Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In Concert

I love to play the piano.

I'm not really very good, but I'm good at trying. I can't play a thing without the sheet music in front of me -- except one boogey woogey tune I learned from a friend, and a few bars of "Fur Elise." I think everyone knows "Fur Elise."

I took lessons for a good eight years, though, from the time I was in first grade until I went to junior high in eighth grade. Mr. Edwards was by no means a great teacher. He'd give me a piece of sheet music, let me play and then doze off. Hour's up.

And I never practiced the pieces he would give me, just the ones I liked.

Almost every day I would go to my grandparents' house, which was just next door to our. They had a piano. So, while Grannie cooked and Grampa sat in the den and watched TV, I would play.

And I would imagine myself on a wonderful concert stage, playing for rich and famous and beautiful people. I would make playlists for the albums I would record someday. I would dream of being famous.

But I was never a great pianist. When I would make a mistake, hit a wrong note, my grandmother, from her spot in the kitchen, would shout, "Ah!" A sweet way of saying, "Ew." But she never asked me to stop. Never asked me not to play.

When I was about 10 or 12, I started writing songs. Locked up on my bedroom, mooning over some stupid boy, I would pour my heart out in poetry. Then I would run next door to Grannie's to hammer out a tune.

I imagined myself to be the next Bernie Taupin.


I stopped playing when I went off to college and moved away from home. A piano isn't exactly something you can tie to the top of your Nissan and bring to the dorm. Loyola had big, beautiful pianos in the music hall. But those were for the music students -- the real pianists. I was just a hack.

Then it became one of those things I used to do.

Many years later, my newlywed husband called me at work with a question:
"Is $300 a good price for a piano?" he asked me.

Apparently, he had been watching the classifieds and someone was selling one.

My first thought was that it was a beat up piece of junk for that price. But if the sound board was still, ahem, sound, it should be OK.

"Let's go see it," I said.

We did. We drove to a very ritzy subdivision nearby, drove up to a very nice house in this ritzy subdivision and knocked on the door. And there, in the foyer, was a very nice, console piano -- barely used.

She had bought it for her kids to play. They never did. Now she wanted to rearrange her furniture and it just didn't fit into her plans....

OK.

I tickled the keys. It wasn't even too badly out of tune.

I wrote the check for $300 and Marty and the one friend he brought with him tried to load it into a truck...

So that's how I got my lovely piano. It's in my living room, the first thing you see when you walk in our door (or else the Big 52-inch TV). It's covered with framed photographs of our family. And dust. And I love it.

I don't play it very much. There's so little time, I guess. Or we're doing other things. Watching TV. Bustling about our busy days. Living life. We have other things to entertain us.

The only time I usually play is Christmas. The stack of Christmas caroling books is part of the seasonal decor. I put away the Elton John songbook and pull out the Christmas Pop songbook for the music stand. But sometimes the whole season will go by and I'll never play a note.

I guess no one ever asks.

But this year, on the day of the Christmas parade, after nearly all of the guests had left and I was ready to collapse in my bed, my sweet sister-in-law asked:

"Play us something, Lori."

And joy filled my heart.

So I did. For an hour, at least. I pulled the books out of the music stand and played.

But my heart nearly burst with joy when my daughter came to stand beside me, and she sang while I played. Just another one of those mundane life experiences I never thought I'd see when I was trying so, so hard to become a mother and God was saying, "No."

Lora Leigh has a beautiful voice, and she loves to sing. So I played songs I hadn't practiced in years. Grannie wasn't there to "Ah" me when I hit wrong notes, and I hit plenty. I also lost my place a couple of times, and had an 8-year-old child tell me, "That's not how it goes," and I had to squint to see a couple of the notes.

But it all came back to me eventually. And my heart was filled with joy.

So tonight, I practiced.

And I still have those old songs I wrote -- literally, painstakingly drawing the little notes on grids. Maybe someday Lora Leigh will sing one of them.

That would fill my heart with joy too.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks

It's Thanksgiving eve.

Well, since it's after midnight, technically it is Thanksgiving Day.

In just a few hours I will have to rouse myself from my soft, fluffy bed, get myself beautified, then spend the morning slaving over a hot stove, cooking seven different dishes we each will take one spoon of and then eat one bite of before we're full.

But, we gotta have it all. The turkey, Grannie's rice dressing, Jane's sage dressing, the cranberry sauce that comes out of the can with the little ridges on it, sweet potatoes with burnt marshmallow on top, mashed potatoes with lumps.

And peas, dammit. I want my peas.

They should call this "Starch Day" instead of Turkey Day.

I also bought a frozen Mrs. Smith's apple pie and a pumpkin pie -- because Lora Leigh has never had one and she wants to try it.

I'm so thankful to have a child willing to take a bite.

And that's what this holiday is supposed to be all about. Thanks. Giving it. Expressing it.

So...

I'm thankful for my wonderful family. My supportive husband who stood by me as I hemmed and hawed over this buyout decision and promised to support me no matter what I chose to do.

I am thankful for my adorable, special child, who came to me in the most wonderful way and lights up my life every second.

I am thankful for her birth mother, who chose me.

I am thankful for my stepchildren, who have let me call them "mine," and made me so proud so often.

I am thankful for my sisters, even if I only talk to them on Facebook. And I am thankful for the nieces and nephews (and grand nieces and nephews) they have given me.

I'm thankful that I had a brother at all.

I'm thankful for my friends, the ones I've known forever and the ones I've found along the way.

I'm thankful that I still have my health.

I'm thankful that I still have my mother.

I'm thankful that I once knew a man named "Pappy."

I'm thankful for my beautiful house, even if it is old and creaky and drafty and falling apart.

I am REALLY thankful for my pool!

And I am thankful that the Saints are winning!

And I am thankful for my dogs, my Durango, my computer, the Internet, Facebook, my iPod, my iPhone, my hair straightener and Oil of Olay.

I'm thankful for the talents that God has given me -- my ability to put together words over and over again, my ability to create a little out of nothing, my determination to do and to finish.

And my ability to beat my sister in Scrabble.

And I am thankful that I have a place to use my talents -- still.

I am thankful that I did not take the buyout offered to me by my employer. I am thankful that I will get to continue doing what I do, what I LOVE to do.

I am thankful that I will continue to get paid for that.

I am thankful to be a Times-Picayune sports writer. After this week, there are fewer of us. And there are fewer reporters in the news room and fewer photographers in the lab.

One by one they've disappeared from our ranks, going off with fear and hope to try something new -- or try nothing new.

And we gather together to pat them on the hiney, and thank them for all that they have done, and send them off to their futures, while we stay behind and eat their cake and hope for the best.

But we're really starting to hate cake.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Life is hard, then you die.
Then somebody comes and takes all your stuff."

There is a house across from the little park where I walk.

