January Column Winner

Precious moments with baby Lily

TED STREULI, The Journal Record

My sister-in-law celebrated her 42nd birthday in a hospital room Jan. 5. Her husband was with her. No one was sick.
The previous day, at 5:35 a.m., Lily was born in a room across the hall. She was newborn soft and healthy, with dark hair, pink cheeks and a quiet, chirping little cry that let you know it was time for a bottle.
We had been waiting to meet Lily since August, when the attorney first said there was a birth mother - I'll call her Tiffany - who might be the right fit.
Through the fall and into winter, Tiffany and my sister-in-law met often, going together to see the obstetrician, cooing over the ultrasounds.
Lily was Tiffany's fifth child. Lily's biological father was married to someone else, and they were expecting a baby, too. Tiffany's boyfriend, the father of her fourth child, wasn't keen on adding a baby to the clan.
The adoptive parents are what most birth mothers would hope to find; they are educated and have adequate resources to ensure the baby would be well-cared-for. Lily was in for a good childhood.
Nonetheless, adopting a baby is an angst-ridden experience. The birth mother may change her mind without penalty until a judge terminates her rights, usually a few days after the birth. Beside the emotional risk, there's $30,000 on the line for attorneys, medical costs and living expenses, and the would-be parents have no recourse if something goes wrong. There doesn't seem to be a better way; the options reek of trafficking.
Best not to think about that. Better to spend weekends preparing Lily's nursery, putting away all the little pink outfits from the baby shower and sorting the booties.
My sister-in-law was ready, and when Lily was born, she and Tiffany held Lily in their respective rooms, gave her bottles when she was hungry, changed tiny diapers and coaxed out an occasional burp for most of three days.
At long last, after months of preparation, study and the worry that only expectant parents can know, Lily left the hospital on a Friday afternoon, snuggled into a brand-new car seat. She arrived to pink balloons and cameras snapping like the paparazzi at a celebrity wedding. My sister-in-law and her husband settled in for their first night of never sleeping more than four hours at a time and were happy about it.
On Saturday, everyone had a chance to hold Lily, even her new cousins, ages 5 and 2. Lily's new grandmother was so excited she could do little but cook when she wasn't holding the baby. We ate cake and celebrated Lily's birth as well as my sister-in-law's. Through the exhaustion were tears for the joy of babies, and for the wonder of new life, and for finally being a parent.
On Sunday morning, while the waffle iron was heating up, my sisterin- law looked at her mobile phone and went very pale.
I don't know if you've talked to the attorney yet, the text message said, but I changed my mind. I'm going to keep the baby. Within 90 minutes, Lily had to be handed over at the attorney's office. It was abrupt and unexpected, and the tears flowed in helplessness and grief.
There is a great sense of loss, and an overwhelming sense of unfairness.
Tiffany will hold the baby. The attorney will sleep well. Only the people who were willing to risk much for the chance to raise a little girl will suffer the losses and hope in the end it comes out all right for Lily, the baby we already loved.