We remembered that two years ago today, we got the diagnosis that our son, Jakin, had a heart condition that eventually took his life. And today we would meet our daughter. It still didn't feel real.
Before we left our hotel, I had been using the free Wi-Fi to update people and let them know we were safe. A blogger friend of mine contacted me and told me she lived between where we were and where we were going and asked if we needed anything. I just asked her where was a good exit to find a store we could buy some coats and blizzard-worthy shoes. I just didn't think my one sweater and Ben's fleece pull-over and my canvas shoes were going to cut it when we arrived in Bismarck. And we didn't know how long it would be until our "lost" luggage was found.
She told me she had a bag of coats in her garage and that if we didn't mind wearing a used coat, she would just give them to us. We said that would be great and made plans to meet just off an interstate exit. The roads were fairly clear until we hit that exit and it was like driving into a whole other world! Everything was covered in snow and as I took the first step out of the vehicle, I realized there was a thick layer of ice under all the snow. Ben gave me his fleece pull-over and we made our way into a coffee shop to meet my sweet friend. We were just a little under dressed for the weather :)
She bought us a cup of coffee and we talked while we drank and then we went back outside to her car to get the coats. She had not only given us coats, but hats and gloves as well (THANK YOU DEAR FRIEND!!!) As we gave hugs and parted ways I just kept thinking how awesome it was that God placed us in each others paths through this little blog three years ago.
Ben, ever so carefully, got back on the interstate as I pulled the coats out of the bag. My jaw dropped and all I could do was laugh!
Just about a week prior to this, Ben and I were talking about Christmas and he said he would really like a new coat. Either a double lined North Face jacket or a hunter green Columbia fleece.
Guess what kind of coats were in the bag? Yup, you guessed it! A double-lined North Face jacket and a hunter green Columbia fleece in his size! Oh my, God was answering prayer we hadn't even prayed. Also in the bag was some wonderfully warm hats and gloves and a great coat for me as well.
As we drove up the interstate, we started seeing more and more cars stranded on the sides of the road. We also saw a semi that had slid off the road and into the median. It looked like the trailer then flipped and all the product the truck was carrying was everywhere. Another semi pulling a mobile home had jack-knifed on an exit. We just kept praying and driving.
We stopped again at what we had heard was the last exit for a while and bought some good snow shoes and had lunch. After we got back on the road, I called our agency to them an update on our travels and check on our girl. After I got off the phone we prayed again.
One of our specific prayers would be that God heal her and give us evidence of her healing by changing her facial features (one of the symptoms of one of her diagnosis). Within two minutes of saying "amen" our agency director called us back and said one of her symptoms had completely disappeared! This one symptom was predicted to last at least 10-14 days were GONE at 5 days!
There were some scary moments on that icy road, but we finally made it to Bismarck and had to take our rental to the airport to drop it off. We also went to the desk and asked if maybe our luggage had made it's way. Guess what! It did! We couldn't get a flight, but our luggage did. So basically, we just didn't have to haul our ginormous suitcase around!
We called a cab and had them take us to the Ronald McDonald House where we would be staying. Our cab driver told us that he has been driving a taxi for 15 years and last night was the only night he has ever went home early...he told us that this is the worst blizzard he has ever seen since he has been driving because of how quickly it came in and the thick layer of ice that so quickly covered the ground.
We quickly checked in to the RMH and found our room and dropped off our luggage. We had passed the hospital on the way to the RMH and it was just a few blocks away, so rather than calling a cab, we thought we would just bundle up and walk. This was our street view on the way to the hospital:
This was a main street. And it was stinkin' cold!!! We decided that we could probably walk during the day, but when we leave the hospital late at night, we would be calling for a ride, brrrrrr!!!!
As we finally made our way around the labyrinth of hallways of the hospital and found the NICU, we anxiously looked at all the bassinets through the long window down the hallway. Searching for which one we thought our baby girl would be in. The nurses caught sight of us and we saw them excitedly grab a chart and run to the locked door.
"I think I know who you are!" Our agency had been wonderful about keeping us in touch with the hospital and letting them know when we would be there. "You're just in time! She is just about to take a bottle!"
We had to confirm by showing them ID and signing a few things and then they led us to the scrub in room and went over the NICU guidelines with us. After we were all scrubbed in, they gave us our hospital bracelets to wear and led us through the NICU. While we walked, my eyes were searching.
Then I saw a little isolate in the back of the room on the left side.
It was the only one on that side that had no protective parent standing guard.
No one watching her.
No one standing there, praying over her.
She was alone.
All I could make out at first was the back of a little head covered in deep black hair. As we got closer, we were met by two more nurses that quickly moved two gliders near her bassinet, prepared a bottle and started removing the sides of her isolate.
"Are you ready to feed her, Mom?" Our wonderful nurse asked me. I
I began shedding my layers of coats and dropping my diaper bag and purse on the floor next to the glider.
Before I knew it, they had placed her in my arms, helped me find the seat, placed a pillow in my lap and a bottle in my hand.
And like that, we were bonding...
After she finished her bottle, I just stared at her. She was so beautiful. I started talking to her and trying to memorize all her little features. Then, it happened.
She took a deep breathe and she smiled at me...
And she kept smiling. Over and over again. I will admit that this is the point I may have gotten a little teary. In the midst of the room no parent wants to be in, where other families were literally preparing to hear some awful news, we were here receiving a wonderful miracle. She was here. She made it. We were here. We made it. All the obstacles in both our paths had been overcome and God had brought her to us and us to her.
At some point I realize that Ben needed his turn as well. I reluctantly handed her to him, carefully watching her IV tubes.
Ben's first time holding her was another one of those, fall in love with him all over again moments. This was the fifth time I had seen him hold a child given to us by birth or adoption.
We immediately felt a bond with her. It was something I really have a hard time placing words to how it happened. It was like all our traveling was our labor and the moment they placed her in my arms was birth. I know it isn't this way with all adoptions, but everything was immediate with her.
We did all the parent duties. We changed her diapers and held her while she slept. We sang to her and read some Psalms to her.
When the time came for her next bottle, the night shift nurse asked me if we would like a little privacy. She allowed us to move into the nursing mothers room to feed her and have a little kangaroo time.
I forget how late it was when the nurses finally convinced us we could leave and get some rest. We kissed her goodnight and slowly left the NICU and called a taxi to come get us.
While we waited in the foyer of the hospital, looking around at the snow, it was still hard to believe we were really here. We called Ethan and told him all about his sister and said we would email him pictures of her as soon as we got back to the RMH.
Parts of the trip still feel so surreal.