Well, there
was a house.

Boarded up for pretty much all the years I've lived in Norco, they finally tore it down sometime last month. Now it's just a pile of timber.

And stuff.

But it's not just ordinary stuff.

This house has been frozen in time. About two years ago the garage caved in. The next day or so, they pulled out a beautiful antique car. I later learned it was a 1939 Dodge. It still had the license plate on the back -- an old one. (I wonder how many DMV flags are on it by now.)

It's like they went to the grocery store, parked in the garage, went inside and never came out again.

I don't even know if they bothered to move out of the house before it was sealed with the boards and the "NO TRESPASSING" signs.


There are a couple of mattresses poking out among the ruins. And some pieces of what-nots glittering in the sun. And a red velvet blanket.

Someone pulled a little sofa out, perhaps to try to salvage it. It's one of those wooden things with red vinyl cushions. Someone really should call the set decorators from Mad Men.

And as I danced around the park circle to my tunes from the 80s, I wondered about those people.

Were they once a cute little couple, moving into their dream house? Did he go to work every day at Shell while his bride shopped at the Norco Co-Op or Loupe's? Did their children climb on that little sofa, take a nap under the red velvet blanket?

Did they go to my church in that ancient car?

I wonder where they went. Did one of them get sick and the other one get old trying to take care of him or her? Did their children help, or move far away from home to live their own lives?

Did their children finally decide it was time for them to be put in a home, tucked away in human storage to live out what little time they had left?

Did they forget to go back and get all their stuff?

Or could they only take the cherished things -- the pictures and the mementos of a life lived?

Whatever happened and wherever they went, I am assuming they died there. Because now, someone else is taking all their stuff.

There was a man and a truck there yesterday, combing through the ruins for anything left of value.

He didn't take the red sofa.







Sunday, November 8, 2009

Decisions, decisions

I know I hemmed.
I know I hawed.
I know I changed my mind. A lot.
I know my colleagues were calling me "Lori Favre."

And I deserved that.

What they didn't know was that, for the past close-to-a-month I have been in utter anguish over this decision. Ever since a co-worker posted that first clue on his Facebook profile, and then I went to my office to see for myself, ever since I saw that word for the first time -- "buyout."

I have hemmed.
I have hawed.
I have changed my mind a million times.

My immediate reaction was, fine. FU. I'll take my nest egg and go do something else. I'll teach. I have a degree in English, a minor in journalism and secondary education (and religion, but don't ask). The only thing I didn't go back then was student teach and take the NTE. They don't even give that any more.

I was sure. I was ready. I was actually excited about the future, about the possibilities. I thought about starting my own sports blog -- right here.

I started to say good-bye.

Then I started to mourn.

Then I began to doubt.

Do I really want to stop doing what I do? Do I really want to stop being what I am? Do I really want to change gears at this point in my life? Do I really want to walk out of that building and away from those people and this job and all that it entails?

I am one of the lucky ones. Yes, I cover games for a living, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm one of the lucky ones who loves what I do. I am a sports writer. And my husband just loves telling people that.

Sure it's a pain in the butt sometimes and difficult sometimes and not so much fun sometimes.

But the rewards far out-weigh the pains. I hate climbing the stairs to the press box, but I love sitting in it.

And, frankly, I think I'm pretty good at this. For some reason, the gods gave me this gift -- the ability to put words together to make sentences, and sentences together to make paragraphs, and paragraphs together to make stories. And an eye for the detail. And an uncommon interest in sports, even though I'm a girl. And an ability to put those all together into a career I love -- have loved, for 23 years.

And I found it so hard to imagine not doing it anymore.

I lay awake at night, my stomach churning, my heart racing, trying to imagine not doing what I do. Trying to imagine me in a classroom. In the front. Trying to imagine how my life -- and my daughter's life -- would change.

And I got lots of advice -- all different. A whole lot of people said I should take the money and run.

Run to where?

And then I spent a rainy Friday night at home -- my third in 20 years. And in between cleaning my house, flipping TV channels and taking inane Facebook quizzes, I scoured the Internet for scores and followed the game action on our web site.

And then I went to a volleyball game, and sat in the stands without a pen in my hand. And I hated it.

And the thought of a man wearing a tie telling me, "Your last day is..." just about broke my heart.

So, I've decided to stay on at The Times-Picayune newspaper, doing what I do. I will bypass the buyout and hope the future brings better news (and no layoffs).

I'm not alone.

We're like the passengers on the HMS Titanic. We know we've hit the iceberg and we're taking on water fast.

Many have jumped, taking their chances on an uncertain future without the life raft. And we know not if we will see them again.

And the rest of us are making Martinis with the ice cubes and hanging on to the stern for as long as we can.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I'm one of them now

I have become one of them.

One of those people.

One of those women.

I'm now one of those people who goes to her child's sporting event with no intentions other than to be a supportive and dutiful parent, but armed with a camera and empty digital card to catch every moment.

And, although she starts out smiling and clapping politely when the other team takes the lead, she eventually will explode with a "YES!" when the other team screws up. And she ultimately will end up trying to shout her child's name in a voice louder than all others.

I have spent countless hours -- years probably -- sitting amongst those women, those dads, grandparents, brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and next door neighbors, wishing I was anywhere else or had at least thought to bring ear plugs.

Now I am one of them.

I am a sports mom.

Go ahead and laugh.

I waited so long for a moment such as this -- watching my 8-year-old daughter score her first game-winning point in her very second volleyball game.

I had to miss her very first game because, well, I was watching other people's children score theirs. It's what I do for a living. Watch other people's children.

I've been watching other people's children for nearly 20 years now.

Tonight though, for the very first time, I got to watch my own.

It was a moment I have waited a lifetime for. It was a moment that I once thought would never happen.

It took us six years to "find" Lora. We tried to have her the traditional way. But when God said "No," we had to go out and find her.

But before we did, I cried a million tears. Waiting. Praying. Aching. Trying not to let myself give up and lose hope.

And in the mean time, I had to watch other people's children play their games and score their points, and sit with a million other parents trying to shout out their child's name above all other voices.

Tonight, it was my turn.

Tonight it was MY child out there on that court. And I shouted MY child's name above all other voices.

And she smiled at me.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lo and Mo

Hurricane Katrina taught me one thing... Save the things that can't be replaced. The one thing everyone cried over was the loss of photos. So, since then, I have been dutifully scanning photos and uploading them to safe servers for protection.

I am just getting around to my wedding album....

Lo and Mo Wedding

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer Daze

So,

On the first day of summer, Marty, Lora Leigh and I all sat down together at the dinner table. And we each made a list of all the things we wanted to accomplish.

I wanted to swim, read, watch movies and lose 15 pounds.

Marty wanted to lead his team to the Legion playoffs, knock off a few household chores and lose 15 pounds.

