Not with certainty. We might not have gotten to keep our first baby.
Not biologically. There were no ice chips or contractions or broken bones in Jessman's hand.
We became parents with pen to paper.
Signing documents prohibiting us to share photos of our daughter electronically.
Writing our contact information on forms granting us permission to seek medical care on her behalf.
Dozens of signatures. Each one a reminder: this baby is not yours.
This baby has a mother already. This baby will break your heart into a million pieces no matter the outcome. She probably won't stay long but she will change you forever.
But still. We signed.
Despite the unknowns, despite the uncertainty about her case, her health, our abilities, despite my fears, when they called us, we said yes, & then we signed.
Three days before we signed, we met her.
It was late when we arrived at the hospital that had been her home for one month.
We got badges. Mine said "Mother."
We had been told "don't be alarmed if she doesn't look like other babies."
Her bed was along the aisle, twenty feet inside the NICU.
There was a donated pink blanket laid over the top.
"She sleeps better if we block out the light," they told us.
To this point, I had been blessed with many moments that have stayed with me in their lovely quietness. My parents caring for me when I had my tonsils out as a child, knowing exactly what I wanted even though I couldn't speak, as if by magic. Holding my baby sister for the first time. Reading to my brother & realizing he had learned to read himself. Lying on top of my car with my best friend & watching the stars. Kissing Jessman in the rain on the night we met.
When we pulled back that pink blanket, everything was quiet. Even the beeping machines attached to her tiny body seemed to hush. No one spoke. There were no words to say. There are still no words to say that explain the swiftness with which our world changed in the middle of that silence.
In all fairness, the case worker warned us.
She had said "don't be alarmed if she doesn't look like other babies."
No, she didn't look like other babies.