Friday, February 29, 2008

We just received word...

That we can leave today! We're furiously packing up and hope to be on the road no later than 2pm. We should be able to get a few hundred miles under our belt tonight. Annabel was going to see her first movie this afternoon, but that will have to wait!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

It’s deja-vu all over again

On Wednesday, we left our first home-away-from-home at the Marriott Residence Inn in Tampa to head northwards to the edge of Florida. Annabel had acquired quite a lot of stuff in Tampa, and the mini-van is busting at the seams. She has got to stop shopping! Before we left, the sweet hotel staff surprised us with a cute little outfit for her.

Our first stop was Legends Field, the Spring home of the New York Yankees. Daddy took some pictures and bought Annabel her opening day outfit.

Then we headed towards Orlando to visit Louise W, our friend and my old boss, and her family. Annabel had a few meals, slept awhile, and the rest of us chatted. Annabel accepted more gifts (such a lucky girl!) and we were on our way.

About 9:00, we pulled into our next home-away-from-home at the Marriott Residence Inn in Jacksonville. Hey, haven’t we been here before?

Beach baby, beach baby, give me your hand

Tuesday started with a traumatic event, the dreaded bath. You’d never guess it from looking at this picture, but there was some unprecedented screaming just minutes before.

After getting all clean and pretty, we headed over to Clearwater Beach to spend some more time with the Aunt Shannon, Uncle Evan, and the cousins. It was a blustery day, but the wind was warm. We weren’t sure if a visit to Florida counted if we didn’t see the beach, so we braved the coming storm to collect some seashells.

After a nice seafood dinner, we said goodbye to the family and back to the hotel for our last night in Tampa.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

Annabel says "Yesterday we went shopping because I needed a place to sleep. Mommy must have bought more than just a crib, because we were in PB Kids for a loooooonnnnnnggg time!"

Sunshine on my Shoulders

Monday, February 25, 2008

Party of Three

Today Annabel got a stylish new orange and denim stroller. It’s got all sorts of gadgets that appealed to Daddy. Here she’s using the bassinet feature. Mommy picked up a cool diaper bag too.

Our snugglebug’s a good eater, and we were rapidly running out of our freebie formula from the hospital, so we popped Annabel’s carseat on the new stroller, and headed to BRU for supplies. The choices of bottles and nipples were baffling, but we finally muddled through.

And to cap off our day, we took our first trip to a restaurant as a family!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Meeting the cousins

Today Annabel met her Uncle Evan, Aunt Shannon, and cousins Wyatt and Georgia. In another example of God’s perfect timing, they already had plans to travel to Tampa from their home in Denver for a mini-vacation while Ev attends a conference.

We got some expert advice from Shannon and Ev, and now we feel pretty comfortable that we’re doing some stuff right! We were so excited to see our adorable niece and nephew again too!

First full day – Friday, February 22

Annabel is a pretty good sleeper – during the day that is. At night, she’s got quite the set of lungs. Still, we were able to get some sleep – apparently me more than Scott as I slept right through the first round of crying.

Annabel had her first pediatrician appointment in the afternoon. We had a host of questions, and they were all answered. The doctor said we should be feeding her about twice as much as the hospital told us, so right now we’re on a 2 oz every two hours schedule. It’s a good thing we’ve almost mastered the diapering, because twice as much food means twice as many diapers!

She looks less like a sumo wrestler today. Her chubby cheeks are not so puffy and her eyes are not so squinty. We’ve heard that in a few weeks, she’ll start looking like herself. She’s still not all that photogenic, but at least today, she’s not in her gimme hospital wear! And she’s very adorable in person!

We’re missing the only big snow of the year back in NJ. Uncle Stu has mastered the snowblower, and we’re sure Sophie’s having fun running around in the snow. We’re so lucky to have gotten out yesterday as the most planes weren’t flying today. We heard that our homestudy agency couldn’t make it to work to send off our paperwork, so we may be spending a few more days in sunny Florida.

Meeting Annabel – Thursday, February 21

We knew it was Thursday, because that’s what our plane ticket said. But since we hadn’t yet gone to sleep, it seemed like the longest Wednesday ever.