Lora Leigh wanted to swim, sleep, go the Insectarium, visit Bed, Bath and Beyond, and go see the movie, "Up."

Among other things....

We wanted to go to the World War II museum. That's been on our list for a long time.

I wanted to take Lora to Laura Plantation, where Marty and I were married. And I wanted to take her to ride a streetcar. They weren't around for a while after Katrina, so she's never been on one.

On the first day of summer I took us all out to Walmart and bought Lora a shiny new bike. I was determined that she would learn to ride it so that we could spend summer days riding bikes. That didn't happen. Hard to get a kid with a pool motivated to go sweat her butt off in a 124 degree heat index.

We did go to the Insectarium and to the French Quarter to visit my mom. We bought Pralines and strolled around. Then she dragged her dad back for a second trip to see the bugs. She wanted to go see the Cathedral on that trip, so they did.

But mostly we swam. We stayed up WAY too late and paid for it dearly the next day. We had our annual luau. We made our annual quick trip to Florida. We went to the movies. We spent hours in Bed, Bath and Beyond.

And we watched the days fly by.

Tonight we all sat down with our lists and pens and checked off all the things on our lists that we had done. Marty and I both still need to lose 15 pounds. Lora won. She actually accomplished the most.

I don't know how. Most days she slept til noon. Sometimes later. One day she woke up at 3. It got to the point that Marty would let her sleep just to see how long she could. She sleeps late because we often stay up WAY too late....

She's a night owl, like her mom...

But there was so much we didn't accomplish. And now we're out of time. School starts tomorrow. Tomorrow she becomes a third grader. And I am sitting here wondering just how that happened as well.



.

Friday, July 31, 2009

She doesn't remember...


Every mom of every newborn baby can probably rattle off a list of items that she couldn't live without.

For some, it might be the Diaper Genie, or the bottle warmer, or just the Playtex nurser.

For me, it was a simple little CD.

There was a time when that one CD was the most important thing in our house. We knew where it was at all times. We even took it with us on trips.

Thanks to iTunes and the three iPods and one iPhone in my house, CDs have been made pretty much obsolete. That once indispensable disk has spent the last several years in a basket with a bunch of other old ones.

In passing the other day, Marty asked if I still had it. Of course, I do. I knew exactly where it was.

So I got it out and dusted it off. And last night, we had Lora Leigh play it (on the computer, no less).

She listened.... And then she said the words that about broke my heart, "What is this? I've never heard this before."

She doesn't remember...

How could she not remember?

By the time she was a year old, Lora Leigh had virtually memorized the words to every song on this CD. So had I ...

It was Linda Ronstadt's "Dedicated to the One I Love," a collection of songs that with the word "baby" in the titles or that were otherwise suitable to be sung to a baby.

Besides the re-arrangements of "We Will Rock You," and "In My Room," there's "Be My Baby," "Baby I Love You," "Angel Baby," and, the title track, "Dedicated to the One I Love."

(Each night before I go to bed my baby...)

Linda managed to turn all of them into soft, sweet lullabies, much to the delight of many a mom.

It quickly became one of my favorite CDs -- and my number one indispensable baby item. I have since gifted it to just about every new mom I've known since Lora Leigh was born.

It's not just that the music is cool, it also provided some of my most cherished memories of my baby's first months of life -- thanks to the one-time Queen of Rock and Roll.

Each night before she went to bed, my baby and I would rock (literally) to this entire CD -- from start to finish. It was our night time ritual. I would take her into the nursery, sit in my big white wicker rocking chair, push play and rock (and sing) my baby to sleep.

Sometimes, it actually worked...

After listening to the closing song, a soft and sweet version of "Good Night," I usually was able to lift her gently from my lap and place her in her crib. I would softly tuck her in, then I would tiptoe out.

Sometimes we had to hit play twice.

Sometimes we had to hit it three times.

Even as a little baby she seemed to love the music, Linda's voice, the soft and soothing rhythms. She never squirmed to get out of my arms. The only thing she ever fought was the sleep part.


Then there was the night when she was about 18 months old, when I was certain she had fallen asleep against my chest, after listening to "Good Night" for the second or third time.

Suddenly, I heard this tiny little voice singing along with the music.


As she got a little older, she was able to sing every word. So could I.

I sometimes wonder if this is, perhaps, the reason Lora Leigh loves music and singing so much. She has a beautiful little voice, a natural soprano, that is beautiful whether she is mimicking Hannah Montana or asking for something to eat. She has taken singing lessons and made her stage debut when she was 5.

But it has been a long, long time since I have been able to rock my baby to sleep.

She got very big, very quickly. Almost overnight, it seems. She no longer can fit in my lap. And, somewhere along the way, she decided it was no longer her favorite place to be.

And there is a stage -- complete with lights -- where the rocking chair used to be.

But listening to that CD, and all of those one-time favorite tunes, all the memories of those long, music-filled nights came flooding back to me -- but not to her.

I remembered those first days of staring into her face, not quite believing that she was really here and really mine.

I remembered the first smiles, the first sounds.

I remembered those first looks that told me that she knew I was her mom, no matter what Mother Nature said.

I remembered when her curls suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

I sure wish someone had told me that I would only be able to hold my daughter for about three years...

But I sure am grateful that I held her every single chance I got -- even if it meant hitting the "repeat" button more than once.





Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dragonflies



It was never my intention to memorialize my brother with a bug.

Oh, he definitely bugged me. I guess most big brothers do at some point or another.

He certainly liked to tease me, to take advantage of my youth and naivete.

He tried to convince me that root beer really did come from the roots of trees, that if a person ate an oyster and drank whiskey it would turn to a rock in his stomach, that if I swallowed the stuff the dentist uses to numb you BEFORE the shot, that you would die.

I nearly drowned in the dentist's chair when I was about 6 years old.

He did weird things. He drank vinegar straight out of the bottle. Tabasco sauce too. And pickle juice.

And when little bitty me fell in the bayou trying to match him in rock-throwing, he took his damned sweet time going to tell my mom. As I awaited rescue he warned me that the alligators and the water moccasins were coming for me. Then he laughed at me when they pulled me out of the mud.

That was my big brother.

Was.

On July 25, 2001, my big brother, Rhett Martin Lyons, left his home in Houma before the break of dawn for his job in Elmwood. After working a full day, he stopped for a beer with a couple of his buddies. Then he got in his car and headed for Grand Isle and the annual Tarpon Rodeo in the rain.

He did not buckle his seat belt.

It was the summer just before my husband, Marty, took over his baseball team, the summer just before my stepson Daniel was to become the starting quarterback. My big brother was excited. He was ready to become a Wildcat fan.

But when the fall season came along, there was an empty seat in the stands where he would have been.

And in the spring.

