us.
We’d have to wait and see.
(To continue the story, click here)