We were too excited to sleep on the plane, and decided to go over our list of names. I thought it was a little premature – didn’t we need to see her first? – but I went along with it. We’d been through the list several times before, but hadn’t completely decided on a name. After one last review of the top 1000 names in 2006, we chose Annabel Irene for our baby girl. Her middle name was chosen to honor Scott’s mom, who passed away last year.

When we arrived, we went straight to the rental car counter and were helped by a fantastic woman who secured us a minivan for an indefinite period of time, to be returned in NJ. We will have to be in Florida for some period of time - usually less than 2 weeks - for ICPC. Then we’re driving our baby home to NJ. Knowing home much I hate car trips over 4 hours, you might wonder why we’re not flying. Little babies can’t regulate the pressure in their ears, so it hurts for them to fly. So, we’re taking our Town & Country across the towns and country!

(ICPC, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, controls the lawful movement of children from one state to another for purposes of adoption. Both the originating state, where the child is born, and the receiving state, where the adoptive parents live and where the adoption of the child will take place, must approve the child's movement in writing before the child can legally leave the originating state.)

We called Amy and she had us meet her at the hotel where the birthparents were staying. They had been meeting with a social worker for counseling there and later with Amy to complete the placement paperwork. We met Annabel’s father M, a Yankees fan, and her mother M. We talked about their decision to place their baby, and learned more about their family. It was very emotional. Her sweet mother came with us to the hospital to say goodbye to her baby.

I can’t describe what it was like to see her the first time. The last 15 hours had been surreal - so many emotions - and it continued. The nurse brought her into a room to us and we were in love instantly. Holding her was amazing, and she holds onto us too. She’s got a strong little grip in her fist!

She was born at 9 lbs 2 oz, and 19 inches with a full head of black hair. M had a long labor, and Annabel’s a little squishy and puffy. She kind of looks like a little sumo wrestler when she is wearing only a diaper!

It was really sad to see M with the baby, but she kept repeating that they weren’t just tears of sadness, but also tears of happiness and relief that her daughter would be loved and cared for. She’s asked for pictures and updates, and said that her daughters would want to send pictures they take to us and Annabel. M will be forever hold a special place in our hearts.

With only a few hours notice, we were totally unprepared to take Annabel home. We didn’t have an outfit or a blanket for her, so she was discharged to us in a little t-shirt and blanket with the hospital’s name stamped on it. The nurse at the hospital must have pitied our lack of preparation, and she sent us home with tons of formula and diapers and other necessities. A few hours later, we ventured to Babies R Us and got stocked up on clothes, Dreft, and a few of the things babies need in their first few weeks. Of course the real shopping will happen back home with Auntie Joanne!

Was it the lunar eclipse?

It was Wednesday, February 20. Scott was on the phone about 8:30 pm when call waiting beeped in. It was Amy, our adoption attorney, and she told Scott to get me on the phone.

And then she told us about our baby girl.

She was born the day before – Tuesday, February 19 at 5:12 pm. She told us about her parents, her siblings, and all about Annabel. She was due to be discharged that next morning, and if we wanted to be her parents, we needed to be on the first plane to Tampa on Thursday.

After “the call” ended a little after 9 pm, we sprung into action. We called our parents, a few friends, and started frantically walking around in circles figuring out what we needed to do to leave for the airport at 4 am. We found flights, a place to stay, and a car to drive back to NJ, and then started gathering electronic devices, chargers, and our clothes!

We should have started gathering stuff for a baby, but all we had was a car seat!

I had been in NY that day, and was planning to return the following day. Before I left, I picked up my brother Stuart, who was planning to come home with me for the night, and then go back with me in the morning to the city. Uncle Stu not only drove back in the city that night to get my computer and other stuff (packed up by Katie, thanks!), but also offered to stay at our house and take care of Sophie, Oscar, and Lucy.

He dropped us at the airport around 5am, and we were on our way!

Before leaving work, my friend Katie said she thought that something would be happening soon as there was a significant astrological and astronomical event that night – a lunar eclipse – something that wouldn’t happen again for a few years. I told her that was a bunch of hooey, but, hey, maybe I might have to be a believer!