But although he was gone from our presence, Rhett was never far from our hearts. And as Marty's first season began, we all kind of felt like he had an angel in the outfield. We certainly called on him a lot, looked skyward a lot, prayed a lot. We even sent him balloons on senior day.

Maybe it was so. The 2002 Wildcats went 24-7, with quite a few improbable wins, and made it to the state tournament in New Iberia for the first time -- ever.

And it was at that tournament that I asked for a sign.

Being a first time nervous coach's wife at the biggest game of my husband's life so far, I was looking for one. In between rocking and feeding my then-toddler daughter, my stomach was churning and my palms were sweating for my husband. I was looking for some reassurance that things were going to go well for him.

"OK, Rhett," I said. Aloud. "I know you're here. Give me a sign that you're here."

"Make lightning strike... NO!!! That will hurt somebody."

"Send me a dragonfly."

Dragonflies are harmless little bugs. Don't bite. Rather pretty. Eat mosquitoes. Good bugs.

"Send me a dragonfly."

And no sooner had the thought formulated in my brain than a beautiful blue dragonfly landed on my leg.

My eyes immediately filled with tears, my stomach was immediately soothed and I was immediately reassured.

I caught my husband's eye in the dugout.

"He's here," I said. And he knew exactly what I meant.


The Wildcats didn't win that game, but our family was left with a legacy... and a mascot.


I now have quite a collection of dragonflies in and around my house -- mostly jewelry and garden decor. And friends and family are always on the lookout for more. The whole family has begun to collect them, in fact.

They remind us all of him.

My daughter used to say, "Look! It's Uncle Rhett!" whenever she would spot one.

The following summer Marty's players were trying to shoo one out of his dugout when he realized what they were doing.

"Hey! Stop that. That's my brother-in-law," he said.

Then he held out his hand. The whole team stood agape as the bug landed safely on his palm.

Maybe it is so.

I'm sure some question my equating a bug with a brother.

But I rather like to think of him free and flying, buzzing in and out of our lives, stopping for a while to see what we're up to then moving on to another spot. I certainly like to think of him still being with us.

And maybe it is so.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

There's a little Martha Stewart in all of us, don't you think???



Haunted gingerbread house ...





Creative cupcakes ...




Hand-painted Mother's Day umbrellas ...





Gingerbread Valentine's Day "Love Shack."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer

Haven't been posting much on the old Lyons' Din.... Not too much to roar about I guess.

I've actually had a pretty nice summer so far. Quite productive, even.

Of course, that could be because I've had LOTS of time off. More than usual. The paper kindly requested that the entire staff take two weeks off without pay this year. Furlough, they call it. And they asked so nicely, we could hardly refuse.

So I took the first two weeks that Lora Leigh was off from school. We swam. We stayed up too late. We couldn't sleep late because she had drama camp. We watched soap operas. We went to the movies. We rented movies. We had our annual backyard luau. Went to convention in Natchitoches. Went to the Insectarium in the French Quarter. Visited my mom at work and went next door to buy pralines. Bought her a a bicycle so she could ride with me, but haven't found the time to teach her how to ride it. Went to Houma to see Aunt Lou and Lena and Madison. Ate crabs. Grew a cyber farm. Squirmed in a waiting room while a doctor cut on my husband's face.

And we read.

One day she asked if I would take her to "Barnes to Nobles." I chuckled and said yes. She wanted the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. She has read the whole thing this summer.

I, meanwhile, fell into the whole Twilight thing... Started with the first one and quickly became obsessed. Fell madly in love with Edward (not so much Rob Pattinson, but EDWARD!). Then, about halfway through the fourth one, I got over it. She should have stopped after the first third of that one. Actually, my favorite one is the unfinished one on her web site. It's Twilight told from Edward's point of view. That was awesome.

Actually, I just enjoyed the reading part. I don't think I've finished a book since Lora Leigh was born. And I've read six in a month and a half....

I've also written one.... Yes, the rumors are true. Nudged by friends and pushed by cousin Bob in Kentucky, I have finally put together a manuscript. It's actually some of what you've read here -- the journal I kept while we were trying for a baby, then waiting for Elle then Lora Leigh. It has been an amazing process. Talk about becoming obsessed with a book!! I've written it, read it, re-read it, edited it, re-edited it, re-written it.... A few friends have read it for me and given me great feedback. Right now there is much hope and promise.

But even if nothing comes of it, I will have left a legacy of love for my little girl.

I hope someday she gets it....

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Day I became a Mom

This is yet another excerpt from the journal I kept during our long, painful wait for Lora Leigh to come into our lives. Soon after her birthmother put her baby into my arms, both were whisked away to upstairs wards. Gail went to surgery; Lora went to the nursery. We went into the hallway and wondered, what in the hell do we do now?
First, we head to the payphones to let the world know that a baby girl has been born, 5 pounds, 12 ounces, and that she will be ours (we pray). Then we head upstairs to the nursery to see where she is and how this whole process is going to work.....
We are, by no means, certain that all will go as we hope. We are, by no means, breathing normally.....



It is nearly 2 p.m. when they finally come to get us and lead us into the back, inner workings of the nursery. This is pediatric intensive care. Hearts are routinely broken here, I know. We pray that ours is not as well.

They usher us into a little, private exam room. There is our baby, red as a crawfish, lying in an enclosed plexiglass case. It’s not an incubator, it’s a warmer. Lora is having a hard time holding her body temperature. All we can do is reach in through the little portholes.

Marty reaches for the foot. I reach for the hand. We sit in chairs and take in every inch of our little baby.

And there we stay for about an hour. Just looking, staring, trying to comprehend the dream-come-true lying in front of us. We are truly in a state of disbelief.

And we are, perhaps deliberately, perhaps not, holding ourselves back. We know that, at any second, she can be snatched back from us – despite so many reassurances to the contrary.

Finally, a nurse comes in.

”Have you held her yet?”
No.
She decides it’s time. We are eternally grateful.

She preps Lora, wrapping her up – mummy style – in the hospital issue blanket. And soon, my daughter is placed in my arms.

My daughter. Sound asleep. Not a clue as to how monumental an occasion this is. I feel the tears burning my eyes, but don’t want them to come. I want to SEE her. I want to cherish this moment.

The camera is in the car, however.
“Go get it,” the nurse said. Marty heads off.

And so, I have about five minutes alone with my baby. The baby I have dreamed of, fought for, wished for, prayed for, nearly died for, is in my arms. I hold, I smell, I look and I start to tell her about the life that lies ahead.

I tell her I’m her mom. I tell her about her dad, that he’s kind of goofy at times. I tell her about her Nana, that she’s REALLY something, but that she will be loved and spoiled and cherished forever. I tell her she has a brother and a sister and three little puppies. Laycee will sniff you, Lucy will bark at you, Lyon might pee on you.

And then, there is Dad, camera in hand. He grabs a nurse from outside to come take the picture.

“I know you!!” I shout. The face is so familiar.

It’s Missy Lapeeze. We went to high school together. We have a little mini reunion! And she gives us the first dose of excitement we will receive from the staff. She is thrilled for us. Her friend in Texas just adopted a baby boy last week, she tells us. She knows, she tells us. She understands.

She snaps a photo of Marty and me holding baby Lora. Our first picture with our new daughter.

We take turns holding her and taking pictures. Missy and I catch up a little, but not much. There are more monumental things going on in that room than a high school reunion. But, it is so nice to have a friendly face in there with us. Now I feel like we have an “in” with the nursery staff. It certainly can’t hurt.

Next comes a nurse named Danielle, wearing green hospital scrubs. She brings the baby her first drink of water. It’s to make sure that all the pipes are connected, Danielle explains. It’s an important test. It also is the first taste of anything she will ever have outside the womb. I am so thrilled that I am there for it.

Danielle prepares the little red and white bottle and shows us how it is done. Most babies squeal, she said. They certainly do not like it. Lora is sound asleep and couldn’t care less. But, eventually she begins to suck. And everything seems to be connected correctly.

Danielle hands her to me, along with the bottle. I oh-so-gently try to repeat the feat. It works. Marty takes pictures. Then I hand her to him. I take pictures. Lora puts down nearly an ounce – a lot for this experiment, Danielle explains.

Then we move on to the good stuff – Enfamil with Iron!! Danielle prepares the little 3-ounce bottle and hands it over to me. I am now feeding my daughter. And I can’t explain just how happy I am that I was the one allowed to do it. I got to give my daughter her first meal.

Marty and I take turns. Then comes the burping. I am doing it the old fashioned way – over the shoulder – with little success with the first nurse (we never did get her name) comes in to check on us.

“What’s the best way to do this?”
She shows us the in-the-lap method. And, for the record, Lora’s first burp came at 3:42 p.m.
Lora puts down about a half an ounce. A good amount for a child four hours old.

A little while later, Danielle returns with all the stuff needed to give the baby her first bath. At first, she was going to let me do it. But then she thought better of it. Parents, she said, are too gentle. This first one requires a little elbow grease.

“You do the first one right,” I tell her. “Then I can do all the rest of them wrong! But, can we watch?”
“Sure!”

Just then, another girl comes in.
“Your mother is looking for you.”
“MY mother?”
“Yes.”

I knew she couldn’t stay away! What a great surprise. I go out to the waiting area and there she is, dressed in black – along with her new t-shirt, “Nana is my game, spoiling is my game.”
She’s pacing.
“Mom! Mom!” I run over to her and hug quickly. Then I grab her hand.
“Come on! They’re about to give her her first bath.”

We go back to the back and my mom gets to see my daughter for the first time.

Before the bath, Danielle offers to do a set of footprints for us to keep. She gets a crib card and the ink pad. Lora doesn’t like this one bit. She starts to turn an even deeper shade of red, showing definite signs of a temper.

Oh boy.

Then Danielle puts the squirming, squealing little red baby under the faucet and starts scrubbing. Marty takes pictures. I just watch in awe, holding my mother’s hand oh-so-tight. I am so glad that she is here. What timing.

Our visit soon comes to an end. They put Lora back into the warmer to bring her temperature back up. Marty heads out to Sears to get our tire that was being repaired.

I really want to go, too. I want to go eat and sleep and stretch and decompress. But I already begin questioning whether I should leave. Am I allowed to leave? Missy reassures me that it’s allowed, that they will take good care of her.

So, FINALLY, at about 5 p.m., I leave the doors of Terrebonne General Hospital and my daughter. Mom drives me to Lou’s. She has spaghetti cooked and salad. I eat good. Then I sleep. Actually, I crash. I hit Lou’s sofa and fall into a deep sleep, filled with sweet dreams of a tiny little face and tiny little burps.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Baby Wait


Eight years ago this week Marty and I -- and our entire family -- lived through the most extraordinary week of our lives.

It was the week our child was born. Not only that, it was the week she became ours. And there were minutes in there that we were not sure if she would.
The birth of every child is an incredible journey. Ours just had a few more dips and turns than most. I don't think I can write it any better now than I did then, so I've decided to share some excerpts from my journal that week. I'd love to share the whole crazy story someday, when I can find the time and the proper venue. For now, I'm offering just a snippet. Keep in mind that we had not yet met the mother of our child, we had only spoken to her on the phone. She had made her decision and she had chosen us. All we could do was wait.

Not only that, we had prepared for another baby, whose mother chose to parent 19 days before the due date. Needless to say, we were terrified that this too would end in sorrow. The nursery was all ready and waiting. Our hearts were completely vulnerable. All we could do was wait.

This was the culmination of a six-year journey ....



January 23, 2001

The phone rang.

Caller ID said it was Gail.

After accepting the charges,

“Hello.”

“Hey.”

“What’s up?”

“I’m going in.”

“Going in? Going in where?”

My heart skipped a beat. My breath stopped.

“I’m going in the hospital.”

“Are you in labor?”

“Well, I think my water bag broke. I had to change my clothes twice already today.”

Oh my God.

“Are you having contractions?”

“No. I don’t think so. But, I called the doctor and he said to go on in.”

By now, I am heading out the kitchen door with the cordless phone, into the backyard where Marty is standing with the parents of his two hitters.

“Do you have someone to bring you?”

I am staring right at my husband as I ask the question. He smiles that goofy grin of his.

“Yeah. I’m going to call Miss Judy and if she can’t bring me there’s somebody else I can call.”

“Well. Call us if you need us.”

“OK. I’ll call you and let you know if they admit me.”

I hit the talk button and stare at my husband. He keeps on grinning at me. I hate it when he does that.

But, I fill him in. The waiting parents listen, offer their good thoughts.

I am stunned. This can’t possibly be happening.

I call my mother. She calls Lou. We sit by the phone and wait. And wait and wait and wait.

Shortly after 5 p.m., I’m starting to settle in to watch the Golden Globes when the phone rings again.

“You have a collect call from … Gail… You may accept the charges by pressing one.”

I press the TALK button again and hang up on her.

Oh my god.

Marty chastises me. I almost throw the phone at him. Instead I yell at him. He keeps on grinning, grading papers.

What seems like an eternity passes before the phone rings again. This time, he answers. Still grinning. Then he hands the phone to me.

“You made me so nervous I pushed the wrong button!”

She laughs.

“They put me in a room. They said my water broke and I am dilated three centimeters.”

“Do you need us to come?”

“Well, you want your baby don’t you?”

Uh duh uh duh. “yeah.”

I write down the room number and the phone number. Tell her we’ll be there as soon as we can.

The next hours are a blur. I call Mom. I call our attorney. I call my boss at home. No answer. Steve. No answer. Colleen at work. “I’ll take it from here,” she says.

An hour later we’re on the road, terrified and electrified at the same time. We call everyone we can think of -- friends, family, co-workers, bosses. Marty's children. Marty tries to call his principal. I am suddenly reminded that we do not yet have a car seat. I don’t even have a diaper bag!!!

Just after 7 p.m. we’re following the signs to the Family Birthing Unit of Terrebonne General Medical Center. We go past the emergency room, past the Fathers’ Waiting Room, the Family Waiting Room, the Short Stay Center, then finally to Labor and Delivery. We walk through a set of double doors.

“May I help you?”
We hear her, but can’t see her until we turn a corner.

“We’re here to see Ms. L.”

They point and we knock. And there she is. The mother of our child, smiling nervously from a hospital bed in a dim room. Very nervous.

We make introductions.

I have no idea what to say. What to do. Do I hug her? Do we shake hands? Instead we stand there, nervously. I tell her I have a cold and don’t want to get too close. We just stand there. She has a friend with her, sitting in the rocking chair. Marty pulls up the other chair (I think it’s a birthing chair) and I sit. We all just sit. We watch TV. The Simpsons. Malcolm in the Middle. An occasional comment is exchanged. It is very awkward.

This is a stranger. There is no connection. It is not a warm and fuzzy moment for any of us. It’s just awkward and uncomfortable. The tension is finally broken when she decides she needs a bed pan. We excuse ourselves, gratefully.

Outside, Marty, the smart one, grins at the nurse.

“Get many adoptive parents?”

And we meet nurse Esther Lirette. She has a wonderful smile and an even better attitude.

“Not too many. Are you going to adopt the baby?”

We nod, sheepishly.

“Oh. That’s wonderful. I adopted my two babies. My oldest is 17. He’s about to meet his birthmother. We’re all excited.”

We feel better, not like vultures.

Nurse Lirette tries to explain what’s going on. Her water broke but she’s not really in labor. She’s having occasional contractions, but there is no pattern. They have no idea of a timetable of any kind. They don’t want to push it. They’re just going to wait for nature to take its course.

Nature has no idea what she is doing to us!

So, we head to the cafeteria to look for … well, neither of us is really hungry. But we go into the nearly-empty cafeteria and order hamburgers. Then, for the next hour, we sit and try to make sense of what’s going on.

But something tells me this isn’t it. We’re not in labor. We’re not having a baby. Not tonight. This is just a … test. Am I passing it? We talk about Gail and our first impressions. We both think she is just really sweet and nervous. We wonder what she thinks of us. We hope she didn’t take one look at us and change her mind.

I am bouncing off the walls. Marty has picked up an old Sports Illustrated and is leafing through it. He is driving me nuts. The ostrich is sticking his head in the sand again. I am worried to death. What if this is it? I’m not ready! I don’t even have a diaper bag, for God’s sake? What if something goes wrong and the baby has to stay in the hospital for a week? Do we stay? What are we going to do about work? A thousand questions. No answers.

But, we do decide that it’s best for us to go home. Nothing is going to happen tonight. We’ll come back first thing in the morning unless something happens. Everyone agrees. We finally go back to her room. Nurse Lirette tells us Gail is going to hit us up for some Burger King, then they’re going to give her something to sleep.

Not tonight, folks.

“Don’t spoil her too much.”

Gail does sheepishly ask for a chicken sandwich from Burger King. We readily agree. I drive because Marty doesn’t know Houma. I make two wrong turns and miss another, but finally we’re driving up to Burger King on Tunnel Boulevard.

“Our first meal for our daughter-to-be,” I say.

So, we drop it off and say goodnight. We make her promise to call if anything happens. She does. And we drive off into the cold January night.

Just past Raceland, we get a flat tire.

Neither of us could sleep at all. We rolled. I know Marty didn’t sleep because he didn’t even snore. It was awful. The fear, the worry, the anxiety, the waiting for the phone to ring. The fear that it might – or might not. Is this the beginning of parenthood?

Monday morning we dress and head back to Houma, overnight bags packed and hopeful that today we will become parents.

Nope.

I spend three hours sitting with Gail, watching Gail and her friend watch TV, trying to read a magazine, trying not to crawl up the walls while Marty goes off to get our tire fixed and to visit old coaching buddies. I do get a break when Gail needs another bed pan, I try to call Marty on the cell phone. He has it turned off. Duh. (Gail and I get him for that later. We tell him that he missed it, the baby is here!)

He finally comes for me and we head to Lou’s for a break and for dinner. I fall fast asleep on the sofa.

We return to the hospital a few hours later for an update. She isn’t in labor. She still is having occasional contractions with no set pattern. They won’t even examine her for fear of infection. We tell them we don’t want to miss it. They tell us that the only way we’ll miss it is if there is an emergency. There will be plenty of time.

Once again we head home, fearful, anxious, worried and scared.

But we sleep.

January 24, 2001

I wonder who came up with the phrase, “the cold hand of fear.”

There is nothing cold about fear. Fear is hot and heavy and it burns like a smoldering fire in the pit of the belly. It doesn’t chill, it churns. And it feels like a hot, heavy rock sitting in my stomach.

All day long I felt it. As I sped up the interstate toward New Orleans this morning, I started my fatalistic visions of the future. By the time I hit Metairie, I was convinced that Gail was going to change her mind, that I would be right where I always am on Monday – right at my desk, with high school basketball standings to update and soccer games to cover.

Of course, by the time I hit Causeway Boulevard, I was debating which bridge would be better to jump off of – the Hale Boggs or the Veterans Memorial. I ultimately decided on the Veterans Bridge because, well, less traffic and I don’t think anyone has jumped from it yet.

Yes. It got that far.

Lunch time came and I had no desire for food. But, my nephew and future Godfather Lee said he had something in his car for me, so I met him and forced myself to eat a ham sandwich from the deli. My stomach was already churning.

After lunch, Lee and I went into the parking lot. He pulled his car up to mine and opened the hatch to reveal a brand new baby car seat – just the one I wanted, too!!! I squealed with delight, praying he would not have to return it.

By 3 p.m., the taste of bile was thick in my throat. I really thought my ham sandwich was going to return to haunt me. I went down to the cafeteria in search of something cool and creamy to quench the burning in my belly, to loosen the knot twisting there. I ate an ice cream sandwich. It didn’t help.

Then I called Gail. I finally caught her awake and alone. We chatted. She sounded the same as always. And, finally, the heat began to subside. The doctor told her that the baby appears to weigh at least five pounds, that she is between 35 and 36 weeks. Excellent. I told her that my sister-in-law Lou was going to go visit her later this evening. She sounded happy about that. And once again, I was reassured. She’s sure. She’s committed.

But still I worry.

Not until I talked to Lou did the pain finally go away. Lou went to the hospital and spent more than an hour visiting with the mother of my soon-to-be child.

“Lori can’t eat. She can’t sleep. She’s so worried,” Lou said.

“Tell her to stop,” Gail said. “Once I’ve made up my mind about something, I’m not changing it.”

They talked about pregnancy. They talked about their children. They talked about Dulac. They talked about me. They talked about her decision. They connected the way Gail and I did not. We never really had the chance to. Lou went right in and became her best friend. I’m only her best friend on the telephone.

Lou told her how happy everybody is that she found us. And, later, I told Lou how happy I am to have her.

And Pepto Bismol.

January 26, 2001

It’s just after midnight on Friday, January 26, 2001.

And today could be my daughter’s birthday.

After a week of anxious waiting and praying, they have decided to begin inducing Gail’s labor at 4:30 a.m. The nurse told her she should deliver by noon.

Oh my God.

I was at Wal-Mart when Lou paged me with the news. I was standing in front of a wall of greeting cards, trying to find one appropriate. There wasn’t one. Hallmark hasn’t invented a “Thanks for giving us your baby” card. I ended up buying one about God bringing people together.

I hit the baby section, too. I needed a diaper bag!!! I found one. I also bought some little newborn outfits. I am afraid all my pink baby clothes are going to be too big! I bought the Playtex nurser starter kit.

Then I came home and tried to take care of business!! I called Cheryl. I called Mom. I called Jane and Pappy. I tried hard to call Marty. He had his first booster club meeting tonight. He could have missed the whole birth!!!

I cleaned house and did some laundry. I washed the baby’s outfits and some blankets, then I put all the crib stuff in the wash ( I don’t think I had washed any of it!)

And I’m still trying to get used to this whole idea. Mom asked me today, “How excited are you?”

The answer? Not very yet. It’s all too surreal. Is this IT? Is this REALLY it?

I spent the whole day telling everyone. I presented the Casey Kosminski award to Tim Detillier at the LHSAA convention luncheon. I saw Lynne and Evelyn and Jay Jay Juan and a bunch of my old coaches.

“Tomorrow!!” I told them all. “Tomorrow!”

When I got to the main office, I had a lovely gift waiting for me. Billy had bought me a cup that said, “Mother.” There was a card, signed by all who show up for work on a Thursday noon – Josh, Doug, Steve, King, Billy, Darrell. It was so cute. “Proud to be the godfather,” wrote Josh.

I also had my meeting with the publisher. Never before was I concerned with such things as maternity leave. But now I am. Because I’m not physically giving birth, I can only use one week of my sick leave for the baby’s birth. I have four weeks of vacation because I’ve been at the T-P for more than 10 years. I’ll use three. I can use one week of my sick leave to care for a family member (everyone gets this). I’ll have to save one week of vacation for whatever emergencies might come up. So, I’m ready to hit Ashton with this one, asking about leave time for adoption..

“I am hoping to adopt a child that is being born tomorrow…” Everyone congratulates me. I explain to Ashton the predicament. He brings up the Family Leave Act.

“I’m adopting a baby. I can’t afford to take time off without pay.”

He said he would think about it.



February 6, 2001

And here it is, now 11 days later.

I am a mom.

I have been dying to get up here to my computer, to sit down, collect my thoughts and record all the events of the last week and a half. I have been so afraid I will forget all the details. Incredibly, this is the first opportunity I have had.

My baby is 11 days old! She has had a steady stream of visitors and well-wishers, all bearing wonderful gifts to welcome her to this world. It is so incredible I can’t believe it. In between visitors, there have been phone calls (mostly from my mother), feedings every 3 hours, diapering in between and hours and hours of just staring at this face. This incredible face. And, frankly, my brain has been too tired to even attempt to collect any kind of thoughts.

Until now.



So, let us go back to Friday, January 26, 2001.

Marty and I woke early. Like kids on Christmas morning, we woke up full of anticipation and excitement. Like any adoptive parent, we also woke up with the knot of fear and worry in our stomachs. Today is the day. Please, God, let it all go according to plan.

We're trying to get ourselves together as quickly as possible. Showering, coffee, dressing (what does one wear to the birth of one’s child?) packing, making sure we have everything we need and a bag of books, my needlepoint, playing cards to pass the time.

Breathe.

By 8 a.m., we were in the car. I had the day’s two newspapers. I tried to read them. I could not concentrate. We hit every school zone, of course, slowing our progress. Marty was driving too fast. Nervous. My mind was going a million miles an hour.

We finally hit the stretch of road between Raceland and Houma. It’s a one-lane right now, due to construction. And, of course, we get stuck behind a Louisiana State Trooper. That probably was a good thing.

Then, my pager went off. Lou.

“Where are you?”

I told her.

“Well, she just called me. She’s in labor. She had to hang up in the middle of a pain.”

Oh God. We waited too late. I call her room. She answers. I can hear the pain in her voice.

“We’re on our way,” I tell her.

“Hurry.”

Damn that State Trooper.

All thoughts of reading the newspaper are gone now. I suddenly start to cry. It’s real. This is it. This child is finally being born. Today. Now. Within a few hours. And I’m terrified that she won’t be coming home with me. I pray to Mary and to St. Gerard. Please.

At 9 a.m. we finally get to the hospital. We’re rushing. Camera. Bag of books. Purse. Coat.

A few minutes later, we walk into her room. Her friend is there, rocking in the rocking chair, watching Baby Story in the Learning Channel. Gail is VERY uncomfortable. Writhing in pain, trying not to cry, trying not to curse. She fails.

Marty says, “I’ll be down the hall.”

I feel so helpless. I want to help. I want to hold her hand.

“Do you want me to touch you?”

She writhes away. “NO.”

I gently squeeze her big toe. That’s all I can do.

A nurse comes in. She’s pregnant too. I wonder if this scares the bejeesus out of her. She gives Gail a shot for pain. All it does, really, is make her drowsy. Her curses are now slurred. Soon, she’s begging for ice. When it comes, I gently feed her some. Finally I can do something.

Soon they come to prepare for the epidural. That’s what she has been waiting for. Jeannie and I leave. They give Jeannie a beeper and tell her they will page her when we can come back. I go find Marty.

We spend the next 45 minutes in the family waiting room, waiting, watching two cute little girls play chase across the room. I call Mom. I call Lou. We’re just waiting. Praying. Hoping. Trying to do things right.

Rhett drops in. He’s on his way to New Orleans to help a co-worker move. Lou made him come. We all sit around and chat for a while. Then he leaves.

Next a cute blonde girl pops in, looking for me. It’s Jessica, the hospital social worker. She tells me about her visits with Gail, that Gail seems very sure of what she is doing. She has decided to see the baby and spend time with her. That is reassuring, yet frightening. When birthmothers refuse to see the child, it sends up red flags. Nevertheless, it is frightening to a hopeful adoptive parent. What if she loves it too much? But, Jessica encouraged her to do so and seems confident about it.

We ask about procedures. How things will happen after the baby is born. She does her best to lay it all out. It’s all relatively easy. The hospital has a release form. Gail can sign that and they will let us take the baby home with us. No provisional custody agreement is needed. Melanie doesn’t even have to come to Houma. This is wonderful news. For one thing, Melanie’s aunt is very ill in Texas and she is trying desperately to get there. For another, it eases some fears. Some hospitals, we have heard, refuse to even acknowledge adoption. The birthmother goes home with the baby. Period. What she does with it after that is none of their concern. Melanie has said that she has had to do some agreements in hospital parking lots. Daniel’s teacher’s parents had to meet the attorney at the old K&B drug store. This is so much better.

A few minutes later, the beeper goes off. Jeannie and I head back to Gail’s room. She is in a much nicer place, now.

There are more people there. Another girlfriend of Gail’s. Lots of nurses. They are actually moving Gail to another place. I help gather up her things and carry them to the new spot – Delivery Room 9. There is another woman outside.

“Hi Lori. I’m Judy.”

Judy Lirette. Our saint. Our deliverer. The one who gave Gail our letter all those months ago. I hug her.

“I’m praying,” I tell her.

“I know.”

They work to get Gail settled. She wants the TV on.

“How long?” I ask no one in particular.

“We don’t know,” no one in particular answers. “Could be a few minutes. Could be a few hours.”

I don’t want to stay in this room. Gail had already said that she really did not want me in the delivery room. It stung at the time. Now, I understand completely. And I really don’t want to be there either.

“I’m going to go find food,” I say. “While I have the chance. Come find me if anything happens. We’ll be in the cafeteria.”

First I go to the waiting room where Marty waits. We head toward the cafeteria. I really want coffee. Something to soothe my stomach.

The cafeteria is closed.

We head to the machines. I get an iced oatmeal cookie and a chocolate Yoohoo soda. Marty gets a pack of blueberry muffins. We sit down in the main lobby to eat. We talk. We eat. We don’t say much. We are both scared to death.

Marty decides to go run his errands. He needs to go to the bank to cash his paycheck (so we have some money!). He wants to go to Sears to pick up our tire being repaired.

“Leave your cell phone on,” I tell him. “And if I tell you to turn around, turn around.”

He kisses me and dashes off.

I head back to our waiting room where there is a payphone. I call Mom. I call Lou.

“They have moved her to a delivery room,” I tell them. “Could be an hour. Could be 5 hours.” Lou tells me that a girl she knows had the epidural and then quit having labor pains for four days. Oh goodie.

Then I head back to Gail’s room. I knock. The nurse, the same pregnant one, comes to the door.

“One of you want to go talk to her?”

Oh God. What’s happening.

Judy comes out. “This is it! We’re just waiting for the doctor”

Oh God.

I run back to the waiting room and start dialing.

“Marty. Turn around.”

“Mom, she’s delivering. They’re waiting for the doctor.”

“Lou, she’s delivering. They’re waiting for the doctor.”

Lou squeals.

I head back down the hall and start pacing. Just like a nervous father would.

This is what it must have been like in the old days, before they allowed people to watch. I imagined my father pacing these halls as I was being born, not being allowed in to watch. And I prayed like all get-out. Holding my St. Gerard medal to my lips, I prayed, I begged. I said a million Hail Mary’s. I could not breathe.

I am parked in an intersecting hallway. Around the corner to my right is the hallway that leads to the main entrance. Around the corner to my left is the hallway that leads straight to Gail’s room. I can see the door of the room through a large set of glass-topped double doors. Directly in front of me is the hallway to surgery. I see more than a few patients wheeled by. See doctors find family members to update them, just like in the movies. I feel like I’m in the way. In the wrong place. Then the elevator door opens and I see them wheel a little baby cart into the nursery. It must be close.

Where is Marty? He is taking too long. Way too long. He is just determined to miss this. I am reaching into my purse for my phone when he FINALLY turns the corner. Thank God. We hug. I fill him in. We wait.

Suddenly, my niece Lena turns the corner.

“They sent me,” she says, throwing up her hands.

We all stand in the corner. Waiting. I tell Lena she’s in THAT room, pointing to the closed door. Only now, it’s not closed.

One of the nurses is coming out, both hands full of linens. She nods. She motions with her head, Come on.

Really?

Come on.

I throw everything at Lena – purse, camera, untouched bag of books, coat. We dash toward the room.

Yes, I am holding my breath as I walk into the room. There is Judy, Jeannie, Sue (Gail’s friends). A nurse is smoothing Gail’s sheets. And there is Gail, sitting up like she’s just finished eating breakfast, but holding the tiniest little bundle of a baby I have ever seen. The picture is burned into my memory. My steps into the room are tentative. I keep expecting her to tell me to go away.

She does not.

“Are you ready for your daughter?

Oh my God.

I start to cry.

I move toward her.

The nurse stops me. She tells me to wash my hands. I do so through my tears. As fast as I can.

Take two.

Gail gently hands me this tiny little bundle as everyone begins to cry.

And there she is. Looking like she had just been in a really bad fight. Red as a beet. Eyes swollen and blackened. The most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I am holding a baby. My baby.

It is all so surreal. I can’t believe it is happening. I can’t believe we got this far. Past the being chosen, past the doctor’s appointments, into the hospital, past the birth. I’m praying it all doesn’t come to a crashing halt.

I hand her to Marty. He too is surprised at her appearance. Later he tells me the first thing he thought of is the line from the movie Rocky. “Cut me Mick. ” Because of her swollen eyes. He goes over to hug Gail, still holding the baby in his arms.

The nurse tells us she has to take the baby upstairs to the nursery. There are tests to do and they have to clean her up. I waited a lifetime for such a brief moment. But it was pure bliss.



On Monday, January 26, 2009, that baby girl will be eight years old.

Gail is Lora Leigh's birth mother, her first mother, and she is a part of our family. Lora Leigh knows her and the half-sister she has, and has met aunts, uncles, cousins and her grandfather. They know her. The see her at least twice a year.

Lora is in second grade now. She's a smart, beautiful, funny, talented little girl with big dreams and (I think) a very bright future. She loves to sing and act and dance. She writes funny stories. She draws great pictures. And she is the light of my life.

Maybe, someday, she will come to know and understand how wanted she was, how cherished she is. Maybe, someday, she will read the whole story of her journey to us. Maybe she too will feel that it was all, somehow, meant to be. Maybe she too will think of it as a miracle.

We do.

And I hope this story gives hope to all the couples out there who are waiting, and hoping, and holding their breath. If you don't believe in miracles, you should. And I hope your story also has a happy ending.

LL